My trip to Austria started with a 30-minute drive to Kaiserslautern, Germany, followed by a midnight 6-hour bus ride and early morning entrance into the 4th largest city in Austria. Like Colon Germany, Salzburg, Austria was built on the settlement of an old Roman town called Iuvavum. Based on my experience in Colon; I was excited to see the rich history that the romans left behind in Salzburg. Upon entering the city, the first thing I saw was a large fortress called Hohensalzburg. This fortress and many of the amazing stately manors and edifices were erected by several rulers and, bizarrely enough, Roman Catholic Archbishops. Salzburg is littered with baroque architecture, that seemed designed to transport you back in time or envelope you into a feeling of romantic idolization. The old city is remarkably preserved, as you can find the most cohesive baroque architecture within the city limits. Seeing the cityscape is like opening a book of fairytales weaved with magical stories of wizards, kings, elves, and gnomes.
Salzburg is a wonderful European city with dozens of church towers and fantastic elevated lookouts. A few years ago, this city made it to the top 20 Condé Nast must-visit places which is often the mark of approval for swanky travelers. I based many of my travel ventures on a lot of my childhood whimsy, proximity, availability, and cost. No amount of encouragement by Condé Nast has ever influenced my choices, but I could see why Salzburg made it on their top 20, because it is truly a unique place.
To begin my journey, I wandered down Altstadt, an essential part of Salazburg’s old town, where many locals and tourists spent hours socializing. In this area, the streets are narrow, with stores and shops selling treats, antiques, souvenirs, high fashion, and traditional wear. Not too far from there, you can also find Mozart’s childhood home, several historic buildings, and if you walk far enough, you can get to the Salzach river. From Altstadt, I took the Salzburg sightseeing hop-on & hop-off bus to the Hellbrunn Palace with its many fountains and garden.
Hellbrunn Palace or the pleasure palace was my first stop and where I spent a significant amount of time in the morning. The term pleasure palace was an acceptable term that many aristocrats used to describe their private respites for entertainment especially during the summer and ceremonial gatherings. Hellbrunn was built in 1619 and is well known for its gardens and fountains, which back in 1619 was a significant engineering feat to undertake.
This palace was built by Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, who was a nobleman who became a bishop. I do not always think of nobility, wealth, and pleasure palaces when I think of bishops and religious figures. In Salzburg and many other cities throughout Europe, this is the case as during the renaissance; wealthiest families often had one of their many sons “take the cloth.” Markus was the Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg, which was as good as being the king of Salzburg. This gave him the charge and power to build many of the grand homes and palaces in Salzburg.
While on the grounds of Hellbrunn I had breakfast at the Gasthaus zu Schloss Hellbrunn and enjoyed the view.
This restaurant is located within the gates of the Schloss Hellbrunn Princely Pleasure Palace. When I visited, I had breakfast in their outdoor dining area. sitting there, I had a view of the open courtyard and the entrance into the palace.
Gasthaus zu Schloss Hellbrunn site: http://www.gasthaus-hellbrunn.at/
After the pleasure palace I ended up back down in the old city and got to see another palace. I forgot to say that Salzburg is filled with castles and mansions. This other palace is in walking distance from the main street, and it’s another palace built by another Prince-Archbishopric “Wolf Dietrich.” This place is breathtaking and is clearly a place where many influencers, photographers, and of course, wedding photos are taken. It is the perfect place for proposals, first dates, and any event that involved couples or families.
Mirabell Palace and garden was made even more popular when it served as a background for the movie called The Sound of Music. I actually haven’t seen this movie since I was a child and can hardly remember what it was about, but seeing these gardens in person made me want to revisit the film.
One of my last major stops before heading to dinner was the fortress which is an important landmark. You can take the funicular up the mountain or walk, which is something I was not prepared to do. This was another massive undertaking commission by the Prince-Archbishopric. This fortress has many restaurants, shops, museums, torture chambers, salt storerooms, and towers. There is a lot to see and do here, but if I had to recommend one must-see, I would try to get to the top of one of the lookout towers to see the panoramic view of the city. I could also recommend stopping to have dinner or lunch while at the fortress if you do not feel like walking up to the lookout towers. Any of the restaurants can provide an incredible views and add to the fond memories of your time at the fortress.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress dominated the Salzburg skyline, so you cannot miss it. The fortress could hold about 1,000 people living self-sustainable for months.
After a long sweaty walk up and down the lookout tower, I ended up at a beer garden, which is very common in this part of Austria. Before I went to the beer garden I visited a church that sat at the food of the fortress. Between the church and the fortress you will find many vendors and large fountain.
Augustiner bräu – Kloster Mülln Beer Garden
The beer garden is an outdoor dining experience that everyone should have when in this part of the world. At this beer garden everyone was gathered at various tables under a cluster of oak or chestnut trees; the sound of people engaging in friendly banter was a delight. This beer garden was sprawling, but ultimately it was interesting to witness and be a part of this. While I do not drink beer, going to the beer garden was just as important as seeing the many historical sites in Salzburg.
The history of beer gardens is as old as the city, for with a monastery within the city limits, you then know that the monks were brewing beer for over 400 years in Salzburg. Beer in this part of the world is a significant cultural life force behind the city.
Beer gardens came out of necessity for the brewing companies because beer ferments in cool-tempered places just like wine. The large shaded area was usually where the beer was kept underground. In the summer, this area is turned into outdoor seating where customers can gather to drink. Customers can also bring their own food. Outside of beer, the food that is made available is both traditional and simple; fish, pretzels, pork, fries, potatoes, pickled onions, and desserts.
After the beer garden, I strolled back to the bus stop, then sat around people-watching until the sky slowly turned into the color of pink lemonade. I remember seeing several locals dressed in traditional wear heading to the local watering hole and couples impeccably dressed happily stepping out for a night on the town. It was Saturday evening, but the city was quiet and seemed bizarrely content with itself. As if to say that anyone is welcome to sample its simple delights and lifestyle. Upon first look, Salzburg felt new, different, and special; but sitting there at the end of the day, I realize how much this place is just like so many other towns or cities throughout the world. People are simply living their lives going on dates or hanging out with friends.
As I sat watching the activity on the street decrease with the sunset, I started to feel like every experience where I can find the time and space to sit back and recognize the beauty in a day is always the perfect ending to any trip, long or short.