Nestled in the eastern Alps, on the banks of the Salzach river, Salzburg makes an excellent home base for day trips. The city is ideally located within striking distance of many places of interest. Most of the day trips from Salzburg are between 1 to 3 hours away by car, bus, or train. While there are many scenic places to visit around this area, the ones below are my top choices for the best day tours from Salzburg.
BEST DAY TRIPS FROM SALZBURG
We traveled through Austria by car. While most of the day trips below can be accessed by public transportation, having a car will help you get to your destination quicker and on your own schedule.
1. Hallstatt Day Trip (1 hr 15 min by car)
Of all the day trips from Salzburg I liked the one to Hallstatt the most. There is something so irresistible about this salt mine village squeezed between the crystal clear lake and the base of Salzberg Mountain (Salt Mountain)!
Hallstatt was once a quiet place. Until the late 19th century, you could only reach the town by boat or via small mountain trails. As the land between the lake and the mountain was so narrow, the town itself occupied every inch of it.
But today Hallstatt is no longer so quiet. In recent years, to the dismay of the locals, Hallstatt has become one of the most visited places in Austria! The town is particularly popular among Chinese and Korean tourists who visit it as a day trip from Salzburg.
Despite being such a small place, Hallstatt has quite a few attractions. One of the nicest things to do here is stroll along the only street in town. Besides the souvenir shops, bakeries and restaurants, you’ll see some of the town landmarks, like the market square or the Evangelical Church.
Another attraction in town is the Hallstatt Salt World which includes the Salt Mine and the Skywalk. The Salt World lies high above the town on the 1,030-meter-tall Salzberg (Salt Mountain). A three-minute funicular ride will take you to the beautiful Skywalk viewing platform that extends over a sheer drop.
But the main attraction atop the Salzberg Mountain is the 7,000-year-old salt mine itself. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit it!
Another fun thing to do in Hallstatt is boating on Hallstätter See. The 8.5 km long and 2 km wide lake is surrounded by steep forested mountains that give it a fjord-like look.
- By Car: The easiest way to get from Salzburg to Hallstatt is by car. The ride takes about 1 hr. 15 min. (72.9 km) via B158. There are parking lots at the entrance of the village.
- By Buss: You can also get to Hallstatt by buss. The ride takes about 2 hrs. 15 min. The driver will pick you up from the Old Town Salzburg and drop you off at the edge of the town. He will pick you up again 6 hours later from the same location.
- By Train: Getting to Hallstatt is by train is possible, but it’s not the most convenient option because from train station to the village you’ll have to take the ferry. The ride (including the ferry) takes about 2.5 hrs. The last ferry departs the village at 6:15 pm, so if you miss it you’ll be stuck in Hallstatt for the night.
You can also book half a day tour from Salzburg to Hallstatt here:
2. Dachstein Ice Cave & 5 Fingers Day Trip (2 hrs by car)
One of the most exciting day trips from Salzburg is to Dachstein Ice Cave. This impressive natural limestone and ice cave lies hidden in the Dachstein Krippenstein massif, in the Austrian Alps.
As you arrive at the big parking lot, enter the Visitor Center to get to the gondola that will take you to the top. If you want to see both the Ice Cave and the 5 Fingers viewing platform, you will need to purchased the more expensive ticket all the way to the top: €49/person ($55). Ouch!!
The first gondola stop is at the Ice Cave, where the salesperson will stamp your tour time (approx. 30-40 minutes ahead). This will give you enough time to hike up to the cave entrance, where the guided tour starts.
There is a steep 15-20 minutes hike from the station up to the cave entrance. At the ticket office, no one warns you that during the cave tour you’ll have to climb 500 more steps! You will learn about this only from the guide, as the tour begins.
I recommended taking stops along the way to catch your breath. Also, take a bottle of water with you because you can’t find water up there. Being an ice cave, it’s very cold inside, so bring a warm jacket and a hat to keep yourself warm.
Visiting the Giant Ice Cave is fascinating! As you walk through the labyrinth of spacious caverns, you’ll encounter huge cave glaciers, massive ice sculptures and frozen cascades of sapphire-colored ice. There are also some light shows and music effects inside the cave.
Visiting the 5 Fingers Hand-Like Shape Viewing Platform
After you finish visiting the Ice Cave, take the second cable car to the top to see the 5 Fingers hand-like shape viewing platform. The views are stunning and totally worth the 30-minute walk from the gondola. We visited on 23rd May and the whole walk from the cable car to the 5 fingers was in snow.
The climb was steep and icy. I slipped literally every step I took, although I was wearing good hiking boots. Warm clothes and good footwear are essential!
Dachstein Krippenstein is about 80 km away from Salzburg, about 1/2 hr away from Hallstatt. You can travel to Dachstein by car, by bus, or by train.
- By Car/Taxi: The easiest way to get to Dachstein is by car. If you are driving yourself, there is a large parking lot right at the Dachstein Visitor Center. You can also reach Dachstein from Hallstatt, by taxi.
- By Train: If you are arriving in Dachstein by train, get off at the Obertraun Train Station (Obertraun Banhhof). It’s the next stop after Hallstatt Station. From here you can also grab Postbus 543 on the way up Dachstein Mountain.
- By Bus: There is no direct bus service from Salzburg to the Dachstein Mountain Visitor Center. The Visitor Center can only be reached by the local bus from from Hallstatt.
3. Hitler’s Eagle Nest & Berchtesgaden Old Town
“Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest” is an extravagant mountaintop chalet that sits like a fantasy castle atop a high mountain peak in the Bavarian Alps. The lodge was a gift to Adolph Hitler for his 50th birthday, in 1939.
Underneath the charming chalet there was a huge compound of 80 buildings where Hitler hosted world leaders and had important meetings. The Eagle’s Nest was once the second seat of the Nazi administration.
The creation of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest was a remarkable engineering success, but not much of it remains today. After the Second World War the allied forces destroyed almost everything, except for the elaborate bunker system which you can see today underneath the Documentation Center.
Your visit starts at the Documentation Center which is a museum just above the resort town of Berchtesgaden. From here you can visit the bunker system below.
There is also a shuttle bus that providing the only access to the Eagle’s Nest high above the mountain. From the bus stop, visitors pass through a tunnel leads to a brass elevator which takes them to the top. The chalet is actually a restaurant with a beautiful terrace from where you can see the entire area around.
Walk Through Berchtesgaden’s Old Town
To get to Hitler’s Eagle Nest you’ll have to pass through Berchtesgarden, a small town on the border of Austria and Germany. Use the opportunity to visit this charming German town, encircled by snow-capped mountains and packed with great shops, restaurants, and eye-catching buildings.
- By Car: It takes about 30 minutes to drive from Salzburg to Berchtesgarden.
- By bus: Bus #840 (the Watzmann Express) will take you from the Salzburg to Berchtesgarden in about 45 minutes. You can take it either from the main train station (Salzburg Hauptbahnhof), or from the Salzburg Rathaus.
- By train: There are no direct trains from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden. If you choose this option, you will have to change trains at Freilassing, and arrive at the main station in Berchtesgaden in about one hour and 15 minutes.
4. Königssee (30 min by car)
Just a couple of miles south of the town of Berchtesgaden lies Germany’s deepest and cleanest lake: Königssee (King’s Lake). A day tour to Königssee is an absolute must if you are in Salzburg. Surrounded by the Bavarian Alps, the emerald fjord-like waters of the lake will amaze you!
The most popular activity at Königssee is a lake tour on one of the vintage electric passenger ferries. The ferries glide quietly past silent mountain faces and roaring waterfalls. Along the way, the boatman will stop to blow a blast on his trumpet to demonstrate the amazing echo created by the mountain walls.
You can take the ferry all the way to the end of the lake, at Salet, or stop at Saint Bartholomä Church. The full boat ride without getting off will take about 2 hours (35 minutes to the church, 20 minutes to the end, and back).
You can spend an entire day at Königssee exploring Saint Bartholomä Church, walking along the lake, and eating at the restaurant next to the church. Or, if you feel inclined to work out your muscles, you hike 6 km up to the Ice Chapel (a small cave into a glacier.)
If you have more time, you can also ride out to Salet and walk to Obersee, a smaller lake just 15 minutes away from the dock.
If you are planning to visit Königssee, you should have an early start to beat the crowds. The lake is quite popular and the lines for the ferries become very long during the day.
- By bus: The Watzmann Express (#840) will take you from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (or the Salzburg Rathaus) to the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof (a 45 minute ride.)
- By train: There are no direct trains from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden. If you choose this option, you will have to change trains at Freilassing, and arrive at the main station in Berchtesgaden in about one hour and 15 minutes.
- From the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, take bus #839, 841 or 843 to the Königssee parking lot.
- By Car: getting to Königssee by car is by far the fastest and easiest option. The ride will take about 30 minutes. If you arrive by car, park in the big parking lot next to the Visitor Center and then follow the path down to the lake.
5. Wolfgangsee & Schafberg Railroad (50 min by car)
If you are a mountain railway enthusiast, this excursion is for you. Schafberg is a cogwheel train takes you from the shore of the Wolfgangsee in St. Wolfgang, almost to the very top of the Schafberg Mountai at 1,783 m.
The slope is pretty steep (they claim this is the steepest railway in Austria) and the views are fantastic! The ride up takes about 35 minutes. We’ve been on a couple of cogwheel trains before, so the experience wasn’t new, but we loved it just the same.
Once you get off the train you can start walking around to admire the beautiful landscape around you. Don’t miss the cross at the top of the mountaintop, which is hidden behind the Himmelsporte restaurant.
You can return to St. Wolfgang on foot, if you like. If you want to return by the cogwheel train, make sure to reserve a seat.
- By car: The quickest and cheapest way to get from Salzburg to Schafberg Railway in St. Wolfgang is to drive (the trip takes roughly an hour).
- By bus: Bus #150 & 546 go from Salzburg via Strobl to St. Wolfgang. Just be aware that you need to change buses at Strobl. You can also take a ferry between Strobl and St. Wolfgang.
6. Melk (2 hrs by car)
Another beautiful day trip from Salzburg is the one to Melk. The town is home to to one of the most beautiful Baroque monasteries in Europe, Melk Abbey.
Built high above the town on a rock overlooking the Danube, the vast Baroque building of the monastery can be seen from far away.
The monastery was built in 1089 and has since been continuously inhabited by the Benedictine monks who live and work there. The visit will take you through abbey church, the Imperial Staircase, the abbey museum, the Marble Hall, the veranda, the library and the beautifully manicured garden with its picturesque Baroque pavilion.
Melk Abbey went through an extensive restoration process that started in the 70s and ended in 2006. The result is astounding! Two of the most impressive parts of the abbey are the Marble Hall and the Library.
We didn’t take the guided tour, but instead used the audioguide. This allowed us to explore the grounds at our own pace.
Melk itself is a nice town with many pleasant restaurants, wine taverns and cute stores. It’s worth taking a stroll through town and back to the river to give the monastery one last look.
- By train: There is no direct train from Salzburg to Melk. If you want to travel by train you will have to change trains in Amstetten Noe. The journey, including transfers, takes approximately 2h 32m and costs between €17-35.
- By car: the fastest and most convenient way to travel between Salzburg and Melk is by car. The journey takes about 2 hrs via A1 (this is a toll road).
- There are some shuttle busses that offer private pick-up/drop-off services between Salzburg and Melk, but they are expensive.
7. Neuschwanstein Castle Tour (2 hrs 46 min by car)
Unlike the other day trips from Salzburg, this one is a bit tricky because it can only be done by car, or by private tour. There are no busses going to Neuschwanstein and getting there by train it’s way too complicated and time consuming.
There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing a private tour as opposed to driving yourself to Neuschwanstein. The advantages of hiring a private tour company tour is that you won’t have to stress about driving for almost 3 hours; you’ll be picked up and dropped off at your hotel; you will skip the ticket line.
On the downside, the private tours are quite expensive and they won’t stop anywhere else along the way. If you go on your own, you could also tour Hohenschwangau Castle, or stop to see the beautiful town of Fussen.
Neuschwanstein isn’t a real castle, but rather the fantasy of a “mad king” – Ludwig of Bavaria. If you plan to do this day trip you should arm yourself with some knowledge about King Ludwig, Wagner and his operas, and the German Romanticism. Your visit will make much more sense, as the castle is actually the result of all these influences on King Ludwig. Otherwise the castle will just seem like a strange collection of murals.
Neuschwanstein is an icon, so it’s worth seeing at least once in your lifetime. Unfortunately the castle is overrun with busloads of tourists and can only be seen by tour (which is not that great.) But while one can argue about the “merits” of Neuschwanstein, I think it’s definitely worth taking the time to visit it at least once in your lifetime.
8. Day Trip from Salzburg to Vienna
No trip to Austria would be complete without a visit to Vienna. Ideally, you should spend more one day in Vienna, but if that’s all the time you have available it’s still worth squeezing in a visit.
Vienna is a very alluring city, with a rich musical and cultural life. However, it will be difficult to experience that aspect of Vienna on a short day trip. You will however be able to see some of the city’s landmarks and enjoy some Viennese schnitzel.
Many of the city’s attractions are concentrated in Altstadt (Old Town), so you should plant on spending the day there. There are also numerous high end stores and nice restaurants in this area. I would strongly recommend buying a one day hop-on-hop-off bus ticket that will make your visit easier.
Getting to Vienna from Salzburg
By train: The best way to travel between Salzburg and Vienna is by train. The trip is fast and inexpensive (it takes about 2 hrs 25 min and tickets start at €40). From Salzburg, hop on the RJ 949 train that will drop you at the Vienna Central Station.
By car: I wouldn’t recommend this option, even if you have a rental car already. Parking in Vienna is expensive and difficult, like in all the big European cities. Besides, the trip takes longer (around 3 hours).
There are no bus connections between Salzburg and Vienna.
If you enjoyed this post please pin it for later:
Oscar R Arce
Going to Austria for 14 days arriving in Vienna the 18 August in the morning
going west to return from Munich on the 29 August here is the plan:
17 August travel to Vienna
18-19-20 August Vienna sleep Vienna from here day trips to:
Vienna to Bratislava 1:10 by train/ 57 min by car
Vienna to Graz 2:30 by train/ 2:15 by car
Vienna to Krems,Weissenkirchen/Durnstein,Spitz .Sleep probably in Weissenkirchen
22-23-24 August go to Melk then Salzburg maybe visit Linz, Kremsmünster Abbey along the way?
day visits from Salzburg to Hallstatt salt mines and the Dachstein Ice Caves & 5 Fingers Lookout.
25 August Salzburg to Zell am See
26 August Zell am See to Innsbruck
28 August Innsbruck to Munich 1:47 by train/ 2:08 by car sleep in Munich
Is this overly ambitious? what will you cut, or add (?) what towns will you suggest to stay overnight
I am contemplating renting a car, but buses seem so tempting, your feedback will be greatly appreciated
It may seem like a pretty tight schedule, but I don’t think it’s overly ambitious. However, if you want to accomplish this itinerary I suggest to rent a car for more flexibility. You’ll also save a lot of time. Hope this helps.
Cindy Ann Carlsson
What a great list! I did a few of those when I was last in Salzburg, but I’ve been meaning to return and now I have a good list of other places to visit while in the area. This part of Europe is just so beautiful!
HeY Cindy, good to hear from you. Salzburg definitely needs a return trip. Thanks for dropping by.
That is a perfect comprehensive guide on day trips from Salzburg. All the places are equally picturesque and unique but Hallstatt won my heart. Those colourful houses around the lake are so pretty and a visit to 7000 years old mine will top our list. The view of Lake on the way to ice cave is amazing and that 5 finger bridge is superb. Great pictures too.
Salzburg looks like a great place to visit with any places around it rocks go as well. Neuschwanstein Carl’s Tour looks amazing. My family would love that. Konigsse looks beautiful as well. They all look like great places to go.
I am terrified of heights, but I think I’d have to get over it to enjoy the skywalk over Hallstatt. Who could miss out on that view?! The lake tour around Königssee sounds exceptional, so I’m definitely adding this to my Austria travel plans in the fall.
The last time I was in Austria, i was only able to tick off Vienna. But this year, am definitely heading out to Salzburg, and spending a considerable time there, doing day trips to all these places. I personally would love to visit Halsatt, but maybe even stay for a night there, and in a way experiencing the town, minus the touristy crowd.
I would have loved to stay in Hallstatt as well, but didn’t have time.
I long to spend time exploring Austria. What lovely places to see. Sad that you couldn’t get to the salt mine but I avoid crowds too and the viewpoint was fantastic. Loved hearing about the ice cave and boat ride. Such beautiful weather.
I’m hoping there will be a TBEX meeting there sometime.
What a great comprehensive guide to day trips from Salzburg. I’m sad to hear that Hallstatt has become so popular that it is impeding daily life for the locals. A victim of its own popularity, like so many places. I didn’t realise you could reach Neuschwanstein Castle so easily from Salzburg – great tip!
Neuschwanstein is reachable from Salzburg only if you have a car.
I’m in process of creating an itinerary including Austria for the Fall and Salzburg is one of the stops. I am most excited about taking a day trip to Hallstatt and now I’m even more excited about the skywalk and boat ride! Dachstein Krippenstein, Melk Abbey and Königssee look incredible too. There is never enough time!
Hope you’ll have fun in Austria, Sherianne.
Loved your suggestions! Traveling in August with my daughter (25) who writes historical fiction/ we will only have time for 3 day trips from Salzburg. Are any of these stops in the same direction where we could go early/ hit one- then drive further to the next one? We don’t mind long drives. We aren’t interested in the caves- but the rest sound amazing!
You could probably go to Eagle’s Nest (which is close to Berchtesgaden), then to Königssee, and after that to Hallstadt. However, each one of these places take several hours to visit, so you may want to schedule only two in a day.
My gosh, I made a huge mistake. I chose Innsbruck as our base for covering Austria. The day trips around Salzburg are awesome, especially as photographed by you!
Thank you, Carol.
Loved this article! I’ve been thinking about a trip to do at the end of September, and Salzburg may well be the place. I always hear such good things about it and to know that there are so many beautiful day-trips to do from it, is definitely a plus.
That’s what I liked about Salzburg too: it makes a great home base for many beautiful day trips.
What a great guide for those staying in Salzburg and wanting to get out of town for the day. So many great suggestions.
The salt mines at Hallstatt Salt world would have been very interesting. Plus the added bonus of that amazing looking skywalk.
Mozart was too lucky to be surrounded by all these beautiful places in Salzburg. No wonder his work has been such legendary masterpieces. There’s just so much inspiration! My favorite here is definitely the ice cave. I’ve never been to one before and I didn’t even know they exist. It would definitely take me more than 20 minutes to hike that haha! But I guess it’s worth the trip. Now I’m craving for schnitzel!
Salzburg is located strategically close to all those beautiful places to visit in Central Europe. It is nice to know that I can visit Melk and also Neuschwenstein Castle in day tours from Salzburg. Hallstatt is a dreamy place and I would like to rather stay there for a day or two, however if you do not have enough days in hand, it’s nice to have a quick visit there from Salzburg.
That’s a lot of places worth visiting from one town. I think it would be hard to pick only one or two. My mom gave me a painting of Neuschwanstein Castle several years ago. I thought it was a real castle. It’s interesting that a mad king built it. I think his cousin might live close to us, as there is a castle in the middle of nowhere that is similar.
Although I’ve been to Salzburg, I actually wasn’t aware that it is so close to Neuschwanenstein, but most of all Melk – since I visited Melk from Vienna and it was pretty close. Only shows how tiny Austria actually is 😉
It’s a very nice post with many great destinations to visit when in Austria or Bavaria, for that matter.
Yea, Austria is tiny indeed. Tiny and beautiful!
Wolfgangsee & Schafberg Railroad, Neuschwanstein Castle, Königssee and Hallstatt all seem like a dream! Especially Hallstatt! With the photo, I can understand why it’s very popular. Once I saw the photo, it immediately bought me back to my experience with some ancient towns in China. Unexpectedly, you mentioned that Chinese (& Korean) tourists love it there. If I’m not wrong, it’s not only picturesque, but I think it probably slightly reminded some of them from what they see in China – so many beautiful ancient towns in China too! Anyways, I never really consider visiting Austria – despite that my boyfriend was telling me how beautiful it is. Yet, your photos have now made me reconsider! 🙂
I’m glad if my post made you change your mind about Austria, Stacey. You won’t regret visiting it.
Linda (LD Holland)
We were in Salzburg for 3 days and simply ran out of time. We loved wandering the city. And I could not pass on a trip out to Hallstatt. We did not hear about the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave when we were there. So glad to do that on a next visit. I would definitely pay to take the trip to the top of the 5 Fingers viewing platform. Konigssee is another day trip we wanted to do. I am sure the emerald fjord would amaze us. Especially right at water level. Some good options for a return visit. I have saved this one for our next visit.
This area has endless possibilities for day trips, Linda. I’d love to return too Salzburg also.
Ooh Hallstatt looks amazing, sad to hear it is not quite as quiet as it used to be. It is the one guilty feeling I have about writing articles about less known areas or ‘getting off the beaten track’ is if people take the advice then you just hope it doesn’t become too well known or lose its magic.
Yea, you are right. Too much advertising eventually destroys a beautiful destination and unfortunately we see this happening more and more lately.
I do like the Alpine villages and the surrounding lakes and mountains. It sounds like Salzberg is situated well for exploring. The Dachstein Krippenstein ice cave sounds amazing but I’m not sure about the extra 500 steps during the tour after you already walked uphill to get to the start. I guess the extra effort will keep you warm.
Hahaha, well it’s not quite so cold inside Rhonda. However, you won’t notice climbing the 500 steps because of the beauty that surrounds you.
Salzburg is somewhere I want to visit, so it’s good to know there are plenty of great places to visit nearby. Hallstat looks incredible, the scenery looks out of this world. I could easily spend a week or two exploring the area around the city!
I think you could spend even more than that. The Alps are gorgeous!
Wow, fantastic that there are so many attractive places to visit with stunning landscape and beautiful cities or towns to explore – this region around Salzburg is really amazing to visit.
We were fortunate to visit Salzburg many years ago during the music festival. And oh the classical concerts were wonderful! Reason enough to visit Salzburg… We’ve heard good things about Konigsee, and Hallstatt looks so pretty (just too bad it’s become so popular; maybe try for more of a shoulder season visit?). Anyway, it looks like you had a really good time in Salzburg and surrounds :-).
We sure did, Janice. Austria is such a beautiful destination!