A Walking Tour of Salzburg with Music in Every Step

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!

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.

A walking tour of Salzburg

The beautiful streets of Salzburg are perfect for getting lost!

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!

But…here are some tips to get your bearings:

24 hours in Salzburg

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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 Hohensalzburg Fortress

The Hohensalzburg Fortress

The Salzach River splits Salzburg into the new city and old city.

Crossing the Salzach River in Salzburg 

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: 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.

Augustiner Bräu, largest beer garden in Austria

Pouring beer from a freshly tapped wooden barrel into a stone cup at Augustiner Bräu

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.

Augustiner Bräu in Salzburg

The beer garden at Augustiner Bräu

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.

A view of Salzburg on a self-guided walking tour

Surrounded by mountains and views

Hohensalzburg Fortress

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.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress

It was never attacked, so the fortress is very well preserved.

Hohensalzburg Fortres

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress

St. George’s Chapel in Hohensalzburg Fortress

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.

Sunset on a walking tour of Salzburg

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.

An aerial view of the Salzburg Festival

A view from the hill above Kapitelplatz as they set up for the Salzburg Festival

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

Salzburg Festival in Kapitelplatz

Watching the highlights from the Salzburg Festival in Kapitelplatz

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. 

Mozart

From the Mozart statue, we could hear and slightly see the famous Jedermann play of the Salzburg Festival

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.

a bridge of locks in Salzburg

Love locks in Salzburg

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.

Steingasse was a medieval route for carrying salt from the Salzburg salt mines and travelers to and from Italy and beyond

Steingasse was a medieval route for carrying salt from the Salzburg salt mines and travelers to and from Italy and beyond

I stayed on Steingasse for as long as possible before heading for the gardens.

Salzburg’s Mirabell Palace and Gardens

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.

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

one day in salzburg
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    5 Comments on “A Walking Tour of Salzburg with Music in Every Step”

    1. Pingback: Walking in Jeff's Footsteps Part 2: Vienna (sort of) | The Lens of Jen

    2. Jen, Thank you for sharing your adventure! This is so beautifully written and with the pictures, it makes me feel like I took the trip to tour Salzburg as well! My 6yr old daughter and I have been watching the Sound if Music a lot and it is cool to see the town it was born in!

      • It was unplanned and perfect. But, if you want to plan it a bit more than I did, Robert would love to take you out and about if he’s available!

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