Travel

Stockholm Travel Guide

stockholm travel guide blonde atlas

 

Comprised of 14 islands on an extensive Baltic Sea archipelago, Stockholm has often been called "beauty on water" and serves as the capital (and most populous city) of Sweden. While it's well-preserved old town, Gamla Stan, remains one of Europe’s most historic hubs, this city is also dynamic, modern and ever-evolving. 

I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend (and photographer) Sarah last summer on behalf of Visit Stockholm. Neither of us had ever been to Scandinavia (with the exception of the few days we spent in Copenhagen prior to this trip) so we both were a little unsure as to what we could expect. Within moments of setting foot in Sweden, we immediately noticed how beautiful everything was--from the design to the natural landscape (and don't even get me started on the people!) 

Before planning a trip of your own (which I can't recommend enough) here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • LANGUAGE: Swedish, although pretty much everyone I came into contact with spoke English. As always, I recommend at least saying "thank you" in the local language- in this case: "tack" (pronounced tah-k). 
  • CURRENCY: Swedish Kroner. Currently, 1 USD equals roughly 8.58 SEK. While a lot of places do accept bank cards, we did run into some issues with other places only accepting cash, so I'd advise getting some from an ATM at the airport once you arrive.
  • GRATUITY: Tipping is rare and usually reserved for great service. With that said, I always leave a little something, even if it's just rounding up to round out the SEK to an even number. 
  • GETTING AROUND: Getting from Arlanda Airport to the Stockholm city center is incredibly easy thanks to the Arlanda Express. For ~ 280 SEK, this train runs non-stop from the airport to Stockholm Central Station and takes only 20 minutes (it's the most affordable and efficient option). Once you're in the city, you can quickly travel between different locations thanks to Stockholm’s safe, punctual and efficient public transport system. We honestly walked a lot (and took a few taxi's) but the options are endless. To learn more, read this page from Visit Stockholm.
 Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan

 Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan

 Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan

 Gamla Stan

Gamla Stan

 

Archipelago Tour

archipelago tour stockholm sweden

We were advised by Visit Stockholm to get familiarized with the stunning scenery of the area with a guided archipelago boat tour. As previously mentioned, Stockholm encompasses 14 islands and more than 50 bridges on an extensive Baltic Sea archipelago (which is simply a group of islands). This tour allowed us to experience the city from the water, learn about the history and be inspired by the beauty of Stockholm’s natural landscape. It was such a relaxing way to spend our afternoon (they had beverages on board and the entire trip was comprised of stunning views). 

NOTE: During the summer it is a good idea to visit the ticket booth early the same day to collect your sightseeing tour ticket. Sometimes there are a lot of visitors and some tours may be full during the high season. And be sure to pack lots of layers even if it's warm-- the wind will get you!

archipelago tour stockholm sweden
archipelago tour stockholm sweden
archipelago tour stockholm sweden
archipelago tour stockholm sweden
vasa museum stockholm

One of my favorite things we did in Stockholm was visiting the Vasa musuem. The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world and makes for a truly incredible story. 

The 69 meter-long warship Vasa sank after about 20 minutes into its maiden voyage in the middle of Stockholm in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later in 1961. Because of the brackish water, so much of it was preserved (more than 95 percent of the ship is original). For nearly half a century the ship has been slowly, deliberately and painstakingly restored to a state approaching its original glory. The three masts on the roof outside the specially built museum show the height of the ship's original masts. Today the Vasa Museum is the most visited museum in Scandinavia, with over one million visitors a year.

There are several different exhibitions around the ship to tell the incredible story (it was truly so impressive-- it sucked us in!) There is also a film about the Vasa (shown in 13 different languages so make a note when you first get there about what time it will play in your language of choice). Tours of the museum take place every day and admission is free for children up to 18 years (it's also included in with your Stockholm pass). 

 

 

ROSENDALS TRÄDGÅRD

Rosendals Trädgård stockholm

Rosendals Trädgård is a garden open to the public situated on Djurgården, west of Rosendal Palace, in the central part of StockholmSweden.  It’s s open to public visitors and exists so that visitors can experience nature and learn about different cultural effects on gardening throughout history.  Sarah and I biked there from our first hotel, Oaxen (more to come about that in a minute) and fell in love with how charming and picturesque everything on the property was.

Rosendals Trädgård stockholm

For more than thirty years Rosendals’ Garden Foundation has cultivated and spread biodynamic farming practices (a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts).

Rosendals Garden is a driver of the farm to fork concept, as they harvest vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits directly from the gardens to use for ingredients in their café and woodfired bakery.

As a visitor you can enjoy strolling in the garden, as well having a meal, sandwich or something sweet from the artisanal bakery in their greenhouse café. They also have a farm shop and plant shop on site with loads of fun kitchen items you can bring home with you. Throughout the year they also organize events, private functions and exhibitions.

Rosendals Trädgård Stockholm
Rosendals Trädgård stockholm sweden
Rosendals Trädgård Stockholm Sweden
Rosendals Trädgård stockholm
Rosendals Trädgård lunch stockholm
Rosendals Trädgård lunch

Biking here and having lunch (then Fika!) was honestly one of my favorite things we did in Stockholm. I highly recommend paying them a visit so you can experience it for yourself. 

 

GO FOR A FIKA

Rosendals Trädgård fika stockholm

You may be wondering what I've meant by my aforementioned "Fika" reference. The Swedes are known for their afternoon "Fika", which basically means having coffee and a piece of cake or a pastry (which, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest cultural traditions of all time).  Sweden has a highly developed culture when it comes to baked goods, so you’ll find loads of cafés and cake shops all over the city. Again, Rosendals Trädgård (pictured above) is probably my favorite that we had. Wherever you go, you can't visit Sweden without a proper Fika experience!

 

OAXEN

oaxen stockholm sweden

Oaxen Prince van Orangiën was easily one of the most memorable hotels where I've ever stayed.  This vessel was originally a home and office for a shipowner who sailed around Europe with his dredge-fleet. Today, it's luxuriously furnished with decor consisting of oak, ebony, rosewood and Belgian slate (as well as five different kinds of marble). It has been meticulously managed and maintained by its former owners (serving as a private home until 2007 when it became this small boutique hotel). 

We stayed in the Chief Mate's Cabin #6: A magnificent cabin with panoramic view. The room is 18 sqm with a Queen-size bed, private bathroom and a shower. The cabin is located at the bow on the upper deck with an exit to a private outdoor deck (with great views of Gröna Lund amusement park and Kastellholmen). Breakfast was also included and was served in another beautifully decorated cabin. 

I can't think of a more quintessentially Swedish experience than staying directly on the water. I highly recommend this unique and luxurious hotel to anyone looking for a memorable accomodation.   

 Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6 | Balcony

Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6 | Balcony

 Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6

Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6

oaxen stockholm sweden
oaxen stockholm sweden
 Breakfast Room

Breakfast Room

 Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6

Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6

 Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6

Chief Mate’s Cabin No 6

oaxen stockholm

Under the same ownership and directly across from our hotel, we were fortunate enough to dine at Oaxen Slip: where they serve a unique interpretation of Swedish bistro fare with hearty and uncomplicated dishes. The ambiance is airy and inviting with prominent nautical features. The dishes were all delicious and the staff did a great job of educating us on the traditional Swedish fare as we tried each course. Even still, I very much got the impression that we were mostly surrounded by locals rather than tourists. If you're looking for a contemporary spin on traditional Swedish food in an enjoyable atmosphere, definitley pay Oaxen Slip a visit. 

oaxen stockholm
oaxen stockholm
oaxen stockholm
oaxen stockholm
stockholm sweden

One of the best meals we had in Stockholm was at Den Glyden Freden (translation: The Golden Peace). They've served classic Swedish cuisine since 1722. Whether you're a well-known cultural figures, along-distance visitor or a local regular, chances are you're heading to Den Glyden Freden to enjoy the good food and the authentic atmosphere. It was here that I had the best Swedish meatballs of my entire life (served as they are traditionally: with mashed potatoes, creamy gravy, and tart lingonberry preserves. While you're enjoying the delicious food, you're also sure to appreciate the cozy candlelit ambiance and beautiful antique decor. 

Den Gyldene Freden stockholm sweden
Den Gyldene Freden stockholm sweden
swedish meatballs Den Gyldene Freden
Den Gyldene Freden stockholm sweden


 

 

SÖDERMALM

stockholm sweden

We loved walking to Södermalm, a prominent island directly south of Gamla Stan. This part of town has a relaxed, creative ambiance with artistic shops, eclectic cafes, and most famously, Fotografiska (a contemporary photo gallery in a former industrial building by the water). For sweeping views over the city, head to the Katarina Elevator (or even better, try dinner at Erik's). 

 

HOTEL BIRGERJARL

For the second half of our time in Stockholm, we stayed at Hotel Birger Jarl. Built in 1974, the hotel has been revamped to become a lovely showcase for Swedish design. Their lobby doubles as an exhibition space for local artists, while 12 local designers have been roped in to create suites and bedrooms.

While I loved the unique experience we had at Oaxen, I will say that Birger Jarl is more centrally and conveniently located if that is a concern for you (and it was still a very lovely accomodation!). Their rates include breakfast, discounts at several local shops and restaurants, and free entrance to Kulturhuset and the National Museum of Fine Arts. 

hotel birgerjarl stockholm
hotel birger jarl stockholm sweden
hotel birger jarl stockholm

 

There is much more to do in Stockholm than I could fit into a single blog post, but hopefully this provides you with some insight as to what you can't miss while visiting! For more information about planning a trip, be sure to review Visit Stockholm's site

 

 photo c/o Thrillist

photo c/o Thrillist

 photo c/o TheShrine

photo c/o TheShrine

As always, I appreciate you stopping by and reading about my travels! You may have noticed I haven't been posting quite as often as I once did... and there is a reason for that. I'm still very deep in all the planning so I can't disclose too much quite yet, but come June I'm planning to leave Nashville for about six months (fingers crossed all goes according to plan and I'll be able to share more about why!) In the meantime, know that I'm not getting lazy or halting my travel plans- just a lot of moving pieces I'm getting sorted at the moment! Stay tuned for more...

 

Until then, have a lovely week! 

xx

Whitney

blonde atlas

Budapest Travel Guide

budapest travel guide

A couple months ago my friend Haley and I had the great pleasure of exploring Budapest: the Hungarian capital and arguably, the most fascinating city in eastern Europe. Divided in half by the Danube, Budapest is comprised of a hilly "Buda" district on the west side of the river and a flat "Pest" side on the east.

I'd often heard Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and I would have to agree there are few places that compare architecturally (the city is exploding with gorgeous baroque, neoclassical, Eclectic and art nouveau buildings). 

budapest hungary

But beyond the architecture, Budapest is exploding history, culture and countless other reasons to visit. While it may sound a bit intimidating (or even uninteresting) to someone who is only familiar with the popular tourist destinations like London, Paris or Rome, I guarantee anyone will find this cosmopolitan eastern-European city to greatly exceed expectations. I actually think one could enjoy a full week in this city, but unfortunately we only had about 36 hours to squeeze in as much as we could. So regardless of how much time you can afford to spend in the Hungarian capital, here's what I learned during my time in this fascinating city: 

 

know before you go: 

  • LANGUAGE: Hungarian, although most everyone we met spoke English. As always, I suggest learning a few basic words/phrases to respect the local culture. I believe at minimum, one should always learn how to say "thank you" in the native tongue. We were told to say "köszi" (pronounced coo-see). I later learned this was a more informal way to say thank you, so if you'd like to learn a few different translations, try watching this video.  
  • CURRENCY: Hungarian Forint. While most places accepted bank cards, we did withdraw some cash from an ATM at the airport once we arrived. WARNING: the conversion is a bit confusing ($1 USD equals roughly 250 HUF). We ended up taking out WAY too much money because the suggested amounts at the airport are intentionally set high in hopes that tourists will take out a lot of money and therefore, need to spend it while in Hungary. So be sure to know how much you're taking out before going through with the ATM transaction. 
  • GRATUITY: Tipping is not as customary as it is in the states. Plan on leaving ~30Ft to 50Ft per drink at the bar and between 10-12% while dining at restaurants. 
  • GETTING AROUND: Budapest is a very walkable city! That's pretty much all we did. We did take a taxi once or twice, and a funicular up to Fisherman's Bastion (more about that in a minute) but everything else we did on foot. Staying central is important if you want that benefit-- I will speak to our accommodations that offered that in a minute. 
budapest hungary
fisherman's bastion budapest

If you're looking for views in Budapest, look no further than Fisherman's Bastion. Designed and built between 1895 and 1902, this neo-Gothic terrace is named after the medieval guild of fishermen who protected Budapest from invasion. It is situated on the Buda bank of the Danube, on the Castle hill, and is probably the most beautiful part of Budapest (in my opinion anyway!) Travelers around the world seems to agree that Fisherman's Bastion looks like something out of a fairytale (many have said it resembles walking around Hogwarts). 

Once you're up here, you can see gorgeous views of Buda Castle, Hungarian parliament, Matthias Church (right next door) and pretty much a sweeping panoramic view of the entire city of Budapest. We came for sunset and it was honestly the most ideal place to watch the sky turn pink and the city lights come alive. 

budapest fisherman's bastion
fisherman's bastion budapest

To get here, you can take the funicular from Chain Bridge. Ticket prices for the funicular run around 700 Hungarian forint ($2.50) for kids and 1,200 Hungarian forint ($4.25) for adults. That trip alone is a fun way to get up the steep Castle hill (although if you want to work of some of that goulash, you can always take the stairs!)

 

 

SZÉCHENYI THERMAL BATH

Locals will say that "if you poke a hole in the ground anywhere in Hungary, you'll find hot water." In fact, one of the reasons the Romans first colonized the area immediately to the west of the River Danube was to utilize the thermal springs (ruins from these baths are still visible today). Turkish baths were also built in the area between 1541–1686. These served both for bathing and medicinal purposes, and some are still in use today. 

Around the 1920s, Budapest gained its reputation as a city of spas as more continued to be built. Today, the thermal baths are actually part of their health-care system (doctors regularly prescribe treatments that include soaking in various combinations of heat and minerals).

It's safe to say that visiting one of these baths is simply a must while in Budapest. Haley and I opted to visit the most popular one: Széchenyi thermal bath. 

Széchenyi thermal bath
 Image C/O  Topolindra

Image C/O Topolindra

Built in 1913, Széchenyi thermal bath is the largest one in all of Europe. While this may be a tourist “must",  rest assured- you’ll also find locals of all shapes and sizes soaking or huddled around the chess boards.

thermal bath house budapest

Some things to know before visiting?:

  • Given the fact that this bath house is the most popular, anticipate crowds. 
  • Admission to the bath equals roughly the equivalent of $20 (USD) depending on when you visit.
  • Towels, robes and swimsuits are also available for rent (I learned this after I spent my time soaking in a sports bra and black underwear because I forgot to pack one). 
  • Spa services are also available, everything from cheap massages to pedicures to mud treatments. Prices for each treatment vary, but you can see a full list of services with costs here

 

Széchenyi Chain Bridge

Széchenyi chain bridge budapest

Guarded by lions that symbolize power, Széchenyi Lánchíd (translating to "the Chain Bridge") is the city's first that offered a connection from the Buda and Pest sides of the city. 

Prior to this bridge, people needed boats (or a freeze!) to be able to cross the river. In fact, sometimes people would walk across the frozen Danube and end up getting stranded on the other side during a thaw. Legend has it that an important local once got stuck on the other side for a week while trying to get to his dad's funeral. He ended up missed the funeral and was so frustrated that he commissioned the building of Budapest's first permanent bridge.

The Chain Bridge was finished in 1849 and immediately became an important symbol of the city. While it (along with other great bridges of Budapest) was destroyed in World War II, rebuilding became a top priority.  We loved walking across this beautiful bridge (especially from the Pest side toward the Buda side) for incredible views of Buda Castle, Fisherman's Bastion and Hungarian Parliament. 

Széchenyi Chain Bridge budapest hungary
Széchenyi Chain Bridge budapest

 

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT

The Hungarian Parliament building is a beautiful example of Neo-Gothic architecture (with hints of Renaissance and Baroque as well). It's just over 100 years old, but is arguably the most iconic building in Budapest today. Located directly on the Danube (on the Pest side of the city), this is the third largest Parliament building in the world and definitely a sight you can't miss at least seeing while visiting Budapest. While we unfortunately didn't have time for a proper tour, if you book a ticket in advance (here) you can tour the inside (so long as the National Assembly is not in session). 

HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT
fisherman's bastion budapest

Right next door to Fisherman's Bastion is Matthias Church, a stunning Roman Catholic church known for it's Gothic architecture and colorful patterned roof. Given our very limited time in Budapest we unfortunately didn't have time to go inside (there was quite a long line outside!) so be sure to allow time to wait or get there right when the open if you want to see the interior. 

fisherman's bastion budapest

 

 

what TO EAT and where

I was a bit apprehensive as to whether or not I'd like Hungarian cuisine, but I can honestly say I loved it! While visiting Budapest, be sure to try the following dishes: 

GOULASH: Arguably the most popular Hungarian dish, goulash contains chunks of beef, potatoes, and vegetables, plus plenty of paprika and spices. I loved the dish I tried at Cafe Kor (pictured below). 

GOULASH CAFE KOR

 

TÖLTÖTT KÁPOSZTA (STUFFED CABBAGE): Large leaves of cabbage, stuffed with meat and rice, which are cooked and then smothered with sour cream. I was nervous when my server at Spinoza (mentioned below) recommended it but I honestly was so impressed- it was fantastic! 

STUFFED CABBAGE BUDAPEST HUNGARY

 

KÜRTOSKALÁCS (CHIMNEY CAKES): A Transylvanian sweet spiral pull-apart bread that is baked rotisserie-style outdoors over charcoal. I originally tried this sweet treat (often rolled in cinammon + sugar) in Prague and fell in love with it's sweet, warm, gooey, deliciousness. This time, we snacked on one while visiting one of the Christmas markets in the city center. 

 

OTHER FOOD TO TRY: 

  •  Tokaji Aszú (Aszu wine from Tokaj): Sweet, dessert wine from Hungary's famous wine region (and World Heritage Site), Tokaj.
  • Lángos (fried dough): A plate-sized sheet of fried dough that is usually smothered with sour cream and cheese. Other possible toppings include garlic sauce or ketchup.

  • Pörkölt (meat stew): A pastoral stew made of meat (often beef or chicken gizzards), tomato, paprika, and onions, usually served with a side of Hungarian noodles called nokedli.

While we were only in the city for a couple days, we experienced several highly recommended eateries in our short trip (where we ate a lot of the above!)

 

MAZEL TOV

mazel tov budapest hungary
mazel tov budapest hungary

Mazel Tov came highly recommended as one of Budapest’s hottest hangouts, and I can see why. It's bright ambience and contemporary feel made for an incredible dining atmosphere, and the food was genuinely fantastic. We ended up splitting the hummus plate with shwarma + falafels (and it was plenty for both Haley and I!) This would be a great place to come for lunch or dinner, although a booking in advance would be recommended as it was quite popular. 

mazel tov budapest hungary

 

CAFE KOR

We ate at Cafe Kor on our first night in Budapest when we asked our hotel where we could find authentic Hungarian food. Shortly after, we found ourselves in this cozy vaulted space with wooden floors and wrought-iron tables. Their menu is extensive, offering a variety of European fare and hearty Hungarian dishes of smoked sausage, potatoes and sour cream. Again, it would be wise to make a booking in advance- our hotel was happy to call ahead and reserve a table for us that evening. 

cafe kor budapest restaurant

 

 

SZIMPLA KERT RUIN BAR

Ruin bars are all the rage in Budapest and Szimpla Kert is the Crown Jewel of them all. These bars are built in Budapest’s old Jewish quarter in the ruins of abandoned buildings, stores, or lots. They may not look like much from the outside, but once you walk in you'll find yourself in the middle of a hip, artsy bar that's bustling with crowds talking, people smoking hookah, an eclectic assortment of art, dancing, and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere. This is more of a place to come drink than it is somewhere to eat, but it's something you can't miss nonetheless. 

szimpla kert BUDAPEST ruin bars

 

 

SPINOZA CAFÉ

We ate at Spinoza Cafe on our last night in Budapest and fell in love with the warm ambiance and delicious Hungarian food. This is where I had stuffed cabbage (it's worth noting again how much it surprised and delighted me!) A pianist played most of the evening and we dined over candlelight, which made for such a cozy setting (in addition to the wonderful food!) I'd advise making a booking in advance- we snagged the last table (it's not very big!) by chance when we stumbled in so we got lucky!

SPINOZA CAFE BUDAPEST

 

 

WHERE TO STAY

 

KEMPENSKI BUDAPEST HOTEL

kempenski hotel budapest

We absolutely loved staying at Kempenski Budapest. Not only was the location ideal (right in Erzsébet Sqaure on the Pest side of the city and a short walk to just about every sight you want to see!) but every other detail was carefully considered to ensure a comfortable stay. The staff was most accommodating and friendly (they helped us several times between recommendations, restaurant bookings and ordering taxis). They also had such an impressive breakfast spread that we indulged in both mornings (and they even filled my massive water bottle with coffee bright and early on the morning we left to drive 5 hours to Slovenia. 

 

kempenski  budapest
kempenski hotel budapest

Budapest is affordably priced in general, but I was really impressed by the rates Kempenski charges for all you get as a guest- I'd argue it's an incredible value for a luxury experience and I'd highly recommend staying here for many reasons!

 

Overall, Budapest was an incredible destination that Haley and I both loved visiting and I would absolutely go back in a heartbeat. I hope this post inspires you to plan a trip to the Hungarian capital for yourself. If there's still something you have questions about, let me know in the comments below!

 Image C/O  Road Affair

Image C/O Road Affair

Thanks so much as always for popping in and reading about my adventures! Stay tuned for more travel guides coming in the near future. 

 

xx

Whitney

blonde atlas

Salzburg Austria Travel Guide

SALZBURG TRAVEL GUIDE

Just along the Bavarian border of Germany lies a neighboring Austrian village that’s straight out of a storybook. Salzburg is most commonly known as the birthplace of Mozart, or as the filming location for The Sound of Music, but rest-assured this charming city is comprised of much more than just that. It's architecture boasts stunning medieval and baroque edifices, well-manicured parks are plentiful and a formidable clifftop fortress set against the northern border of the Alps makes for breathtaking scenery. Yes, Salzburg is an idyllic combination of man-made and natural beauty. My friend Haley (who took most of these amazing pictures!) and I spent three days exploring as much as we could of all this city has to offer (and we could have easily spent more time if it was available!) It was seriously such a magical trip and I'd recommend it to just about everyone (unless you're a troll that hates beautiful scenery). Whenever the time comes to plan a trip of your own, here is what I'd recommend: 

salzburg austria hotel sacher

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

LANGUAGE: German, although just about everyone speaks English. I always advise to try, at the very least, to say “thank you” in the native tongue, which in this case is “Danke”. 

CURRENCY: Euros. In my experience, bank cards are widely accepted (except for taxis- be sure to have cash for those!) 

GETTING AROUND: Walk! Salzburg is an extremely walkable city that can pretty much be explored entirely by foot. There were a few times we relied on other forms of transportation (i.e. The Sound of Music tour took us around by bus and we did take a cab to dinner once while staying at Schloss Leopolskron). It’s also a great city for biking, although we didn’t have a chance to do that. 

SALZBURG CARD: Our friends at Visit Salzburg provided us with a 72 hour Salzburg Card, which you can purchase to save money as you see the city sights. With a choice between a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass, you'll get free admission to over 30 attractions and museums in the ‘City of Mozart', free use of the public transport network and discounts at numerous other sights. Note: the Sound of Music tour is not part of this, but nevertheless it will cover a lot of other sights so look into it depending on the sights you’re hoping to see!

 

STAY

 

HOTEL SACHER SALZBURG

hotel sacher salzburg
hotel sacher salzburg
salzburg austria

Situated in the heart of Mozart's hometown, on the bank of the river Salzach, and opposite the old town, all sites are within walking distance from Hotel Sacher Salzburg. They offer individually furnished rooms that feature numerous antiques and original oil paintings (it was honestly one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever stayed in abroad).

hotel sacher salzburg
hotel sacher salzburg
hotel sacher salzburg

It was evident that the staff is proud of their history and stays true to traditions. When we first arrived, we had the pleasure of sitting down with our new friend Sandra from the marketing department for a glass of prosecco to learn more about the rich history associated with Hotel Sacher Salzburg. She informed us of the infamous Sacher-Torte which has been the most famous cake in the world since 1832 and the original recipe remains a well-kept secret specific to this hotel.  The basis of the entire confection is a chocolate cake, thinly coated by hand with best-quality apricot jam. The chocolate icing on top of it is the crowning glory. It tastes best with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream. Sandra ordered us a slice (which pairs well with a cappuccino!) so we could try it for ourselves and it did not disappoint. Regardless of whether or not you stay here while visiting Salzburg, I definitely recommend at least popping in for a famous slice to experience it yourself!  

original sacher-torte salzburg austria

 

Hotel Sacher Salzburg provided the highest standard of comfort, superb service and every modern technology and amenity that we could have wanted. I thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a luxury experience in Salzburg.

 

HOTEL SCHLOSS LEOPOLDSKRON

hotel schloss leopoldskron

For  the second half of our time in Salzburg, we stayed at Schloss Leopoldskron, which was built in 1736 as a family property of Salzburg's Prince-Archbishop Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian (1679-1744). It was later purchased by Max Reinhardt in 1918, who was the most famous theatre impresario at the time. It was in a very dilapidated state when he purchased it, but he concentrated with great creativity on its reconstruction.

More recently though, this infamous property is known to be where many of The Sound of Music scenes were filmed. The most recognizable? The backyard scene at the end of "Do-Re-Mi" watch the video clip below to refresh your memory!) 

hotel schloss leopoldskron
HOTEL SCHLOSS LEOPOLSKRON

As we learned on The Sound of Music tour (more about that in a minute) they actually used two different locations for the Von Trapp family home. Schloss Frohnburg, a 17th century country house, now the Mozarteum Music Academy, was used for the gates and front entrance of the villa where Maria (Julie Andrews) first approaches the Von Trapps after leaving the convent. But the director wanted the backyard to be more scenic with a lake that overlooked the majestic mountains of Salzburg. Thus, all backyard filming locations were filmed at Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. The actual palace (where we would imagine the Von Trapp being) looks like this.  

*NOTE: You can only visit the grounds if you are a hotel guest, so if you're a Sound of Music enthusiast who wants to see the same exact point of view, you'll have to stay here in order to do so. 

hotel schloss leopoldskron

 

Today, Schloss Leopoldskron serves as the home of the international non-profit organization Salzburg Global Seminar and the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron.

To this day, the castle is not a museum but a house that is "lived" and offers its guests together with the castle park an extraordinary experience. The castle suites (pictured right) were under construction during our stay, so we stayed in the room pictured below on the left- which is a more affordable and contemporary option. 

 MEIERHOF ROOM

MEIERHOF ROOM

 CASTLE SUITES MEIERHOF ROOM

CASTLE SUITES MEIERHOF ROOM

 

Regardless of which kind of room you stay in here, the entire property is available to you. In addition to walking around the grounds, we loved the gorgeous interiors of the castle (see below for photos of the breakfast hall and the dining room that inspired the ballroom in The Sound of Music). 

HOTEL SCHLOSS LEOPOLDSKRON
sound of music inspired ballroom hotel schloss leopoldskron

This was a wonderful place to stay for many reasons. Aside from all the history and the stunning views, it's quite scaleable from a price perspective, offering something for just about every budget. It's not quite as central as some other properties, but bikes are available to take into the heart of Salzburg and the concierge was most accommodating to order us a cab when we needed it. Overall, you just can't really beat staying on the property where Sound of Music was filmed!

 

DO

 

WALK AROUND THE OLD CITY 

salzburg austria

Salzburg’s Old Town is one of the best-preserved city centers north of the Alps. It's known for its baroque architecture and of course, it's gorgeous alpine backdrop. The Old Town of Salzburg also earned a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage List back in 1997, which has helped protect the architecture and layout of Salzburg. Let yourself get lost in the streets, but be sure to pay a visit to some of these spots. 

 Salzburg Cathedral in Residenzplatz

Salzburg Cathedral in Residenzplatz

salzburg austria
 Salzach River (view from Hotel Sacher Salzburg)

Salzach River (view from Hotel Sacher Salzburg)

 Mohn Brezen in  Residenzplatz where the Salzburger Christkindlmarkt takes place every year. 

Mohn Brezen in  Residenzplatz where the Salzburger Christkindlmarkt takes place every year. 

salzburg austria
 Residenzplatz

Residenzplatz

the sound of music tour

Laugh if you want, but this was probably my favorite thing we did in Salzburg! It's no secret that this city was the backdrop all throughout the hit film that put Julie Andrews on the map, so naturally it attracts crowds from all around the world flocking to see the same picturesque sites. There are a few different tour options, but it's pretty unanimous that the best one is this 4 hour bus tour we did. Once you load onto the bus, they start playing bits of the film that coincide with the sights you're about to see (they even encourage you to sing along!) I was surprised how much ground we covered in the 4 hour time frame- it honestly flew by. Here's what you can expect to see: 

 

STOP 1:  LEOPOLDSKRON PALACE

This should look familiar! While, as I mentioned, you can't go in the actual backyard where the movie was filmed unless you're staying on the property, this tour will allow you to enjoy the spectacular view during a photo stop at Lake Leopoldskron mirroring the palace, where the famous boating scene was filmed. From there, you can see the Captain´s backyard and private palace gardens.

hotel schloss leopoldskron

 

STOP 2: HELLBRUNN PALACE, GAZEBO

Remember the song "16 going on 17" scene as well as the kissing scene of Maria and Baron von Trapp? The second stop of this tour takes you to the original gazebo which was given to the city of Salzburg and relocated to the gardens of Hellbrunn Palace. 

sound of music gazebo

 

STOP 3: NONNBERG ABBEY

The next stop is passing by the Nonnberg Abbey, which is still an active women’s convent today. Here, the "real" Maria was a novice and also got married to Baron von Trapp. The Abbey does not allow visits within its walls, so you don't actually get off the bus here, but you are welcome to walk up to the front gate of their Gothic Church or to visit a church service after the tour.

 

STOP 4: SALZBURG LAKE DISTRICT AREA - ST. GILGEN

After touring the film-locations within the town of Salzburg, you will hop back on the bus and head for the Lake District, passing Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang, where panorama shots and scenes of the picnic were filmed. The view down on to St. Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang make for an excellent photo stop!

sound of music tour salzburg austria

 

STOP 5: MONDSEE WEDDING CHAPEL

After some time in the bus, you'll arrive in Mondsee to the famous church where the wedding of Maria and Baron von Trapp was filmed in the movie. Afterwards there is time to explore this little picturesque town on your own (I recommend getting an apfelstrudel!) 

mondsee abbey austria
mondsee abbey sound of music
mondsee austria
mondsee austria
apfelstrudel mondsee austria

 

STOP 6: MIRABELL GARDENS

The tour ends in the beautiful Mirabell Gardens where the song "Do-Re-Mi" was filmed. After or before joining the tour, you can explore the gardens on your own where you'll find the Pegasus Fountain as well as the Do-Re-Mi steps from the film (watch the video below from 0:59 - 1:53 to refresh your memory!) 

sound of music gardens do re mi

 

This was certainly one of the more touristy things I've ever done, but MAN was it so fun! This was hands down the highlight of our trip and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who loves The Sound of Music. Still not convinced? Here's a little video with more information about the tour to help you with your decision. 

 

 

MOZART'S BIRTHPLACE

salzburg austria mozart

W. A. Mozart was born in 1756 in the “Hagenauer Haus” at No. 9 Getreidegasse in Salzburg. Today, Mozart’s Birthplace is one of the most visited museums in Austria and is an absolute highlight, above all for Mozart fans. Even if you don't tour the inside, you must at least walk by and snap a photo while exploring the old town. 

 

WATCH THE SUNRISE AT MUSEUM DER MODERNE SALZBURG

SALZBURG AUSTRIA SUNRISE

Haley was determined to wake up early for this sunrise shot over the city, and I'm so glad she was! We went to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, which our Sound of Music tour guide told us was an iconic spot overlooking the city during the "Do-Re-Mi" scene. While the museum isn't open at sunrise, you can still take the elevator to the top (which you have to pay cash, roughly €6 per person) for incredible panoramic views. Watching the sun come up over the mountains and hearing the bell towers chime was seriously beautiful and an unforgettable moment from our trip. I highly recommend doing the same if you're up for an early morning! Remember: sunrise time varies throughout the year so be sure to check the specific details of when you're visiting!

 

EAT

Salzburg has loads of iconic traditional fare you must try while visiting. Some of the favorites? 

SCHNITZEL:

Wiener schnitzel

A wiener-schnitzel is arguably the epitome of Austrian cuisine. It’s essentially a large breaded and fried piece of veal. Contrary to popular belief (or at least Julie Andrews), it's not served with noodles, but instead with a lemon wedge, parsley potatoes and some cranberry. We ordered this dish at a recommendation I received from a friend:  

 

St. Peter Stiftskulinarium

Stiftskeller StPeter is a restaurant within the walls of St Peter's Abbey, Salzburg, Austria. It is claimed to be the oldest inn in Central Europe (dating back to 803 AD) because of a mention of it in the Carmina anthology by the English scholar Alcuin of York. Regardless of the history, it was the dreamiest little spot you can imagine and offered fine dining options of authentic Austrian food. While they do offer Mozart Dinner Concerts, we opted for dinner in their standard dining room (which is in a cozy cave setting, complete with candles lit). It's a popular spot so be sure to make a booking in advance!

st. peter stiftskulinarium

 

SALZBURGER NOCKERL

restaurant-elefant.jpg

Our friends at Visit Salzburg told us from the very start of our trip that we had to try a Salzburger Nockerel: a sweet soufflé served as a dessert specific to this city to represent the snow-capped mountains surrounding Salzburg.There's a legend that says the famous Salzburg prince archbishop of Raitenau loved his mistress Salome mostly because she could make a mean (and fluffy) Salzburger Nockerl. It's quite tasty (although it does take some time to prepare so be sure to order it before you're done with your main course or you'll be waiting a while!) We were told that the best in town can be found at: 

 

Restaurant S’Nockerl im Elefant

Restaurant S'nockerl, located in the Elefant Hotel, is just a stone's throw from Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg's city center. They offer traditional Austrian food and a cozy atmosphere (and again, a delicious Salzburger Nockerl!) Again, I'd recommend making a booking in advance to secure a table. 

restaurant s'nockerl im elefant

 

Some other food you must try? 

  • STRUDEL: These tasty deserts are filled layered pastries that come in many forms: cherry strudels, nut strudels, plum strudels, etc. However, while in Austria, I'd go for an apple or cheese strudel!
  • SACHER-TORTE: See my statements above where I speak to Hotel Sacher Salzburg, but this famous cake is a must try while visiting!
  • PRETZEL BREAD: You can see from my photos above that pretzel bread is sold at stalls in the streets of the old town, but it's not something to miss! This load of carby-goodness will only cost you roughly €3 and comes in loads of different flavors (I suggest the cheese and garlic!) 

 

While everything above made our time in Salzburg so wonderful, what really made it memorable was the people we met. On our last night, we met up with some friends we made on the Sound of Music tour for a drink and closed the pub down. Two of them were brothers from Melbourne and the other from Ireland. Throw in us two Americans and we had a loud, lively bunch exchanging travel stories and becoming fast friends late into the night.  Before they got to the pub to meet us, we befriended a local tour guide (originally from Germany) on a date with her boyfriend at the table across from us. They shared all their favorite bits about life in Salzburg and gave us some good recos for villages to visit when we went on to Germany (our next destination). We swapped social media information with all our new friends and still keep up with each others lives, which is something I try to do everywhere I go. It may seem odd to keep in touch with so many people you just met, but I'm continually surprised by how easy it is to connect with a complete stranger when you both share a common love for travel.  It's honestly the coolest feeling to keep making friends in different corners all around the world, and some of my favorite stories have been when I re-connect with these people on different trips in new destinations. So whenever I find myself in Melbourne or Dublin or back in Salzburg, I can't wait to get back in touch with my new friends I made on this trip!

 

All in all, Salzburg is a magical place that feels like a fairytale and I hope everyone gets the chance to visit. Still have questions about planning your trip? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Thanks as always for stopping by, and stay tuned for more travel guides and other travel-related stories soon to come!

xx

Whitney

hotel schloss leopoldskron
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