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How to Make the Most of One Day in Salzburg

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Salzburg is often known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities and it’s easy to see why. Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, it offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and stunning Italian Baroque-inspired architecture.

It is the birthplace of Mozart and there are several picturesque areas here from the movie, The Sound of Music. It’s easy to see why so many people take Salzburg day trips. And thankfully, the city is compact enough to do it without missing the main sights. Here is what you will want to see in one day in Salzburg.

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Salzburg History

Salzburg is named for the precious “white gold,” or salt, mined in the area. The name actually means “salt fortress.” It rose up as a powerful trading city and remains one of the largest cities in the region and the fourth-largest city in Austria.

This city is located on the site of a former Roman settlement. It was founded in 696 and income from salt and gold mining led to prosperity. As a result, the Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe was built, back in the 11th century.

The stunning Baroque city center and many beautiful churches are a draw to visit as well as the history and culture. Thankfully, it was left in good shape after the bombings of World War II, so the original Baroque architecture remains.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The historic center of the city of Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized as an example of a city-state of the Holy Roman Empire. Where most disappeared or evolved, Salzburg is recognized for maintaining its “urban fabric” and the buildings and architecture to the same degree.

Salzburg is recognized as being at the juncture of where German and Italian culture met, playing an important role in the development of each. The town personifies the Baroque architecture of the Italian architects of its time.

it is recognized as being rich in buildings from the Gothic period forward, creating a uniquely beautiful town. Also, a town with an interesting and unique skyline of spires and domes against a backdrop of mountains.

Locations recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites are recognized for sometime special and Salzburg is no different. Not only is it a UNESCO site but it’s a treasured and beloved city to visit.

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Salzburg Old Town (Altstadt)

The old city center of Salzburg oozes with charm, offering a maze of narrow streets anchored by stunning buildings and quaint architecture. The buildings are gorgeous and thankfully suffered little damage during World War II.

If shopping is your thing, there is a lot of that as well. Getriedergasse is known to be one of the prime shopping streets in the city. Or simply, walk around and take in the magical ambiance. The charm is only further highlighted by the musicians playing classical music randomly throughout the city.

While you’re wandering through this area, there are a few things to see. One fun thing is the oversized chess board in Kapitelplatz, one of the squares. And, if you get hungry, go for a homemade pretzel sat Salzburger Brezen in University Square. There are many flavors to choose from and they are delicious!

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Salzburg Residenzplatz

The Residenzplatz is a large square located in the historic center of Salzburg. It is flocked on one side by the Salzburg Cathedral and the Residenz building of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg.

There is a large and ornate fountain, the Residenzbrunnen, in the center of the square. It is believed to be the largest Baroque fountain in Central Europe.

Residenzplatz is a large and stately square and a popular place to visit. During the holidays, the Salzburg Christmas market is held here.

Here is the Residenzplatz on a map.

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Salzburg Cathedral

The Salzburg Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings in the city and a must-see for Salzburg day trips. The original was built in 774, however, it has been rebuilt multiple times. the current is designed in the Italian Baroque style. It’s made of white marble and features two towers.

At the entrance, walk through three gates representing the three divine virtues of hope, love, and faith. The inside is just as magnificent as the outside with some beautiful frescoes adorning the white marble walls. You’ll see a bronze baptismal font with lions at its base dating back to the 14th century. Mozart was baptized here.

There are also several pipe organs and numerous bells which add to the charm of this magnificent cathedral.

Salzburg Cathedral is located at Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg, Austria. It is open from Monday to Saturday, 8 to 6. Entrance is free though a donation is requested.

Pietá Statue

The Pietá statue, also known as the Cloak of Conscience and Tolerance, is a sculpture carved by Anna Chromý. It’s located at the southern archway of the cathedral.

This statue was carved of a single block of white marble that was excavated from a quarry in Carrara, Italy. It was the same quarry where Michelangelo sourced his marble for the statue, David. The artist won the Premio Michaelangelo award for this sculpture in 2008.

This statue has been called many things from dark to disturbing to mysterious. However you personally view it, it’s an interesting thing to see when you visit the Salzburg Cathedral.

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Pietá Statue

St. Peter’s Abbey

St. Peter’s Abbey is a Benedictine Monastery founded back in 696. It is one of the oldest in this area and worth seeing both for its architecture but also for its cemetery.

Cemetery

If you’re a “Sound of Music” fan, you’ll recognize this cemetery. It’s from the scene where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazis with the help of the nuns. It’s an interesting and unique cemetery worth a quick visit.

Catacombs

There is also a catacomb to visit if you’re interested. The cost is €2 ($3 USD).

The Abbey is open daily from 8 am-noon and 2:30 pm-6:30 pm. It is closed during mass. The cemetery is open daily in the summer from  6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and in the winter from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The catacombs are open daily. From May to September they are open from 10 to 12:30 and 1 to 6, and from October to April they are open from 10 to 12:30 and 1 to 5.

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St. Peter’s Abbey

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Watching over the city of Salzburg is the impressive Hohensalzburg Fortress. It was built in 1077 and was the largest castle of its time. Though it no longer holds that honor, it is still one of the largest medieval castles and it is known to be one of the best-preserved in Europe of its time.

The fortress is one of the top attractions in Salzburg, so it’s a good idea to head up early to beat the lines. You have the option to walk up the steep pathway or take the Festungsbahn funicular railway. It was opened in 1892 and is an attraction in itself.

One highlight of the Hohensalzburg Fortress is the Princes’ Chambers on the third floor. They contain furnishings that date back to the early 1500s. The other amazing aspect of this castle is the views of the city given its vantage point high up on a hill overlooking Salzburg.

Fortress Hohensalzburg is located at Mönchsberg 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria.

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Hohensalzburg Fortress

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Mirabell Palace hails back to 1606 when Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrick had it built as a place to get outside the city walls with his mistress. It was renamed Mirabell as a reflection on the impressiveness of this palace, to reflect two Italian words for “admirable” and “beautiful.”

The Palace itself now provides municipal offices, including the mayor of Salzburg. It is located across the Salzach River from the old town. The gardens are just as exquisite as the palace, with its Baroque period geometrical layout. It provides visual orientation towards the fortress and the cathedral, which provide a stunning backdrop.

There are a number of spectacular fountains including the Grand fountain with statues symbolizing the four elements. And, the Pegasus Fountain has a sculpture of the famed flying horse, Pegasus.

If you’re a fan of “The Sound of Music,” the Pegasus Fountain will look familiar, from the scene where Maria and the children sing and dance in front of it singing the song, “Do Re Mi.”

Marble Hall

Marble Hall is a stunning place and it’s recognized as one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world. Mozart once played here in the Marble Hall, now used for weddings and concerts.

For a special experience if you have a little more time, you can get tickets to see a concert in the hall.

Mirabell Palace and Gardens is located at Mirabellplatz, 5020 Salzburg, Austria. It is open to visit from 8 to 6 daily and it’s free to enter the palace and gardens. It is closed while weddings are held or for special ocasions.

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Mirabell Palace

Wolfgang Amadeus Museum (Mozart’s Gebursthaus)

Stay across the river to see the last site, known for one of Salzburg’s most famous residents, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was born and raised in an apartment on the third floor of a building right across the river from the old town. It is now a museum that you can tour. See the first violin he played and the clavichord he used to compose The Magic Flute.

If you’re a fan of Mozart or simply love music and want to see the surroundings of a musical genius, it’s wortha visit. It only takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Mozart’s Birthplace is located at Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria. It costs €12 to enter ($14.25 USD).

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Mozart Gebursthaus

Sound of Music Tour

A very popular thing to do in Salzburg is a Sound of Music Tour. For fans of the movie, The Sound of Music, this tour brings you to many of the beautiful sites in Salzburg and in the countryside around the city.

I, unfortunately, didn’t have enough time to do this. Though, I would have. This tour is very popular and has a lot of great reviews. It’s the one I would choose based on recommendations.

If the “Sound of Music” isn’t your thing but you’re looking for an interesting short-duration activity in Salzburg, these look really fun to me!

Getting Around Salzburg

It’s very easy to get around Salzburg by foot as the city center is quite compact. You really don’t need a car. If you take one to get to Salzburg, you’ll need to part it across the river from the old city. It’s easier just to take public transportation unless you already are renting a car, so you don’t have to deal with parking.

Getting to Salzburg

The easiest way to get to Salzburg is by train or by bus, available from many of the major cities in the region. You can easily do one day in Salzburg from Vienna or Munich. I was visiting Munich so I went from there. The options for transportation are the same as below, just select a different departure city if you decide to go from Vienna.

From Munich

There are two great options for public transportation from Munich: the train and the regional bus.

Train

The train ranges in cost from €10,50 to €31(around $12.50 USD to around $37 USD) depending on the seat class and if you purchase in advance or last-minute. The ride is around two hours and there are more than 30 trains a day, so lots of options for time. Here is a link to the train schedule.

Depending on when you are traveling, you also have an option to purchase a Bayern (Bavaria) train ticket for regional travel (within Bavaria). It’s valid from Monday to Friday after 9 a.m. and at any time on weekends or public holidays. Costs start at €22 ($26.10 USD).

Bus

The regional FLIXBUS also runs regularly from Munich to Salzburg. The cost starts at €4.99 (around $6 USD) each way. There are several trips during the day.

You can also use these links to get schedules from other cities in the region, like Vienna.

Airport

If you’re coming from a distance, flying may be a good option. The Salzburg W. A. Mozart Airport is the second largest in the country (airport code SZG). Several airlines service this airport and there are direct flights from Vienna, London, and Berlin, and some other regional cities.

beautiful decoration on a wall

Salzburg Card

The Salzburg Card offers free admission to many of the top tourist attractions in Salzburg. An added bonus is that you can skip the line at many of the popular places. 

Is it worth it? It all depends what you want to do when you visit Salzburg. It can make Salzburg day trips much easier enabling you to see more in a shorter time if you do see what is included with the card. Here is a list of places that accept the Salzburg Card.

It’s available for 24, 48, and 72 hours and prices start at 26 Euros. You can purchase a physical card or get a digital card online and use your smartphone. 

Places to Eat in Salzburg

If pretzels just aren’t enough, Salzburg has no limit to great restaurants. Here are some of the places people rave about that look to be worth trying.

  • Cook&Wine: Bavaria is known for its beer, but if wine is more your thing, this is a great place to try. It’s a short walk across the river from the old town.
  • Restaurant Esszimmer: This is one of the most highly-reviewed Austrian restaurants on TripAdvisor. People rave about their tasting menu. If you want to get a feel for the local cuisine, it’s a great option.
  • Augustiner Brausteubl: This beer hall and beer garden offers the best beer in the area. It’s a place where famous people rave about the beer in their memoirs, it’s that good.
  • Johanneskeller: Cozy place with good local food and ambiance in the heart of the old town.
  • Balkan Grill Walter: If you’re looking for the Salzburg equivalent of fast food to keep you on your way touring the city, this is the place. Grab a wurst to go, typical local fare for lunch.

If you’re a sweet tooth, this is a great place to have an apple strudel. Or, if you want to try sacher torte, a local favorite, it’s a great place. I did and though it’s not my favorite dessert, I gained an appreciation for it.

sacher torte
Sacher torte

When to Visit Salzburg

High season in Salzburg is during the summer, particularly in July and August, and in December for the Christmas season. There will be crowds of tourists at these times and prices tend to be a bit higher. There is something truly enchanting about the European Christmas markets.

Salzburg Day Trips

If you have a little more time in Salzburg and want to do a day trip, there’s a number of great places to visit. Top on my list would be the majestic and ridiculously picturesque town of Hallstatt. Or, stay closer and visit the salt mines for which Salzburg got its name. 

There are a lot of fun places to go, and these have some of the highest ratings reflecting that people really enjoyed them. I know when I go back, I’d like to spend more time in Salzburg and also explore the beautiful countryside.

Why Salzburg Day Trips are a Great Idea

Salzburg is a great city, and though it’s easy to spend a couple of days there, it’s very accessible for a day trip. There’s a lot to see and do. Take in the charm of this small city, see the sights, and be surrounded by extensive history. It’s all available in Salzburg.

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