The fairy-tale cityscape, rich artistic culture and romantic little side streets waiting to be explored made living in Salzburg an experience like no other. I lived in Salzburg for six months while taking part in an Erasmus exchange. During that time I developed a soft spot for the city, it’s a very beautiful part of the world and it’s safe to say, I didn’t want to go home! I know Salzburg like the back of my hand, but as a tourist it can be difficult to know what to prioritise seeing and how to avoid major tourist traps. Therefore, I have put together this local’s guide to Salzburg, Austria to help make sure you experience an authentic side to this breathtaking city.
WHERE TO STAY
Salzburg isn’t a huge city but try to stay relatively central as the best way to get around is by foot. Hotel Goldgasse comes highly recommended. It’s in the centre of the old town and their restaurant serves some of the best schnitzel in the city. The hotel is cosy and the staff are helpful and friendly.
WHERE TO EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Bärenwirt – Located in the centre of Salzburg’s oldest suburb, Bärenwirt was my preferred haunt for traditional Austrian cuisine and a favourite with all locals. I recommend the Backhendl or the schnitzel here as well as all of their desserts!
Café Würfel Zucker – I sampled more than my fair share of apple strudel while living in Austria but hands down, the best I ever had was in Café Würfel Zucker. It’s in the city centre and the outdoor roof terrace provides a lovely view over the river.
Uncle Van – You probably weren’t expecting a Vietnamese restaurant to make the local’s guide to Salzburg, but if you want to eat like a local, Uncle Van is the place to be! They have great vegetarian and vegan options too which can be difficult to find in traditional Austrian restaurants.
WHERE TO DRINK LIKE A LOCAL
Augustiner Bräu – Despite being the oldest and largest beerhall in Salzburg, Augustiner is surprisingly unknown among tourists. Instead you’ll find it full of local’s drinking beer poured from stone taps straight from the barrel. The beer garden is wonderful in the summer too. No local’s guide to Salzburg is complete without mentioning Augustiner.
Sternbräu – Another popular beerhall you have to visit in Salzburg is Sternbräu. Made up of eleven halls and serving their own unfiltered beer, you’ll find locals and tourists alike enjoying the traditional feel. Sternbräu is located in the heart of Salzburg old town so hard to miss!
220 Grad – For a refreshingly modern café serving the best coffee in Salzburg, you have to check out 220 Grad. It’s extremely popular among locals for breakfast and coffee alike and since I left Salzburg two more locations have opened their doors.
SALZBURG’S BEST FESTIVALS
Salzburg Festival – Easily the biggest event in the city’s calendar, Salzburg Festival is 43 days of opera, theatre and concerts. Usually running from late July to mid-August, you won’t regret planning your trip to Salzburg to coincide with this world-famous cultural event.
Siemens Festival Nights – This festival sees the beautiful Kapitelplatz, overlooked by Salzburg Fortress, transformed into an open-air cinema. The atmosphere is unbeatable and with no admission fees locals and tourists alike are drawn to the event.
Jazz & The City – It’s hard to miss the start of Jazz & The City. With music pouring out from churches, bars and theatres, the streets of Salzburg are filled with Jazz! All are welcome and again, there are no admission fees.
Christmas Markets – Not technically a festival but definitely an amazing time to visit Salzburg. December sees a multitude of Christmas markets pop up all over the city. My favourites include Advent Magic in Hellbrunn, Stern Advent and the Salzburg Christmas Market.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST VIEWS
The Mönchsberg – Mönchsberg is located in the heart of Salzburg. It’s popular among locals who want to escape the city. There are a multitude of walks through beautiful forests which provide some of the best views of Salzburg Old Town. I particularly like the walk from Mülln to Salzburg Fortress.
Maria Plain – A great bike ride or drive from Salzburg centre, Maria Plain boasts panoramic views of the entire city. The restaurant there is lovely too, as is the little church.
Fuschlsee and Wolfgangsee – If you want to venture further afield, I highly recommend a day trip. Fuschlsee and Wolfgangsee are two of Salzburg’s nearest lakes. Enjoy a beer by the water’s edge or cool of in the lakes while taking in the beautiful alpine scenery.
Gaisberg – I recommend you drive to the top of Gaisberg rather than hike. The view from the top is beautiful but there are better hikes in the area.
Nockstein – The base of this hike is very easy to reach by car or bus from Salzburg city centre. This is the best map I can find online but you can always ask for more information on how to get there. The views of the surrounding mountains and city from the peak are amazing.
THE BEST AREAS OF SALZBURG TO EXPLORE
Salzburg Old Town – It’s easy to spend a day wandering around Salzburg Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure to see the cathedral, Mozart’s birth house and to wander down Getreidegasse. The city itself is an obvious must for any local’s guide to Salzburg.
Hellbrunn – If you don’t want to cycle the distance to Maria Plain, this is a great alternative taking only 20 minutes. Hellbrunn palace and gardens are very beautiful and a great place to relax in the sun. It’s also a great place to see Unterberg Mountain from.
Salzburg Fortress – You can’t not visit Salzburg Fortress with it overlooking the whole city, making the skyline so recognisable. The walk up is lovely but you can also get the lift up and walk back down instead! There’s a restaurant up there with great views of the city too.
Mirabelle Palace and Gardens – Crossing the river to the east side of Salzburg, Mirabelle Palace and Gardens are the main attraction. They are particularly beautiful in the summer and great to explore by foot.
THE MUST-DO ACTIVITIES IN SALZBURG FOR TOURISTS
A Sound of Music Tour – I had to mention The Sound of Music and a tour is the best way to explore the famous movie scenes. There are plenty of tour companies to choose from, all offering roughly the same itinerary.
Opera at Felsenreitschule – If your budget allows it, going to see an opera at the Felsenreitschule is an unforgettable experience. In Salzburg, the locals dress up in traditional clothing for operas so make sure to dress smartly too!
Eat Sacher Torte at Hotel Sacher: – Despite being one of the most famous cakes in Austria, Sacher Torte isn’t for everyone. That being said, you have to try it and Hotel Sacher is the logical place to do just that.
Hangar 7 – Last but not least is Hangar 7, a novelty attraction worth going to. Home to the Flying Bulls aircraft collection, it’s a great place to take children. It’s also a great place to have dinner or go for drinks in the evening.