Yes, you can see the highlights of Salzburg in a day. If you only have one day in Salzburg, Austria, WorldTraveling Mom offers her tips on how to appreciate this beautiful Austrian city straddling a river.
Before my husband and I visited Salzburg, we re-watched The Sound of Music. Even though we’d seen it a gazillion times, it was fun to watch as a preview of the beautiful places we would see in one day in Salzburg, Austria. That’s because the movie was filmed in Salzburg.
Mirabell Gardens in One Day in Salzburg
Schloss Mirabell is an elegant 17th and 18th-century palace. It’s surrounded by formal gardens. Even though we had never been before, we immediately recognized the fountains and garden. That’s because the Sound of Music filmed here. This beautiful garden is one of the spots Maria and the kids ran through singing “Do Re Mi.” From the garden, we had a great view of the Salzburg Cathedral.
Plus, inside the palace is a grand staircase that we enjoyed. Since an archbishop built the palace for his mistress and their children, maybe it’s fitting that the banister is covered with statues of cherubs.
Pedestrian Bridge Over the River
My husband and I are big walkers. We walked from Mirabell palace across the river to the Old City. In one day in Salzburg, a highlight was the panoramic view from the pedestrian bridge. We could see the city on either side of the river, beautiful churches and palaces, the fortress above, and mountains beyond. Bonus: the bridge is a great place to watch the sunset, for free.
Salzburg’s most famous son is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the Old Town, we visited the house where Mozart was born in 1756. It is now a museum about Mozart. Be warned, it’s crowded. But I’m glad we chose to visit anyway.
Wandering Old Town
Our day had to include wandering the narrow streets of the medieval Old Town (Alstadt). The entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage site. While a must-see for Salzburg in a day, Old Town was crowded during our summer visit. Luckily, its streets are lined with cafes and shops. So my husband and I popped in for an energizing Austrian pastry and coffee before heading out again.
Residenzplatz in One Day in Salzburg
In this huge, wide open square in Old Town, we immediately recognized the fountain. Because of the Sound of Music, of course. In the movie, Maria runs through the square and splashes her hand in the gorgeous Baroque fountain at the center of Residenzplatz. Now, the square features concerts. And it is lined with cafes, because Austrians love their pastries.
Salzburg in a Day – Residenz
For centuries, powerful Prince Bishops ruled Salzburg. And lived in a palace connected to the Cathedral, the Residenz. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries, now the Salzburg Residenz is a museum. Its over-the-top Baroque rooms are decorated with rich red walls, paintings covering ceilings and walls, chandeliers, and marble and parquet floors. After all that decoration, my husband and I especially enjoyed walking outside on the Residenz terrace, with its great view of Residenzplatz square below.
Salzburg Cathedral and Museum
After the Baroque interior of the Residenz, we appreciated the relative simplicity inside the Cathedral. The Salzburg Cathedral also has a museum of medieval textiles, gold, sculptures, and paintings. Of all the things in the museum, my favorite was the Cabinet of Curiosities, a strange collection of fossils, stuffed animals, and other odd objects.
Since we enjoyed the Sound of Music, we had to include a visit to the convent where Maria was a novice nun on our one day in Salzburg itinerary. At least she was in the movie.
After stuffing ourselves with pastry in Salzburg, we welcomed the walk up the hill to Nonnberg Abbey (Stift Nonnberg), founded in the 700’s. And from up on the hill, the views of Salzburg and the river were beautiful. Inside the simple church, we enjoyed listening to the choir music playing. Outside the church, we visited the small flower-covered cemetery.
Dinner at the Modern Art Museum
We had a splurgy dinner at a restaurant overlooking the city. My husband and I caught the sunset from the M32 restaurant at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. From its outdoor terrace, we had a breathtaking panoramic view of the Old Town, the river, and the mountains. To enjoy the same view for free, we could have walked up the winding pathway from Old Town up the hill. Which we saw lots of people do.
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We were lucky to have more than one day in Salzburg. So we spent most of the next day exploring the hilltop fortress, Hohensalzburg Castle. It was originally built in 1077. In addition to the fortress itself, the building complex includes a puppet museum, a weapons exhibit, and a café.
If you have time for a day trip from Salzburg, I recommend the fairtytale mountain village of Hallstatt, Austria. If you’ll also visit Vienna, check out TravelingMom’s romantic recommendations in Vienna. And if you’ve never heard of Austria’s second biggest city, undiscovered Graz, here are reasons to put Graz on the map.