December 11, 2018

Circle Salzburg through the Squares

Most of my Salzburg posts have been heavy on the photos and light on the text. I've enjoyed living within two hours of one of my favorite Europeans cities for over three years now, and it's high time I share my usual itinerary of how I loop through the town!


Basically, anyone who comes to visit Vilsbiburg gets a day in Salzburg with me. Salzburg was in my top three destinations when I first moved to Europe, right after Paris and anywhere in Italy. The past few years living in Germany, I have gone to Salzburg on average four times per year.

One of the many reasons I love Salzburg is because it is actually impossible to get lost. On the approach to the center, the river is on the left, the mountain is on the right, and once you've hit the highway, you've gone too far. My perfect scenario for wandering!

Most visitors will arrive at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof main train station. When you arrive at this station, make sure you wind your way to the center through Mirabellgarten. There is a small mansion there, but it is most recognizable for its role in The Sound of Music during the "Do-Re-Mi" song montage. My favorite moments are the "Do-Re-Mi" steps guarded by unicorns and the long green-arbored tunnel where you can "Fa, a long, long way to run!"


If you have the opportunity to get off the train on the other side of the river at the Salzburg Mülln-Altstadt station, I definitely recommend this route and saving the Hauptbahnhof route for the return. This station will drop you off on the river, then you follow the river to the right for the best approach to the old city center.


You will pass the Makartsteg bridge with "lovelocks," then you get to be creative. Choose one of the arches to duck into near the Billa supermarket and let it lead you into another era. When you end up on the next street, look for another archway to enter and you'll arrive in Universitätsplatz. This square regularly has a fresh market going, a beautiful church to walk through, and darling flower stands. You can eat at the seasonal tavern of Zipfer Bierhaus or just get a snack of a giant donut pretzel at the pretzels-of-all-kinds stand. You'll find it!

What you'll want to seek out in this square is Mozart's birthplace, in German as "Mozarts Geburtshaus." It's small and the entrance is a little tricky to see, but worth it for classical music lovers.


Head through another set of arches (you'll be doing this all day), past the lovely Cafe Tomaselli to get to Residenzplatz. The stately buildings and interesting fountain are even better when surrounded by the annual Christmas market every December. This square invites you into the next square of Mozartplatz, housing both the Salzburg Christmas Museum and normal Salzburg Museum, in addition to the central large statue of Mozart himself.

At this point, you are going to backtrack a little bit through Residenzplatz to get to Domplatz, the courtyard to your left. Here you can visit the massive Salzburg Cathedral before heading into my favorite square in Salzburg, Kapitelplatz. This square has it all: a glorious fountain, views of the fortress, a small market, musicians playing in the archways, free wifi, a life-size chess board, and even a giant golden ball with a man on the top of it. I usually sit here for a while before moving on to the next place to go.


If this is your only chance to visit Salzburg, it's a very good idea to journey up the side of the mountain to see the fortress in person. Go upward out of the square to find the FestungsBahn funicular that will train you up the mountain for a small fee. Once you get up to Festung Hohensalzburg (let's stick to "fortress"), it's a bit of an incline, and you do have to pay to enter the fortress grounds and museums. The best part of the on-your-own tour is getting to the other side of the fortress and seeing the magnificent Alps in the backdrop - make sure you go up on a clear day!


You can wander your way down the mountain, or take the funicular back down. It's a peaceful and pretty visit to Petersfriedhof Cemetery, where you can see something similar to how The Sound of Music characters hid from the Nazis toward the end of the movie. You can keep winding through these passages and squares along the mountainside and you will end up facing the huge Salzburger Festspiele where the annual music festival is held (and from where the Von Traps in the movie escaped the concert).

Continuing along the front side of the concert hall, you'll be in Max-Reinhardt-Platz and very soon in Herbert-von-Karajan-Platz. Enjoy the detailed architecture and various monuments arranged around Salzburg's university buildings. Continuing on through Bürgerpitalplatz and Museumsplatz will lead you right back to the river. At this point you can return to the smaller train station, or over the bridge back to the Hauptbahnhof.


BONUS: If you still have some spare time and energy, I highly recommend the hike up to the Kapuzinerkloster Monastery on the other side of the river along the old city walls. You'll have a full view of the Baroque city center and definitely be up and away from the crowds. It makes for a beautiful way to end your full day in Salzburg - plus you can pop into the Hotel Sacher Salzburg for their classic Sachertorte chocolate cake on your way back to the train station!


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