As a Viennese lad, I probably shouldn’t say it, but…Salzburg is a lovely place and an easy day trip from Vienna. Here’s some quick info on how to get there and what you can do in the city.
- The train gets you there in around 2½ 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
- Book a day tour to Salzburg* from Vienna
- Bus trip, guided walk, “Sound of Music” etc.
- See also:
How to get to Salzburg
(Salzburg old town and fortress)
If you’re not on an organised day tour from Vienna, then this is probably your best unguided option
The train is fast, comfortable, and drops you off within walking distance of the Salzburg sights. Which might explain why I can never find any non-stop public bus services.
Direct 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.
Journey times vary, but can be as fast as 2 hours and 25 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 compact so eminently doable on foot, though the fortress does top a hill.
Guided bus tours
Various services (like this one*) will take you to Salzburg and back for the day along with a guide. Expect an early start to get you back to Vienna in the evening. A typical tour should include Mirabell palace (a Sound of Music location) and a walk about town for Mozart highlights.
What to do in Salzburg
Like Vienna, Salzburg has a historical beauty to it. With less than a tenth of the population of Vienna, you can see a surprisingly large amount of it in a few hours.
Here some tips for making the most of your day trip…
Just walk through the old town
(View down the Salzach river)
If arriving by train, 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 the historic Getreidegasse street, 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.
Visit the sights
The most popular destinations in the city are probably:
- Mirabell palace: early 17th-century palace, Baroque gardens and (most importantly, as mentioned earlier) film location for The Sound of Music
Should you choose to stay overnight* in Salzburg, the palace has evening concerts* with a mix of classical pieces from familiar names. Mozart and family used to perform in the very same Baroque Marble Hall venue.
(Mozart’s place of birth with a happy period actor in front; press photo ©Tourismus Salzburg)
- Mozart’s birthplace and residence: now both museums where you can see, for example, exhibitions and memorabilia, including various instruments he owned and played.
- The DomQuartier*: a complex featuring the staterooms of the former Prince Archbishop’s residence, parts of the cathedral, and associated museums
- 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 marzipan chocolates, too. Mozart’s birthplace is at number 9.
Take a tour
To get a quick glimpse of everything without effort, book one of the local tours before you arrive.
For example, a city centre bus tour might start close to Mirabell Palace (which is a 10+ minute walk from the railway station), take you around the historic centre, include a couple of film locations for The Sound of Music, and drop you off at Mozart’s birthplace and museum.
Then it’s back to Vienna in time for an evening sausage (and nobody need know you left).