Home » 2017 European Vacation

Salzburg, Austria

Sunday, May 28, 2017 - 10:15am by Lolo
34 miles and 0.75 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Camping Nord-SumCamping Nord-SumSalzburg, the city of Mozart and the Sound of Music, came highly recommended by Rick Steves and practically every other European travel guide I picked up during my planning. Plus, its proximity to Chiemsee (only 45 minutes) and Berchtesgaden (less than 45 minutes) - two planned stops on our itinerary - confirmed our decision to visit this lovely old city.

However, before entering Austria we had to stop at a gas station before crossing the border to buy a vignette to display on our windshield to allow us to travel on the Austrian highways without receiving a large fine. While the German highways are free, most of the other countries in the European Union have some sort of toll system. A 10-day vignette cost us 8.90 euros.

As we had hoped, there was a choice of two campgrounds less than 4 bike path miles from the Altstadt (Old City) that rented bicycles. Somewhat randomly, we chose Camping Nord-Sum, a small, family run campground with grassy sites separated by trees and shrubs, and a heated swimming pool. The office was located in a beautiful Bavarian-style home, complete with flower boxes on the wood balconies and a nice dining area in front that could be used by campers.

Biking to SalzburgBiking to SalzburgAfter getting the camper van situated, we rented a pair of bikes and headed out on the bike path that led to the Aldstadt. In about a mile and a half, the path made a left and we rode for the rest of the way along the Salzach River, where we had wonderful views of the Aldstadt.

Salzburg’s Altstadt, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a charmingly preserved old town with splendid gardens, Baroque churches, cobblestone streets, and Europe’s largest intact Medieval fortress. Coming from a land where history goes back only 300 years or so, it was still a novelty for us to wander through so many more centuries of history.

We crossed the Salzach River on the Makartsteg Bridge, Salzburg’s newest pedestrian bridge, where there was a sea of “Lover’s Locks” covering almost every inch of the fence just below the railing. I have seen these in several locations in the U.S., but never this dense. They looked like colorful jewels glinting in the sunlight.

Lover's Locks on Makartsteg BridgeLover's Locks on Makartsteg BridgeIt added a bit of romance to what was already a romantic city. There are many stories as to how this tradition started, but most people credit this phenomenon to a 2006 novel by Federico Moccia called “I Want You,” in which two lovers fix a lock to the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome to express their unbreakable love for each other. Typically, the lovers’ names or initials are inscribed on the lock, and the key is thrown away - hence, the unbreakable part of the symbolism. From there, the tradition has spread around the world to mixed reviews. Some cities treat the locks as vandalism and remove them, while others embrace them as art and a way to attract tourists. Salzburg was definitely the latter and I think it really added charm to the city.

Having only rental bike locks at our disposal, we sadly had to miss declaring our eternal love for each other in Salzburg. Instead, we rather pragmatically used our locks to secure our bikes to a rack at the other end of the bridge, so that we could continue on foot.

Museum der Moderne SalzburgMuseum der Moderne SalzburgWherever you are in Salzburg, it’s hard not to feel the presence of the Monchsberg, a cliff face that rises 400 feet above the city. There is a funicular connecting the Aldstadt to the Hohensalburg Castle atop the cliff, but we decided that we would walk to the Museum of Modern Art on top instead.

It was a lovely walk mostly through a forest, until we arrived at the restaurant terrace of the museum, which had a wonderful view of the Salzach River winding its way through the old town.

We probably should have stuck with gazing at the view, because I would have to say that the museum itself was pretty disappointing. Now, we are not art connoisseurs, so maybe we just weren’t getting it. However, we felt somewhat vindicated in our feelings after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor. Still, it did bring us to a great spot atop the Monchsberg.

Salzach River flowing through the AldstadtSalzach River flowing through the AldstadtRather than hike back down to street level, we followed the path along the top of the cliff for about a mile and descended behind the legendary Augustiner Braustubel, Austria’s largest beer inn and garden. It was founded by Augustinian monks in 1605.

The beer garden didn’t open until 2:30 on Sundays, but a line was already forming on its steps when we arrived at 2:00. We didn’t have to worry about getting a seat though, as the beer garden alone sits 1,400 people. There are also several indoor dining halls as well.

As with the other beer gardens we had been to so far, the tables were set in the shade of old chestnut trees. Herb was convinced that the purpose of the lids on German beer steins is to prevent the droppings from these trees getting in one’s beer. Perhaps he was right, because we noticed that many people were placing their coasters on top of the mugs between sips.

Lolo enjoying the Augustiner BraustublLolo enjoying the Augustiner BraustublBeer gardens are self serve, so Herb went off to forage for beer, which was a multi-step process. First he first went to a cashier and purchased two tokens. He then used these tokens to select two stone-made “Maß” (one-liter) mugs off a shelf. These mugs were then filled with beer from a wooden barrel.

Next it was my turn to find lunch. I ascended a series of steps leading into into an arcade lined with small shops and market stalls, called the “Schmankerlgang”. There were so many choices. Everything looked so good, that I couldn’t go wrong. I finally selected a stall near a statue of St. Augustine, the namesake of our beer, and purchased two orders of bratwurst, sauerkraut, and potatoes.

The lunch and the meal were wonderful, but what I really like about beer gardens is the atmosphere of conviviality - families and friends gathered together on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy each other’s company, enhanced by some great food and beer.

Herb showing the younguns how it's doneHerb showing the younguns how it's doneWe couldn’t leave Salzburg without visiting Mozart, so we strolled along the Salzach River back towards the Aldstadt. Along the way we passed a park with exercise stations, where shirtless, jacked twenty-somethings were working out. Despite being at least twice their age, Herb jumped in and did as many dips as they were doing. The old man’s still got it - even after some wurst and a Maß beer.

Continuing along, we got off the main drag and wandered through the narrow pedestrian alleys that we have come to love in Europe. In the Mozartplatz we stopped to admire the Mozart statue and the beautiful old pink Church of St. Michael, built in the 800s.

Looming 400 feet above the square atop a rock called Festungsberg is the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress, built in the 11th century as a show of the Catholic Church’s power.

Strolling through the AldstadtStrolling through the AldstadtIf we had the time and energy, we would have climbed back up the cliff to take a tour, but instead we continued through the Aldstadt to Mozart’s Geburtshaus (birthplace) and the place where he composed most of his works as a young protege. It is the most visited sight in the city.

On our bike ride back to the campground, we stopped at a climbing gym right alongside the bike path to take a peek. It was a really nice gym, but surprisingly empty. When we asked why, the girl at the counter said that on nice days, everyone climbs outdoors. This would be something fun to do tomorrow we decided. As we were hopping back on our bikes, the girl ran out with one of those large Bavarian pretzels. “Hungry?” she asked. “I have lots of these left over because no one came today.” I rode the rest of the way back, with a pretzel strapped to my backpack.

That evening we swam in the campground pool and lounged around, discussing plans for the next day. Our original intention was to spend another day in Salzburg, but a quick check on the weather showed that rain would be moving into the Alps in a few days. We really had our hearts set on hiking in Berchtesgaden National Park, so we decided to cut our visit to Salzburg short and get there before the weather changed.


View from the Museum der Moderne SalzburgView from the Museum der Moderne SalzburgSalzburg has a charmingly preserved old town with splendid gardens, Baroque churches, cobblestone streets, Europe’s largest intact Medieval fortress. It is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the location for the Sound of Music, around which many guided tours are centered.

Saltzburg’s Aldstadt (Old Town) is a Unesco World Heritage Site

  • connected to the top of the Monchsberg mountain (great views) via funicular and elevator
  • Funicular brings you to imposing Hohensalzburg Castle
  • Elevator brings you to cafes, the Museum of Modern Art, wooded paths, and great views
  • You can also walk up to the top from several points in town – behind the cathedral, Toscaninihof, and the Augustiner Braustubl beer garden

Walking tours of Salzburg

  • One-hour guided walk without a reservation – just meet at the TI on Mozartplatz
  • Or do on our own with Rick’s Steve audio tour (which can be downloaded for free)
    • Mozartplatz
    • Residenzplatz
    • New Residenz and Glockenspiel
    • Mozart’s birthplace
    • Old Residenz
    • Salzburg Cathedral
    • Kapitelplatz
    • St. Peter’s Cemetery
    • St. Peter’s Church
    • Toscaninihof
    • Universitatsplatz
    • Monchsberg Cliff Face
    • Getreidegasse
    • Alter Market

Salzburg Card (26 euro for one day)

  • Entrance to all the major sights and attractions
  • Free river cruise
  • Unlimited use of public transport (including cable cars)

Salzburg location map in "high definition"

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