To say our trip to Salzburg, Austria started on a rough note was an understatement. For some reason, the universe did everything it could to keep us away. First we ran into baggage issues, and after an amazing time in Paris, we had to spend 3 hours sorting and repacking our bags in a corner just outside the train station. Yes, it smelled a lot like pee.
But before we got the bag fiasco sorted (an experience I wrote all about here), we had to figure out exactly how we’d be getting to Salzburg. I had train tickets booked weeks before we ever left Paris, but a sudden rail strike meant our train ticket was canceled, so we purchased the next best thing at the last second: an overnight bus ticket.
That’s 8 hours, on a bus, overnight, with a toddler. Yikes.
Thankfully Leila did amazingly well, but neither Rachel nor I slept a wink, and when the kid *kind of* sleeps and you don’t, it makes a rough day for both of you. We arrived in Munich and scrambled to make our connection before realizing the connection was 6 miles away; and we had about 10 minutes to get there. Yeah, we missed our connecting train, and after a confusing subway ride (and a very helpful deli owner), we made it to the main station and boarded another train for Salzburg.
We got there just in time to do a quick meet and greet with a number of local tourism boards, and then crashed for the night. The next day Leila had a bit of a fever, and the jet lag was hitting Rachel and I hard. So we stayed in most the afternoon, leaving only to get some groceries and some fresh air around the block. Otherwise, it was a lot of sleeping and looking after my little one.
But we had made it to Salzburg, and we were eager to explore! Thankfully, one of the best things about Salzburg is how close everything is together. It’s easy to leave one attraction and be just steps away from another! We saw the Fortress Hohensalzburg, Mozart’s birthplace and even saw his skull! Our first day was also full of Magnolia trees: they only bloom a few days out of the year, and luckily we were there at the right time to experience them!
Our highlight of the first day was the Mirabell Gardens, as they were quite beautiful. The only problem: there were so many flowers Leila was not allowed to touch that she had her first official meltdown of the trip. Sprawled out on the front entrance in front of 80 or so people, my 2 and a 1/2 year old daughter made it very clear to me that flowers were to be violently snugged, not merely looked at. After about 20 minutes or so she calmed down though, and we were able to get through the gardens with no flowers harmed in the process.
We wandered across Makartsteg Bridge (the “love lock” bridge), and let Leila browse the various locks. Her favorite shape right now is the heart, and since many of the locks have a heart either carved into or written on the side of them, this was an exciting discovery!
Tucked around the corner was a little cafe where we tried pork weinersnitzel and bratwurst. I’ve had weinersnitzel in the US, but our version is much heavier and much greasier than what we experienced here. This version was light and crispy, like a thick, pork chip! The bratwurst was even more of a surprise with firm, but buttery texture unlike anything we’ve had in the states. The spicy mustard and sauerkraut were both perfect compliments, and I’ve since been looking up homemade sauerkraut recipes since I’ve gotten home!
In fact it was so good, we got it again later while wandering through side streets. Another cafe had one of our favorite dishes yet: white asparagus soup. I’d heard white asparagus has a short season, and when it’s available the Germans and Austrians go crazy for it, so when white asparagus soup appeared as one of the specials on a street menu, we sat down and ordered it up! It still ended up being my favorite meal I tried in Salzburg!
Our favorite stop though, by far, was the monastery. With all the hustle and bustle of attractions (plus the exhausting ride there), the monastery was a peaceful refuge away from it all, and one we definitely soaked in as much as we could. You could see the entire city from the top, and as the trees were budding to welcome spring, and the path was clear and clean. Had the sun not been dropping, we could’ve spent the whole day walking around those woods.
Special tip: if you’re planning on taking a stroller through the monastery, it’s perfectly possible, but know it’s quite a hike up and down the pathway to get there. Completely doable, but it’s quite a workout. Be prepared; as in you might want to at least wear some comfortable shoes, and top-heave ladies like myself might want to wear a sturdier bra.
Even though there was so much of Salzburg we did see, there was also so much we didn’t. When you spend all day at one or two sites, that’s what happens! We don’t regret it though, the gardens and the monastery were so beautiful, we’d probably still go visit again the next time we come through!
Even just exploring the quieter alleys and side streets was both relaxing and entertaining. Plus with so many walking paths and biking paths. it’s the perfect town to explore while pushing a stroller. Yay for wide, smooth sidewalks again!
Hope you enjoy your trip to Salzburg!
Tips for Visiting Salzburg, Austria:
Go in the spring. It wasn’t crowded, and we were lucky enough to hit the exact dates the Magnolia trees were blooming. The giant pink flowers were found in the town square and lining a few fortunate streets. They were stunning!
Try the white asparagus soup while you can! Another benefit of going in spring! White asparagus has a super short season, so we enjoyed it as much as possible while it was on the menu. Don’t forget to try the pork weinersnitzel, bratwurst with spicy mustard and sauerkraut. Finish it all with a beer and warm apple strudel!
Get the city pass. Salzburg, Austria is so small and compact, you can easily see everything within a couple days. If you’re interested in exploring all of the famous sites, get a city pass. Not only does it count for sites in town, it also counts for many of the farther trips, like the Hellbrun fountains (a great spot to take the kids!). If you’re planning on staying a few days with the family, a city pass will be incredibly useful. Use my Salzburg, Austria Walking Guide to plan out your trip!