Round Salzburg with the Salzburg Card

At €30 for one day, €39 for two and €45 for three, the Salzburg card gives access to public transport (not including the S-bahn) and (one entrance only for each) attractions across Salzburg. Even in one day, it can save a small fortune, but over three you can avoid a lot of expense, and head into attractions purely on a whim. I was in the city for a week, so a three day card made sense, though I waited till after two very hot days had passed. I bought the card online, and saved a screenshot of the QR code to my phone for use, though there are plenty of places to buy a real one, and everyone else I saw had an actual card in hand.

I am not much of a one for heights, so the cable car at Untersbergbahn (South of the city – get the bus) was a challenge as well as a quick way up the mountain. Full price – €28 both ways, €18 one. Some people walk up and get the cable car down, though there are also long walks signposted on the mountain if you want to spend time up there. I had a short walk and took a ride down through clouds. It is quite a dramatic ride up, heading towards a cliff face before rising steeply to crest it, then jolting over the edge to hang over a valley, moving on and up towards the next peak where it stops. Most of the car I was in audibly “oohed” at that first jolt – the sense of space opening out under your feet is quite something.

View of the Untersberg mountain from below, With cables disappearing toward the mountain, appearing to not rise toward the peak.
Cables from ground level

Having bottled even the shortish walk up the next peak – it apparently takes an hour or so, and much older people and small children took it on quite happily – I was soon on my way North to the Hellbrunn Palace. I hopped off the bus at the zoo, a stop before the Schloss, just because some other people did, and ended up popping into the zoo (normal price: €12.50). Several people commented later that it seemed an odd place to have a zoo, several km South of the city, but it grew out of the wildlife collection/facilities built for same by Markus Sittikus, one of the city’s archbishops. It’s dramatically situated, built right up against the rocky hill in the middle of the park, and with the Untersberg mountain visible as you look away from the rocks. Plenty of animals, and it made me smile. On a day with temperatures 30+, it didn’t seem quite so cruel to have some of them there.

A large outside space with lots of birds in the water or nearby. There were also antelopes and ibexes in this enclosure, not shown.
Pelicans and others

After the zoo, I exited at the South side which took me into the park. I walked through, heading up the hill for the added difficulty, which brought me to the “Little-month Palace”. Set on a hill, this now holds the Folklore Museum (Full price €3.50. Entry included with entry to the Hellbrunn Palace, but you can go straight in with the Salzburg card). It’s worth a look, and they do a good job of providing a variety of exhibits, with folklore on the ground floor, art on the second and an example of a Great Giant Samson on the top. It’s a lovely building with great views over the estate from the top floor. It gets its name from the story that it was built in a month, though that is referred to as a legend.

Finally, I went down the hill to the main palace and the highly recommended Trick Fountains. At one time, all the posh houses had or wanted trick fountains, but when they fell out of fashion they were mostly removed, making these a stand-out feature. With a Salzburg card, you still need to head to the ticket office to get a timed slot for the fountains and you then use that ticket to enter the palace whenever you want to. I wasn’t initially keen – you’re given an audio guide, but then held in the first area. There is a reason for that, though; for one, they want to take your group’s picture and sell it to you later, but they also want to keep everyone together at a table surrounded by seats. And a lot of very wet concrete. The bravest, or most game, sat obediently at the table while the rest of us watched from the side, as a member of staff showed us what the hand-operated controls do.

Once through the first 3 items on the audioguide, you are free to walk at your own pace, with the audioguide talking you through each item and guiding you to the next. The whole thing won me over – the mechanisms are ingenious and very clever given their age, but also very naff (reminiscent of those jerking Santas in Christmas dioramas). It certainly invited opinion, I can’t imagine anyone thought “oh, let’s just leave it, it’s harmless”; nope, once this was out of fashion, it would have looked like the crappest thing in the world.

But for all that, when someone is squirted by a nozzle they didn’t spot, a deer’s head catches you on the way out with water coming from its mouth and antlers, covering a large area, or people run toward a grotto as the whole pathway is given a ceremonial squirting, it is tremendous fun and funny. Some of the nozzles are under control of the staff, who will give you time to avoid the water if you want – or indulge the kids who very definitely want to get wet.

I moved on to the palace, which has a very interesting exhibition about the life of Markus Sittikus, who built or inaugurated the Palace, Salzburg Cathedral and so on, despite not living to a grand old age.

The next day I used my card in the city, using the lift (MönchsbergAufzug) to get up the mountain to the Modern Art Museum, walking back down and going to the Natural History and Toy museums

I took the funicular up to the fortress. Having seen a queue outside the day before, I was going to wait till later, given the fortress is open till the evening, but there was no queue at 4. Once inside I realised that even a long-looking queue is only in place while the gates are closed and should clear fairly quickly – the Salzburg card lets you jump the queue in any case, but I preferred not to. The fortress is large, with several museums inside; the state rooms are not included with the card unless you go up before 11, but there’s plenty to see. I picked an entrance via some steps, which took me straight into the fortress but I felt a little as though I was being shuffled through a tourist experience for a while. I’d recommend walking round the outside first and enjoying the views, before going into the museums – they start with the regimental history, while I was still wondering what each room was.

A view of Salzburg from the fortress showing the river and several green-copper domes, including the cathedral.
Panoramic view of Salzburg from above

On my final day I used the bus to get to parkrun and back, all included with the card (though no one asked to see it), took a river cruise – I booked ahead as I was passing the ticket office, asked for 5, he checked whether I’d said 3 or 5, and then I got a ticket for 4. I realised in time to make it back from the Salzburg museum, which is about 1km away. All these things were good, and I was happy with them all, but they also seemed a smidge overpriced without the card – a fantastic bargain with one. I highly recommend you get the card if you plan on doing more than one thing.

The Salzburg Card – info on benefits and how to buy.

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