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Nestled in the foothills of the Alps, Salzburg is a great weekend destination as well as a stopover on a road trip through Austria. The city is big enough to keep you busy and compact enough to explore all the sights on foot. Whether you’re into classical music, want to feel like royalty in a towering castle or visit landmarks from The Sound of Music, this guide has you covered.
Grab breakfast on the go from Salzburg’s oldest bakery
Fuel up for your day at St Peter Stiftsbäckerei, a quaint building on Kapuzinerplatz. Salzburg’s oldest bakery has been around since the 12th century and is a city institution, with their dark bread and sweet brioches especially popular. You’ll need the energy, so choose your favourite pastry to munch on as you head to Salzburg’s major tourist site.
Visit Hohensalzburg Fortress
Sitting high above the rooftops, with more than 900 years under its belt, Hohensalzburg Castle is Salzburg’s busiest tourist attraction: with 1.4 million visitors in 2019, you’ll have to get here early to beat the crowds. Head to Festungsgasse in the Old Town (just around the corner from the bakery) and choose between taking a one-minute-ride on the glass funicular (Festungsbahn) or a (steep) 20-minute walk up to the castle. Once at Hohensalzburg Fortress, get your audio guide, tour the courtyards, check out the Fortress Museum and the Salzburg Bull (a huge organ with more than 200 pipes) and admire the stunning views over the city and mountains.
Pro tip: Save time and money by buying an “early bird ticket” for Hohensalzburg (admission before 10am) for €12.40 (£10.30) online. It includes the round-trip by funicular, all castle grounds except for the Prince’s Chambers, the audio guide and entrance to the museums.
Stroll through the Old Town
Afterwards, take a stroll through the UNESCO-listed Old Town, snapping shots of its major sights such as the Salzburg Cathedral (where Mozart was baptised), the Dom Quarter and the Horse Pond (one of the best known Sound of Music locations). Every narrow passage is worth exploring, so duck in and out of any little shops or cafés that catch your eye. If you’re in need of something sweet, drop in to Café Fürst at Brodgasse 13 and try the famous Mozart balls (chocolate-coated marzipan-nougat confections) at the place where they were invented in 1890.
Stop off for a healthy lunch
Afro Café on Bürgerspitalplatz is an oasis full of plants, pillows and colourful decor. It makes a great stop for a healthy and budget-friendly lunch, from harissa-spiced lentil soup to rice bowls featuring African-inspired flavours such as smoked whitefish and chickpea ragout.
Check out Mozart’s birthplace on Getreidegasse
Salzburg’s most famous street, Getreidegasse, is less than a five-minute walk from Afro Café. Polished shop windows and vintage-looking guild signs advertise a mishmash of international fashion boutiques and tiny traditional shops selling everything from antiquities to leather goods, jewellery and deli products – it’s a shopper’s paradise. What’s more, Getreidegasse is also a great place to people-watch. For a cool and non-touristy souvenir, head to Quipster Store at number 23, a concept shop dedicated to a bunch of cartoon characters called Quipster, run by local artists. And don’t forget to peek up at number 9; Mozart was born on the third floor of this building in 1756.
Explore Mirabell Palace
Once you’re laden with souvenirs, cross the River Salzach via the Staatsbrücke bridge and take a 10-minute stroll to the magnificent Mirabell Palace. Both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and The Sound of Music landmark (yes, another one), it is a must-see – and totally free to visit. Check out the Baroque Marble Hall inside the palace (a popular venue both for concerts and couples tying the knot) before exploring the huge gardens. Highlights not to be missed include the rose garden, the palm house and the stunning Pegasus fountain.
Pro tip: If you visit Salzburg on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday and enjoy classical music, you might want to consider attending a concert at Mirabell’s Marble Hall, where Mozart was a regular performer. Ticket prices start at €34 (£28) and can be booked online.
Have an authentic Austrian dinner in a traditional restaurant
No visit to Salzburg is complete without sampling some local food: and luckily, there are many excellent restaurants around town. The rustic and ever-popular S’Nockerl im Elefant, just around the corner from the Salzburg Cathedral, is always filled with diners enjoying everything from schnitzel to dumplings for a fairly reasonable price. Nearby Andreas Hofer Weinstube, named after the leader of the Tyrolean Rebellion against the Bavarians and the French in 1908, is another popular option. It’s been around since 1870, making it one of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in the area. Pair one of their carefully curated local wines with your meal. If you want to mingle with Salzburg’s high society, head to Der Goldener Hirsch, the most prestigious address for food lovers in town.
Grab some dessert
Salzburger Nockerl, sweet dumplings made of egg yolk, flour, sugar and vanilla, then baked in the oven, are the city’s signature dessert. They can be enjoyed in most restaurants, and many cafés will also dish up servings. Be warned, though, that the portions tend to be huge, so unless you are really, really hungry – it’s best to get some extra spoons and share.
Sip a on a unique cocktail or hang out in a kooky cellar bar
There’s no better way to end your day in Salzburg than sipping a craft cocktail. The Jigger Bar is a local favourite beloved for its unusual creations, invented and mixed by award-winning bartender Mike Steinbacher. Expect to find everything from white chocolate to hemp flowers, basil and guava in their drinks, going by witty names such as “Drag Queen Martini” or “Caribbean Pirate Punch”.
Alternatively, if you are a fan of the strange, the quirky, or just love a good novelty theme, head to Herbert’s Bar, which takes visitors down the rabbit hole into an Alice in Wonderland-inspired extravaganza. Here, cocktails are served in teapots in a cosy cellar space, a portrait of the Mad Hatter watching over the guests, the room lit by lamps made to resemble – what else – hats.