Are you planning a trip to Salzburg and are looking for day trips? The Salzkammergut, Lake District, is one of three main areas to visit on day trips from Salzburg, and this article will tell you everything you need to know about the town of St Gilgen in the Lake District.
If you were looking into the lake district, you have probably heard of Hallstatt. Hallstatt became the most popular day trip from Salzburg. For many people, Hallstatt is the reason to visit Salzburg. But in the Lake District, where Hallstatt is, there are many places with the same charm.
St Gilgen is one of them.
What’s on in St Gilgen?
I see St Gilgen, however, as the entrance to the Salzkammergut, Lake District.
If you go to Hallstatt, you pass by St Gilgen by bus, and if you want to go to St Wolfgang by boat, the port is in St Gilgen. Other than the ship to St Wolfgang, you can take a cable car up the Zwölferhorn, a 1500 meter high mountain behind St Gilgen from where you overlook all of the Lake District.
Other than that, you won’t find spectacular attractions in St Gilgen except for the natural beauty of the lake district and a few minor sights.
This article is about the boat and the cable car but also about these minor sights.
What to see and do in St Gilgen?
You find these attractions in St Gilgen on the way from the cable car, where the St Gilgen bus terminal is, to the docks where the boat to St Wolfgang leaves.
1. Taking the Zwölferhorn Cable Car
The Cable Car to the top of mount Zwölferhorn is the highlight of St Gilgen. Until 2020, the Zwölferhorn cable car was one of the oldest cable cars in the world and the last of its kind. In January 2020, they, unfortunately, took the old cable car down.
The new cable car is supposed to open in autumn 2020. When that happens, I will visit and write an entire article on the new cable car.
Only a few months before they took it down, I discovered the old cable car. I had often heard about it because every Korean tour group went to Zwölferhorn, before or after I guided them in Salzburg. Without even considering, I assumed the Zwölferhornbahn in St Gilgen is a tourist trap.
Not even close.
On my mission to see and do everything in the Lake District, I took the cable car for the first time.
When it started, I began to think it was a death trap instead of a tourist trap, but luckily, I got used to the squeaking noise on the 16-minute ride and relaxed my way up to 1522 meters above sea level.
On top of the mountain, you do not only see Sankt Gilgen and lake Wolfgang, but you can see far into the Lake District, into upper Austria, and to the Dachstein mountain range near Hallstatt. From one of the viewpoints, you can see the uninhabited nature behind Zwölferhorn mountain. Something I didn’t expect.
So definitely recommended.
There was also a restaurant with reasonable prices and not too many tourists, but we have to see how the new cable car will be. While the old Zwölferhornbahn was able to transport 250 people per hour, the new cable car will be able to carry 1800, so it should be in the interest of the operator to flood the site with tourists.
Anyway. Whenever the new Cable Car is ready, you will find a link to an article about the new Zwölferhorn cable car in St Gilgen.
2. Mozartplatz – The Main Square of St Gilgen
Mozartplatz is the main square of St Gilgen. For the main square, Mozartplatz in St Gilgen is a modest place, but there are a few details I would like to point out.
First of all, you will notice the Mozart statue depicting him playing the violin in front of the Rathaus. Mozart never actually visited St Gilgen, but at our next attraction, you will find out why St Gilgen’s main square is named after the musical genius Salzburg is famous for.
Rathaus, by the way, means town hall and this building is still the town hall today.
Gasthof Zur Post (guest house to the post office) is the building opposite of the Rathaus with the impressive 300-year-old painting of a hunt. That guest house was not only a tavern but was part of the mail delivery and the public transport. Back when horses delivered the mail. Gasthof Zur Post was the building where the mailman and his horses, as well as travelers, stayed. A typical inn.
Nowadays, Gasthof Zur Post is far from a typical inn. It’s a four-star hotel and one of the more fancy places to stay in St Gilgen. More about hotels in St Gilgen and when you should consider staying in St Gilgen overnight in the last chapter of this article.
Mozartplatz is also the place if you would like to enjoy some Apfelstrudel or other Austrian sweets. Cafe Dallmann is famous as well as infamous. Renowned for their exquisite cakes and desserts but notorious for being rude. Look at their Google Maps reviews. It’s also a little pricey, and the coffee is average, but with all that considered, it’s still worth the visit.
3. The Parish Church of Saint Egidius
If you read some of my articles, you maybe know that I am an advocate of going to churches. Not for religious reasons but because churches tell you about the history of a place. If that’s what you are into, they can be like museums.
The church of St Gilgen is no exception.
St Gilgen became prominent in the middle ages because St Wolfgang, on the other side of the lake, became one of the most significant places for pilgrimage in Europe. From St Gilgen, pilgrims took the boat to St Wolfgang.
To me, St Gilgen still feels like the entrance to the Lake District. A place of passage.
The church you see today was built at the end of the 18th century. Saint Egidius is another name for Saint Giles, and that’s the saint who gave Sankt Gilgen its name. There is, however, no direct connection.
St Giles came from Athens in Greece and moved to France, where he performed miracles, but his grave in France became another popular place for pilgrimage in Europe.
Like in most churches, you find the patron Saint with their attribute on the altar. Saint Giles is often portrayed with an arrow. That’s because he retreated in the forest in France for many years, where his only company was a deer. When one day hunters showed up to chase the deer, Saint Giles caught an arrow instead of his friend. That’s how he became disabled and the Saint of the disabled. Here at the parish church in St Gilgen, you can also see the deer at the main altar.
Did you know that Mozart’s maternal grandmother came from St Gilgen, and his sister later moved there? That is the reason why there is a Mozart square, and our next stop will be the Mozart house of St Gilgen.
But first I want you to take a look at the plaque at the entrance of the church.
It indicates that Mozart’s grandparents and his sister got married here, his mother was baptized in St Gilgen, and his grandfather and his brother in law are buried at the cemetery behind the church. Despite all of that, Mozart never visited St Gilgen.
A look at the cemetery is also recommended before continuing to the Mozart house.
4. The Mozart House in St Gilgen
Just before arriving at the lake, you will see the Mozarthaus Sankt Gilgen on the left side. Before reaching the Mozart house, you also notice a beautiful fountain on the left side. A child is holding up a round object from which the water for the fountain flows. That’s supposed to be Mozart’s mother.