Austria is one of the most beautiful countries to visit and each city and/or town is very distinctive in its own right. Visiting the charming capital, Vienna, is a delightful cultural experience. The city is full of stunning traditional and modern architecture and an abundance of historical sights and museums. Famous for its imperial heritage and coffee house culture, there is something very special about visiting Vienna. In contrast, Salzburg, whilst much smaller than Vienna, boasts the most picturesque Old Town that can be seen with a backdrop of scenic mountains, making it a truly magical city.
My introduction to Salzburg was by Vienna Sightseeing, which offers a day-tour from Vienna to Salzburg that I would certainly recommend if you're in Vienna for a few days. The contrast between the cities is evident, each incredibly beautiful for their own reasons, but worth seeing whilst in Austria and I am thrilled to share a day-tour experience to Salzburg with you; read on if you want to find out about this amazing destination.
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A 4-hour journey filled with gorgeous scenery
A day tour by Vienna Sightseeing departs from the Vienna State Opera House at 7.15 am unless you have requested a hotel pick-up in advance, which is included if requested 24 hours before the tour. The journey will be conducted in a coach, which may have two-levels, contingent on the number of individuals that have booked the tour. The coach is very clean and comfortable, meaning that the total of 8 hours that you have to spend on it will certainly be bearable.
This is because it will take 4 hours (with rest breaks) to travel one-way from Vienna to Salzburg. Whilst this amount of time may sound daunting, the drive itself is an incredible experience. You will see the most exquisite natural beauty that your eyes could enjoy and so much so that time will fly by quickly. You will have a multi-lingual guide on board, who will emphasize the importance of the group staying together and being on time.
On your way to Salzburg, you will stop once or twice including at the Landzeit motorway restaurants. These restaurants are not like your usual fast-food motorway establishments but are really spacious and quaint eateries with the most gorgeous views of Salzburg, as you can see from my photographs. The type of food offered at the Landzeit restaurants is primarily buffet, with the option of ordering certain items off the menu. The presentation and the quality is brilliant and will appeal to your pallet. Fresh juices, different types of cheese and fruit mean that you will be spoilt for choice.
Tremendous mountains and turquoise lakes covered with mist
On your return journey from Salzburg, you are likely to stop for dinner at Rosenberger, which is a clean dining establishment, albeit offering sub-standard food in comparison to Landzeit. I would suggest that you enjoy munching on your way to Salzburg and whilst in Salzburg, as the choice at Rosenberger is not as extensive and appealing as Landzeit.
Nevertheless, whether you are travelling in the summer or winter time, the stops at these establishments will allow you to take photographs of the stunning surrounding areas. A picture of the tremendous mountains with the turquoise lakes covered with a layer of mist are truly sensational. If you are fortunate and time permits, Vienna Sightseeing may travel through some of the Austrian alps and stop at St. Gilgen and see Lake Wolfgang or/and Salzkammergut to see Lake Mondsee.
Overall, the travel experience is a positive one with planned, scheduled stops to allow for restroom breaks, refreshments and photo opportunities. The views that you will see are the type that cannot be had by simply staying in Vienna or its immediate surroundings. It is worth the 8 hours on the coach.
Start off in the New Town at Mirabell Palace
Once you arrive in Salzburg you will disembark from the coach at Paris Lodron Street, which is in the New Town of Salzburg. Your guide will take you on a fast-paced 45 minute walking tour through a part of the New and Old Town. Due to the speed and paving of Salzburg, this type of a tour would not be suitable for those with mobility issues.
Your guide will first take you to see Mirabell Palace and its famous gardens from the outside. Mirabell Palace was built by Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich in 1606 for his mistress and her children and it and its accompanying gardens are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List with Salzburg's Old Town. In 1854, Emperor Franz Joseph opened the gardens to the public for the first time and ever since, it has had been populated with locals and tourists wandering around.
Whilst being aesthetically pleasing, the gardens are also famous because of the popular international movie, the "Sound of Music". This is because the "Sound of Music" was shot in various places in Salzburg including outside Mirabell Palace and in the gardens.
The "Sound of Music" comes alive in Salzburg
The specific scene in the "Sound of Music" that was shot at this site was where Julie Andrews and children representing the Von Trapp family sang, "Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun. Me, a name, I call myself. Far, a long long way to run. Sew, a needle pulling thread. La, a note to follow so. Tea, a drink with jam and bread. That will bring us back to doe, oh oh oh". Your guide will point out the fountains, steps and statues that were included in the scene.
Now, even if you're not a fan of the Sound of Music, you will still be able to appreciate the beauty of this adorable site. Whilst the trip that I enjoyed with Vienna Sightseeing was in the winter months, I also returned in the summer months to Salzburg and Mirabell Palace and its gardens looked magnificent. This is because of the perfectly trimmed grass covered with gorgeous colourful flowers. Locals and tourists often relax in this area and lounge around on the benches or on their picnic blankets whilst soaking up the sun.
Cross the Makartsteg Bridge to reach the charming Old Town
After Mirabell Palace and Gardens, your guide will walk at full speed towards the Old Town. You will cross the Makartsteg Bridge, also known as the "Bridge of Love" as it is covered with padlocks representing the affection of couples that have locked their padlocks there. The Makartsteg Bridge is a pedestrian only bridge that connects the New Town and the Old Town of Salzburg by creating a link over the River Salzach. The River Salzach is a shallow river that is 225 kilometres (140 miles) long and runs through Austria and Salzburg. As you cross the Makartsteg Bridge, you will immediately be awed by the fascinating architecture of the Old Town and the stand-out Hohensalzburg fortress that sits at the top of the Old Town and overlooks this ancient charm.
Talented Mozart's birthplace at Getreidegasse
Once you reach the Old Town, you will walk on the cobbled steps and through a few archways in order to reach Getreidegasse, which is possibly one of the cutest shopping streets on the planet. It has quaint little signs with pictures hanging from the side of each entrance and elaborately decorated facades in its windows.
As you walk down this street, you will be informed about its history and also taken to see Mozart's birthplace, which is at No. 9 Getreidegasse. The house has a bright yellow colour and has now been converted into a museum to honour this phenomenal artist that was born here. If you would like to visit the museum, you will have an opportunity to do so after the walking tour and during your own spare time.
After Getreidegasse, your guide will march through a number of beautiful squares whilst trying to teach you as much as possible about Salzburg's Old Town. Some of the squares that you may be taken to are Residenzplatz, Domplatz, Kapitelplatz, Mozartplatz and Alter Market. Throughout the squares you will be able to appreciate the ornate baroque architecture, pretty buildings and the bustling vibe throughout. You are also likely to spot a number of horse and carriages that provide tours of Salzburg from the Old Town.
Festungsbahn funicular to the famous Hohensalzburg
After power walking for around 45 minutes in Salzburg, your informative guide will leave you close to the entrance of the Festungsbahn funicular, which is a modern railway/lift that will transport you to see Hohensalzburg. The guide will inform you that you have approximately 3 hours in which to view Hohensalzburg on your own and/or to walk around and enjoy the Old Town at your own leisure. Hohensalzburg is a fortress that was initiated by Archbishop Gebhard in 1077 and is over 900 years old. It is the largest and only preserved fortress in central Europe that was never conquered or taken over.
I would recommend that you do take the Festungsbahn funicular as you will be able to enjoy the views from the most visible landmark in Salzburg within a 54 second journey. The Festungsbahn funicular runs every 10 minutes and costs 15.20 EUR (16 USD) for adults and 8.70 EUR (9 USD) for children under the age of 14 for a return journey on the railway/lift and access to a number of parts of the fortress. The Festungsbahn funicular is the oldest one in Austria and was built in 1892 and is still extremely safe (I have been on it at least four times in the last 12 months so I can confidently vouch for it).
Have a bite to eat or some scrumptious cake in Salzburg
The views of Salzburg from Hohensalzburg are extraordinary as you can see not only the Old Town and the River Salzach but also a part of the New Town too. Being able to see the Old Town from such height will certainly make you appreciate the magnitude of little squares and quarters that make this famous site so popular. The fortress itself has a number of medieval rooms and romantic courtyards within it and is quite a magical site in which to have an opportunity to walk around. If you're feeling a little bit tired, there are also a few restaurants within the fortress that offer some food and drink to enjoy.
I would recommend, however, that you have a quick bite at one of the restaurants in the Old Town itself (as your time is limited and you should try and experience the fortress and the squares and streets of Salzburg). I suggest that you try some food at Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood in the Old Town or alternatively, some scrumptious cake at Café Sacher on the outskirts of the New Town. I would urge you to try the world-famous Sacher torte if you decide to visit Cafe Sacher.
You should definitely consider staying in Salzburg
You will be required to meet the guide at Paris Lodron Street at 4 pm for departure from Salzburg and for a return journey to Vienna. Noted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and birthplace to Mozart and the famous movie, "The Sound of Music", it has become one of my favourite destinations in the world and I would recommend that you do a tour with Vienna Sightseeing.
The cost of the tour for an adult is 119 EUR (125 USD) and for children it is 48 EUR (50 USD). This includes transportation to and from Vienna as well as a guided tour of Salzburg as detailed in this review. If you decide to book this tour, I would advise that you wear comfortable footwear and also take your own map of Salzburg. This is because it will allow you to navigate around the city during your spare time.
I can assure you that once you've seen Salzburg, you will be magnetically attracted to return, as it simply is one of the most beautiful places in the world with the most panoramic views of mountains and lakes that surround it. If you're interested in visiting Salzburg but are concerned about arranging your own transportation, then you could also consider booking this tour from Vienna and remaining in Salzburg. This would allow you to travel in comfort and have a guided tour of the city before exploring it on your own. If you do plan to do this, you are advised to inform Vienna Sightseeing in advance.