The country of Austria is often forgotten by backpackers as it sits between two hotbeds of nomad activity: southern Germany, with the Alps and incredible English Gardens of Munich and Budapest with its combo of the cheapness/funness/unknown. I think that is because backpackers associate Austria with castles, mountains, and being expensive (all true btw). I only visited one city on this trip but I was blown away by Salzburg.
On a previous trip to Austria I went to the capital of Vienna in the winter. This was on a trip in 2015 in the winter. Vienna is nice, it has a million castles, but it’s nothing to write home about. The pure beauty of Salzburg, situated in the mountains of western Austria with the Salzach River running through it, is stunning. Austria’s 4th largest city has a population of only 150,000.
Highlights of Salzburg
The most unique part of Salzburg, and one that I had maybe overlooked about all of Austria, is that it is a place that you can visit year round. During the summer, Salzburg is an outdoor paradise where you can hike, river float, listen to world class music, explore the castles and museums, & take day trips. In the wintertime you can ski/snowboard (I’m a snowboarder), visit the museums/castles, hike on some trails, and mostly take in the beauty.
While I was in town I also got a round of golf in. Due to its proximity to Germany and their shared affinity for golf, there are a ton of courses in the area. You could walk between the countries if it weren’t mountain roads connecting this beautiful part of the northern Alps. For whatever reason, the city of Salzburg only has four hostels. Muffin Hostel, which is a university dorm during the school year, converted into a youth hostel in the summer. It got the job done. Everyone at the hostel was there to either hike or play/listen to music. It is not a big party town.
Is Visiting Salzburg Worth It?
By far the coolest thing in Salzburg was a ten minute walk from the Muffin Hostel to a local river offshoot, it looked like it came directly down from one of the surrounding mountains. There, locals drink beers, jump in the water, float down to their friends, toss a ball, and converse. I went three days in a row, it was so much fun. In speaking with locals, they know that Salzburg is a terrific place. And the girls…not ugly.
On this little stop in Salzburg I also took a day trip to the town that everyone sees on Instagram, Hallstatt. The trip cost $65 for the bus to and from the town, we also stopped at a lake overlook and saw some incredibly green water. Hallstatt is super pretty and I spent most of the afternoon chilling by the lake. You can walk the whole town in 15 minutes but the best part is the little park in town. It’s a 10 minute walk from downtown and I seriously debated skipping the bus back and staying the night, too expensive though. I looked into going to Hallstatt on my own and the train was more expensive than the tour bus. I think it was worth it to see the picturesque town, but I need to limit those types of trips going forward, cuz they get expensive.
"Harvey Falcon" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.
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