The hills are alive in Austria
Arriving in Austria from Prague on the comfortable Leo Express was quick and easy. It made a few stops before making its final destination to Salzburg. On board, I bought the Salzburg card for 36 euros for 48 hours and it was a very good buy. If you’re planning on a few attractions in Salzburg, you should definitely consider this card. You can purchase it from most hotels and tourist attractions. This included unlimited rides on public transport, a boat ride on the Salzach and entry to attractions like Domquartier, Mozart’s residence, birthplace, the funicular, Salzburg’s modern art museum and Hohensalzburg fortress and a few others I didn’t get time for.
You can already see the difference in landscape as the bus makes its way from Prague to Salzburg. You get a giant lake on the left once you enter Linz. Thereafter, you get to see rolling mountains with houses atop it and it really feels like the hills are alive because you’ll just drive past green hills. Once the bus stops at the terminal station, you can take the trolley bus number 4 to town with your card. Else, you can buy the ticket from the machine and it cost 2 euros per 60 minutes or 4 euros for 24 hours. It is cost efficient and easy way to get around as most of the attractions will have a trolley bus stop.
Salzburg is a beautiful, compact town as you make your walk across the different bridges, to the old town and just wander around. You will find most attractions. I particularly liked the Hohensalzburg fortress, Dom Quartier, Mozart’s residence and of course the very beautiful Mirabelle Gartens. At night, remember to watch the sunset from Markesteg bridge, the love lock bridge. I was very lucky to get a saxophonist play jazz music while I watch the sunset in front of me.
For food, try the food at Sacher Cafe, right at Markesteg bridge. The Sacher Torte is famous and is thought to be the best in Austria (it is better than the other one I tasted). For dinner, try GoldGasse Street’s Gasthof Goldgasse. The food is typical Austrian and the beef goulash as well as mushroom dish was very good. Also, near the funicular up Hohensalzburg, try the brioche at one of the oldest bakeries in Salzburg. Follow your nose for this one.
I was very lucky to have the summer salzburg festival so I had free music and performances all around the historic center. The locals love dressing up in their traditional clothes for the events and also weekend dinners so it was such a nice experience to bask in the festivities. This also means that everywhere is crowded.
I stayed at the Achat in Salzburg, quite near the main train station and it was expensive perhaps because of the summer festival.
Next stop, Vienna. Went by a comfortable train ride from the main train station only 2.5 hours away. Stock up on water and snacks from the main station. I bought the wiener (Viennese sausage) croissant from Le Crobac and it was good as my brunch snack.
I did research on the Vienna card and it was just discounted rates for all the attractions. So I didn’t get it. I bought tickets individually instead online for the Schonbrunn and the Museums I liked. Monet and Picasso had an exhibit at the Albertina and the Kunsthistorical museum is so huge and beautiful inside and out, it’s worth the 24 euro entry fee. The Museum Quartier is so pretty and easy to walk to the other places you are able to do that in a day.
Start off at the museums and stroll towards Nuen Burg, Volksgarten, Burg Theatre and Rathuspark. When I was there, Rathuspark had the summer film festival and it’s all summer from morning to night daily. You get to watch a free film at 9pm and all day, stuff your face with Austrian and international food and beer! I had the pork schnitzel, the pork and cheese wiener, Austrian beer, crazy chips and a raspberry Spritzer.
The next day, stroll along Schronbrunn Palace and the magnificent garden grounds, a Unesco site where Marie Antoinette’s parents, her 15 siblings and herself used to stay. Take the metro to St Stephens Cathedral and shop around the area. Don’t forget to visit one of the largest opera house in Europe, the Vienna opera house. Shows start from September to May. I missed it so I took the guided tour but it was under restoration so it wasn’t as pretty inside as it was outside. Watch a show there if you’re visiting in season. I watched a show at the nearby theatre, the Wiener Musikverein.
If you have time, take a walk or run at the Belvedere palace and the gardens.
I took a day trip to Spitz and Melk. Melk is a beautiful Unesco town with Melk Abby, a very important monastery in Austria and it houses the historic library with some of the oldest books written in Latin. It is a living monastery where you can learn to be a monk and learn Latin. It’s a beautiful monastery with more than 1600 windows and the most elaborate cathedral and spiral staircase.
I stayed at an Austria Trend hotel chain called Theresianum and it was very convenient, clean and close to Belvedere gardens and the main train station. On Sundays, most shops are closed so I was lucky to have the train station’s McDonalds open. You can find water fountains at most of the attractions in Salzburg and Vienna so do remember to bring along your water bottle for free refills and a cold treat in the super hot summer!
Salzburg and Vienna are 2 very different cities even though they’re both in Austria. I loved Salzburg for being so compact and full of historical buildings and the wonderful hills that you can climb. Vienna was more cultural, with a younger, more modern twist and feels classy in some of the places you visit. Both are huge so the metro and buses are the easiest and cheapest way to get around but do wander and get lost in the streets. That’s where you find the most beautiful spots.