Our final writeup about our western European Christmas trip is about “The Salt Fortress” aka Salzburg, Austria. The city had the most “winter wonderland” feel to it which made it all the more Christmas-y. 🎅 (Another apology for potato-cam pics)
Things to do
Salzburg Christmas Market: Similar to our Munich writeup, Salzburg’s Christmas market is the centrepiece of visiting the city during Christmas. It runs till the 26th of December which was great for us as we came to Salzburg on Christmas day. The setting of the market is beautiful, in a historic square surrounded by some exquisite churches and a castle. With the snowfall, it did feel quite romantic as well.
Exquisite churches: As alluded to in the previous section, the centre of Salzburg has atleast 5 incredibly exquisite churches. We have not been to Italy and seen its grandiose churches but among the ones we’ve seen in the rest of western Europe, these are the most intricate & opulent. We craned our necks a bit too much while gawking at the architecture. We highly recommend setting apart a couple of hours for visiting the churches in the city centre. Also recommend the small climb to the tiny necropolis in that area.
Salt mine day trip: The reason Salzburg has so many opulent churches is because a lot of salt was mined in this area during medieval times and at that time, salt was expensive AF. So its a very fitting activity to go visit a saltmine on a day trip from Salzburg. We picked Berchtesgaden (technically in Germany but bless the idea of Schengen) as the saltmine to visit but Hallstatt and Hallein are also worthy choices.
The advantage of going during Christmas: so much snow!! The best part of the salt mine was our first underground lake experience, a tiny boat crossing across a salt lake. Photography was prohibited but we sneaked one in (we are horrible people, sorry 😦 ) but in fairness, we wanted a memory of an underground lake. Not something we thought we’d see again (but we did in Gibraltar & Palawan).
Tip: If you’re driving into Berchtesgaden (something we couldn’t), do stop off at Königssee, a lake that frequently shows up in travel Instagram feeds because it’s so pretty. A building atop a mountain owned by Hitler called the Eagle’s Nest is also in this area, another tourist attraction. This region is also home to a National Park. TL;DR visit Berchtesgaden.
Walk around the old town some more: Mozart was born in Salzburg. The Sound of Music was shot in Salzburg. And walking about aimlessly we found that Christian Doppler (of the Doppler Effect) was born in Salzburg, nerdgasm! There’s an incredible amount of historical & cultural significance tied to such a small area. Plus it’s extremely picturesque.
Food & Drink
We seem to have either lost our food pictures or they were poorly taken so just text to describe our food adventures. Just a Christmas focused food pic from the market.
Sacher Torte for the sweet tooth: If you haven’t been to Vienna or don’t plan to on your next Salzburg trip (like us) you can still enjoy Vienna’s legendary dessert, the Sacher Torte, as Hotel Sacher (that created the dessert) has a branch in Salzburg. It’s a good cake to try.
Cafe Mozart for lunch & desserts: Known specially for it’s desserts, Cafe Mozart was where we had a filling lunch. However, we did have better food for our last meal.
Sternbrau – The star pub (literally): Our last meal was in Sternbrau and was a splurge but totally worth the money. It boasts a traditional European menu with large mains portion and perfectly cooked meats. Recommended by us.
Finally, our 3 days in Bavaria pushed us over the brink, on our very last day we had our 1st beer at 9:30 AM on the train. In our defence, it’s the prettiest bottling we’ve seen and a decent brew.
Public Transport Logistics
As mentioned in the Munich writeup, we used a Bayern ticket that gives unlimited rail travel in Bavaria + Salzburg for a day to get in & out of town (as we were flying back from Munich airport). This costs 28 Euro for 2 people and is worth every Euro.
Tip: Make sure you use only the Meridian blue trains if you’re using the Bayern ticket. We got on the RailJet express and barely got off it when we realized our ticket wouldn’t work.
Salzburg has poor public transport for Western Europe standards, we did take the local bus initially but switched over to taxis when we saw the poor frequency.
We’d arranged a tour for the salt mines via Viator but if you want to take short train rides to nearby places, checkout the OBB website for local rail timetables and tickets.
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