Your complete Salzburg guide to enjoying the best that the city has to offer. Written by a local.
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Where is Salzburg located?
Salzburg city is the capital of the Salzburg region in Austria. It's one of 9 regions in Austria.
The Austrian city is bordering Germany and the small German corner (Kleine Deutsche Eck), which is a major connection to the other parts in West Austria.
The city is centrally located near Munich and Rosenheim in Bavaria, Germany and other Austrian cities such as Linz and Vienna.
Salzburg is still in the alps but it's kind of the end of the alps, giving the city more space.
Getting to Salzburg
Salzburg can be easily reached by car, train or flight because of it's suitable location.
If you come from anywhere in the world, you can get in my flight. The city has a small airport.
Although keep in mind that ticket prices will be higher and connections are not that evidently easy to get.
We rarely found a good connection when traveling abroad from Salzburg.
Locals for example only use the Salzburg airport for special deals to the Balearic island.
The airport is located a bit outside of the city so the best way to get there is with a taxi.
The main train station is located near the city center, about 20 mins by foot.
The Train connection from Vienna to Salzburg is the best in the country and you will find train connections easily.
From Vienna, you can take the OEBB (Austrian train line) or you can use the Westbahn (private company).
Both have trains that will take you from Vienna to Salzburg within 2 ½ hours. Look out for oneway Railjet tickets for 20€ p/P.
The Westbahn has a similar offer but they don't have a direct train leaving from Vienna airport, which is a con.
Trains from Munich are frequent as well but they might cost you a bit more. Look out for deals with the Deutsche Bahn.
You can take a train from the Munich airport too, to get to Salzburg.
Coming from Zürich (Switzerland) or Innsbruck (Tyrol, Austria) is another option but the trains are more expensive and take longer to travel across the alps and the train always crosses the large German corner.
The worst train connection is the one from Kitzbühel or St.Johann in Tirol because there are no direct trains and travel can take 2 ½- 3 hours.
Also getting to Hallstatt is not straightforward either. There are no proper direct connections and it can take 3 hours to get there.
From Zell am See and Kaprun it can take about 30 minutes to get from A to B.
For a train connection to Italy, Venice, I recommend that you take a look at night trains.
The train to Italy crosses Innsbruck and move downwards across the Brenner to get to Venice and other parts of Italy.
By Car or Bus
A car rental is a great idea if you plan on roaming around Salzburg by making Salzburg your base.
However, if you plan on travel only between Vienna or Munich, I would recommend taking the train.
Other places in the mountains are easily reached by car. So I recommend getting a car if you want to go on day trips.
Car parking is a bit pricey in Salzburg. The Mönchsberg and old city parking garages are conveniently located to visit the old city but they are the most expensive lots with a daily rate set at 22€.
The cheapest (and not so badly located) parking garages at the train station cost only 14€ per day in comparison.
If you intend on staying in a hotel in the city, ask for a free secure parking spot located in the hotel boundaries. Not all hotels have a parking.
Getting to Salzburg by bus is your last option.
I recommend flixbus because their rates are decent and they are well connected in Europe.
You can move around with the flixbus between metros.
To get to villages, you will have to take the local post bus and outside the cities, the fares are expensive and the buses scars.
Things to do in Salzburg
Salzburg has a lot to offer becasue it's the city of music and culture. Here are some of the best ideas how to start:
Mozart's birth house - The place where the classical composer and pianist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. It's popular so be prepared to wait in a queue, even during social distancing times.
Getreidegasse - city center and great place to stroll around.
Mirabell gardens - Beautiful gardens to give you the authentic Salzburg flair
Fortress Hohensalzburg - You can't miss this one, it's located at the city centre on a hill. You can visit the fortress and the view from top down is amazing!
Hellbrunn palace, gardens and zoo - Located outside the city, this is a classic renaissance palace. The gardens have a water game which I always enjoyed. The zoo is great for families with kids.
St.Peter's Abbey - Benedictine monastery with a cemetery and museum to visit.
Salzburg Cathedral - located in the old town and worth a stroll if you are nearby
Augustiner Bräu and Stiegel breweries - Some of the best beers, in my opinion, are produced in these two breweries. Totally recommend a visit because both have their base in Salzburg. You can visit Stiegel anytime, the Augustiner Bräu brewery only takes group but they have a large garden and beer room to hang out.
Concerts, opera, musical, and the Festspiele - Salzburg is the city of classical music and you will always find countless events happening, no matter when you visit. The Jedermann on the other hand is held in the summer during the Salzburger Festspiele amongst other shows.
Haus der Natur - A museum for all nature lover. I think it's mostly suited for children and parents. It's a must visit if you have kids.
Shopping - We love the designer outlet next to the airport and the Europark in Salzburg. The Getreidegasse has some designer stores too.
Nightlife - During social distancing times most clubs are closed and some require you to book in advance (if they are open). Bars should be open and there are plenty in town!
Seasonal Pros and Cons
Each season has it's pro and cons. Choose when you want to visit Salzburg.
Winter is a bit more expensive to visit but if you are lucky, you will see the city in white. There is usually snow in January and February.
A huge plus point are the Christmas markets in late November and December. The Christmas market in the old town is ok.
I recommend the Hellbrunner Adventzauber market at the Hellbrunn palace outside town.
Spring and Autumn
Spring and autumn are off season and the cheapest months to visit (except Easter).
Spring is beautiful if you love the flowering season and autumn is your choice if you want to see the parks and trees in bright colors.
Yet, keep in mind that some attractions might not be always open and accessible during those months. Some hotels also close down for a short ime.
Summer can be ridiculously busy with large crowds taking over the main sights so that's a huge con.
It's usually warm but it can get quite hot in Salzburg too. I recommend hotel rooms with an AC (not always the norm!)
Otherwise, Salzburg is definitely amazing during the summer months and a must-visit if you want to experience the Salzburger Festspiele.
Day trips from Salzburg
You can visit many beautiful places near Salzburg. I recommend getting a rental to get around.
- Hallstatt - Europe's most beautiful town on a lake. You can visit the oldest salt mines in the world too.
- Ice Caves - located in Werfen are the world's largest ice caves. Bring some warm winter clothes because it gets super cold!
- Mondsee and Attersee lakes - Great for a boat tour, to go for a swim or to chill
- Königssee in Berchtesgaden Germany
- Freilichtmuseum Salzburg - Outdoor museum to visit old farmhouses of the region. It's massive and worth a visit if you want to learn about our local culture.
- Kitzbühel, St.Johann in Tirol, Going am Wilden Kaiser - Those are jet setter spots in the Alps in Tyrol. This is for you if you want to see the Wilder Kaiser mountain range.
- Zell am See and Kaprun - to go skiing and to enjoy the lake
Visiting during Social Distancing Times
We visited last in May and June 2020, after the Austrian government had lifted quarantine needs.
We also crossed the city coming from Vienna on the 22nd March when the world stood still and I can tell you it wasn't pretty! It was scary and I just hope we don't have to go through this again!
That said, people were roaming freely and were taking precautions in May.
The regular rules apply: sanitize hands, social distancing, wearing masks in shops, and busy spots.
If you plan on visiting a museum or castle, look up first if you need to register online and if they changed their times.
Some smaller places don't bother to open in off season.
Everything is constantly changing so I can't provide you with all the details for each place here but they all keep their websites updated with the latest news.
In an emergency, contact the relevant number on the health ministries website.
Food in Salzburg
When in Salzburg, eat well! That's my motto and I'm going to help you with a mini food guide. Here is what you might want to try:
- Salzburger Nockerl - a fluffy dessert delicacy prepared with beaten egg whites from the region
- Marillenknödel - sweet apricot dumplings
- Mozartkugel - the famous chocolate ball with layers and a pistachio marzipan core. Makes a great gift too because it's from Salzburg.
- Wienerschnitzel - the famous breaded meat cut is not just a thing in Vienna but all over the country.
- Sachertorte - Also a specialty from Vienna. It's a chocolate cake with apricot jam
- Apfelstrudel - An apple filling rolled and baked in a thin flakey Strudel pastry.
- Sauerkraut, Sausage and Knödel - The ultimate meal combination.
- Sausages and meat cuts - Get some cured meats to take back home!
- Goulash - There are countless goulash variations in Austria. Some are soups some are more like the Hungarian Pörkölt. That's your meal in winter!
- Glühwein - Your go-to drink in winter at the Christmas market!
Where to stay in Salzburg?
An in any city, staying in the city centre will be more pricey.
During normal times, a room will cost never less than 70€ p/N.
If you want cheaper rooms, look out for rooms and hotels outside the city or near the train station. Those tend to be the cheapest in town.
Airbnbs are not much cheaper but they can be fun if you want to meet a local!
Salzburg is definitely not a city for folks who have a tight budget!