The Altstadt is Salzburg's hub, its gold star, the sine qua non of its touristy appeal. Its medieval almond-shaped layout is crowded with well-preserved baroque architecture, church spires, and 14th-century townhouses. Although these lovely structures have been sullied by luxury shops, pricey cafes, and gaudy window displays of Mozartkugeln, various charms endure.
Wrought-iron shop signs figure prominently against a backdrop of mountains (Mönchsberg in the south and Kapuzinerberg in the north) and noble fortresses. And although the tourists pushing through winding, narrow streets can be a headache, expansive town squares give the throngs room to disperse.
Elisabeth-Vorstadt is convenient for those arriving by train. Most of the neighborhood's hotels are located within a few blocks of the station. While the Hauptbahnhof area—with its vulgar melange of lousy döner stands and places with names like CINEPLEXX—is an insult to everything beautiful about Salzburg, it is easily avoided.
Things look up a few blocks west. A couple of sex shops sit among the quiet apartment buildings, but there are also countless cheap Internet cafes, a few inexpensive Turkish supermarkets, and a 24-hour gas station stocked with food. Saint-Julien-Strasse, which runs through the neighborhood, feels like part of a much larger city.
West of the Salzach is Lehen, a vast residential area that encompasses rows of dreary pastel-colored apartment blocks, a few small parks, and a suburban area comprised mainly of single-family homes. There's something about Lehen though—maybe it's the chance to see Salzburgers in their natural environment, pushing their kids on the swings and carrying home groceries.
Ignaz-Harrer-Strasse, which turns into Saint-Julien-Strasse once it crosses the river, is the main strip. There are some beautiful bike trails up near the Glankanal, which is lined with trees and houses on both sides. Lehen is well connected to the city center by buses.
Attractions in the compact Right Bank are plentiful. The area is defined by the pedestrian-only Linzergasse (and Kapuzinerberg) to the east, Dreifaltigkeitsgasse in the west, and the crescent-shaped boulevard Franz-Josef-Strasse in the north.
Nearby attractions include Mirabellplatz and the Mirabellgarten, as well as the Mozart-Wohnhaus (not to be confused with the Altstadt’s Geburtshaus). The Right Bank is a little less frenetic than the Altstadt across the Salzach, but not by much. Bottom line: where there are narrow streets, visible mountains, cute shops, and historic buildings, there are crowds.
The bulk of Cheapo-friendly properties lie in Schallmoos, an expansive neighborhood that stretches north from Franz-Josef-Strasse and east from the train tracks. Schallmoos is a residential area, with stately townhouse apartments in the south fading into low buildings and gas stations closer to the Autobahn.
Swanky southern Schallmoos is within walking distance of all things Altstadt. Although northern Schallmoos lacks the rich beauty of the Altstadt and Right Bank, the area north of the Kapuzinerberg has a unique appeal, full of melancholy and atmosphere. Small, graffiti-riddled parks and monuments and a view of Kapuzinerberg's rock face are some of the highlights.