Europe // Austria Part I

If you’re just catching up, we returned home from a two-week trip to Germany, Austria and Italy. I wrote about our time in Germany here and here. And here’s a full Germany travel guide if you’re planning a trip there yourself! 

When planning our trip, we knew we wanted to go to Germany and Italy and I’m so glad we made time to visit Austria as well. Salzburg was conveniently on our way from Germany to Italy so on our fourth day of our trip, we caught an 8:30 a.m. train from Frankfurt Hbf and headed into the mountains.

I must say, I had always heard great things about the rail system in Europe but now that we have taken five train rides throughout Europe I can attest to how great they are.

I listened to music/podcasts, read, slept very comfortably, and never once felt unsafe. The ticket-buying process, stations and trains themselves were easy to navigate despite not knowing the language. All of our trains except the night one (more on that… ugh) were open seating but it wasn’t hard to find a pair together. Most of the trains were fairly empty so we could share a section of four seats and spread out. Bottom line: if you’re cautious about the trains in Europe, don’t be! They’re amazing, cheap and incredibly convenient.

Okay so know how I said I read/slept on the trains? Kevin looked out windows and took pictures of things. I think we have 17 photos of this view – our first glance of the Alps! – but I’ll just share the one.

We arrived in Salzburg around 2 p.m. and grabbed a seat on the local bus to the hotel. Again, we read public transportation in Europe is great so we purchased two bus tickets in the train station and hopped right on. (Sidebar: we quickly discovered that nobody really checks your bus tickets, but morally and ethically, you should still get them. They’re like a euro each.)

A short bus ride later – around 15 minutes – we were at our hotel! The bus stop actually dropped us off a few blocks away from our hotel because we stayed in the heart of Old Town and not many cars (let alone big busses) can get there.

We stayed at Hotel am Dom – a place we found by doing some online research – and we have nothing but amazing things to say about the place! It was in the perfect location, completely adorable, safe, quaint and the staff couldn’t be more friendly. And the bed was extra comfy.

We dropped off our luggage, put our passports in the safe and changed clothes for an afternoon of exploring. We didn’t have a map or anything planned – we simply wandered around.

That’s one thing I loved so much about Salzburg – it’s small and quaint – and so walkable.

Plus the buildings were so beautiful! Here’s our view from lunch. I mean… so picturesque!

Okay speaking of lunch. Know how I said the best wine we had was in Germany, and not Italy? Well the best pizza we had was in Austria, and not Italy. After eating schnitzel and potatoes for four days straight, we were in the mood for something else. We split a pizza and salad, and the pizza was unreal. If you’re in Salzburg, ya gotta go to Trattoria da Pippo right in Old Town, near the river.

We walked off the pizza by going over to the river to check out New Town area – equally as neat but not quite as charming as Old Town.

So back to Old Town we went…

…And saw Festung Hohensalzburg – a huge fortress resting on top of the city.

The fortress was closed by the time we got there but we were able to go up to the top and walk around in the courtyard. We quickly learned that was the best way to do it anyways because we weren’t exactly looking for a tour – we wanted the views.

Literally the most beautiful place (up until this point) I’d ever been. We just stood on the top and soaked in the views.

The courtyard goes all the way around so we saw the views from all sides.

There are two ways to get up to the top. You can purchase a ticket to take the tram up (what we did), or you can walk up to the top. In our defense, we didn’t know you could walk up or else we would have done that. But the tram was pretty convenient!

Once we walked around the top, we noticed a little cafe serving beer and snacks. Sold!

Beer + Alps? Horrible day. 😉

Eventually, we talked ourselves into returning back to town and walked around a bit more.

By the time it got dark, we quickly realized almost every store and restaurant was closed. I’m almost too embarrassed to admit that we got burgers, fries and beers to go from a convenient store but I’m sharing so everyone reading this knows to not wait until 9 p.m. to eat dinner on a Monday night in Salzburg.

However, dinner in bed was pretty wonderful after a long travel day and lots of sightseeing.

We went to bed early and woke up on Tuesday bright and early for our tour to the Austrian lake district the next day. But, more on that later!

Germany Travel Guide

I’ve been recapping each day of our trip and will continue to do so, but I had a few people ask me very specific questions – where we stayed, where we ate, what we did, etc. – so I figured I’d put it in one place for those who don’t want to sift through paragraphs of words and pictures of people they don’t know. 🙂

I’ll start with Germany since it’s where we started our trip. Keep in mind this part of our trip was unique in that we visited family friends, so a lot of what we did was planned for us (which was great!). P.S. full trip recaps can be found here and here.

Where we stayed

We stayed at my German aunt and uncle’s house in Frankfurt, which is the “big city” of Germany. There were still plenty of quaint streets and beautiful houses, throughout the city! A lot of people said Sachsenhausen is a great place to stay, though.

Where we ate/drank 

Oberschweinstiege – Perfect biergarten area for traditional German food and very good beer! If you go in the spring when it’s spargel season, get the spargel, ham and tomato flatbread! Order a mispel shot as a true Frankfurtians would.

Apfelwein Wagner – Localted in Sachsenhausen, this traditional German restaurant has the best schnitzel I’ve ever had. Get it with the green sauce because that’s local to Frankfurt. This restaurant is also famous for apfelwein, which you must get in a bembel. And you might as well get more mispel!

Lokalbahnhof – We popped in here for a nightcap (or four) and it was a great spot after dinner. Also located in the Sachsenhausen area.

Berg’s Alte Bauerschanke – This restaurant is located within a beautiful looking hotel along the Rhine River in Rudesheim. It had THE BEST Riesling we’ve ever had in our lives (yes better than Italy!) so you might as well go here just for that. The schnitzel and potatoes were great, too!

What we did 

Goetheturm – It’s a hike but the views are worth it! This tower is located in a park south of Frankfurt and the river which gives you a great look out at the city and surrounding towns.

Downtown Frankfurt – Perfect to just walk around and stop in various shops. In the cooler months, the Christmas market is amazing. We also stopped in the beautiful Frankfurt Cathedral to walk around.

Die Kleinmarkthalle – This indoor/outdoor market has 60+ vendors selling cheese, meats, flowers, breads and more. We stopped in for a glass of wine and enjoyed it on the rooftop area.

Eintracht Futbol Game – GO TO A EUROPEAN SOCCER GAME IF YOU HAVE THE CHANCE. That is all.

Rüdesheim – This area is not even an hour outside of Frankfurt and is where the Riesling wine grape is originally from. Sitting right along the Rhine River, this little town is so adorable. Perfect for a little day trip outside of the “big city!”

Pro Tips/Stray Observations 

Watch out for vespas – not just in Germany, but in all of Europe – they’re everywhere!

Smoking is still allowed in bars. Not kidding.

Learn a few key phrases in German before going, despite the fact that most Germans speak very good English. We were lucky in that we had my family translate for us, but we tried to speak a bit when we were in public, at restaurants, etc. For example: danke (thanks!), ja; pronounced “yahh” (yes), nein (no), bitte (please), hallo! (hello) and the most important – prost! (cheers!). We picked up a few others along the way, like Auf Wiedersehen (farewell) and names of foods – spagel, mispel, etc. Like I said, super basic but it was fun to have a few words we could speak.

We spent three full days/four nights in Frankfurt which was a good amount of time to see what we wanted to see. Of course, because we were with family I could have stayed forever!