Salzburg fortress from the mirabell gardens

One Day Salzburg Itinerary: Making the Most of Mountains and Mozart

by Kaisa

As quite literally anyone will scold you, you need more than one day in Salzburg. I get it. We get it. You could say the same about any grand old city place in Europe.

That said, well, sometimes we only have one day! That’s life. Whether you desperately want to see Salzburg on a tight Europe itinerary, or you have some sort of layover, or are a Mozart fan on the run from the law…

Whatever the case, you want to make the most of your one, yes one, O-N-E=1 day in Salzburg! I can help.

(I’m sorry, I just drank several cups of coffee, so this may be a wild ride… but hey, if you’re trying to see a historic Austrian city in a day, you’re gonna need some caffeine, too!)

With this guide to all the best highlights and places to visit in Salzburg in 1 day, you will make the most of it.

Most of this itinerary will take place where you can see here—Salzburg Old City and the Fortress on the mountain.

Super Speedy Salzburg 1 Day Itinerary Breakdown

I’m going to be totally honest here. Because I love you. And want to have fun. But, while I am fairly Type A in everyday life, I’m not the most detailed person in the world when it comes to travel. When I write city itineraries, I like to leave as much wiggle room as possible for miscellaneous wandering and exploring. I think this is the best and most fun way to travel—of course, see the highlights and world-famous wonders and everything, but give yourself time to breathe the air of a place. Get lost. Wander.

I wish I could do the same here, but this itinerary is going to be fairly packed! Still, I beg you, even if you just have 15 minutes between sights, miscellaneously wander a little bit.

These main highlights are close together in the Old City area, so are the best places to visit in Salzburg in 1 day:

  • Salzburg Fortress AKA Festung Hohensalzburg
  • Mirabell Palace and Gardens
  • Mozart Square AKA Mozartplatz
  • Mozart’s Birthplace
  • St Peter’s Cemetery AKA Petersfriedhof
  • Linzergasse Pedestrian Street
The Old City and Salzburg Fortress from across the Salzach river.
Booking.com

The Salzburg Fortress

Hours of Operation

  • 9:30 to 5:00 (from October to April)
  • 9:00 to 7:00 (from May to September)
  • Closes at 2:00 on December 24th

Prices

All-Inclusive Tickets (which I highly recommend, as they include everything in the Fortress) are €16.30 for adults, €9.30 for kids (ages 6-14), and €36.20 for families (max. 2 adults+3 kids). You can get a sizable early bird discount by booking them online as long as you arrive before 10 AM.

Basic Tickets do not include the Prince’s Chambers or the Magic Theater. These tickets cost €12.90 for adults, €7.40 for kids, and €28.60 for families.

All of the fares above include a round-trip on the funicular, the mountainside cable car. Opting for the footpath will save you a few euros, but I don’t think it’s worth it for the way up. It’s super steep! And cobbled! And treacherous!

I took the funicular up and the footpath down and was happy with my life choices (and pitied the sweaty, hopeless souls who desperately asked “how much farther?!” every time I passed them on the way down).

Salzburg Fortress and mountains beyond
Some Fortress structures and the land beyond.

What To See at the Salzburg Fortress

Once you’ve reached the Fortress, there’s a good amount of stuff to see. Okay, that’s an understatement: there’s a ton of stuff to see. I was there on a cloudy week day morning and had the whole place to myself, so lines were almost nonexistent, but I’m sure in the high season it can get busy in here.

If you can, I’d make a list of things you absolutely can’t miss in the Fortress, and then do whatever you have time for. Allow plenty of time to admire the views of the Old City and mountains, too.

View of Salzburg's Old City from the Fortress
… did I mention the Fortress has views of the city? Yeah.

The Fortress Museum

This is the real meat of the Salzburg Fortress experience. It’s the obligatory main event, if you will (why the Magical Theater isn’t billed as such is BEYOND ME).

Salzburg fortress museum artifacts
Some leftovers of the ancient castle fortifications on display in the Fortress Museum.

The Fortress Museum has everything you could want to understand life in Salzburg’s medieval times, particularly as a soldier or royal. You can admire the various artifacts, from coins to suits of armor to tapestries. Archeology lovers will be very into the remnants of medieval life on display. It’s always so much cooler learning about these things in the very setting they were once used, too, rather than a boring museum back home.

The Prince’s Chambers

The Prince's Chambers in the Fortress Museum
The Prince’s Chambers. I hate taking pictures in poorly lit medieval museums, mostly because they never really do their subjects justice. Maybe I should take a class on this or something, idk. Or maybe things invented before cameras weren’t meant to be photographed! Let’s go with that.

The Prince’s Chambers are gorgeous, and I think worth the extra fee. They’re an extra set of halls within the Fortress (I don’t remember how I got around this straight-up maze, but rest assured everything is well-marked).

While there isn’t much museum-wise in the Prince’s Hall and Golden Halls that make up the Prince’s Chambers, they don’t really need it. They were built to be admired, and admired they are. One room (the one in the pic above) is designed to have a ceiling like the night sky and gold everywhere else. The other rooms are much more golden and just as, perhaps more, grand.

Ornate decorations within the Prince's Chambers of Salzburg Fortress
A taste of the ornate, detailed artistry on display everywhere in the Prince’s Chambers.

Magical Theater

YOU GUYS. ATTENTION. EVERYONE.

I could write a whole f*cking 2,000+ word blog post on my love for the Magical Theater. For those who don’t know, this is no ordinary magical theater experience (whatever that would be). It is a puppet magical theater.

Oh, yes.

I know, it sounds super dumb, but prepare to be straight up delighted.

I laughed, I cried, I stepped into the tangled web of Austrian history through those puppets. You must go. You must experience the puppet theatre. I didn’t take any pictures and I truly can’t remember if that’s because it wasn’t allowed, or if I was simply too transfixed in the storytelling wonder.

An old square within the walls of the Salzburg Fortress
A cool old square (like, older than my entire country old square) within the Salzburg Fortress walls.

Altes Zeughaus

Full disclosure, the Altes Zeughaus opened about a week after I was in Salzburg. Lol. However, I’m recommending it because it sounds super cool.

I admired the building every time I walked by throughout my castle explorations, and now that it’s fully restored inside as well I’m sure it’s something special. Basically, it’s a museum of defense and firearms, showing how the invent of firearms changed warfare and defense for a fortress such as this. Apparently it’s very interactive!

Views of the mountains and Salzburg countryside from atop Salzburg fortress
What’s that? You would like some gratuitous photos of Salzburg from the Fortress? SAY NO MORE.
Views of Salzburg countryside from the Salzburg fortress
I am a sucker for mountains, so needless to say I was a happy backpacker that day.

Heading to Italy with more time on your hands? Check out my favorite 10 day Italy itinerary!

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Mirabell Palace and Gardens with Salzburg Fortress in the back
Mirabell palace and garden grounds with a guest appearance from the Salzburg Fortress in the background!

Hours of Operation

  • Mirabell Palace is open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM (check for Marble Hall’s daily hours, as they vary)
  • Mirabell Gardens are open from around 6am to dusk

Prices

FREE (thank you, sweet budget backpacker jibuss)

What to do in the Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Mirabell Palace and Gardens in a nutshell: all marble everything and bright flowers.

The beautiful Mirabell Palace and Gardens, located just across the bridge from the rest of the items on this itinerary, are a favorite of locals and tourists alike. I saw a ton of local couples—from the annoyingly young to adorably old—twitterpating around the flower-filled paths and benches.

For the love of god, though, get here early. The elegant palace halls and picturesque flower gardens are absolute crack to Instagram ~influencer~ type travelers, and it is exhausting to try to take a picture while dodging Americans in maxi dresses. Take it from an American too lazy to gussy up in her hostel.

(Also, where do they pack all these dresses?! A duffel bag full of floral prints and hair straighteners is not worth the extra $100 on Ryanair, thank you very much.)

A gorgeous maze in Mirabell gardens, Salzburg
See what I mean?

No matter how many others you share this magical space with, there’s no denying its beauty. The name Mirabell is apparently a combination of Italian words for “admirable” and “beautiful”, so they did not take this sh*t lightly. There are fountains, hedges, and an unbelievable display of colorful flowers around every turn.

This is one of several places in Salzburg used for filming in “The Sound of Music”, by the way. Petersfriedhof, which we’ll get to later, is another.

Mozartplatz

Mozartplatz performers playing their instruments
This is a typical sight in Mozartplatz, even in the off-season (when this photo was taken).

Hours of Operation

It is an open public city square, so 24/7!

Prices

Free to look and walk around, but a few euros to tip a street performer and snacks/beer/chocolate could possibly add up.

What to do in Mozartplatz

If you have one day in Salzburg, I promise you will walk through Mozartplatz a few times. All roads seem to point to Old City squares like these. I thought I was so clever to observe that fact, until I realized that’s literally basic ye olde time city planning 101 and very much not a coincidence. This is also probably why it’s flanked by two other cool city squares (both also worth exploring), Residenz- and Waagplatz.

Anyway, Mozartplatz is great. You’ll know you’re there because it’s a big a** square with a big a** statue of Mozart in the middle! There were always some sort of street performers milling around playing instruments. There are some shops—not as many as Linzergasse, which we’ll talk about soon—but the appeal of Mozartplatz for me is posting up at a tasty bakery/café and people-watching. Specifically, you can watch tourists pose hilariously for selfies in front of the Mozart statue.

Mozart statue in Mozartplatz, Salzburg
Perhaps the only time my boy Wolfgang gets some peace and quiet—at night.

My favorite time to stroll through Mozartplatz was at night, when the crowds cleared out and it was just the warm yellow lights from the surrounding old town structures. It is very peaceful. If it’s not a rainy night (the risks of only having one night here), having a beer and pastry at a table in Mozartplatz is a positively perfect way to end a day in Salzburg.

Mozart Birthplace

Mozart Birthplace museum front
When I say “you can’t miss it”, I mean you can’t miss it.

Hours of Operation

  • Daily 9 am-5:30 pm
  • July, August: daily 8:30 am-7 pm
  • Dec. 24: 9 am-3 pm

Prices

  • Adults € 11.00
  • Youths (15-18 years) € 4.00
  • Children (6-14 years) € 3.50

What to do at the Mozart Birthplace

If you find yourself with enough time, and are even kind of adjacently interested in Mozart, visiting the Mozart Birthplace is an interesting experience. It is a unique bright yellow building on an otherwise unassuming street, so you can’t miss it.

Inside this building is the Mozart Birthplace Museum. The tour through Mozart’s old digs lasts about an hour and I’m sure would be a true delight for anyone even adjacently interested in Mozart. Even if you don’t think that’s you, it might be after this tour! I really enjoy any sort of tour through beautifully restored historical residences. Plus, even someone as tone deaf as myself can’t deny, the fact they have Mozart’s actual violin on display is fairly epic.

If you don’t have time, or just don’t want to do the full birthplace museum visit, there’s a rad little restaurant, Hagenauerstuben, in the same building. That way you can technically still visited the place of Mozart’s birth, just while sitting and drinking rather than learning. Everyone wins, tbh.

Petersfriedhof

Salzburg Fortress towers over the unassuming but lovely Petersfriedhof.
Salzburg Fortress towers over the unassuming but lovely Petersfriedhof.

At the foot of the lift up to the Salzburg Fortress, you’ll find the small, peacful St Peter’s cemetery, monastery, and catacombs. They are nestled between the Old City and the mountain.

I just visited and will be recommending the cemetery, Petersfriedhof, which is one of the most lovely, haunting little European cemeteries I’ve had the honor of seeing. There is a little garden and a couple extremely old buildings in this lush, quiet courtyard, and I feel like I got the full experience just walking around this area. That said, I’m sure entering the monastery and catacombs is great, too.

Hours of Operation

Summer 6:30 am-7 pm (winter 6:30 am-5:30 pm)

Prices

Free for the cemetery and St. Peter’s church. You can pop into the neighboring catacombs for a few euros.

St. Peter's monastery in Salzburg's Petersfriedhof area
The gardens and monastery in Petersfriedhof. For a many-hundred-year-old cemetery, it sure looks good.

What to do in Petersfriedhof

Exploring Petersfriedhof is great because it’s completely free. You can walk around the ancient architecture and appreciate all the great minds laid to rest here. The cemetery dates back to the year 700 (thanks, Wikipedia!) and the oldest tombstone we know of is from 1288.

To summarize rather generally, the appeal of Petersfriedhof is that is it very old, and very pretty. When I was there, despite the tourists, there was a calm to the area that would be eerie if it wasn’t so peaceful. It’s also a fairly small area, so does not take much time at all as a convenient stop on your way up to the Fortress.

Also, the Von Trapps ran through it when fleeing from the Nazis in “The Sounds of Music”! I have never made it that far in the movie myself (don’t @ me) but sounds like a really exciting moment for all involved.

Heading to another old city with a history of great thinkers?! You might like this 4 day Prague itinerary!

Linzergasse Walking Street

Linzergasse Pedestrian walking street in Salzburg's Old City
Is this… is it… Diagon Alley?

Hours of Operation

Linzergasse is an open pedestrian walking street. As far as I could tell (and I did stroll around well after dark), there are no gates and no hours.

Prices

Free to walk but, much like Mozartplatz, your mileage may vary depending on your taste for shopping and souvenirs!

What to do at the Linzergasse Walking Street

Linzergasse is a historic walking street dating back to the earliest days of Salzburg. It has always been an important walkway in the Old City. Though much of it burned in the fire of 1818, the old merchant homes have been beautifully restored. It certainly has that old world charm to it, even though it’s now mostly a tourist area.

Though Linzergasse gets a lot of grief for being touristy, I thought it was undeniably gorgeous. One particular gift shop had a gigantic stuffed Saint Bernard in the window, of which I am not ashamed to say I took a picture of every time I walked by. One day in Salzburg, but a dozen selfies with a fake dog. My boyfriend definitely thought I went to Austria to take pictures of stuffed animals.

If you’re buying souvenirs, Linzergasse is a great area to do this. While giant stuffed Saint Bernards are well outside the backpacker budget, there were plenty of more “affordable” (Salzburg is expensive in general) options.

I enjoyed people-watching from a little café and popping into almost every bakery I passed. I bought some Austrian chocolates for friends back home and a few postcards, too. It’s a very quick walk without stopping in the shops (0.5 miles or 850 meters), so you can make it last as long or short as you want.

What is the secret to having a wonderful one day in Salzburg?

Please, if you didn’t manage to see one (or two, or even three) of these places, don’t feel badly. In fact, if you somehow didn’t manage to see any of them and just wandered around the streets of Salzburg in absolute awe for 24 hours, you do you.

Horse carriages in Salzburg
Maybe you spend the whole time riding around in horse carriages.

The main thing is to enjoy your time in this amazing city, and if stuffing your itinerary will help you do that, great. If picking one thing from this list to do is enough for you, great. I don’t presume to know what travel is supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to be about checking off boxes.

Anyway, there you have it, friends! I am so sorry you only had one day in Salzburg… but also, LUCKY YOU, you had one day in Salzburg!

Feel free to comment below with questions, concerns, tales from a Mozart fan on the run from the law, etc.

And be sure to share this post with friends, because, you know, important information.

*There are affiliate links in this post, meaning if you click them and buy stuff, I get a small commission at no cost to you. Yay, affiliate links!*

One Day Salzburg Itinerary: Making the Most of Mountains and Mozart

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