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One day in Salzburg: top sights and day trip itinerary

Salzburg, Austria is an enchanting city and a must-visit if you’re heading to the Austrian Alps. I adore Salzburg. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, packed with breathtaking Baroque architecture, a stunning Cathedral Quarter, hilltop fortress, palaces and museums. The city was the birthplace and home of famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and is sometimes known as the ‘city of music’. 

Views from Hahensalzburg Fortress

There are enough things to do in Salzburg to spend a few days exploring but each time I’ve visited it’s been for one day. We most recently spent a day in Salzburg in December 2023 – winter time. Previously I’ve visited in the summer months and it’s just as beautiful, although a little busier.

Whatever time of the year you visit the good news is that you can cover the highlights of Salzburg in one day. You’ll need to plan your time carefully but you’re in luck because you’re reading a very useful guide on how to spend one day in Salzburg and have an unforgettably good time. In fact, I’m sure you’ll be longing to return the minute you leave.

Read on for my recommended 1-day Salzburg itinerary covering the city’s highlights and must-see attractions on a self-guided walking tour.

One day in Salzburg itinerary

View of Salzberg from Museum of Modern Art and M32 restaurant

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This city walking guide is for one full day in the Austrian city of Salzburg so if you’re reading this you’re probably not staying in the city and will arrive by train or by bus, as we did from Hotel Seerose in Fuschl am See. This walking route works for summer and winter but in winter you’ll want to factor in a little more time for Salzburg’s Christmas markets.

It makes sense to start a 1-day Salzburg itinerary at the train station where you’ll probably arrive into the city. There are bus stops nearby too so you won’t be far from the train station whichever way you arrive into Salzburg. 

This city walk loop begins and finishes on the right bank opposite the old town. We’ll cross the river to the heart of the medieval Altstadt taking in Mozart and Baroque highlights with elements of Family Von Trapp. When is Salzburg…

Salzburg is a fairly small city, and the historic centre is ideal for exploring on foot. So, slip on your comfortable shoes and let’s go.

From Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (station) main entrance follow Rainerstrasse main street as far as Schloss Mirabell and gardens. It’s around 10-15 minutes depending on walking pace. Enter Schloss Mirabell gardens at the north end and walk through the gardens towards the southern exit with the palace on your left.

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Pagasus fountain, Mirabell Palace, Salzburg

Mirabell Palace is famous for its stunning Baroque architecture and equally breathtaking gardens. It was built in 1606 for Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich, and the Marble Hall, previously the ballroom, echoed with music performed by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

Today, Mirabell Palace hosts weddings and Mozart concerts, and you can go inside the palace to view the beautiful Marble Hall and the Angel Staircase adorned with cherubs. 

Admission to the Mirabell Palace is free, and even if you don’t have much time to spare, it’s worth wandering through the beautiful Baroque-style Mirabell Gardens to visit the Rose Garden. You’ll also get your first glimpse of the fortress from here.

The beautiful gardens were redesigned in the 17th century, but you can still see the original geometric layout designed in intricate patterns in a small-scale homage to Versailles. In total contrast there’s also a quirky dwarf garden. 

The Sound of Music fans are sure to recognise the Pegasus fountain and steps from the scene where Maria and the children sing Do Re Mi.

Address: Mirabellplatz 4, 5020 Salzburg, Austria. Mirabell Palace Website

Salzburg Marionette Theatre

If puppetry is your thing, the famous Salzburger Marionetten Theater is located by the gardens entrance. Highly trained puppeteers offer performances of the Sound of Music. Worth seeing if you have enough time and are able to survive a burst of ‘The Hills are Alive’. 

View of Salzburg, Austria from Hohensalzburg Fortress

Mozart’s Residence

Salzburg is famous as the city of Mozart’s birth, and there are two museums in Salzburg dedicated to his life. The Mozart Residence (Wohnhaus) is just a short walk (5 mins) from the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg new town. This building houses the apartment where Mozart lived from 1773 until he left Salzburg for Vienna in 1780.

Mozart’s original instruments can be viewed in the historic Dance Master’s Hall, along with family portraits and documents. The audio guide also helps bring Mozart to life through fascinating details about his everyday life in Salzburg.

A visit to the Mozart Residence takes around 30-90 minutes, depending on how much of the museum you explore. Entry costs €13.50 for adults, or you can pay €20 for a combination ticket with the Mozart Birthplace. Free admission is included in the Salzburg card, and the savings you make on just these two main attractions almost cover the cost of the card!

Look out for public art as you make your way around the city. Anthony Cragg’s 5 metre-high “Caldera” is located in Makartplatz.

Address: Makartplatz 8, 5020 Salzburg, Austria Website

Marko-Feingold-Steg (pedestrian) bridge

The Mozart Residence lies close to the Salzach River. After your visit head to the river and the nearby Marko Feingold-Steg pedestrian bridge which is one of the best places to enjoy picturesque city views. There’s no traffic so you can take your time and enjoy the views from this popular spot.

The sightseeing boat ride departs from the small dock on the right-hand side of the bridge. The cost of a standard cruise is included in the Salzburg Card so this might be a good time to reserve a river cruise time slot for when you’ve finished your Salzburg walking tour.

Once over the bridge cross over the road and turn right into Griesgasse, a recent addition to Salzburg’s pedestrianised zone. Welcome to the old town.

Salzburg Old Town (Altstadt)

Take a quick left through the Sternarkaden, turn left again and you’re in the Altstadt on Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s most famous street. You’ll be charmed by the old town of Salzburg, which is filled with beautiful buildings and quaint cobblestone streets and squares filled with fountains, statues, spires and clocktowers.

The Getreidegass

Getreidegasse, Salzburg shop signs

Getreidegasse is the main pedestrian street in Salzburg Altstadt and has been the hub of the city for centuries. I recommend a wander through Getreidegasse and it’s charming alleyways.

Look up and you’ll notice the decorative guilded signs above the shops. A tax is levied on the signs today known locally as Luftsteuer (air tax). It’s good to see that some major high street brands have adapted their signage in keeping with the originals.

Birthplace of Mozart

In the heart of the Altstadt lies one of Salzburg’s most popular tourist attractions: Mozart’s Birthplace. You can’t miss Getreidegasse 9 (Hagenauer House) – the building is bright yellow with ‘Mozarts Geburthaus’ written in massive gold letters!

Mozart’s Birthplace, Getreidegasse

Mozart was born here on 27 January 1756, and his family lived on the third floor of this building until they moved to the Mozart Residence in 1773. Here, you can see the room where Mozart was born, some interesting information about his childhood, letters and musical instruments including the violin he used as a child. 

There’s less to see than in the Mozart Residenz, so your visit will probably only take 30-60 minutes. But it’s worth visiting, just to say you’ve been in the room where Mozart was born.

Admission costs €13.50, or €20 for the combination ticket and is covered by your Salzburg card.

Address: Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria Website

When leaving Mozarts Geburtshaus cut through Roittner Passage and continue straight ahead to Universitätsplatz. The Grünmarkt farmers’ market is held in the square where a wide variety of regional produce is sold from local growers.

The square is dominated by Kollegienkirche, the University Church, one of the most magnificent Baroque churches in Austria. Head to the top corner along Wiener Philharmoniker Gasse where you’ll find some public conveniences, for a small charge.

Carry on straight ahead towards Max Reinhardt Platz and one of the largest opera houses in the world, Grosses Festspielhaus (Salzburg Opera House). The square is named after the Austrian film director and co-founder of the annual Salzburg Festival.  

St Peter’s catacombs and cemetery

St Peter’s Abbey was founded in the 7th century and is considered the oldest surviving monastery in the German-speaking world. The abbey’s catacombs and cemetery, along with its impressive architecture, make St Peter’s Abbey one of Salzburg’s most popular tourist attractions.

St Peter’s cemetery is worth checking out for its many impressive vaults, gated graves and crypts carved into the Mönchsberg cliff face.

If you’re a Sound of Music fan, you might also recognise the cemetery as the Von Trapp family’s hiding place after their final concert. There’s no charge to visit the cemetery, but you’ll need to buy a ticket if you want to explore the Abbey’s catacombs.

Address: Sankt-Peter-Bezirk 1, 5020 Salzburg, Austria 

If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, you’re sure to want to see some of the filming locations during your visit to Salzburg.

It’s possible to visit popular destinations like Mirabell Gardens and Nonnberg Abbey on your own, but you can also join a guided Sound of Music tour of Salzburg, which will also take you on a road trip to locations in the surrounding Lake District.

Just outside the cemetery is St Peters Wassermühle (waterwheel) and Stiftsbäckerei St Peter, the oldest bakery in Salzburg. They’ve been making sourdough from flour milled by the waterwheel and baking it in wood-fired stoves for over 700 years. The aroma of freshly baked bread here is absolutely irresistible and you might want to pick up a pretzel or sandwich for lunch.

Continue down the alleyway back to Kapitelplatz and turn right and right again onto Festungsgasse. At the top of the street you’ll arrive at the funicular to take you up to Hohensalzburg Fortress. 

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Courtyard in Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Dating back to the 11th century, Hohensalzburg Castle is one of the largest complete fortresses in Europe, and dominates Salzburg’s skyline. If you only have one day in Salzburg, this is a must-see attraction to add to your itinerary; it’s one of the top things to do in Salzburg.

The fortress offers some of the best views of Salzburg from its position overlooking the city. Look south for views of the mountain tops. Luckily, the funicular will save your legs and whisk you up the steep hill to the fortress.

Inside the fortress walls, you’ll find various wings and courtyards, together with several museums, including the Main Fortress Museum and a Marionette Museum. 

The ornate state rooms of 16th-century Salzburg’s ruling Prince-Archbishops are only covered by the Salzburg card if you visit before 11am, but the extra cost of admission is only a few euros and well worth the money.

A basic adult ticket to Hohensalzburg Fortress costs €10.80. You can also upgrade for options that include the funicular ride, Prince-Archbishops’ Chambers and Magic Theatre. The basic ticket and funicular (both ways) are included in the Salzburg card.

Address: Mönchsberg 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria 

Kapitelplatz

After you’ve soaked up the view head back down to Capital Square. Take time to see the Kapitelschwemme (Capital Horse Pond) a beautiful fountain portraying Neptune astride a seahorse spouting water and weilding his trident.

Cross the square towards the giant gold sphere with a man on top. The sculpture by Stephan Balkenholentitled titled ‘Sphaera’ reminds me of an oversized Mozartkugel… you know, those Mozart chocolates that Salzburg is famous for?

Walk beneath the triumphal arches and into Domplatz where you’ll find youself in front of Salzburg’s beautiful Baroque Cathedral.

Lunch

Now might be a good time to re-fuel with some lunch and there are some good options around this area. If you’re visiting in the summer months then you could find an outdoor cafe or a beer garden for lunch. 

You’ll also find some good restaurants all around the old town and the Old Market Square – there are some stalls there too if you like street food for a taste of local flavour.

We were in Salzburg in winter and the festive markets had loads of tasty offerings and were the perfect place for lunch. We opted for delicious raclette and bacon toasties topped with spring onions. They were really good and kept us going for hours.

DomQuartier Salzburg

If you’re only spending one day in Salzburg, visiting the DomQuartier Salzburg is the best way to get a flavour of the city’s heritage. This collection of historic buildings was once the home of the prince-archbishops who ruled Salzburg. In winter the area is home to some magical Christmas markets.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site houses three of Austria’s finest museums. If you do one thing on your day in Salzburg make sure you visit here.

The DomQuartier includes Salzburg Cathedral, the Prince-Archbishops’ Residenz and St Peter’s Abbey. The layout means you walk seamlessly through one museum to the next.

You can see lavish state rooms and artwork by famous masters like Rembrandt in the Residenz Gallery, then visit the Cathedral Organ Loft and the fantastic art collection of the Cathedral Museum and view fascinating historic artefacts in the St Peter’s Museum.

Don’t forget to take in the views over Residenzplatz and Domplatz from the terrace. As we were there in winter season I actually went back to get some photos of of the Christmas markets at blue hour – the perfect time as dusk drew in.

You could spend anything from an hour to half a day exploring the DomQuartier. We spent a good two hours there and it’s a great option for keeping warm if you’re visiting in the cold winter months. Don’t miss a visit to the DomQuartier, it’s one of the best things to do in Salzburg.

Adult admission costs €13.00, and the good news is that free access is covered by the Salzburg Card!

Address: Residenzplatz 1, Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg Cathedral

Salzburg Cathedral and Christmas Market

Salzburg Cathedral was founded in 744 on the remains of a Roman town. It was rebuilt after suffering fire damage in the 12th century and again in the 17th century when it took on the elaborate Baroque style you see today.

You’ll see part of Salzburg Cathedral’s interior if you visit the DomQuartier, so you could choose to just check out the exterior with its impressive dome and twin spires which is what we did.

If you’d like to take a proper look around the ornate baroque interior and see the font where Mozart and Joseph Mohr (who wrote the words for “Silent Night’) were baptised, there’s a small conservation fee of €5 for adults or reduced entry of €3.50 if you have the Salzburg Card.

You can also hear the impressive Cathedral organ in their daily concerts (except Sundays) or join a guided tour of the Cathedral. 

Address: Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg, Austria 

Residenzplatz

From the cathedral head straight ahead through the second set of arches and you’ll come to Residenzplatz, the largest and grandest of Salzburg’s squares. The Residenzbrunnen, in the square, is an impressive fountain, one of the most important Baroque moments in Europe today. It certainly gives Rome fountains a run for their money.

Salzburg Christmas markets - panoramic view from DomQuartier terrace
Residenzplatz, Salzburg with Christmas Market. View from the terrace in DomQuartier

The Salzburger glockenspiel, located in the Neuer Residenz tower, rings out three times a day at 7am, 11am and 6pm. The 35-bells were made in Antwerp and the carillon has a repertoire of 51 tunes which change each month. A continuous row of pretty town houses line one side of the square.

The main square is a popular venue for music events, live screenings and concerts. In Advent, the square is home to Christkindlmarkt, one of Salzburg’s biggest Christmas markets. It’s a magical time of year to visit.     

Leading off from the square you’ll see the statue of Mozart on Mozartplatz. If you visit in winter season during Advent the fountain and statue of Mozart may not be easily visible due to the Christmas market and ice rink.

The city’s second tourist information office is also on Mozartplatz.

Salzburg museums

The historic city of Salzburg naturally has many fabulous museums to explore. Several are included in the Salzburg Card, which makes it easy to call in to one or more museums for a quick visit. 

The DomQuartier (above) is a must-see but after you’ve visited that one you could check out these nearby museums.

Salzburg Museum and Salzburger glockenspiel

Three Salzburg museums can be found in Residenzplatz. The Salzburg Museum located in the Neue Residenz, contains a collection of artworks and other historical and cultural exhibits, 

Next door to the Salzburg Museum, the Panorama Museum houses the cycloramic, 360º painting of the City of Salzburg as it was in 1829. See if you can spot which buildings are still standing today.

The Weihnachtsmuseum (Christmas Museum) has 11 themed exhibitions that bring a taste of the festive season all year round. The exhibits were curated over 40 years by a private collector and range from the first Christmas cards and advent calenders to Christmas tree decorations and ornaments. It’s actually a lovely look at Christmas past.

Salzburg Advent Calendar

The Museum of Modern Salzburg features a collection of 20th and 21st-century artworks in a modern museum high above Salzburg on the Mönchsberg. Be sure to visit the museum’s M32 restaurant for a fabulous panoramic view of the city. 

You could visit after crossing Marko Feingold-Steg pedestrian bridge and then pick up this walking route at Mozart’s birthplace. The easiest way to get to the museum is to enter Gstättengasse street and take a lift up to the museum. The museum and lift are included in the Salzburg card.

Address: Am Mönchsberg 32, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

From Residenzplatz turn left at the bottom of the square with the town houses in front of you and continue down the street to the Alter Markt (Old Market Place). You’ll be facing Café Tomaselli. Before heading inside take a look around this prettiest of squares with ancient burgher houses painted in soft pastel colours.                                 

Cafe Tomaselli

Ready for a coffee? There are plenty of great spots to enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen in this charming city, but Café Tomaselli is a Salzburg institution which has been trading for over 300 years.

Café Tomaselli is the oldest coffee house in Salzburg and was originally founded in 1705. The Tomaselli family have run the cafe for the last 150 years, and it recalls a bygone era with its wood-panelled walls, marble tables and silverware, not to mention the impeccable waiters and Kuchendamen (cake ladies).

You’ll be spoiled for choice by the range of sweet pastries and desserts, including famous local cuisine like Sachertorte, Dobostorte, Linzer Torte and the house speciality “Haustorte”.

Instead of coffee and cake we thought Christmas punch would be a good idea. We were right! It was delicious and flavoured with orange and spices and perfect for cold days. It warmed us up nicely!

Fun Fact: To the left next door to Café Tomaselli is the Kleinstes Haus. The city’s smallest house which measures just 1.42m wide.

Address: Alter Markt 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg Christmas Markets

Christmas markets in Salzburg, Austria

If you spend a day in Salzburg in the Christmas season, don’t miss your chance to visit the famous Christmas markets of Salzburg. They are some of the best Christmas markets in Europe one of the major attractions in winter. It’s the main reason many people visit Salzburg in winter – there’s no better place to get those festive feels going!

From the big Christkindlmarkt which takes up many areas around the cathedral, Mirabellplatz and tiny markets consisting of a just few stalls which can be found all around the city center.

The Salzburg Christkindlmarkt runs from late November until New Year’s Day at the Dom and Residenzplatz in the historic centre of Salzburg Old Town. Its origins date back to the late 15th century, making it one of the oldest Christmas markets in the world.

This magical Christmas market is a winter wonderland of traditional wooden huts selling Christmas gifts and handcrafted decorations for your home and Christmas tree. There’s a daily entertainment programme throughout the festive season including Krampus parades, Christmas carols, and visits from the Christkind (Christ child).

You can also tuck into festive treats, including mulled wine, hot punch and local specialities. For me, the best part of the Christmas markets was the food and drink!

There’s also a smaller Advent market on the Mirabellplatz, which has all the atmosphere, market stalls and delicious treats of the main Christmas market but without the large crowds.

A short bus ride from the city will take you to Hellbrunn Palace for their Adventzauber. A torchlined pathway leads into the palace courtyard which is filled with over 700 Christmas trees and a collection of market stalls. It’s a magical spot at Christmas time. You can also see the trick fountains in the gardens.

The best time to visit Salzburg’s Christmas market is just before sunset. If you’re a photographer you’ll know that this time is known as ‘blue hour’ and makes for some lovely photo opportunities. If you go after dark, the night sky is lit up by the market’s specially designed Christmas lights.

Mozart concert

The perfect way to end your day in Salzburg is with a Mozart concert and dinner. A Mozart Concert at Mirabell Palace in the concert hall is a fabulous opportunity to hear Mozart’s music. The beautiful setting of the Baroque-style Marble Hall is where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself once performed. 

Alternatively, combine a Mozart concert at Hohensalzburg Fortress with a three-course meal and stunning views over the city of Salzburg and the surrounding mountains.

Or spend the evening at a Mozart dinner concert at St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, the oldest restaurant in Central Europe. You’ll enjoy a candlelit three-course menu inspired by 18th-century recipes while listening to music from three Mozart operas played by musicians in period costume.

Of course, there are plenty of great spots for dinner in Salzburg. It’s best to book in advance if you have a particular restaurant in mind, especially if you’re visiting at the weekend or in the high season.

Rooftop view at Hotel Stein

View of Salzburg old town at dusk from rooftop bar Steinterrasse

If you want to end your day with a nightcap with a view before heading back to the station I know a great place. Cross the river over the Mozartsteg (Mozart Bridge) and just to the right on the other side is Rooftop Bar Steinterrasse. It’s on the top floor of Hotel Stein. 

We dropped in on the off-chance and were lucky to get seats at the bar but you should probably book if you want to eat in the restaurant. Head out to the terrace for fantastic views over the river, Salzburg’s old town and Hohensalzburg Fortress. It’s a great way to end your day in Salzburg. When you’re done it’s a 20-minute walk back to the train station.

I hope you’ve found this guide to spending a day in Salzburg enjoyable, and the tips and itinerary useful. Salzburg is a captivating destination and makes for a brilliant city break and you could easily spend a few days here and more in the surrounding area if you have extra time.

You can see why Salzburg is a popular destination for day trips. It’s one of the most beautiful European cities with loads of great things to do. It’s good to visit any time of year with the bonus of its magical Christmas markets in winter. Whenever you choose to go, I hope you love Salzburg and all the great things it has to offer.

Salzburg at dusk

Is the Salzburg Card worth it?

Buying the Salzburg Card is a great idea, even if you’re only there for a day. Not only do you get free admission to all of this beautiful city’s top attractions, but it also includes unlimited free public transportation in the city (zone S) including the fortress funicular, express entrance at certain attractions and discounts on selected events and concerts. 

You can buy the Salzburg card in the Tourist Offices at Salzburg train station or at the Mozartplatz in Salzburg city centre. There’s also a digital Salzburg card that you can buy online and download to your mobile in advance of your trip.

The price of the Salzburg card for adults starts at just €27 for a 24-hour card in the low season and €31 in the peak season, so you can see that it’s easy to save the cost of the card on a Salzburg day trip. For children aged 6-15 the cost is €14 in low season and €15.50 high season.

We used the Salzburg card on our day trip to visit four attractions and saved around €16 each in just six hours – enough for coffee and cake. If we’d had more time we’d have saved even more.

The Salzburg card is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours and activates the first time you use it to enter an attraction, not from the time of purchase. Many Salzburg hotels offer the card as part of their rates so it’s worth checking with your hotel. 

You may prefer to take a guided walking tour around Salzburg which is a good way to learn more about the city as you see it’s top sights. Check rates and availability.

I visited Salzburg as an independent day trip during a winter snow trip to nearby Fuschl am See with Inntravel.

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