7 Nights in Salzburg and Up and Down the Salzach Valley

Salzburg old town

I been to Vienna 3 times and loved that city and, hearing that Salzburg was totally different, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. But despite a very wet welcome I instantly loved this compact beautiful city. What’s more, Salzburg was a great base for terrific day trips up and down the Salzach Valley. With only a week we didn’t have nearly enough time for the area.


Top Salzburg Experiences

  • DomQuartier
  • Hohensalzburg Fortress and Mönchsberg Walk

Top Day Trips

  • Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
  • Hitler’s Eagles Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)
  • Hallein Salt Mine Tour
  • Liechtensteinklamm (Gorge Hike)

Salzburg

Cafés, Cake and the Cathedral

Our first Salzburg stop was a look inside the Cathedral around the corner from the apartment. We were lucky, this weekend was the Pfingstfestspiele – the Pfingsten 15 Youth Festival – a HUGE Christian celebration culminating in a service in the Cathedral on Sunday. Why lucky? The Cathedral was lit with gorgeous blue, pink and red lighting affects.

Salzburg cathedral lighting

Salzburg cathedral lighting

Coffee and cake at Cafe Tomaselli - out of the rain

Coffee and cake at 300 year old Cafe Tomaselli

Back outside the drizzle had turned into a downpour – next stop, a break from the rain at one of the most famous and venerated coffee houses in Salzburg – Café Tomeselli for some espresso and cake outdoors on their covered patio.


Mozart Birthplace, Mozart Residence, and the DomQuartier

The two top Mozart sites are the Geburtshaus (Birthplace house) and the Residence across the Salzach river. We took our time in both of these museums and wandered back to the old town to find a Youth dress parade about to set out from the Festpielhaus to the Cathedral. Colorful banners, uniforms, maybe a hundred or so representing their organization.

The DomQuartier

The DomQuartier is the complex that consists of the former Archbishop’s palace, the Cathedral, and St. Peter’s Abbey. You can see it all plus all the museums in the complex with a full access ticket. Get the audioguide to get the most out of the visit. The place is BIG, 3 levels and connected to the Cathedral on one end, and connected to the Franciscan Church on the other. A lot to see – there’s a museum in the Residenz wing, Cathedral museums, the Cathedral Organ Gallery, Museum of St. Peter’s Abbey, and the Residenz State Rooms.

Bonus! When we got to the Cathedral Organ Gallery, the Youth Festival was in full swing in the Cathedral below – music, singing, praising – an unforgettable sight with thousands of people in the Cathedral transformed with the special lighting for the event. We stayed for quite awhile and rushed through the last museums and the State Rooms before they were closed.

Salzburg cathedral lighting

Salzburg Cathedral Youth Festival on Pentecost Sunday

One of the sumptious rooms in the Residenz - all have fabulous ceramic heaters

One of the sumptious rooms in the Residenz – all have fabulous ceramic heaters

Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Mönchsberg Walk

The next day we set off for the huge Hohensalzburg fortress that looms over the town, instead of the funicular we went up the stairs next to the Festpielehaus and walked to the Fortress from there.

Peering down onto the Salzburg Cathedral from the into the Hohensalzburg Fortress

Peering down at the Salzburg Cathedral from the Hohensalzburg Fortress

Tip: The map you get at the ticket booth shows you where the Audio Guide tour to the inner rooms start – go there first, it’s part of your entry ticket and that’s how you get up to the highest view spot on top of one of the Fortress towers.

Tip: Check the handout map you’re given at the ticket booth, ours had discounts for other sights in the Salzach Valley and the Hallein Salt Mine discount was a BIG one!

After roaming around the Fortress and museum, our next destination was the other end of the Mönchsberg (Salzburg’s Mountain) to the Augustiner Braustubl, the huge beer garden in the Kloister Müllen. A GREAT walk with lots of views over Salzburg with a terrific traditional biergarten at the end.

Augustiner Brauerei - beer hall - great stop after that stroll across Monchsberg

Augustiner Brauerei – beer hall – great stop after that stroll across Monchsberg

Wokman - our favorite restaurant in Salzburg

Wokman Natural Kitchen


Great Eats: WokMan Natural Kitchen, #11 Kapitelgasse – This restaurant should be called “Wok Magic!” Terrific quick, fresh from the wok rice or noodles with shrimp, chicken beef and vegetables. We dropped in to get a delicious meal to take back to the apartment 3 times, would have been 4 but they were closed on Sunday and Monday. My favorite: the noodle special (shrimp and vegetables) with mango and curry. This restaurant is called “Pho 18” in TripAdvisor, the ownership must have changed as it is the same location at Kapitelgasse 11 and the name is now Wokman Natural Kitchen.

Driving Excursions from Salzburg

Hallein Salt Mine Tour

A terrific tour, 2 fun mine slides, a boat ride on the underground lake and 4 fun little movies about the history. The mine spans Germany and Austria – you can’t miss the sign in the mine showing where the border is! Tip: If you went to Hohensalzburg Fortress you may have a discount in your Fortress map brochure.

Spanning 2 countries - underground in the Hallein Salt Mine

Spanning 2 countries – underground in the Hallein Salt Mine

Eisriesenwelt – the World’s Largest Ice Cave

If there’s only one sight you have time for in the Salzach Valley, make it THIS one! The Werfen Ice Cave (Eisriesenwelt) is the world’s largest and it is simply spectacular.

Eisriesenwelt

Spectacular views from the slushy snowy path to Eisriesenwelt – No photos allowed in the cave

To get up to the ice cave there’s a 20 minute walk, followed by a quick gondola ride up the steep mountain, and then another 20 minute walk up a mostly covered path up up up the mountain. The tour takes an hour or so, but for an English language tour you might end up waiting for more English speaking people to join. The tour is given in both German and English. Once inside the cave you hike up the equivalent of a 40 story building! After you’ve been amazed by this icy wonder the way back takes you through an ice tunnel, with the blue-white ice all around it is, well, just magical.

Tip: Get to the ice cave early not just for the most convenient parking, but to make the 3:00 Bird Show at Hohenwerfen when you are finished at Eisriesenwelt.

Tip: It’s ice, it’s frozen – wear your warm clothes and your hat and gloves. The stairs are steep inside, you’ll be using the metal handrail and will be thankful you have those gloves!

Hohenwerfen Castle

A visit to Burg Hohenwerfen made a great finish to the day in the area. Our timing was perfect to get the 2:00 guided tour (German only, but with an English language audioguide.) The tour ends in time for everyone to get to the excellent bird show at 3:00.

Burg Hohenwerfen

Hohenwerfen Castle

Tip: Your map handout from Hohensalzburg (Salzburg Fortress) has a discount to Hohenwerfen Castle.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt is a pretty, tiny village with a BIG reputation and plenty of tourists. We walked through the town to the boat dock to take a 50 minute boat ride on the Hallstatter See (Lake) to take in the views of the gorgeous alps from the water – this was our highlight in Hallstatt. The rest of it… well…

Hallstatt boat ride

View of the gorgeous alps on the Hallstatt boat ride


Hallstatt

Hallstatt

We’d already been on the Hallein Salt Mine tour and seen the fabulous Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave so didn’t feel the need to do a similar attraction in this area. After the boat ride we visited the other sights in the village of Hallstatt with the help of a book and a tourist map, which don’t take long to see. Where to now? Walking around another town like St. Wolfgang or St. Gilgen just didn’t sound that appealing at the moment so we headed back to the Salzach Valley to a FANTASTIC gorge!

Liechtensteinklamm

It’s not a short drive from Hallstatt to Liechtensteinklamm (Liechtenstein Gorge) but to walk through this gorgeous gorge the hour to get there was worth it.

Liechtensteinklamm

Liechtensteinklamm

This was the first of 3 gorges we saw on our trip, each a marvel of nature. The long walk through Liechtensteinklamm is steep, slippery and wet in many places along the wooden walkways anchored to the rock above the roiling water. Your reward at the end is a beautiful waterfall with a picnic area.

Hitler’s Eagles Nest and the Obersalzburg Documentation Center

Eagles Nest

A spectacular perch high on a mountain summit, Hitler’s Eagles Nest was built as a teahouse for the monster Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday. Fabulous views and gut-wrenching history. It’s expensive, worth the trip, and the profits are used for charitable purposes in the area.

Tip: Park in one of the huge parking lots, get your €3 parking ticket from the machine and put on your windshield.

Eagle's Nest

Eagle’s Nest

At the bus drop off, you walk through a long tunnel and take a gold plated elevator to the top. Notice the green benches in the anteroom before the elevator – they used to be inside the elevator for Hitler’s ride to the top.

Eagle's Nest

Tunnel, Elevator entrance and Elevator

In the dining hall you’ll see the fireplace where Easy company soldiers chipped away souvenir pieces of it’s once smooth marble facade.

Eagle's Nest

Fireplace chipped away by Easy Company

Tip: Get there early enough to get on a bus between 11 and 11:30. There’s an English language tour for €5 at the top bus parking lot, a whole lot of history in a very informative 30 minute tour. Only offered once per day at 12:00 pm at the top.

Tip: On the bus ride to the top you’re told to schedule a seat for your bus ride back. If you take the €5 tour at the top, no need to wait another line to do that – your guide will take care of it for you.

Great Break: The Eagles Nest restaurant serves great meals with a killer view.

Obersalzberg Documentation Center

The impressive Dokumentation Obersalzberg has in depth information on the Nazi horror regime with an audioguide to the exhibits. You could spend hours here, but go to the bunker first – you wouldn’t want to miss it and the center closes at 5:00pm. After the bunkers go back to the beginning and the mezzanine level where you start with Hitler’s early years and how the horrific history unfolds with the changing of Berchtesgaden from a peaceful farming community in Bavaria to a Nazi enclave where they plotted genocide.

Practicalities

Place To Stay Apartment 1

Place to Stay Apartment 1

Place To Stay Apartment

7 nights in a elegant, charming and comfortable 600 square foot, 1 1/2 bath studio in the heart of Salzburg on Brodgasse. So good we hated to leave and agreed that it was the best place we stayed in the 8 weeks we were traveling – we could have lived here a month! It was big, oozed character and had all the creature comforts we love. Don’t look for it though, unfortunately this fabulous apartment isn’t a short term rental any longer. I can understand that! It was perfect.

Arriving in Salzburg

The drive from Český Krumlov was about 2.5-3 hours, we dropped off our expensive Austrian car rental at the airport location. Because we were ending our road trip in Germany, 2 days later we picked up another car in Frielassing, a city in Germany across the border from Salzburg.

Tip: It’s easy and cheap to get to the center from the airport, just hop on bus #10 and 25 minutes later get off at your stop, ours was the Zentrum/Rathaus stop and a short walk to our apartment in Salzburg.

Tip: If you arrive in Salzburg on a Saturday be sure to get your grocery shopping done right away – in Austria, most grocery stores are closed on Sundays and holidays, and Pentecost Monday is a holiday.

Germany 14 Day Car Rental

Austria is an expensive place to rent a car. From Europcar in Vienna we had an economy model (Skoda Fabia) for 5 days which cost $321.00. From Hertz in Freilassing Germany we had an economy model for 14 days for $217! Both times I rented through AutoEurope, my go-to broker for European car rentals.

It’s easy to get your Germany car rental from the town of Frielassing just across the border from Salzburg – we took a taxi from Kapitelplatz for €20.

Before getting on a toll road in Austria, you need a Vignette to stick to your windshield. Our helpful Freilassing Hertz manager gave us directions to a Shell station in Austria to get the €8.70 10-day sticker.

Parking in Salzburg

Most of the old town of Salzburg is pedestrian only, but the HypoGarage Nonntal parking was only a 10 minute walk from the apartment and at €9 per day a real bargain. This underground parking garage is next to the UniPark (University Park) complex.

Leaving Salzburg

Our next base was Füssen, a nice town in Bavaria close to King Ludwig’s fairytale castles where we would spend 6 nights.

Travel: A one hour drive from Salzburg to the boat dock at Prien am Chiemsee for a visit to Herrenchiemsee New Palace on the island, followed by a 2.5 hour drive from Prien am Chiemsee to our apartment in Füssen.



Oops – Foto Ticket (speeding ticket): A month after our visit to Hitler’s Eagles Nest, Hertz sent notice that we’d been billed for a parking violation on the date we were in Berchtesgaden. A couple of weeks later, we got the official violation form from Germany – not parking, but doing 57km/h in a 50km/h, caught on Einseitensensor (a side sensor). Thank goodness for Google Translate! The penalty? €15, and to Hertz €29.75 administration fee. Oh, and a $40 wire transfer fee. We do our best to be careful to obey all traffic laws, but stuff happens.

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