Salzburg – a paradise for good beer

Salzburg is a historic little Austrian city where several hundreds of years ago, old bearded monks kicked off a brewing tradition that continues to this day with great pride. It is also a city of young, non-traditional brewers whose bold experimentation strengthens Austria’s reputation as a great beer nation.

Salzburg is filled with delightful breweries that will undoubtedly leave you yearning for more. It is a big enough city to have a horde of options for good food and beer yet it is a city that is unspoiled in so many ways and includes a great number of traditional restaurants and breweries that will serve you some of their best local specialties.

When we are traveling, we always stick to the local food and beer. We find that it’s the best way to dive into the country’s culture – eat and drink like a local!

So, without further ado, here are some of our favorite places to go to in Salzburg for delicious local food and beer. Craft beer lovers – do not despair, there’s plenty of that good, hoppy stuff in Salzburg too.

Augustiner Bräustübl

This monastery turned brewery is a unique experience and a must-visit. It is different than most traditional beer halls in Germany as well.

Brewing in the Augustine abbey in Salzburg is said to have started in the early 17th century. This brewery may actually be connected to the renowned Augustiner brewery in Munich – the story goes that the brewmaster of the Salzburg brewery was trained by the brewmaster of the Munich brewery. Now, whether this story has any merits to it is debatable but one thing that is certain is this brewery in Salzburg is well worth a visit!

In many ways, our experience at the Augustiner Bräustübl was quite unlike our experience at the German beer halls where we just about managed to squeeze a tiny little spot for ourselves in one of the hundreds of tables that are always packed to the brim. Despite having at least 4 large rooms and a biergarten, the Augustiner in Salzburg was incredibly crowded as well but somehow it was easier to grab a spot here. It must have been partly because the food and beer is self-served. They’ve got a bunch of food stalls just outside these halls and you pick up your food and beer, and make your way to the halls. A bit more work but if it saves you a spot to sit then it’s well worth it!

We did the short hike up the hill to get to the monastery. The place looked packed with plenty of cars parked on the outside. We made our way thru the main gate and fumbled around looking for the entrance to the brewery. We came across a little hallway that looked eerily deserted with shut doors.. we tried the nearest one and met this long flight of empty stairs.

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We wondered where everybody was. Did we get to the wrong section? It is a fairly big monastery…

But then, there was the unmistakable whiff of schnitzels and the hum of chatter as we made our way to the bottom of the stairs. We walked past delightful-looking food stalls that roused our appetite but we first needed a chug of that frothy goodness.

The beer serving area was packed and there were two counters from which you could buy tokens for your beer. There’s only one beer that’ll be served at any point in time.. Through most of the year, the Märzen bier is on tap and they serve festival specials around Christmas and the Lent period before Easter.

What is especially unique about this brewery is the large washing fountain at the centre where you’ll need to rinse your steins before you go in to get them filled. We barely made it past the thirsty crowds to rinse our steins and get them filled.

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The good man filling our steins, fresh from the barrel

We headed towards the halls but they were quite crowded and most of them allow smoking as well (which seemed to be the case in a great number of pubs and restaurants in Salzburg). Although it was a nippy spring evening, we preferred the beer garden and sat at one of the many empty tables enjoying our hoppicilious pints.

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The Märzens were good, definitely hoppier than the typical lagers.

Die Weisse

For the weizen loving fans, this place is a little paradise. Plenty of choices with wheat beer and scrumptious local bites, this brewpub makes for a great visit.

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The beer looked way too delicious to stop and get a picture before

They have a few variety of weizens apart from the usual helles (light) and dunkel (dark) weizens. We were especially eager to try their weizen bock – a beer style that brings together the beer types we prefer around these neck of the woods. But, unfortunately, this wasn’t available on tap or bottle when we visited. Apart from the wheat beers, Die Weisse also offers a few other beer styles.

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The Salzburger is a zwickel, almost like a Kölsch, very easy to drink
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This dark wheat beer brewed with roasted chocolate malts is a specialty and only available at around Easter time. It was definitely their best brew and if you visit around spring, make sure you get a pint of this!

Stern Bräu

On our first night in Salzburg, we visited the Stern Bräu. Ideally located in the centre of the old town, this place has a whole bunch of differently themed restaurants in the same building. From a traditional beer hall to a royal room to a stylish lounge, you can pick whatever suits your fancy. We picked the traditional beer hall of course and absolutely loved the cozy atmosphere. There’s also a variety of cuisines to pick from. We opted for the local food of course and were not disappointed! Incredibly delicious food and there was a good variety of beers on tap as well. We first tried the brewery’s traditional lager – it wasn’t all that distinctive, much like a typical Pils.

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They had a few guest brews on tap and this wheat beer from Edelweiss is simply delicious!

Bärenwirt

We visited Bärenwirt on our last day in Salzburg. It’s a lovely place that seems to have retained much of its tradition and decor from the 17th century when it first opened its doors. The food here is great and they primarily serve the Augustiner brews from the Augustiner brewery in Munich. Augustiner is one of Munich’s top breweries – it is the star of the Munich Oktoberfest as well. If you’d like to taste some of their brews while in Austria, you should visit the Bärenwirt.

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Augustiner Bräu makes a great weizen

Stiegl

The Stiegl brewery is Salzburg’s in fact all of Austria’s most popular and prestigious brewery. You’ll find their beers in plenty of places in and around Salzburg. We didn’t actually drink the Stiegl beer in Salzburg but had it on tap at a small brewpub on top of the Zwölferhorn, part of the Austrian alps near St. Gilgen and the Wolfgangsee.

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Their primary brew is a lager of course and it wasn’t as hoppy as far as typical lagers go but quite refreshing especially after a nice trek in the mountains

Bottle Shop

Now, no visit would be complete without checking out the craft beer scene. And, much to our surprise, we discovered that Austria has a very promising, burgeoning craft beer culture. In Salzburg, we discovered two places that serve craft beer. One is a pub called the Academy which much to our dismay we couldn’t make a trip to. However, we did visit the other place Bottle Shop – this is a beer store / bar where you can not only buy a great variety of local and international craft beer but they also have a little seating area where you can also drink as much as you’d like right there.

The Bottle Shop is a cozy little underground store/pub that has an amazing variety of craft beer. This place is a must-visit if you are a craft beer enthusiast.

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Here are some of the Austrian craft beers we tried (left to right) – Pinzgau, Brew Age, Gusswerk, Bierol, Hofbräu Kaltenhausen, Rieder and Bevog.

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Of all of them, we liked the Hofbräu Kaltenhausen’s 1475 Pale Ale and the Bevog brews the best. We loved all of the Bevog brews. They are definitely Austria’s top craft brewery with their bold, well crafted beers. And, their can/bottle art is just rad!

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Kramah IPA – we liked this Bevog brew the best
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Their Black IPA was pretty good too
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Their Smoked Porter was a great, full-bodied porter

The Bottle Shop was the last place we visited in Salzburg – we always save the best for last! It was the perfect finish to our wonderful beer travels in Salzburg.

Despite being a small city, Salzburg has a great variety of breweries. And, it’s always wonderful to see old, traditional breweries venturing into the craft beer world and Austrian breweries like Stiegl and Hofbräu Kaltenhausen are including a good few craft beer variety to their collection. And, although there are plenty of similarities between Germany and Austria’s brewing culture, there’s a remarkable uniqueness to the Austrian brews that create a lasting impression.

(Of course there’s so much more to Salzburg than just good beer.)

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.

St. Gilgen and the Wolfgangsee – pure wonder

Surrounded by beautiful blue lakes and stunning alpine panorama, this picturesque Austrian village will steal your heart.

We made our way to St. Gilgen on the second day of our German-Austrian alpine road trip. Situated on the northern shore of the Wolfgangsee, St. Gilgen is one of the most scenic little towns in the popular Salzkammergut region in Austria.

We had a late start to St. Gilgen after our delightful visit to Lake Chiemsee the previous day. But, located just 25 kilometers away from Salzburg, we were in this charming little town in less than 30 minutes.

We headed straight to the Zwölferhorn Cable Car station. Zwölferhorn is part of the Salzkammergut mountain range of the Eastern Alps. The eastern part of the Alps, although not as high as the western range, is blessed with plenty of lakes, most of which are in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. This is quite evident when you stand atop the Zwölferhorn. You are surrounded by numerous deep blue lakes including the Wolfgangsee, Mondsee, Fuschlsee and Attersee. It’s a pretty spectacular view!

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Wolfgangsee, the big lake at the front and Mondsee, at the back

The Zwölferhorn cable car is said to have begun operations over 65 years ago. It’s a short 15-minute breathtaking ride to the top.

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View of the magnificent Austrian Alps as we make our ascent to Zwölferhorn

Once you get to the top, there are a whole bunch of viewpoints you can walk up to, in just about 10 minutes. You get strikingly different views from each side.

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Despite a cloudy day, the beautiful mountains and valleys of Salzkammergut make for a great view
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Wolfgangsee narrows down as it flows towards the southern side

The top of Zwolferhorn is simply a little paradise. The views are insanely good. We grabbed one of these benches and just sat there, hand in hand, admiring the beauty of Austria.

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We were missing something though…

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Brew with a view

A delicious pint of one of Austria’s fine beers completes the delightful experience! Stiegl is one of Austria’s most popular, revered beers. Unfortunately, they just brew a lager style offering no ales. But, the beer is worth trying. It’s quite a refreshing easy-drinking not-too-hoppy lager. (More on our beer travels in Austria coming soon in a separate post!)

Despite the somewhat warmer temperatures, there was still some snow around. But the weather was pleasant. And, the place wasn’t too packed with tourists – one of the biggest advantages of traveling during the off-season. We found a cozy little spot and sat sipping our beers and basking in the spring sunshine – the perfect recipe for a great day!

The Salzkammergut mountain range is quite impressive. Dachstein is one of the tallest and most popular mountains in Salzkammergut and is known for its fascinating ice caves and glaciers.

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Some of the mountains of Salzkammergut

We’d planned on visiting Dachstein as well on this trip but hit some bad weather and decided to save this for our next Austrian trip. The views of the Austrian Alps from Dachstein look mind-blowing and you should definitely make it part of your itinerary if you can!

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The large mountain you see is Schafberg

Schafberg is another popular mountain around the Wolfgangsee and at the foothills of this mountain is St. Wolfgang, another charming little village. Schafberg is well-known for its historic steam cog railway that has been offering rides up the steep mountain for over 120 years! [Fun fact: The train has also featured in the hugely famous movie ‘Sound of Music’. Most of the movie was actually filmed in and around the Salzkammergut area.] The Schafbergbahn was sadly not operational in early April and we missed this exciting ride.

There’s so much to do around the Wolfgangsee and so much beauty!

But, we first needed some food! We decided to head back down to St. Gilgen and grab a bite in one of those lovely lakeside restaurants.

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The Wolfgangsee Schiffahrt takes you on a beautiful ride across the lake, meandering through crystal clear blue waters. Apart from St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang, there are a few other little villages by the Wolfgangsee you can visit if you’d like.

Having happily stuffed ourselves with some delicious food and ales at the Fischer Wirt restaurant, we decided to wander around little St. Gilgen.

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Hidden alleyways are the best place to start
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Just love how trees look in early spring – still blossoming with the littlest of green leaves

St. Gilgen is a small village with lovely little houses dotting the lakefront. It is also sometimes referred to as Abersee. But is popularly known as ‘Mozart village’. Although Mozart never visited the place, a few of his family members lived here and there’s a Mozarthaus to commemorate the great composer and his family.

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Not too far away from the Mozarthaus is a lovely statue of Mozart himself in front of the Rathaus (town hall).

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St. Gilgen Mozartplatz

It’s not just music but wonderful art as well that adorns this quaint little village.

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A fountain dedicated to Mozart’s mother who was born here

Our last stop was the parish church of Saint Aegidius, aka Saint Giles, after whom the village gets its name.

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It is a small church done up in baroque style. While the interior of the church was splendid, the little cemetery at the back of the church was heart-warmingly beautiful. It was so endearing to see the little notes on the tombstones, the fresh bouquets of flowers, the candles and the photographs on the graves.

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It got us thinking about our own loved ones we lost in this sometimes difficult journey that is life. Our spirits weren’t dampened though. If anything, this town filled us with an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us.

We simply fell in love with St. Gilgen. It is just a tiny place in the vast land of Austria but it is one of the prettiest places in this remarkable country. We made a silent promise to come back to this enchanting little village.