Oh Austria, the country of apple strudel and The Sound of Music. When it came to Austria, I had only really heard of Vienna. I am embarrassed to admit that my geography knowledge is extremely poor. Someone had seen my photos on Instagram and noticed that I had told a friend about my next destination of Austria and suggested I visit Salzburg. A major benefit of social media is that travellers can talk from all over the world and advice can get passed on traveller to traveller.
Heading to Salzburg was a fairy tale; the city is small and perfect. If you’re not a fan of The Sound of Music, I don’t recommend you stay at Hostel Yoho International. For me, this hostel was perfect. Every evening at 7:00 p.m. they play The Sound of Music in the common room and I will openly admit I watched it three nights in a row. A 6 bed dorm was $AUD33 (€23) a night and the hostel is located only a ten minute walk from both the train station and the centre of the old town. If you’re in Salzburg and love the movie you must throw yourself directly into being a SOM tourist and stay at this hostel! Even if you’re not a huge fan, this hostel is still great because of it’s location, small kitchen, bar and cafe and they also have their own bike hire for €10 a day.
There are many different tours that take you to the different hot spots of the movie, but I highly suggest you take the bike tour. I don’t think there is anything better than riding a beautiful big bike with a cute basket down the tree filled paths belting out ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and passing the Von Trapp house. I’m usually not into paid tours, and will never do something on a bus or a boat, but this tour was a great highlight and so much fun! With the small group and our fabulous guide we cycled through open fields and small villages, up to the Abbey and the Von Trapp house, as well as the famous gazebo and fountains.
There is still plenty to do in Salzburg if you’re really not a Sound of Music fan, like taking a bus to Hellburn and visiting the trick fountains as well as having a lovely stroll through the palace and the surrounding gardens – pack a picnic and take your time. After spending a few hours there, make sure you leave enough time to go on the chair lift and see some of the gorgeous country side from a higher vantage point. Visit the detailed Mozart museum and treat yourself to delicious wafer biscuits and apple strudel. Walk up to the fortress or take the funicular up to the tallest tower to get incredible views of the entire city in all directions.
Next was the incredible and interesting city of Vienna. People were shocked I was staying for six days but I knew this city provided such an interesting culture and there was so much to see and do. I stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner, which was great because everyone came together in the evening, playing live music with their many instruments and sitting in the common room singing songs and drinking red wine. The dorm rooms range from $AUD28-$33 (€19-€22) if you’re choosing to stay in either a ten-bed or eight-bed dorm. Hostel Ruthensteiner is located in a quiet side street but is extremely close to Vienna’s main shopping street, ‘the Mariahilferstrasse’, and a very short walk from the main train station. The hostel has a very well equipped kitchen, two large gardens, a small bar, free wifi and a range of games and musical instruments.
In Vienna, as I mentioned earlier, you have one main shopping strip, ‘the Mariahilferstrasse’, that is incredibly long and took me a couple of hours to walk. In saying that, I also dipped in and out of every single shop! I had saved my shopping for Vienna and the selection was endless! Do be warned that regular day to day life in Vienna is expensive, but if you wander off the tourist path you will find that the cost of food and goods is much cheaper.
While in Vienna you must spend a few hours checking out the incredible street art; walk by the canals that seem to go on forever as you walk down one side and up the other. Check out random bits of work around the city too, in alleyways and on buildings – some of the works are absolutely breathtaking! Head over to the Museum Quarter and have the option of visiting at least ten different museums like the Leopold Museum – €9 or €5.50 entry for students, MUMOK – €9, the Art History Museum – €12, the Natural History Museum – €10 or the Mozart house – €10 or €7.50 for students. I only made it to a couple because they’re not really my thing, but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the artwork I did see. Even being on a budget, entrance fees to the museums are very affordable and you can spend an entire day visiting a few.
There are plenty of parks worth going to if you have a spare afternoon and feel like relaxing with friends or reading a book on your own. You can take the long tram ride to Belvedere Palace and even if you don’t go inside the gardens surrounding it are beautiful. The Shonbrunn Palace gardens are also beautiful and you can take a long walk through the mazes and up the surrounding hills. My favourite was Stradtpark; pack a picnic and don’t forget some extra bread for the ducks!
As you may have gathered, I have a market addiction: flea markets, food markets, and antique markets – you name it, and I’ll be there. Vienna is home to one of the most incredible and famous food markets: the Naschmarkt. Monday to Friday it’s just a food market, but if you happen to visit on a Saturday there is also a large flea market.
The food is fresh, the smells are divine and you can get extremely full by all the samples the shop owners throw your way. The delicious falafel and dips are cheap, buy some for later, then sit down for lunch at one of the stalls if you can fit in any more scrumptious food!
Getting to and from Austria is easily accessible via train and both the bus. Munich to Salzburg is €30 if you take the train but unfortunately the bus isn’t very common for that route, or Munich to Vienna for €46 with Eurolines. Prague to Vienna is €18 with Student Agency – wait until the last minute to book your Student Agency ticket and you can sometimes get the tickets for €10! Bratislava to Vienna is only €6.90 with Eurolines and Ljubljana to Salzburg is €62 via train.
Some people you meet will tell you to avoid Austria altogether and to give it a miss, but I personally found it a lovely country with a lot of history behind it. There is always something to do and discovering somewhere different like Salzburg was a highlight for me. I’ve heard skiing the slopes of Austria is life changing and Austria is the place to be during the winter time. So if you’re spending your summer in Europe as well as the winter I would avoid Austria in the summer and come back for the snow season. Austria is known to be expensive, but like anywhere else it’s highly achievable on a budget. Accommodation may be a little pricey but buying your own food and enjoying day to day activities is more than affordable to do.