Austria has the perfect blend of countryside, history, architecture, and culture. In my previous blog, I mentioned our trip to Vienna. This lovely city is very underrated and deserves time to explore its grandeur and beauty. Though we could keep only two days for Vienna, I would suggest a minimum of three days to get a complete feel of this artistic city.
So, I'm going to continue with my journey from where I left. After spending two days in Vienna, the next day, after having our breakfast at the hotel, we checked out and left early in the morning for Salzburg (Around 184 miles, 3 hours). Our drive mostly included motorways, but it was a scenic drive. We crossed a lot of alpine forests and could see a panoramic view of cities and mountains in the front. Driving is very comfortable and safe here. The rules and speed limits are easy to follow.
Upon reaching Salzburg, we parked our car in the public parking, which you can find right in the heart of the city center and is very reasonable. This city is bordered with Germany and has got the views of the Eastern Alps. The Salzach River divides the city into Altstadt (Old City) and Neustadt (New City). Altstadt is the birthplace of famous music composer Mozart. The renowned movie Sound of Music was shot in Salzburg. A lot of places in the city take you down the memory lane, and you feel like humming Do-Re-Mi. Let's have a look at things to do here:
- Fortress Hohensalzburg - One of the largest medieval castles in Europe, this castle sits on a small hill in the city. Inside the castle there is a permanent Fortress Museum that can be visited anytime of the year. Getting there is quite simple: one can take the funicular railway from the downtown that runs every 10 minutes. If one is physically fit, the road to the castle can be made by walk in about 30 minutes.An all inclusive tour of the castle including the funicular costs 16.30 Euros for adults and 9.30 Euros for children aged between 6-14 years.
- Mirabell Palace - This beautiful palace is one of the best sites in the city and also one of the most famous shooting location of Sound of Music. Its gardens and the blooming flowers are worth a sight. The palace’s most famous room is the Marble Hall. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world. It was originally the ballroom of Prince-Archbishop and was also used as a concert hall. Leopold Mozart and his children Wolfgang and Nannerl regularly performed here. Unfortunately, the palace is shut on weekends to view from the inside.
- Salzburg Cathderal - A Baroque style cathedral, this was the site for Mozart's baptism back in 1756. The interiors of the church are quite dark,but the dome and the stairs to the catacombs are a must see. The entry is free of charge!
- Getreidegasse - A medieval alley full of shops and boutiques, it is the busy shopping street in the Old Town
- Mozart's Birthplace - Mozart's house, now a museum houses personal items from his childhood. It is a yellow colored building and is situated on the Getreidegasse Street
- Residenzplatz, Salzburg Museum and Plaza de Mozart - It is a large stately square built in Baroque style, situated adjacent to the Salzburg Cathedral. With its horse-drawn carriages, palace and street entertainers, this square is lively and a picture postcard sight.
- DomQuartier Salzburg - The new DomQuartier Salzburg makes it possible to walk around the Domplatz on the “upper level” and grants visitors new and wonderful views of the city and the surrounding mountains, as well as an unfamiliar and magnificent glimpse into its cultural heart. The tickets cost 13 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for Youth.
- Kollegienkirche - It is the church of the University of Salzburg. Built in a Baroque style of architecture, it is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.
- Sound of Music Tour - This tour by Panorama takes you through all the shooting locations of the movie. It lasts for around 4 hours and packages start from 45 Euros. If you have the time and would love to see the locations, then this is a must do.
- Lock Bridge - Like the one in Paris, you have a lock bridge here as well. Take a walk through the bridge and experience stunning views on all four sides.
We had our lunch at L'osteria - an Italian restaurant while taking a break between our sightseeing. By around 3 pm we left for Hallstatt (45.3 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes).
Our journey to Hallstatt was around 1 hour 15 minutes (45.3 miles). This route was one among the most scenic I have ever seen. We crossed a lot of small villages, with the typical wooden style houses, rolling lush green hills, mountain cows and sheep and snow peaked mountains.
Hallstatt is a small but spectacular village located on Lake Hallstatt in the mountainous Salzkammergut region. Salzkammergut is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas in Austria. It wasn't difficult believing it, upon seeing Hallstatt. With a population of only 758 people, this little wonder is not to be missed. The Chinese were so awestruck by this place that they made a replica of the entire village in 2012 in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. Its 16th-century Alpine houses and alleyways are home to cafes and shops. A funicular railway connects the village to Salzwelten, an ancient famous salt mine with a subterranean salt lake. It also links to the Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform. The latter is known to have a 'World Heritage View.' From a height of 1,148 ft, you get to experience a panoramic view of the entire village. I don't have words to explain the view. You have to see it to believe it!!
A walking trail from here leads to the Echern Valley glacier garden with glacial potholes and Waldbachstrub Waterfall, which is one of the most beautiful in Austria.
Salzwelten is the oldest salt mine in the world. There is a museum in the mine which takes you 7000 years back in the history of mining in the Bronze Age. The tickets cost - 34 Euros for adults (17 Euros for children) for salt mine round trip, 18 Euros (9 Euros for children) for only viewing platform round trip. As we reached Hallstatt quite late in the evening, the mine was shut. Hence, we could just see the view from the viewing platform. That in itself was good enough for me to fall in love with this village. We walked through the village (which literally is only one stretch of road) with houses on one side and the lake on the other. We sat down at a cafe to enjoy the beauty surrounding us!!
After clicking tonnes of pictures, we headed towards our next destination - Zell Am See (1 hr 45 min, 69 miles). Zell Am See is a small town located on Lake Zell and is very famous for skiing and winter sports. It also has a Romanesque style church called St. Hippolyte's, which forms the focus of the Zell Am See skyline. The Grand Hotel (which is highly priced), is a famous one here, and is located on a private peninsula at the shore of the lake and offers panoramic views of the mountains. This town is also known for the Porsche family farm. Yes, you read it right - the giant automobile industry's family farm is situated in this town.
By the time we reached Zell Am See, it was around 8 pm. Hence, we quickly checked in to our Bed & Breakfast and stepped out for dinner. We were put up in Landhotel Martha for the night. It was a charming chalet-style B&B with a pink colored theme for its interiors. The linens to the wallpaper everything is in the shades of pink!! It is a treat for all the pink color lovers!! (Girls - I hope you have made a note 😉).
In such a tiny little town, we found a Thai restaurant called Ban Thai, that was ready to serve us vegetarian food without using fish oil and shrimp paste!! We landed up at their door. The place was rather small, and only one girl was running around to take orders and deliver the food on your table, but she did her job well. We ordered some rice and red curry. Oh boy!! It was delicious as hell. After that heavenly meal, we crashed for the night!!
After having our breakfast, we went on to explore the city center and the lakeside of Zell Am See. A lot of events take place here. You can find out from your hotel for more information. The lakeside is a peaceful walk where you can see private yachts parked and also public ones if you want to go boating in the lake. The town is relatively small but charming.
After that, we headed towards one of my most awaited drive - The Grossglockner High Alpine road. It is the highest motorable road in Austria, which offers panoramic views of green mountain pastures, colorful flower meadows, rocky rubble, ice, and snow. The journey is about 48 km with 36 sharp bends leading into Austria's largest national park and ending at the majestic Grossglockner mountain. We started from Fusch-Ferleiten and continued driving until we found the start gates for the high alpine drive. The tickets cost - 36.50 Euros for a car and 26.50 Euros for a bike for the entire day. This road is accessible only from May to November, as for rest of the months it is covered by snow. This journey was an incredible experience, as you get to see the highest alpine views of Austria. You pass a lot of small cafes, a lake and lush green mountains turning into snow peaks. At the highest point, there is an observation deck, with views of the Grossglockner. There is a cafe as well. We took a break there, had our caffeine kick for the day and continued our drive to the other side of the mountain. The other hand takes you through some small villages towards Heiligenblut (the last stop of the high alpine road). Watch out for these villages on the way - Gosau and St. Martin. They are stunning with adorable little wooden houses.
From Heiligenblut, we continued towards Vienna as we had our flight back home in the night. The fastest route to Vienna by road takes you through Salzburg. Since we had already driven through that route while coming, we wanted to try a different route as we had a little extra time. So, we took the road via Sud Autobahn (5 hours, 300 miles). It is predominantly motorways but luckily, since there was traffic, Google Maps rerouted and took us through the villages. I couldn't have asked for a better farewell. The route was basically through green hills, maze farms, and vineyards. We stopped at services at Worthersee for our evening snack break (well, actually our lunch break but in the evening). They had a lovely salad bar and a fresh juice counter. After that, we briefly drove around the town. It has got beautiful mansions by the lake, which give you a hint as to the gentry of this town. Finally, we reached Vienna in time for our flight only to see a long queue for check-in. We realized it was time to get back to the grind. Austria, you beauty, I will be back soon to explore your other places!!