10 Things You Absolutely Need To See in Salzburg

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11 min read

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When you think of Salzburg, two things come to mind: Sound of Music and Mozart. And they’re not going to let you forget it either. There’ll be something to remind you that this is the city of music around every street corner. I had planned to spend 5 days in Salzburg and most people said that it was a little long for this little city! So I was let wondering what to do in Salzburg, but I sure made the most of my time here! Now let’s dive in on the best things to do in Salzburg that will be perfect for any amount of time you have here.

Trip Summary

CITIES: Salzburg
DAY TRIPS: Königssee (King’s Lake), Hallstatt
IDEAL SEASON: September to October TRIP INTENSITY: ★★★★☆
# OF TRAIN RIDES: 2 return # OF FLIGHTS 0
TRIP COST: ~Approx. €460/per person
*incl. hotel, transport, food, entrance fees

Getting around

The city of Salzburg isn’t very big and most attractions can be reached on foot. Alternatively, you can take public transportation which is relatively affordable. A single bus ride costs €2, a 24-hour pass costs €4, so if you’re going to be taking the bus more than twice, the 24-hour pass is well worth it. And if you’re around for a week, you can get the weekly pass for €16. Bear in mind though that bus tickets are more expensive when bought from the bus driver, so purchase them from the ticket vending machine at most bus stops or on your mobile phone.

When navigating my way around cities, I’m usually heavily dependent on Google Maps, however I found that the public transportation system isn’t fully available on Google Maps so you will not find most bus connections on there. To get the most accurate bus timings and options, download the Salzburg Verkehr app (iOS and Android).

If you’re planning on visiting a few of the attractions such as Hohensalzburg (Salzburg Fortress), Hellbrunn Palace and the Mozart houses, then the Salzburg Pass will be a better option for you as unlimited travel on public transportation is included.

Where to stay in Salzburg

As I mentioned, Salzburg is a very walkable city, but if it is your first time in the city, I would recommend staying where all the action is.

Salzburg Hotels

The area highlighted in orange is Aldstadt, or Old Town, and you should look to find hotels or apartments in these areas as these are where most of the attractions are. The area on the South of the river is where most of the attractions are, and Getreiedegasse where the main shopping street is. The area on the North is where Mirabell Palace and Gardens is and where you can find some pretty good food. Also if you plan to take day trips from Salzburg, staying near the train station North of the river could be a good option.

Compare hotel prices: Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb

Check out my in-depth guide on the best hotels and areas to stay in Salzburg.

How Long To Stay In Salzburg?

Salzburg isn’t the biggest city, and your length of stay largely depends on your level of interest for museums and of course, Mozart. If you want to fully appreciate all the museums and main attractions within the Old Town, I would recommend a good 2 days in Salzburg. However, if you aren’t much of a museum buff like me, I spent about half a day walking in the Old Town, skipping all the museums and then moved on to areas outside of the city such as Hangar 7 and Hellbrunn Palace.

To me, the highlights of my trip were the day trips to the surroundings of Salzburg, such as King’s Lake and Hallstatt, both of which will require an extra day each of your stay, depending on which ones interest you. If you have extra time to spare, I would even recommend spending a night in Hallstatt.

What to do in Salzburg

Explore the Old Town

There’s definitely a sort of charm to Salzburg’s old town with its well-preserved colorful houses set along the turquoise-colored Salzach Rive and the Salzburg Fortress in the background. The city isn’t very big so keep your map away and just take a stroll around the area.

The main shopping street in the Old Town is called Getreidegasse where you’ll find traditional old shops alongside H&M’s and Zara’s, and even high-end brands like Louis Vuitton. Don’t forget to look up though. The signs above the shops use symbols to depict what products they are selling, as most people in the old days could not read. And isn’t that the fanciest Zara sign ever?!

Along Getreidegasse, you will find a yellow building with lots of tourists taking photos outside. Yup, you have found Mozart’s House! And also probably the fanciest SPAR (Austrian grocery store) you will find.

Hohensalzburg (Salzburg Fortress)

You definitely can’t miss this fortress perched on Mönchstein Hill whenever you walk through Salzburg city. And the views from up here are even more spectacular. You can go into the fortress and explore the biggest fully preserved castle in Central Europe that has never been invaded. And the Austrians sure are proud of that!

salzburg skyline

I usually prefer to see the city skyline during sunset, and Salzburg was no exception. The sunset view from the fortress was simply breathtaking. You can take the funicular up for just €4.60 (return) after the closure of the fortress. If you go when the fortress is open, the ticket starts from €11.60 return and includes entry into the fortress. Or you could just walk up which would take you around 20-30 minutes. Be warned, it is very steep!

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

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Whether or not you’re a Sound of Music fan, you’re gonna love Mirabell Gardens. I’d recommend coming here first thing in the morning so you have the park all to yourself. I personally didn’t go into the palace but entrance is free, and you should definitely check out the Marble Hall, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful and historically significant concert halls in Austria and the world, and also comes up on top as one of the most popular wedding halls in the world.

Salzburg Cathedral

salzburg cathedral

If you look at the city skyline of Salzburg, the one building with the emerald one stands out. And that is Salzburg Cathedral. But take a look inside and you’ll be even more in awe at the mesmerising colours and intricate details of the cathedral’s interior.

Visit the Platz’s

When in Europe, you can’t miss their squares, and in Salzburg you have three to explore! And they’re all side by side. If you’re taking the funicular up to Hohensalzburg, you’ll definitely notice a bright yellow orb with a man standing on top. That means you’re standing in Kapitelplatz (Chapter Square). You’ll also find life-sized chess! It totally reminded me of the trio in Harry Potter. I was traveling solo, otherwise I would totally try my hand at some Wizard’s Chess 😉

Residenzplatz

Just next to Kapitelplatz is Residenzplatz where you will find a beautiful fountain in the center. If you’re a Sound of Music fan, you would know this is where Maria splashes in the fountain on the way to the von Trapp’s, belting out the hit I Have Confidence In Me. I told you the city reminds you of Sound of Music at every corner!

mozartplatz

And in the city of Mozart, you can’t not have a Mozart Square! Of course, there is Mozartplatz with a giant statue of the prodigy right in the middle!

Mozart’s House

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If you’re walking through the Old Town, you definitely won’t miss this bright colored building amidst the other grey facades. Here you can find many relics from Mozart’s life (ticket costs €11), but if you aren’t much of a Mozart buff, you can just take a picture with the plaque outside the house as proof you’ve visited this historic site! Also, don’t forget to pop into the fanciest SPAR supermarket ever in the same building.

Stroll along the Salzach River

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The tradition of love locks has sure made its way all over Europe (and the World), and Salzburg hasn’t been left out of this fad. Whether or not you’re a believer in such superstitions, it’s still fun to walk across the bridge to admire the beauty that Salzburg has to offer.

Schloss Hellbrunn (Hellbrunn Palace and Trick Fountains)

hellbrunn trick fountains

Hellbrunn Palace is a little further from the city but is an easy 15-minute bus ride from the city. Most people come here for the unique Trick Fountains, and is something you should add into your itinerary! The palace and fountains were built by the prince-archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sititkus who had a keen sense of humour. He had some tricks up his sleeves for his unknowing guests. Today you can experience the same pranks that Markus Sittikus played on his guests. You can only access the trick fountains with a tour though as the water fountains still use the same original mechanisms and have to be operated by the staff.

If you notice in the photo, that’s water sprinklers shooting out of stools at a dining table. So you can imagine what kind of pranks Markus Siitikus had instore or his guests 😉

To get to Hellbrunn Palace, take bus 25.

Augustinerbräu

You can’t leave without having a beer at a beer hall in Salzburg, and it’s a great place to mingle with the locals. Here you pick your beer mugs off the shelf, wash it and have it filled with your beer of choice! I must say that this is some of the best beer I’ve ever had to taste!

Hangar 7

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This one’s for the F1 and aviation enthusiasts. Hangar 7 houses Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz’s own private collection of F1 race cars, helicopters and airplanes. If you’re not one to appreciate these beasts, then a walk-through of about 15 minutes would suffice. But do check out the restaurant and café which has amazing reviews, and an even better view.

It’s also a little further from the city (about 15-20 mins) but easily accessible by bus 2 or 10.

Day trips from Salzburg

If you have another day or two to spare, I highly recommend these day trips:

King’s Lake (Königssee)

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King’s Lake absolutely took my breath away. Pictured above is Obersee, another lake which is a short walk from King’s Lake and boy, was it magical. I was so in awe at Mother Nature and ooh-ing and ahh-ing every 2 minutes. If you had to pick a day trip from Salzburg, this should be it!

Travel duration: About 2 hours each way including a 1-hour ferry ride

Hallstatt

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If you look up Austria, you’ll probably find photos of this magical little lakeside town. Today, it is filled with tourists, particularly from Asia. The Chinese loved it so much they even built a replica town back in China! Though it is rather touristy now, it’s still worth a trip, especially if you divert away from the main walking street where you get to enjoy the town all to yourself. Alternatively, you could spend a night here and have the town all to yourself in the evening once most tourists busses have left, or early in the morning before the day trippers arrive!

Travel duration: 2.5 hours each way including a 10-min ferry ride

Itinerary

Here’s a sample itinerary of how you could structure your days.

Day 1: Arrive in Salzburg – Walk through Getreidegasse – Stroll down Salzach River

Day 2: Do a self-walking tour around the city (Mirabell Palace & Gardens – The Platz’s – Mozart’s House – Salzburg Cathedral) – Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains – Sunset on Hohensalzburg – Dinner at Augustinerbräu

Day 3: Day trip to King’s Lake

Day 4: Day trip to Hallstatt

Day 5: So long, farewell Salzburg!


I hope this Salzburg city guide has helped you find the best things to do in Salzburg, and also venture a little further out for some awesome day trips. Have you been to Salzburg and what was your favorite part? Or if you’re planning a trip there soon, what are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!



Austria Lonely Planet GuidebookCovers:
Planning chapters, Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland, Upper Austria, Styria, The Salzkammergut, Salzburg, Salzburgerland, Carinthia, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Understand and Survival chapters, and more

Further reading: Lonely Planet Austria Travel Guide is an up-to-date guide on what to see and skip, and the hidden secrets Austria holds. It features color maps and images, highlights and itineraries, insider tips, essential info, honest revie, s and cultural insights.


Visiting Salzburg Checklist

⇢ Compare flight prices to Salzburg
⇢ Book your regional train tickets on ÖBB
⇢ Compare accommodation options and prices on Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb
⇢ Book tours in advance on GetYourGuide | Viator
⇢ Don’t forget travel insurance! Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft. Choose World Nomads Travel Insurance, designed by travelers for travelers.
⇢ Don’t leave home without a power bank!


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