Salzburg, Austria is known for many things. Like… well, how about… okay, so maybe Salzburg is known for just one major thing: The Sound of Music. It’s where the movie was filmed; it’s where the movie takes place; and it’s where I went this year to escape Germany’s Oktoberfestivities for a day.
You know what’s great about Oktoberfest? Well, everything. But will you need a break from it? Absolutely—don’t be a hero. Salzburg is just an easy hour and a half from Munich, has enough sights of its own to entertain you, and still has beer since it’s not time to completely dry out yet (this is just a break; not a break up). And that’s what makes a day trip to Salzburg from Munich such a splendid idea.
DAY TRIP TO SALZBURG FROM MUNICH
Do you need to be a fan of The Sound of Music to enjoy a day trip to Salzburg from Munich? Definitely, 100%, no. Even though you probably are because it’s not terrible. But will it help to watch it at least once beforehand? Well, obviously. You still want to be an informed human being, right? And ladies, if you’re husband isn’t up for it, just tell him it’s a WWII film. Evil Nazis and all. Totally works.
A day trip to Salzburg from Munich is easy to navigate, a necessary pilgrimage for The Sound of Music fans, and I have confidence you’ll find it totally worth squeezing into your busy travel schedule.
HOW TO GET TO SALZBURG FROM MUNICH
As you can see from this map I slaved over, Munich (yellow) and Salzburg (red) are fairly close together despite being in separate countries. By far, the easiest and fastest way (though not always the quietest despite sitting in the Quiet Car *end rant*) to go on a day trip to Salzburg from Munich is by train. Germany’s kickass public transportation system makes this day trip simple and painless.
Train tickets on Germany’s Deutsche Bahn can be purchased in advance and, actually, the sooner you get them the better cheaper. DB offers special “Saver Fares” and, if you’re early enough, “Super Saver Fares” that are only available in limited quantities just waiting to be snatched up.
STEP ONE ⇢ Head to Bahn.com – the official (English-language version) website for Germany’s Deutsche Bahn railway. (I’ve tried other sites like GoEuro, etc. but the prices and schedules have always been the exact same. In this case, I always prefer to book transportation directly with the company that will be transporting me rather than through a third party. The less of a chance of my reservations–and therefore, me–getting lost, the better, imo.)
STEP TWO ⇢ Fill in the timetable with the following:
⇢ From: Munich (München) ⇠ Munich’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof
⇢ To: Salzburg Hbf ⇠ Salzburg’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof – If you haven’t figured it out yet, “hauptbahnhof” is German for “the main train station of whatever city we’re talking about.”
⇢ Date: The date you plan to take this day trip and the time you want to leave. Personally, I took the 7:24 am train because I wanted to make sure I could get in a full day in Salzburg but also because I’m a masochist. And apparently also a sadist because I dragged my husband along with me. MWAHhAHAH.
⇢ Time of your return journey: It’s absolutely possible to make this day trip to Salzburg from Munich and return to Munich in the same day. That’s what I did and we know I only make the wisest of choices. If that’s the case for you, keep the date the same and change the time. Remember: enter your return time according to the 24-hour clock. Arriving at 8 am and leaving at 9 am is more ambitious than even I’m willing to attempt. Well, maybe. Hmmm…
STEP THREE ⇢ Fill out the rest. Obviously check “Prefer fast connections” because why wouldn’t you? Well, it doesn’t matter anyway because there won’t be any connections on this trip. Enter number of travelers, etc. and check whether you want 2nd class because “celebrities, they’re just like us!” or 1st class if you’s a baller.
STEP FOUR⇢ Submit and choose your itinerary by each leg.
There are a couple of things you should know about your Deutsche Bahn train ticket that will save you a couple of small headaches, like:
You don’t need your train ticket printed out (though, if you have a printer, it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a backup). Having the ticket saved on your phone is perfectly acceptable. Save it as a PDF and/or as a screenshot to save time and the hassle of trying to load it.
Also, regardless of how many people are traveling with you, you will get one ticket (if you booked them all at the same time, that is). If you put “2 travellers” on the initial timetable, and saw “2 Adults” on the confirmation page, your one ticket will cover two people.
STEP 5 ⇢ Then wait, little girl, on an empty
stage train platform for fate the conductor to turn the light on. Inside Munich’s main train station, the Deutsche Bahn trains are found in the huge main area of the train station. Like, right when you walk in off the street, they’re the platforms that are Right. There. The trip takes anywhere between an hour and a half and an hour and forty-five minutes depending on which train you choose and it’s a smooth, beautiful ride through the Bavarian countryside.
DAY TRIP TO SALZBURG FROM MUNICH THE EASY WAY
Okay so you’ve arrived in Salzburg, yay! You didn’t get on the wrong train and accidentally end up in France! Fantastic. Now, first things first: pick up a Salzburg Card.
The Salzburg Card is going to really simplify your day trip to Salzburg from Munich. It’s going to save you money, time, and, most importantly, hassle. I love, love, love sightseeing passes (as I continue to mention on this blog) so I was thrilled to discover Salzburg offered one as well. Skipping the lines, skipping the walking, and skipping having to get my wallet out constantly? These are a few of my favorite things! When you’re trying to see all you can in a city in a single day, being a travel VIP is going to make everything run much more efficiently.
WHAT IS THE SALZBURG CARD?
The Salzburg Card is a single, low-cost pass you buy that gets you:
- Free admission into all tourist attractions and museums in Salzburg
- …along with skip-the-line privileges
- Free travel on all modes of public transportation
- A free river cruise, one of my must-do activities when I travel
- Extra discounts around town, and more
PICKING UP YOUR SALZBURG CARD
In a move that is the exact opposite of Paris, Salzburg’s tourist information center couldn’t be easier to find—it’s right there in the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, mere steps from the train you just arrived on. Here, you can purchase your Salzburg Card or, if you’ve planned ahead, pick up the one you’ve already purchased using your printed out voucher.
The Salzburg Card is available in 24-, 48-, and 72-hour increments but, since this is called “Day Trip to Salzburg from Munich,” you’re just going to need the 24-hour version. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, let’s go!
WHAT TO DO IN SALZBURG ON A DAY TRIP
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C, and when you visit Salzburg you begin at Mozart’s Birthplace, the former residence of Austria’s most famous child prodigy.
I want to start by mentioning that there are two Mozart-related sites in Salzburg: Mozart’s Birthplace and Mozart’s Residence, both being places he once lived. (Hundreds of years from now, maybe people will be streaming through my house. “And here’s the couch from which she binge-watched Stranger Things that one time. And here’s where she rode a Segway through the house and crashed.”
Both sites are open to the public but, with only one day to spend in Salzburg, I decided to choose just one. After doing some research and asking around as to which was I should visit, Mozart’s Birthplace won the popular vote. Thank you, democracy.
WHY VISIT MOZART’S BIRTHPLACE?
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the most famous child prodigy in history, Olsen twins aside. By the age of four the kid was already skilled at the piano, the violin, and musical composition. FOUR, for crying out loud. According to WebMD, today’s babies are just learning to correctly identify shapes and colors and “possibly write his or her name” at the age of four. Something about this Mozart kid is truly science fiction-y. Like, he’s clearly from the Upside-Down.
- The museum won’t take you a long time to go through. Because, well, houses were smaller back in the 1790s. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- It houses a large collection of Mozart-related artifacts—among them, more than just a couple locks of his hair. Juuuust in case they want to clone some more baby geniuses at some point, I guess.
Every European capital has its big beautiful church, and this is Salzburg’s. Salzburg Cathedral, considered the centerpiece of Salzburg, was founded in the year 744 (no ‘1’ in front, just 744) but the Baroque version you’ll visit today was constructed between 1614 and 1628.
WHY VISIT SALZBURG CATHEDRAL?
- The place is GORGEOUS inside.
- Inside is the baptismal font used to baptize both Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791, and Joseph Mohr, the guy who wrote the lyrics to “Silent Night,” in 1792.
- By the way, that baptismal font is from the year 1311.
- There’s also a cathedral museum containing art treasures from the cathedral’s 1300-year history.
SALZBURG CASTLE // HOHENSALZBURG FORTRESS
Salzburg Castle—formally/German-ly known as Hohensalzburg Fortress—sits high above the city and is one of the largest (and most well preserved) medieval castles in Europe. It was built in the year 1077 and offers visitors a look into true medieval torture—the marionette museum. Admission to the castle and the funicular ride to the top are free with the Salzburg Card but a visit to the marionette museum is going to cost you many sleepless nights. It’s like they want you to run away and never look back?
WHY VISIT SALZBURG CASTLE?
- The views! Salzburg Castle’s location atop Festungsberg (that’s the name of the hill it’s on, adorable) provides visitors the absolute best views of Salzburg to one side, the Alps on the other.
- You don’t have to climb every mountain. Your Salzburg Card gets you a free trip to the top (and back) on the funicular railway. Grab a spot in the front of the bottom car for the best experience.
- Explore on your own. You’re free to roam the castle grounds completely self-guided but make sure you have a hand to hold in the marionette museum.
- Have a brew with a view at the on-site beer garden.
LUNCH AT GASTHAUS WILDER MANN
How do you solve a problem like hunger? Are you always late for everything except for every meal? Well, roam around town until the cutest little eatery strikes your fancy. Such is how we found Gasthaus Wilder Mann in a secluded little courtyard that seemed completely unknown. That is, until later when a giant tour group came in and we became the subject of much German description. No idea.
WHY HAVE LUNCH AT GASTHAUS WILDER MANN
- Apparently it’s noteworthy? Perhaps having something to do with the “wild man” whom the place was named after? I feel like there’s probably a great story there.
- It’s friggin’ adorable, offers indoor and outdoor seating, and feels very homey.
- The food and service were both great – Rolled hot ham Austrian style + Stewed beef goulash
SALZBURG RIVER CRUISE
Taking river cruises is one of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city. They typically only take about an hour, are inexpensive (if not free), and are a totally unique way to see the sights (without having to get off your butt because you just ate the heaviest meal in Austria). The Salzburg river cruise boards right in the center of town under the Makart Bridge.
WHY TAKE A SALZBURG RIVER CRUISE?
- It’s totally free with your Salzburg Card! Give your legs a rest for an hour and enjoy a from-the-water tour of Salzburg – there’s even a bar on board.
- The guided tour takes you past Salzburg Castle and the Alps, and your guide will point out different spots from The Sound of Music along the way.
- Learning about the Salzach River and the boat you’re on (the Amadeus) is super interesting, promise.
- There’s a special surprise at the end that I won’t ruin for you. But it’s gonna ROCK.
MIRABELL PALACE AND GARDENS
The Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 as a “pleasure palace” for Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau and his mistress and I think that’s as far as we need to go with that description, hmm? Over time it changed royal hands a few times, served as the wedding venue for Eva Braun’s sister and as a filming location for The Sound of Music, and eventually became the mayor’s office after WWII.
The “pleasure gardens” as you’ll see them still today were designed in 1690, though they weren’t open to the public until much later. The gardens consist of the massive floral arrangements, a rose garden, an orangery, a hedge theater, fountains, and a dwarf garden—apparently the oldest “dwarf garden” in Europe, so that’s a thing.
WHY VISIT MIRABELL PALACE AND GARDENS?
- Great views! You can find great views of Salzburg Castle and the city of Salzburg from the “Angel Staircase” that leads to the gardens.
- Beautiful floral arrangements that are best seen by only the tallest of visitors
- To prance around and Sound of Music your ass off (This is where the “Do-Re-Mi” portion of the movie was filmed. But why am I telling you? You already know this.)
- The statuary is pretty fascinating—all mythological creatures and, I’m guessing these are the dwarves of which they speak?
Salzburg’s Stiegl brewery has been around since 1492—can your country even say that?—and is Austria’s biggest privately-owned brewery. Stiegl—German for “little staircase”—is a massive facility on the outskirts of town that’s easily accessed by city bus or even by your own two feet if misreading maps is your standard operating procedure as well.
To get to Stiegl: Take either the #1 or #10 bus (for those of you under 30, that’s “number 1” and “number 10”) and get off on the “Bräuhausstraße” stop. On foot, just follow Google maps but know that she pretty much sucks at estimating arrival times and your ability to follow spoken directions.
WHY VISIT STIEGL BREWERY?
- A Stiegl brewery tour is included in the Salzburg Card and they’re even available in English. (Unlike my last German brewery disaster.)
- Learn how beer is made and the history of beer culture in Austria.
- Your free tour includes a couple of free gifts and, more importantly, free beer! I must have done something good.
- There’s an on-site beer garden and restaurant if you want to stay longer.
SALZBURG CITY CENTER // GETREIDEGASSE
Salzburg’s historic city center lies between the Salzach River and the Festungsberg in what has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s said to be the meeting point of Northern and Southern Europe as well as the place where German and Italian cultures met. Salzburg city center is noteworthy because of how well its medieval structures have held up over time, its association with its most famous resident (Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus), and for having the fanciest McDonald’s sign you ever did see.
WHY VISIT SALZBURG CITY CENTER?
- It’s in Salzburg’s city center than you can load up on all those chocolates with Mozart’s face on them. I’m not a chocolate fan (I know *gasp*, bring out the torches!) so I wasn’t interested but I’ve since had those things mentioned to me numerous times. Did I miss out on something phenomenal? Please advise.
- Salzburg city center’s Getreidegasse is where most of the restaurants, cafes, and shops are. So if you’re hungry, thirsty, and/or have money in your pocket to burn, this is the area for you.
In the center of Salzburg’s historical district you’ll find Mozartplatz, a large plaza featuring a bronze cast of the boy genius. Only, as a grown up. His wife once lived in this square but today it’s mainly just a great meeting point, being the center of town that it is, and home to Salzburg’s other tourism office.
WHY VISIT MOZARTPLATZ?
- To see the statue of Mozart – This bronze statue was unveiled in 1842 in the presence of Mozart’s sons and their inferiority complexes.
- To enjoy a relaxing end to your day trip to Salzburg from Munich. After my husband’s request to “sit somewhere with a view of the castle,” we ended up at Café Glockenspiel, the perfect spot for some weenies and beers and strudel… with a view of the castle.
OPTIONAL SALZBURG TOURS WHILE YOU’RE THERE
Even with everything I did during my day trip to Salzburg from Munich, I had still plenty of time left for more and you probably will too (seeing as how no one is a slower drinker than I am). If you’re the kind of person who loves taking tours on your trips, check out these Salzburg exclusives:
The Original Sound of Music Tour | I heard about this tour, oh, a million times before my trip to Salzburg. This famous tour takes you to many of The Sound of Music‘s filming locations around Salzburg (including the Mirabell Gardens), has superb ratings, and even offers an afternoon departure for us day-trippers.
Salzburg Historical Walking Tour | This 2-hour walking tour covers many of the sites mentioned in this post and would be a great way to explore Salzburg’s city center and Getreidegasse. It starts late enough in the morning that even day visitors won’t have a problem catching it.
Best of Mozart Concert at Salzburg Castle | One thing I wish I’d done during my day in Austria was catch at concert. These Mozart concerts at Salzburg Castle are one of the city’s most popular events and are likely to sell out. It’s a fancy concert in a castle on a hill, hello?! The hills are alive with the sound of music, clearly.
Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden Tour from Salzburg | If I had just a wee bit more time (or, you know, maybe hadn’t walked to the Stiegl Brewery) I would’ve booked a side trip to Berchtesgaden in a heartbeat. The Eagle’s Nest, a playhouse of sorts for Hitler & Co., sits atop a mountain in the Alps and is only accessible via bus tour or a 2-hour hike.
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu!
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Huge thanks to Salzburg tourism for providing me with a Salzburg Card so I could
help relay the best ways to spend a day trip to Salzburg from Munich!