Our holiday visit to Salzburg was fantastic, but it began with a few grumbles. No snow? We wanted flurries and the full picturesque Christmas package, but no snow was in the forecast. In fact, it was nearly balmy by Alpine standards in December. (It turns out, however, that “Alpine balmy” is plenty cold as the sun drops low, so we quickly stopped complaining and huddled over our steamy mugs of mulled wine!)
I’ll give you the quick tour of our Salzburg shenanigans here, complete with photos.
We live near the French-German border, and Salzburg is nestled just into the Austrian side of the German-Austrian border. This makes for a long drive, but we were up for it. We left early, so we’d have a full half day as we rolled into Austria.
As we rolled in, we made our first stop at Hellbrunn Palace–right on the edge of Salzburg. In 2014, we’d visited Helbrunn in late November, just as Christmas Market stalls were being built for the upcoming holidays. It about killed us to see all of the preparations but miss the festivities themselves, so our first order of business was to remedy that injustice. And Hellbrunn did not disappoint!
Hellbrunn offered a charming market and a petting zoo/nativity area for children, all set in the fantastic gardens of the Palace. I’ll post a couple of photos here, but say little more about this, as I’ve already written a post about Hellbrunn’s market (here).
After eating and drinking our way through Hellbrunn, we headed to Villa Trapp to check in and have a quick rest–we needed a little energy before heading out for an evening in Salzburg.
The main attraction for us, especially that first evening in Salzburg, was the Christkindlmart (the Christ-child Market, or sometimes called the Weihnachtsmarkt–Christmas Market). There were a number of spots in the city where you could cruise through markets–Mirabell Gardens (which we did the next day), around the Dom (cathedral), and Mozartplatz (where there was ice skating).
The markets were charming in the moonlight, with Christmas lights twinkling overhead and warmth, light, and wonderful smells tumbling out of each stall. We enjoyed Gluhwein (warm mulled wine), sausages, Weihnachts Schmarr’n in many varieties (with nuts, apple, gingerbread, etc, this is like big bread or pancake chunks cut up and fried with sugar), sugar and apple pretzels, and white Russians in steamy mugs.
At some point, we wandered into the Sternbrau Brewery and Beergarden for a cozy dinner. Everyone went to bed happy.
The next morning, we picked up breakfast on the run and headed for town, with our sights set on the Hohensalzburg Fortress, sat high atop the hill over the city. But to get to the top, you have to start from the bottom. At the foot of the hill, we wandered through a town just starting to come to life for the day. My nephew stuck his head around a corner, only to find that he’d stumbled on the entrance to St. Peter’s Cemetery– a familiar sight to anyone who has watched The Sound of Music. (Although I think that scene must have been largely reproduced on a soundstage, it is clear that this is the location represented in the film.) The cemetery is beautiful–set in the churchyard, with its back up against the stone hills of Salzburg. And those stone hills hold their own surprises. There is a doorway in the hills, to the back of the cemetery, which leads into the catacombs.
The catacombs are hand-hewn, carved into the rock of those hills. For a small fee, you can tour the catacombs–a short but lovely tour, it’s worth the fee. There are small chapel spaces cut into the rock, as well as windows and overlook perches, where you have a nice view of the church and cemetery. After we had finished up with the catacombs, we started the climb toward the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Let me say, for the record, that the fortress is fantastic and the views are not to be missed. Within the fortress, you can wander the walls and interior courtyard, visit the fortress museum, and enjoy the Marionette
Museum there. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
Still, for me, the greater treat of the afternoon was Nonnberg Abbey, which is tucked around the bend of the hill just below the fortress. We knew the Abbey was there, but had been told that it’s not open to enter, so the best we could hope for was to peek into the gates. (Those famous gates from The Sound of Music— Nonnberg is the Abbey where Maria was a novice.)
Imagine our delight when we found the gates to Nonnberg open, and we were able to wander in. The chapel (which is the actual location where the von Trapps were married) is stunning and still small enough to feel intimate. The courtyard and garden cemetery tucked just inside the walls of the Abbey were serene. It was a great place to linger for a moment above the bustle of the town.
After visiting Nonnberg and the Hohensalzburg, we headed back down into town and eventually found ourselves at the Sacher Cafe– world famous for its Sacher Torte. We ordered a myriad of desserts and nibbled off of each plate. The cakes were brilliant and the coffee was outstanding. We had no luck getting a table in the restaurant for lunch (reservations needed, at least during Christmas week), but I’m so glad that we made our way back for dessert. In a city of fantastic food, this cafe ranks among the best of the best.
Honestly, I don’t remember what happened after our afternoon nibbles. I expect we toddled back to Villa Trapp for a moment’s rest before hitting an evening of Christmas markets again.
Another night to wander the markets under the stars. We spent a lot of time doing that, in various locations, during the Christmas season. But it never got old. Salzburg’s market offered so many tasty delights, and so much “eye candy”-old-world-decoration that it was impossible not to be enrapt by it all. My favorite shop window on our last night in Salzburg was a confectionery shop that boasted a sugary replica of the Oberndorf Chapel, just outside of Salzburg. This is the chapel where the Christmas hymn “Silent Night” was written.
After an evening of wandering, ogling Christmas baubles, eating, and drinking, it was once again off to Villa Trapp for a long winter’s nap.
We woke slowly Christmas Eve morning, some of us taking breakfast in the von Trapp’s dining room, and then set out (our bags packed for home) to visit Mondsee before the long ride back to the Rhineland-Pfalz in Germany. Mondsee’s cathedral is probably best known as the wedding chapel in The Sound of Music, and it’s a stunner. It was a treat to see it decked out for Christmas. And, as always, it was a treat to stop by Cafe Braun before leaving town and eat breakfast and some of the best apple strudel to be found on the planet. (I ordered the strudel with both ice cream and cream–I don’t know if they make these out of an egg custard recipe or with some liqueur I can’t quite pin down, but they are incredible.)
We left for home with tired feet, full bellies, and a storehouse of wonderful Christmas memories. Next year I may be celebrating Christmas far from Salzburg, but I feel certain that Salzburg will be there in spirit– I’ll perfect my strudel and custard recipes, I’ll drink my mulled wine in a Salzburg gluhwein mug, and I’ll carry a certain old world spirit. Like Hemingway’s Paris, Salzburg in this season will be my moveable feast.
23 thoughts on “Christmas in Salzburg and Villa Trapp, Part Two”
My future home – I can dream…Salzburg is one of my favorite places on the planet, especially at Christmastime…
I hope there’s a guest room in your future home. : )
Wonderful post! I’ve been lucky enough to visit Salzburg a couple of times but not at Christmas time – such a special treat! Your photos are lovely 🙂
Thank you so much. It’s fun to relive the trip by posting about it. A great holiday . . .even though there were no snow flakes.
It still looks very Christmassy and wintry despite the lack of snow!
We had a short visit to Salzburg last August, and hit a couple of the same spots. This post brings back some nice memories.
Such a great city, yes? It’s so beautiful, but small and accessible. Glad we could share memories.
Thank you for letting me relive our trip to Salzburg. My wife and I did almost the same itinerary as we visited the same sites, such a wonderful town to explore.
It really is. One of my favorites. Thanks for reading!
It is so wonderful to travel vicariously with you to all these magical places. Thank you!
Well, you are certainly welcome. Now I can justify my travel budget by pretending it does a public service! (My husband may not fall for that, but it’s worth a try.)
Sounds like a perfect Christmas – even if there was no snow!!
Awesome pictures and story about your time there. I would have loved to see Slazburg at Christmas. I was there in May this past year and it was gorgeous. I can only imagine what it’s like in winter. And with your pictures, you have helped me imagine. I bet skating around Mozart is a blast.
Well, I left the skating to my son, while I took pictures and drank mulled wine–but it was great. I think Salzburg probably shines in any season!
Sounds like you had a great time in Salzburg! And I’m now going to sound nit picking, but I have to be the voice for where I live in the Lungau! The words to Silent Night were written in Mariapfarr, a small village near us by Joseph Moor, a priest. He was later transferred to Salzburg where he met Gruber, the organist who wrote the tune. The little chapel is where is was first performed! And in Salzburg is the most amazing Christmas egg shop, with hand decorated eggs, mostly Christmas but also Easter and other events! Do visit it next time! https://annarashbrook.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/the-christmas-egg-shop-in-salzburg/
Oh yes, I’ve been to the egg shop– it is fantastic. And thanks for telling me about Mariapfarr– in the future I’m make sure to credit the town! Thanks for reading!
When I was in Salzburg I went to a live performance of The Sound of Music (in German) at the State Theater, and I learned that until a few years ago most people in Salzburg disliked the musical or had never even heard of it. https://operasandcycling.com/a-musical-comes-home/
I’ve heard that. And also that they are (were?) a little annoyed with all of the American tourists who flock to the city because of the story. Glad to hear that it’s catching on. I bet that live performance was lovely.
Also, I like your blog. Is it possible to follow it on WordPress reader, rather than by email? (I’m not seeing that sort of Follow button.)
Yes, if you’re logged into your wordpress.com account you can just click on “follow” (below this comment, for instance) and it changes to “following”. At least that’s how it works for me.
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Lovely. W/ travel currently Covid restricted, travelogues like this one will have to suffice. 🙂
I suspect many of us are reading travelogues and will have a long list of new destinations to visit once Covid has been banished!