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Salzburg, Austria

The best activities in Salzburg for any season

This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2014. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.

I visited Salzburg in the middle of a European winter, which is the least busy time of year for tourists.

Photos of Salzburg often depict the city with flowering palace gardens and deep green hills in the lush spring and summer months. Of course, this would be a beautiful time to see Salzburg in its element, but I found it to be an equally interesting destination for a winter visit.

We didn’t get any snow, but the chilly weather added an extra layer of charm (picture wooly gloves and a steaming cup of mulled apple cider!), plus the lack of tourists made it super easy to get in to all the best Salzburg attractions without battling crowds.

It doesn’t really matter what time of the year you’ll be visiting Salzburg, as the city has plenty to offer tourists year-round. Here are my suggestions for the best activities in Salzburg that are a must for any season!

Best things to do in Salzburg:

Salzburg, Austria

Explore the old town

What really grabbed my attention in Salzburg were the winding narrow streets of old town with its towering spires, and historic churches. If you’re into photography (like I am) then you’ll love this place.

Salzburg’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can easily lose yourself in the labyrinthine alleyways and hidden courtyards. Take a wander through the old town and see what you can find.

Admire the grandeur of Salzburg Cathedral, stroll across the bustling Getreidegasse, and marvel at the medieval architecture of the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). Keep an eye out for quirky street performers, artisan boutiques, and cozy cafes tucked away around every corner.

Mirabell Palace and Gardens, Salzburg, Austria

Marvel at Mirabell Palace Gardens

One of the top Salzburg attractions is the magnificent Mirabell Palace Gardens. It’s easy to see why tourists love this spot – even on my winter visit, the manicured lawns and vibrant flower beds looked stunning against the backdrop of Hohensalzburg Fortress.

These enchanting gardens are like stepping into a fairytale world, decorated with ornate sculptures that adorn this Baroque masterpiece. Don’t forget to reenact Maria and the Von Trapp children’s iconic “Do-Re-Mi” dance on the grand staircase when you visit – this is a must for fans of The Sound of Music.

It’s also possible to attend a concert inside the magnificent Marble Hall of Mirabell Palace, so you can listen to the sounds of Mozart while admiring the gorgeous interior!

Salzburg, Austria

Head up to Hohensalzburg Fortress

I don’t always go inside European castles as I find the entrance price can be a little high for my liking, but Salzburg is one of the places where I paid the entrance fee. I did not regret it – the views of Salzburg from the castle are absolutely amazing, and the tour of the halls was great.

Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. There are museums inside the castle grounds that are sure to please everyone, or you can take a leisurely stroll along the fortress walls and soak in breathtaking views of the city below.

We walked up the hill to the castle, but you can ride the funicular railway to the summit for a scenic (and more lazy) journey.

Augustiner Bräu beer hall in Salzburg, Austria

Step into a beer hall

The beer halls in Austria are very similar to their counterparts in nearby Germany, so start your activities in Salzburg by trying some Bavarian-style beer and salty pretzels at Augustiner Bräu. Establishments like this are perfect for days when the weather isn’t great as it offers a warm and cosy atmosphere inside.

Get yourself a stein of the local brew and peruse the numerous food stalls for some traditional schnitzel or bratwurst. The beer hall opens at 3PM and is open ’til late – but you’ll have to head in early if you’d like a seat!

Sample Salzburg’s sweet treats

If there’s one thing Austrians are excellent at producing, it’s sweet cakes and pastries. A delectable array of sugary treats can be sampled at any time of year from some Salzburg’s renowned confectioners.

Try a chocolatey Mozartkugel (Mozart ball) from Konditorei Fürst, or savor a mouthwatering Sachertorte (chocolate cake) from Sacher Café.

One local specialty you absolutely must have is a crispy Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) dusted with powdered sugar. You can even take an apple strudel cooking class, which of course includes sampling the desserts!

Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria

Embark on a Sound of Music Tour

Salzburg is famous for being the location of the famous film, The Sound of Music. It seemed like every second shop, hotel, and tourist attraction was themed on the movie! We watched it a few days before arrival in the city, so I happened to have a Sound of Music song montage stuck in my head for the duration of our three day stay.

If you’re a fan of the beloved musical (or even if you’re not), you can dive into the movie magic with a guided tour that takes you to iconic filming locations scattered throughout Salzburg and its surrounding countryside.

Spend a day singing along to timeless classics like “Edelweiss” and “My Favorite Things” as you visit the Nonnberg Abbey, Hellbrunn Palace, and the idyllic Lake District. Who knows – you might even spot a few nuns, goats, or singing children along the way!

Winter in Hallstatt, Austria

Take a day trip to Hallstatt

Charming, quaint, romantic… there are many words I could use to describe Hallstatt but none of them will quite justify the beauty of this alpine township. We found most restaurants and attractions closed for the winter, but the surrounding mountains looked stunningly beautiful covered in snow.

It’s not easy to access by public transport, but it is totally and utterly worth the journey through the picturesque Salzkammergut region to see this town. No matter which season you’ll be travelling through Austria, Hallstatt is guaranteed to look adorable.

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