Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, the setting of the Sound of Music. There’s no denying that Salzburg is a significant and historical city. But while its cute pedestrian avenues and boutique shops are eye-popping on a weekend trip, the potential for long-term residence is a bit less rosy.
Like many cities in Austria, Salzburg is almost pristine. Everything is well-maintained and simply charming and adorable as if you were actually on the set of the Sound of Music rather than in a real livable city. While there’s a lot to be said for living in a place that is aesthetically pleasing, the heart of the city (Salzburger Altstadt), undoubtedly caters to tourists on day trips. Everything shutters fairly early, leaving you with few dining and nightlife options. While there is life in Salzburg outside of the car-free center, there’s something kind of depressing about an entire section of town going dormant after visitors all get back on their tour buses back to bigger, more bustling cities.
Since so many smaller places are closed by 5 or 6 pm, it can be harder to find a place to dine (on the east side of the river, where there is actually life after dark). I can only imagine that during peak travel season, this problem is compounded. And there’s nothing worse than tourism significantly affecting local quality of life.
I found the people of Salzburg to be surprisingly friendly. Having only ever been to Vienna in Austria, I was expecting the same vile unfriendliness that is pretty rampant there. But I guess the small-town feel comes with small-town kindness. People were helpful and accommodating everywhere from gas stations to restaurants. Although we visited in early March, and I suppose this also varies throughout the year. I’m sure if I lived in Salzburg when several thousand people descend on my favorite cafes and shops in July, I would probably be a dick too.
The food in Salzburg did not disappoint. Despite being a bit on the pricey side, probably owing to its popularity for out-of-town tourists, we didn’t have one bad meal in Salzburg. On the contrary, I may have had the best veal schnitzel of my life at Zwettler’s Wirtshaus. Even simple things like coffee were excellent, meriting a return visit to local bakeries and cafes. Food may not be available until 10 or 11 like in Spain, but when it is available, it’s truly mouth-watering.
Salzburg’s public transportation consists of electric buses and trolleys, and as mentioned, the historic part of town is pedestrian only. Though this is a convenient way to get around when you’re visiting the main areas of town, I can’t help but wonder if a car isn’t necessary unless you’re living in the heart of Salzburg. There are neighborhoods less than 2 km walk outside Altstadt that are not well-serviced by buses. And although 2 km is not much, I don’t want to walk that far every time I leave my boring ass neighborhood to go to a pharmacy or a restaurant.
Total Livability Score 2/10
Salzburg is positively delightful to visit, and I might even go back for a hearty dinner or two. But I wouldn’t ever consider living in Salzburg because it’s far too small a town with far too many tourists.