Discover history, Mozart, The Sound of Music, festivals, beer and more on this walking tour of Salzburg. This Baroque-era city is famous for many reasons, not least because it is a picture postcard, Unesco-listed, city with a winding river, hilltop fortress and surrounding alpine landscape.
Here is my top tip for a walking tour of Salzburg, or how to spend a day walking in Salzburg while enjoying many of the major sights along the way.
Start in the Mirabell Gardens. You may have to field semi-hysterical questions from international tourists wanting to know “where is the Sound of Music?” They are in one of the right places – this is where Maria and the children jumped up the steps between the Unicorns singing “Doh-a-deer etc”.
The pretty gardens are next to the Mirabell Palace, a very popular venue for weddings. In the season couples line up to say “I do” every 15 minutes through the day. Straight ahead in the distance is the imposing Hohensalzburg Castle, one of the largest in Europe. We’ll be heading that way soon.
Take a quick side step into the oddly unique Zwerglgarten or ‘Dwarf Garden’, which was created in 1715 by one of Salzburg’s powerful Prince Archbishops. The sculptures were apparently modelled after dwarves who worked as entertainers in the court.
Next walk directly through the town towards the Salzach River and cross the Mullner Bridge. The name Salzburg means salt castle and it was this commodity that formed the basis of the region’s prosperity in the middle ages. Barges carrying salt down the river were subject to a toll.
Turn right and then almost immediately begin to climb the stairs up past the Augustiner Monastery and follow the paths up the Monksburg hill. At the top is the Museum of Modern Art and if you haven’t filled up on brunch at one of Salzburg’s fabulous cafes the terrace of the M32 restaurant here has a wonderful vantage point for a coffee stop.
Carry on along the clifftop paths, enjoying the woodland and the regular views across the old town – a well-preserved collection of Baroque architecture, including the Salzburger Dom and the Franciscan Church.
Soon it is time to climb up to the fortress, a massive complex of defensive and residential construction that stands over the town like a wedding cake. There is an entry fee but the outlook is spectacular.
The ancient lime trees in the courtyards were glorious gold when I was there last weekend, in fact the whole city was dressed in autumn splendour.
Dropping down from the fortress and to the right, follow the path that leads around the back of the Hohensalzburg (signposted to Nonnburg). The Nonnberg is a Benedictine monastery that served as Maria’s Abbey in the film The Sound of Music. Here under the shadow of the castle the outlook is over the city, green woods and fields, and towards the Untersburg town mountain.
Carry on down Nonnberggasse, past the charming villas and drop down to the grassy parkland below. At the crossroads of this park is a lonely cottage – once the home of the castle executioner. Don’t forget to look behind you…
On the far side of the park cross the road and follow a path beside a small canal through trees to Schloss Leopoldskron. This rococo palace was built in the late 1730s by another Salzburg Prince-Archbishop. Now it is probably more famous as the von Trapp family house in the movie… but you can’t go in it unless you are something to do with the American educational institution that runs it.
A wander around the willow-fringed shores of the lake is an idyllic way to spend the late afternoon before heading back into town. You will almost come full circle with a visit to the Augustiner Brewery – a Salzburg institution where the delicious Braustubl beer is produced using traditional methods.
There is a wood-panelled beer hall and a large beer garden under the trees when the weather is warm. Grab a few platefuls of typical Austrian food (schnitzels, wursts, salads, breads and more) from the various stalls. Pick up an earthernware stein from the shelves and dip it in the fountain to cool it down. Buy a ticket from the cashier and then go get your stein filled with foaming nectar!
There you have it, a great and active day in Salzburg. You will have earned that beer!
Natasha von Geldern
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