Located on banks of the Salzach river with picturesque Easters Alps as the backdrop, Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria. Translated it literally means “salt castle”. Whether you are traveling in summer or during winter there is plenty to do in Salzburg. The city has many Baroque churches, the stunning Hohensalzburg Castle, picturesque Mirabell Palace, and Gardens – you will recognize many Sound of Music movie scenes here, including places where the song “Do Re Mi” was filmed. Mozart’s residence which has now been converted to a museum and has his original fortepiano is a must visit. We were driving from Vienna to Geneva during our Alps road trip and Salzburg was our base for 3 days. We only spent one day in Salzburg, most others were spent in the car drives. It was the perfect base for some amazing road trips in Austria all within close distance from Salzburg.
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One day in Salzburg Itinerary, Things to do and places to see!
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Start your day by visiting the Mirabell Palace and Mirabell Gardens. This is one of my favorite places to visit in Salzburg! Our hotel was right next to it so we would always walk over after breakfast. The baroque styled palace provides a beautiful backdrop to the Mirabell gardens. Both the palace and the garden are beautifully preserved. The lush green garden decorated with fountains and pretty flowers. Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 by one of Salzburg’s former archbishops, and the gardens encompassing it were later built in 1687 by another archbishop. The gardens are a geometric, and focus around Hohensalzburg and the nearby cathedral. If you have seen the movie Sound of Music, you will recognize many scenes from the famous “Do Re Mi” song.
You can go on a Sound of Music Movie Tour to see all the places in and around Salzburg where the movie was filmed but here are a couple you can find in the Mirabell Gardens
The Pegasus Fountain & Musical Steps: On the Northwest corner of the Mirabell Palace grounds you’ll find another garden, known as the Small Parterre, which is home to the iconic Pegasus Statue Fountain. In the Sound of Music movie, the Von Trapp children danced around this fountain while singing ‘Do Re Mi’. You’ll also recognize the terrace steps leading to a rose garden North of the Fountain which Maria and the kids used as a hopping musical scale. As Maria belts out the final notes of Do Re Mi from the top of the musical steps, she stands with her right hand high in the air like the triumphant statues from the Mirabell Palace entrance.
The Hedge Maze & Gnome Park: Follow the other set of steps West of the Horse Fountain across a small footbridge to the Dwarf Gnome Park (Zwerglgarten). Each modeled after real-life dwarfs when they were carved in 1715, there are 9 of the original statues remaining thanks to restorations in 1921. All of the statues are fun, but the one with the eyeglasses on was the one that all of the Von Trapp kids patted on the head during ‘Do Re Mi’ in The Sound of Music movie. Before leaving the Palace, make sure to also check out the long pergola vine tunnel and hedge maze which are also featured in the movie.
Mozart’s former residence
Just across the park south of the Mirabell Palace, not far from the Mirabell Grounds Fountain, you will find Mozart’s former residence. This is different from Mozart’s birthplace which is across the river and near the old town. The famous composer’s house has now been converted to a museum and has his original fortepiano.
Get some lunch
Get some lunch before heading to the Fortress. There are some nice cafes on Franz-Josef-Straße, close to the gardens. We were looking for vegetarian food in Salzburg and found The Heart of Joy. It was a refreshing change from all the schnitzels we had been eating. Or you can opt for a restaurant in Altstadt.
Then cross the river and make your way to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. This iconic castle, one of the most well-preserved castles in all of Europe. It overlooks the city from atop the Fetungsberg. Funiculars take you up to the castle, you can see some breathtaking views of Salzburg and its surroundings from here. The castle’s courtyard is very picturesque. Throughout Hohensalzburg’s interior, you will also find many museums, exhibits, and even some of the royal rooms. Allow for 2 to 3 hours.
Cross the River to the beautiful Old Town
Now it’s time to cross the river and enter the beautiful Old Town of Salzburg which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You must explore this on foot. The vibe of the Old Town is enchanting with colorful buildings and markets. The heart of Salzburg’s Old Town, Getreidegasse, is very popular with tourists and locals alike. The street is lined with souvenir shops, clothing boutiques and historic museums.
In Old Town Salzburg, on Getreidegasse street you will find a Yellow building that is the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, of one of the greatest classical composers of all time. This place is now a museum and you can go on a guided walk around the house to learn about his genius. Many of his original musical instruments are well preserved here. The guided tour is about an hour. If you are short on time you can also see it on your own in 30 minutes.
Salzburg Cathedral and St. Peter’s Abbey
This enormous cathedral sits in the middle of the Old Town like its centerpiece. St. Peter’s Abbey is also right next to the cathedral. It is a must-visit if you appreciate fine baroque architecture.
Visit the Residenzplatz
Walk over to the awe-inspiring 16th-century square with a baroque fountain in its center. The square, called Residenzplatz, is bordered by the Salzburg Cathedral on the south side and DomQuartier Salzburg to the west. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. DomQuartier Salzburg is a large Baroque complex with tours where you can learn about Salzburg’s art and culture. The treasures found there used to belong to the archbishops of Salzburg. It contains numerous paintings, old furniture, and other religious art. You can also explore the upper floor of the Salzburg Cathedral, which can be reached via a terrace.
Relax with some coffee and cake
Time to rest those legs and enjoy some coffee house tradition! Find a cafe and ask for Wiener Melange if in need of a Cappuccino, and a Brauner if you want Espresso. Enjoy it with a slice of Apple strudel and the Sacher cake or any other pastry, there is always several to choose from.
We loved Cafe Tomaselli. This is the oldest cafe in Austria and where Mozart used to have almond milk. It is the best place to enjoy some people-watching while sipping on coffee and cakes. The cafe, to date, carries an old-world charm with it and it right in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town on the Alter Markt and has been run for over 150 years by the Tomaselli family.
If you have more than One day in Salzburg
Salzburg Zoo, located within the Hellbrunn estate, has its premises divided as per continents. Animals representing every continent are found here. Children will particularly love this place. On certain days, the zoo is open at night too, providing a unique experience. It is one of the top Salzburg attractions when visiting with kids.
Visit the Museum der Moderne Salzburg or the Modern Art Museum, its clifftop location is matched by its impressive collection of contemporary art.
In the Museumsplatz, visit Haus der Natur is a sprawling museum focusing on natural history and science, with interactive displays, as well as an aquarium and a reptile zoo.
Explore the Christmas Markets (if you are visiting during Christmas season)
The Christmas Market in Salzburg are held in the Cathedral Square is truly a romantic market with a long history. Its origins go back to 1491, making it the oldest market in Salzburg. Spending the holiday season in Mozart’s city is like walking into a fairy-tale. With traditional huts and specially-designed lights, the 100 some market stands have dolls, Christmas decorations, all kinds of delectable treats, Austrian specialties and of course mulled wine. The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt is known around the world and second only to the ones in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam and Nuremberg.
Best time to visit Salzburg
Salzburg receives most of its visitors during the summer but id you want to enjoy some peace and not wait in lines, then the best time to visit Salzburg would be between September and October after the summer crowds have cleared. The temperatures are ideal during the early fall, and during March or April (all though it might get cold at times in Spring). If you don’t mind below-zero temperatures, Salzburg in winter is magical with Christmas Markets the is held in the Cathedral Square in the old town.
Don’t miss this when visiting Salzburg
Try a Mozartkugel. Paul Fürst, a master confectioner from Salzburg, was the one who made this confection and named it after Mozart. It is made up of marzipan and pistachio and coated in chocolate. Try it at Cafe Furst which is the home of the original Mozartkugel. You can buy a cheaper variety in any of the stores in Salzburg and are equally tasty.
Where to stay in Salzburg
We stayed at the Sheraton Grand Salzburg which was right on the edge of the gardens of Mirabell gardens. It is located in a historic building, and was closer to the roads which made it easy for our day trips. I would have like to stay in the old town and was looking at Hotel Goldgasse, a boutique hotel right in the heart of the historic city center. It is only a few steps away from the cathedral and within walking distance to the festival halls, museums and galleries in town. See here for other hotels in Salzburg.
I hope you find this Guide useful when planning your one day in Salzburg, Austria.
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