Salzburg in winter is a magical destination and certainly one of the best places to visit in Austria. Travel to the Austrian city famous for Mozart's classical music compositions and the Sound of Music. You won't be disappointed. Short on time? Even spending one day in Salzburg in December will give you enough Christmas cheer to last all season long. Read on for a one day in Salzburg itinerary to make planning your next trip to Austria a breeze.
One Day In Salzburg Itinerary in Brief
Getting to Salzburg
Fly direct to Salzburg from major cities in Europe on both low cost carriers like Ryanair (great for cheap weekend breaks any time of year) and easyJet or national carriers like Lufthansa. We flew to Salzburg from Dublin via Frankfurt. Salzburg is also just a couple hours from Munich, Germany (why not spend 2 days in Munich before heading to Austria?). Salzburg is also just a couple hours from Innsbruck, Austria by train making even day trips to the Salzburg region feasible.
What to Pack for a Winter Trip to Salzburg
What should you pack for a trip to Salzburg in winter? Salzburg is surrounded by snow-capped peaks so we planned for snow but were surprised to discover warmer than expected temperatures. Salzburg in December can be quite rainy so make sure to bring a waterproof jacket and umbrella so you can explore full stream ahead and make the most of your trip and the city despite the weather.
See Fortress Hohensalzburg
Start your one day in Salzburg itinerary by taking the funicular from the pedestrianized center of Salzburg near the Rathaus to Hohensalzburg Castle where you can get above it all for sweeping views of Salzburg City. If you visit Salzburg in December like we did, there is even a small Christmas Market onsite at Fortress Hohensalzburg. Tour the interior of the Festung Hohensalzburg including the small but sumptuous State Apartments. Take a short detour and check out the marionette exhibit. Both the state apartments and marionette exhibit cost extra but are included for free if you have a Salzburg Card. The best part about Fortress Hohensalzburg is the view. Walk the ramparts and see how beautiful Salzburg looks nestled in the valley below with a backdrop of the Austrian Alps.
Stroll St. Peter FriedhofSt. Peter Friedhof (cemetery) is located just outside the exit of the funicular descending from Hohensalzburg Fortress. Have a wander and then peek inside Stift St. Peter. The interior is gorgeous. There were services on when we visited so we couldn't have a proper look inside. Check out the old-fashioned water mill that was reinstalled in 2006 and is used to mill grain for a local bakery (Stiftsbäckerei St. Peter).
Walk Salzburg's Pedestrianized Streets and Experience the Sound of MusicDescend from Fortress Hohensalzburg and spend some time walking Salzburg's pedestrianized streets. Did you know that the historic centre of Salzburg is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site? We wandered into a courtyard by Sternbräu in Salzburg and discovered a small Christmas Market and stalls full of Christmas cheer.
Another must-see attraction in Salzburg is Sound of Music World. Fiction and reality collide in this small house-based museum in the center of Old Town Salzburg. Learn about the real-life Trapp Family singers. The world-famous Sound of Music is based on a romanticized version of their story. Did Captain von Trapp really call for his children with different whistle calls? Find out in the voices of the real Trapp children interviewed as adults. Find out what happened to the Trapp Family in real-life after their WWII escape from Austria.
Eat Mozartkugeln at the Source: Fürst Cafe
Tour the DomQuartierTime for a tour of Salzburg's DomQuartier including the state apartments at the Residenz. I absolutely loved the gilded heaters in many of the rooms. The decor was simply sumptuous with patterned wood floors, rich tapestries, and colorful and warm furnishings. Admission is free with a Salzburg Card and the audio guide is included. Look down upon Salzburg Christkindlmarkt from the Panorama Terrace at DomQuartier and get a sneak peek of your destination for lunch.
Eat Lunch at the Salzburg ChristkindlmarktSince you're only spending a day in Salzburg, have an efficient and bracing lunch outside at Salzburg Christkindlmarkt. Enjoy glühwein, a cheesy pretzel, and a käsekrainer (cheesy sausage!) huddled around a high top table. Afterward, shop for crafty Salzburg Christmas presents to bring home for friends and family.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other fun winter destinations to visit in Europe? Why not:
Eat A Classic Austrian Sacher Torte at Cafe SacherIndulging in a Sacher Torte is one of the top things to do in Vienna. Salzburg may not be Vienna, but you are in Austria after all so I say it's close enough to warrant a Sacher Torte! Try the Austrian specialty: a dark chocolate cake with a filling of apricot jam covered in thick dark chocolate. So. Good. Pick one up at Cafe Sacher which is nestled along the Salzach River.
Take the Bus to Schloss Hellbrunn
This may not have been the way royalty would have done it, but take public transportation to the Christmas Market at Schloss Hellbrunn, a 17th century palace. While visitors in the spring and summer go to see the fabulous grounds and trick fountains, in winter it's all about the Christmas Market. Bus No. 25 will drop you right at the entrance to the Schloss Hellbrunn Christmas Market. If you time it right, you may even hear a rhythmic jingling of bells followed by krampuses on parade. What's a krampus? Krampus is a horned, yet human-like being believed to punish children who have misbehaved. It's the Austrian equivalent of Santa leaving coal in your stocking. Had I grown up with this Austrian mountain mythology, I would have been scared into good behavior for sure. When we visited Hellbrunn Palace, the krampuses were on the prowl. Probably 50 different troops came through getting up to a little bit of mischief (e.g., stealing hats). Uh oh, I hope all those Krampuses don't think I haven't been on my best behavior!
Visit the Christmas Market at Mirabellplatz After DarkBefore dinner, make your way to the Christmas Market on Mirabellplatz for hot mulled wine in a souvenir mug. Just like at German Christmas markets, you can take the mug home by forfeiting the 2-3 EUR deposit. The Mirabellplatz Christmas Market is much smaller than the Christkindlmarkt near DomQuartier with the advantage of being less crowded and no less magical. You can even take a nighttime walk through Mirabell Gardens at Mirabell Palace and check out the fortress and other historic buildings bathed in the spotlight.
Dinner at PitterkellerHead to Pitterkeller, a historic Austrian beer cellar for a hearty dinner. We tried beef broth with cheese dumplings, traditional Weiner schnitzel and Salzburger Schnitzel (veal with ham, mushrooms, and green onions) paired with local beer. Stiegl even makes a few craft beer options. We sampled Columbus Pale Ale and Stiegl Weisse. So filling!
Where to Stay in Salzburg
This one day in Salzburg itinerary packs a lot in. Spend one night at arte Hotel to ensure that you spend a full day visiting Salzburg to appreciate all that the city has to offer. arte Hotel is a modern high rise outside of the historic center of Salzburg but just a short walk to the main train station and a 15 minute walk to all the tourist sites. We paid about 200 EUR for a one night stay including breakfast.