Crystal clear lakes sitting at the bases of mountains glistening with snowy peaks. Castles scattered across valleys at the ends of cobble stone streets that weave in and out of small towns. A church tower standing above wooden cabins draped in flowers on the edge of a mountain lake. Historic buildings and gardens for all to visit accompanied with the beautiful sound of classical music. The country of Austria is not only the birth place of Mozart and the setting of the famous film, “The Sound of Music”, it is also the perfect place for a romantic getaway.If you are looking for the perfect romantic getaway with the love of your life, look no further, Western Austria is the place. The area is full of gorgeous scenery that you can see plenty of on a train ride, but there are two places in particular that stand out. The gorgeous towns of Salzburg and Hallstatt lie peacefully in the Province of Salzburg .
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Salzburg is often said to be one of the “Beauty Queens” of Europe along with places such as Paris, and this is no lie. Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is the birth place of Mozart. Salzburg is lined with cobblestone streets that lead up to castles and other historic buildings in every direction. Beautiful gardens surround palaces filled with artwork and statues. Cafes are at every corner and are typically accompanied by musicians. Footpaths run along the river banks and trees provide shade for a perfect spot to have a picnic. The smell of Austrian food takes over in the evening, especially Austrian chocolate.
Yes, it does sound like the perfect spot for a getaway with your sweetheart, but how can it be done? First of all, planning is important. You need to know how much time you want to spend in Salzburg. One or two days should be perfect.
There is an airport in Salzburg, but that is going to take a lot out of your pocket. Most people think the best way to come into Salzburg is from Vienna, but that is wrong. Vienna is on the other side of the country, and that train is roughly 4-5 hours. On top of that, train tickets, especially longer rides, do not come cheap in Austria compared to other countries. The best way to visit Salzburg is from Munich, Germany. Salzburg is on the edge of the German border and Munich does not lie far away. If you were able to get a direct train from Munich to Salzburg it would only take you about an hour or less, but they stop often. Because of this, the train is about two hours. The train ticket should only cost $20-$25 and they run often through out the day. It is also worth staying in Munich for some time as it is an awesome city, but that is another story.
Where to stay:
There are plenty of accommodations within Salzburg that range in price. A nice hotel should be anywhere from $80-$120 a night. If you’re going all in, you can spend in the upper $400’s, but keep in mind that you should be spending your time and money on the town and its sights, not a place you are only using to sleep. This is not a spa town like somewhere in the Rockies or Caribbean, but a place to visit castles and listen to some of the best classical musicians in the world perform. One hotel that I can recommend is, Gästehaus im Priesterseminar.
It sits on the opposite side of the Salzach River from the “Old Town”, but is only a 10 minute walk at the most. It has great location as it is very near to the beautiful Mirabell Palace and Gardens and is surrounded by quiet streets and many restaurants. The hotel itself sits in a beautiful courtyard next to the Dreifaltigkeitskirche Catholic Church.
The service at the hotel is also great as they can give you any information you need or want about the town. They also have a very cute and friendly cat that walks around the courtyard greeting all of the guests!
What to eat:
Austria is known for a few things in the category of cuisine. They are famous for their sausages, bratwurst, pork, cattle, and of course wiener schnitzel. Although, there is one food item that stands out above everything else, chocolate. For the longest time I thought that Switzerland and Belgium had the best chocolate by a long shot, but I can now tell you that Austria rivals the other two, if not better.
Austrian chocolate is very creamy and light. There is chocolate in just about every store, and it is worth trying them all. Their most popular chocolates are “Reber” and “Mirabell”. They have many different varieties, but the most popular is the Mozartkugel, or Mozart Ball. This delicious truffle is made of pistachio cream and nougat and covered in chocolate.
Among the different varieties, they have different flavorings on the inside. My favorite was the coconut, but you can’t go wrong with hazelnut any time you are in Europe. There are other kinds filled with nuts, fruits or a cookie crisp, all of which are good options.
Different restaurants throughout the area are also known to make their own chocolate and compete to have the best truffles. It is a very nice competition to be part of as they work hard to make the best chocolate and you have the ability to try them all. Some places will practically give chocolate away because they want you to come back and buy more.
There are so many different chocolates that it becomes overwhelming. Try anything with Mozart’s face on it and it will surely be good. From there on you can choose your favorite chocolate and stick to it. To be honest, I ate only chocolate for the first 5 hours I was in Salzburg, and I do not regret that decision.
What to do:
In my opinion, there are five things you must do to truly enjoy the town and get a feel for it and all of which can be done in one or two days.
Walk the Salzach River banks and over the Makartsteg bridge.
The paths along the Salzach River offer some of the best views of the “Old Town” and Hohensalzburg Fortress. The Salzach River can be seen rushing hard down hill and out of the mountains with castles sitting above to create the perfect painting. Many of the paths at some point lead to Alstadt, or the Old Town, and it is worth your time to check out as many as possible.
The most beautiful spot along the river is just outside of Mirabell Palace and Garten. Here you will have a view of the Makartsteg or Lover’s Lock bridge in the foreground with the Hohensalzburg Fortress sitting high above the rest of the town in the background. This is also the perfect spot for a picnic!
Visit Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Built in the early 1600’s, this palace is surrounded by gorgeous gardens and statues. The walls of the palace are decorated in gold tiling and accompanied by crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. If that isn’t enough to draw you in, the Marble Hall inside was once the room where Mozart performed for the likes of Austrian Royalty.
Visit Alstadt, “Old Town”
This “Old Town” might be one of the best throughout Europe. It is full of gorgeous views of castles, palaces, and tall clock towers. The area has beautiful cobble stone streets scattered amongst it in which horses pull carriages of people all around.
A visit to the old town is not complete without visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress. There is a lift that you can pay to go up, but some of the best views of the town lie on the walking path to the castle.
The views from the back side of the town are very unique and make you feel like you are in a Disney princess story.
When you get to the top of the trail, it is up to you if you want to go into the castle or not. It is of course not free of charge as you have to pay about $15 upon entry. I chose not to go into the castle, but to rather take in the nice views from the area.
If you are going to enter the castle, keep in mind that you will probably spend a few hours inside. If you want to visit the inside of the castle, it is probably best to stay at least two days.
Walk the trails behind the “Old Town”
If you are like me and love a panoramic view, this is a must do. The trails behind the “Old Town” will give you the best panorama of the area. There are different spots among the trails that offer a good look out to the Hohensalzburg Fortress sitting high above the rest of the town as the Salzach River flows powerfully out of the surrounding mountains. Different buildings and church steeples are littered beautifully among the town. People look like ants from a distance as they crowd the Makartsteg bridge crossing into Alstatdt.
Not only are there stunning views in front of you, you can enjoy them by yourself. Surprisingly, not many people make the trip up these trails and to these view points. Most people go to the castle and call it quits not knowing that there are better views out there to conquer.
Go to a classical Music Concert
It is obvious that in a town where someone like Mozart was born that there would be a big influence left behind. Salzburg is very proud of being the birth place of Mozart, which makes it one of the classical music capitals of the world. Musicians from all around the globe flock to Salzburg to try to become the next Mozart and are often seen walking the streets with their instruments. Each night, concerts are performed throughout the area which makes it a perfect date night.
One of the best places to see a concert is in the Marble Hall at Mirabell Palace. This is the room where Mozart used to perform with his family for Austria’s Royalty. The room itself is jaw dropping and a visit to see the room is one of the top activities in Salzburg.
Inside the room, there is a performance each night at 8:00pm that lasts about two hours long. Tickets cost about $50 US for adults, but if you are 26 years old or younger you can get a student discount for about $24. The performances are different each night, but typically have some of Mozart’s pieces in them. The musicians are very talented and the setting is incomparable to any concert you have been to before. It is a very intimate setting as there are only about 150 guests allowed in the small room at a time. The instruments belt out music like you have never heard before as the room creates an impressive ambience. The music is incredibly smooth as the musicians do an incredible job playing as a team. You cannot leave Salzburg without going to a classical music performance.
After an amazing romantic day and night out, it is very nice to have one more walk along the Salzach river to check out the lights of Alstadt at dark before going to bed. Get some good rest, because the next day you will be in one of the most scenic places in the world.
There are truly not too many places in the world as stunning as this. Hallstatt is a very tiny mountain lake town that can be difficult to get to, but one of the best journeys you could possibly make. It is not in your best interest to stay in Hallstatt as some of the lake houses go for $4,000 a night. It is much better to visit Hallstatt as a day trip from Salzburg early in the morning and return to Salzburg at night or continue your way to another town such as Vienna.
Hallstatt can be confusing to get to, but it is actually very easy. Asking around does not help, as each person is going to tell you a different way to get there such as bus, train, cab, hitch hiking, donkey riding, dragon flying, Harry Potter dust, etc. There is one way that is easier, quicker and cheaper than the rest and you should not alter that path! There are tours that go to Hallstatt, but they will charge you triple what you could do on your own and in your own time.
To get to Hallstatt, you will need to go to the Salzburg main train station, Salzburg Hauptbahnhof. From there you will take the train to Attnang-Puchheim Bahnhof. You have to change here, so be ready to be quick as trains to Hallstatt are not very often and you typically only have about 8 minutes to change before waiting another hour! They run from about 6:00 am to 5:00 pm. Plan accordingly!
The train from Salzburg to Attnang-Puchheim is about an hour. From there on, it is another hour to Hallstatt. When riding to Hallstatt, make sure you get a seat on the left side of the train as the views out of the window are incredible. The train takes you through some gorgeous valleys of high towering mountains with bright blue mountain lakes full of wooden cabins surrounding them. These views are great, but the best is yet to come.
When you arrive to Hallstatt, you will see a sign that points towards the water where you will have to take a ferry. The ferry is 5 euros round trip and the schedule is more light than the trains. You really need to know when you’re taking the train back so you can make sure you are on the correct ferry back to the train station. Make sure you have a plan, because it is easy to get stuck. Here is a timetable for the ferry/train in Hallstatt.
The ferry ride across the lake takes about 5 minutes and the views begin immediately. The lake opens up to the mountain valley and you can truly see how hidden Hallstatt really is. The closer you get to the town itself, the more beautiful it becomes. When you get off of the ferry and walk into the town, you will have two options. You can take the road to the left or right. The choice is up to you, but I recommend going to the right first for the view.
The road to the right takes you slightly up hill and through some very beautiful cabins. Each of the cabins have flowers hanging from their window sills or doors. The road will begin to curve and open up to one of the most stunning views on your right.
Hallstatt sits before you with its towering cathedral and clock tower as the center piece. The wooden cabins sit to the right side of your view-point, each presenting a different color and style, but all full of flowers and gardens. The lake is on your left and beneath you as swans and ducks can be seen swimming on its calm waters. The lake is a theatre itself. People use the lake for kayaking, swimming, canoeing, boating, and fishing as this is the perfect spot to watch different activities unfold with the ultimate background. The mountains stand high above the town to protect it from any harsh weather that could run through. The mountains are green now, but in the winter you can expect them to be covered in snow for another vibrant scene. Silence fills the air as people look onto this view with jaw dropping faces. It is a spot to stand in for hours, and you should not waste a second of enjoying it.
After leaving the view-point, it is a good time to walk into town for lunch. There are not a whole lot of options as the town is very small, but it has a good amount of cafes around the town square. The town square is beautiful entirely on its own and is the true look of a mountain town. A fountain sits in the middle of wooden cabins and other gorgeous buildings with flowers hanging from the windows. This view would be much better if the other view wasn’t so spectacular.
Depending on how much time you spend in Hallstatt, you can do a few different things. You could spend a romantic or picturesque day relaxing and taking in the views or you could walk around the town and follow a trail wrapping around the lake. Renting a small boat is also a possibility to enjoy the lake and see the view from the water. If you desire, you could go with a group on a much larger boat that takes you farther into the lake and valley. Lastly, if you have a lot of time, you can take a trip up to the top of the surrounding mountains to the “Five Fingers” platform and get a bird’s eye views of Hallstatt and its surrounding area. This is a very nice view, but to get there you need the entire day. Whatever you may do in Hallstatt, it is sure to be gorgeous.
Romantic getaways can be done in many places around the world. Hey, maybe sitting at home and watching Netflix while wolfing down a pizza is your thing, I won’t judge. Yes, Salzburg and Hallstatt may be far away for many, but if the possibility is there, it is one that should be taken. This area of Austria has some of the best views out there and has the history and atmosphere to create the perfect weekend for any romantic getaway.
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