For a small ‘city’, Salzburg has an abundance of things to see and do regardless of which season you visit. With most people opting to come for a long weekend meaning time is limited, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming trying to decide what to do. Of course, I can already tell you exactly what NOT to do: don’t get on a tourist bus, Sound of Music tour or otherwise, please. Salzburg, with its tiny little streets filled with surprises, is best explored by foot and by bike – and if you absolutely need a rest then its bus network is clean, fast and reliable (and electric, so good for the ‘green’ ones amongst you). So here are my Top 5 things to do:
1. CLIMB UP TO THE FORTRESS
Really I don’t need to write anything about this do I? Just look. Look at that picture. Do you need any other reason for me to persuade you to make time to do this? The fortress which sits atop the city is the keeper of the keys to what has to be one of the most beautiful 360-degree panoramas in Europe, if not the world. On the one side the rolling fields and the Alps beyond, on the other, the city of Salzburg and its awe-inspiring architecture stretches out beneath you. Although I often say that the best views are free – and indeed there are other good spots in Salzburg on one of its many hills to pretend to rule over the city from on high – this is an exception. The fee allows you to enter inside the fortress itself, although I have to admit that I found the exhibitions somewhat uninspiring and spent my time strolling around the outbuildings and enjoying the expansive views in the sunshine instead.
2. RENT A BIKE
If there isn’t snow on the ground, rent a bike (although hardcore Austrians would say otherwise, as they cycle all-year-round). I’d like to say that I only hired a bike because like any good travel writer I know this is often the best way to see a place, however, I have to admit that a part of me just wanted to satisfy my inner Sound of Music fan. It’s very easy to rent a bike in Salzburg, with several places offering them in summer in the squares – Mozartplatz often has a few (including e-bikes!) out on show to tempt you further! I have many favourite routes, but one of the best is to cycle out to Hellbrunn Palace along Hellbrunner Alle, a gorgeous tree-lined path that cuts across fields and stunning scenery.
3. VISIT HELLABRUNN
Speaking of Hellabrunn Palace, conveniently this is also somewhere else that I recommend you visit while staying in Salzburg. Prince-Bishop Markus Sittikus ordered for this beautiful summer residence to be built 1612. It was intended to be a “pleasure palace”where archbishops could relax and have fun, and today it still lives up to its purpose, except now everyone can enjoy this unique renaissance building and surroundings. In summer you can get lost in its gorgeous grounds, visit the Sound of Music Pavilion, and play in the trick fountains – which are more than 400 years old. In winter it has, in my opinion, the best Christmas market in the whole of Salzburg (and better yet, far fewer tourists!)
4. TRY SOME MOZART KUGELN
Mozartkugeln are tiny balls of sweet-toothed heaven, consisting of dark chocolate, nougat and green pistachio marzipan. Don’t be fooled by the red Mozartkugeln though, which you’ll see bandied everywhere about town and the airport – these are not the original chocolate treats! The originals were first made way back when in 1890 by Paul Fürst of Fürst confectioners, and the little company has fought hard over the years to stave off imposters stealing the moniker of “original”. How to spot the true from the false? There are several small Fürst shops located in the city, but aside from looking for the name, you can spot their Mozartkugel by the signature elegant silver and blue wrapping.
5. ESCAPE TO THE LAKES
A short 30-minute drive from the city is the Salzkammergut, Salzburg’s very own Lake District. Those who love to soak up stunning views, swim in crystal clear water and walk along mountaintops, shouldn’t miss out on this green playground comprising of 76 (!) lakes in total. In winter it’s a haven for ski enthusiasts and in summer it welcomes sun worshippers and watersport enthusiasts alike. For a full guide on the region with all of my top tips, go here.