There are certain ingredients for the perfect day in Salzburg. In this article, I will give them to you. This article will help design your day from start to finish, so you don’t miss anything.
Listen to the Episode on the Free Walking Tour Podcast instead!
How to get to Salzburg?
Austria borders seven other countries. Therefore Salzburg is on the route between Munich, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, but travelers also come from Italy and Slovenia.
No matter if you arrive by train, bus, or plane, you always either arrive directly at the train station or take a bus, from the bus terminal in the south or the airport to the station, or Mirabell Square. The station is 10 minutes walking from Mirabell, and Mirabell is the perfect starting point to explore Salzburg.
If you arrive in Salzburg by car, you either have to pay for parking in one of the old town’s garages or park your vehicle at least 30 minutes walking from the city center to find free parking.
Is one day in Salzburg enough?
As much as I would like to talk you into staying longer, telling you about all the little details you can discover in the old town and all the beautiful places in the surroundings, I have to be honest. You can see and do the most important things in Salzburg in one day. Visit the fortress, see Mozart’s birthplace, stroll through Mirabell garden, try the original Mozart chocolate, and visit a beer brewery, among other things. Let me show you how!
Is Salzburg walkable?
Salzburg is one of the most walkable cities you can find. If you arrive by train, it takes you about 10 minutes to reach Mirabell garden, the ideal place to start sightseeing and 25 minutes to reach the fortress of Salzburg, the other end of the old town.
There is no need to take buses in the city center. In fact, most of the essential sights cannot be reached by public transport because the old town is a pedestrian area. If you nevertheless want to read about it, here is an article on public transport in Salzburg.
Is the Salzburg Card worth buying?
The Salzburg Card is an all-inclusive sightseeing card, including all the attractions in the city as well as public transport. It’s worth buying if you enter at least two paid sights. Let’s say you want to visit the fortress and Mozart’s birthplace. You would pay the same amount of money for single entrance fees as the Card costs, but the card includes many more attractions in Salzburg.
Therefore it’s straightforward to make the Salzburg card worth it, and I recommend it to almost everyone. Here is an article for you, if you want to know more about the Salzburg Card.
That being said, there are plenty of free things to see in Salzburg. Especially when you only have one day in Salzburg, you might just visit the main sights to see them from the outside without spending time in the museums and time on going more in-depth.
How to Spend One Day in Salzburg?
So what to do in Salzburg in one day? In short, my recommendation would be to visit the must-see sights in the morning and for the afternoon pick and choose activities according to your interests. To see the must-see sights takes you between two to four hours. Therefore, you could even cover them if you only have a few hours in Salzburg.
Where to have Breakfast in Salzburg?
But first things first. If you have not had breakfast yet, the best and most inexpensive places in Salzburg are bakeries. At some bakeries, you also can sit down and order a cup of coffee together with pastry. The pastry at bakeries is different from the pastry you get at a pastry shop. My favorite breakfast pastry is Zaunerkipferl, and here you find out about my favorite place to have it. Read this article to become an expert on Breakfast in Salzburg.
How to spend the morning in Salzburg?
Ideally, you sign up for the Free Walking Tour to get a simple overview and more recommendations, and to meet me. Still, you wouldn’t have a problem finding the sights on your own either.
Here they are:
- The perfect place to start is Mirabell Garden. It’s on the way from the station before crossing the river. It’s the main sight on the right side of the river. Mirabell is also a great place to ease into the city. While it might also be full of tourists, the garden is spacious and relaxed. Make sure to enter the castle and take the stairs to the first floor to glance at the Marble Hall.
- When you leave Mirabell towards Makartplatz Square, you face Mozart’s residence. Only enter in case you have the Salzburg Card. Otherwise turn right to cross Makartsteg, the love lock bridge of Salzburg.
- The left side of the river is where most of the important sights are. After crossing the bridge, you find one of the passages that are between all the houses. They take you to Getreidegasse. Not only the most famous street in Salzburg, but the yellow building with the Austrian flag is Mozart’s birthplace.
- Go through another passage, and you are in front of the University Church, one of the four most important churches in Salzburg, and one of the must-see sights.
- Behind the University Church, you enter the festival district and find the concert hall. That’s where the Salzburg Festival, the most prominent classical music festival in the world, takes place for six weeks every summer.
- From the concert hall, you visit the Franciscan church and head to Saint Peter’s monastery. Each of them is 2 minutes walking apart. At Saint Peter’s you want to walk through the cemetery after visiting the church.
- If you keep left at the cemetery, you reach Saint Peter’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in Salzburg. Their sourdough bread is an excellent option for a snack. If you keep right at the cemetery, you reach the funicular to the fortress.
- If you only pay for one attraction in Salzburg, I recommend the fortress. In case you have time and want to visit two or more attractions, get the Salzburg Card! If you pay for the fortress, you can save money by walking up. Here you find the history of the Hohensalzburg fortress, if you want to be prepared for you visit.
- After the fortress or instead of the fortress, you could head over to Nonnberg Abbey. Nonnberg is the oldest abbey in the world and the monastery from the Sound of Music. You can not visit the monastery but the church.
- From Nonnberg or the fortress, you visit the cathedral and thereby the heart of the city. The surrounding squares are the main squares of the old town. Especially Residence Square with the two archiepiscopal residences. Nowadays they house the best history museums in town.
- Next to Residence Square, there is Mozart Square and the Mozart statue. Don’t miss the chance to take a picture with Salzburg’s most famous son.
- Now you can either go down to the river and cross the Mozartsteg to walk on the other side along the Steingasse and up to the Saint Sebastian’s cemetery. These are some of my favorite sights, but not everyone would consider them a must.
- Alternatively, you head over to Alter Markt square (old market but there is no actual market) where you do not only get close to the food I would like to recommend for lunch but also find the original Mozart chocolate and the oldest cafe in Salzburg.
That’s how easy it is to get an overview of Salzburg. I sometimes guided Korean groups that arrive by bus and only spend an hour in the old town to walk from the cathedral to Mirabell to see the most famous sights. While that’s not recommended, it’s possible.
Notice that your walk will take longer if you visit museums.
You could enter the fortress on the way, but if you are planning to get a Salzburg Card and enter museums, I would either recommend planning more time for your walk and visiting every museum on the way or coming back to activate and use it later. To activate the Salzburg Card later is the best option if you have time the next day. More on that below.
Street Food for Lunch
For lunch, you either go for one of my favorite restaurants listed in this article or go for street food.
I would go for street food if I were you. Here you can read about Austrian street food to understand its significance.
My recommendation is Bosna because you only find the original Bosna in Salzburg, but sausages at Raymond’s are an excellent choice as well. That’s not going to be the most comfortable lunch because you will be standing, but it’s delicious and time-efficient.
Coffee and Cake
After lunch, it’s either time for comfort at the coffee shop or to find yourself some takeaway dessert. Your visit to Salzburg wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the cafes or pastry shops. I have three choices for you.
Coffee and Cake at Konditorei Schatz
If you only spend one day in Salzburg, this would be my recommendation for desserts and coffee. Konditorei Schatz produces the best pastries in Salzburg while it remains an insider tip. But it’s not only about sweets. It also offers the authentic Austrian coffee house atmosphere, plus they produce their own excellent Mozart chocolate. Coffee, Cake, Mozart chocolate, and coffee house atmosphere. What else do we need?
Here is an article, if you want to know more about Austrian pastries and one if you would like to know the truth about the Mozart chocolate.
Traditional Austrian Coffee at Cafe Bazar
Cafe Bazar is the place you want to visit to experience an authentic Austrian coffee house in Salzburg. It’s the only one of its kind. Cafe Bazar opened more than 100 years ago. Throughout the 20th century, it was the place where intellectuals and artists gathered. Today it receives people from all walks of life. From old noble gentlemen to b-celebrities, tourists, and hipsters. The ideal place to get to know Salzburg.
Here is an article, if you want to read about Traditional Austrian Coffee Houses in Salzburg.
Take-away Mozart Chocolate
To try the original Mozart chocolate, head to Cafe Konditorei Fürst. They invented the Mozart chocolate and are the only ones allowed to call it the Original Salzburg Mozart chocolate. For more on that, read this article about the truth about the Mozart chocolate.
If you go to one of the two shops, you can only take away the chocolate. If you visit the cafe at the Alter Markt square instead, you can also sit down for coffee and cake.
How to Spend the Afternoon in Salzburg?
After getting an overview in the morning I recommend choosing one or two of the following attractions and activities in Salzburg, depending on your interests.
Should you still get a Salzburg Card?
The Salzburg Card is valid for 24, 48, or 72 hours. In case you followed the morning recommendation, feel like visiting two or more paid attractions, and still have time the day after, the Salzburg card is still worth it. You can use the card for 24 hours from activation.
If you don’t have time the next day but want to go for the museums in your one day in Salzburg, get the card in the morning! Take more time when discovering the must-see sights and use the card whenever you can by entering every museum along the way.
One of the best things you can do with a Salzburg Card is to take the cable car to Untersberg Mountain. You reach the Untersberg Cable Car valley station by bus number 25. The same bus takes you to Hellbrunn castle and the trick fountains, which is also included in the card. That’s what I would do after you are done with the museums. That’s how you make the most of your day in Salzburg and of your Salzburg Card.
You could also do it the other way around and head to the cable car in the morning and visit the museums after lunch.
The Sound of Music Tour
Even if the Sound of Music Tour is among the least Austrian things to do in Salzburg, it’s by far the most popular tour. For some travelers, the Sound of Music is the reason to visit Salzburg. If you are one of them, you should consider the tour. In the afternoon, it starts at 2 pm, so there is enough time to explore in the morning before you hop on the afternoon tour.
These tours are never sold out. You can just show up at Mirabell Square to get your ticket. If you would like to prebook, you can use this affiliate link to support me without any extra cost for you.
The Sound of Music Tour doesn’t cover the old town because the old town is a pedestrian area. Therefore, it’s not repetitive and best combined with your self-guided walk or with my Free Walking Tour of Salzburg.
The Sound of Music Tour takes you to the palaces of Leopoldskron and Hellbrunn before heading to the lake district to look at St Wolfgang and at the wedding church located in Mondsee. In Mondsee, you would also have an hour to explore on your own.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress
For its stunning views, the funicular ride, and the historical buildings, the fortress is my favorite sight in Salzburg. You can’t see the Alps from the city center, but once you are in the fortress and on the platform on the southern side, you have the panoramic view of the mountains. In case you didn’t go in the morning, it would be a good idea to visit the fortress in the afternoon. Notice that if you visit two museums, you should get the Salzburg Card.
If you don’t want to spend money and you have time in the evening, you could sneak in after closing time. I know that sounds bad, but it’s legit. When the fortress closes, the gate remains open for another hour or two. The building remains open, and you can visit everything except the museums. There is a small door that only opens from the inside, so once you are inside, you can stay as long as you want, even if the main gate closes.
Climb Every Mountain, or One of them
In my opinion, it’s a must to see Salzburg from above while you are here. Luckily there are other options besides paying the entrance fee to the fortress. On each side of the river in the old town of Salzburg, there is a mountain. Mönchsberg on the left side of the river and Kapuzinerberg on the right side.
Mönchsberg ranges from the fortress all around the old town on the left side of the Salzach river. That’s the mountain you climb for lots of different views. It’s the mountain you want to climb for panoramic sightseeing. And if you don’t feel like climbing the mountain, you can take the Mönchsbergaufzug, the elevator to the Museum of Modern Art.
Kapuzinerberg, on the right side of the river, is the mountain you want to climb if you are longing for nature. On Kapuzinerberg, you are further away from the main sights around the cathedral. You, therefore, have an excellent panoramic overview of them.
If you would like to climb a real mountain, hike mount Gaisberg. To reach the peak of Gaisberg you have to overcome 900 meters of altitude. You can hike there all the way from the old town in three to four hours. The technical difficulty is easy. In case you don’t feel like hiking but still want to reach the top, take bus 151 from Mirabell square!
Here is an article on hiking in the city of Salzburg. The post deals precisely with these three mountains because these are the mountains in Salzburg you reach walking from the city center.
More Things to do in Salzburg in the afternoon?
- The Stiegl brewery in Maxglan is the biggest private brewery in Austria. It’s a short bus ride or half an hour walking from the old town. You can do a tour and a beer tasting, which is also included in the Salzburg Card.
- The Open Air Museum in Großgmain is a collection of old houses. Historic houses from rural areas in Salzburg were taken down and rebuilt in the museum. It’s one of the museums included in the Salzburg Card. Because it’s outside the city and like a natural reserve rather than an ordinary museum, the visit will take you all afternoon.
- The private airplane, helicopter, and racing car collection of the Red Bull founder at Hangar 7 is a place many desire to see. It’s not a must, but the Hangar is free to visit, and it only takes a 15-minute bus ride from the old town.
- The only way to take a day trip with one day in Salzburg while also exploring the old town would be to take a bus tour. You could go for the salt mines, the Ice Caves, or the lake district. Each of the tours takes four to five hours. You will be back in the evening but with €40,- to €50,- these tours are expensive.
If you really want to take a day trip and you can manage, stay another day! Public transport is convenient, and even the way to each of the day trip destinations is incredibly pretty. Furthermore, you are not constrained by time when you are on your own instead of with a tour.
Here are the seven best day trips from Salzburg to help you contemplate staying a second day.
How to spend the Evening in Salzburg?
If you follow my recommendations, you will be not only tired but also hungry. Here are some further suggestions on how to spend the evening in Salzburg and finish the day.
Dinner at a traditional Austrian Restaurant
For dinner in Salzburg, there are plenty of options. Restaurants in Salzburg are generally good. There are not really any tourist traps when it comes to restaurants. None of the restaurants are highly overpriced or deficient in quality. Here my list of favorite restaurants in Salzburg, if you want to make sure you get the best experience.
What’s not on this list is the Augustiner Brewery. That’s because it’s a beer place rather than a restaurant. The Augustiner, however, has a food court. The stands offer a variety of Austrian dishes and street food. Especially if you are several people you can order small portions of different dishes and everyone gets to try.
How to Attend a Concert in Salzburg
Unlike popular belief and the fact that Salzburg is famous for classical music would suggest, concerts are surprisingly hard to find. My favorite place for concerts is the Mozarteum University. Many of the student’s rehearsals are open to the public and free. These rehearsals could also be available in the afternoon.
Check the schedule to find out.
If there are no student concerts, there are daily concerts for tourists at Mirabell Palace, at the Hohensalzburg fortress, and at Saint Peter’s restaurant. The latter two are dinner concerts. They are pricey, but Saint Peter’s is the oldest restaurant in Salzburg, claiming to be the oldest restaurant in Europe and the concert at the fortress is a chance to combine sightseeing with a concert and dinner. A valid option, if your time is limited.
Here you find more general information on concerts in Salzburg.
The Best Sunset or the Best Night View of Salzburg
On Mönchsberg Mountain, there are countless viewpoints. In front of the Museum of Modern Art, Winkler Terrace is the prettiest and the most convenient place to get a night view of Salzburg. Convenient because there is an elevator inside the mountain. The lift operates until late because there is a restaurant in the museum. Pretty because you overlook all of Salzburg and the fortress.
Just as beautiful is the view from the Hettwer-Bastei on Kapuzinerberg, the other city mountain. To get there, you climb the 261 steps to the Capuchin monastery or take the road to walk up. But I would prefer the view from Kapuzinerberg to the Mönchsberg view only during the day, and for Mönchsberg, you don’t have to hike. I hope this is a worthy conclusion to a full day in Salzburg.
Visiting Salzburg in one day is perfect to see the main sights, eat Austrian street food, experience authentic coffee house culture and get a Salzburg Card to visit the Museums, hike a city mountain or head to another place that’s of personal interest to you.
If you take a bus tour, you could even go on one of the popular day trips or a Sound of Music tour before you indulge in more Austrian food and maybe even a concert in the evening.
This itinerary for Salzburg in one day is designed to make the most of your time. One day is enough for the essentials. That being said, if you can arrange it, however, you should think about staying longer.
In case you have questions or need help planning your visit, don’t hesitate to comment below, send me an Email or a message on Social Media or on WhatsApp. I would be happy to help and to hear from you.