Acharming city pressed against the German border with spectacular views of the Eastern Alps in the background, Salzburg is one of the top destinations in Austria. Among the city’s numerous claims to fame, The Sound of Music, the feel-good, heartwarming classic, was filmed there, while the Altstadt (Old Town), renowned for its standout baroque architecture, is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site, with breathtaking squares, palaces and gardens. And if taking in the sights is not enough, you can always visit the house where famed composer Mozart was born and let the magic of its walls transport you to a completely different era.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SALZBURG?
Similar to many other European cities, Salzburg receives most of its visitors during the summer. If you want to enjoy the numerous Salzburg attractions in relative peace, then the best time to visit Salzburg would be between September and October, after the summer crowds have cleared for the most part. In addition, the temperatures are ideal during the early fall, much more comfortable even than March or April, when it can still get quite cold at times. If you don’t mind below-zero temperatures, though, then you should definitely visit Salzburg in winter.
Old Town, Author: Pixelteufel, Source: Flickr
THINGS TO DO IN SALZBURG IN WINTER
There’s a reason why so many historic Central European cities today have Christmas markets during the winter months. As you try to warm yourself up with hot, fragrant Glühwein under the warm glow of the twinkly lights adorning the snow-covered streets of old town Salzburg, you will feel the magic of the holiday season quite unlike anywhere else in the world. In addition to enjoying tasty treats and shopping at the Christmas market, attending a Baroque concert with Mozart’s iconic music is certainly among the most spellbinding things to do in Salzburg in winter.
You can also go skiing, with some of the best ski resorts in the Alps located in the south of the province – perfect for a day trips from Salzburg. If you don’t feel like leaving the city, apart from eating Lebkuchen and drinking Glühwein, make sure to check out the Christmas Museum (Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum), which, while open all year, definitely benefits the most from the festive mood that fills the city’s streets during the season.
Salzburg in Winter
A FEW FACTS ABOUT SALZBURG
The city of Salzburg, the fourth largest city in Austria, is located on the banks of the Salzach river. Literally translated as “salt castle”, Salzburg is famous for its impeccably preserved city center, whose impressive baroque architecture got it listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1996. Most people are familiar with the fact that the city was the setting for The Sound of Music, as well as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of one of the greatest classical composers of all time. When it comes to lesser-known facts, Salzburg’s Stiegl-Brauwelt is one of the oldest breweries in the world still working today – having opened in 1492, the year Columbus crossed the Atlantic for the first time.
Additionally, Nonnberg Abbey, or Stift Nonnberg in German, is the oldest still functioning women’s convent in not only Austria, but also Switzerland and Germany. It was founded between 712 and 715 A.D. Other than the abbey, the oldest Salzburg attractions are mostly castles. Not far from the city, you will find Moosham Castle, built on the foundations of a Roman military fortress, the impressive Hohenwerfen Fortress towering over the Salzach Valley, the Gothic Fischhorn Castle, the magical Bluehnbach Castle, a medieval hunting lodge from the 1400s, and many others
ONE DAY IN SALZBURG ITINERARY
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Salzburg.
Start Your Day by Visiting the Mirabell Palace
The good thing about Salzburg is that it is a relatively small city, with most of the attractions within walking distance from one another. You should visit the gardens of the Mirabell Palace early in the morning, before the area gets crowded, which happens often, especially during the summer. The Palace itself, located near Universität Mozarteum Salzburg, features a gorgeous ballroom which is mostly used today for various conferences, awards ceremonies, and romantic, extravagant weddings. Quite fitting, considering the fact that Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau for Salome Alt, the love of his life.
Today, Salzburg’s municipal offices and the mayor’s office are located there, which means that a large part of the building is inaccessible. While checking out the palace, it is also worth your while to spend some time in the small, but beautiful, well-maintained gardens outside. The large fountain located there is a timeless Baroque masterpiece representing the four elements.
Mirabell Palace, Author: Kārlis Dambrāns, Source: Flickr
Mirabell Gardens, Author: Kārlis Dambrāns, Source: Flickr
Take a Short Walk to the Mozart-Wohnhaus
Just across the park south of the Mirabell Palace, not far from the Mirrabella Grounds Fountain, you will find Mozart’s former residence, with a nice little souvenir store next door. The house is now a museum where you can admire a number of artifacts used by the famous composer himself. In addition to Mozart’s letters, instruments, and music scores, a large part of the museum’s setup is dedicated to various members of his family.
The tour of the museum is self-guided, with the option of using scannable QR codes that correlate with an audio tour available for smartphones. Although the tour is informative and exciting, especially for Mozart enthusiasts and fans of classical music, you can go through it all pretty fast, with around 30 minutes being more than enough to see everything.
Mozart Wohnhaus, Author: John Nousis, Source: Flickr
Explore Linzer Gasse
After Mozart’s home, take a short walk south-east until you reach a small square near the Staatsbrücke bridge. The square, called Linzer Gasse Platzl, is where Linzer Gasse, one of Salzburg’s most enchanting little pedestrian streets, meets the Salzach river. The street itself is filled with great restaurants, charming coffee shops, and storied hotels. It is a great place to go for a walk and enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture.
You can also spend some time shopping if you feel like it. The street runs parallel to Park Kapuzinerberg, which is definitely worth a visit. The area just south of the monastery (Kapuzinerkloster), directly above Linzer Gasse Platzl, offers some pretty amazing views of the city and the Salzach river.
Shops in Linzer Gasse, Author: Pixelteufel, Source: Flickr
Cross the Salzach River
The majority of things to do in Salzburg, including its most famous attractions, are located on the other side of the Salzach river. Staatsbrücke is a good place to cross, unless you are feeling particularly romantic. In that case, take a short walk north until you reach the Makartsteg Bridge, notable for thousands and thousands of padlocks that were left there both by couples in love and by people merely seeking to “lock” their memory of visiting Salzburg. The childhood home of Herbert von Karajan (the famous conductor) is located by the bridge. You can take a moment to see the commemorative plaque and the bronze statue of Karajan. If you start your day early, you should cross the bridge to the other side before noon.
Salzach River Promenade, Author: Pixelteufel, Source: Flickr
Stop for an Early Lunch
Although not the best time for lunch, you should grab a bite to eat now in order to save time later. Burgerista, located between the two bridges, facing the river, is an excellent choice for a quick, yet delicious bite. Sitting down in a traditional restaurant would simply take too long, especially since you are spending only one day in Salzburg. You can get great, juicy burgers for as little as 5 EUR, including a number of veggie options to choose from. The setting is quite trendy and modern, and the location unbeatable.
Visit One of the Nearby Museums
After lunch, go for a scenic walk through Griesgasse street west until you reach Museumsplatz, an elongated public square under the impressive cliff. The nearby Haus der Natur is a sprawling museum focusing on natural history and science, with interactive displays, as well as an aquarium and a reptile zoo. The museum is one of the top Salzburg attractions, and is definitely worth a visit if you are visiting the city with children. The price for adults is 8.50 EUR, with considerable discounts for children and families.
Haus der Natur Aquarium, ©HdN_Simmerstatter
If you consider yourself more of an art aficionado, then your time may be better spent visiting the Museum der Moderne Salzburg or the Modern Art Museum, whose astonishing clifftop location is matched only by its impressive collection of contemporary visual art.
Move on to Mozart’s Birthplace
To continue your exploration of the city’s rich history, you can visit Mozart’s birthplace in Old Town Salzburg, on Getreidegasse street, not far from the Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus). The street, also great for shopping and sightseeing, is located approximately 200 meters (3 minutes on foot) from the Haus der Natur. Mozart’s birthplace offers exciting tours that provide valuable insights into the composer’s younger years. In addition to the wealth of information on his life and family, you will find impeccably preserved writings and musical instruments, including a beautiful replica of Mozart’s famous piano.
Mozart’s Birthplace, Author: Kārlis Dambrāns, Source: Flickr
Check Out DomQuartier Salzburg
If you are wondering what to do in Salzburg apart from tracing Mozart’s footsteps, head east until you reach the Old Market (Alter Markt), and then turn south to arrive on a broad, awe-inspiring 16th-century square with a baroque fountain in its center. The square, called Residenzplatz, is bordered by the Salzburg Cathedral on the south side and DomQuartier Salzburg to the west.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, DomQuartier Salzburg is a large Baroque complex with tours that let you learn more about Salzburg’s art and cultural history. The treasures found there used to belong to the archbishops of Salzburg, and they contain numerous paintings, old furniture, and religious art. The audio tour includes every room, with hours and hours of content. You can even explore the upper floor of the Salzburg Cathedral, which can be reached via a terrace.
Residenzplatz, Author: Pixelteufel, Source: Flickr
Take the Salzburg Cable Car to Fortress Hohensalzburg
Although DomQuartier Salzburg is indeed impressive, make sure to save some time for one of the most famous Salzburg attractions: Fortress Hohensalzburg, which is only open until 5 PM. On your way there, you will pass Stift St. Peter Salzburg, a Catholic church and monastery dating to the 7th century, with the ancient and picturesque Petersfriedhof cemetery. The fortress itself dates back to the 11th century. The complex, located on a hilltop, can be reached by Salzburg Cable Railway to the Fortress (FestungsBahn), located south of the cathedral, next to the cemetery.
Apart from enjoying the amazing views of the city and the Alps, the trip to the fortress is worth it also because the castle is a well-preserved, carefully maintained, and all-round magnificent piece of history. You will love the ancient objects, the excavations, the on-site museum and the beautiful Prince’s rooms.
Try Some Great Brews at the Augustiner Brewery Salzburg
Even though Salzburg is a relatively timid city primarily known for its culture, architecture, and rich history, there are still a couple of things to do in Salzburg that have nothing to do with sightseeing and touring museums. After visiting churches, castles, and Baroque homes, the best way to close out the day is to spend the evening at one of the many Salzburg beer gardens. Augustiner bräu – Kloster Mülln is a cozy brewery with a spacious garden. With amazing food and authentic, friendly atmosphere, it is one of the best places to sit down for a beer in all of Salzburg. Their Märzen on tap is particularly popular, but you can’t go wrong no matter your choice. The beer is served from wooden casks in authentic mugs rinsed under cold water.
If you’re looking for a little variety after the beer, consider Murphy’s Law Irish Pub, one of the best Irish pubs in Austria, run by an Irishman who is a bit of a local legend. For whiskey, you can’t go wrong with the Salzburg Whiskey Museum. The staff (including the owner) is helpful and friendly, more than willing to share their knowledge on great whiskey haunts in Austria.