Let’s be honest. Salzburg in Austria might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of a romantic city break – but that’s part of what makes it the perfect place for one. The city doesn’t shout too loudly about its many charms, but those savvy couples that do visit will be richly rewarded with stunning sights, blissful views and so many romantic restaurants and bars that you’ll be planning your return before your holiday is even over.
We know what you’re thinking. What makes Salzburg such a romantic hotspot? Well, let’s start with the fact that one of the city’s landmarks happens to be a tribute to eternal love. As you approach the Makartsteg Bridge above the River Salzach, you’ll see thousands of padlocks covering its sides. These ‘love locks’ have become a tradition in the city over recent years: couples put their initials on a padlock, attach it to the bridge and then throw the key into the river to symbolise their everlasting love. It’s a truly romantic sight – which also happens to be very instagrammable.
A short stroll from the Makartsteg is another essential Salzburg stop for couples: the Mirabell Palace and its stunning gardens. Undoubtedly one of the most romantic places in the city, the gorgeous grounds of this seventeenth-century palace are full of roses and other colourful blooms that make it perfect for a stroll. If parts of it look familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen Julie Andrews teaching her students to ‘Do-Re-Mi’ around the palace fountain in ‘The Sound of Music’. And, yes, you can (and definitely should) recreate the moment with your partner, preferably skipping hand-in-hand to really feel like you’re a Von Trapp (bonus points if you can remember more of the lyrics than just ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer’).
Now you’ve ticked your ‘Sound of Music’ box, get back to the romantic side of things. Thankfully, that won’t be difficult, as there are all kinds of magical sights around the city. A great way of enjoying them is with the Salzburg Card, which gives you free admission to the city’s major attractions and museum, plus free public transport and discounts on cultural events and concerts.
Included in those free admissions is the beautiful (and delightfully romantic) Hellbrunn Palace and its ‘trick fountains’ – watch out for rogue jets of water! And make sure you take in the grand beauty of Residenzplatz, a baroque square that marks the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town, plus the city’s numerous museums (many of which are included in the Salzburg Card): perfect for couples who like a little culture.
There are plenty of options on offer, but luckily you can sample all of it in a weekend if you want to. Salzburg is a compact city that’s easy to navigate on foot, making it perfect for those meandering, idyllic strolls. If, however, you’re the kind of couple that want to stay active on your getaway, you’ll be pleased to hear that Salzburg feels like it was designed for cycling. Hop on a bike and start exploring its 180 kilometres of city bike paths – and make sure you cruise alongside the River Salzach. You’ll quickly discover that some of the most scenic parts of the city look even better from a bike.
Clearly no romantic break would be complete without some incredible views to gaze over and, as luck would have it, a trip to Salzburg can deliver just that, from the top of a mountain, no less. Don’t worry, though, you won’t have to pack for a hiking holiday. Just take a 15-minute journey out of a city centre to the cable car at Untersberg. This mountain is easily accessible by public transport and once there you can experience breathtaking 2,000m-high-views – the ultimate memory to take home. And, yep, it’s all included in the Salzburg Card, making everything gloriously easy and hassle-free.
Back in Salzburg, reward yourself for your not-so-strenuous expedition up a mountain by relaxing in some of the city’s many great restaurants and bars. Salzburg is full of romantic spots to eat and drink in, so take your pick from magnificent traditional venues or cosy, arty hideaways. And, of course, you won’t be short on quality food, wine or cocktails, so settle in and enjoy yourselves. And remember that when you get back from your trip, both of you are allowed to feel as smug as you like for having discovered a truly hidden gem of a romantic city.