How do you solve a problem like taking a Vienna to Salzburg day trip? (obligatory The Sound of Music reference! Yup, we’re getting them in early!)
Fortunately, my Austria-loving friends, it’s actually rather simple. Transport links are quick and efficient between these two beautiful cities, and however you make the journey, you should be there in under three hours! That’s not bad, right? But how exactly do you go about getting to Salzburg, and what should you do when you’re there?
I got ya, boo! Not only am I going to explore all the ways of making the journey so that you can choose which is right for you, but I’m also going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to get train tickets – whether you do it in Vienna, or before you leave home. I’m also going to let you in on all the best things to do in Salzburg, the most magnificent places to eat (including the beer garden from your dreams!), and even where to stay if you fancy extending your trip. Am I good to you or what?
So let’s answer a couple of questions you might have, and get down to business!
Is Vienna or Salzburg better?
Although a Vienna to Salzburg day trip is easy to do, the same is true of a Salzburg to Vienna day trip – you’re using the exact same train line or road, after all! So you may be wondering “is Vienna or Salzburg better for me?”
I’ve stayed in both cities for multiple nights, and I’m going to give you that good old dependable answer: it depends what you’re looking for! Ahh, so cliché! But this time, it’s actually true.
Vienna is where most people will choose to stay, and that’s only partly because there’s far more international flights heading to Vienna than there is to Salzburg (especially if you’re traveling from the United States). It’s an international capital, with all the grandeur, history, and facilities that brings. You can’t swing a schnitzel in the old town without hitting a baroque building or a convenience store, and they”re occasionally the same thing! The city’s highlights, such as the Vienna State Opera or the Schonnbrunn Palace, need to be on your bucket list!
Buuuut… this vision of loveliness comes at a price. Vienna is a noticeably expensive city – more so than Salzburg. Although neither destination is exactly a budget option, Vienna tends to have that little extra cost to everything; it’s the price you pay for being in the capital (btw, check out this guide to where to stay in Vienna for some options for all budgets!).
Salzburg is a little cheaper but it’s also a lot quieter, and that’ll either be right up your alley, or fill you with horror. If you’re looking for pulsating nightlife with bangin’ tunes, then Salzburg probably ain’t your best option for a base. Although there are a few nightlife venues dotted around, the city is much more Mozart than Metallica. It is, however, and wonderful base for seeing some of Austria’s most gorgeous natural sights, and near to some of the best places to ski in Austria.
How far is Vienna to Salzburg?
In terms of distance, Vienna is about 288 kilometers from Salzburg.
In terms of time, you can easily get from Vienna to Salzburg in under three hours, whether you’re traveling by rail or road. The average train journey takes about two and a half hours, or you can plump for a travel time of 2 hrs 50 by car.
How to get from Vienna to Salzburg
We all like choice (my personal favorite is “do I want a large pizza, or an extra large pizza?”), and you can rest assured that you’ve got plenty of options for your Vienna to Salzburg day trip!
Now you know that it’s not going to take you long to get to Salzburg and back, it’s purely a case of choosing exactly how you do it. You’ve got three viable options: by train, by car, or by booking a Vienna to Salzburg day tour, and letting someone else take up the travel strain. And for those who are curious: yes, you can fly between the two cities, but it’s really not worth the hassle!
So, let’s go through your choices!
Take a Vienna to Salzburg train
Train travel from Vienna to Salzburg is pretty straightforward, and it’s definitely the second-easiest way to take your day trip. Austrian trains are efficient and full of facilities (on my journey, I was able to order food to be delivered to my seat, and buy train company-branded USB sticks if I so wished), and the seats are comfortable enough for a short journey.
But be warned: in peak season, this journey is going to be busy AF. So save yourself a bit of stress by following my tips for buying tickets!
Getting tickets from Vienna Hbf
Vienna’s main train station (or Wien Hbf, to give it its proper name) is where you’re most likely to be starting your day trip to Salzburg, and it can be a confusing beast to navigate at times. In fact, my boyfriend and I went on an extended tour of all the parking lots and platforms when we entered the building at the rear instead of the main entrance. Oh, the fun we had!
So to make things simpler on yourself, and to avoid getting marginally lost in Austria’s biggest train station, be sure to enter the station at the main entrance. This is the side which faces Wiedner Gurtel street, with all the associated bus, tram, and metro stops just outside it. You can then enter the building itself, and you’ll see that the ticket office is immediately on your right hand side.
Grab a number from the machine, and you’ll be seen by one of the agents when your number is called – and don’t worry; they all speak excellent English! Ask for a return ticket to Salzburg – you won’t need to get any more complicated than that. Of course, if you’re buying your tickets in advance, be sure to let them know the date and time on which you want to travel.
The only other variable is going to be the price. You’ll generally find that if you’re travelling later in the evening (after 1930 hrs), the price of the ticket is cheaper… however, that’s not much use if you want to do a day trip, and be back in Vienna for the evening. For a regular, during-the-day ticket, you’re looking at a cost of roughly €65 each way. If you want to travel in first class, expect to pay roughly €20 more than the 2nd class ticket.
Similarly, if you get a non-direct service, this is also cheaper – about €25 each way. However, it’s also longer, thanks to having to change trains at Linz. This bumps the journey time up to a little over 4 hours.
Buying tickets online
Don’t feel like queuing up at the Vienna ticket office? Want the security of having those lovely tickets pre-booked and in your pocket when you arrive?
No worries! Although you can book with the ÖBB site, you’re just as well off by going on Trainline EU to book your tickets – frankly, it’s a little less complicated to navigate, and it’s a useful one to be signed up to if you’re planning on doing a few train journeys in Europe. There’s also a Trainline mobile phone app which you can download, and have your tickets and timetables forever on hand.
A word of advice – if you’re travelling in the height of tourist season, be sure to reserve a seat. It’s very little extra cost for a lot of peace of mind!
Vienna hbf facilities
As you’d expect from Vienna’s main train station, Wien Hbf is brimming with shopping opportunities and supplies for a day trip to Salzburg! There’s actually a whole shopping centre inside, as well as numerous cafes/fast food joints/bakeries for you to grab a bite for the journey. Unsurprisingly, any of these options are a lot cheaper than getting something to eat on the train.
There’s also some very clean toilets for you to use before the journey: they’re pretty clearly marked on the station’s signposts. Bear in mind that you’ll need to insert a coin into a machine to enter – this is usually a 50 cent charge.
Taking a Vienna to Salzburg bus
Don’t get your hopes up for buses between Vienna and Salzburg, because basically… there isn’t one.
Unfortunately, bus enthusiasts are out of luck. There aren’t any services between Vienna and Salzburg, because there’s simply not much point – there’s a fast and regular service between the two cities by train, so a bus service isn’t seen as viable. Even the bus company FlixBus recommends that you travel by train, which kinda says it all.
If you hate trains, or really just want to see the Austrian roads, then don’t fear! There’s two more options you can take.
Driving from Vienna to Salzburg
If you’d like to do a day trip to Salzburg from Vienna under your own steam – maybe drop in and explore a few villages on the way – and you’re cool with driving in another country, then car hire is the way to go!
Check out these car hire options from the ever-reliable Booking.com (much easier to use than car hire sites, lemme tell ya), and you can have your own transport for whizzing around Austria. Not only can you go to Salzburg, but it’s convenient if you’ve got a bit of free time in Vienna, and fancy getting out of the city a bit.
As for the journey itself, it’s pretty darn straightforward. There’s a main road connecting the two: the most work you’re going to have to do is remembering to take the right exit. Do bear in mind that there’s a couple of tolls on the way, and that fuel will cost you in the region of €30.
Book a Salzburg tour from Vienna
If you completely want to take the strain off, and have a stress-free day trip to Salzburg from Vienna, how about taking a guided tour?
There’s pros and cons to taking guided tours. Yes, you have reduced free time, and you can’t quite wander as you will. You have to stick to some very rigid times for embarking back on your coach, and it doesn’t exactly make you feel like a mighty explorer.
But, think of the benefits. You don’t have to worry about the mechanics of getting there, or buying tickets. You can guarantee that you’re seeing the best that Salzburg has to offer. And you do get free time, albeit limited, so you’ll still be able to have a look at my handy-dandy itinerary below, and pick a few things that you’d really like to see!
I really rate GetYourGuide for guided tours – check out their reviews; I’ve used them myself numerous times, and never had any issues whatsoever – and they provide some excellent day tours from Vienna. There’s one exploring Salzburg and the Austrian lake district, which also takes in the Mirabell Gardens and Mozart’s birthplace, as well as one which offers a small group tour from Vienna to Salzburg. I love small groups, as you get guaranteed access to your tour guide to ask any questions you may have!
Taking The Sound of Music Tour, Salzburg
Calling all fans of musical nuns, and prancing around on Austrian hilltops! Yes, you too can do a Sound of Music Tour, undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Salzburg, and definitely one of the most popular tours. You see the tour buses driving around quite regularly, but if you want to save yourself the hassle, you can also book this in advance through GetYourGuide.
If you’ve made your way to Salzburg independently, check out this Sound of Music tour from Salzburg which will pick you up from the city centre, and have you frolicking in dappled meadows in no time at all! Or if taking the tour is your main reason for visiting the city, and you’re not too worried about exploring Salzburg, you can hop on this tour from Vienna.
What is the cheapest way from Vienna to Salzburg?
Now that you’ve seen all the options on how you can go from Vienna to Salzburg, this is probably one of the foremost questions on your mind. After all, spending money is fun, but not so much if you feel like you haven’t used it efficiently, or that you made a mistake with it. That’s the kind of feeling than can really put a crimp on your day, y’know? Yeah, we’ve all been there.
But as the cheapest way to get to Salzburg from Vienna, it really does depend on what you want from your day. The absolute cheapest method is probably to hire a car for a single day – but do you want to drive in an unfamiliar country? You can get a reasonably priced train ticket – but you’ll have to change in Linz, and it’ll take an hour longer. You can get a tour for less than a direct train ticket – but are you okay with having a schedule, and less free time to wander independently?
Simply put, the best way to go from Vienna to Salzburg is the one that suits your needs most appropriately. Whether that’s by car, train, or coach is up to you – but remember that you’re going to have an wonderful time in the city, and you won’t regret visiting Salzburg for a moment. If that train ticket seems pricey, but that’s the best way for you to get there… do it regardless. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Vienna to Salzburg day trip itinerary
Okay! Now you know how you’re going to get to Salzburg – nice job! That’s the boring, technical planning bit done with, and out of the way. Now we get the fun part – planning what to do in Salzburg itself!
I’ve included these in a logical route, so treat this as your own little Salzburg walking tour. Prepare yourself – you’ve probably already fallen in love with Vienna, but now it’s time to go head over heels for its country cousin!
If you’ve seen The Sound of Music, here’s your first location for you to squeal “I recognize that!” at – the rather fabulous Schloss Mirabell!
Keen-eyed viewers will instantly recognize the fountain at the side of the palace, with a somewhat fierce-looking Pegasus statue, as the one Julie Andrews and the kiddos danced around during the Do-Re-Mi section. You too can dance around the statue and hop about on the nearby steps, to the utter disregard of other tourists, especially as the Mirabell gardens are free to enter. Bear in mind that this makes it rather busy, so be sure to get here as early as possible!
If The Sound of Music leaves you as cold as the chilly peaks of the nearby mountains, you can take in the history of the building itself. It was constructed in 1606 by the then Prince-Archbishop with the sole intention of impressing his mistress. Whether you find this charmingly romantic, or slightly weird on all kinds of levels, bear in mind that she ended up having fifteen kids with him. Who says that money can’t buy happiness, right?
Linzer Gasse and Staatsbrücke
time to move on to the next location, but to do it in as scenic a manner as possible! Because we all like posting pretty photos to Instagram and seeing the likes come rolling in; let’s admit it.
So when you leave the Mirabell Palace, head down and walk along the River Salzach for some incredible views of the other side of the river! Don’t worry; we’ll be visiting there very soon. For now, just drink it in as you walk, and enjoy those clean Alpine waters rushing past you.
When you reach the Staatsbrücke bridge, take a short detour to your left, and check out the adorably cute street that is Linzer Gasse! This scenic road gets missed by a lot of travelers, but it has a gorgeous, relaxed atmosphere, and is lovely for just taking an amble down. Check out some of the small, specialized shops – my favorite is Bärenland, which is a store comprised entirely of gummy bears of varying sizes and shapes. Yes, I bought a pack, and yes, they’re very tasty!
If you’re getting hungry by this point, and gummy bears just ain’t going to hit the spot, walk along a little further to Gasthof Alter Fuchs, which will provide you with all the Austrian cooking and fox-themed decor you’ve ever wanted!
Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)
Once you’ve crossed over the Staatsbrücke bridge, undoubtedly pausing to snap a few photos of the river en route, wind your way through the pretty streets to the funicular railway which will take you up to the rather impressive bulk of Salzburg Fortress. You can walk it, but where’s the fun in that?
There’s two very awesome reasons to visit Salzburg’s fortress: you can take in the stunning views, or you can immerse yourself in the history. Well, actually you can do both, but details!
If you’re all about the Instagrammable views, head to the terrace at the back of the fortress (ie the side which doesn’t face the town). From there, you’ll be able to see a glorious view of mountains, tiny villages, and slender streams – it’s truly jaw-dropping. Extra points if you see it in winter, when snow carpets the land!
If history is your thang, head into the fortress itself. This is one of the best-constructed castles in Europe – it was never breached by a single invasion, thanks to its location on the top of a steep hillside, plus those sweet cannons keeping an eye on things. It’s also one of the best-preserved, and you can explore the castle’s rich past dating from 1077, with exhibitions of weaponry and medieval treasures.
Want some more reasons to visit? If you’re here in winter, the fortress hosts what must be the prettiest and best Christmas market in Salzburg. Traditional stalls and food, in a medieval castle courtyard, with views of the snowy landscape filled with twinkling lights? Yes please!
Salzburg Cathedral (Dom zu Salzburg)
Making your way back down to the town via the funicular, it’s time to look around the Old Town itself. And you’ll soon discover that it’s dominated by a man you just might’ve heard of: one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Yup, Salzburg is where Mozart was born, and the city’s most famous son is connected to seemingly half the buildings within it. The first one that you’ll come to is the magnificent cathedral, the Dom zu Salzburg.
If you can tear yourself away from the carriages and cute horses waiting outside, you’ll discover that the cathedral is a veritable architectural treasure trove inside. It’s intriguingly decorated with a trés chic black and white theme, whilst the dome itself is paneled in a gorgeous red. Catching a service here will definitely be one of your Salzburg highlights, though be sure not to go sightseeing within if there’s any services in progress.
But as lovely as it is, and as much history as it contains (the cathedral was completed in 1628), where’s the Mozart connection?
Well, it’s actually staring right at you almost as you enter. It’s the baptismal font – a screeching baby Mozart was baptized here in 1756. And for our next connection to the great man, we’re going to visit his sister!
St Peter’s Cemetery and catacombs (Petersfriedhof)
Yeah, when I said we’d be visiting Mozart’s sister, that was a tiny lie. Soz. But you can go and visit her final resting place, where she lies amongst the rest of the great and good of Salzburg!
Maria Anna Mozart’s grave is one of many in the cemetery, which dates back to a mind-blowing 700AD. Just stop and let that sink in a little – this place is seriously old. It was already old by the time of the Norman invasion of England in 1066, and is only 200 years younger than the fall of Rome. It’s old.
Have a walk around the graves, seeing if you can spot those of Mozart’s sister, or that of Harry J. Collins – the American major who liberated the Dachau concentration camp. He was honored with a b.u.r.i.a.l here, the city to which he brought the survivors and ensured that they were taken care of. Or walk along the edges of the cemetery and take a look at the family tombs, some of which are incredibly ancient, and still used by their descendants.
But if the history of this place intrigues you, head into the catacombs at the far side of the cemetery! For a bargain €2, you can gain entry and look around an amazing set of staircases and caverns which have been chiseled out of the rock face of a cliff. It’s truly extraordinary to see a tiny, ancient chapel in a cavern (which is still in use), before scurrying up rocky steps to take in the amazing view of the cemetery below. Well worth it!
Mozart’s birthplace (Mozart Geburtshaus)
For the Mozart fan (and even for the non-fan), a visit to the house he was born in is a must. You’ll have already noticed all the Mozart paraphernalia in town: not visiting the epicentre of all things Wolfgang Amadeus would be like visiting Memphis, and not having a peek at Graceland.
I’ll admit to being somewhat of a classical music pleb, but you can’t fail to acknowledge that Mozart was an utter musical genius. The geburtshaus, converted into a museum of Mozartiness, allows you to see some incredibly personal items of his… and it really makes you feel interested in the man and his life, to an extent that’ll surprise you. Since I’ve visited I’ve bought a book about Mozart, watched the brilliantly 80’s Amadeus, visited his grave in Vienna, and bought a Mozart rubber duck. I didn’t feel inclined to do any of these things before I visited, so that’s a sign of a good museum in my book!
So expect to see not only the usual portraits and documents, but amazing items such as his first violin (adorable), the clavichord on which he composed The Magic Flute, and even a lock of his hair. Yep, you’ll be mere inches from a piece of one of the most famous people who ever lived, and the most prodigal music talent in history. It’s a little bit special.
The street containing Mozart’s birthplace is an attraction on its own! This ridiculously scenic street is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s well worth traversing it’s entire length.
So what makes it so special? Basically, it’s always been at the heart of Salzburg’s history, and the incredibly beautiful houses on either side have evolved with it as the city became more prosperous. It was originally a street of merchants (the name translates into English as “Grain Lane”), and as the merchants became richer, the buildings became more elaborate. This led to most of them being decorated with gorgeous wrought-iron signs outside, which has continued today – see if you can spot the poshest McDonald’s sign in the world!
It’s also a great place to visit if you want to get some goodies to prove that you’ve been to Salzburg, invoking envy in all who know you! The street is fairly festooned with souvenir shops, some a bit classier than others. We all love some tat souvenirs, right?
You’ve done a lot of sightseeing today, you poor exhausted thing. Seeing the highlights of one of Europe’s prettiest cities is tough, dirty work, and you deserve a payoff involving lots of beer and food!
Worry not, because Salzburg hears ya. Salzburg is slipping one comforting arm around your back, and whispering “come this way, liebling. I have the perfect place for you”, and steering you towards the awe-inspiring Augustiner Bräu.
Remember reading Robin Hood stories, and thinking to yourself that Friar Tuck was a bit of a lad with his love of beer? Well, it’s completely accurate – monks throughout history have had a bit of a passion for brewing, and this former monastery is no exception. It was founded in 1621, and has been perfecting the art ever since. As to how good it is… put it this way: my boyfriend loves a good beer, and samples one wherever he goes. Over the course of many, many trips to Europe, this is both his favorite beer house, and favorite beer. It’s that outstanding.
But it’s worth coming here even if you’re not a drinker. Grab some food from one of stalls, and eat it outside under shady trees in the summer, or inside by a roaring fire in the winter. It’s all entirely delicious, and I guarantee that you’ll make some new Austrian friends by the end of it.
The brewery is a ten minute walk from the city centre – do it!
There we have it! You’ve seen the highlights of a Salzburg day trip!
But what happens if you didn’t get to see it all in the time available? What if you know that not seeing all those gorgeous sights, and eating all those tasty-looking things, is going to chafe at your very soul?
Well, we hate chafing. So if you think that you’re going to miss out, how about considering two days in Salzburg? You can grab a hotel for the night, and hop on a Vienna train the next day. If that appeals, use the section below!
Where to stay in Salzburg
Fear not, intrepid Salzburg explorer! The city has a smorgasbord of lovely, well-appointed hotels for you to rest your weary head in – ideal for if you want to spend longer exploring the city. To help you pick the best hotel for your needs, I’ve selected the cream of the crop from the budget, mid-range, and luxury choices, giving you the opportunity to live your best Salzburg life.
The Keep Eco Residence
This place may be a hostel, but it does have private rooms. More importantly than that, click the link and have a look at those unbearably cosy, wooden rooms, with log beds and cabin-style walls. Now imagine yourself here in winter, with the snow thick on the ground outside, as you nestle in your warm blankets. Feel extra cosy because this is an eco residence, with none of the chilly guilt of being a irresponsible tourist. Add the fact that it’s in one of the prettiest areas in Salzburg, and you’ve got yourself a winner!
Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten
I love the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten (which translates as “Four Seasons”, language fans). The staff are incredibly lovely – they lent me an umbrella the last time I was there, worried about me getting wet in a rain shower – the hotel is in a brilliant location away from the tourist bustle, but still super close to both the city centre and the train station, and the rooms are perfectly appointed. It has excellent, speedy wifi, and a door key which is so chunky that you could knock a man out with it. The whole place oozes quality, but gives it to you at a fraction of the cost!
Willing to trade being slightly further out of town for the kind of accommodation that people will give their eye teeth for? Look no further than the Pension Ballwein! Not only is it heartbreakingly scenic (just look at those traditional, chalet-style balconies and flower baskets!), but it’s outfitted to an exceptional standard. It’s family-run, and feels like it, with the owners giving you a cheery welcome when they see you, and the city centre is only a short bus trip away. Best of all, it’s situated out in the country with a stunning view of the mountains!
B&B Villa Verde
Fancy a chic little number just outside the heart of the city, but within walking distance of everything you want to see? Hankering for something modern, clean, and efficient, but with a feel of old-fashioned villa charm? Then this is the place for you! It may be a B&B, but is has the feel of a boutique hotel – and the breakfast buffet is something to marvel at. It’s near to the bus into town if you don’t feel like walking after a day’s sightseeing, making it an ideal place for a stay!
Put this in the category of “affordable luxury”. Remember I told you about Getreidegasse, the gorgeous UNESCO-recognised street which contains the birthplace of Mozart? How about staying on that very street, just a few steps from the great man’s house? For less than you might think, you can do just that! Hotel Elefant is a beautiful 13th century townhouse which gives you all the benefits of the city centre, plus beautifully decorated rooms with all the facilities you’d expect. The place is spotlessly clean, and you’ll feel like a true Salzburger staying here!
Hotel Schloss Mönchstein
Okay, you wanted luxury? You got it! The Hotel Schloss Mönchstein is simply the best luxury hotel in Salzburg – no question. Just click the link and take a look – you’ve got a hotel situated on top of a hill in the city centre, surrounded by its own private parkland. You have an infinity pool, and rooms with marble flooring and antiques as decoration. The hotel restaurant is exclusive and award-winning, and the staff will take care of any problem or query you may have with the absolute minimum of time or fuss. This is what living is all about.