How to Make the Most of Your Salzburg Day Trip From Vienna

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When you’re in Europe, choosing to stay in Vienna opens up a wealth of opportunities for day trips to a variety of incredible destinations. Bratislava, Budapest, Prague—there’s a lot to mention. 

However, if you’re looking for destinations within Austria to visit on a day trip from Vienna, Salzburg is undoubtedly the best out there. With a blend of beautiful architecture, remarkable musical heritage, scenic views, and rich history, I just simply can’t express how wonderful this city is. As a wanderer, Salzburg’s numerous beautiful sights and landmarks alone are enough to say that it’s worth visiting.

But honestly, with so much to see there, I can’t imagine that a day trip would be enough for Salzburg. There are just so many beautiful places to explore and unique activities to enjoy. In my opinion, spending two days in Salzburg is the barest minimum. For a laidback experience, you’d need three days in Salzburg. However, even if you can only spare a day, you can still experience the city’s top highlights. If you’re interested, I’d be more than happy to share the sights and experiences you shouldn’t miss.

Anyhow, even though spending several days in Salzburg is preferable, a day trip can still allow you to experience the city’s top highlights. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to share the sights and experiences you shouldn’t miss.

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Beautiful places in Salzburg, a day trip from Vienna, Austria
Beautiful places in Salzburg
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Tip: Before you go to Salzburg, it’s a great idea to watch the timeless movie, The Sound of Music. This beautiful classic, based on the inspiring true story of the Trapp family, will give you a glimpse of their life in Salzburg, where they gained fame through their melodious singing. The movie, filmed in the heart of Salzburg and its surroundings, features many of the city’s attractions and landmarks that you’ll have the opportunity to explore. It is sure to ignite a spark of excitement and enhance your appreciation for the rich history and beauty that Salzburg holds.

Top Things to Do During a Day Trip

To make the most of your day trip to Salzburg, focus on spending the whole day in its historic center where the must-see attractions are located. By doing that, you’re allowing yourself to try three or four of the city’s best experiences and sights. It’s more practical and allows you to have more experiences throughout the day.

If you’re wondering how to spend an entire day in Salzburg, here’s a general plan: start by exploring a historical landmark, then head to a viewpoint, visit an attraction associated with the Sound of Music, and cap off the day with a concert before returning to Vienna. I’ve created a sample itinerary that you’ll find later, following this list of top attractions and experiences in Salzburg.

#1 Hohensalzburg Fortress

Perched on top of Festungsberg, with a view of the city below, the Hohensalzburg fortress is a medieval landmark in the old town that’s hard to miss on a day trip to Salzburg. It’s one of the city’s top attractions and, in my opinion, a must-see due to the variety of experiences it offers. You can learn about some of Salzburg’s history, explore a range of museums, take in panoramic views, and marvel at the architecture.

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View of Hohensalzburg Fortress from Salzach River in Salzburg, Austria
View of Hohensalzburg Fortress from Salzach River
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The fortress also hosts cultural events, including concerts that take place at night within its grand princely chambers — which, for me, is one of the most beautiful places in Salzburg. Amazingly, you can also have a fancy dinner in the fortress after watching the concert! For more information, you can check my post about all the essential things you need to know before visiting Hohensalzburg Fortress. You can find out the cost of an entry ticket to the fortress here.

#2 Mirabell Palace & Garden

Just a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, Mirabell Palace is the first attraction you should visit if you’re arriving in Salzburg by train. It’s a must-see destination on a day trip to Salzburg for three key reasons.

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Mirabell Palace, Landmarks and Sights in Salzburg, Austria
Mirabell Palace
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First, many parts of it, especially the gardens, were featured in The Sound of Music. Second, Mirabell Palace boasts impressive architecture, including the marble hall, a renowned wedding venue in Austria. Third, Mirabell Palace is one of the most scenic spots in Salzburg, thanks to its parterres that perfectly frame the view of Hohensalzburg Fortress. Additionally, did you know that Mirabell Palace also serves as a venue for classical concerts in Salzburg? Here’s everything you need to know about Mirabell Palace.

#3 Mozart’s Birthplace

Getreidegasse, the most picturesque shopping district in Salzburg, is home to Mozart’s birthplace. Today, it’s a museum where you can explore the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, from his parents to his enduring legacy that Salzburg proudly celebrates as its musical heritage. For me, Mozart’s birthplace is a must-see during a day trip to Salzburg. It’s inspiring, especially for those who lead a creative life.

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The birthplace of Mozart located along the beautiful Getreidegasse in Salzburg, Austria
The birthplace of Mozart located along the beautiful Getreidegasse in Salzburg
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The exhibits in the museum offer a glimpse into life in Salzburg during Mozart’s time. You’ll see paintings and pictures of Mozart’s family, their kitchen, and a typical middle-class living room setup. You’ll also see some of Mozart’s personal items, like his violin, which provide further insights into the legendary life of this great musician. If you’re curious about what exactly you’ll find inside each part of the museum, check out the interesting things I discovered inside Mozart’s Birthplace.

#4 Kapuzinerberg Viewpoint

Located at the foot of the Alps, Salzburg is a picturesque destination characterized by stunning alpine landscapes. The city’s beautiful baroque architecture blends seamlessly with the mountains, creating a truly scenic cityscape. If you’re planning a day trip to Salzburg from Vienna, the panoramic city view is a must-see. It’s like a scene straight out of a movie, and your trip wouldn’t be complete without it.

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View of Hohensalzburg Fortress and Old Town from Aussicht Kapuzinerberg Nord, Austria
View of Hohensalzburg Fortress and Old Town from Aussicht Kapuzinerberg Nord
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The good news is that the viewpoints offering the best city views are easily accessible. For instance, if you’re at Mirabell Palace, a breathtaking viewpoint of the old town and Hohensalzburg Fortress is just a 10-minute walk away. Be prepared for some stair climbing, though. This viewpoint is located on Kapuzinerberg mountain, just below the Capuchin Monastery, or Kapuzinerkloster. If you want to visit, here’s my Kapuzinerberg guide.

#5 Mönchsberg Viewpoint

Mönchsberg, also known as Monk’s Mountain, is another easily accessible mountain in Salzburg. Situated north of Hohensalzburg Fortress, it offers a view of the alps and an alternative vantage point for panoramic views of the Old Town, much like Kapuzinerberg. In fact, Mönchsberg has several access points from the Old Town Salzburg, with the most convenient being an elevator located just a few steps from the western end of Getreidegasse or the Church of Saint Blaise (Bürgerspitalkirche St. Blasius).

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View of the Alps from Richterhöhe observation deck in Mönchsberg, Salzburg, Austria
View of the Alps from Richterhöhe observation deck in Mönchsberg
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You can also reach Mönchsberg from Hohensalzburg Fortress, though it does require a bit of a hike to get to the viewpoints. If you opt for an elevator ride to the top of Mönchsberg, you’ll find yourself at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg Mönchsberg, which features a restaurant where you can dine while taking in the scenic view. For those looking to uncover Salzburg’s hidden gems, Mönchsberg has a few to offer.

#6 History Walking Tour

If you have a keen interest in the history of Salzburg, consider taking a history walking tour during your day trip.  These history walking tours come highly recommended as they offer unique insights that greatly differ from what you might learn from similar tours in Vienna, despite both cities being in Austria. They cover a wide range of topics including the prince archbishops, Mozart, the Sound of Music, the city’s salt industry, and even its Celtic and Roman roots.

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Pferdeschwemme, Free Things to Do in Salzburg, Austria
Pferdeschwemme – a historical landmark in Salzburg
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In some tours, you’ll hear fascinating stories about figures like Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, a prince archbishop who was instrumental in transforming the city’s architecture. You’ll also learn about Leonhard von Keutschach, who managed to turn debt-ridden Salzburg into one of the most prosperous principalities of the Holy Roman Empire! I won’t spoil how these prince archbishops achieved such transformations, but I’ll give you a hint: the answer is in the city’s name itself. Here are my five recommended tours:

  1. Most affordable: Discovery Walk & Reading Walking Tour
  2. Partner Certified: Salzburg Walking Tour (Mozart, Old Town, & More)
  3. Unique Experience: Salzburg Ghost Tour
  4. Discover Mozart (privately): Life of Mozart Guided Walking Tour
  5. Fun: Sound of Music Exploration Game

#7 Photography Tour

While Vienna is known for its stunning architecture, one could argue that Salzburg, with its mountainous backdrop, is the most picturesque city in all of Austria. The city’s skyline, characterized by baroque splendor and dominated by the imposing Hohensalzburg fortress, is especially striking. From sunrise to sunset, Salzburg offers countless photo opportunities. You could easily spend hours exploring and capturing beautiful photos during your day trip. And it’s not just about the well-known spots like Getreidegasse and Mirabell Palace!

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Sunrise view of Old Town Salzburg from Humboldt Terrace in Monchsberg, Salzburg, Austria
Sunrise view of Old Town Salzburg from Humboldt Terrace in Monchsberg
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Start your photo journey at the arches in front of the Salzburg Cathedral, then move on to the intricate interiors and cemetery of Saint Peter’s Abbey. Don’t forget to capture the view from the Makartsteg and Müllnersteg bridges across the Salzach River! If you’re interested in a guided tour of Salzburg’s most photogenic spots, consider a 2-hour walking tour with a professional photographer. By the end of your tour, you’ll have 25 high-resolution photos to remember your beautiful visit to Salzburg. 

#8 The Sound of Music Attractions or Tour

Salzburg feels like it’s straight out of a movie, and that’s because it is! When you visit the city’s attractions, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve stepped into scenes from The Sound of Music. If you’re a fan or even just familiar with the film, a day trip to Salzburg wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous filming locations. It’s a unique and fun experience.

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The charming balustrades and the hedge arches tunnel (Sound of Music filming location) in Mirabell Garden in Salzburg, Austria
The charming balustrades and the hedge arches tunnel (Sound of Music filming location) in Mirabell Garden
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Imagine strolling through the gardens of Mirabell Palace while humming “Do, Re, Mi”. With a little imagination, you can almost see Maria and the Von Trapp children hopping and singing enthusiastically around the fountains. Mirabell Palace isn’t the only Sound of Music filming location in Salzburg, though. Other sites include the Leopoldskron Palace, the Saint Peter’s Abbey catacombs, the Humboldt Terrace in Mönchsberg, Nonnberg Abbey, Hellbrunn Palace, and Werfen, where the Hohenwerfen Fortress is located.

You can visit these places on your own, except for Leopoldskron Palace, which is now a hotel and requires a booking to explore. However, you can join the Original Sound of Music Tour to visit the filming location at Leopoldskron Palace. It’s the best Sound of Music tour in Salzburg that I know of. During the trip, they’ll play songs from the Sound of Music soundtrack and explain the scenes as you visit the filming locations and historical sites.

#9 Marionettetheater

If you’re making plans to visit Austria and still deciding on which musical events to catch, let me tell you about a unique experience in Salzburg: the Marionettetheater. Established in 1913, this theater is a must-see on any day trip to Salzburg. Why, you ask? Well, it’s recognized as the most advanced form of puppet and figure theater around. In fact, UNESCO has even declared the Marionettetheater a cultural gem.

Last I checked, they had three amazing shows that everyone can enjoy: The Magic Flute, The Sound of Music, and the Nutcracker. You can look up more details if you’re interested, but in a nutshell, these shows are some of the best representations of Salzburg’s rich musical heritage.

#10 Salzburg Cathedral

After spending a couple of days exploring Vienna, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel like you’ve had your fill of stunning architecture. The city is packed with beautiful buildings at every turn. This might lead you to believe that a day trip to Salzburg shouldn’t be about architectural wonders. And while that’s a reasonable assumption, the Salzburg Cathedral stands as a notable exception. This architectural gem and spiritual center of Salzburg is worth half an hour of your day trip to Salzburg.

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Different beautiful scenes in Salzburg Cathedral, beautiful places in Salzburg, Austria
Different beautiful scenes in Salzburg Cathedral
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At noon, a musical spectacle unfolds within the Salzburg Cathedral. Your eyes will be captivated by the ornate Baroque interiors, while your ears are treated to classical masterpieces played on the cathedral’s remarkable set of organs. Unique to the region north of the Alps, the Salzburg Cathedral employs 5-7 organs in its performances. It’s a stirring experience that echoes back to the era of Wolfgang Mozart. What’s more, there’s a commentary provided in both English and German about the performance and the organs, offering you a deeper understanding of the event’s significance.

Budget Friendly Day Trip Itinerary

With the 10 top experiences I’ve outlined above, I believe you can already think of plenty of ways you can spend a day in Salzburg coming from Vienna. Should you be visiting in the summer, you have the opportunity to fit in numerous experiences during your day trip, showcasing what makes Salzburg a one-of-a-kind destination. For your convenience, here is a sample outline itinerary of a Salzburg day trip from Vienna.

  • 6:00 am — Departure from Vienna
  • 8:30 am — Arrival in Salzburg — breakfast at the station
  • 9:30 am — Mirabell Palace — for the Sound of Music experience
  • 10:30 am —Kapuzinerberg Viewpoint — for breathtaking view of Salzburg
  • Optional (only if you have extra time): Café Bazar — Coffee shop with a view of Old Town Salzburg
  • 11:00 am — Getreidegasse — explore the shopping district and eat lunch
  • 1:00 pm — Mozart’s Birthplace — for Mozart Experience
  • 3:00 pm — Hohensalzburg Fortress — for Salzburg’s history, more museums, Mozart concert, and dinner.
  • 9:00 pm — Departure from Salzburg
  • 11:30 pm — Arrival in Vienna

If you’re looking to keep costs low during your day trip from Vienna to Salzburg, consider using my One Day Salzburg Budget Itinerary. It features a selection of free-to-visit places and attractions that won’t break the bank. And for those who simply want to explore Salzburg — taking in as much sightseeing as possible — be sure to check out my DIY walking tour of Old Town Salzburg.

How to Get to Salzburg From Vienna

There are several ways to get from Vienna to Salzburg. The quickest and most convenient is by train, which takes about 2 and a half hours one way. This is the best choice if you’re only planning to visit attractions in Old Town Salzburg.

It’s worth noting that Salzburg’s historic center is very walkable, so you can easily explore the Old Town on foot. You don’t need a car to explore Salzburg. Trains to and from Salzburg run hourly, and even more frequently depending on the time of day and season. So, even if you miss one, you won’t have to wait long for the next departure. You can find more information on the official ÖBB website, which is linked in the resources section of this post.

Another option is to hire a car and driver, which is recommended if you want to visit other tourist attractions between Vienna and Salzburg, like Melk Abbey, St. Gilgen, or the famous Hallstatt. This is a longer journey, over 249 miles, and takes more than 3 hours. For a relaxing trip, I advise against driving yourself.

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Salzburg, Melk Abbey, Saint Gilgen, and Hallstatt — different day trips in Austria from Vienna
Salzburg, Melk Abbey, Saint Gilgen, and Hallstatt — different day trips in Austria from Vienna
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An alternative to driving is to join a Salzburg day trip tour. This is a good choice if you don’t have time to plan everything and have some extra money to spend. There’s a group day tour available that covers Salzburg, Hallstatt and Salzkammergut, Melk Abbey, and Wachau Valleysome of Austria’s most notable attractions. Since it’s a group tour in a van, the cost is shared, making it relatively cheaper.

If you’re considering a group day trip to Salzburg, keep this in mind: While it’s exciting to see more than one beautiful place on a single day trip from Vienna, I don’t really recommend it. You’ll spend nearly half the time traveling from one place to another, rather than thoroughly enjoying the main place you want to see, which in this case, is Salzburg.

Tips for Your Day Trip

  • Salzburg may not be as large as Vienna, but planning a visit can still be quite daunting. My advice? Either concentrate on the main attractions or simply pursue what catches your eye.
  • Always keep an eye on the weather, as Salzburg truly shines on sunny days. If the weather in Austria, or more specifically Salzburg, doesn’t cooperate, consider it an invitation to return to this incredible destination another time.
  • The time of year you visit is also important. Some Salzburg attractions have reduced hours or may even be closed during the off-season. It’s always a good idea to check the official websites of the attractions for any announcements or changes in opening hours.
  • The Salzburg events calendar, which can be found in the resources section of this post, is also worth a look for any special events that could make your visit even more memorable.
  • For those making their first visit who want to ensure a successful day trip but don’t have time to plan, I’d recommend considering a small group day trip (cheaper) or a private trip to Salzburg from Vienna. The organizers are experts at providing top experiences in Salzburg under any circumstances.

Resources

As promised, here are the links to further help you plan a day trip to Salzburg from Vienna.

If you’re still in the planning stages of your trip to Austria or Vienna and haven’t secured accommodations yet, I have a website recommendation where you can find some of the best hotel deals in the city. Please note, this is an affiliate link. I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you when you book a hotel using this link. Your support helps keep WanderInEurope running and allows me to continue creating helpful guides that may also help you in the future.

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Before you set off on your day trip to Salzburg from Vienna, keep in mind that Vienna itself is brimming with attractions that could keep you happily engaged. You might find it worthwhile to first explore what Vienna has to offer.

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