5 Cheap or free things to do in Salzburg
Poor & The City
📷 by Em
So you’re either in or heading to Salzburg for a cheap European city break. With the pull of the pound getting weaker and weaker, you’ll want to get enough euro-bang for your buck at every turn. I don’t blame you, with a measly bit of Apfelstrudel and an Aperol Spritz costing a combined tenner, recuperating that beer money from somewhere else during your Salzburg city escape could stretch your overall holiday budget just a smidge further.
Recently I found myself with some time to kill in Salzburg and not a lot of dolla to see me through (having been that wasteful moron spending the aforementioned €10 on a single pastry & booze). I thought I’d try and make a game of figuring out what were the cheapest or free cool things to do while in the city.
Oligarchs and billionaires can stop reading now.
/ Mirabell Gardens
📷 by Em – Appalling image quality courtesy of a crappy Galaxy S5
Take a stroll round the Mirabell Gardens and if you’re with a bunch of extroverted pals re-enact the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song sections filmed here for The Sound of Music.
📷 by Em
The neatly groomed Baroque-style gardens are completely free to visit and naturally attracts a boat-load of camera wielding tourists. Looking past the bum-bags and selfie sticks, there’s enough space in the Mirabell Gardens that the jostling masses are comfortably swallowed up so that the charm of the place is still intact.
📷 by Em
There are scented-swirly plant beds in a rainbow of colours, a smattering of gorgeous fountains (the Pegasus fountain is the star of the show), the ‘hedge theatre’, plus a curious dwarf garden. The whole space is crowned by the Schloss Mirabell – another historical building that is essentially a love letter written in bricks*. Pop inside to see the palace’s sweeping marble staircase and the flashy Marmorsaal (wedding and concert hall).
📷 by Em – Brides are floating around everywhere at Mirabell
/ Go for a wander
📷 by Em
Pottering through a city’s streets on foot is by far the best way explore. Map, no map, half-map and half-guess work, start wafting from one place to another. I’d keep a camera handy too and practice getting in some pretty snaps, simply walking around is a total feast for the eyes.
📷 by Em
Salzburg quite compact but the Altstadt (old town) is a bit of a warren, with narrow archways and gallerias each opening out onto a different square which kind of have their own separate personalities from the main city itself. The buildings come in varying sizes, from the skinny to the bloody massive and are painted in ice cream hues with ornate mouldings and striking shop-front displays for browsing (the swankier places are on Getreidegasse).
📷 by Em
It’s people-watching heaven in Salzburg, what with the amount of tourists milling around and people who actually live in the city going about their business. You’ll see lots of folk in traditional Austrian dress (lederhosen & dirndls), granted 98% of them might be tour guides on their lunch break but I like to think it’s because they want to be patriotic dressing up for the day. And if you get achy legs, fall back on the wonderful European café culture by buying a cheap drink, settling yourself at an outside table to continue your observations.
📷 by Em
/ Culture trip
📷 by Em
Off the back of taking a simple turnabout Salzburg, like many other cities, the place is a living museum bursting with free culture-stuff – what an eloquent series of words, ‘free culture-stuff’. Just popping out for a quick ramble and you’ll be knees deep in charming fountains and impressive statues along the way, usually complete with a shiny info plaque to explain what you’re looking at.
📷 by Em – Mozart’s sunny yellow birthplace on the right
Majority of the churches cost absolutely zilch to enter too, like Franziskanerkirche cathedral, the oldest in Salzburg (it’s always nice to leave a small donation though, to keep these places well looked after and free).
📷 by Em – 10th art project Salzburg Walk of Modern Art – Würth Collection: Erwin Wurm, “Gurken” (or cucumbers), 2011, in Furtwänglerpark
Or you could spend an afternoon following the city’s Modern Art Trail. This project invites international artists from around the world to create outdoor installation pieces at various sites that flow with Salzburg’s vibe.
📷 by Em
And finally, you’re in a town that has basically been built on music. From Mozart, to the Salzburg Festival and the brilliant Sound of Music film, you’ll be treated to clusters of professional-sounding musicians tinkling out a tune on paths all over Salzburg. Again be kind, and if you can, give these guys a couple of coins for their efforts in providing you with memorable entertainment for practically nothing.
📷 by Em – The main man Mozart
If you want a hit of breath-taking views and can cobble together €2.90 from bits of odd change, you’ll be able to buy a return journey on the Mönchsberg lift. As one of six Salzburg mountains (measuring 508m at its highest point), the Mönchsberg serves as a beautiful panoramic terrace over the city. For crazy active people you can hike the hill for free, scrapping the lift all together.
Once at the top, even though you’re still technically in the town centre, a touch of the countryside will be felt. Meander round the fields and forests to the musical background of jangling cowbells as the animals lazily graze. There’s a handful of other things to see / do like the café-restaurant for a spot of refreshment, as well as the Hohensalzburg fortress or the Museum der Moderne (they aren’t free though).
Feeling energetic? Take the staircase on the way down to St Peter’s cemetery, morbid I know but I’ve been told it’s something definitely worth seeing. Sound of Music fans will appreciate this especially as it’s where the von Trapp family hid from the Gestapo before escaping to Switzerland (cemetery is free to view, but for the church and catacombs you’ve got to cough up).
📷 by Em
Christmas, summer and those in-between months, Salzburg is a city mad on markets. And they can be as cheap or as expensive as you like when visiting. There’s the traditional Grünmarkt running from Monday to Sunday, set against the sky-touching University Church.
📷 by Em
This is one of the bigger ones, with lots delicious smells, food and drink in every shade, a riot of noise, as well as a hustle and bustle mix of locals, tourists and bellowing vendors. Grünmarkt is a massive assault on the senses (but a pleasant one!). Expect to find more cheese, meat and other produce which could easily feed a small army for at least a decade. I recommend you implement a clear strategy before trawling the stalls for tasty potential samples. Then on top of all that you’ve got handfuls of smaller weekly farmers market to accompany the larger ones. A summer-y riverside market sprung up while I was there, so it pays to just keep an eye out.
📷 by www.salzburg.info
Obviously the big hitter is Salzburg’s Christmas market to celebrate the advent season. This chocolate-box city dials up the charm factor by tenfold once it’s had a dusting of snow and been lovingly wrapped in festive decorations. Imagine chiming bells, the soft crunch of winter underfoot and tiny twinkly lights setting the scene. Maybe a hot Glϋhwein is in your hand to keep you toasty while perusing displays of local crafts, on the hunt for small Christmas gifts. Or perhaps you’re watching a melodic gathering of carollers and musicians performing to the crowds on Residenz Square …
…started looking at flights yet?
*As of now, all declarations of love and affection for me will only be accepted in palace form. Thank you.
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