I’m ashamed to admit that this 24 hour guide for Salzburg has been in the works ever since we returned from our grand road trip though Europe.
I’m equally ashamed to admit that prior to our visit, my knowledge of Salzburg was limited to the movie Sound of Music (I know, I don’t like myself right now either).
But listen, there’s still hope for me. In an effort to enlighten ourselves, we spent an entire day exploring Salzburg.
Two things struck me about Salzburg right off the bat. First, the city feels placid in a way mostly reserved for small villages. Secondly, Salzburg is steeped in history so rich that roaming the streets feels like a privilege.
I hope this guide helps you spend less time planning and more time exploring this historic delight!
Why you should visit Salzburg
Salzburg is beautiful in a way most cities try to emulate. There’s a charm about it that is hard to describe. Enclosed by the bewitching alps, the city is a treasure trove with Baroque architecture, signature rusted copper roofs, charming shops and an easy way of life.
Is 24 hours in Salzburg enough time?
- No is the right answer. Our time in Salzburg felt too short and I cannot wait to return to see more. However, 24 hours in Salzburg will suffice if you’re interested in seeing the top spots.
Best time to visit Salzburg
- Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit Salzburg. We visited in May and comfortably wandered the streets in light jackets. The weather was pleasant, the flowers were blooming, and the city was abuzz with the unmistakable energy of Spring. The only thing noticeably missing? Crowds of tourists. But hey, you won’t hear me complaining.
- The Christmas Markets in Salzburg are world famous, so winter would be a great time to visit as well. I can only imagine how beautiful those iconic domes look under a layer of snow. Be mindful that winter temperatures hover around 40 degrees, so you’ll want to dress accordingly (read: layers).
- The summer season is a blessing and a curse. Crowds and temperatures rise and prices follow suit. However, The Salzburg Festival takes place in summer, so if you’re into performing arts, this would be the season to visit. If performing arts don’t interest you and your schedule is flexible, I suggest avoiding summer and booking a trip for September or October instead.
What language is spoken in Salzburg?
- Most people in Salzburg speak the Austro-Bavarian dialect of German. We learned basic phrases like hello (hallo), goodbye (auf wiedersehen), please (bitte), and thank you (danke).
- But mostly, we relied on English and it was easy to get around.
Interesting facts about Salzburg
- Salzburg is regarded as the beer capital of Austria. In fact, two of the cities oldest breweries still exist today: Steigl-Braquerei and Augustiner Brau. We’ll cover both in the itinerary.
- Salzburg used to be an independent country but was annexed by the Austrian Empire in 1816, where it remains to this day.
- Even though the city is considered small, there are 27 churches, 4 universities and 15 museums.
Did you know? The name Salzburg translates to “salt city,” a name given to it when salt extraction was the lifeline of the city.
The Sound of Music Tour
- If you’re a Sound of Music fan, this is the tour for you (cost is $50/person). The tour is offered by bus, foot and bicycle and allows participants an opportunity to visit original shooting locations. This tour is so popular that approximately 300,000 visitors participate annually.
With only 24 hours in Salzburg, we decided to skip the Sound of Music tour. We didn’t have enough time to take advantage of this experience but tons of folks highly recommend it!
Is the Salzburg Card worthwhile?
It depends on what you plan to explore during your visit. The 24-Hour Salzburg Card runs $26 in winter and $30 in summer.
The pass includes public transportation and access to main attractions, such as:
- Fortress Hohensalzburg
- Mozart’s house and birthplace
- Hellbrunn Palace
- The Salzburg museum
Other perks include a cruise on the river, ride on a cable car to the next town over, and (my favorite) a tour of Stiegl brewery with three 200ml beer tastings.
In my opinion, if you plan to visit Fortress Hohensalzburg the pass is worthwhile because admission to the fortress alone runs $15 per person. It’s important to note that most attractions in Salzburg close around 5pm, so to get the most use out of your card you will need to make good time.
24 Hours in Salzburg, Austria
Breakfast at Fingerlos.
- This might sound strange, but Finferlos makes the best eggs! I’m not kidding, try them for yourself. The man next to us ordered a three-tiered tray full of breakfast goodies. I would want to order that next time, with a side of eggs, of course.
Visit Mirabell Palace and Mirabellgarten.
- Look familiar? Mirabell Palace was featured in the Sound of Music (where Maria and the children dance around the Pegasus Fountain while singing “Do Re Mi.”). There is no admission fee to enter the palace or explore the gardens.
- While exploring the palace, we learned that Mirabell Palace doubles as a music venue. I can’t think of a more stunning setting to take in the magic of an orchestra.
While exploring Mirabellgarten, make sure to swing by the Hedge Theater (one of the oldest north of the Alps) and Zwerglgarten (Dwarf Garden).
- Originally there were 28 dwarfs in the Dwarf Garden but only 17 remain, due to a suspicious wife that requested they be removed and destroyed. The dwarfs were auctioned off and forgotten until 100 years later when they returned to the garden.
Take note: The Dwarf Garden is closed during winter.
- Arguably the most iconic structure in Salzburg. The three bronze doors that lead into the cathedral depict the themes of faith, hope and love (love being the biggest of the three).
- The cathedral houses 7 bells, one of which is the second largest in Austria. Can you imagine the clean sound of those blissful bells? That alone is reason to return!
- Fun fact: Both Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Mohr (man that wrote the lyrics for “Silent Night”) were christened at Salzburg Cathedral.
- Fortress Hohensalzburg is one of Europe’s largest intact fortresses. It sits high atop a hillside and offers stunning views of Salzburg below. You can hike up to the fortress of take the convenient funicular. Admission to the fortress is around $15 per person and the funicular runs around $23 for two people.
- Mozart’s childhood home was converted into a museum for the public to enjoy. Whether you consider yourself a music buff or not, this historic gem should not be skipped. Admission is around $12 per person. It’s worth knowing that photos are not allowed inside.
St. Peter’s Abbey
- This is a lovely historic church well worth a visit even on a short trip, especially since there’s no admission fee. This is one of the oldest monasteries in the world since its foundation in 696. If you have a soft spot for ornate churches, this one can’t be missed. Likewise, don’t miss the oldest cemetery in Austria, just behind the church ($2 admission fee).
- This brewery has the best view of the Salzburg Cathedral. We stopped by to rest our legs and escape from the rain. The patio seating outside is a great place to enjoy a grapefruit brew and take in the scenery.
- My favorite area to explore is Altstadt (Old Town) because it feels like going back in time. Salzburg’s old town is deemed so beautiful it was designated as a UNESCO site (the largest UNESCO site by land area).
- My favorite street in Altstadt is Getreidegasse, an alley peppered with shops announced by wrought-iron signs. We stopped by a shop that specialized in eggshell Christmas ornaments – what a unique souvenir!
Stroll through Steingasse
- Steingasse is a historic cobbled stone street close to the river, with trendy shops and pretty homes situated in old Salzburg. This picturesque street isn’t very long and can be covered in 15 minutes.
Go early in the morning to avoid crowds and take in the quiet and lovely nature of the area.
- This is a traditional monk-run brewery and beer garden has been operational since 1621. I’ve never seen a beer garden like this before. The first step is to pick up a ceramic mug before going to the filling station. Brew in hand, you are free to roam the brewery for Austrian cuisine (think brats and sauerkraut, warm bread and fish).
- Food in hand, happy patrons can enjoy their meals outside, in the shade of ancient chestnut trees. Bonus points: the brewery offers tours by appointment for groups of 10-30 people and run around $14 per person. I plan to revisit this brewery time and time again, one of my favorites!
St. Sebastian’s Cemetery
- This is the final resting place of Salzburg’s most prominent families and famous names. It’s a beautiful Baroque cemetery housing the graves of Mozart’s father and wife, in addition to the famous physician Paracelsus, known as the father of modern medicine.
Interesting fact: Even though Mozart is arguably the most famous name hailing from Salzburg, his final resting place is in the St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna. The exact location of his grave is unknown, but a gravestone is erected marking the spot, although it’s nothing more than an educated guess.
Take a cooking class!
- What better way to immerse yourself in a culture than to learn a local dish? We signed up for an apple strudel cooking class and had such a great time! We met a couple from Chicago and spent the evening chatting and eating with them. We booked through Edelweiss Cooking School and paid $100 for two.
Side note: I understand that cooking classes are a tad expensive, but I’m a big advocate of supporting the local community. I would invest money in a lifelong memory over purchasing a cheap souvenir any day of the week.
Getting to Salzburg:
- By airport: Salzburg Mozart Airport is only 2 miles from Salzburg’s city center. A 20-minute bus ride can get you from the airport to city center for $3 per person. A taxi from the airport will take 15 minutes and run $18-$20.
- By train: If you are arriving by train, you will arrive at Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (train station), a scenic twenty-minute walk to old town (Altstadt).
Where to stay in Salzburg:
- As budget travelers, we decided to stay at the Hotel Hofwirt Salzburg. We had a great experience and felt the hotel was a great value. It is situated downtown and we were within steps of everything – restaurant, shops, historic points, etc.
Getting around Salzburg
- Salzburg is a walking city through and through. We chose to use our own two feet to get around and enjoyed the lovely strolls. The Altstadt is exceptionally pedestrian friendly.
- We arrived to Salzburg by car but made sure to park it as soon as possible. Based on our experience, we strongly suggest avoiding driving in the city.
Day trip to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg
If you have time for a day trip, I highly recommend making the trip to see Berchtesgaden – an area full of history. If you have a car, the drive to Berchtesgaden is 30 minutes. If taking public transportation, there’s a train that connects Salzburg to Berchtesgaden and takes less than an hour.
And that’s a wrap for this quick 24 hour guide to Salzburg. I hope you enjoy the city as much as we did, it’s breathtaking.
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