When to fly
Salzburg is busy year-round and does not have an off season. Spring and summer draw the biggest crowds booking flights. From mid-July through to August the city is jam-packed with visitors coming to the Salzburg Festival. Since the festival was established in 1920, it has been known for the outstanding high quality of the music, the inclusion of international artists and the successful integration of both the traditional and contemporary. The exceptional programme of this festival, which is one of the world’s most exclusive music festivals, gets people from all over the world to book their flights during this time.
The Advent season runs from the end of November through Christmas and is becoming a more and more popular time to visit. This is the perfect destination to get into the festive spirit, as the snow blankets the city, turning it into a wonderful winter wonderland. Visit the historic Salzburg Christmas Market on Cathedral Square and Residence Square, which have been held since the end of the 15th century. Here you can expect to smell the scent of mulled wine, listen to performances by traditional Salzburg choirs, eat delicious Christmas cookies and wander around stalls selling ornaments, arts and crafts and much more. Over this winter period, specifically the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season is also the ski season, which brings many foreign visitors and Viennese to the area. The crowds return to the city over the Easter holiday to experience a slightly warmer ski season.
As there is no real off season, Salzburg flights and hotel rates tend to be on the high side year-round. You may, however, find restaurants less crowded and possibly a reduced hotel rate and cheaper flights in May, early June, September, and October.
"In Salzburg I don’t know who I am," wrote Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1778. The city has no such doubt. Mozart is its favourite son and the trail that takes in his birthplace, family residence, Mozart Square and St. Sebastian's Church, where some of the Mozarts, although not Wolfgang, are buried, is a tourist draw. Just as popular are Sound of Music tours, which take in the locations from the film, including Mirabell Gardens, Nonnberg Abbey, Leopoldskron Palace and Hellbrunn Palace.
Perched on the border between Austria and Germany, Salzburg is divided by the River Salzach. On one side is the Unesco-listed Old Town, the Hohensalzburg, the Residenz, 17th-century Baroque cathedral, and Getreidegasse, one of Salzburg's oldest shopping streets.
New, or newer, Salzburg is on the other side of the river. This is where most of the hotels and the Mirabell Palace are.
The city is not too big and mostly walkable. You can get from Mirabell Palace to the old town in about 30 minutes, and with the rich architecture, fountains and statues surrounding you, you’ll enjoy the stroll even more. Pop into one of the museums dedicated to Salzburg’s musical past, or one of the many microbreweries around town. You should certainly spend an evening having dinner at St Peter’s, supposedly the oldest restaurant in Europe.
Being in the Alps, Salzburg has breathtaking mountainous scenery. The Hohensalzburg Fortress is reachable by funicular and rewards visitors with the best views in the city as well as its collection of antique weaponry and a concert hall. Travel two hours south and visit Hallstatt, a peaceful lakeside town that is nearly 3,000 years old with amazing scenery that includes a waterfall.
With a name that means “salt castle”, Salzburg and its surrounding area is fittingly home to various salt mines. A great one for families that is close to the city is Salzwelten Salzburg; it features wooden slides and trolley rides in the depths and there is a picnic area outside.
Nestled in the Alps, Salzburg has a continental climate with four distinct seasons. Summers are warm and humid. June through August temperatures are in the 20s, and it rains frequently and hard. Winter days are often overcast, and the temperature hovers around the freezing point, staying cold enough for lots of snow. Spring and autumn are delightful. April and May are in the teens, as are September and October.
Getting around Salzburg
Most of Salzburg’s sights are close to one another, so setting out on foot is a great way to explore the city. You can also hop on one of the buses or trains covering the city and outlying towns.
Getting from the airport
The majority of travellers will arrive at Salzburg Airport (SZG), also known as W. A. Mozart Airport, which is located 2.5 miles (4km) from the city centre. The train is the quickest transport from the airport to the city with a journey taking around 15-20 minutes. There is also a bus service, taxis as well as car rental companies.
Salzburg insider information
- The Hohensalzburg Castle dates from the 11th century. The fully preserved fortress is the largest in central Europe and looks down upon the Old Town and the Salzach River valley. If you don't fancy walking up the hill to visit the castle, a funicular railway runs from the Old Town.
- In St Peter’s cemetery there is a grave with seven crosses. According to legend, this is the tomb of Sebastian Stumpfegger who is said to have murdered his seven wives by tickling them to death.
- Salzburg's most famous shopping district is the Getreidegasse. The area has lots of shops – jewellery, clothes, perfume – passageways and courtyards and the Mozart Museum is here too.
- The Salzburg Festival, held during July and August, and the Salzburg Easter Festival continues Salzburg’s famous link with music.
- The Mirabell Garden. Also the Zwerglgarten (“the garden of the dwarves”) with its statues of gnomes. It was built during the reign of Prince Archbishop Franz Anton Harrach in 1715.
- How do you solve a problem like Maria? Take a tour of the locations used in The Sound of Music.