I am Canadian so having a snowy Christmas is what I grew up experiencing. However, my children don’t always get to experience snow as we live abroad in hotter climates. We spent Christmas night until New Years in Salzburg, Austria. With a picturesque old town that is a World UNESCO Heritage Site, adding in snow and Christmas markets, it’s no wonder this is a top destination at Christmas time. We still wanted to have our Christmas morning at home in Cyprus that’s why we left it to Christmas evening to head off. We cooked our Christmas dinner on Christmas eve, and took our time opening presents Christmas morning, making our traditional Christmas breakfast before our flight. Then panic set in as we realized we were traveling and had to do loads of dishes, pack up our winter things and get going!
We stayed in a village just out of Salzburg called Hellbrunn which was located 5 minutes’ walk to the Salzburg zoo. This is debatable if this was in fact wise. We felt we got to live amongst the locals. We could walk to the best patisserie just 2 minutes down the road, and walk to local eateries that had roaring fires, as well as being able to walk amongst the Baroque historical homes with snowy capped mountains in the backdrop. We rented a car, and because of this, parking was extremely expensive in Salzburg which was problematic when travelling on a budget. Whenever we went into town to do things, the parking was the most expensive parking we’ve ever paid anywhere. We needed a car as we drove in the middle of the night from Vienna to Salzburg and would be doing the same to leave. We also wanted to be able to travel to nearby mountain villages. We still think we appreciated staying out of Salzburg because we really enjoyed what we did discover outside and wouldn’t have done so if we were in town. But also, Salzburg is so lovely, and I think staying in the town would be very special. For us, with the kids, we like being able to have space for them to run freely, and there was a field just around the corner from us so they could be the wild things they are.
Our timing meant that we missed some Christmas markets, but we did get to do the main one on the 26th in Maribelplatz which was the perfect amount of market for us as really the crafts weren’t that indigenous and still costly. Plus, if we’re honest how much are your kids going to be into shopping at Christmas markets. My kids were freezing but that is because they aren’t used to the cold. It made us warm up many a times for coffees and pastries. The market to us mean that we got to enjoy the hot wine and that Christmassy feeling of huddling close together in the main square with twinkling lights and music.
Here are our favourite things about Salzburg with kids at Christmas time (not in any order)
- Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum): On a rainy day, come here. We enjoyed playing just as much as our children did. There is an area at the beginning where there are some thought provoking natural toys which we enjoyed working with.
- Salzburg Zoo: This Zoo doesn’t feel like a zoo so much as the animals are kept in very natural habitats. The grounds are stunning, and the animals have a lot of room set completely in nature. The zoo is part of many conservation efforts both nationally and internationally. It isn’t your average caged up animals on display kind of depressing zoo.
- Halsatt was very pretty and nice to walk around, however it was busy and expensive. The Chinese have literally built a copy of it. We hoped to have a spot of lunch in Halsatt but nowhere could accommodate us as every single restaurant was fully booked.
-Filzmoos is an ideal spot for families who want to play in the snow. We had a great time building snow men and tobogganing here. This has great slopes for skiing but our little ones were too small to ski so we’ll have to go another time. Unterhofalm is meant to be an unforgettable experience as you take a horse draw sled up to a restaurant which is only reachable by sled or a long cold walk which my kids wouldn’t do. We decided against this as it was expensive and just not in the cards for us this time round. We ended up eating at Fiker-wirt which was home cooked and horse quirky, we liked it.
-Mirabell Garden is lovely with nice photo opportunities. A place to let the kids explore and walk more freely as being in cities can be tricky.
-Organic Food. In Austria there is SO much Organic food. We were so excited. Even when we went to the petrol station, they sold organic dried goods and organic bananas. All supermarkets had heaps of Organic everything. There were lots of restaurants that were dedicated to serving only organic food. Be warned that being vegetarian is tricky in Austria and vegan seems unthinkable. The vegetarian options were everything coated in cream or cheese. I don’t do dairy, at least I try my hardest to avoid it, so this was hard to master.
-Salzburg old town is a world UNESCO heritage site. Enjoy the beautiful baroque architecture as you walk along and window shop.
-Salzburg fortress, a nice little hike to get to the top with spectacular views. The biggest fully preserved castle in Central Europe.
-Walk along the Salzach river with your own thermos of delicious hot beverage. One thing is; take away coffees are EXPENSIVE. So, do yourself a favour and bring your thermos and pack up a warm coffee or tea to have along the Salzach and for car journeys etc. BONUS it’s better for the environment.
-Strudel. Need I say more?
-Saurekraut – This is for those of you who maybe are looking for a more gut friendly alternative to strudel. I get it. We avoid sugar but I admit I did try strudel. And it was good. But back to sauerkraut, this is also good, especially in Austira when they heat it up which was a new thing for me.
I really wanted to go to the Klimt museum in Vienna, but our flights did not coincide with a quick pop into Vienna to go. Another time, but I thought I should mention it in case you could make it happen.