10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria : Mountain adventures, Lakes and Epic drives

A charming city in Austria with spectacular views of the Eastern Alps, Salzburg is perfectly located for some of the top day trips in Austria.  While the Altstadt (Old Town) is renowned for its baroque architecture, its UNESCO World Heritage site, and breathtaking squares, palaces and gardens it is the perfect base for some amazing road trips in Austria all within close distance from Salzburg.  There are at least two dozen excellent day trips from Salzburg that fall between 1 to 3 hours by either car, bus or train.

We had a car and after a few days visiting museums and cafes in Vienna, we drove to Salzburg.  Our family loved the drives and hikes in nature and the adventures in Austria and can’t wait to go back and spend more time. We stopped more than a few times during our drives to take in the view and snap some photos – who can resist these pretty wooden houses with the window boxes full of blooms.  A couple of these side trips turned out to be excellent driving trips to some of the best places to visit near Salzburg.  Mountain adventures, emerald lakes, ancient gorges, and epic drives – some a little of the beaten path, these turned out to be some of our favorite places in all of Europe.  Here are 10 best day trips from Salzburg that you should consider adding to your itinerary.

10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

 

Marvel at the Baroque architecture at Melk Abbey

Don’t miss Melk Abbey’s beautiful European Baroque architecture when visiting Salzburg.   Since 1089, the Benedictine monks have been living and working here at the Melk Abbey.  Following the rules laid down by St. Benedict, they pray and work and learn and glorify God in all things, not only through their prayer but also through their work and their daily willingness to learn every day.

Completed in 1732 this towering red-roofed bright yellow monastery is quite intimidating sitting on the bluff above Melk.  Although elegant looking with its gold paint, the monastery was not painted this color to look fancy. The Abbey was painted this color for the same reason Schönbrunn Palace was, gold was just the cheapest paint available at the time.  The inside of the Abbey is just as impressive with its Imperial Corridor, the Imperial Staircase, the abbey museum, the Marble Hall with a beautiful ceiling fresco, the library that holds about 16,000 ancient books some of which are 500 years old and the abbey church with its 200-foot-tall dome, gilded pulpits and marble columns. It is about two-hour drive from Salzburg to Melk.  If you don’t want to drive there are plenty of group tours available which I will link at the bottom.

Melk Abbey - Best of Alps : A Road trip through Austria and Switzerland - Photo by Outside Suburbia

Drive Grossglockner High Alpine Road to the highest mountain in Austria

Considered to be one of the top 3 attractions in the Austrian Alps, a drive on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road is a must for anyone who loves thrilling road trips and nature.  Curvy switchbacks (there are 36 of them) opening to grand vistas filled with open spaces and snow-capped mountain tops make driving on Grossglockner Mountain, the highest peak in Austria, a dream for car enthusiasts.  Whether you get there with group tours, car, or motorcycle, it is really popular for visitors to get in some mountain hiking while visiting the High Alpine Road.  We enjoyed driving here and checking out the views points and seeing the Pasterze glacier from the Wilhelm Swarovski observation tower at the Grossglockner. It took us 2 hours to drive from Salzburg to Grossglockner High Alpine Road and we spent the whole day there.

Grossglockner High Alpine Road to the highest mountain in Austria - Photo by OutsideSuburbia.com

Walk on Stubnerkogel, the highest suspension bridge in Austria 

Don’t miss a chance to go Skywalking on the highest suspension bridge in Austria at Stubnerkogel, Bad Gastein.  Take the cable car up and hike the trails and then walked up to the summit of the Stubnerkogel to enjoy breath-taking views of Bad Gastein below and the surrounding mountain peaks!  While we were there the clouds were closing in as there was some rain in the forecast.  If not for the cloud veil you can see the peak of Großglockner – Austria’s highest mountain at a height of 3798 meters from here.  The viewing platform Glocknerblick is seven meters in diameter and mainly constructed out of steel and wood.  The platform Glocknerblick is easily accessible by the 140 meters-long suspension bridge.  If you don’t want to walk the suspension bridge, the platform is accessible by a nice walkway that gently climbs up through an alternate pathway.  There are wire-mesh fences around the platform that provide safety for all visitors, while the views of the surrounding mountain peaks are not obstructed.  While it is only a 1and a half hours from Salzburg to Bad Gastein, you can easily spend the entire day in the area.

Stubnerkogel, the highest suspension bridge in Austria - Photo by OutsideSuburbia.com

Skywalking on the highest suspension bridge in Austria at Stubnerkogel

Explore Kaprun & Kitzsteinhorn Mountain in Zell Am See

The small town of Karpun has one of the most diverse collections of activities in the Austrian Alps.  From hiking in the beautiful mountains in the summer to impressive gorges with wooden walkways, and man-made dam lakes that are beyond gorgeous – the region basically is for nature hikers what the nearby Grossglockner High Road is for thrill drivers.  One of our favorite activities in Kaprun is the Maisiflitzer Alpine Coaster very similar to the coaster ride in Vail, where you can ride down a metal track year round.  If you plan your day early enough you can even get some beach time on the way on the sandy shore of Lake Zell. See their website for more detail about the mountain and adventures in the area.  We ended up staying a night here and could easily spend a week but easy to do as a day trip from Salzburg.  It is about an hour and 15 minutes away.  

Alpine coaster. Read the article to see why we think Summer is Vail is an Epic Adventure #Vail #Colorado #SummerAdventures

The alpine coaster photo is actually from Vail but the one here is very similar

Visit the picturesque town of Hallstatt and the oldest Salt Mine

Did you know that the names of the city of Salzburg and the region of Salzkammergut come from Salt – which is one of the most important raw materials in Austria?  Dubbed as the “white gold”, it plays such an important part in the history of the region.   Hallstatt is more than a pretty lakeshore village although it has become a favorite destination for people from all over because of its extremely striking position right on lake Hallstatter. Home to less than 1000 people, Hallstatt has been inhabited for thousands of years because it has bountiful deposits of natural salt that people living there always mined. It is the world’s oldest Salt Mine at about 7,000 years old.  There was a Hallstatt even before there was a Rome!

Hallstatt, Austria - 10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

The photo does not do this town justice, it was raining when we were there and only had a few minutes of clear skies

Hallstatt is compact, full of history, and an absolutely beautiful lakeside village.  Just walking around the pretty village streets with the houses stacked on each other itself can be amazing.  Plan for an afternoon to see all the main highlights in town that include the colorful Market Square, the creepy painted skulls of the Bone Chapel, and a boat ride on the lake.

10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

The viewing platform on the way to the Salt mine

Plan for a full day for your day trip from Salzburg to Hallstatt. If you manage to get to Hallstatt early by 9 am, you should be able to enjoy a Salt mine tour at Saltzwelten (we loved riding the miner’s slide, pictured below) in the morning, see the skywalk and the viewing platform, stroll around the pretty town of Hallstatt as well as head out on a 50 min cruise around the lake. Getting To Hallstatt From Salzburg takes about an hour by car and it is 2 hours and 15 minutes or so by train. For a truly magical experience spend a night in town. This town is probably on everyone’s list of best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

Hallstatt and the oldest Salt Mine wooden miners slide - 10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

Getting ready for the Salt mine wooden miners’ slide

If you have some go see the Dachstein Ice Caves & 5 Fingers Lookout which is nearby (we skipped it since we ran out of time). You can tour a huge Ice Cave which is below freezing no matter how warm it is outside. There are even a few different frozen waterfalls and depending on how you are doing for time you can take a cable car lift and hike over to the 5 Fingers Lookout where a glass bottom walkway juts you out thousands of feet above the valley floor. The views and photos I have are awesome and on our list to get there to see the Dachstein sights next time.

Do a boat ride on King’s Lakes (Königssee)

Lake Königssee with its emerald green color and nestled at the foot of the imposing eastern wall of Mount Watzmann in the heart of the Berchtesgaden National Park is one of nature’s true masterpieces. Königssee is Bavaria’s deepest lake at 630 feet deep, the emerald fjord is lined with a hilly landscape that takes your breath away. This lake is actually the cleanest lake in all of Germany. You can’t miss taking a ferry ride to St. Bartholomä Chapel, which is a the triple-domed structure and was once used by the Bavarian Kings as a hunting lodge. Königssee is only 30 to 40 minutes from Salzburg.

As soon as you board one of the attractive electric passenger boats on Kings Lake all the noise, hustle and bustle is left behind. During the crossing to St. Bartholomew the boatman plays his trumpet to lure out the world-famous Königssee echo from the steep rock face. St. Bartholomä the lovely pilgrimage church is world-renowned for its wine-red onion domes. Shortly after St. Bartholomä you enter the echo chamber where your driver will sound his trumpet to show off the world-famous echo of the Königssee.  Near the end of the lake are the waters of Obersee which are unbelievably clear.  Hiking to the end of Obersee will bring you through a postcard-perfect cattle grazing pasture and to the spectacular Röthbach Waterfall at the end of the valley. There is also some nice Alpine hiking available near King’s Lake on the iconic twin-peaked Watzmann Mountain.

King’s Lakes (Königssee) - 10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

The emerald green color of the lake is stunning

Just above the lake, Jennerbahn Mountain has the best view anywhere in the Alps.  You’ll see Königssee Lake below you, hang-gliders flying by you, the Alpine beauty in every direction.  In the Summer months, the mountain has unbelievable hiking on mountain top trails, and in the Winter there is a ton of thrilling skiing opportunities.  If you don’t want to hike you can still enjoy the views – stop by Berggaststätte Jennerbann which is one of the highest rated restaurants in all of Germany and has a great public terrace overlooking the sea.

Wander around Wolfgangsee and take the Schafberg Railroad

The elegant  Wolfgangsee Lake sits right in between Salzburg and Hallstatt and is very popular with Austrians but is often missed by international tourists.  You can get to Wolfgangsee from Salzburg in 30 minutes and can spend at least a half of a day there.  There are many beautiful resorts in the area as well.  The lake make not be as impressive as Kings Lake in Berchtesgaden or nearby Lake Hallstatt which are both surrounded by huge mountain peaks, but Woflgangsee is pretty cool.

Sitting in the center of the lake, the most visited town is the quaint village of Saint Walfgang which is packed with beautiful homes and romantic lakeside dining.  While the relaxing lake cruise to get to Saint Wolfgang is awesome, the best thing to do is the cog railway up Schafberg Mountain which has an Alpine hut restaurant at the top.  The Schafberg Railway has been in operation since 1893 the journey is quite fun in addition to the wonderful views.  Modern trains run April-October with the historic coal powered trains running on Sundays in July and August.

Wolfgangsee - 10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

If you want to explore the other villages around the lake along with a little longer ferry cruise, consider Saint Gilgen which is a cozy authentic Austria village free of the tourist crowds.  The highlights are the adorable City Hall (Rathaus), the lakefront, and 15 minute Alpine Lift Zwölferhorn Gondola that brings you to the 1,600-meter summit of the neighboring Zwölferhorn Mountain. The mountain provides great views over the lake, hang gliding, and skiing in the winter.  Classical music lovers will love Saint Gilgen’s tie to Mozart as it’s the town where Amadeus’ sister Nannerl lived after leaving Salzburg.  You may also want to consider a slide down the Strobl Alpine Luge if you are taking the short route to Saint Wolfgang as it is right by the bus stop.  Consider doing the luge route on the way there from Salzburg and the Saint Gilgen route on the way back.

Explore the Gorge at Lammerklamm

The Lammerklamm demonstrates the imposing power of nature. The narrow valley was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age (that is approximately 15,000 to 30,000 years ago), while the water released by the melting ice left behind a narrow gorge flanked by steep cliffs. The Lammer river gorge is one of the most impressive natural wonders in all of Salzburger Land. The gorge has been accessible to visitors since 1884 and can be explored from May until the end of October.

The secured walkways running alongside the rocky walls of the gorge make visits as safe as can be. The path leads down to the torrential waters and to some absolutely beautiful lookout points. A bridge located at a narrow point also allows you to cross over to the far side of the gorge. We spent about 2 hours exploring the gorge and the trail.  It is 35 minutes away and you can easily add it to your trip to Bad Gastein.

Lammerklamm, Austria -10 Best Day trips from Salzburg - Photo by OutsideSuburbia.com

See the Golden Roof and colorful town of Innsbruck

Known as the city of the Golden Roof, and the Tirolean capital, Innsbruck is the only major European city located in the heart of the Alps. Innsbruck hosted the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic Games, which is best known for its winter sports and downhill skiing.  Even if you didn’t come to ski, the views and sights of Old Town Innsbruck along with a ride to up the mountain cable car are pretty fun.  There are many other year-round attractions including a lot of gorgeous lakes and the world’s largest crystal at Swarovski’s Crystal World and the gardens of the famous Swarovski Crystal Headquarters.  The Swarovski property also serves as their underground factory with a giant sod entrance shaped like a face with crystal eyes and a waterfall coming out of its mouth.  The factory is located just a couple miles East of Innsbruck in the village of Wattens, right on the main train line.

Innsbruck - 10 Best Day trips from Salzburg, Austria

Get some culture and visit cafes in Vienna

You can hardly plan a trip to Austria without a stop at its picturesque capital, Vienna.  We started our trip here, after a few days of visiting the many museums and cafes, rented a car and drove to Salzburg and it took about 3 hours by car.  Many people visit Vienna as a day trip from Salzburg and it is easily doable. If you are planning on visiting Vienna as a day trip from Salzburg, I highly recommend that you hop on a fast train instead. From Salzburg, get on a train that heads straight to Vienna Central Station. The train journey will take you around 2 hours and 22 minutes. If you can spend at least 3 days since in Vienna as there are plenty of excellent museums and art galleries and parks to visit. See our 3-day Vienna Itinerary here. We saw a Mozart concert, Klimt, got lost in Schonbrunn Palace maze and ate as many Sacher Torte and Apple Strudel as possible.

Vienna, Austria

Take a carriage ride in Vienna for some nostalgic fun

Best Day tours from Salzburg

While we had a car and drove to these places near Salzburg if you rather not drive you can get there by arranging for tours.  Here are some that you might like.

 

While we didn’t get to it, Eagles Nest is another popular day trip from Salzburg. For a taste of the more unsavory side of history, Eagle’s Nest is an intriguing place to visit, known for being the place where Adolf Hitler spent his summers.  It is beautiful, despite this unfortunate claim to fame. You’ll be treated to spectacular views over the peaks of the Bavarian Alps and the drive to get there is stunning too, with the road hugging the Konigsee River.

 

The Germany city of Munich is another town that is easily accessible from Salzburg, only an hour and a half by train. As the former capital of Bavaria, Munich has a very particular feel to it, led by the beer hall culture. There are plenty of sites to wander around, including a couple of castles a little way outside the city. With a choice of many international flights into Munich, it is easy to make that your point of entry and visit Munich first before traveling to Salzburg.  There are many day tours to Salzburg available from Munich.

I hope you find this Guide for day trips from Salzburg useful when planning your trip to Austria.

You might also like: Family-Friendly Guide to Vienna & 2 week Road trip Itinerary through Austria and Switzerland

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