Salzburg - Exploring the "Salt Castle" in Austria

Posted by ~Summer~ on March 26, 2012

I didn't know much about Salzburg before the last summer road trip. In fact, I didn't know anything about it at all. Which was a pity.

This fourth-largest city in Austria is rich in romantic gardens, green hills and with its spires, domes and fortresses, it has one of the most beautiful skylines I've ever seen.

Then I read that Salzburg was the film setting for the famous movie The Sound of Music, which I watched back in secondary school and while I could not fully appreciate the musical numbers (some still keep ringing in my mind though), I did remember that there was a picturesque, somewhat surreal, backdrop in the show.

We were on our way to Salzburg! While I love snow and all the fun things we can do with it, I do cherish the warmth of the summer months and how we can wear just a sleeveless shirt and pants out. See, my dearest Angel was all set to go, excited and happy! Love her messy curls in this picture.

We stayed in Garni Evido, a simple but clean 3-star hotel in Salzburg. We brought along a portable cooker and cooked instant noodles for dinner because well, that's how you save money on food when you are going to spend tonnes on travelling. Anyway, oddly enough, Maggie mee always tastes better in a foreign land, don't you agree?

Soon, we set off to explore the city and our first destination was Schloss Mirabell - the Palace and Gardens.

The Mirabell Palace houses the offices of Salzburg's mayor and the municipal council. It is famous as a venue for weddings, with its Marble Hall reputed as one of the "most beautiful wedding halls in the world".

I especially love the Mirabell Gardens because with its lush green grass and vibrant blooming flowers, it was just so beautiful and a perfect setting for photo-taking.

In the garden stands the striking Pegasus fountain (a mythical winged divine horse) and around it, there are four groups of statues which symbolize the four elements: fire, air, earth and water.

Not surprisingly, several scenes from The Sound of Music were filmed here - when Maria and the children sing 'Do-Re-Mi' while dancing around the horse fountain and using the steps as a musical scale.

Further up, there was another fountain and we saw people tossing coins into it, so we did as well. Actually, Angel did it and I'm not sure if she made a wish, but I did anyway.

Next, we spotted our second destination - Hohensalzburg Fortress (or the Salzburg Castle). Standing on top of the Festungsberg mountain, this castle is a distinctive landmark that draws the city’s world well-known silhouette.

And just so are we getting up there? Well, W-A-L-K.

It felt surprisingly nice to take a stroll across the Salzach river, just admiring the scenery and well, enjoying life.

We saw these love locks on the bridge, similar to those we saw back in Riga, where couples attach locks to hope for stability and a long lasting love. Sweet.

But well, lock or no lock, I still hope that we will have a happy marriage, a happy family, a happy love story.

We had arrived in the Old Town of Salzburg! With its world famous baroque architecture, it is one of the best-preserved city centers and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

There was a market going on with all kinds of stalls set up, we had fun walking around, buying food, groceries and of course, fridge magnets to add to our collection.

This is Mozarts Geburtshaus - Mozart's Birth House. Yes, the world-famous classical composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who started composing from the age of five. He was born in this house on January 27, 1756 and it has now become one of the most frequently visited museums.

We arrived at Residentplatz, a large, stately square right in the heart of the Old Town. This eminent fountain in the middle is the Residenzbrunnen (Residenz Fountain). It stands at 15 metres tall, shows four sea-horses galloping out of undersea grottos and is crowned with a Triton, God of the Sea. It was one of the filming locations for The Sound of Music, in which Maria stops to splash water at the horses while singing “I Have Confidence”.

This was a statue that caught my attention, a huge golden orb with a man standing on the top which overlooks a game of giant chess in Kapitelplatz. I still can't figure out what it is because when I tried to google, most people just named it as "the golden orb with a man".

The Salzburg Cathedral is one of the city's most significant pieces of church architecture. It was also here where Mozart was baptised.

So, where to next? Yes, the castle on the mountain top. We could have avoided the vertical hike up and rode on a funicular for €9.80 per adult. But well, guess we decided to test our stamina. *gasp*

C'mon, NO PAIN NO GAIN! I'm sure you can do it, dear! Yes, Angel was sleeping in the stroller so jw had to push her and the stroller up the steep slopes one by one. Me? Well, I concentrated on making sure I arrived in one piece and my job was to take pictures. =)

Good Morning, Angel! You have woken up! Just look at the beautiful skyline behind us! Oops, mummy gave both of you unique hats in this picture.

The Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. During the early 20th century it was used as a prison, holding Italian prisoners of war during World War I and Nazi activists in the 1930s.

We took a tour inside and visited the Bed Chamber, Golden Chamber, Torture Room and at the top, we were able step out onto a viewing deck and witness a breathtaking, panoramic view of Salzburg and the Alps.

For lunch, we had roasted chicken and traditional roasted pork in the castle. I loved the pork, not the usual Asian style using fatty meat and with crispy skin, but this tasted pretty good too!

After that, we were back in Old Town once again. We spotted these horses and after some hesitation, we still decided to fork out the €35 and go on our first ever horse carriage ride in Europe.

We were all set and Angel was so happy to know that horses would be pulling her along!

Our guide was really nice and friendly but alas I could not decipher much of his descriptions due to his accent and the noise from the hooves. But, I did enjoy as the horses galloped over the cobbled streets and to our surprise, we even rode onto the main roads alongside speeding cars and motorbikes!

There were people waving, smiling and pointing at us so you could say we felt like celebrities for that half an hour. *winks* Nonetheless, I was just happy to be there and then, with the two most important people in my life.

As we turned back to the Old Town, this was the one thing I could not miss, Mozart's statue.

Hooray! Why did I feel so happy when we just spent a good amount of money and ended up having to eat instant noodles for dinner. Well, I guess, for the memories, it was all worth it.

If you have read my other Travelogue posts, you probably know that jw and I are the kind of people who don't really like to rest or stay in the hotel on holidays, even if we have a baby or toddler with us. We would go out in the morning, explore each and every inch of the city as best as we can, make ourselves all worn out but return at night feeling contented. Then the next day, it would begin all over again. Well, we probably won't be like this when we reach 60 years old. Then again, you never know.

The good news is Angel has adapted very well into our lifestyle and she is very cooperative most of the time when we are out. She would drink her milk in her stroller, nap when she gets tired and after regaining her energy level, she would walk, run, skip, jump and happily join us on our adventure.

BUT when she is sleeping, just too bad, the daddy has to be the hunk and carry her up and down the stairs, while the mummy takes on the role of the cheerleader.

Since it was still early in the day, we wanted to visit a place called Hellbrunn Palace which was famous for its trick fountains. We checked it on the map and saw its symbol at the bottom left, which wasn't too far from the castle and all we needed to do was to go behind the castle and walk for maybe half a hour and we would reach, which we thought, "Why not?" Anyway a walk means we could take in more scenery and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

So, after more than one hour, we finally climbed to the back of the castle and descended the mountain. See, jw said we had to take a picture of the rear view of the castle just to prove that we did it. We had lost count of the number of steps we had climbed but I knew I was starting to pant.

We saw a palace-lookalike in front of us and shouted "Hooray, we did it!" before we realised that it wasn't the Hellbrunn palace. So we asked a passer-by, who was amazingly helpful and friendly.

Hubby: Hi, can we know how we can get to Hellbrunn? *points it on the map* We've been walking for a while but not sure if we can find it.

Passer-by: Oh, sure you can, if you continue walking for say, 2 more hours.

I almost fainted.

Hubby: What? But it doesn't seem so far on the map and we've been using this map to get around.

Passer-by: You know what, this map is not drawn to scale.


Well, at least we found out in time and didn't keep walking till the sun set. Anyway, the passer-by was so nice to direct us to the nearest bus-stop, for which we were super grateful for or we might have just given up on our plan.

So, here we were, FINALLY!

The Hellbrunn Palace was built by Markus Sittikus, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. It is well-known for its unique Wasserspiele, or so called Trick Fountains. Word has it that Markus Sittikus had a keen sense of humour and so he devised a series of water games to be performed on his guests.

We were lucky to be able to catch the Trick Fountains tour just in time and let's say we enjoyed it pretty much, especially Angel who loves to splash water and be splashed. So with dozens of fountains for her to play with, she was simply ecstatic.

Firstly, our tour guide brought us to a stage where a stone dining table and stone chairs were found. He asked for volunteers to be seated around the table and he explained this was where the Prince-Archbishop would have a meal with his guests. 

Suddenly, the seats turned into fountains! The guide activated a mechanism through which a water conduit sprayed water into the seat of the guests, well, some got a shock and jumped into the air while others seemed to enjoy the thrill. Apparently, back then, the playful Prince-Archbishop would not let anyone leave their chairs till the meal was over!

Not surprisingly, for the rest of the tour, we would unexpectedly be splashed by jets of water coming out from hidden fountains. It was really fun though and all the kids loved it!

This was an exquisite mechanical, water-operated and music-playing theatre built in 1750 which showcased all the different occupations at work.

We ended off the tour by exiting through a passageway of fountains. Doesn't seem so bad? Well, these jets of water could move! Depending on the guide's mood, he could make them shoot high or make them shoot low. So if you are his target, no matter how you duck, you would still be wet.

It is said that in the entire Trick Fountains tour, there is that one spot which is never wet. Where the Archbishop sat on the table or where he stood, there would always be no water conduit. Smart guy. Now, this one spot is always taken up by the Trick Fountains tour guide.

The unicorn with no horn

We loved the scenery in the palace and so decided to take a stroll before heading back to Salzburg city. I would definitely say this visit to Hellbrunn was well worth all our efforts and the arduous walk!

It was already sunset when we walked back to our hotel and we saw this gorgeous scenery as we crossed the Salzach river once again. Wow. I couldn't help but admire it with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

The Mirabell Gardens looked even more picturesque in the evening than it did in the day. Look, we were passing the fountain when the light came on! Lucky us!

Colourful flowers, magnificent castle, beautiful fountains underneath the pale moonlight. What more perfect setting for an evening walk?

The next morning, we visited the Salzbergwerk Berchtesgaden, a salt mine located 20km away from Salzberg. I had to say this became the highlight of our trip.

Salt. Yes, salt.

Everyone eats it, everyone needs it. But have you ever wondered how it came about?

In the past salt was precious just like gold, therefore for many years, only the salt miners in Berchtesgaden were allowed to enter the complex tunnel system. Fortunately this has changed and now, visitors can go deep down underneath the mountain and discover the secret world of the white gold.

Before entering, we had to change into the real miner’s garbs. See, they even come in kids' sizes!

 Now we were all set to go! The temperature below ground is at a constant +12°C, which we thought to be a nice, cooling degree. Little did we know that we would be whisking around on railway tracks 700 metres into the mountain, so these overalls came in pretty handy.

See, that was how we travelled into the interior of the mountain. It was totally pitch dark except when they took this picture and had a blinding flash in the tunnel. Angel was a little scared of the dark and clung onto me but she enjoyed the fast, accelerating ride into the mountain.

We went on a guided walk to learn about the history and the making of salt, which was something I never knew. But well, the highlight came when we had to slide down not one, but two long, steep slides (previously used to transport salt) along the tour. For those faint-hearted, they could take the stairs but no, how could we possibly miss this once in a lifetime opportunity?

Angel was the youngest who took the slide and we sandwiched her to keep her safe and not fall out because I assure you, it was a longgg way down. But well, ended up she giggled, laughed and enjoyed the ride so much that she kept saying "One more, one more!"

In the last part of the tour, we actually went on a raft-trip in the mountain! We were able to glide with a raft over the glimmering salt lake deep in the interior of the mountain, surrounded by beautiful, awe-inspiring mining lights and music. The trip ended with what else but a taste of freshly made salt and salt souvenirs to bring home. =)

All in all, we totally loved our stay in Salzburg and were grateful for all the beautiful scenery and fun adventure.

Indeed, that picturesque backdrop I saw in The Sound of Music turned out to be even more picturesque than I had imagined.

To see more of the world, visit my Travelogue page here.


  1. So fun! Great photos. I can't wait to travel a bit again... no idea when that might be, though!

    1. Thanks Mandie, yes I realised I do love to travel! Hope one day you can get to go to all the wonderful places you have dreamt about too!

  2. Oh I am so jealous! I would love to visit somewhere like this one day. You're very lucky Angel is so cooperative! Makes it easier.

    1. Thanks Jess, do hope you can visit all the beautiful places you wanna visit too! Yes I'm so grateful she's well-trained and adapts, makes every trip so much more fun and memorable!

  3. Please keep on posting about This topic. I want to know more details about it. Anyway, I have read some of posts in your blog here. And all of them are very informative. Thanks for sharing.


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