Salzburg in a day

Salzburg is like that often overlooked sibling of an illustrious personality — in its case, the city of Vienna. However, just as the cliché goes, while it is similar to Vienna in some respects, Salzburg has its own unique mix of exquisite art, music, culture and incredible scenery. The city is perhaps most well known for being the birthplace of Mozart and for being the location of the heartwarming movie The Sound of Music, but digging a bit deeper reveals so much more of this enchanting city, nestled in the Alps.

Salzburg was our first and last stop on our spring holiday this year. We used Salzburg as our home base to explore the alpine villages of Germany and Austria. It was centrally located giving us easy accessibility and assured us of lively bars and restaurants that we could unwind at after a long day of sight-seeing.

While we did explore a little bit of Salzburg every evening when we returned, we fully explored the city only on our last day there.

There’s a lot to do in Salzburg – stunning cathedrals, excellent museums, great beerhalls, cool fountains, beautiful parks and the list goes on. Here are some spots we think are definitely worth a visit.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Even if you are in Salzburg for just the day or a few hours, make time for this. The Hohensalzburg’s not only got some great exhibits on the inside but spectacular views of the city and the surrounding alps on the outside.

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The alpine view despite an incredibly cloudy day
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See the light snow on the rooftops?

It was mid April and the last snowfall was around early February but this year there was unexpected snow across Germany and Austria for a couple of days in April that took everyone by surprise. It definitely made our plan to see Salzburg that day mighty hard with slushy snow hitting us in bursts thru the day.

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A blast of sunshine, just before the snow storm

The Hohensalzburg Fortress is perched on a little hill, just above the old town area.

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A view of the Hohensalzburg castle towering high above

The fortress is easily accessible from the city centre via the FestungsBahn funicular (just around the corner from the KapitelPlatz). Once you step outside this little funicular, check out the panoramic terrace for outstanding views of the city and the alps.

There’s a whole bunch of things to do inside this 11th century fortress that includes several wings and courtyards. Some sections are converted into museums filled with interesting exhibits. The Fortress Museum in the Hoher Stock wing is quite fascinating with its large collection of weapons and ceramics. It gives a great background on the history of the fortress and everyday life in the castle.

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It also features some painful-looking weapons of torture
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In there, you’ll also find this  unique display of armor and weapons held up by strings

The Rainer-Regiment Museum has a somewhat similar theme of exhibits including weapons, uniforms and a historical recount of the key role played by the Rainer Regiment in the First World War. They also have a few nicely done sets and it’s worth a quick stop.

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The Marionette Museum is another little section in the fortress that has an intriguing set of puppets on exhibit from its very popular Marionette Theatre. The theatre itself is located in the heart of the city and has a variety of shows every day. We were unable to make any of these shows during our visit but it’s something we have on our list for a future visit. It seems like a fun show for children and adults alike and if you have the time, you should check it out.

As you walk thru the castle bastions, you’ll stumble into some of these (harmless) guys.

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The Royal Apartments is another delightful section in the fortress. It features a few different rooms of which the Golden Chamber is most remarkable. Wall to ceiling, this room is exquisitely decorated in lush colors and gothic style. The main showpiece in the chamber is the large Majolica oven that is lavishly decorated with colorful, intricate designs. The Golden Hall, just beside the Golden Chamber, is another grandly decorated room with similar gothic designs. For over 40 years, the hall has hosted some of Salzburg’s best Mozart concerts and it definitely seemed like the best place in the city to enjoy an evening of delightful music coupled with some striking views.

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The ornate Golden Chamber

Although it’ll take you a few good hours, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is a sight that shouldn’t be missed. On your way down to the city, you could do a quick stop at the Stiegl Brewery to get a refreshing pint of their lager or some local bites. The city views from their biergarten are quite lovely as well.

Another popular place in Salzburg for great city views is the Winkler Terrace, accessible via the Mönchsberg Lift. We couldn’t fit this into our day but it seems like a place that’s definitely worth the visit from the few pictures we’ve seen – stunning panoramas!

Salzburger Dom

Built in early 17th century, the Salzburg Cathedral is incredibly beautiful. On the outside, it seems somewhat ordinary, but when you step inside, you’re struck by its true splendor.

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The central dome of the cathedral is awe-inspiring
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The richly decorated ceiling of the central dome
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The ceilings throughout the cathedral are done up in admirable baroque art

Altstadt or Old Town area

Salzburg’s old town area is a great place to start your exploration of Salzburg. Most of the popular sights including the fortress and cathedral are centered in the old town or historical district. Just opposite the cathedral is the Residenzplatz with its splendid horse-fish fountain or Residenzbrunnen.

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Sculpted by an Italian guy, this baroque fountain is an interesting piece of art

The Residenz Square also includes a whole bunch of museums including the Dom Quartier and Salzburg Museum which we sadly couldn’t make time for in the one day we had in Salzburg. They looked pretty fascinating from their websites and if you are in Salzburg for more than a day, you should give it a go. Also, note that these museums are interconnected and seem to be covered in one pass.

Just next to the Residenzplatz is the Mozartplatz. Of course, the square is adorned by a statue of Salzburg’s most popular guy.

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If you fancy a horse carriage ride thru the old town area, you’ll find these guys hanging around the Mozart Square.

For more of Mozart, head over to Mozart’s Wohnhaus (residence) and Mozart’s Geburtshaus (place of birth). Both these houses have been converted into museums exhibiting paintings, musical instruments, documents and a great number of other collectibles that narrate the life story of the musical genius.

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Mozart’s birth place in Getreidegasse

Apart from being well-known for Mozart’s place of birth, the Getreidegasse is also popular for shopping in Salzburg. Even if you ain’t shopping, the street is a delight to walk thru. Every store has a uniquely designed sign above its door. Even McDonald’s is fancy in this street!

One thing you should shop for, in the whereabouts of this area, is the Mozart Kugeln. Launched for the first time in late 19th century, these little chocolate bonbons made of pistacchio, marzipan and nougat, are an Austrian specialty.

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Music fills the streets of Salzburg. The old town area is bustling with musicians playing delightful classical numbers. Do take time to stop for a gelato, sit in one of the beautiful old town squares and listen to these guys.

If you’d rather sit indoors and listen to some great jazz music, head over to Jazzit. They have some great musicians entertaining you every day of the week. The place is very popular so get there early and grab a seat by the bar that faces the stage and you’ll be all set for a wonderful evening of incredibly wonderful jazz. This was one of our best nights on our week-long road trip!

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Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Schloss Mirabell and Mirabellgarten is less than a kilometre away from the  old town and it rose to fame when one of the popular scenes from the ‘Sound of Music’ was filmed here, right on these steps, that is the entrance to the garden.

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It is a lovely garden to walk thru especially around spring time with gorgeous tulips and other spring flowers embellishing the vast garden.

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This was our favorite section in the Mirabell Gardens

The Dwarf Park is a lot of fun! There are some very cool looking dwarves throughout this little park. Here’s a couple of our favorites.

Take a stroll by the Salzach

Do take some time to walk the banks of the Salzach river that runs thru the city of Salzburg. It is not too far from the old town area and you can get some wonderful views of this charming little city.

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Visit one of the many outstanding breweries

Finally, unwind in a cozy little brewpub and indulge in some of Austria’s culinary delights and excellent brews. You are spoilt for choice with their remarkable selection of breweries. Here are some that we tried and liked.

Looking back on our last day in Salzburg, we actually managed to see quite a bit in one day. If you have more time, there’s a lot more you can do in and around the city.

We hope to return to Salzburg someday, to explore more of the unspoiled beauty and culture that fills every little corner of this city.

Mondsee – a charming little place

Tucked away in the scenic Salzkammergut region, Mondsee is another one of Austria’s lesser known wonders.

After a wonderful day at St. Gilgen and the Wolfgangsee, we decided to do a quick stop at nearby Mondsee before heading back to Salzburg which was our base for our German Austrian alpine trip.

Mondsee is another little Austrian village in the Salzkammergut region that will have you fascinated by its beauty and idyllic charm in no time.

On a cloudy evening, we arrived in Mondsee. We parked in the main square of the village. It’s a small square, lined with colorful townhouses, mostly restaurants and stores selling handcrafted wares.

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Just opposite this main square is the Collegiate Church of St. Michael, which used to be the monastery church of Mondsee Abbey. The Mondsee Abbey was founded in 748 and there’s some interesting folklore around why the abbey was founded and how the name Mondsee, meaning moon lake, came about.

The church is possibly most famous for being the venue for the wedding of Maria and Captain von Trapp in the famous musical ‘Sound of Music‘. The church is quite the sought-after church for weddings in the area ever since the film was released.  Also known as the Basilica St. Michael, the church is one of the primary reasons tourists flock this little village. Even if you are not a huge Sound of Music fan, this little village will still leave a lasting impression.

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The Basilica of St. Michael
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The interiors of the church are quite impressive
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Especially impressive is its baroque style altar

Right outside the church is the city tram stop. Now, this is a tram ride we highly recommend you make part of your Mondsee itinerary. The tram ride is just lovely – the driver gives you a very informative tour (even if you are the only soul on the tram!) and takes you thru the smallest of Mondsee streets. The best part of the ride is when the tram arrives at the Mondsee promenade and takes you right in front of the Mondsee – and you are mere inches away from the lake! That was a fantastic and unique experience.

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At the promenade, you can get off the tram and enjoy a nice stroll along the lake. Take a walk around the promenade park as well… you’ll find gorgeous little streams and bridges that make you feel like you’re in a land of fairies.4836534628017574288-account_id=2 (2)

 

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The beautiful Countess Michelin Gräfin von Almeida

 

Just a few metres away is the Mondsee Pier where you can get the best views of the beautiful Salzkammergut region.

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It was just us and these ducks braving the cold, rainy evening…

We stood at the pier for a long time, just basking in the silence around us.. watching the tranquil waters of Mondsee make little magical ripples.

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We wish we’d had more time to explore this beautiful alpine village of Austria. We hope to go back to Austria someday soon during summer. Mondsee is quite popular for water sports – it is the warmest lake in the Salzkammergut region and folks from nearby towns flock this little village during the summer months.

If you are visiting the Salzkammergut region of Austria, be sure to make little Mondsee part of your Austria holiday – it is a special place!

We fell in love with Mondsee and the other little villages in the Salzkammergut region – they are filled with such incredible beauty that you’ll always want to go back for more. 

Ehingen – a little gem in south Germany

When a city is a called a ‘beer culture’ city, it of course piques our interest.

We are always on the look-out for German craft beer and it’s not too common especially in the neck of the woods where we live, in south Germany (yes, where Munich, the land of great beer and Oktoberfest is). If you are a craft beer fanatic, you’ll know what it is to crave beyond the traditional German Pils and Weizen (which is your dominating beer of choice in the Oktoberfest by the way). Anyways, during one such hunt, we chanced upon this ‘beer culture’ city called Ehingen and were thrilled to see that one of their breweries had a great craft beer collection and the city was just a 30 minute drive from Ulm (where we live). Ecstatic, we made plans to visit the place.

It’s surprising how late-risers like us can rise and shine quite early when there’s a good pint of beer beckoning. It was a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and green fields. Spring is almost here; the temperatures are getting higher but the trees are still barren and we were pleasantly surprised to see the lush green meadows.

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A crisp and clear day

We had the most wonderful short drive to Ehingen – we passed by gorgeous little forests with the Danube river playing hide and seek every few kilometers. We saw a bunch of deer running (Steve didn’t believe me and said it must have been foxes and in just a few meters we saw a sign board indicating deer in the area. Ha!). It was unexpected as we usually find plenty of cows, sheep and horses grazing but never deer, not so close to the expressways. There was also a splendid Christmas tree farm along our route and it was fun to see the teeny weeny Christmas plants sprouting.

In no time, we were in Ehingen parking our car (we parked at the Tiefgaragen Lindenplatz Parkplatz 2 – very accessible to the town square and it’s free of charge on the weekends). We walked up to the Marktplatz (city center) in just a couple of minutes (it’s a small town). It was market day in the town square and they had little stalls selling a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and some local beer and snacks too.

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Saturday (farmers) market in the town square

The market day happens every Saturday in every little to big German city – it is basically a farmers market. We still haven’t made it to the one in Ulm and it was good to finally see one of these.

The market square features a fountain with some interesting characters.

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Some close-up shots
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Chicken anyone?
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He was getting ready to hose them all!
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Care for a drink from the frog prince’s crown?

On the other side of the marktplatz is the Rathaus (town hall).

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A more modern Rathaus than we expected

We then headed over to the Schwanen Brauerei, one of the 4 breweries in the city. The Berg brewery seems to be quite a reputed brewery especially in this region but if you’re into ales and craft beers, you should head over to the Schwanen brewery. These guys as well have a good collection of traditional brews but we were there just for their craft beer collection – the Schwanen guys don’t brew any craft beers themselves but have a great collection of kick-ass ales from some of the well-known German craft breweries. Our favorites include Camba, Braufactum and Riegele. We’d not had Braufactum before and we thoroughly enjoyed their hoppy pale ales. We had a mighty crate of beers hitching a ride back home with us!

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If you are a craft beer drinker and you find yourself in the Baden Wurttemburg state of south Germany, you should make your way over to this brew-pub. If you’d like to explore all 4 breweries in Ehingen, check out the historical sights of the city, and don’t mind a good hike, you could opt for their Bierwanderweg (beer culture trekking).  Or, if you’d rather hop on a large bike with friends or family for a short countryside tour enjoying your beer at the same time, you should check out the beer culture bike that Ehingen offers. The city is quite a popular stop for hiking and biking trips along the Danube river.

Our next stop was the St. Blasius Church. This small church is sheer beauty – the baroque style, the exceptional ceiling art, the unique paintings on its wall, the large courtyard – simply awe-inspiring. There are two other main churches (the Church of our lady and Sacred Heart church) and these three church spires dominate the Ehingen skyline.

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St. Blasius also includes a lovely Grotto (cave-like shrine)

We spent the next hour exploring more of the sleepy little town. We passed by several half-timbered buildings which is a signature feature of small German towns.

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Ehingen Museum

You should visit the Stadtgarten which includes a little lake called Groggensee, a lovely play area for the kids, a large walking/cycling trail and some interesting art in the midst of all of this. What we loved the most is the little Schmiech river flowing through the park making the place magical.

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Our last stop was the Schloss Mochental. It is a relatively new castle featuring modern works of art.

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At the castle entrance

It is 10 or so kilometers away from the Marktplaz so we got our car out and drove there. If you are traveling by public transport, note that you’ve got a bit of a hike to get to this place but we can assure you that it’s worth the trip. They have some extraordinary contemporary art works on display and a pretty rad Basen (broom) museum.

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Intriguing
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Seemed like a popular art form
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Tin man says hello
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This one would have taken some effort to make!
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This was just one section of the broom museum – they had tons of all types of brooms and even an ancient vacuum cleaner on display on the other side

The views from the castle rooms are quite lovely as well – all in all it was a wonderful visit to the castle.

It was time to make our way back home. We left the little town with a big stash of beautiful memories as everlasting souvenirs.

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It is sleepy little towns like Ehingen that make Germany the spectacular country that it is. Their half-timbered houses, their baroque churches, their old world charm, their fascinating culture, their little rivers and streams – this is where the magic of this beautiful country unfolds.

Passau – a city of three rivers

Passau is one of those charming little German towns that fills you with an unbelievable sense of joy. We were in Passau for just a day but in this short stay, we made some beautiful memories especially because we explored the city with family whom we hadn’t seen in years.

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Artists’ Alley

Walking thru painted little cobble-stoned streets hand in hand on a cold autumn day, sipping some delicious Glühwein, admiring the lovely handcrafted wares in the little stores, visiting the most beautiful churches, walking by the river at dusk watching the boats sail away and the city light up, and of course hitting the local breweries is how we spent our short stay in Passau.

Passau is more commonly known as the city of three rivers, the Dreiflüssestadt. The Danube (second largest river in Germany) meets the Inn and the Ilz rivers at Passau. Each of the rivers appear to be in different colors in an aerial view – the Danube being blue, the Inn green, and the Ilz black-ish. The city is popular for its Danube river cruises and you will see a whole bunch of boats docked in the promenade. In fact, we were visiting Passau only to meet with family who was taking one of these river cruises which start here in Passau and go thru Austria and Eastern Europe. These boats look pretty neat and cosy on the inside!

The city is surrounded by lots and lots of water and you’ll find yourself walking by the river thru most of the city. Unfortunately, this also led to some really bad floods in the area. The worst one was over 500 years ago but then the recent one in 2013 was almost as bad. The flood levels are actually marked on one of the old town hall walls.

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Most of the boats are docked at the Fritz Schäffer Promenade

Apart from the rivers and its cruises, the city is also known for having the largest cathedral organ in the world. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in Germany and the huge pipe organ to its collection makes it all the more spectacular. It is said to have 17,774 pipes!!! Organ concerts take place in summer and we hope to attend one of these someday. The interior of the church is done up in baroque style and the paintings & sculptures are simply exquisite – some of them depict fairly morbid scenes and yet weirdly you feel at peace looking at them.

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Organ at St.Stephen’s Cathedral
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Baroque art at St. Stephan’s Cathedral

We were in Passau a couple of days before the Christmas Market and the stalls and decorations were still underway but we enjoyed some of their delicious Glühwein or mulled wine which is generally available during Christmas time.

Of course, we were eager to explore their local brews as well and were not disappointed despite it being your typical German brews. The dunkel (dark) lager we had at the Brauerei Hacklberg was pretty decent compared to the dark lagers we’d been drinking across most of Germany. The food at this brewery was phenomenal – one of the best meals I have eaten in my year-long stay in Germany. A visit to this brewery is definitely worth it.

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Ancient Battle Horn at the Peschl Terrasse

We also visited the Peschl Terrasse which serves the Aldersbach beer. We had the Aldersbacker Kloster Dunkel (dark lager) and the Aldersbacker Kloster Weisse Dunkel (dark wheat beer) and the dark wheat beer was quite nice.

We unfortunately could not visit the Aldersbacher brewery itself as it was quite a ride away from the city. The brewery was established in 13th century and had some bocks on its list and seemed to be into craft brewing as well. Something to do on our future visit to Passau along with a visit to a few of the other breweries in this little city.

There’s a bunch of other things we couldn’t do like visit the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th century fortress. The views from here are apparently pretty amazing. There is a bus that takes you up to the fort but we were visiting during off-season and this bus was not running. We would have done the 30-minute hike uphill but the weather was pretty nasty with heavy rainfall.

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This quaint, picturesque city has plenty of stuff to do and it deserves more than an overnight stay and we definitely plan on visiting the city again, hopefully soon!