When my husband found out that he got three days off for Easter, any reason to stay in Prague for the weekend evaporated. I turned to Google and started searching for Easter egg hunts in Central and Eastern Europe—or if that failed, cities where they didn’t celebrate the holiday by whipping women and girls.
Easter egg hunts aren’t much of a thing here apparently (I guess people find whipping more fun) so there weren’t that many options. And most of the Easter markets seemed to be the weekend before Easter, not the day itself. But just when I thought I might have to reevaluate my plan, I stumbled across the Salzburg Open Air Museum, which would be hosting an Easter egg hunt and providing an opportunity to meet the Easter bunny. Add to that the fact that I’d just read a blog post about nearby Hallstatt and was determined to visit it soon, and the decision was made.
The only downside of going on the holiday weekend was that we didn’t have as much time as we otherwise would have to sightsee in what has jumped to the top of my list of best tourist cities in Europe. With the bulk of one day spent at the Open Air Museum and another driving back and forth to Hallstatt—plus a lot of rain—we really only had a day and a half to explore Salzburg. Not enough time, but a good start.
So what did we love about Salzburg? My top two were pretty apparent:
- St. Peter’s: I chose this complex in part because it packs so much into a single site. There’s a palatial church, gorgeous and well-tended cemetery, and a surprisingly good restaurant that claims to be the oldest in the world. (I’ll be honest, even though it was recommended I didn’t have very high hopes for the restaurant but it far exceeded my expectations in both ambiance and food quality.)
- Istra Enotek: How bad is it that one of my favorite things about Austria was a Croatian restaurant? Pretty bad, I think, but it was so good I couldn’t not put it on here just because it isn’t Austrian. There isn’t really a menu—you just choose how many courses of fish you want—but I like to think that is because they don’t want to compromise quality. Provided you like fish, GO HERE. You will not regret it.
What else we did:
- Hallstatt: I will be writing another post about this lovely little town, which was one of the two main reasons why we went to Salzburg.
- Salzburg Open Air Museum: The other big reason we chose Salzburg for our holiday travels. We didn’t fully experience the museum (which is a collection of buildings from around Austria that depict various aspects of “traditional” life) because we were there for the Easter egg hunt and it was cold and rainy, but I think it would be a very nice place for toddlers or preschoolers and their parents in better weather. The kids can run around outside and the parents can learn a little. Overall, a nice combination.
- Salzburg Cathedral: Like St. Peter’s, the Cathedral is made of white stone and as a result it feels truly massive when you are inside. The interior is also beautiful, although my favorite part of the Cathedral is part of the exterior. Specifically, if you stand in the middle archway facing the Virgin Mary statute in the square, it looks as though she is being crowned queen of heaven by angels on the Cathedral.
- Hohensalzburg Fortress: As European castles/fortresses go, this is not one of the better ones. That said, there is a lot of room for little ones to run around and the view from the restaurants at the top of the funicular is amazing.
- Mirabell Garden: I wish we’d had more time (and better weather) to spend at this garden, which was about halfway between the historic center and our Airbnb. I can understand why others have said it is an ideal place to visit with toddlers, but ours was so obsessed with buckling and unbuckling the straps on his stroller that he barely noticed the flowers. Maybe next time.
- Hanger 7: This small (FREE) museum of primarily cars and airplanes out by the airport houses Flying Bulls aircraft and race cars (F1 and otherwise) from the Red Bull racing teams. There is also a Michelin star restaurant (along with some more casual bars) on the premises which might be unusual enough to warrant a visit if you like cars or planes and don’t have a little kid in tow.
- Mozart’s Birthplace:This little apartment-turned-museum in the center includes exhibits on the Mozart family, a sound room where you can listen to opera (my son’s favorite part), dioramas of opera sets, Mozart’s first(?) violin (so tiny!), and more.
Where we stayed:
- This Airbnb: Although it was a slightly longer walk to the center than I expected, this Airbnb was excellent and I highly recommend it.
Where else we ate:
- At “home”: One of the best things about staying in an Airbnb is that you don’t have to go out to eat for every meal, so we made breakfast each day and also a couple of our dinners. (The grocery store is about a ten-minute walk from the apartment.)
- Restaurant @ Hohensalzburg Fortress: I’m not sure if all of the restaurant spaces at the top of the funicular are associated or not, but we ate at the indoor one that is just to the right when you get off the funicular. It was time for L to eat (when isn’t it time for a toddler to eat, though?) so we stopped here. The food was okay but the view was lovely enough to compensate.
- St. Peter Stiftskeller: I mentioned this restaurant in the monastery complex above. Also the home of the Mozart dinner (if you want to combine dinner with a musical show and aren’t restricted by a 7:30 p.m. bedtime) I was expecting the kitchen to just turn out large amounts of so-so Austrian classics for tourists. But while there are classics on the menu, it isn’t limited to schnitzel and in our experience, the quality is better than “so-so.” They also have a seasonal menu (most items of which are also available a la carte) and this being April, that meant lots of asparagus! I had an asparagus risotto with duck leg that was both delicious and beautiful and L’s “fish sticks” were made from fresh fish and appeared to be breaded in house. Highly recommended.
- Saletti @ the Open Air Museum: The menu here is small but the schnitzel was by far the best I had in Austria—not at all what I was expecting from a museum restaurant.
What we’ll do next time: As I said, I really liked Salzburg and we didn’t have enough time to see everything I wanted. (Not to mention the fact that I try not to make life too difficult for L by dragging him to museums all day every day.) That said, I definitely want to do the following:
- Hellbrunn Palace: This place was actually recommended for toddlers because of the playground and nearby zoo. And whether you have little ones or not, the trick fountains sound to me like reason enough to visit. We thought about going on our way back to Prague but with the rain, that wasn’t going to happen.
- Dom Quartier: This museum complex by the cathedral is exactly the kind of place I would normally want to go to see how the rich and powerful lived. But with a little one, I prefer to spend as much time as possible outside. Maybe when he is a little older and more patient.
Have you been to Salzburg? What were your favorite things to see? Any other cities that are slightly lower on most people’s priority list that you recommend visiting?