Salzburg, the charming Baroque city of Mozart and more recently the Sound of Music. It is certainly a place one can get lost in for days, but what to do when you’d like to get out of the city for a while? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with these 10 awesome ideas for a day trip from Salzburg! Let’s get started!
This first one is not technically outside of Salzburg, but it is a bit away from the city centre and Salzburg’s usual hustle and bustle. However, it is an absolute must-see, as it is a bit quirky and can keep you entertained for a whole day.
Hellbrunn manor was built in the 17th century by one of Salzburg’s reigning prince-bishops, who enjoyed toying with his guests. Besides a lavish summer residence palace, Hellbrunn manor estate also features a garden full of tricky water fountains, meant to spray water at unsuspecting guests from the most unexpected places. The garden hides many secrets, from Greek-inspired grottos full of mythological statues to water-driven automatons, which were among the latest technologies at the time, as well as an impressive mechanical theatre depicting a whole baroque city.
Today you can visit the garden with a guided tour, where the friendly guides will show you all the water tricks and you might even get a bit wet if the weather is nice. Afterwards you can explore the palace and its surroundings. A short walk away you’ll find a large park, which includes another smaller palace, a wonderful garden of the senses, an old stone theatre, the pavilion from the Sound of Music movie and a small zoo, which is considered the world’s oldest zoo and is actually based on a former baroque menagerie.
Next up we have Hohenwerfen Castle, the twin fortress to the imposing Hohensalzburg fortress dominating the Salzburg skyline. It was built in the 11th century and is one of the few places in Austria where the noble tradition of falconry is still kept alive. Falconry is the ancient art of training birds of prey and at Hohenwerfen castle you can see a demonstration of their skills. They have hawks, falcons, eagles, and vultures performing all sorts of tricks during organised shows in the lower courtyard, so make sure to arrive on time for one of the daily falconry displays.
Besides the falconry show, Hohenwerfen castle is quite impressive by itself and houses 3 museums and occasional temporary exhibitions. It is located in Werfen, less than an hour’s drive from Salzburg, and can easily be reached by car or public transport.
While you’re visiting Hohenwerfen fortress, why not see the nearby ice caves as well? The Werfen ice caves, also known as Eisriesenwelt (“the world of ice giants”), are the world’s largest ice caves, as the whole cave system extends as far as 42 kilometres into the mountain. A part of it can be visited with a guided tour from May to October, but remember to dress warmly, because the temperatures inside the caves rarely climb above 0°C.
There are beautiful ice formations inside the caves and the feeling of stepping into the world of perpetual ice is beyond compare, which is why Eisriesenwelt is one of Salzburg’s most popular attractions. The entrance to the caves is located on top of the mountain, so you’ll get a beautiful view over Werfen at the same time as well. If hiking is not your thing, you can take the steepest gondola lift in Austria to the top, which is another experience in itself.
Another option is a visit to the iconic Austrian town of Hallstatt, located on the shores of a beautiful lake with the same name. Hallstatt is a popular tourist destination because of its picturesque traditional wooden houses with a waterfall in the background, but that is not all it has to offer. From the centre of town, you can take a funicular up the mountain, where you can visit the historic Hallstatt salt mine with an underground lake. The area is also a prehistoric archaeological goldmine, which is why the early period of the European Iron Age is known as the Hallstatt period, so if you’re a history nerd, this is the place to visit.
Hallstatt also has a World Heritage city museum and a famous charnel house with an ossuary in St. Michael’s chapel by the church in the higher part of the town. From the church, you’ll get the perfect view over the lake and the town, but if you want to experience it further, you can also rent a boat and row out on to the lake. Remember to check out the many handcraft shops and boutiques and take a walk through the narrow colourful streets!
Any visit to Austria and Germany is not complete without acknowledging the dark part of history – the Holocaust and the Second World War period. Salzburg is relatively close to two former concentration camp sites and, although the topic is as morbid as it gets, it is also important to remember these events and educate ourselves about them.
Both Mauthausen and Dachau concentration camps can be visited independently or with a guided tour and act as memorial sites with museums and exhibitions. They are about 2 hours away from Salzburg and accessible by train.
On a lighter note, the Austrian town of Fucking is not a real tourist attraction, but many people like to stop there as well. Although it is pronounced differently in German, the town has been a source of humour for English-speaking visitors for years, and road signs bearing its name tend to go missing so often, that the locals have started selling them. It is also less than an hour away from Salzburg, so go for it!
If you’ve ever looked at a map of Austria, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a triangular bit of Germany sticking into Austria at the top of it. Well, that little part is also the site of Berchtesgaden National park, one of Germany’s most beautiful national parks, and it’s less than an hour away from Salzburg.
Berchtesgaden is both the name of the national park and a charming Bavarian mountain town, full of colourful murals and traditional houses. The town is worth visiting for its vintage Alpine vibe alone, but it is also historically significant, as both Hitler, the German dictator, and the Bavarian royal families liked to vacation there. You’ll find lots of World War II murals, a castle, and many churches, which are connected by a nice walking trail that takes you all over town and even on top of a small hill for some great views. There are also several inns serving traditional Bavarian food, as well as shops with the mandatory German lederhosen (leather pants).
As for Berchtesgaden National park, it covers a huge area and is full of hiking trails, suitable for any fitness level. From tall Alpine mountains to scenic river gorges, Berchtesgaden has enough to offer for a week-long stay, let alone for a day trip.
One of the spots in the Berchtesgaden National park which deserves a special mention is the King’s lake (Könnigssee), the most royal of all German lakes. The King’s lake is a rather large, gorgeous Alpine lake situated amidst tall Berchtesgaden mountains. Besides its beauty, its most attractive quality is the silence. The lake can only be reached through a small village called Schönau am Könnigssee, which also has a very large parking lot. Other than that, there are no roads and no trails around the lake, and even the tourist boats use electric motors to preserve the silence of nature.
Whether you want to relax in a cafe by the lake, find your own secluded spot, or hike further up into the mountains, the King’s lake is the right place for it. You can take the short trail up to Malerwinkel, a viewpoint, or visit the church of St. Bartholomew on the far shore of the lake, which can only be reached by boat. You can also hike up to another, smaller glacier lake from Salet, another stop on the boat tour. Besides that, you can hike up Mt. Watzmann, hailed as the most beautiful mountain in Berchtesgaden, or take the cable car up Mt. Jenner, where you can see wild marmots if you are lucky enough.
Another must-see stop in the Berchtesgaden area is the Eagle’s nest atop Mt. Kehlstein. Called Kehlsteinhaus in German, it is a relatively large building perched precariously on a ridge of Mt. Kehlstein at 1834 meters above sea level. It was built during the Third Reich in Germany and used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party for diplomatic and government meetings.
Today it is a tourist site with a restaurant and a beer garden, but due to its location, it is only open when the roads are not blocked by seasonal snow. It can be reached via a very steep mountain round, which has been closed off for private vehicles and can only be driven by specially modified buses, or by taking the 124-metre-high brass elevator through the mountain itself. Reportedly, Hitler had a fear of heights and disliked the elevator, as well as the whole Eagle’s nest complex.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of this list! I hope you liked it and will consider some of these ideas the next time you’re planning a trip to Salzburg, as they will certainly make your holiday even more interesting. While you’re there, make sure to try the local specialties, such as Germknödel, a fluffy dumpling with vanilla sauce and poppy seeds, or Käsespätzle, a special type of pasta with lots of cheese.
This awesome blog post (and all the awesome photos) are brought to you by Petra from Erratic Engineeress! She’s a mechanical engineer from Slovenia, who still believes in dragons and goodness. She writes about her travels, food, sustainability and other topics on her unpredictable blog. Be sure to show her some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.