All around the globe, especially for classical music enthusiasts, Salzburg is known as the birth city of the world-famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! Salzburg convinces visitors with a great mix of leisure time activities.
The visitors are amazed by a mighty fortress, a mystical mountain, rich music history, an enchanting garden, festivals and much more. There is something for everyone’s taste and for each season!
If you are seeking a cultural experience, there are exciting treasures to be discovered in Salzburg. Magnificent landscapes, crystal clear lakes and picturesque mountains surround the city, which make it an ideal destination to combine escapes in the nature with a city trip.
Where to stay
Salzburg is with around 150.000 inhabitants the fourth-biggest city in Austria. It isn’t that big, but it has many beautiful things to discover.
The main sights of the city are located in the old town. The Salzach river splits the old town into two parts, and both are worth the visit. If you only have a couple of days in Salzburg and want to get the most out of your city trip, it is best to find accommodation in the old part of the town.
There are also many restaurants nearby offering culinary delights. Most points of interest are within walking distance in the old town. The city has some places, such as the big fortress, with a bit of a climb, but you can also take a funicular. Apart from this, the town itself is rather flat and compact.
Things to do in Salzburg
The city and its surroundings offer many activities. A trip of two to three days is an appropriate time frame to enjoy the city’s main sights and events to the fullest. If you like to discover as much as possible during your stay, it is worth to check out the discounts and free entrances you can get with the Salzburg Card.
If you are planning to stay longer, enjoy the breathtaking landscape in the surroundings of Salzburg, combine it with a day in one of the close-by mountains and explore the scenic lakes and villages around them.
The old town of Salzburg and its extraordinary alleys
The old town holding real treasures gives a unique charm to the city and is an area that you should not miss during your stay. The ancient historic city has received recognition on an international level; it has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1996.
The winding streets invite you to linger, explore traditional shops, treat yourself with local specialties or to discover sights.
The Residence Square with the second-biggest marble fountain in Europe is a must-see attraction especially during the Christmas time. At that time, you can wander through the Christmas market and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
If you are in the old town around 7, 11 or 18 o’clock, you will be enchanted by the sounds of the 35 bells playing. You can even visit the bell tower and gaze over the old town.
If you want to continue your stroll in the old town and search for some great extras, visit the Getreidegasse! It might be one of the city’s loveliest but also the most famous streets to enjoy a walk. An interesting peculiarity of the Getreidegasse is that all shops apply the same historical style for their signboards, which wasn’t just an idea of the shop owners, but more of a requirement of the municipality. For many tourists, it is a welcome photo backdrop.
At the Getreidegasse, classic music enthusiasts can witness Mozart’s birthplace, which is nowadays one of the most visited museums in Austria. If you want to find out more about his history and life in general in the 18th century, do not miss the museum.
The Linzergasse is also a lovely street for spending some time shopping, discovering traditional handicrafts and enjoying the local cuisine. If you are up for a walk, you can head to the Kapuzinerberg directly from the Linzergasse through a stairway. It is worth the effort, as you will get a stunning view of the old town!
Do you want to get into some natural surroundings in the middle of the city? If yes, visit the Mönchsberg, which is named after monks living nearby. You will hardly feel that you are still in the city. The Mönchsberg is a real paradise for sports enthusiasts and nature lovers.
You will find beautiful green areas and trails that give you a special treatment outside the city’s bustle. It is also a fabulous place for recreation! You can use different walkways to get up there and enjoy the great view over the roofs of Salzburg. Moreover, you can take an elevator to reach the top.
The easy reachability and the diverse walking routes always make the trip worth the effort both for locals and tourists. The Mönchsberg also leads you to a beautiful and alternative trail to the magnificent Hohensalzburg fortress!
The Hohensalzburg fortress is genuinely one of a kind! While you are staying in Salzburg, it is worth your while to visit the biggest completely preserved fortress in Central Europe. Travel back in time, learn about the city’s history and explore several museums behind the fortress walls.
You can reach the fortress within 15 minutes on foot, but depending on your choice, it will be a bit of an effort. Another option is to take the funicular, which brings you to the top. The fortress is an excellent sight for the whole family.
Mirabell Palace and garden
The Mirabell Palace was constructed at the beginning of the 17th century and has served as one of the most beautiful wedding backdrops ever since! Gaze at the astonishing architecture from outside and get a glimpse of the interior. Are you looking for something extraordinary? Then get tickets to one of the concerts taking place inside the palace; it is certainly a unique experience.
The Mirabell garden is undoubtedly a beautiful place to discover, and not only because it was a shooting location for the famous musical “The Sound of Music”. Enjoy the scenic view of the Hohensalzburg fortress and the palace.
As a part of this, you can also visit the dwarfs’ garden, which hosts 16 dwarfs made of marble.
During the wintertime, there is also a small but charming Christmas market in the garden, where you can listen to small brass bands during the weekend.
Things to do for families
Salzburg has a lot to offer for the kids and grown-ups. All of the sights and activities mentioned above are also an excellent fit for families, as long as you do not climb the steepest mountains with your smallest ones.
However, some activities are even twice as much fun when done with the whole family!
If you are looking for a fun day outside the city, then the zoo Salzburg could be a perfect fit for you! Experience an exciting trip and get to know a vast diversity of animals. Around 150 species and 1,500 animals from all over the world are there to be discovered.
There are buses from the central train station every 15-20 minutes.
House of Nature
Go on an adventure in the most famous museum in Salzburg. The House of Nature takes you on a journey with enormous dinosaurs, the magnificent sea world and into space!
You can also discover treasures of the world, learn about the human body, marvel at wondrous underwater inhabitants and meet exotic reptiles on an area of 7000 m2. On top of that, there is a science center, where the young and the old are invited to experiment and learn stunning facts about physics, music, technology and much more!
Daytrips from Salzburg
Off to the Ski paradise
Austria is a perfect destination for a ski holiday, and due to its location, Salzburg offers an ideal starting point to many ski areas as well.
Just 70 km south of the city, you can enjoy the Snow Space Salzburg. You can head there with a free ski shuttle. With only an hour-long drive away, you’ll have access to the skiing region with 120 km of connected, snow-covered slopes for ultimate pleasure! You can plan your trip super flexibly, as there are shuttles departing every day. Are you ready for some fun on the slopes? Then get some more information here.
If you are a nature lover, Untersberg is a unique mountain to check out. If you talk to locals, you might come across stories about light phenomena, time holes, legends and myths that make this rock formation a mystical and magical place.
The mountain is full of seemingly endless caves that haven’t been fully explored to this day. Even Dalai Lama describes the Untersberg as the “heart chakra of Europe”. Although some of the stories and theories about this place are questionable, it is still worth your while to experience and enjoy the nature of the mountain as a special place of energy - not to mention the fantastic view on the top.
If you decide to climb the mountain by yourself, you have to be aware that it’s not going to be the most comfortable of hikes to get there. The path includes steep and rocky parts that are not suitable for everyone.
There is also a more relaxed way up the mountain. You can opt for the cable car that carries you up safely and comes with a breath-taking view on the road and the top.
It takes about half an hour to get to the cable car by bus from the central station of Salzburg. Get even more information on the website.
Other day trip ideas:
Werfen – experience a mountain in a unique way in the giant ice world
Wolfgangsee & Schafbergbahn – a picturesque lake and an old-fashioned steam railway
Hallstatt – a scenic lake town and the world’s oldest salt mine
Saalachtaler Natural Wonders – an extraordinary protected nature area in the alps
RupertusTherme – wellness & recreation in the thermal bath in Bad Reichenhall
Food and restaurants
The Mozart city has a lot to offer in terms of food! Dive into the Austrian kitchen, enjoy sweets, savory dishes or sip some beer in the local brewery.
The well-balanced mix of international and local specialties shows the vital importance of gastronomy in Salzburg. Modern restaurants and traditional inns put great importance on the culinary well-being of guests.
The Getreidegasse is once more an excellent option for tasting Austrian specialties. However, all around the city, traditional restaurants and beerhouses will treat you with some homemade delicacies. On sunny days, you can refresh yourself in one of the many, sometimes vivid, but still cozy outdoor dining areas and beer gardens, which are part of the culture of Austria.
Most locals appreciate good beer, but there is more than just delicious alcohol on offer. Austria might not be a country world-famous for coffee. However, you will notice very quickly just how many coffee places there are in the town. Hearty breakfasts and afternoon coffee breaks with sweet pastries are customary. Take a seat in one of the traditional or modern coffee houses and treat yourself with a cup and some sweets.
One of the most popular desserts of the locals is Salzburger Nockerl. Somehow the chefs are able to conjure something so delicious on the table with just eggs, flour and sugar. The recipe goes back to the 17th century. These fluffy hills should represent three local snow-covered mountains in Salzburg. Do not resist this sweet temptation!
The Austrian kitchen is full of hearty, maybe not the healthiest, but tasty dishes. One of those delicious traditional meals in Salzburg are the Kasnocken. You can find these dumplings with melted cheese and onions in taverns and many other places. Also, most mountain huts in ski areas serve them.
Drinks and nightlife
When it comes to nightlife, the city can be split into three parts. If you fancy trendy bars or typical Irish pubs, head to the Rudolfskai. For a night out in clubs, you better go to the corner of the Anton-Neumayer Square and the Gstättengasse. There will be plenty of choices. Another good option is the Steingasse and its surroundings. There might not be as much of crazy nightlife as in some other cities, but Salzburg still has enough party areas and bars.
You can find local drinks, such as diverse sorts of punch, mulled wine, honey wine, liqueurs and schnapps, especially at Christmas markets but also some other weekly markets. As Austria is a ski nation, there are typical drinks that became associated with it. The simple raspberry syrup with water, called Schiwasser is a popular refreshment for the young and the old during a ski break. The heartwarming Jägertee with a shot of rum is another typical drink during ski trips, which you better not give to your kids.
Events and Holidays
Salzburg Festival – 100th anniversary (May 29 – June 1 & July 18 – August 30)
The Salzburger Festspiele, in English Salzburg festival, is one of the world’s most famous events for classical music and drama. The play Jedermann, in English Everyman, was the very first performance of the festival in 1920. Nowadays it is a very traditional play and is one of the highlights.
The festival takes place in different venues, all of which can be reached by bus. If you are interested in attending the sites or performances, check out the website: salzburgerfestspiele.at.
Christmas markets (November 21 – December 26)
The wintertime, especially around Christmas, might be one of the best times to discover the beauty of Salzburg. There is always something magical in the air when the city gets decorated for Christmas! It is also the time for the start of a special event! Experience the Christmas market of Salzburg and discover this old tradition of Austria. It is a perfect venue for tasting the local specialties, mulled wine, sweet Christmas cookies and get beautiful presents for your beloved ones.
Another magic venue for Christmas markets is the Schloss Hellbrunn. The inner courtyard of this palace hosts different small huts that invite you to try culinary delights. Moreover, the windows of the palace are transformed into a massive Advent calendar. The Hellbrunn Christmas market is also perfect for families. In addition to a petting zoo, children can learn to bake, ride a pony or enjoy delicious sausages grilled over an open fire.
What’s more, you can combine your market trip with a visit to the Zoo, which holds some exciting facts about Christmas traditions during this period! It is just around half an hour bus ride away from Salzburg. Experience a magical day at the Christmas market and Zoo in Hellbrunn.
Are you up for perhaps the most scary custom of Austria? Then visit an event of the so-called Perchtenlauf taking place during different dates in December. It is a long tradition in Austria and some parts of Germany. A Percht is a figure with shaggy fur, heavy bells and a bit frightening face, which is supposed to banish evil spirits of winter. To preserve this tradition, guys from local clubs disguise themselves as Perchten and run around in squares and streets. At first, it might sound weird or scare you a bit, but it is a cool event to discover long-preserved traditions and have an entertaining experience.
If you want to find out more about all of the ongoing events in Salzburg, check out the website: salzburg.info/events-calendar.
The Getreidegasse and the Linzergasse are probably the two most famous shopping streets in Salzburg. Without a doubt, you will find many fashion boutiques and twinkling jewelry shops. Once again, the city shows its traditional side with many costume shops, confectioners, bakers and local liquor producers.
If you have ample space in your luggage, you can get one of the traditional costumes which locals and tourists wear during the world-famous Oktoberfest event. However, locals value it much more than just for this one event of the year!
If you are looking for other unique souvenirs, then browse around in the small shops throughout the old town. Many of them seem inconspicuous, but you will discover some creative and even handmade treasures. You can get some high-quality souvenirs, not for the lowest price but certainly for a valuable memory. Regardless of the price range, you will find something suitable in the old town.
There are also two markets to check out. Stroll through the Green Market on the University Square and look for some local handicrafts. The market is daily open except on Sundays. Another famous and vivid market worth to visit is called Schranne. It is situated in front of St. Andrews Church.
Within a bus ride of about half an hour, you can also find more than a hundred shops in the Europark shopping center. While you enjoy your shopping, the kids can have some fun in the playroom.
What to bring from Salzburg?
Sweets, Schnaps and more!
Mozart balls - What would be a visit without taking home Mozart balls? Those traditional chocolate balls are one of the quintessential sweets to take with you from Austria. You can buy them in almost any market in Salzburg.
Schnaps and liqueurs – Make some space in your luggage for some home-made spirits. It is a long tradition, and almost every home has a least one of these bottles in store. Not only companies but also local farmers or some other private households produce different variants. You can find them with different flavors such as nuts, berries and other fruits. During the wintertime, you can also get some heart-warming local schnapps and liqueurs at the Christmas markets.
Tracht – If there’s one thing that Austria is also famous for, then it is the traditional costumes. You might not have the space or the budget for one of the conventional high-quality dresses or shorts, but you can also get some other accessories such as jewelry, bags or hats.
Below, there are some examples of the price level in Salzburg. Prices of hotels refer to median prices at Booking.com
Pizza in restaurant
33 cl beer in restaurant
Hotel room, 3-4* (April)
Hotel room, 3-4* (July)
From the airport to the center
From the Salzburg airport, you can catch a bus every 10-20 minutes to get into the city center. There are fewer buses on Sundays or public holidays. Within about 30 minutes you will arrive in the city center.
If you want to go to the central train station, there are buses leaving every 10 minutes from the airport. For further information and timetables, check out the airport website.
Weather and when to travel
Apart from the temperatures, it depends on the kind of activities you want to do during your trip. Salzburg is so versatile that it is a great destination at any time of the year.
Spring: During March, it may still snow, so the temperatures are rather low. In April, the weather can fluctuate a lot, from some sunny days to constant rain. In May, you get to enjoy the first hints of summer already, and temperatures are rather stable.
Summer: On average, the best chances for good weather are during August and September, but there is never a hundred per cent guarantee. July and August are, on average, the warmest months.
During summer, the city treats you with a lot of possibilities to cool down! You can get your refreshment at the river Königsseeache or the Almkanal, where you can even try river surfing. Also the surrounding areas of Salzburg offer plenty of activities, such as the lake Fuschlsee or the summer toboggan run, which is enormous fun for both young and old!
Autumn: In September, you can be fortunate with sunny days or experience the opposite. October is similar but temperatures can drop rapidly, and in November, it can be quite foggy.
Early autumn is also a good season for hiking up the mountains in the close-by surroundings of Salzburg. It is also a good time for enjoying the colorful forests.
Winter: In the winter months, temperatures are often close to zero. There is also a high chance of some rain during winter. February is the coldest month, but that makes it a good month for winter sports around Salzburg.
Salzburg is a fantastic destination in winter, either for skiing, snowboarding, ice skating or enjoying the Christmas traditions and the most famous customs we mentioned above. Since the climate is changing, there might not be a guarantee of snow for the whole winter season. However, if you want to have some fun in the snow, there’s a good chance of a high snow level during January, February and March in the ski areas in the vicinity of Salzburg.
Text: Katrin Lindenbauer
Images: Tourismus Salzburg / Adobe Stock