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This walking tour of Salzburg is an easy and self-guided way to explore the history and beauty of this Austrian city with breathtaking views of the Alps. It is completely doable if you have just one day in Salzburg.
Personally, I had just 24 hours in Salzburg and knew very little of the city except that it’s Mozart’s home and the setting of the “The Sound of Music,” but I left Salzburg feeling familiar with the city – and with, yes, the sound of music ringing in my ears!
Let’s dive in!
Getting Lost Walking in Salzburg – Delightfully Lost
Salzburg is one of those cities that utterly befuddles Google Maps, sending unprepared wanderers – like me – into helpless, follow-the-blue-dot circles.
More than once I took a narrow lane or a steep staircase thinking this can’t be right, only to have the little passageway empty into a sprawling square or a surprise beer garden.
This is why I decided early on to ditch the maps and get impossibly and delightfully lost in Salzburg, stumbling on history and music all along the way. I recommend you do the same!
Getting Your Bearings for this Walking Tour of Salzburg
The fortress sees everything!
The Hohensalzburg Fortress dominates Salzburg and is visible from nearly everywhere in the city. You can pretty much guarantee that, as long as you know where you live in relation to the fortress, you won’t be lost forever.
The Salzach River splits Salzburg into the new city and old city.
From there, it’s just a matter of knowing where the river is and where the fortress is…and you can get good and lost but still have your bearings.
Now, what was that I was saying about stumbling on beer gardens?
First Stop on this Walking Tour of Salzburg: The Largest Beer Garden in Austria
It makes sense to fortify before a walk to a fortress, right? Right?
On this walking tour of Salzburg, my first mission was to find the largest beer garden in Austria. Located at the foot of Monchsberg (Monk’s Hill) in a former monastery where they started brewing beer as early as 1621.
The Augustiner Bräu is no longer a working monastery, but the monks’ (secret!) original brew recipe is honored to this day, as well as the tradition of pouring the beer into large, stone jugs tapped fresh from wooden barrels.
While I made it to the brewery without getting lost, I took a wrong turn once on the estate and ended up in the kitchen rather than the beer garden.
I was hustled out by a kind but harried cook, who showed me a dark and low-ceilinged hallway that allowed for a glimpse of the old abbey itself and opened up into the sunny courtyard filled with toasts and laughter.
Once outside, you need to buy a mug first, then wash it off, and then get your mug filled with beer before finding a seat in the massive garden.
Once fortified by a liter of cold, secret-recipe beer, I set out on a 30-minute walk toward the Hohensalzburg Fortress, opting to veer away from the riverwalk and up a winding path that offered views of the Alps and the Baroque architecture of Salzburg’s Old Town.
Hohensalzburg Fortress is a Must-Stop on this Walking Tour of Salzburg
Of course, you don’t have to climb the steep (but beautiful) 200-meter hill to the cliff-top castle. There is a funicular that leaves from Festungsbahn just off the main square of Kapitelplatz. The walk from there is about 15-minutes up (and it’s a beautiful walk!)
I paid 10 euros for the basic ticket to the fortress without the funicular upcharge and slipped inside the gate.
Once inside the fortress, you could spend hours wandering through its walls, which were first constructed in 1077.
It was never attacked, so the fortress is very well preserved.
After wandering through the fortress, I set out down the stairs for my walk back down the hill and into Old Town when the sound of music literally filled the hills.
The Salzburg Festival
Every July and August, the Salzburg becomes a citywide stage, with concerts, opera and plays all day and all night. In the evening, the highlights are played on a large screen in Kapitelplatz (Chapter Square) beneath the cathedral.
On short notice, and with just 24 hours to explore Salzburg, I couldn’t get into the event, but the music could not be contained. It drifted into the winding streets and up toward the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Kapitelplatz, a Musical Square in Salzburg
Despite the fact that I hadn’t yet explored the inside of the fortress, I was feeling pretty good as I sipped a glass of Austrian white wine at an outdoor cafe near Kapitelplatz and listened to the music.
I then walked the streets of Judengasse, once the center of Jewish life in Salzburg before the second pogrom ended in the expulsion of the Jews in 1404.
In Mozartplatz, where a statue of Mozart dominates the center of the square, the beautiful and haunting sounds of the play Jedermann (Everyman) caught my ear, and I wandered toward the sound.
The play was performed to launch the festival in 1920, just after WWI, and has anchored the festival ever since, with one exception. During the time Austria was annexed to Germany during WWII, the Nazis banned the play because the original director and music composer were Jewish.
(Note: You can also tour Mozart’s Birthplace in nearby Makartplatz, which has been converted into a museum.)
Steingasse – a Medieval Street in Salzburg
The next day, I had a couple of hours before my train back to Vienna. I set out for the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, crossing the river, and leaving Old Town.
Then I noticed a little stairway. For kicks, I took the steps and found myself in a beautiful cobble-stoned lane. A quick check on my search engine told me that I’d found Steingasse, a former main street during medieval times.
I stayed on Steingasse for as long as possible before heading for the gardens.
Salzburg’s Mirabell Palace and Gardens on a Walking Tour of Salzburg
If you loved “the Sound of Music,” you will remember the Mirabell Palace and Gardens from the movie. For me, it was just another beautiful – and free! – place to wander. And a beautiful end to my walking tour of Salzburg.
Where to Stay for this Walking Tour of Salzburg
It’s easy to stay close to all of the major attractions on this Salzburg walking tour. Check out available homestays and hotels here:
About the Author
Hi! I’m Jen!
I’m a freelance writer and travel blogger who quit my nine-to-five after my fiancé, Jeff, died of cancer at the age of 40. When he died, I realized that life is just too short to delay our dreams. Since my dream was to travel and write, I now travel and write full-time. Today I wear hiking boots instead of heels and collect experiences instead of things.