You can explore the essentials of Salzburg in a day or two. If you are a curious traveler, you could keep going and won’t run out of new discoveries in the old town. However. If you have more than a day or two, I strongly advise you to take a day trip from Salzburg.
May it be for your Instagram or for your inner peace. In Salzburg, at the foot of the Alps and surrounded by lakes, you don’t want to miss out on the chance to explore beautiful nature, if you have some spare time.
Here are the 7 best day trips from Salzburg, why visit these destinations and how to get there.
Each of them is unique and worth visiting. This makes Salzburg not only the ideal travel destination for a short stay but also ideal for stays of a week or longer.
Most of these destinations are easy to reach, as public transport developed, even to remote locations. Tours are unnecessary, and the costs to do these day trips on your own are manageable.
1. Berchtesgaden and Kingslake (Königssee)
Let’s start with my favorite destination. It may surprise you that this day trip is not even in Austria. The city of Salzburg borders on Germany. To get to Berchtesgaden, we drive south and cross the German border. The journey takes only 50 minutes.
Berchtesgaden is the typical Bavarian village as you know it from postcards. It lies in the middle of the mountains, at the foot of the impressive mountain Watzmann and Berchtesgaden alone would be worth a trip. However, the real reason to go to Berchtesgaden is either Kingslake or the Eagles Nest.
At Kingslake you will get the feeling that you are in Norway. Walking around the lake is impossible because the mountains are too close to the shore. Therefore, you take a boat to the other side, to the St. Bartholomä. These boat trips are famous for the trumpet that is played and whose sound echoes on the mountain walls. The boats themselves are silent out of respect for nature.
If you don’t want to spend the money on the boat trip, you can go the Malerwinkel circular route and get a glimpse of the other side of the lake. The name Malerwinkel came from the fact that the painters used to paint the lake from this bay. The walk to Malerwinkel and back would take you about 1,5 hours from where the bus drops you and is very easy.
However, I would recommend the boat to get to the other side and if you take the boat, take it to Salet until the last stop! Take it all the way to Salet and walk to Obersee! Kingslake is very touristy, but fewer tourists go all the way to Obersee. There you will find untouched nature at its finest. After a short hike from Salet and past the Obersee, you also reach the highest waterfall in Germany.
How to get to Kingslake from Salzburg?
To reach Kingslake from Salzburg, take bus number 840 from the main station or from Mirabellplatz to Berchtesgaden. You get a day ticket for bus 840 and for the onward journey to Königssee with bus 841 from the bus driver. Just ask for a day ticket. This ticket is valid for both buses. In Berchtesgaden, you get off and wait in the same location for bus 841, which takes you to “Schönau am Königssee”.
What else is there to do in Berchtesgaden and at Königssee?
Berchtesgaden is the perfect destination for hikers. The possibilities are countless. The Jennerbahn cable car at Kingslake would also offer the possibility to reach a summit without hiking, Berchtesgaden has a salt mine (although I recommend another one) and the Eagles nest is just as worth seeing as the Königssee and an alternative in the area.
2. Berchtesgaden and the Eagles Nest
As with Königssee, you reach the Kehlsteinhaus via Berchtesgaden. On either of those day trips, you have time to explore Berchtesgaden before or after your final destination. I highly recommend it.
Unlike Kingslake, the Eagles Nest (Kehlsteinhaus), is not in between the mountains but on the peak of the mount Kehlstein.
Although the Eagle’s Nest is 1700 meters above sea level, you reach it by bus. That’s because Hitler had his summer residence in the area, they completed the Kehlsteinhaus in 1938 and the Nazis made it accessible by road and elevator. Tourist buses still take the same road today to reach the Kehlsteinhaus.
What to do at the Eagles Nest?
The Kehlsteinhaus is not only interesting because of its history. In fact, there is nothing at the top except for the building. The visit to the Eagles Nest is worthwhile because of the view of the surrounding Berchtesgaden mountains.
Where you can and should deal intensively with history is at the Documentation Center on Obersalzberg, where you change from the public bus to the shuttle bus.
How to reach the Eagles Nest from Salzburg?
To get to the Kehlsteinhaus by bus, just like on the way to Königssee, take the 840 bus from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden. You get the day ticket from the bus driver for €10.40 (2019). In Berchtesgaden, you change to bus 838, which takes you to the documentation center. I recommend you visit the documentation center and then continue with a shuttle bus that costs another €17.10.
Read this article for the complete guide on how to get to the Eagles Nest.
Can you hike the Eagles Nest?
An excellent alternative is a hike from the documentation center. The hike is easy yet strenuous because it’s long. Hiking, however, makes the Eagles Nest the least expensive day trip because there is no entrance fee. Only the cost of the shuttle bus.
ATTENTION: In theory, you could visit Kingslake and the Eagles Nest in one day. In practice, it’s risky because you shouldn’t miss the last bus.
There is also a salt mine in front of Berchtesgaden. I prefer the salt mine in Hallein, maybe because it is the salt mine that I always visited as a child. The salt mine in Berchtesgaden offers almost the same thing. It’s just more touristy.
3. Hallein and the Salt Mines
As mentioned before, I prefer the salt mines on Dürrnberg in Hallein because they are less touristy. These are the salt mines Austrian families visit with their children on the weekends. At least when I was a kid, it was like that.
When should you visit the Salt Mines in Hallein?
Berchtesgaden is where the tour buses go and the salt mines in Hallstatt are almost twice as expensive and even more touristy.
If you have limited time and you are going to Berchtesgaden or to Hallstatt anyway, these are valid options. If you have a day to spare for a salt mine, I would recommend Hallein and Bad Dürrenberg.
Why you should visit Hallein?
The word “Hall” in old German meant salt. Therefore, Hallein, the same as Salzburg, is named after the salt. Hallein is where the archbishops of Salzburg were actually mining their salt. Berchtesgaden belonged to the Bavarians and Hallstatt (also named after the salt) to the Habsburg empire, while Hallein was a part of independent Salzburg.
Even today you can still feel in Hallein that the working class is more at home there. Even after salt mining ceased in 1986, Hallein always had large factories such as a paper mill, Bosch and Johnson and Johnson. If you come to Hallein, I would highly recommend taking a stroll through the old town and up to the church. There is nothing of particular interest there. Compared to Salzburg and the other day trips, however, Hallein allows a different view of authentic Austria.
The Salt Mines on Dürrnberg Mountain
The salt mine in Hallein is located in Bad Dürrenberg on the mountain. So you actually only have to change trains in Hallein, but you can visit the old town before or after the salt mines.
The salt mine itself is like the other salt mines in the area. There is a salt lake, a light show, and several slides. There is also a Celtic village in front of the salt mine where you can see how the Celts used to live. This is especially exciting for children.
Below, in the city of Hallein, there is also a Celtic Museum on the history of salt, the city of Hallein, and the Celts. In the past, they included the ticket to the Celtic Museum in the price for the Salt mines. Today you only get a 20% discount, so I don’t see the museum as a must, even if it is great.
How do you get to the Hallein Salz Mines?
Hallein and the salt mine on Dürrnberg can be reached by the S3 train from Salzburg’s train station to Hallein. You get the ticket from the machine at the station. From the train station in Hallein, you take bus 41 to Dürrnberg and to the salt mine. The mine is just before the village and the stop is called “Bad Dürrenberg Salzbergwerk”. If you are up for an easy hike, I would recommend walking back down to Hallein. It’s easy because it’s all downhill.
4. Hallstatt in the Lake District
Hallstatt is the most popular day trip from Salzburg. With good reason, because Hallstatt is beautiful and unique. Its popularity, however, has also made Hallstatt an overcrowded tourist destination. You can be sure not to have an authentic experience there. Locals are either annoyed or make money from tourism. In 2019 discussions about “Over-tourism” and what they can do about it have reached their peak.
Is Hallstatt worth visiting?
You should go to Hallstatt if this picture book village is on your bucket list or if it has to be in your Instagram feed. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Austria, if not worldwide. It is not without a reason that the Chinese rebuilt Hallstatt in Luoyang. It’s also not without reason that almost a million tourists come to the original Hallstatt each year while Hallstatt has less than 800 inhabitants.
Most tourists visit Hallstatt in the summer. Therefore, you can expect to visit this 800 soul village together with 10.000 other people if you go there in high season.
Hallstatt is mainly about cute buildings. There are two churches, a Catholic and a Protestant church. Next to the Catholic Church, there is an ossuary in which they keep painted skulls. This ossuary exists because there was not enough space for graves in Hallstatt in the past catholic church that didn’t permit cremation yet.
Should you visit the Hallstatt Salt Mines?
The salt mines are opposite the entrance to the village and you reach them via a funicular. As mentioned before, I would only recommend the salt mines in Hallstatt if you definitely want to see a salt mine, have enough time in Hallstatt and no time to visit another mine. The Hallstatt salt mine costs almost twice as much as other salt mines and offers the same.
How to get to Hallstatt?
What is the best way to reach Hallstatt? The best way to go to Hallstatt is by bus 150 from the Salzburg train station or from Mirabellplatz. After a 1,5-hour bus ride, you change in Bad Ischl to a train to Obertraun. From Obertraun you take the ferry to Hallstatt. You get the combined bus and train ticket from the bus driver and the ferry ticket on the ferry. In total it will cost you about €30,- both ways. The whole journey takes about three hours, but the bus ride takes you across the lake district (Salzkammergut) and is exquisite.
5. Sankt Wolfgang in the Lake District
Sankt Wolfgang would be my recommendation as an alternative to Hallstatt and is my favorite place in the lake district (Salzkammergut). Sankt Wolfgang is located at the foot of the 1800 meter high Schafberg mountain. The steepest steam locomotive in the world drives up the slope of this mountain. Sankt Wolfgang is also touristy but different from Hallstatt.
How to get to Sankt Wolfgang?
To go to the Wolfgangsee lake you, just like for Hallstatt, take bus 150. The final destination of bus 150 is Bad Ischl, where you would have to change to get to Hallstatt. To reach Sankt Wolfgang, however, you get off in Sankt Gilgen at the beginning of Wolfgangsee lake. In Sankt Gilgen, you are in the right place to take the boat to the town of Sankt Wolfgang.
Know that a return ticket for the boat is €22, – (in 2020) and the return ticket for the steam train is €40.80 (in 2020). Yes. It’s ridiculously expensive but if you don’t mind spending the money, taking the boat and the Schafbergbahn is worth the experience.
The Inexpensive Way to reach Sankt Wolfgang
The alternative and a way of saving money without skipping Sankt Wolfgang is to take bus 150 to Strobl instead of Sankt Gilgen. Then change in Strobl to bus 546 which takes you to Sankt Wolfgang. That would be cheaper, but more complicated and less exciting than the boat. In addition, you would only visit Sankt Gilgen if you put in the extra stop.
What to do in Sankt Gilgen?
Have a look around Sankt Gilgen first! Mozart’s mother lived in Sankt Gilgen and later also his sister. Cafe Dallmann is known as one of the best pastry shops, but also for its rudeness. The cable car to the Zwölferhorn mountain in Sankt Gilgen is being rebuilt in 2020 and would, by the time you read this, be an alternative to Sankt Wolfgang and the steam train. Otherwise, you only take the boat to the other side of the lake.
Assure yourself that the Schafbergbahn, the steam train, operates in while you are there. You could also hike mount Schafberg instead of taking the Schafbergbahn. The hike is not challenging, but it takes a few hours to reach the top. The hike is particularly recommended when the steam train is out of season, but the weather is good enough for hiking. There are far fewer people when the train is not operating.
6. Fuschlsee in the Lake District
Fuschlsee is the lake you want to go to if you would like to be with locals and can do without tourist attractions. There is nothing to see in Fuschl except the Red Bull headquarters next to the main road opposite the village. What there is in Fuschl is a lake that you can hike around and in which you can swim in summer. Fuschl is the place if you want to relax.
The Fuschlsee lake is ideal for cooling off on hot days but is also great for ambitious water sports enthusiasts. The water quality is one of the best in Austria. Every spring the Fuschlsee crossing takes place with the 200 swimmers covering the distance of either 4.2 kilometers or 2.1 kilometers.
Crossing on your own is only recommended for experienced swimmers and not if you are alone but if you are unsure, you can swim along the shore. Stand-up paddle, kayak or various types of boats can be borrowed from Fuschlsee to explore the lake in this way.
Hiking at Lake Fuschlsee
The hike around the lake takes about 3 hours and is very easy. It’s flat. Alternatively, you could also hike from Fuschl to Sankt Gilgen and further into the lake district. This hike would be just as easy, except for the descent to Sankt Gilgen, and it is very unpopular.
Fuschl also offers itself to climb the 1300 meter high Schober. A mountain hike that takes no longer than 2-3 hours and is neither too difficult nor too easy.
How to get to Lake Fuschlsee?
To reach Lake Fuschl you also take bus 150, as with the two previous destination and with most places in the lake district. Of all the day trips listed here, Lake Fuschl is not only the most untouristic, but also the easiest and cheapest to get to. It’s the closest lake district lake from the city of Salzburg. You can get the ticket for a single trip directly from the bus driver for €5.90 and the journey takes 40 minutes.
ATTENTION: You will want to get off at Fuschlsee at the stop “Fuschl am See Brunnerwirt”. This stop is in front of Red Bull headquarters which is definitely worth a look. From there you only have to cross the street to reach the town of “Fuschl am See” and the lake itself.
For more Information on the Hike around Fuschlsee, read this article.
7. The Ice Caves in Werfen
Werfen is home to the biggest ice caves in the world. These ice caves are in the south of Salzburg and considered the biggest Ice Caves in the world. To reach Werfen you will have to go further into the Alps, which deserves a trip even without Ice Caves. It will take you a while by train, shuttle bus, hiking, and cable car, but every step along the way is worth it due to the stunning surroundings.
Furthermore, Werfen, where the Ice Caves are, is a place that remains authentic despite the masses of people visiting. That’s just my opinion, but I was very delighted by the shuttle bus driver who went out of his way to take us to the fortress of Werfen because we were the last tourists on the bus. That’s usually not happening in touristy places in Austria.
The Ice Caves itself are an adventure. Once you reach the caves after two 20 minute hikes, you get some 19th-century lamps. Inside the caves, it would be dark without these lamps. The mandatory tour takes about an hour. While receiving lots of information about the history and the conditions of the caves, you climb almost 1500 slippery steps along ice sculptures and lakes.
There is also a fortress you could visit in Werfen after the Ice Caves but, to be honest, I prefer the fortress in Salzburg over the Hohenwerfen fortress. The Hohenwerfen fortress looks amazing from the outside and the falcon’s show is worth seeing, but there is not much to do inside. If you visit the fortress for the falcon’s show, ask at the entrance if it’s happening! There is no reduction in price when the falcons are off.
How to reach the Ice Caves in Werfen?
To get to the Werfen Ice Caves, you take a train from the Salzburg train station to Werfen. You get the ticket from the ticket machine. Trains run every half an hour. From the station in Werfen, you take the shuttle bus. You get off the bus at the visitor’s center where you buy a ticket for the cable car and the caves. After a 20-minute walk, you are at the cable car which will take you up to 1600 meters where, after another short hike, you reach the entrance of the caves and wait for a group to gather around your guide.
If you have enough time, go on a day trip from Salzburg! Choose a destination according to your interests. Each of them is equally worth visiting. Basically, it’s three areas you can visit. The Eagles Nest or Kingslake in Berchtesgaden, one of the places in the lake district or the Werfen Ice Caves.
You can also visit Hallein and Bad Dürrenberg to see my hometown and for my favorite salt mines, but you would also find salt mines in Hallstatt in the lake district, or in Berchtesgaden.
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