48 Hours with the Salzburg Card

Tim’s work has brought us back to Germany for the week and last weekend we decided to come to the continent early to spend the holiday weekend in Salzburg. While planning what to do in Salzburg, I discovered the Salzburg Card, a flat-fee card that gets you into over 30 attractions and offers discounts on dozens more. It is by far the best city pass I’ve discovered on vacation. Their website is also the most comprehensive and visitor friendly that I’ve encountered in the past year of traveling Europe. If you have a question, it’s almost guaranteed the answer will be readily available on their website.

The card can be purchased at a Tourist Information Point (we found ours here) and is valid for your choice of 24, 48 or 72 hours. Prices in peak tourist months (May-October) are €28, €38, €44 respectively. In other months they are each a few euros cheaper.

In the past, we’ve purchased cards and not necessarily used them enough to equal the price that we paid for the card itself, so this time I was very vigilant that we visited enough attractions to get our money’s worth. (And boy did we! See the comparison of the numbers below.) We started our 48 hours Saturday afternoon at 3 pm, so it went to 3pm on Monday. Even with most of Sunday being a Salzburg card wash because we had a separate tour booked, we still visited 11 attractions in our 48 hours. All of these were within walking distance of our lovely hotel but with more time, i’d love to see some of the further attractions (accessible by public trasportation, which is also included on the card).

St. Peter’s Abbey, Cemetery and Catacombs

Surprisingly, to access these catacombs, you climb up into the cliffside rather than down underground. It didn’t take long to walk through the catacombs, only about 15 minutes. but it was very fascinating to see two small chapels carved into the rock. One of the chapels dates from 1178. The cemetery is also absolutely beautiful. The thing I noticed most was the fact that on top of graves, instead of cut flowers, people actually planted flowers and plants, making it more garden-like than any other cemetery I’ve seen before.

As you walk through here, you may notice that the graves and cliffs seem familiar to you. You might be recognizing them from the famous scene in “Sound of Music” where the Von Trapp family flees from the Nazis.

A view of the cemetery from the window of the catacombs.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Perched high on the cliffs in the center of the city, Hohensalzburg Fortress dominates the skyline of Salzburg. Construction of the fortress started in 1055 and became the size it is today around 1500. The fortress was never home to royalty of Austria but was created under the reign of several powerful archbishops who lived like princes. Originally built to protect the principality and archbishops from attack, the fortress remains unbreached to this day.

A quiet view from the south side of the fortress.

The fortress contains several museums all covered by the Salzburg card, but my favorite part of heading to the top of the cliffside was to see the views of Salzburg and the countryside below. We headed up as soon as they opened at 9 am and were treated with an almost empty fortress. This let us take photos unimpeded by other tourists and their selfie sticks. Included in your Salzburg Card is a very short audio guide tour that takes you to the top of the tower, the highest accessible look out point on the fortress. If you head here first, you’re likely to get a nice quiet view from the look out point without too many tourists. To access this lookout point enter through the tourist information point after you exit the funicular.

Cable Railway to Fortress

This funicular was originally built in 1892 and was most recently updated in the early 2000s. Thanks to this amazing feat of engineering, you can get to the top of the fortress promontory in a matter of seconds. While there is still a path to walk to the fortress, with a substantial amount of walking in my recent days, I much preferred the funicular! Plus, it’s included in the Salzburg Card, so why not?!

Fortress Museum

My favorite part of this museum was seeing the Prince’s chambers, gorgeously decorated rooms that were the living spaces of the Prince Archbishop. The ceilings are a dark navy blue with golden stars and beam accents. In these rooms we also encountered the first tiled stove we’d see that weekend. In Salzburg (and Austria?), these stoves are intricately and colorfully decorated and are massive pieces of art that are functional and beautiful.

Exquisite doorway decor in the Prince’s Chambers.

Marionette Museum

I was surprised that this tiny museum was up in the Fortress as I hadn’t read about where it was located. Full disclosure, marionettes creep me out a little and I wasn’t going to spend time seeking this museum out, but because we literally happened upon it as we strolled through the fortress courtyard, I figured we might as well enter. The museum is tiny, not much more than two rooms, but they have some stellar examples of marionettes from the past some of which depict the history of Salzburg’s fortress and famous residents such as Mozart and the Von Trapp family.

Marionettes depicting mariners transporting salt down the Salzach river.

Rainer Regiment Museum

The Rainer Regiment museum, located in the fortress pays tribute to a military regiment that was once Austria’s most fearsome fighting force. Military uniforms, weapons and memorabilia are on display in eight rooms. I always find military uniforms from before the 1900s very interesting, as it’s hard to imagine fighting a war in clothes that, today, we would find very confining.

Ham loved the museum and enjoyed seeing the cannon up close.

Mozart’s Birthplace

Salzburg is known as Mozart’s city and you can hardly walk down a street without seeing his likeness or name. As one of the city’s most famous residents, it’s no surprise they have two museums dedicated to the famous composer. The museum located in the house where Mozart was born was interesting covering several different parts of his life and legacy including how his wife, children and sister honored him when he died. What I somehow missed in the museum was a sign or room explaining how or when he died. I found it just went from living in Vienna to posthumous memory. I was a little confused by the layout and we, unfortunately didn’t receive an audio guide with our Salzburg Card access at this museum, but over all, it was a decent museum and a good one to check off my list.

Mozart’s Residence

Raised by a music teacher, I learned about Mozart, Beethoven and Bach early in life, so seeing both Mozart museums was important to me. We went to this museum prior to Mozart’s Birthplace and I was surprised to find that this house was Mozart’s childhood home. The displays focus mostly on Mozart’s father, his successful music career and raising of two musical prodigies, Wolfgang Amadeus and Maria Anna “Nannerl.” With our Salzburg card, we received a free audio guide which provided a lot of interesting information as well as beautiful music composed by Mozart and his father.

I personally found this museum more interesting than that of Mozart’s Birthplace, but they both have separate strengths. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos in either one.

The doorway leading to the large apartment Mozart lived in as a child.

Salzburg City Cruise

Bisecting the city, the Salzach river once provided a means to get salt, once almost as valuable as gold, down from the mountains above the city. The Salzburg City Cruise provides a 45-minute trip down the river with wonderful views of the buildings, historic city walls and expensive houses in the affluent part fo the city. Information on the history of the city and it’s surroundings are shared as you cruise up the swift river in a covered boat. I was very impressed and had a great experience. I would love to take a longer one next time, though those aren’t included in the Salzburg card. This is a definite must do when you’re in Salzburg.

Our awesome lady captain taking us up the swift-moving river.

Sound of Music World

Besides Mozart, the Trapp family members are likely the most acclaimed people from Salzburg. The musical family’s life, portrayed most famously to the world as the Von Trapp Family in the world-renowned musical “The Sound of Music,” didn’t play out exactly as portrayed in the musical, but there were a lot of similarities. The Sound of Music World museum shared information on the real Trapp family’s history, the history of their villa and how it was used by the Nazis, and the similarities and differences between the movie and real life families. It won’t take you long to walk through this small museum, but it’s worth the trip if you love the musical.

Panorama Museum

This museum was not what I thought I was heading into, but it was interesting enough nonetheless. I thought “panorama” meant views of the city, outside on a roof. However, this museum’s panorama is actually a massive painting curved into a cylinder that is completely immersive. The rest of the small museum covers historical Austrian fires and the travesty fire could ravage on cities in the past. It’s kind of a somber museum, but not a bad visit if you want a short escape from the sun.

I can’t wait to return to Salzburg and see what we missed and head to some of our favorites again. I can’t stress enough what an amazing deal the Salzburg Card is. What would you do if you had 48 hours in Mozart’s town?

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