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Although it can be a bit of a trek, a Vienna to Salzburg day trip is totally doable. This post covers how to make the best of your Vienna to Salzburg day trip, including how to get from Vienna to Salzburg and all of the best things to do in Salzburg.
When Astrid and Leoni first suggested taking a day trip to Salzburg from Vienna, I thought they were crazy. A two-hour train ride away, a Vienna to Salzburg day trip is never something that I would attempt on my own. But they were insistent, and because I was pretty excited about the idea of seeing Salzburg again (I first visited the summer after my freshman year of high school and it was a transformative experience), I agreed.
So on our last day in Vienna, we hopped on a train to Salzburg for our Vienna to Salzburg day trip. And honestly? It was amazing. I couldn’t recommend it more.
Here’s how we spent our Salzburg day trip as well as a mini guide on how to DIY your own Vienna to Salzburg day trip. I hope you enjoy!
HOW TO TAKE A VIENNA TO SALZBURG DAY TRIP
HOW TO GET FROM VIENNA TO SALZBURG
As perhaps the two most well-known cities in Austria, there are a plethora of ways to get from Vienna to Salzburg. Here are just a few.
VIENNA TO SALZBURG TRAIN
There are frequent trains that run from Vienna Rennweg to Salzburg and the journey takes about two and a half hours. We bought our tickets on the train in June, so there’s no need to worry about booking tickets ahead of time. One-way tickets start at €28 (€26 for students) and there is no discount for buying a round-trip ticket.
Although it’s a little bit steep (as train travel tends to be), this is definitely the way I would recommend to get from Vienna to Salzburg and back again. If spending almost €60 on transportation is a little bit over budget for you then I’d suggest making time to stay at least one night in Salzburg (the only way we were really able to afford this was because we weren’t paying for accommodation in Vienna — thanks Leoni!)
VIENNA TO SALZBURG BUS
There are actually no buses which run from Vienna to Salzburg (my limited research tells me it’s apparently very hard to compete with the Austrian rail company), so, unfortunately, this isn’t an option for your Vienna to Salzburg day trip.
VIENNA TO SALZBURG CAR
If you have access to a car while you’re in Vienna, then driving is probably a more budget-friendly option to get from Vienna to Salzburg. The drive from Vienna to Salzburg does take 3 hours, though, so it might be faster to take the train.
WHAT TO DO ON YOUR SALZBURG DAY TRIP
Salzburg is a relatively small city but is still packed full of things to do. Here are a few of my favorite things (get it???) that we did in Salzburg.
If you’re a fan of Sound of Music (and let’s be real, who isn’t), then Mirabell Gardens (one of the filming locations for Sound of Music) is a must-do on your Salzburg day trip. We stopped here on our way downtown from the train station and it was the perfect way to spend an hour or so of a beautiful early summer morning.
While Astrid and I frolicked around the gardens taking pictures and singing, Daniel and Leoni rest on a bench like the spoil-sports they are (just kidding, I love them). And let me tell you… I took a lot of pictures.
HAUS DER NATUR // SALZBURG SCIENCE MUSEUM
Salzburg’s science museum, the Haus der Natur is a surprising bit of modernity in an ancient town. I was pretty hesitant when Leoni insisted that we go (I’m far more fond of wandering than science museums), but I was pleasantly surprised by just how cool it was!
Although the first half of the museum gave me flashbacks to my days as a child taking field trips to museums to look at rocks and models and being bored out of my mind, the second half was basically like a playground, with all sorts of hands-on experiments that help you learn things about science that I definitely don’t remember learning in high school.
Because you’re on a day trip, I’d suggest skipping the first half of the museum altogether and heading straight to the new, hands-on section. Even for a bunch of 20-somethings like us, it was a fantastic time.
LUNCH AT A BEER GARDEN
Salzburg is secretly super close to Munich, so a stop at a beer garden is basically a must.
After our time in the science museum, we were getting pretty hangry, so we wandered on over to one for some lunch. It was everything a good beer garden should be: outside under some shady trees with good, reasonably priced food and beer. It doesn’t really get much better than that.
OLD TOWN SALZBURG
With our bellies full and our hangriness at bay, we decided to take a little wander around Old Town Salzburg (aka my one true calling: getting lost). Not only was it a great way to digest, but it was absolutely beautiful. Wandering around Salzburg is a definite must!
MOZART’S BIRTH HOUSE
Right smack dab in the middle of Old Town Salzburg is Mozart’s birth house, where you can now take a short walking tour through the house, reconstructed to be as authentic as possible. Although we didn’t go inside on our Vienna to Salzburg day trip, I did when I was in Salzburg in high school and absolutely loved it!
For the famous Mozartkugeln (a round ball of pistachio marzipan and nougat covered in dark chocolate), head to the SPAR downstairs.
Even though we weren’t in Vienna anymore, we weren’t about to break our streak of having Kaffee und Kuchen every day, so we obviously had to make a stop at what I think might have been the cutest cafe in Salzburg: Cafe Tomaselli.
We went up a small, metal spiral staircase to their second-floor balcony for some delicious cake, coffee, and, in my case, Eiskaffee (basically like a root beer float but with coffee) and, naturally, got a few looks because of our reusable water bottles (look, I get thirsty and I like to be eco-friendly. Okay, judgy Austrian waiter guy???).
After getting our energy back up from the coffee, it was time to make the pilgrimage up the hill to the Salzburg Fortress.
HOW TO GET TO THE SALZBURG FORTRESS
Although there is a funicular from the bottom of the hill to the top to get to the Salzburg Fortress, we decided to be cheap and walk up. And it turned out to be the best decision ever. Yes, it was a steep uphill climb and our knees hated us for it, but the VIEW is totally worth it.
I mean… just look at this. We spent at least twenty minutes at this random viewpoint on the side of the road in full-on photo shoot mode.
Once we actually made it to the top of the hill and the entrance to the Salzburg Fortress, we bought our entrance ticket (which was a few euros cheaper because we had walked up but still provided us the tram ride back down the hill. Our knees said thanks.)
The inside of the Salzburg Fortress really isn’t too exciting, honestly (it’s an old military fortress, not a castle), though it’s worth it to go in just to have a look around. Really, the highlight of the Salzburg Fortress (just like the walk to get up to it) is the views. You can see out to the Austrian Alps and across all of Salzburg and it truly is magical. And yes, the hills are definitely alive with the sound of music.
HEAD BACK TO VIENNA
After our visit to the Salzburg Fortress, the sun was starting to set, so we grabbed some wurst from a stand for dinner and ate them on the walk back to the train station. It was a long ride back to Vienna from Salzburg, so it was time to head home.