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Although Salzburg is famous for the Sound of Music, there’s a lot more to this stunning Austrian city with Baroque architecture. On a recent trip to Salzburg with a friend and her charming Austrian beau, we had a lovely day in Salzburg covering the major attractions of the city. Follow this self-guided walking itinerary for one day in Salzburg covering the best things to do in Salzburg.
Where to stay in Salzburg
Luckily, Salzburg is a fairly walkable city, so if you stay in the city center, you’ll have an easy time walking around Salzburg. As a word of warning, accomodation prices in Austria in general, especially in Vienna and Salzburg, are fairly high, so book your hotel in Salzburg in advance as there aren’t so many hotels in the city center.
For those on a tight budget, consider staying at one of the many hostels in Salzburg. For a slightly nicer budget option, consider staying the eco-friendly no-frills Das Grüne Hotel zur Post. For a special experience, upgrade to a boutique hotel. Arthotel Blaue Gansis a charming boutique hotel that is centrally located with a lot of character.
Things to do in Salzburg
- Have a coffee
- Explore the historic center
- Shop in the historic center
- Have a traditional Austrian lunch
- See the viewpoint over Salzburg
- View the old city fortifications
- Enjoy the Salzburg castle from a distance (and see other castles!)
- Hohensalzburg Fortress
- Other things to do in Salzburg if you have more time…
Have a coffee
Start off your day with a coffee. Austrians love to have a relaxing cup of coffee although I warn that ordering “coffee” isn’t generally enough. You’ll need to specify what you’re looking for.
A brauner (specify the size!) is what others consider to be a black coffee elsewhere although a melange is the classic served with frothed milk and steamed coffee. You’ll find many cafes in Vienna, so I just recommend getting a coffee somewhere. The walking tour begins in Mozartplatz, so skip ahead if you found a good place!
For a modern cup of coffee (or a tea), head to Afrocafe, as recommended by my friend. This cozy and modern cafe is decorated with the paintings of African artists and the coffee was sublime. (They’re vegan-friendly.) Service was stellar and I quite enjoyed my dessert here.
Explore the historic city center
Mozartplatz is one of the main squares of the city with a statue of Mozart in the middle. Like many Austrian cities, the buildings are beautiful pastel colors, so be sure to stop off for a perfect photo op prior to browsing the shops along Judengasse.
Browse the shops
Judengasse is one of the great shopping streets in Salzburg. It turns into Kranzlmarkt then Getreidegasse. My favorite type of shop to step into was the trachten stores. Just be warned that trachten are quite expensive, but they’re exquisite.
Trachten are traditional Austrian clothing worn typically for special occasions and church although some people (outside of the big cities) will wear them for everyday errands. Expect to pay at least 200 euros for a nice pair of lederhosen (the shorts for men) or a dirndl (the dress for women) exclusive of some of the accessories, such as the shirts. I bought my dirndl from a secondhand shop elsewhere in Austria and I’ll include more information about buying a quality trachten soon.
Lunch with a radler
Austrians really love radlers. In case you’re not sure what they are, they’re a very light beer that tastes a bit like lemonade. Even if you’ve tried radlers elsewhere and weren’t impressed, try a ralder while you’re in Austria. The beers in Austria are generally good, so consider stopping for a beer with your lunch as it’s 100% acceptable here.
For a traditional Austrian meal, head to Sternbräu, which is hidden behind a courtyard for a traditional meal. They have casual tables to sit out at. I recommend ordering a white sausage (shown above) or wiener schnitzel with a pretzel.
White sausage actually comes from Munich, but it’s quite popular in this part of Austria. You need to peel back the “skin” in order to eat it. Be sure to get it with sweet or spicy mustard. I came out of this trip fully obsessed with Austrian mustard, which is completely unlike any other mustard that I’ve had. Even my mustard-hating friend agreed that she loves it!
Take in free views over the city
After following Getreidegasse, you’ll need to take the lift up towards the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. I ended up skipping the art museum this time in favor of the traditional things to do in Salzburg, but it’s supposed to be a great museum.
Even if you don’t visit the museum, I recommend taking the lift part of the way to enjoy the view from the museum. This viewpoint is still a bit of a secret to tourists at the moment, which is great as you can take plenty of photos without people…
From the balcony of Museum der Moderne Salzburg, you have incredible views over Salzburg including its iconic fortress that we’ll visit later in the day. I absolutely loved this viewpoint although I include a few other great viewpoints in Salzburg later on.
Admire Salzburg’s medieval past (for free!)
From here, you’ll follow a scenic path through the forest along Mönchsberg until you reach Bürgerwehr Mönchsberg. This fortification up on Mönchsberg mostly dates back to the 15th century as a way of guarding the medieval city. We were amazingly the only ones here and it’s free to walk past these well-preserved walls and towers that were used for housing after the second world war.
Afterwards, you’ll have more scenic views over Salzburg although I think that the other viewpoint is slightly better. You’ll end up following the path along Doktor-Ludwig-Prähauser-Weg passing by some of Salzburg’s aristocrats who own castles up here. Notably, Freyschlössl – Roter Turm (shown above) is a private castle with a really cool watchtower and wall owned by one of the most wealthy people in Austria.
After passing Freyschlössl – Roter Turm, a stunning castle that is privately owned, you’ll have one of the best views and photos of Salzburg castle without tourists crashing it. I swear that I didn’t photoshop this photo.
Explore Hohensalzburg Fortress
Hohensalzburg Fortress is the biggest preserved castle in Central Europe and it is truly impressive. It sits on top of the Festungsberg hill and although admission is steep, it’s truly worth it. Be sure to get there with enough time to explore properly and to bring an umbrella if the weather looks like it’s about to change…
The castle was first built in 1077 although it was updated in the 16th century to its modern day appearance. It was used to protect Salzburg and it was never captured. The funicular down (or up) the hill has great views of the city although you can easily see them from the top. If you intend to take the funicular one way, I recommend wearing good shoes with grip as the hill up is quite steep.
Right before you go down, the viewpoint over Salzburg was one of my favorites. Look for the guard tower although I warn that it’s very hard to get a photo without other tourists… The fortress has over 5 million visitors each year and it’s as busy as you’d expect.
For a delicious Austrian dinner, head to Gasthaus Zwettler’s for a traditional Austrian meal at a reasonable price. It’s typically hard to get a table here if walking in, so consider making a reservation as the restaurant was full and we were lucky to be seated.
We all enjoyed our dinner. The waitress was patient explaining the various dishes to me and the cake (for dessert) was absolutely divine.
If you have extra time… some other things to do in Salzburg
Consider climbing up Kapuzinerberg, the other mountain in the city in order to enjoy views from the other direction. For my Sound of Music fans, there are many Sound of Music tours in Salzburg although to be fair, most Austrians that I’ve met were not excited about the movie.
With some extra time, you can visit the Mozart-Wohnhaus, a museum that covers the life of Mozart that is housed in the home that he lived in. It’s just across the river.
Schloss Mirabell is a stunning well preserved 17th century palace in the middle of the city. Its well preserved gardens are perfect for enjoying on a beautiful day.
For those looking for something off the beaten path, head to Sebastianfriedhof to view the graves of royals and Mozart’s family. Look out for the grave with the skulls!
Day trips from Salzburg
If you have time, consider taking a day trip from Salzburg to St. Gilgen, a stunning town just 30km outside of Salzburg. Unlike Hallstatt, it’s not overrun with tourists.
Hallstatt is Austria’s most famous village. This beautiful village along the alpine lakes is home to stunning alpine homes and UNESCO recognized salt mines. Click to read tips about visiting Hallstatt.