Following our time in Budapest we had originally planned to head south to the Croatian coast for about a week and then catch a ferry to get to Italy. Some friends of ours were vacationing in Rome in early March and we had made plans to meet up with them. However, once we began looking at transportation options to get across the Adriatic Sea, we realized that the ferries were not running at this time of year. We were faced with a dilemma because we had set dates to be in Italy, but we weren’t exactly excited to take a 24+hour train ride to wrap us around the Mediterranean coast from Croatia. We eventually found a solution, which was to head back west via train and see some more of Austria before going directly south to Italy. While we weren’t thrilled with our time in Vienna, we wanted to give some of Austria’s smaller cities a chance. Plus, seeing the Alps during the height of winter seemed like a great way to experience their raw beauty. We decided that our first stop during this detour would be Salzburg.
The train ride from Budapest was relatively short. We left in the mid-morning and arrived in the mid-afternoon. When we arrived at Salzburg central station we were amazed at how clean and modern it was. The station was made with a lot of glass walls and it looked recently renovated. This was a great first impression of the city.
We were able to walk to the AirBnB from the train station in about 15 minutes. On the walk over we could tell that Salzburg had a completely different feel than Vienna. The buildings were less imposing and it was much quieter and cleaner. The part of the city we were staying in was mostly residential. While this area of the city wasn’t particularly beautiful on its own, the snow covered mountains made for a fantastic backdrop.
After checking into our AirBnB we set out to find dinner. We walked about five minutes to Gustav, a vegan restaurant Abbey had found online, but unfortunately they had no tables available. Luckily there was a quaint Italian deli and restaurant next door where we were able to feast on some tremendous black truffle pasta. After dinner, we went to a grocery store to grab a few easy snacks for our stay as we didn’t plan on cooking during our stay. We then returned to the AirBnB for the night so we could plan out the rest of our time in Salzburg.
The next morning we got a relatively early start to the day. As Abbey was getting ready I enjoyed a Red Bull that I had bought from the grocery store the night before. It had been a long while since I had drank a Red Bull, but I figured it was the most appropriate way to start my first full day in Salzburg (it’s manufactured in Salzburg). In case you were wondering, the taste was no different than Red Bull found in the United States (not that I was expecting it to be). For breakfast that morning we were able to return to Gustav and actually get a table this time. We split the scrambled tofu which was just what we were craving.
I was unable to find a free walking tour offered for Salzburg, so we were forced to break tradition and explore the city by ourselves on our first full day. Salzburg was the set for many scenes in the movie “The Sound of Music”, so out first stop was at the Mirabell Gardens. It was here where the famous “Do Re Mi” scene was shot for the movie. The gardens were free to enter, but to our disappointment most of it was roped off so you could not walk very far inside. We were not sure if this was just a seasonal restriction or not, but we both agreed that the gardens probably look much more like the movie during summer months. Regardless, we were both happy to see the Pegasus fountain and the Mirabell stairs which were iconic scenes in the movie.
From the gardens we made the short walk into Salzburg’s Old Town. At first I was unimpressed with the Old Town because it was loud and had more traffic than other Old Towns in Europe. However, as we explored more of it we found more pedestrian-specific areas and Old Town soon became I place I very much enjoyed. We eventually made our way across the river and ascended a steep cliff where we were treated with lovely views of Slazburg and the surrounding mountainous landscape. At the top of the cliff there was a cafe (M32 Cafe) where we stopped to enjoy some espresso and tea while gazing out the glass windows overlooking the city.
When our espresso was finished descended the many steps that led us to the bottom of the cliff. From there we made our way back into Old Town and found a burger restaurant for lunch that offered 3 different vegan burgers . After a unexpectedly delicious lunch we spent some time just wandering the streets of Old Town stopping in any shops that looked interesting. While walking around I began to really enjoy Salzburg for how peaceful the city is.
After a while of wandering we eventually ended up at a superb cafe where we enjoyed aero-pressed coffee. At this point the sun was beginning to set. We went to a brewery on the other side of Old Town where we got dinner. Austria is a pretty expensive country, so by the time we had paid for dinner we had pretty much blown out our budget for the day. Thus we decided the best course of action would be to call it a night so we would be able to enjoy the city again tomorrow.
The next day we decided to forgo breakfast and headed directly into Old Town towards the Hohensalzburg Castle which sat on a giant hill at the edge of Old Town. After buying ticket to tour the castle at the bottom of the hill we had the option to take a funicular (rail car on a steep incline) to the top, but we opted to walk the winding dirt road to the top instead. Once inside the castle grounds we could see how well preserved it was. It really felt like you were walking around during Medieval times. We took an audio-tour which explained the history of the castle and brought us to a viewing platform where we had a lovely view of the city. I enjoyed this view more than the one from M32 cafe. Following the tour we got a small snack at the castle restaurant and took the funicular to get back to the bottom.
We spent the rest of the day much in the same way we had the previous day. We wandered the streets some more, stopping in anywhere that seemed interesting. Eventually we ended up at a wine bar to pass some time until dinner. We had to exit Old Town to get to “Organic Pizza” for dinner, but it was well worth the walk as we were able to indulge ourselves with vegan pizza. We had debated on whether to split a pizza or get one each. We decided to get our own pizzas, which turned out to be more food than we could handle. Somehow though, we were able to push through and finish almost all the pizza we had ordered. After dinner we returned to the AirBnB which essentially brought our time in Salzburg to a close.
With Vienna being such a disappointment, I was both anxious and excited to give Austria another chance. I headed to Salzburg with the Sound of Music in mind and was…neutral with the related findings. It was about this point in our journey that the weather was really getting to me. Every morning I dreaded dragging myself out of bed for a run in the frigid weather, much less spending the rest of the day going from attraction to attraction. Unfortunately, I think the weather was clouding my judgement of a lot of cities.
The rest of Salzburg was still enjoyable, freezing limbs aside. The mountains were snowy and the views were incredible when you could get high enough. The prices were higher than we had grown accustomed to, so that was a bit of a shock, but still manageable. Salzburg was a much “cuter” city than Vienna was. While there were certainly streets filled with high-end stores, it still didn’t feel quite as commercialized as Vienna had. It seemed like there were more local stores and restaurants around than large chains.