Salzburg is Austria’s fourth-largest city with a population of around 157.000 people. This small medieval city will definitely keep you busy for a whole day. Wear your comfortable shoes; give this city a chance and make Salzburg part of your road trip. It will certainly prove its worth.
- How to arrive in Salzburg
- Where to stay in Salzburg
- What you must see in Salzburg
- Best food in Salzburg
- Salzburg Card
How to arrive in Salzburg
- By train. Austria has excellent public transportation. At least from my Greek point of view. It’s easy to reach Salzburg by train from Vienna, Zurich, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Budapest. We took the train late in the night from Vienna Main Trains Station (Hauptbahnhof) and in 3 hours and for 20euros we were transferred to this beautiful Austrian city.
Tickets can be bought at the train stations or better yet online through the OBB application. Easy- peasy.
- By car. If you are lucky to be on an actual road trip around Europe, then you should know that Salzburg is well connected to Vienna (3hours), Innsbruck (2hours), and Munich (1,5hour). Actually, most tourists we encountered in Salzburg were there for the weekend from the area of Munich.
However, you should keep in mind that finding legal parking spaces can be a pain and it’s in your best interest to contact your hotel for that beforehand.
- By plane. Salzburg has its own airport under the name of course of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There are direct flights to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, London, Paris, Zurich, Vienna, Dublin, and Brussels. Salzburg’s W.A Mozart airport is located only 4km from the city center. Moreover, there are regular public buses between the airport and the train station for 2,5 euros.
- By bus. If you are traveling from other major cities of Europe check the schedules of long-distance bus services to Salzburg at Flixbus and Leo Express sites.
Where to Stay in Salzburg
Check the map of Salzburg and locate the river Salzach. The city’s heart is around the river. Neustadt (New City) at the northern part and Altstadt (Old Town) at the southern part. Now find the train station (Hauptbahnhof) and the Hohensalzburg Fortress. These are your markers and the area that is surrounded by them is where you should stay.
In general Salzburg is a relatively small city. From the train station where we stayed (at Austria Trend Hotel Europa Salzburg for 70euros/night) the Altstadt (Old City) was a 20-minute walk. The castle at the top of the town Hohensalzburg although intimidating, was easily reached by foot (15minutes from the river).
From my browsing through http://www.booking.com, it seemed that accommodation is relatively expensive and 70 euros/night was considered actually low priced for Salzburg. If you would like to know about our hotel Austria Trend Hotel Europa, it’s a hotel I would recommend. We were pleased for its convenient location (just outside the train station and the bus station), its cleanliness, the 24-hour reception (which came in hand since we arrived at 2 am) and the beautiful panoramic view of the city, the castle and the surrounding mountains. So it’s a Yes from me.
Step by step to a Single Perfect Day in Salzburg
Breakfast at a traditional café
If you want to sum up Austrian life what better than coffee and cake. Coffee houses here are the center of social life and the older the coffee house the better. From what we searched and tried, Café Tomaselli was an excellent example of this coffee culture and also the oldest in the city dating back to 1705, if you believe it.
Café Tomaselli is in the heart of the Old Town, certainly a focal point for both tourists and locals. The magnificent wood paneling, the silver trays and the marble tables will take you back in time. The excellent service by waiters in dinner jackets and cake ladies will probably justify the overrated prices. Opening Times: Monday- Saturday 7 am- 7 pm, Sunday 8 am- 7 pm. Double espresso 4,4 €, Tea 3,7€, Apfelstrudel 4,4 €, Tomaselli sausages and scrambled eggs 8,1 €, Omelet with ham and cheese 7,6 €, Melange Tomaselli Coffee 4,4 €, Tomaselli Chocolate Torte 4,4 €.
Another great option with a long history which we actually choose for the afternoon cake was Café Konditorei Furst . Opening Hours: 9 am- 7 pm. Here the biggest highlight is the Original (as proclaimed) Salzburger Mozartkugel, which is still hand-made following the original recipe of Paul Furst. You should definitely try it, it was so rich in chocolate and perfectly balanced with marzipan, and you can even order a single one for 1, 6 €. Apfelsaft pur 0,25lt 3, 3 €, Breakfast options around 10 €, Cappuccino 4,3€, Espresso 3,2€, Linzertorte 4,1€. Keep in mind that the variety of cakes is significantly small near the time of closure. We sat at around 5 pm and there were only 3 types of cakes left.
You want to see first-hand how locals buy groceries, eat breakfast on the go, then visit Daily Market Grunmarkt at the Old Town. This bustling place has been there for more than 150 years. Every day from 7 am till 7 pm, except on Sundays. You will find practically everything, from bread and baked goods (you can try many different Strudel types here), meat and fish products (Some stands sell meat and also sandwiches with grilled meat), to fruits and vegetables. Also try the Pretzel stand, where apart from the original with salt, they sell also pretzels with chocolate, apple, nuts, pizza/pepperoni.
Free Walking Tour of Salzburg
Many years ago I have found this kind of walking tour in Bratislava and from then I googled them at every city I visit. There are not held from the same company of course. Usually, they are held by groups of students interested in history and arts. Nevertheless, I strongly believe free walking tours are an excellent introduction to any strange city. Although, they are not actually free, as you are welcomed in the end to tip with how much you want and also you won’t ever get a receipt for that. Anyway…
From what I searched there is only this company running free walking tours and https://freewalkingtoursalzburg.com/ from this site you reserve your spot.
They have every Tuesday, Thursday at 11.45 am and at weekend at 10 am with a duration of 1,5 hours. What I would like to be different, is the large size of the group, as we were almost 25 people squeezing to hear and understand our guide.
Mozart’s Residence and Mozart’s Birthplace
Obviously, in Mozart’s city there would be dedicated museums to his life and work. Both located at the city center provide you with a glimpse at how Mozart was raised, how was life back then and even see Mozart’s own violin and clavichord. If I would choose one of them, it would be Mozart’s birthplace, as the reconstruction of a middle-class apartment as authentically as possible, is what would have drawn me.
Opening hours: 9 am- 5.30 pm
Price: 12€ adults, 3, 5 € children 6-14 years old, 4€ youths (15-18 years old).
Combined ticket Residence and Birthplace 18,5€ adult.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
On the east side of the river, Mirabell Palace and Gardens are part of the Unesco World Heritage. The palace is used for city government, and you only get to visit it if booked for a concert, while the garden is free to stroll and one of the most popular spots in town. During winter when we visited, there was not much to do or admire. I imagine in spring and summer you get to explore the Pegasus Fountain, the Dwarf Garden and the Do-Re-Mi steps.
This one I consider a must-do, mainly because of the breathtaking panoramic view of the city and the surrounding area. So if there is only one thing to do in Salzburg, make it the fortress. As they claim, this is the biggest fully preserved castle in Central Europe (how should I oppose that?!). The Fortress Museum shows historical exhibits from prince archbishops’ life. Aim for the ticket that includes Princely chambers, as there are the most interesting and astonishing furniture and jewelry.
Opening times: January- April 9.30 am- 5 pm, May- September 9 am- 7 pm.
Tickets: Basic 10,3€, All-inclusive 12,6€, Basic ticket which included also the ascent with the fortress railway 13,3€, All-inclusive ticket with ascent railway 16,6€.
Book your ticket online at https://www.salzburg-burgen.at/en/hohensalzburg-castle/plan-visit/tickets/. You book for a specific date, not time.
Tip: We had actually booked for the next day than the one we wanted to visit. After finding no information on the site, I phoned the Museum and asked them to change the date, which they said was not possible. Nevertheless, we went and managed to visit the Fortress even with tickets that were for the next day. I had also emailed the Help Center and they answered me back days after, requesting if I did manage to visit the museum after all or otherwise they would refund us the tickets.
Tip: Ι have read as a local tip to save you money that you can indeed visit free the Fortress and admire the view, without entering the closed museum area right after the time of closure of the museums. Haven’t tried it though, so take this advice with caution.
Salzburg’s most impressive baroque church is worth your 5€ entrance fee to admire the baptismal font, the crypt and the art installation Vanitas. Until recently the entrance was free nut due to maintenance works, now a conservation fee of 5€ is collected. Better combine your visit with the Muzik Zu Mittag (music at lunchtime), when you can listen to the sound of organs that also Mozart played for about 10 minutes. Or alternatively combine the entrance fee with the scheduled daily audio tours.
Concert Hall of Salzburg
Certainly the best time to visit Salzburg is during the Salzburg Festival, which begins in the middle of July and continues for 6 weeks (at least before Covid-19 existed). The Festival is already 100years old, since 1920 and is considered the biggest classical music festival in the world with 250.000 tickets sold every year. Imagine the buzz in the city with so many performances and spectators.
If you visit Salzburg out of this time or you didn’t have your chance to buy a precious ticket, then you can still visit the famous Concert Hall with a guided tour. The price is 7€ and the scheduled guide starts at 2 pm from January-June and September- December, 9.30 am 2 pm, 3.30 pm in July and August.
Stroll by the River Salzach
This river that divides the city in two was at its most important during the 18th and 19th centuries, when used to ship salt (Salz) along the Salzach river. In the summer visitors can cruise this river and enjoy the phenomenal views of the city and the imposing mountain scenery. Even during the winter snowy times when the weather allows it, locals and tourists take a stroll alongside the Salzach, have a picnic at its banks, while children are playing with the water throwing rocks in the distance.
Salzburg also has many bridges across the river, actually 13. These 2 are of actual tourist interest. The Marko-Feingold-Steg has become a love bridge, with love padlocks attached to the balustrade of the footbridge. I would advise you to admire it, photograph it if you wish but better don’t add more metal to this already heavy bridge. Moreover don’t throw the key in the river, which will result in altering the pH and the natural environment of the river. A river that actually surprised me with its crystalline waters.
Restaurants in Salzburg
Opening Hours: 11.30 am- 10 pm (due to Covid restrictions)
You can reserve your table online.
Traditional Austrian restaurant in a historic building in a cozy wooden cellar during winter and with a lively buzz on its pavement terrace during summertime. During the week Zwettler’s offers a cheap lunch menu for those of you traveling on a budget. Try authentic Austrian dishes like Bratwurst (veal sausage) with roast potatoes and sauerkraut for 14,8€, Wiener Schnitzel with parsley potatoes and cranberries sauce for 14,8€, Kasnock’n (cheese spaetzle) with roast onions for 11,7€, Braised beef in onion stew with croquettes for 16,4€.
Opening Hours: 11 am- 11 pm
You can reserve your table online.
We tried our best to eat here but it was impossible. Both days that we had our dinner in Salzburg, this place was fully booked. Nevertheless, its popularity is probably justified by the numerous reviews that we already read on social media. Here you get to try the heartwarming Goulash soup (9,9€), the famous and still intriguing on how to eat it Tafelspitz for 17,9€. Tafelspitz is boiled beef with vegetables, roasted potatoes and apple horseradish.
At the end of your dinner save room for the Soufflé Salzburg “Nockerl” at 15,9€ for two portions.
Gasthof Alter Fuchs
Opening Hours: 11.30 am- 11 pm
You can reserve your table online.
Another great choice if in search of an authentic Austrian experience. The place was packed but we had our reservation and were seated immediately. The service was prompt and attentive. There are really good choices on the menu, such as Roasted ham hock in gravy with bread dumplings (14,9€), Meaty ribs with potato wedges (15,9€), Roast pork served with dumpling, cabbage-salad and gravy (13,9€) and for dessert try the traditional Kaiserschmarrn, which is a cut-up pancake served with applesauce (9,7€).
Andreas Hofer Weinstube
Opening Hours: Monday- Saturday 5 pm – 11 pm
You can reserve your table online.
A warm and charming restaurant where you will most definitely need to make a reservation beforehand. The soups here were so tasty, that you could only have them and be delightful (4-5€). The Viennese schnitzel was also perfection 19,9€.
This card offers you one-time free admission to all city tourist attractions and museums and additional free travel on public transportation (except the intercity trains). During the low season (January-April, November- December) the cost is for the Salzburg card 24 hours 27€, 48 hours cost 35€ and 72hours cost 40€. In the high season (May- October) the correspondingly pricing is 30€, 39€ and 45€. Check at the official site of Salzburg https://www.salzburg.info/en/hotels-offers/salzburg-card and purchase the card if it really saves you money. For us it didn’t, so we skip it.
So did I persuade you that Salzburg is worth your time?
Salzburg is located at the foot of the Alps on the border with Germany. It’s considered a big enough city to make it your base to discover beautiful villages nearby, such as instagrammable Hallstatt and Berchtesgaden. On the other hand, Salzburg is compact enough to explore it in just one day with the perfect blend of history and culture.