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March 4, 2019

Austria: Salzburg

Inside Salzburg’s cathedral

Salzburg Austria has it all. It’s scenic and historic. UNESCO agrees: The “Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg” has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. If there were a modern-day Grand Tour route, Salzburg would clearly be on it and for good reason.

But with the touristic fame comes the downside. The Province of Salzburg has a population of around a half-million. The city of Salzburg itself has roughly 150,000 permanent residents. Yet it has been reported that there were 28.3 million overnight stays in Salzburg in 2017. I calculate that that comes out to about 76,000 visitors per each night of the calendar year. Tourism statistics can be funky and it didn’t feel like there were 76,000 tourists in Salzburg proper when we visited at the end of September in 2018. Still there were a lot of tourists out and about on the streets in Salzburg’s old town, tens of thousands for sure. Visiting outsiders inundated Salzburg. Consequentially everyone’s experience of this wonderful place was lessened.

The streets of Salzburg


That’s always the issue with tourism. Your friends, travel books, blogs, and all the television travel personalities from around the world tell you that you have to see Salzburg. They are all right of course. You do want to see Salzburg. It is an amazing place. But the thing is that the shear volume of tourism ends up diminishing the enjoyment of the visit. In the end I have to think that many would come away happier if they chose to visit another attractive but less popular Austrian city instead.

There’s not much to gain from a complaint about how touristy Salzburg is from a person who just visited Salzburg and contributed to the crowd. But it is a reminder for us at least that working to find places to visit that are truly off today’s most popular “Grand Tour” route can be intrinsically more enjoyable. The goal of travel and life is to enjoy it. It’s not to tick off boxes going to places that others have told you visit. But as our visit attests, it’s not easy to buck the trends.


We visited Salzburg at the end of September in 2018.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] 50 miles of both the Austrian and German borders. In late September 2018 on our way by car from Salzburg Austria to another popular tourist destination Český Krumlov we made a 30-minute detour to see […]

    Pingback by Czech Republic: Holašovice Historic Village | Another Header — March 6, 2019 @ 5:30 pm

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