We’ve been living in Salzburg for 2 years now, and we’ve reached one definite conclusion:
Salzburg = a fairytale.
Between its Baroque architecture, perfectly manicured gardens, the medieval fortress, and narrow cobblestone streets winding through the Altstadt. There are few places in the world as picturesque and magical. Especially when you add in the mountains and lakes that surround the city.
So with our love for Salzburg as inspiration, we left the USA behind and moved here 2 years ago. We wanted this magic to be a part of our everyday lives (so WORTH IT!)
And throughout our 2 years as (wannabe) Austrians, it’s been our mission to experience and track down what you can’t find in a standard guidebook. So now, we’re taking all our secrets and sharing them with you, the WORLD!
Looking to get the most from your visit to this fairytale city?
Well, here’s our ultimate ‘BEST OF’ guide!
The Best Sights, Sounds & Tastes of Salzburg
BEST Austrian Restaurant: Zwettler’s
In Salzburg, you’ll find ENDLESS amounts of delicious Austrian cuisine. But the most delicious we’ve come across is from Zwettler’s.
Every time we’ve wined and dined here, it’s been the best. meal. EVER. No matter what we order, no matter what time of year and no matter how much Austrian food we eat, this restaurant NEVER disappoints. It’s reasonably priced and the quality is out of this world.
Located right near Mozartplatz, Zwettler’s is right in the heart of the old town.
TIP: The popularity if this fine establishment is NO secret, so be sure to make a reservation. There are smoking and nonsmoking sections as well as the great outdoors, so be sure to mention your preference when you reserve a table.
BEST Brewery: Stiegl Brewery (Stiegl Brauwelt)
A quick bus ride from the Altstadt in Salzburg will take you to the Stiegl Brewery, Salzburg’s most famous beer hotspot.
Bus route info: Line 1 and 10 from Salzburg AG, bus stop “Bräuhausstraße”
Whether you come for a brewery tour, which gives you 3 (LARGE) Stiegl tastings at the end. OR if you just come to eat in the outdoor beer garden, drink and enjoy the environment, Stiegl brewery can do no wrong.
Plus, the brewery was established in 1492, so while Columbus was sailing the ocean blue, Austrians were PROSTing with Stiegl!
BEST Beer Garden: Augustinerbrau Mülln
While Stiegl is the #1 brewery in Salzburg, the BEST and most famous beer garden experience can be found at the Augustinerbrau Mulln. There is simply nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
One beer, brewed here by monks since 1621. Endless stalls of the best Austrian foods available. An outdoor beer garden, an indoor beer hall. Men in lederhosen singing and ‘prosting’ from 3 pm until closing at 11 pm. Sit with strangers, socialize and join right it on the fun.
Augustinerbrau is not only our favorite beer garden but one of our favorite experiences in Salzburg PERIOD!
You pick your stone stein – large or small (but you should always go for large, at least for your first time!) Bring it over to the men with giant wooden barrels. They’ll pour it for you and you’ll be on your way. It will be overflowing, spilling on the floor. It’s perfect.
And this is no tourist trap. Tourists and locals alike gather here on a daily basis. Most locals even have tables that have been reserved for their group or family for hundreds of years! This is a tradition you definitely want to be a part of.
BEST City Hike: Monchsberg
Now that you’re full (of beer AND food!), it’s time to go on a hike, right in the center of Salzburg. And for that, we recommend Monchsberg.
You can get to Monchsberg from many different points throughout the city. The easiest way is to take the elevator for the Museum der Moderne that sits on Monchsberg. From there, you can wander around the mountain, eventually landing back in the Old Town.
TIP: For more information about the lift to Monchsberg, click here. For a single journey up or down, it costs 2.30euros. For both, 3.60euros. You can also group the lift ticket with a ticket to the Modern Art Museum for around 9 euros.
We’ve spent hours strolling through the parks and admiring the views on Monchsberg, and we still make an effort to go again and again. Not only are the views the best, you’ll also find medieval fortress walls, private castle mansions overlooking Salzburg. And of course, the Hohensalzburg fortress. It’s like a hidden nature’s paradise right above the city.
BEST Dessert: Salzburgernockerl, St. Peters Restaurant
Light, sweet, fluffy and beyond delicious. There is literally nothing like Salzburgernockerl anywhere else in the world. Hence the name – this is a specialty of Salzburg. The dessert itself even resembles the peaks of Salzburgerland!
It takes about 15 minutes to cook (so let your waiter know) and is made to share (for 3 people or more).
If you’re thinking “Uh, OK Erin, I can TOTALLY finish a dessert all by myself” – think again. You’ll quickly understand what I mean when your server brings out this GIANT display of heaven for your taste buds.
And why not enjoy Salzburgernocerkl at St. Peter’s Restaurant (St. Peter Stiftskellar), which is the OLDEST operating restaurant in the world (since 803 AD!) Dessert in the finest and most unique environment possible. What could be better than that?
TIP: St. Peter Stiftskellar also serves delicious upscale Austrian cuisine. The menu is creative and the environment is special – since you’re dining in the oldest restaurant in the world, of course. But FYI, your bill will reflect that!
BEST Tourist Attraction: Hohensalzburg Fortress
Hohensalzburg Fortress sells itself. It’s the #1 attraction in Salzburg for a reason, and cannot be missed.
As you walk the city, the castle sits high above you, always in view. And that’s been the view of every person that’s walked the streets of Salzburg since the 1100s. Believe it or not, this fortress has NEVER been conquered.
Hop on a cable car, accompanied by an audio tour, for only 12-15 euros, depending on the package you choose. There are insane views at the top, a super informative tour, a Marionette museum and even a café and gift shops. Nothing is more worth your euros.
TIP: Leave about 2 hours for your castle experience. This isn’t a sight to be rushed!
BEST stroll: Mirabell Gardens
Mirabell Gardens is complete magic, right in the heart of Salzburg.
The pride that all Austrians take in their gardens is made clear at Mirabell Gardens. Every single petal and every stone has its place. There are Baroque statues to admire, a Gnome garden to take selfies in, fountains and an ivy-covered tunnel to skip through (YES – just like Julie Andrews did in The Sound of Music).
During your stroll here, you can also take one of the most famous pictures of Salzburg. On the steps at the entrance (the one with 2 unicorn statues), you’ll see the gardens and the castle in the distance. With the colors of the flowers, the perfectly organized layout and that castle, you will not be able to stop snapping pictures.
To top it off, usually, there are also musicians playing a soundtrack for your stroll since the Mozart University overlooks Mirabell Gardens.
BEST Cafe Experience: Cafe Tomaselli
Café Tomaselli is Salzburg’s most classic (and oldest) cafe.
Since 1703, in the days of Mozart, Austrians have been sipping their lattes and eating their strudels here. The café is located right in the heart of Altstadt. It features outdoor seating and a balcony, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenery when the weather is nice. But the inside is just as much of an experience. You can feel the history here.
TIP: Cafe Tomaselli gets crowded, especially during peak tourist times. But with the quality of coffee here, the history and the environment, fighting the crowd is worth it.
BEST Kebap: Ossi Spezialitaten
During your visit to Salzburg, depending on how long you’re visiting, you might crave something other than Schnitzel and Leberkase. And maybe you’re on a tight budget too. For that, you need to stop by Ossi, our favorite kebap spot in the city.
Home-made bread or a wrap with tons of veggies, flavorful meat, feta cheese, a little spice and a creamy sauce. My mouth is literally watering just thinking about it!
Get a kebap to go and walk around the city or sit outside near the Old town. Either way, your taste buds will be thanking you (and us!)
BEST Weekly Market: Thursday Market at Mirabellplatz
Every Thursday from 6 am to 1 pm, Mirabellplatz turns into one giant food market. Fresh veggies, meats, cheeses, even some crafts! There is no better way to get a taste of Austrian classics than here.
Locals bring their baskets to Mirabellplatz every Thursday to stock up on ‘straight from the farmer’ treats. So why not join in the fun? Most stalls even have samples, so come hungry.
TIP: Bring cash! No credit cards transactions here.
BEST Day Trip: Hallstatt
It’s 7,000 years old with a vast history and is located on Hallstätter See (lake) with homes literally built up a mountain and a quaint town square. Need I say more? We love it so much, we wrote an article about EVERYTHING that is Hallstatt – HERE!
TIP: We ALWAYS recommend spending 1 day venturing outside the city. Salzburgerland is the most scenic area, with nature you really have to see to believe. Mountains, turquoise lakes, fairytale villages, rolling hills. Trust us, you just HAVE to experience it.
For other day trips, visit our Austria page! Waterfalls, ice caves, lake villages. There are lots of accessible (and magical) destinations you can reach easily from the city.
BEST Annual Festival: St. Rupert’s Fair
Every late September, around Oktoberfest, the squares surrounding Salzburg Cathedral turn into the BEST traditional festival and carnival of all time- St. Rupert’s Fair! There are beer tents, rides, crafts, delicious food, and music. We look forward to this event every single year, so naturally, we recommend you check it out!
Austrians wear their finest lederhosen and dirndls. Kid-friendly and fun during the day, and a beer festival party by night. You can watch traditional dancing and performances like you’ve never seen before. Oh yeah, and you’re surrounded by baroque architecture with a medieval castle overlooking the festivities. SOLD!
BEST view of Salzburg (in the city): Stadt Alm on Monchsberg
Hiking Monchsberg, as we told you all earlier, is the best way to admire the old town from above. You can see the city on one side and the mountains of Salzburgerland on the other.
And while you’re admiring all the beauty, if hunger strikes, head to StadtAlm on Monchsberg. Most guidebooks will tell you to go to M32, an upscale restaurant overlooking the city. But at StadtAlm, you can also enjoy the same views with just as delicious food, MINUS the crazy prices. Another cool and unknown surprise – StadtAlm is also a hostel, so you can stay overnight too!
TIP: For more incredible views, head up to Kapuzinerberg, which is on the opposite side of the Salzach River from Monchsberg. There are 3 paths up to Kapuzinerberg: via the Imbergstiege stairway from Steingasse, the Franziskustor gate in Linzergasse and Fürbergstraße in the north-east, then up the Doblerweg.
BEST view of Salzburg (outside the city): Gaisberg
If you decide to rent a car for the day, take a drive up Gaisberg, the mountain that overlooks the city and beyond. The drive up the mountain takes about a half hour, and the road is windy and steep. BUT once you get to the very top, you will be more than happy you made the trek.
TIP: You can also take a bus up to the top of Gaisberg – the “Gaisberg” bus from Mirabellplatz square via Gnigl.
From here, you can see the ENTIRE city and the surrounding area. There is also some great hiking if you want to make a day of it!
Bring a blanket, sit on the mountain, watch paragliders fly over the city. And watch the sun set directly over Salzburg. I promise you, there is NOTHING more magnificent than this view. The beauty needs to be seen for you to actually believe.
TIP: There’s also a GREAT restaurant on Gaisberg where you can enjoy delicious Austrian cuisine in a classic Austrian guest house, with the same amazing views called Zistelalm. If you make the trip up to Gaisberg, stop here – at least for a drink!
Best nightlife: Anton-Neumayer-Platz and the Gstättengasse
This part of Salzburg is lined with bars and clubs. Whether you’re looking for an Irish pub, a place to sit outside and grab a drink or beats to rave out to, you can find it here. All you have to do is walk the streets and hit up any bars or clubs that are to your liking.
The coolest part about this area is half of the buildings are carved into the MOUNTAIN. So you can literally party in a cave! Woop woop!
BEST city street: Getreidegasse in Altstadt
Even if you’re not a shopper, wandering down this street is a MUST.
Getreidegasse is famous for its iron signs, the quaint alleys and courtyards and the historic buildings you’re surrounded by. It feels like you’ve stepped back in time or wandered onto a fairytale movie set.
The entire street is lined with all types of stores and restaurants – traditional food, souvenirs and your classic tracht shops – for ALL your lederhosen and dirndl needs (necessary requirements for Oktoberfest/life, in general!)
TIP: Wander the narrow alleys that intersect with Getreidegasse. There you’ll discover more of what makes Salzburg so magical.
BEST Bakery: Stiftsbäckerei St Peter
Now, Austrians are famous for their beautiful pastries, which you’ll find everywhere in Salzburg (all of which are delicious). But that’s not what you’ll find at the Stiftsbäckerei St Peter.
This bakery is located right next to the St. Peter Cemetery and is the oldest bakery in Salzburg – from the 1100s! They serve the same bread as they have since the 1100s, baked in the exact same way. You can taste the heartiness and age of this recipe and the smell fills the air when you walk by.
TIP: the earlier you get here, the better! They stop making bread at a certain time of day and you want to make sure you try both the sweet and the brown rolls they make.
BEST Schnapps: Sporer
Austrians are all about the schnapps. And there is one place they go in Salzburg for the best of the best – Sporer.
Sporer makes their own schnapps and liquor. All types of flavors. It’s a tiny schnapps bar on Getreidegasse that’s usually packed with locals. Actually, there are few times we’ve been here and experienced any native English speakers at all!
The owners are friendly and accommodating, and the local schnapps-drinkers will 100% always engage in a conversation with you. That interaction and your (many) shots of schnapps will turn into a great memory.
So there you have it. After 2 years of research, this is the best of the best of Salzburg. But above all, the very best thing you can do when you visit Salzburg, over any sight or restaurant, is…
Relax and embrace the small moments, without a strict agenda.
Basically, live like Austrians do!
Take time to sip your cappuccino at Cafe Tomaselli without getting annoyed that you don’t have your bill in 2 minutes. Get lost on all the hidden side streets without being frustrated you don’t know your way. Sit down in a picturesque ‘platz’ (square) and listen to the horses trot on the cobblestone.
Let your senses guide you and live in the moment.
Give yourself the freedom to find out what Salzburg means to you. Not what it means to every other person following the same agenda.
And we promise, there’s a magic and wonder about Salzburg, that will spark your imagination and leave you wanting more.