Salzburg, Austria Accessible Travel Tips

Salzburg in Austria has a picture-postcard setting.  The city lies next to a river in a valley in the Alps, with imposing castles looking upon the onion-shaped domes of Baroque churches, with snow-capped mountains all around. The whole city-centre, in fact, has been labelled a UNESCO site.

By train, it is less than an hour away (if, after a week-long skiing holiday, you start to crave urban environments). It also makes a nice weekend trip from Vienna, which takes about 4 hours by train or less than an hour by plane (if you’d prefer a few days of respite in a quaint little mountain town to the hustle and bustle of the capital).

I stayed in a lovely hotel, just outside of the centre (Hotel-Gasthof Hölle).  Salzburg is obviously fairly inaccessible; it’s age and geography decided that, long before disability discrimination laws came into force. Nonetheless, I have been to much flatter cities within the EU that had very poor wheelchair access, so I wasn’t too put-off by Salzburg’s seemingly-inaccessible geography. The city feels more like a mid-size town. It is small enough to wheel around and it’s attractions can easily be seen in a couple of  days. It may be a good idea to add a few more nights to account for travel time by plane or train and if you choose to do a tour. Salzburg Tourism do a good guide to the city’s accessible attractions, and you can download the document with different pages in German, English, French, and Italian.

The pathways and sidewalks around town were not too wide and some of the street ramps aren’t lowered enough. There are also plenty of steps and cobblestones inside the centre, which did not make it an easy holiday for someone in a wheelchair, but getting around in a wheelchair wasn’t too much of a problem.  Plenty of restaurants were inaccessible, and accessible toilets were few and far between. Some restaurants had sheltered terraces on the street with gas-powered heaters to keep your dining experience nice and cozy.

The tourism office is not accessible unfortunately, but it is the centre’s main taxi pickup and drop-off area in Mozartplatz, which is probably the first and last place you’ll go every evening.  The Mozartplatz is where you enter the city centre from most hotels. Since the tourist office is not accessible, they’ll come out to you (quite bad in a cold and snowy city!) though we did learn that the Sound of Music tours are accessible and have some tour-buses with a lift. Not something we did, not being a fan of musicals, but if you are a fan of the warbling von Trapps, several companies offer these tours.

Salzburg also hosts a Christmas Market (called the Christkindlmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt in German) from the third week in November to the 26th of December, around the Cathedral Square adjacent to Residenzplatz.  As with similar markets across Continental Europe, this is a myriad of stalls with seasonal treats (think mulled wine or a bag of roasted chestnuts that you open with your fingers) and traditional hand-crafted merchandise to buy as Christmas presents or decorations.  A market can be nice day-out on it’s own, but with Salzburg’s centre being so compact, it could easily become the main attraction of your entire stay!

Although peak tourist season here is centred around the Christkindlmarkt and ski season in the Alpine resorts, Salzburg is worth a visit at any time of year.  In the sunnier months, it still makes for wonderful scenery (think of the alpine scenery in Sound of Music), and there are festivals held in the city at all times of year.  Salzburg is the main town of the two regions that make up the Austrian mountain regions Salzburgerland and Tyrol (the capital of Tyrol being Innsbruck). However, Salzburg is closer to Vienna and the other cities in Austria, which, when you add the city’s UNESCO status and it’s festivals, makes it a very attractive summer mountain destination.

The rich history of Salzburg can be explored at the Salzburg Museum and is well-worth a visit, located in the Mozartplatz.  It’s completely accessible, with elevator lifts between all floors, and little ramps placed subtly over any thresholds or lips between rooms.  The lobby is also a good refuge from the rain, snow, and cold–locals also use it as such, and you’d often see some local Salzburgers with sodden umbrellas sitting there for a few minutes to wait for some shower to calm down! At the museum you will also find wheelchair accessible bathroom that doesn’t need a Euro Key.

In this Mozart-mad city (well, he is the city’s best known child), one of the attractions that the tourists often flock to is the Mozarts Geburthaus (Mozart’s birth-place). Mozarts Geburtshaus is NOT accessible, and though one of us went in, you are not missing out on much. The furniture is mostly replicas, the rooms are small and crowded, and there are too many tourists stepping in front of you to be able to see much.

Getreidegasse is Salzburg’s main shopping street for the souvenirs and other trinkets we tourists crave.  In the face of some attractions’ lack of access, console yourself with some serious souvenir shopping.  Also Mozart-themed and one of the most-common souvenirs in Salzburg (you’ll find them everywhere from posh to cheap souvenir shops) is a type of chocolate called a Mozartkugel (plural Mozartkugeln, which literally translates to Mozart balls). These are chocolates filled with a crispy layer and a pistachio-marzipan centre. They are very nice, and not too sweet, but the thin, flat ones are sweeter than the round balls if you like sweetness. Again bearing the likeness of Salzburg’s most celebrated resident, and frankly bizarre, was a Mozart rubber duck, which were seen everywhere!  They would certainly be a unique, kooky souvenir.

One cafe I’d particularly recommend is M32 (named after it’s postcode) and as much for it’s location as it’s food and drink – it sits on top one of the largest hills in Salzburg, offering you a fantastic view. You take the elevator lift up the Mönchsberg and when you come out the Mönchsbergaufzug (Aufzug is German for lift or elevator) there are steps up onto balcony, but turn left and in the top left-hand corner there is a direct lift to M1 and there is a flat entrance onto the terrace from the restaurant (save paying the extra €6.30 for the museum-lift combined ticket).  There is also a modern art museum up here (which is what the other half of the combination ticket was for). I didn’t find it very interesting, and, in my honest opinion, could easily be missed.

It should be noted that accessible toilets in Austria, as well as Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic are locked by a EURO key.  The best description that I could find was on a Swiss site. Even the disabled toilet in the airport is locked with a EURO key, but there’s always someone nearby who can get someone to open it for you. If you’re a permanent resident of the aforementioned four states then you can get one by contacting your local council. If you area visitor, then don’t bother because there’s someone nearby who can get a key for you.  If not, make sure the local tourist office is one of your first stops because they’ll normally have a map of where they are!

I’d still recommend anyone, disabled or not, to visit this city, maybe as a day-trip from nearby Alpine ski-resorts, or even Munich (it’s only 30min by train).  If you decide for a longer stay, just bear in mind that many of the city’s attractions may not be wheelchair-accessible. Viel Glück!

Robert Wasdell Robert Wasdell (1 Posts)

I’m Rob, 31, I live near Birmingham in the UK, I’m wheelchair-bound since having had a brain tumor when I was 18, and I travel quite prolifically (mainly within Europe, but I do also go further afield.


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