Salzburg Day Trips: Best Places to Visit Around Salzburg in One Day

    Salzburg Day Trips: Best Places to Visit Around Salzburg in One Day
    Last updated: September, 2019
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    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 Places to Explore Around Salzburg in One Day

    We traveled through Austria and the region around Salzburg by car. While most of the destinations 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 Tour (1 hr 15 min by car)

    Of all the day trips we took 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. The houses were really tight together and access between them was only possible only by boat or over an upper path above the buildings. The first road to Hallstatt was only built in 1890, along the west shore of the lake 

    View of Hallstatt village from the lake

    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! While tourism brings money and job to the little salt mine village, it also damages residents’ day-to-day lives, culture and heritage. Hallstatt is particularly popular among Chinese and Korean tourists who visit it as a day trip from Salzburg. It seems the Chinese liked Hallstatt so much that they built a replica of it in Luoyang, China. That brings in even more curious visitors from Chine, who want to see the real thing.

    Things to Do in Hallstatt

    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. The street is lined up with souvenir shops, bakeries and restaurants and is very picturesque. You can admire the swans moving elegantly on the lake, or gaze at the traditional houses with balconies draped in flowers. In the center of town you’ll see Hallstatt’s most recognizable landmark: the 19th-century Evangelical Church.

    Hallstatt Day Trip from Salzburg
    Hallstatt’s market square

    Later on, if walking triggered your appetite, stop for lunch at one of the lake shore restaurants for some tasty, authentic Austrian food.

    Dining in Hallstatt
    Dining in Hallstatt

    Visit the Hallstatt Salt Mine & Skywalk

    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. The Skywalk offers one of the most fantastic views of the village below! Unfortunately, the platform feels more like a crowded selfie spot, but the view from up there is still worth seeing.

    Hallstatt Skywalk and view of the lake
    Hallstatt Skywalk

    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!

    Take a Boat Ride Across the Lake

    Hallstatt’s beauty is matched by that of its lake –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. One of the most popular activities in Hallstatt is boating, so we took a boat trip across the lake. You can go on a bigger or smaller discovery boat, or rent one that you can drive yourself.

    Private boat lake tour on a Hallstatt day trip from Salzburg
    Private boat tour on Lake Hallstatt

    We chose a small guided tour boat and found out some interesting facts about Hallstätter See. The lake water is extremely pure because it comes directly from the Dachstein glacier that towers over Hallstatt. Measurements showed that the water originates at an elevation of nearly 3000 meters (9800 feet). The water flows through cracks and crevices into an aquifer a few hundred meters below the valley floor and from there it rises to the surface as an artesian spring. The water is so pure, that is ready for bottling and drinking.

    Getting There

    • 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. Hallstatt is traffic free during the daytime (except for the locals) so you won’t be able to drive your car in town. 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. The advantage of taking the buss is that you won’t have to worry about navigating the narrow mountain roads. Besides, during the ride, you will find out a lot about Hallstatt’s history. 
    • By Train: Getting from Salzburg to Hallstatt is by train is possible, but it’s not the easiest option. Once you arrive at the Hallstatt train station, you will have to take the ferry to the village. 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)

    Dachstein Ice Cave is an impressive natural limestone and ice cave hidden in the Dachstein Krippenstein massif, in the Austrian Alps. The first section of this cave was discovered in 1910 and soon became a big tourist attraction. Although not an easy or cheap excursion, a visit to the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave is a must if you are in Salzburg!  

    Dachstein day trip from Salzburg - view of Hallstatt Lake
    View of Hallstatt Lake from the road to the Ice Cave

    What to Expect at Dachstein Krippenstein

    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!!

    Arriving with the gondola at Dachstein Ice Cave
    Riding the gondola to the Ice Cave

    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. Be warned that it’s 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.

    Climbing up the road to Dachstein Ice Cave
    On the road to the Dachstein Ice Cave

    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.

    Touring the Dachstein Giant Ice Cave

    Visiting the Giant Ice Cave is fascinating! After the group gets inside and the massive iron gate closes, you’ll find yourself in complete darkness. It’s not only pitch dark, it’s also cold. Very cold! The tour guide uses that moment of shock to warn you not to lag behind. He will turn on the lights during the visit, but then turn them back off as the group passes. As the light is turned on, you’ll be able to see the magnificence of the crevices and the rock formations that surround you.

    The Dachstein Ice Cave is often described as an Ice Palace and once you get to see it you’ll understand why. 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.

    Inside the Dachstein Ice Cave
    Dachstein Giant Ice 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 steep and icy climb to the 5 Fingers viewing platform
    Climbing up to the 5 Fingers viewing platform

    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!

    The 5 Fingers viewing platform atop Dachstein Krippenstein
    The 5 Fingers Viewing Platform

    Getting There

    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. But 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. 

    Day trip from Salzburg to Hitler's Eagle Nest
    Hitler’s Eagle Nest

    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.

    What to Expect at Hitler’s Eagle Nest

    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.

    Buildings in Berchtesgarden's Old Town
    Buildings in Berchtesgarden’s Old Town

    Getting There

    • 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. Day Trip to 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! 

    Saint Bartholomä Church on King's Lake (Königssee)
    Saint Bartholomä Church seen from Königssee (King’s Lake)

    What to Do at Königssee

    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.

    Ferry boat on Königssee
    Boatman his his trumpet to demonstrate the echo

    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.) Should 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.

    Things to do on a day trip to Königssee
    Things to do in Königssee

    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. 

    Getting There

    • 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.

    View of the Wolfgangsee & Schafberg Railroad – Day Trip from Salzburg
    View of Wolfgangsee & the Schafberg Railroad

    Once at the top of the mountain, you should take time to admire the awesome views of the lake and the surroundings. You can stroll around and walk to the mountaintop cross, which is hidden behind the Himmelsporte restaurant. You can go back to St. Wolfgang on foot, if you feel up to it. If you are planning to return by the cogwheel train, make sure to reserve a seat on the train

    Getting There

    • 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. Excursion to Melk (2 hrs by car)

    Melk Abbey is one of the biggest and most beautiful Baroque ensembles in Europe. Built high above the town on a rock overlooking the Danube, the vast Baroque building of the monastery can be seen from far away.

    Day trip to Melk
    Melk Abbey

    What to See at Melk Abbey

    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.

    Day trip to Melk from Salzburg - view of the Marble hall at Melk Abbey
    Melk Abbey’s Marble Hall and Library

    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. Marmorsaal (the Marble Hall) is particularly beautiful. Look up at the ceiling fresco. The painted did a magnificent job creating the illusion that the ceiling is higher than it is.

    View of Wachau Valley from the veranda at Melk Abbey
    View of Wachau Valley from the veranda at Melk Abbey

    As you leave the Marble Hall, you’ll pass through the veranda from where you have a magnificent view of Melk and the Danube. From the veranda you’ll enter into the library. The artifacts in this room have real historical value. There are two huge very old globes and an impressive collection of books and old manuscripts. 

    But all these amazing halls pale in comparison to the chapel, which is adorned with with an amazing amount of gold leaf and multicolored marble.

    Melk Chapel Nave - Salzburg day trips
    The Melk Abbey’s Chapel

    Tips for Visiting Melk Abbey

    If you want to make the most of your visit, come early, before the masses of tourists arrive. We didn’t take the guided tour, but instead used the audioguide. This allowed us to explore the grounds at our own pace.

    Pictures are not allowed in the Marble Hall or the library, but because I entered as a travel journalist, using my press card, I managed to take a couple of shots.

    The best place to photograph the abbey if from the beautiful park across the river. The best place to photograph the gardens and the Baroque pavilion is from the visitor center at the entrance of the garden.

    Salzburg to Melk day trip
    Melk Abbey (Baroque pavilion and spiral staircase)

    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. 

    Day trip to Melk
    Melk’s old town

    Getting There

    • 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.

    Neuschwanstein Castle
    Neuschwanstein Castle

    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.

    Inside the Neuschwanstein Castle
    Inside the Neuschwanstein Castle

    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 Castle
    Neuschwanstein Castle

    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 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.

    St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna

    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.

    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.

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    Salzburg day trips