Prior to our trip to Salzburg, I didn’t know too much about the city, but I knew it was a place we needed to squeeze in, even if it were just for a day. We arrived via bus from Munich at the main train station and hopped in a cab to take us to our incredible home for the evening, Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron.
After checking in, our first stop was at Cafe Sacher (which sits in the Sacher Hotel) for lunch, and to try the famous Sacher Torte (a delicious and rich chocolate cake dessert)! I opted for a Chicken Caesar Salad and my mom went with the more traditional, Wiener Schnitzel. Both of us cleared our plates pretty quickly, but in usual fashion, saved some room for dessert.
What’s really cool about the famous Sacher Torte is that it was a unique dessert created in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich of Vienna and his guests, by a 16-year old apprentice, after the head chef had fallen ill. It was so well received that after finishing his chef training, the 16-year old, Franz Sacher later went on to open his own shop, and years later, his son carried out his legacy by opening Hotel Sacher in 1876. Fast forward to today, the recipe for the original Sacher Torte is under lock and key (kind of like the secret Coca-Cola recipe). With the exception of one or two people, nobody knows the recipe in its entirety, which makes it even more special!
Post-lunch we walked across the bridge into “Old Salzburg,” where many shops, restaurants, and Christmas market tents were set up. Here, we made a stop at the Visitor’s Center and picked up our Visit Salzburg cards, which provided free access to many of the city’s attractions, including bus lines!
We spent some time touring “Mozart’s Birthplace,” and his childhood home, which was really neat to see! His first piano was on display – from the 1750s! “Mozart’s Residence,” where he spent his time later in life is also open for tours in “New Town Salzburg,” but unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to stop there. If you didn’t guess, Mozart is HUGE in Salzburg. After all, how many places can tout such a prominent musician?!
As the sun was starting to set, we trekked over toward the Salzburg Cathedral, where the Christmas markets were in full swing, and made our way to Fortress Hohensalzburg, full of history, and you’ll get (hands down) the BEST view of Salzburg. Construction on the fortress began in 1077 and over the years, more and more was added to the land atop the hill atop Salzburg.
We received admission with our Visit Salzburg cards, and also were able to get to the head of the line for the funicular, which zipped us up to the top of the hill to start exploring!
When we stepped out to see the view from above, we found it was nothing short of breathtaking! Salzburg isn’t a big city by any means, but there’s no doubt that it’s a beautiful one. From above the city, we could pinpoint locations we’d run around to earlier in the day, admire the gorgeous mountain views surrounding us, and see the glimmering Christmas lights at the markets below us. In my opinion, sunset is the time of day you want to be here. Not only will you be able to take in the view in the daylight, but once the sun sets, you can see the city lights below!
After taking a million photos, we joined one of the audio tours being given at the Fortress. It was a little tough seeing some of the things being spoken about at times since everyone would shuffle over at the same time in each of the rooms we were in, but it was very educational, and crazy to think that people stood where we were standing so long ago!
As the Fortress started closing up, we made our way back to ground-level to scope out the Christmas markets and shops scattered throughout “Old Town.” I loved finding something new at every turn, and finding a few hidden gems tucked away down side alleys!
The activity I was most excited about during our day in Salzburg was the Krampus Run. I learned about the legend of Krampus a few months before our trip and then found out a movie was being made in the U.S. about it! Basically Krampus is St. Nicholas (Santa’s) counterpart, who “takes care of” the bad kids, while Santa rewards the good. Let’s just say I’m sure there were ZERO bad kids growing up in the regions where this guy existed, because HOLY CREEPINESS.
So, the Krampus Run. Salzburg has a few of them during the Christmas season and the square is completely packed with people excited to observe. Basically, it’s a play where St. Nicholas and Krampus come together to determine whether or not you’ve been good or bad and then give gifts accordingly. The entire play was in German so we only understood a few words here and there, but it was totally worth freezing for, because post-play, the Krampus’ came out.
It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, hearing “run,” but what we gathered from watching was that there were several Krampus clubs in and around Salzburg, and each one had their own look for Krampus. They all come out dragging whips and chains (in true Krampus form) and actually hit you with them if they’ve determined you’ve been bad. Some were midly creepy (like the one that kept coming after my mom and I), and others were downright terrifying!
I’ll admit, reading what I just wrote sounds incredibly odd, but it was probably a top three moment of our entire 10-day Europe trip. SO many deep belly laughs came out of this event, and no matter how strange, I think everyone needs to experience this!
The Krampus run seemed to end pretty abruptly, which we were sad about, but at the same time, we couldn’t wait to defrost. Fortunately, our last stop of the day wasn’t far at all, St. Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Europe! It was seriously the most magical restaurant I’ve ever been to. You can read all about our experience here.
The next morning, we woke up to the most incredible view and explored the grounds of our hotel a bit (highlighted in this post), and then headed off to the station, where we were hopping a train to our next destination, Vienna!
Of course I was excited to visit all of the cities and countries on our itinerary, but Salzburg really exceeded my expectations in every way! This is one city I can’t wait to get back to!