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
- 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: Day trips from Vienna
NB: The below is all written from a pre-COVID perspective! Check official sites for the current situation and rules applying to Salzburg during the pandemic, which can impact on the below and travel decisions.
How to get to Salzburg
(Salzburg old town and fortress)
This is probably your best option, since the train is fast, comfortable, inexpensive, and drops you off within walking distance of the Salzburg sights. Which might explain why I can never find any non-stop bus services.
Trains leave Vienna for Salzburg from the main Hauptbahnhof and Westbahnhof stations, for example, with typically three or four trains leaving the city each hour during normal times.
Journey times vary, but can be as fast as 2 hours and 22 minutes. So an early train gets you to Salzburg for a late breakfast.
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 takes about three hours to reach from Vienna in a hire car*; the A1 motorway connects the two cities.
The local tourist office has parking tips. I’d certainly consider the suggested park and ride options. Or just leave your car in Vienna – the centre of the city is quite compact so not too much of a challenge to visit on foot.
What to do in Salzburg
Salzburg is a beautiful place, 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 few hours. Here some tips for making the most of your day trip:
Walk through the old town
(View down the Salzach river)
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, a city centre bus tour* starts close to Mirabell Palace, which is a 10+ minute walk from the station. It takes you around the historic centre, includes a couple of film locations for The Sound of Music, and drops 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 one of his violins. 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
- Football fans might take a tour of the Red Bull Salzburg stadium (home to Austria’s top club)
Then it’s back to Vienna in time for a late-night sausage (and nobody need know you left).
P.S. If you’re tired of Bratwurst and Schnitzel and yearn for a bit of traditional British sustenance, Salzburg has the English Shop at Kaigasse 21. Grab some Jelly Babies and an Aero for the journey back to Vienna.