Christmastime in the Austrian Alps (Salzburg and Hallstatt)
Christmas Market Tour 2018
Austria has been on my bucket list for quite some time now and there was no better way to explore the jewels of the country (such as the Alps) during the Christmas season!
After spending two days in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, I took the train via GoEuro to the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg. During my two days in this gorgeous area of Austria, I strolled around the most peaceful Christmas markets in Salzburg and got lost in the city’s decorative alleyways. I also got to fulfill another dream by taking a day trip to the breathtaking mountain village of Hallstatt.
During my week in Central and Eastern Europe, I definitely spent the most time in Austria (between Salzburg, Hallstatt and then Vienna later on) and I could definitely say that it has become one of my favorite countries! Discover everything you must see during both Christmastime and in the winter months in Salzburg and Hallstatt, Austria.
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Located near the Bavarian German border, Salzburg is divided by the Salzach River. On the left side of the river is the medieval and baroque Old Town and on the right side is the 19th century New Town. I absolutely loved the beauty of Salzburg and definitely think it is one of the most beautiful and elegant cities in Europe.
Where to Stay in Salzburg:
During my two nights in Salzburg, I stayed at Hotel Turnerwirt. It is a super cute and cozy boutique hotel that resembles an Austrian chalet. The only downside to Hotel Turnerwirt was that it was a little far from the center of the city. What is great about Salzburg is that they also have a trolleybus that is easy to navigate around. A day pass is around five euros and you could use it to go all around the city for 24 hours. Thankfully, there was a trolley stop right outside of the hotel. It was definitely convenient!
Traveling to and Around Salzburg:
For my Christmas market trip, I found great flight deals through Skyscanner! From Newark to Munich with a short layover in Lisbon, I was able to grab a one-way flight for less than $200 without taxes! On my way home, I got a flight out of Vienna to Newark with a short layover in Düsseldorf for less than $300 with taxes included. (Make sure to also check out Expedia for great deals!)
Since I flew into Munich, I started my Christmas market tour there and then made my way to Salzburg after two days. Due to the holiday season, Europe is filled with many tourists and travelers alike so I made sure to book my train tickets to each city in advanced through GoEuro. You could find great deals there! From Munich Hauptbahnhof (main rail station), I took the train straight to Salzburg Hauptbahnhof in less than two hours. It was super easy, plus the views from the windows were incredible!
The best way to get around Salzburg is by either walking or taking the Trolleybus es in Salzburg. Like I mention above, the trolleybus in Salzburg is super easy to navigate and all you really need is a trolley map to see which lines to take around. They stop at every major area in the city and even go into some neighborhoods.
Things to do in Salzburg during Christmastime:
The language spoken in Salzburg is German, so just like in Munich, the Christmas market is also referred to as Christkindlmarkt. When I first arrived in Salzburg, my first stop was to the market and I have to say that even though it was one of the smaller Christkindlmarkt’s I went to during my trip, it was probably the most romantic and peaceful!
What makes Salzburg extra special during Advent season (the days leading up to Christmas Day) is that it was the location of where the Christmas song Silent Night was written by John Mohr. The market itself is also located around Hohensalzburg Fortress near the Cathedral of Salzburg. It is absolutely stunning and you will definitely hear the choir sing carols as you stroll through the market with your glühwein.
Speaking of glühwein, Salzburg also offers a wide selection of Christmas goodies that you have to try! Just like in Germany, there are hot wine and beer stands (yes, they have mulled beer too), sausage stands, pretzel stations (Salzburg is known for their massive-sized pretzels), strudel stands, chocolate stands and so much more! They even sell homemade trinkets, decorative ornaments, Christmas village houses, clothing, jewelry and toys.
In addition to the main Christkindlmarkt, you could also find smaller markets situated around the Old Town. I found markets in the Hellbrunn courtyard, Mirabell Square and other parts of the city.
Prior to traveling to Salzburg, I had no idea that it was such a popular music city. Not only was Silent Night written in Salzburg, the city is also the birthplace of Mozart!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in the “Hagenauer Haus” in the Old Town of Salzburg. Nowadays, the house that he was born in is now one of the most visited museums in Austria. When you enter the house, you could take a walk through the original rooms. You could also see original certificates, letters and memorabilia (such as a violin and clavichord) from Mozart’s life.
A must see when visiting the city of Mozart is Hohensalzburg Fortress. This fully preserved fortress is located on a cliff that overlooks the entire Baroque city. If you decide to visit Hohensalzburg Fortress, you could walk up to it (which I did) or ride the funicular to the top.
Once you make your way to the top, before you actually get to the fortress, definitely take a moment to admire the gorgeous views of Salzburg and the surrounding Alps! When you get to the fortress, you could see the medieval chambers and the museum, which holds artifacts from the prince-archbishops. In addition to immersing yourself in the history of Hohensalzburg Fortress, there is also a mini Christmas market to check out!
If you have time, definitely get tickets to see a show at the Magical Theater.
Dom zu Salzburg:
One of the most iconic landmarks in Salzburg is the beautiful Dom zu Salzburg, also known as the Cathedral of Salzburg. The cathedral has a beautiful dome and two towers, which leaves a lasting impression on Salzburg’s skyline.
A few important facts about Dom zu Salzburg are that it was where Mozart and John Mohr (who wrote Silent Night) were baptized. The architecture of Salzburg’s cathedral shows a tribute to early baroque. It is definitely a site you cannot miss seeing during your time in Salzburg.
The Sound of Music Museum:
The heartwarming movie of The Sound of Music was also taken place in and around Salzburg. If you were someone who grew up watching this movie like I was, I highly recommend checking out The Sound of Music Museum. You could watch video clips from the movie and also check out artifacts from the Von Trapp family.
You could also do a private day tour from Salzburg to the rural Alpine areas and smaller towns of where The Sound of Music movie took place. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to do this, but would totally consider it when I travel back to Salzburg in the future.
Get Lost in the Alleyways:
One of the best things to do when you are in Old Town Salzburg is to just get lost. The city itself is absolutely stunning, clean and safe and during Advent season, it is absolutely magical! The city of Salzburg does a great job decorating the streets with Christmas decorations, lights and other beautiful details. They also have alleyways that are so dreamy!
Food in Salzburg:
The food in Salzburg is amazing! From authentic Austrian-German food to Italian, you can’t go wrong with the restaurants in this beautiful city! Below are the places I ate at during my time in Salzburg and I highly recommend that you check them out.
Zum Zirkelwirt (Austrian-German) – This amazing and authentic Austrian-German restaurant is situated five minutes from the main Salzburg Christmas market, by foot. It is located in an adorable house and the staff was super welcoming and friendly to me. I enjoyed an amazing Austrian beer with a delicious chicken schnitzel salad with pumpkin oil. It was absolutely amazing! To top it off, the restaurant was super cute, festive and cozy. I loved how they played Christmas music as well.
Café Konditorei Fürst (Chocolate/Cake) – Situated right in the heart of Salzburg is the famous café that holds the Salzburger Mozartkugel. In 1890, Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst created a treat that is known around the world. The Mozartkugel is made from marzipan and pistachio surrounded by nougat and dark chocolate. It is delicious!
Not only could you enjoy a Mozartkugel at Café Konditorei Fürst, you could also enjoy their cakes, other chocolates, coffee or a hot chocolate (which I had).
Trattoria La Stella (Italian/Pizza) – On my second night in Salzburg, after coming back from my day trip to Hallstatt, I was in the mood for Italian food. Since Austria borders Italy, I figured the Italian food in Salzburg wouldn’t disappoint. I found a great Italian restaurant and pizzeria called Trattoria La Stella right outside of a mini Christmas market in one of the squares.
I enjoyed a delicious personal pizza with bufala mozzarella. It was amazing!
Known as one of the most photographed destinations in the world, Hallstatt is an Alpine village on Lake Hallstatt’s western shore. The village boasts 16th century Alpine houses, which are home to cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. Not only is Hallstatt known for its beauty, it is believed to be the oldest still-inhabited village in Europe. It is also known for its salt production.
Getting To and From Hallstatt:
Prior to my trip, I was looking into staying a day or two in Hallstatt, but it is very expensive! As much as I loved Hallstatt, I was happy to have booked both of my nights (in the Austrian Alps) in Salzburg because it is a larger and livelier city for a solo traveler like myself. If you are looking for a quieter and more secluded getaway and don’t mind spending a lot, then I highly recommend staying in Hallstatt.
In regards to day trips to and from Hallstatt, you could book a private tour, but I highly recommend doing this many months before your trip because they are also very pricey! Prior to heading to Europe, I saw private tours to Hallstatt from Salzburg for $700 a person! Instead, it was much easier and affordable for me to do a day trip to Hallstatt on my own via the train.
On my second day in Salzburg, I woke up early and took the train from Salzburg Hauptbahnhof to Hallstatt Hauptbahnhof with a connection in Attnang-Punchheim. (I booked my train tickets in advanced through GoEuro.) Overall, it took around two and a half hours (each way) to get to and from Hallstatt. When you arrive in Hallstatt, you will need to take a ferry (Hallstättersee – Schifffahrt) across the lake to the village. It is between five to ten euros for a round trip ferry ticket. Once you get to the village, it is small enough to walk it.
Things to do in Hallstatt:
See the UNESCO World Heritage Site:
During my day in Hallstatt, I met up with another solo female traveler and we explored the village to our fullest. The day we were in Hallstatt was heavily snowing, but it was super magical!
Since the village of Hallstatt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a super photogenic destination, there is a plethora of viewing points to capture amazing pictures. I could have literally sat in these locations for hours admiring the views. I loved the towering mountains, beautiful churches, gorgeous chalets and the lovely swans on the lake!
Get Lost in the Town:
The actual town of Hallstatt is small, quaint, charming and picturesque, making it the perfect place to get lost in. Even though Hallstatt doesn’t have a Christmas market, there are so many beautiful decorations throughout the city that will leave you awestruck!
My new friend MK and I enjoyed wandering through the adorable streets and alleyways that featured cute houses, stunning views of the mountains and so much more! It was such a perfect day.
Church of Christ:
Although Salzburg is predominately Catholic, Hallstatt is fairly Protestant. In 1782, Emperor Josef II adopted the Patent of Tolerance, which contributed to the free exercise of religion in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Back in the day, the Protestants in the area did not have a church of their own, so they built a prayer house in the 18th century without a church tower or bells. 60 years later, the parish then built a beautiful rectory with a tower and bells. Church of Christ is one of the most iconic landmarks in Hallstatt and can be seen from so many different viewpoints.
Enjoy Austrian Food in Market Square:
Located in the city center of Hallstatt is the oh-so-adorable Market Square that includes a few hotels, restaurants, cafés, a bar and shops. It is definitely an enchanting area to spend time in and I highly recommend grabbing lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants here.
For lunch, MK and I ate at Gasthof Simony, a hotel with an authentic Austrian restaurant attached. It was super cute inside and we both enjoyed some glühwein (all the glühwein!!!) For my meal, I enjoyed a delicious chicken schnitzel dish with potatoes and cranberry sauce. It was awesome!
As a mid-afternoon coffee and cake break, I stopped at Marktbeisl Zur Ruth.
Shop Your Heart Out:
Throughout the town of Hallstatt, are cute souvenir shops that sell beer steins, ornaments, lace and textiles, cuckoo clocks, soaps and other trinkets. Since Hallstatt is known for its salt production, you could also find shops that sell healing crystals and other cool earthly artifacts.
Hallstatt Salt Mine:
The Hallstatt Salt Mine is one of the oldest in the world. Since it was a super snowy day, we unfortunately didn’t take the gondola to the top of the mountain where you could learn about the salt mines and also catch breathtaking views of the Alpine peaks. If you travel to Hallstatt during the warmer months, I highly recommend putting this on your list of things to see!
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Salzburg and Hallstatt, Austria and discovering the magical adventures you could partake in when you travel here during Christmastime. If you have any questions about my time in Salzburg and Hallstatt during Advent season, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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