Complete Salzburg Travel Guide for first-timers.

cable car on the move above turquoise green colour lake and a traditional village in Austria

COVID Update as of 13 October 2022: No Pre-Travel-Clearance is required when entering Salzburg. Check their official website for the latest update.

Having not watched the movie “Sound of Music”, could you be excited to explore Salzburg – Yes, you can. People said they skipped Salzburg because they thought it was for classical music admirers or only history buffs. You find more buskers here than anywhere else, but Salzburg is beyond this. It is a charming city surrounded by lakes, hiking trails and the best cakes in the world (I guess). After staying here for a week, I contentedly say it is my favourite place in Austria.

What do I need to know before going to Salzburg?

People sitting by riverside in Salzburg during sunset time

This post is your complete Travel guide with all the tiny important details to help you plan your Salzburg trip splendidly on a fair budget.

Index :

Is Salzburg worth a trip?

View of Salzburg castle on hilltop from Mirabel garden

Salzburg translates as “salt fortress.” That means it was once a major city where salt was mined and carried. The river “Salzach” runs through the river dividing the town into old and new – Yet again, one more Central European city by the riverside. So, now you are thinking, is it any unique?

Imagine you wake up and go jogging in a city and hear the soulful sound of a flowing river. And the sight of a cluster of cyan-coloured domes and towers of churches nearby makes you feel like you are in Mini Vatican city. The green hills in the background, partly covered with clouds, drift away, unveiling that 700AD castle – Now you are confused! Should I go hiking in the mountains or wander in the alleys of those historic buildings?

Baroque style building lining the square with a fountain in the centre at Salzburg

You likely get diverted as a violinist starts practising her notes by the riverside. They don’t simply call Salzburg the “Stage of the world” – Music schools and musicians practice in the most beautiful localities here.

Is Salzburg boring?

Sitting by the bench listening to the musician in the making, you observe the sky – You see a castle – Oh, one more wealthy prince, you may think until you know that it belonged to a religious man once – Archbishop.

Now the stomach growls and craves coffee. So you move towards the building cluster to find yourself in the old street where the lovely shops are getting ready and old bakeries are baking.

A Plastic bag of bread hung on the door handle of an old bakery in Salzburg

Yet again, you are confused if you should have coffee or the cakes that are getting baked. One sip of coffee in an old cafe tells you that you should stay in Salzburg for more and experience it all! You come out of the restaurant and suddenly see many people on the street! They, too, are excited by the enchanting streets and may be confused, like you where to go.

Crowd moving in the historical street of Salzburg

It is always best to head to the city’s high point when in doubt to decide what to do next. Take that funicular railway, and you are up in the cloud seeing the river and cluster of historic churches from up!

Aerial view of Salzburg historic city from castle top

You see, the old city is often spotted with carpets of flowers. You can be in the floral bonanza beside a palace a few hours later. In the evening, you can be near a mountain capped with snow. The next morning, you can choose to swim with white swans in a blue lake!

Is Salzburg beautiful?

Glacier on a mountain near Salzburg

If you keep moving further away, follow a serpentine road and get near the glacier! The journey is nothing less than enchanting across beautiful villages. The only sad part is you will witness the melting glaciers and realize we are messing up this planet to the fullest.

However, the tiresome hiking days can always be ended at a fine beer garden where you get to meet Salzburgians gulping gallons of beer, happily conversing and laughing with their family and friends.

Now you tell me, is Salzburg boring?

Is Salzburg better than Vienna?

Salzburg bridge above Salzach river

Both cities are different from each other, with very few similarities. Vienna is like a coffee heaven with pretty streets, stately architecture, and excellent nightlife. On the other hand, Salzburg is slow-paced, with old bakeries thousand years old and fruit brandy called Schnapp. It is famous among old-timers, yet you see youngsters hiking and wandering. You are closer to vineyards in Vienna. But you are too close to the enchanting mountains in Salzburg.

Beautiful house with unique balcony full of pink flowers at Saint Gilgen

Vienna lives a different life compared to the other states of Austria. If you don’t visit Vienna, you can’t appreciate what Austria is. Let us say; if you skipped Salzburg, you would miss one of the most enchanting that tells you many historical stories, like – How the word salary came from “Salt” and nothing related to money.

How do you get to Salzburg, Austria?

railway tracks of Salzburg railway station

By Bus – As strange as it sounds, buses are running between some cities of Czechia and even Paris ( I heard it is a 14hour journey).

Which airport is closest to Salzburg?

By air- Salzburg has an airport, Flughafen Salzburg, with connections to major European cities. If you are coming from the east like me, most flights arrive in Vienna or Munich and then bring you to Salzburg.

By Train – Nothing is easier than getting to Salzburg by train. There are express trains from all capital cities of the other eight states of Austria, Munich, Budapest, and Zagreb. OBB app/website is super user-friendly for booking these tickets. They say summers are crowded, so book much in advance. I think booking a week before your travel to Salzburg should be ok in summer and 15 days during winter (Oh, the ski resorts fill the outskirts of Salzburg)

Narrow gage train moving on the steep track beside stone mountain at Schafberg near Salzburg

Some travel to Salzburg to experience the train journeys, particularly the one in Schafberg.

Is the train ride from Vienna to Salzburg scenic?

We took a train from Melk to Salzburg, which was scenic as we got closer to Salzburg. The initial journey isn’t boring. You go through maize fields and some nice views often interrupted by noise barriers or blackened by tunnels. It isn’t like that train journey you take from Nuwara Eliya to Ella just because it is scenic.

How many days in Salzburg is enough?

Beautiful cemetery with iron cross and flower garden in salzburg

Travel to Salzburg to see the most unusual cemetery filled with flowers and gardens.

Often you come across One to three days itinerary blogs on the internet. Believe me, I stayed in Salzburg for a week during my 15 days of Austria trip! And there are many more places I could see and experience much more. So if you are on a shorter trip, keep at least two days to see Salzburg city without going on any day trips or hiking in the outskirts.

A church with circular white wall and brown onion dome on top beside a beautiful green lake of lake konigsee

From Salzburg, travel to lake Koingsee in Germany on a day trip.

Is one day enough for Salzburg? – NO

Unless you want to tick Salzburg off your list for the sake of it, a one-day travel plan in Salzburg isn’t practical. Instead, you may see the main castle and wander in the old city.

Is Salzburg worth a day trip from Vienna?

Worth or not is a subjective question. Salzburg is super historic and scenic. So I recommend you to take a day trip from Vienna to other places like Rust, Grinzing, and Vienna woods.

What is the best time to visit Salzburg?

Hikers and cyclers on an uphill trail near Salzburg mountain

I visited in July, which was supposed to be cool summer with a splash of rain and the best time to visit. But it turned out to be 32*C! So with the rapidly changing climate, I feel September to October is the best month to travel to Salzburg because the weather is cooler and prices are lower.

What is Salzburg known for?

I have narrated everything that I love about Salzburg. But I did have some problems with this wonderful town. Salzburg is notorious for a few things, and I experienced the following.

Is Salzburg expensive?

Yes! Austria, in general, is expensive. Salzburg is the richest city in Austria. Vienna and Salzburg are in the front line of the race of being expensive. I can’t confirm which is the most expensive city to live in in Austria. But as personal experience, Salzburg turned out to be more costly than Vienna in terms of accommodation, shopping and food.

Is everything closed on Sunday in Salzburg?

Yes. The museums and palaces remain open. But the shops on buzzing old streets like Getreidegasse shut the door completely! On Sundays, you find fewer restaurants open and less frequent public buses. So the best thing to do in Salzburg on Sunday is to “Chill by the Salzach” and plan to visit museums and cathedrals on Sundays so that you do other things on weekdays.

What time do things close in Salzburg?

Most shops open by nine and close by 6pm on weekdays. By 5.30, the shops ask you to leave their premises! Forget shops; some cute little 500-year-old bakeries also shut by 6PM. If you are particular about buying or trying certain things in the town, check their hours prior. They open on the dot and shut the shops also on the dots! After 6, it is only some cafes that are open.

You must eat early in Salzburg.

If you plan to dine after 9 or 10, you will have to walk for 45 minutes in search of an open restaurant. Beer gardens and places like Burger king and Mc Donalds serve post 10. But the local cafes and restaurants that gave you delicious knodeln would have closed by 8 or 9!

With only a few restaurants available, the places get crowded. It was evident that bigger groups were given nicer places by the streetside. Single and Double dining tables were kept inside with no fan or AC. The variety of available food keeps going down every 15 minutes – The supply-demand chain gets affected, you see.

What part of Salzburg is best to stay in?

Salzburg Travel expenses can touch the roof if you don’t choose the right neighbourhood.

There are 24 districts in the towns. Before deciding where to stay in Salzburg, answer these questions.

  • Are you here on a city break or a hiking adventure?
  • Will you use public transport and go cycling or drive my car?
  • What do you want the views to be – lakes? Small Village or a historical city?
  • Are you looking for a quaint and quiet neighbourhood or a happening nightlife vibe?
  • What is your budget, and whom are you travelling with?

What is in Old Town Salzburg?

Located on the west bank of river Salzach, Altstadt, also known as Old Town, is the best area to stay in Salzburg for first-timers due to its proximity to the city’s famous attractions and many choices in accommodation. If you stay here, you are within walking distance of the famous sights and cafes. But it is expensive.

Cheaper neighbourhoods to stay in Salzburg.

When you travel to Salzburg, it is easy to get carried away by the Old Town’s charm. However, once you realize the expenses, most tourists (like me) tend to stay closer to Altstadt, but not exactly in Altstadt. So the east bank of the Salzach river is the best for those who want a historic area closer but away from high cost.

Some of the cheaper neighbourhoods in Salzburg are-

  • Schallmooser – On the east bank closer to Lizergasse.
  • Mullin near Augustiner brewery garden – Historic yet modern
  • Nonntal – Mostly modern and nearby grocery stores and malls
  • Alpenstrabe near Salzburg museum – near University Mozarteum for modern budget rooms surrounded by student crowd.
  • Vogelweider street – Near Porsche Salzburg. The neighbourhood looked nice with contemporary houses and perhaps almost no historical buildings around.

I chose Altstadt Hotel Hofwirt in Schallmooser and had a most comfortable stay. The staff were friendly and helped you book any group tours if you wanted to. Like most hotels, they sell Salzburg city cards.

Which is the best area for families to stay in Salzburg?

If you plan to wander in the city in the morning and relax in a small village by evening with your family, head to the outskirts of Salzburg, near Almkanal or Plainbergweg. I loved the cosy vibe of these two small towns. Perhaps you will meet more locals here than tourists. People seemed to be more friendly and approachable here than busy tourist streets of the city. Moreover, you can access these places by public transport easily.

What are the best cities to stay at in Salzkammergut?

Suppose you are hiking in the mountains or by the lake. Then, the Salzkammergut region is suitable for you. These regions have many pensions and guesthouses in the hills and farmhouses. If you are driving around and not dependent on public transport, choose Saint Gilgen or Schafberg.

Is it worth buying Salzburg Card?

Hell yeah! Unlike Vienna’s card, which gives only discounts on entrance fees, the Salzburg card lets you enter most monuments for free for once.

What is covered in Salzburg Card?

This includes the City castle, Hellbrunn Palace, Mozart’s Birthplace, Untersbergbahn, and FestungsBahn. The passes are available 24/48/72 hours. The validity starts from the first time using the card. So I bought the card the previous day at 3pm and used it the first time at Festungsbahn at 9am. So the card validity began at 9am at next day.

The best memory of our Salzburg trip is – Mom on the Summer slide at Wolfgangse.

If you are in Salzburg for more than three days, like me, plan so that you utilize the card to the maximum. Because you must use the card for consecutive days, keep day trips or the other activities that aren’t covered in your Salzburg card from the 4th day onwards – There are way more things to see and do near Salzburg.

How do you move around Salzburg?

Public transport or cycling is the best way to move around Salzburg. The trolley buses, called “Obus”, connect most of the city. Then there are “Post buses” that take you to the outskirts of other towns like Bad Ischl and Saint Gilgen.

Are there trams in Salzburg? – NO

Is it easy to get around Salzburg?

Yes. It is simple with a Salzburg city card or day passes. Like any other Austrian city, they allow you to carry your bicycles and dogs in public transport.

The buses lower their height to match the outside pedestrian pathway at most stops. So wheelchairs and baby strollers can easily slide down without a jerk. I recommend using google transits to check the best available option over any other apps.

Remember that the bus timetables vary concerning winter and summer. Bus frequency is higher during five days of the week than at weekends. Before leaving, you can check their update time tables on the Verkher app or website. Because, once you pass the last bus in the evening, you have to struggle to get back or find a taxi (and it is expensive)

Is public transport free in Salzburg?

No. It works based on an honesty system.

You board the bus unchallenged because there are no ticket barriers. Bus drivers sometimes ask if you need a ticket, and most times, they won’t. But I saw everybody who boarded the bus show their passes. Tourists showed the Salzburg card to know if it was valid on that route. Locals showed their annual passes (I think so). Remember, if there is an onboard inspection by officers, you will be fined as high as 100-300 Euros for not having a ticket or pass.

This is a little tricky. Because some routes on Postbus require you to buy a ticket even though you have an active Salzburg city card. The best thing is to show the driver your city card. He will ask you to buy a new ticket if it is invalid for that particular route. On the other hand, you can buy a 24-hour transport pass or a ticket to your destination if you don’t have a Salzburg city card.

Can a 9-euro ticket be used in Salzburg?

In June 2022, Germany began offering monthly public transport tickets for 9 euros. The low-cost ticket aimed to mitigate the burden of the increasing cost of living in their country. The German border is less than 10km from Salzburg city centre. Plus, the beautiful lake Konigsee and Eagles’ nest in Germany is a famous day trip option for Salzburg tourists and vice-versa. So Germany’s 9 Euro card is valid in Salzburg.

Are there Ubers in Salzburg?

There was an Uber in July 2022. I use “was” because there is a conflict between the Austrian taxi association and Uber. When I made a day trip to High Alpine road, our guide, Siva, explained how most cab association wants Uber out of the country and why. So when you visit in the future, double-check if Uber is operating. If available, use Uber taxis than local cabs. A km journey in a local cab costs you 8 to 10 Euro – It’s a rip-off.

Is Salzburg a walkable city?

Yes totally. Major tourist attractions are within walkable distance of a 2km radius. And there are exclusive cycle and pedestrian lanes throughout the city. Walking at night is also super safe as the streets are well-lit.

What should you not miss in Salzburg?

At one point in time, while planning, I thought I was going to Austria to travel to Salzburg. Instead, I got obsessed with that perfect combination of nature and history with a city vibe, and the obsession turned into pure love once I spent almost a week there. So “How I spent a week in Salzburg Soulfully” shows you what to do/see/experience in the city that’s called the “Stage of the world” beyond “Sound of Music.”

Found our Salzburg Travel guide helpful? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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