Vienna may be the capital and most well-known city in Austria, but Salzburg has long gotten its fair share of attention as well. That spotlight is about to get a lot brighter though, as Lonely Planet recently revealed Salzburg to be its number one city travel destination for 2020. Those who have visited this city in Austria’s northwest and fallen for its wealth of charms will no doubt agree that it is worthy of the honor.
If this recent news has caught your attention, then you might be looking to add this historic city to your future travel plans. While the city has a lot to offer, it is possible to fit the best things to do in Salzburg into one day if you’re prepared. So, to help you plan your trip there, we’ve put together this Salzburg itinerary that will show you exactly what you can hope to see of Salzburg in 1 day of sightseeing.
Best Time to Visit Salzburg
With a city like Salzburg, you’re bound to have a fun time no matter when you choose to visit. Each season showcases a different side to the city, so the best time to visit Salzburg really depends on what you want to experience.
If you’re after warm weather, but don’t want to deal with high season crowds, consider visiting in the months either side of summer. May, September, and October have pleasant temperatures but aren’t quite as busy as the high season period of June through August. Spring and autumn can be particularly pretty, but thanks to the city’s proximity to the Alps, they can still be a tad brisk.
November through February, the city becomes a winter wonderland thanks to a dusting of snow, making it one of the best winter destinations in Europe. Visit in November and December and you also have the opportunity to spend time at the Salzburg Christmas Markets and soak in the festive cheer.
How to Get Around Salzburg
With a fairly small city center, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting around while visiting Salzburg. In areas like the Old and New Town, you’ll find that it’s easiest to simply explore on foot. The distances in Salzburg are not great, so you won’t need to walk too much to see everything on this itinerary.
However, some places, like the Hohensalzburg Fortress and Kapuzinerberg, are at the top of steep hills. There is a funicular that connects Hohensalzburg Fortress with the Old Town. To get around the rest of the city there is public transportation which consists mostly of buses. Single trip and full-day tickets can be bought at “Trafik” kiosks, ticket machines, and from the driver. The standard fares start at 2,90€. For more information to Salzburg’s buses click here.
Where to Stay in Salzburg
The city of Salzburg is a relatively compact one, making it pretty easy to work out where to stay in Salzburg. Since visitors to the city will be spending most of their time in and around the Old Town and New Town which are on either side of the Salzach River, those are typically the best places to stay in Salzburg. That way, you’re not only close to the main attractions, but also to restaurants, bars, and shops. In a pinch, further out areas like Elisabeth-Vorstadt and residential Maxglan will also work, but will take a bit of a walk to reach from the city center.
If you’re after comfort and luxury, the Hotel Bristol Salzburg is by far your best option. This five-star hotel is set inside a historic mansion and blends classical elegance with all the modern amenities you’d expect from an establishment of its caliber. The hotel complex has everything from on-site restaurants and lounges to boutique shops and even a hairdresser. For other excellent hotel recommendations, consult our guide to Salzburg’s best hotels.
For a nice mix of affordability and facilities, you need only look to the Gästehaus im Priesterseminar Salzburg in the city’s New Town. Boasting spacious rooms, a shared lounge with cooking and laundry facilities, plus a good free breakfast, this guesthouse offers a lot of value for money.
It isn’t always easy to find budget accommodation in Austria, but thankfully Salzburg has YoHo – International Youth Hostel. With a great location in New Town, not far from the train station, clean rooms and some good common areas, this hostel should have what you need for an affordable visit.
For more accommodation options in Salzburg check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Salzburg Itinerary
You may only need one day to cover the best of Salzburg in terms of sights, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to experience. The point of this Salzburg travel itinerary is to show you how to make the most of your time if it’s limited. With it, you’ll see the highlights in the city’s Old Town and New Town. With more time, you can certainly find other things to see and do around the city, not to mention visit nearby locations that will be equally as memorable.
However, before we get to our Salzburg itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
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With that always-important topic covered, let’s jump into the best places to visit in Salzburg, so you’ll have a solid idea about what to do in Salzburg in 1 day.
Recommendation: If you want to save some money on your trip, we highly recommend you purchase the Salzburg Card. Not only do you get free and unlimited use of public transportation but you also get free access to all of the top sights and attractions in and around Salzburg. This card is very good value!
Salzburg Old Town
There’s no better place to start your visit of Salzburg than in the city’s historic center, which can easily be explored on foot. Following delightful cobblestone streets lined with pretty architecture, it won’t take long for the Old Town’s charms to wear off on you.
Walking through the Old Town you’ll soon reach the cluster of squares around the Salzburg Cathedral. Before heading inside the cathedral, do a quick lap of the building and take a look at Residenzplatz, Mozartplatz, Domplatz, and Kapitelplatz. These squares all have their own distinct look and center around important landmarks like the Marien Statue and the Mozart Denkmal. Then, it’s time to see inside the gorgeous baroque Cathedral that has been rebuilt over and over since 774.
One other Old Town landmark that deserves special mention is the place in which famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg’s favorite son, was born. Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756 at a house in Getreidegasse known as the “Hagenauer Haus”, where the family would go on to live for another 17 years. Today, Mozart’s Birthplace is a museum that takes visitors through not only his life but also what homes of that era looked like.
To really delve into the culture and history, you’re going to want to visit the collection of museums in Salzburg known as the DomQuartier. The museums are spread throughout baroque buildings that once belonged to the prince-archbishops of Salzburg, meaning you also get the chance to visit parts of historic landmarks like the Cathedral and St Peter’s Abbey that you otherwise wouldn’t see.
For most people, the big draw to the DomQuartier is the chance to see the state rooms of the Alte Residenz. There you can see lavish palatial rooms and artwork by names such as Rembrandt in the Residenz Gallery. Over at the Cathedral you can see the treasured art of the Cathedral Museum and even access a special terrace that offers beautiful city views. Finally, there’s the St Peter’s Museum, home to artifacts from the oldest abbey in the German-speaking world.
Make sure to book your skip-the-line tickets to the DomQuartier in advance, so you don’t have to waste your precious vacation time waiting on long lines.
Mirabell Palace & Gardens
When crossing over the Salzach River, take a moment to admire the beautiful views found by the riverfront. Continue to Salzburg’s New Town to admire the Mirabell Palace and its exquisite gardens. The Mirabellgarten is undoubtedly the most popular gardens in the city, thanks to their ornate fountains and design. Perhaps the most common reason people visit the Mirabell Gardens is that it was used as a filming location for the classic movie “The Sound of Music”.
Recommendation: Salzburg was not only the home of the Trapp Family, who The Sound of Music is based on, and also the setting for the movie, but it too was where much of the movie was shot. It can be a challenge to visit all of the film locations on your own, so many movie-buffs choose to take a Sound of Music tour while in Salzburg. On a tour you’ll get to see filming locations beyond the city center such as Lake Fuschl and the Mondsee Cathedral.
So beloved is Mozart in Salzburg that there’s not one, but two museums to the classical composer. Just near the Mirabell Gardens you’ll find the home of the Mozart family after they moved from the Old Town in 1773. The family would go on to live there for 14 years and as such the first floor apartment now hosts a museum of artifacts from the composer’s life; including his fortepiano, documents, and portraits. If you’d like to learn more about the Mozart family and their time in Salzburg, this is the place to do it.
Sometimes all you want is a great view of a destination. Well, in Salzburg you’ll find one of the best views in the city up on Kapuzinerberg. From this hill, opposite Old Town, you’re given an awe-inspiring view of the city’s most eye-catching landmarks. Best of all, the hillside is blanketed in thick forest, making it an ideal place to surround yourself with nature and take a break from city life for a bit.
Of Salzburg’s many glamorous landmarks, the hardest to miss is the Hohensalzburg Fortress. On a hill behind the Old Town, this colossal fortress is especially well-preserved and is the largest fortress in all of Central Europe. A true symbol of the city, no visit to Salzburg is complete without an up close visit to this majestic castle. From Hohensalzburg you’re treated to yet another wonderful view of the city, while inside you’ll find several museums. Those include the main historical Fortress Museum, as well as more specialized places like the Marionette Museum and the Altes Zeughaus, with its warfare focus.
Mozart Concert with Dinner
You seriously can not come to Salzburg and not go to a classical concert, after all, Salzburg is the city of music. After a long day sightseeing, enjoy a fantastic candlelit dinner made from original historical recipes and a concert with artists in period costumes at the Baroque Hall. Listen to the music by Salzburg’s genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while you enjoy your delicious meal. Tickets to the concert can be bought here.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Salzburg?
With 24 hours in Salzburg you’ll get a great sense of the city and its main sights. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend longer in this fantastic destination if you have the time. You could choose to continue exploring the sights of Salzburg, but another option is to see what the surrounding regions of Austria and Germany have to offer. With that in mind, here are some of the best day trips from Salzburg.
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen photos of Hallstatt before. It is an incredibly pretty lakeside village situated in the mountains to the southeast of Salzburg.
Wandering through this charming village, you’re surrounded by old-fashioned alpine houses that will have you trying to remind yourself that this is a real place where people actually live. Following the village’s waterfront you’ll soon arrive at the classic viewpoint from which everyone gets their shot of the village nestled between the lake and the looming mountains behind.
There’s plenty more to experience though than just the village. Firstly, there’s the chance to take a boat ride on the lake and better appreciate the entire region that surrounds Hallstatt. Then there’s the Skywalk Hallstatt viewing platform that sits high above the village and is accessible by hiking trails or local funicular. For more on visiting, make sure to see our Hallstatt guide.
You can book a day tour to Hallstatt here.
2. Hohenwerfen Castle & Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
If one castle in Salzburg wasn’t enough for you, you’ll definitely want to make the trip out to Hohenwerfen Castle. Found up in the alps on a hilltop south of Salzburg, this medieval fortress immediately makes a strong impression the first time you see it.
Once you’ve made your way up from the town of Werfen, some 70 meters below, it’s possible to explore the halls of this 900 year old castle. While there, you can take a tour through the various historic rooms, dungeons, armory, and torture chamber to get a sense of Hohenwerfen’s history. If the castle is looking familiar at all, you may recognise it from its use in various films and TV shows, including “The Sound of Music” and “Just Married”.
You can also witness the traditional art of falconry at one of the castle’s birds of prey shows with falcons, vultures, eagles, and other birds of prey on display. Not far from the castle, another place you can visit around Werfen is the incredible Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave.
Seeing as you’ll be so close to Germany, why not take the opportunity to hop over the border and visit a magical destination like the Königssee. This gorgeous alpine lake is wedged between the mountains of Berchtesgaden National Park mere kilometers from the Austrian border.
Königssee is the deepest lake in Bavaria and is known for its impossibly clear water that has a hint of emerald color to it. As an outdoor destination, there are any number of activities you can do while you’re there. It’s possible to take a ride out on the lake in an electric boat, or make your own way about in a row boat. Those who don’t mind the cold can even take the plunge and go for a swim in the lake.
On land, there’s just as much to do for visitors. You can take a walk along the small trails that hug the lake’s edge, or go in search of epic waterfalls like the Schrainbachfall. One spot you won’t want to miss is the picture-perfect St Bartholomew’s Church, that rests on the west bank of the lake.
You can book a day tour to Königssee here.
As you can see 1 day in Salzburg is a good amount of time to see the highlights of the city. And after you visit you hopefully agree when we say that Salzburg is a very special city destination.