As a Viennese lad, I probably shouldn’t mention it, but…Salzburg is a lovely place and an easy day trip from Vienna. Here’s how to get there and what you can do in the city that gave birth to Mozart…
- The train gets you there in just over two hours
- You can walk to and through the old town in an hour or so
- Visit Mozart’s birthplace, the palace, the fortress and the Getreidegasse shopping street
- See also: How to get to the Alps
How to get to Salzburg
This is your best option, since the train is fast, comfortable, inexpensive, and drops you off within walking distance of the Salzburg sights. Which is why there are no non-stop bus services that I know of.
Trains leave Vienna for Salzburg from both the Hauptbahnhof and Westbahnhof stations, with three or four trains leaving each hour. Journey times vary, but can be as fast as 2 hours and 22 minutes. So an early train gets you to Salzburg for breakfast.
A day return (at the time of writing) cost around €50 if you book early enough. For timetables and tickets, see:
- ÖBB (the Austrian Federal Railway)
- Westbahn (a private company that has trains on the Vienna – Salzburg line)
Based on my experience, both ÖBB and Westbahn are excellent rail carriers.
Salzburg is about a three hour drive from Vienna; the A1 motorway connects the two cities.
(The local tourist office has parking tips. I’d certainly consider the park and ride options.)
What to do in Salzburg
Salzburg is a beautiful city, and not overly large (it has less than a tenth of the population of Vienna). So you can see a surprisingly large amount of it in a day trip. Here some tips for making the most of your day:
Walk through the old town
Walk down from the station to the river, then along Elisabethkai toward the city centre. This takes you past Mirabell Palace and gardens. Then nip across the bridge to walk into the old town, up historic Getreidegasse and across to the cathedral. Then it’s a climb up to the Hohensalzburg fortress.
All that is less than an hour’s walk at a good pace, so you’ve plenty of time to explore.
Take a tour
To get a quick glimpse of everything without effort, take one of the city bus or boat tours.
For example, there’s a city centre bus tour* that starts from Mirabell Palace, which is a 10+ minute walk from the station. It takes you around the historic centre before dropping you off at Mozart’s birthplace and museum.
Visit the sights
The most popular destinations in the city are probably:
- Mozart’s birthplace: now a museum where you can see, for example, various memorabilia, exhibitions, and even his violin and clavichord. Don’t forget all the historical Mozart locations in Vienna, too, including the Mozarthaus
- Mirabell palace: early 17th-century palace, baroque gardens and (most importantly) film location for The Sound of Music
- Hohensalzburg fortress: castle dating back to the 11th century. Sits on a hill overlooking the old town
- Getreidegasse: historic street full of baroque buildings, boutique shops and restaurants. A good place to buy your Mozartkugel chocolates, too
Then it’s back to Vienna in time for a late-night sausage (and nobody need know you left).