Salzburg on a shoestring with two kids, in two days: part 1

There’s a lot to see in Salzburg; experts have calculated you’d need a good 5 and a half days to see it all. We had two. So we had to skip stuff, obviously. Like men, women, and children at an ‘all-you-can-eat-buffet’ with only 10 minutes to go before the restaurant closes, we had to be strategic about our gluttony. But short though our time in Salzburg was, we felt like we packed a lot in in this historic city of 150,000 without blowing our budget, so here’s a rundown of our two days in the hope it might give you some ideas for when you come here, if you ever do, which, obviously, you should.

Take a walk to Salzburg’s Altstadt

View of Salzburg
A wintry view of Salzburg, taken from just outside the Festung Hohensalzburg

My first piece of advice is: walk to the Altstadt (the old city, what you’re there to see) rather than get the bus, if you arrive by train. We made the mistake of paying €7,80 (2 adults, 2 kids) for a trip we could easily have done ourselves on our own eight feet. Since that’s the price of two melanges in Café Tomaselli, ask yourself which would you rather spend your money on: a bus trip, for three-quarters of which you could be anywhere in Austria, or a coffee in one of Mozart’s old hangouts? Granted, if you took the bus instead of going to that particular café, you wouldn’t have to endure the patronising hauteur of the waiter we were served by, who must have smelled our impecunity and realised there would be no tip forthcoming. Oh, and that’s another thing – don’t tip. Not just in Salzburg; I mean don’t tip anyone, anywhere. Corruption is a huge problem, so being part of the solution, and saving money, is what the French call le win-win.

By the way, if you think I’m being excessively parsimonious with all this trifling €7,80 business, well, maybe I am, but if not for the money, then do it just to hit the ground running, which is a privilege granted by walkable cities such as Salzburg. But you have to claim it, unless you want to hit the ground stumbling around a crowded concourse looking for the number 7a bus, rummaging around for change as others pile on around you, and being unsure whether you’re even going in the right direction. Emerge, rather, from the Hauptbahnhof into the sun like alpine butterflies, find a sign that says ‘Altstadt’, and start walking. It’ll only take you fifteen minutes or so, and you can stop at the great Fingerlos café on Franz-Josef-Straße for a coffee boost, which we did on the way back to the station. Sit outside, and take in the mountain at the end of the road, which still had snow on it when we were there in March. Sehr schön.

Makartsteg bridge, home of the liebesschloss

View from Makartsteg, Salzburg
The view from Makartsteg bridge. Notice the Festung Hohensalzburg on the cliff. And the naff padlocks on the bridge itself.

Our first taste of the famous Altstadt was more or less when we hit the river. This is the river Salzach, crossed by most people using the Makartsteg bridge. The ending ‘steg’ in German tells you it’s a pedestrian bridge, or at least a small one, unlike the usual word for bridge, Brücke, as in Innsbruck, the bridge over the river Inn. On the Makartsteg, you’ll notice a huge number of the by-now familiar love padlocks, Liebesschlösser, that people insist on putting on famous bridges. If you’re a corny fucker, sorry, I mean a hopeless romantic, you can buy them in town here. My predictably tight-fisted advice is to not buy one, but instead stop in the middle of the bridge, under the beady eye of the nine-hundred year old Festung Hohensalzburg clifftop fortress (about which, more below), and – if you’re a guy – tell your wife how much you really love her or something along those lines. Then seal the moment by reminding her that by not buying one of those ghastly lock tokens (or faux-kens, ha ha), you collectively trousered (in effect) a cool €24,50 (rrp for the the red ones). Women love a thrifty guy, and it’ll show, believe me.

Abuzz with excitement, we crossed over to the left bank of the Altstadt, which is where most of the famous sights are, and with the bridge-beggars’ discordant music still in our ears, took the short walk to one of the big-ticket tourist icons: the Mozarts Geburtshaus. Like dogshit in Paris, Mozart is everywhere in this town; there’s even a Mozarteum, which is what happens when the words ‘Mozart’ and ‘Museum’ collide in Salzburg; Mozart was never going to give way. Our favourite pieces of Mozartabilia were the fluffy bouncing Mozarts you see in the trinket shop windows.

Tändlerei, Steingasse, Salzburg
I am informed that a Tändler is a person who sells bits and pieces of everything

No stressin’ about Mittagessen

Having left Vienna that morning by train, we were ready for lunch at that stage. But being on a budget as we were, which I hinted at briefly in the title of this blog post, we didn’t feel we could go to one of the ‘name’ eateries like Knödlerei or Bärenwirt. I’d love to be able to tell you how great the Semmelknodel and Bierbraten was in Salzburg, but I can’t, because the cost for one person in one of those institutions would have surpassed the collective cost of all four of us having fish’n’chips at Nordsee, next door to the Geburtshaus, which, parsimoniously, is what we did. And fine food it was too. So eat there; that’s my tip. It’s not like we were slumming it in McDonald’s, so we didn’t feel like we’d sold out.

Incidentally, we saw the most discreet golden arches we’ve ever seen on Getreidgasse, near the Geburtshaus, which answered a question I hadn’t realised I was asking. Yes, you can have a McDonald’s here in Salzburg, but you have to blend in with all the baroque stuff. And now I also remember: on the street level, facing you, as you stand in awe outside Mozart’s birth house, there is a Spar supermarket. I kid you not. But it’s painted yellow, like the house itself, so alles ist gut.

View of the mountains from the Hauptbahnhof
Stepping out of the Hauptbahnhof, the mountains aren’t too far away

Following our well-honed instincts, we continued east along the Getreidegasse to the Rathaus, and were gratified to discover that our aim was true: we were fast approaching the touristic ground zero. Salzburg is known (on my map anyway) as die Bühne der Welt, the stage of the world, and it was at this stage (apologies) that the main dramatis personae made their entrance, like the Altermarkt, which leads to the Residentzplatz, which in turn leads to the magnificent Dom, dating (carbon-dating?) from 767. More in part 2…

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