Salzburg’s modest roots date back to the 8th century, when St. Rupert established St. Peter’s Abbey and Monastery. The quiet, relaxed mountain town proved to be perfectly suited to the monks’ lives of solitude…that is, until the Prince Archbishops of the 16th century decided to transform the quaint settlement into one of the world’s grandest baroque cities. For the next 200 years, Salzburg’s rulers used the wealth from the salt trade to construct grand palaces, towering cathedrals, and gorgeous gardens. Thanks to its flourishing classical music scene and the Sound of Music’s timeless beauty, the popular town has only grown more desirable in recent years. Today, over 6.5 million visitors flock to Austria’s fourth-largest city, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mozart’s birthplace, Archbishop Markus’ elegant baroque architecture, Red Bull’s dynasty, and Julie Andrews’ kingdom. Here is a perfect Salzburg 48-hour itinerary, the perfect city for your perfect weekend trip.
Explore major landmarks in Old Town, then cross the River Salzach to re-enact one of the most famous Sound of Music scenes.
Morning: Visit the Salzburg Cathedral and DomQuartier Museum
The Salzburg Cathedral has been the shining star of the city’s skyline since it was first completed by bishop Virgil in 774. Over the years, multiple fires – and eventually, bombs during WWII – destroyed the church, so that the newest version of the intricate, baroque building dates only to 1959. Make sure to see the remains of earlier versions of the building in the cathedral’s crypt, where Salzburg church officials decided to surprise visitors with a mini grim reaper that flies around the room. When you’ve finished admiring the cathedral, you can pop into the DomQuartier Museum, whose entrance is conveniently located at the exit of the cathedral. Working with the motto, “More than a Museum,” the DomQuartier complex actually includes two museums, a viewing platform into the Salzburg Cathedral, and the Salzburg Prince Archbishops’ former residence. The impressive complex houses elaborate, gem-crusted chalices, detailed ivory carvings, a neat state sleigh from the 1800s, and a gorgeous viewing platform overlooking nearby Residenzplatz.
Afternoon: Cross the River Salzach to sing at Mirabell Gardens
When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything. Together! Thanks to Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children, Mirabell Gardens made a name for itself in the 1960s. Despite their relatively recent fame, the gardens date back to 1690, when the Archbishop of the time decided to integrate the baroque, geometric patterns of the palace grounds into the beauty of the Salzburg landscape.
Evening: Explore the bar scene on Gstättengasse
The small town still knows how to throw down on a Friday or Saturday night. If you’re looking for some of Salzburg’s best nightlife, Gstättengasse is the place to be. The area boasts many of the city’s bars and clubs, as well as some famous late-night dining options. Try strolling along the river or dining at a riverfront café before hitting up Gstättengasse for a nice cocktail or some cheap beers.
Spend the day in the great outdoors by climbing into St. Peter’s Catacombs, hiking to the Fortress Hohensalzburg, and relaxing under the shade of chestnut trees at Austria’s largest beer garden.
Morning: Pay your respects at St. Peter’s Cemetery
St. Peter’s Cemetery was made famous by the Sound of Music’s great escape scene, though monks have been escaping to the cemetery and its catacombs for centuries. According to legend, hermit monks started hiding out in the mountain’s natural caves as early as the 700s. Honestly, a life of solitude could be much worse. The cemetery sits at the base of Mönschberg, surrounded by beautiful mountains, luscious flowers, and the grand Hohensalzburg Fortress, so maybe the monks had the right idea after all.
Afternoon: Hike to the Fortress Hohensalzburg
For an accurate mental image of Hohensalzburg Fortress, just picture a knight in shining armor beating his fists on his chest and erupting with a roar before going into battle. That kind of simple, barbarian brute strength is one of the few ways to accurately portray the fortitude of a fortress that has never been overtaken. It makes sense that the soldiers would defend the fortress with all they had – the breathtaking view is a keeper for sure, and you’ll want to fill your camera roll with the mountain view from every angle.
Evening: Prost at Augustiner Brau
The monks began this brewery in 1621, and remarkably, it still lives in the Stone Age (the Stone Age ended somewhere between 5-10,000 years ago). At Augustiner Brau, the beer is served in stone steins, complete with the clasped lid that was originally designed to protect kings from being poisoned in the Middle Ages. Austria’s largest beer garden lies under the shade of a grove of chestnut trees, just around the corner from the River Salzach. On any given night, you’ll find a crowd of 3,000, who come for the experience of washing their own mug in the stone basin and stay for the cheap traditional Austrian snacks. What better way to end a hike up Mönchsberg than with a frothy cold one at base camp?