48 Hours: What To See & Do In The Land Of 'The Sound Of Music'

48 Hours: What To See & Do In The Land Of 'The Sound Of Music'
Salzburg at night Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Come for 100 years of the Salzburg Festival, but stay for the stunning architecture and rich history

Nayanika Mukherjee
December 02 , 2019
08 Min Read

As we approach the new millennium, we’ve already got our sights set on our summer bucket list for 2020. At the very top for European getaways is pretty Salzburg in Austria, which is celebrating 100 years of its famed Salzburg Festival. Started in 1920, it’s a glamorous, citywide celebration of music and drama, with plays, orchestral performances, exhibitions, installations and workshops. The whole city will be decked up between July 18 and August 30 next year for what is Europe’s most well-known performing arts extravaganza. 

Salzburg is quite the cultural capital, having been the birthplace of Mozart and the original home of the von Trapp family, whose musical inclinations are best remembered in The Sound of Music (did you know they were actually 10 children, and not seven as shown in the film?). Despite having ecclesiastical origins, it is now famously LGBT-friendly, and its Old Town area a Unesco World Heritage City. If you do plan a short visit that coincides with the festival, here’s our quick guide on the unmissable experiences you could pack into 48 hours:


Day 1 

Enjoy the Scenery

Sunset view from Gaisberg

The baroque architecture here shines brighter due to the rugged mountains and beautiful temperate vegetation of Austria. Go on hiking trails through the woods and meadows, or ride the cable cars to any of the city’s five mountains—Monchsberg, Kapuzinerberg, Gaisberg, Festungsberg and Hellbrunner Berg—for breathtaking panoramic views. The summits are major tourist attractions, with castles, eateries and clean landscaping in store. Want to enjoy the scenery somewhere a bit quieter? Take the Untersbergbahn. Operating since 1961, it’s a cable car ride that takes you outside the city and across the Untersberg, a prominent massif near the border with Bavaria. Once you’ve returned, take a quiet stroll along the Salzach river, which splits the city in two.  

While the alpine scenery is famous, many don’t know that Salzburg was originally known as a hotspot for salt extraction and trade. You can revisit this part of the city’s history at the Hallein Salt Mine on the outskirts of town. Salzbergwerk Dürrnberg, as it is locally called, has been a site of salt mining by prehistoric Celtic tribes from at least ca. 600 BCE. Once the Romans took over, the white gold rush continued in sporadic bursts, until the mines were finally turned into a museum after World War I. Should they make the journey, then stark white overalls, 42-metre wooden slides and a haunting underground boating experience await visitors.  

Do the 'Sound of Music' Trail

Leopoldskron Palace, home to the von Trapps and Maria in 'The Sound of Music'

Find raindrops on roses and a whole lot more with a film-inspired tour of the city. The Hollywood classic wasn’t just based on Salzburg’s von Trapp family choir—it was also shot here! The heartwarming musical still pulls throngs of visitors who want to retrace Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer’s love story and daring escape (a lot of which is fictionalised, just so you know).

Take Fraulein Maria’s bicycle tour across town, catch an ornately quirky performance of the film at Salzburg’s 100-year-old Marionette Theatre, and visit filming sites like Wolfgangsee Lake (opening scene), Nonnberg Convent (where Maria trained as novice), the Mirabell Gardens and Pegasus Fountain (singing scene!), the Felsenreitschule theatre, Mondsee Basilica (the wedding location) and Castle (the family home in the film). You can also opt for hop-on hop-off bus tours, tour the real villa Trapp, and even get a singing guide! Leopoldskron Castle, coincidentally, is the founding site of the Salzburg Festival, after it was bought by theatre impresario Max Reinhardt in 1918.  

Day 2

Shopping, Breweries and Dining

You can’t leave Salzburg without visiting the shopping mecca that is the Geitredegasse. Famous as the street on which Mozart was born (No. 9), the busy promenade is lined with cafes, restaurants, antique shops and boutiques, as well as traditional inns and breweries. Shops begin to close by 6.30pm, so it’s best to have an early dinner before you begin to roam around. 

Delicious eats at a market stall in the Old Town area

For our top dining picks in Salzburg, the Michelin-starred Stiftskeller St. Peter (+43-662 841268-0; [email protected]) has to be on the list for its apparent laurel as Europe’s oldest restaurant. Supposedly established in 803 CE, it serves both a gourmet menu and traditional Austrian fare—tafelspitz, wiener-schnitzel and sweet dumplings—along with a fine wine list and a Mozart Dinner (the city does lay it on thick). It’s a popular joint, so reservations are a must. Other eateries that come highly recommended are Bärenwirt (great local food and bakery items), Balkan Grill Walter (no-frills Bosnian-inspired grub) and pastry shop Schatz Konditorei. Visit one of the traditional inns for rich soaps and roasts, or try Salzburg’s dessert specialties like the salzburgernockerl (an elegant, sweet souffle) and the mozartkugel (a chocolate bonbon layered with pistachio, nougat and marzipan). If in a group of 15 or less, we suggest you get your hands dirty with an apple strudel workshop

Facade of Stiegl-Brauwelt

The city also has a vibrant beer culture, so evenings are best for unwinding with a pint in hand. Start at the Stiegl-Brauwelt, a beer museum (you read that right) where you can enjoy interactive cinema and tastings with pub food, or embark on the four-kilometre beer trail city walk. Brewery tours are common, and you can even take a short seminar on the basics of brewing (or get an actual beer sommelier diploma) at Kiesbye’s Bierkulturhaus. Die Weisse and Augustiner bräu - Kloster Mülln are popular breweries. Not into bitter drinks? Grab a bottle of schnapps from Sporer Likör for a party in the hotel room. 

Architectural Bliss

The imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress that overlooks the city

Dramatic churches and palaces make up a lot of Salzburg’s urban scenery. Here’s what you should check out on a quick tour:

>Fortress Hohensalzburg, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, sits at 506 metres on the Festungsberg hill. It is remarkably well-preserved, with opulent chapels and chambers inside. Take the funicular train to the top and enjoy views of the whole city below

>Salzburg Cathedral, which stands out with its majestic dome and two towers in the city skyline. The facade was made of rock from Untersberg

> The Kollegienkirche church, built in the baroque style and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception

>Hellbrunn Palace and its unique ‘trick fountains’, functional after 400 years with its mysterious grottos, dancing crowns on water spouts, hidden jets and a mechanical theatre. It’s an especially good summer attraction if you’re travelling with children. Built as a pleasure palace in the 1600s, Hellbrunn also has a sprawling adventure playground. 

One-stop flights are available via carriers like KLM, Turkish Airlines and Kuwait Airways from major Indian cities to Salzburg. A Schengen Tourist Visa for Austria will last 90 days. For more holiday ideas in this dream of a city, see

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