The city of Salzburg, Austria, is located close to the border with Southern Germany. Salzburg is perhaps best known for its musical ties, since it is the birthplace of Mozart as well as the backdrop for the iconic film The Sound of Music. The Austrian city is also home to stunning architecture, which includes the castle called Schloss Hellbrunn and the impressive Hohensalzburg Castle. In order to fully appreciate the Austrian culture, scenery and history, try to add a few of these day trips from Salzburg to your itinerary.
A 45-minute drive west of Salzburg will bring you across the German border, into Bavaria and straight to the lake known as Chiemsee. Within the lake itself are three major islands, one of which is called Herreninsel. On this island, you’ll find a complex of royal structures known collectively as Herrenchiemsee. These buildings were built under the orders of King Ludwig II, and they are among the most important architectural features in Bavaria. You won’t want to miss a tour of the Neues Schloss, which was modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France. Surrounding the castle there are beautiful gardens as well as an impressive sculpture collection.
Zell am See is a popular health and tourism resort located about 80 minutes south of Salzburg by car. The biggest attraction is the lake, which the entire town is built around. The waters of the lake come from the surrounding glaciers, and snow-capped mountains create a stunning visual backdrop. You may want to visit Zell am See if you’re into outdoor sports, because recreation is a big part of the location’s appeal. In the summer, boating, cycling and hiking are common, and in the winter people head to the nearby Schmittenhöhe for skiing.
One of the most breathtaking natural attractions in Austria is Liechtensteinklamm. Located 70 km (45 miles) south of Salzburg, Liechtensteinklamm is an extensive gorge, or ravine, with tall, high sides. Waterfalls and flowing water eroded the gorge into what it is today, and you can walk right through it along a series of paths and bridges. As you walk, you’ll hear the roaring sound of water rushing through the gorge, you’ll see waterfalls and you’ll be able to admire the lush greenery thanks to constant precipitation. A visit to Liechtensteinklamm can truly feel like an otherworldly experience you won’t ever forget.
Above the city of Werfen, located just 40 minutes south of Salzburg, stands a majestic castle and fortress. Hohenwerfen, which literally means “Above Werfen”, was constructed in the 11th century. Surrounded by the beautiful Berchtesgaden Alps as well as the Tennengebirge Mountains, Hohenwerfen looks like something out of a fairy tale. The history of the castle includes many wars and even a brief stint serving as a prison, but today the structure is primarily a museum. If you visit, you can view many of the refurbished rooms as well as interesting features like the weapons collection and the falconry, which boasts a number of beautiful birds of prey.
Also in the town of Werfen are the Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves. These are naturally formed ice and limestone caves in the Hochkogel Mountain. Eisriesenwelt, which translates into English as World of the Ice Giants, is considered to be the largest ice cave in the entire world. The cave is only open from May to October each year, but don’t let the summer climate aboveground fool you. In the cave, temperatures are often below freezing. Some of the top attractions on a tour of the cave include Alexander von Mörk Cathedral, which is the largest room in the cave, and the enormous stalactite called Posselt Tower.
Direct train links connect Salzburg and Munich, making the Bavarian capital a great day trip destination for visitors. Munich is an incredible city with lots to see. In the city center, or Altstadt, you will definitely want to check out the New City Hall built on the Marienplatz. Listen for the sounds of the Glockenspiel, which goes off regularly all day. There are dozens of museums to explore in Munich, so pick the subject that appeals to you most: BMW cars, antiques, Bavarian history and so much more. Even if you’re not in Munich during Oktoberfest, join the crowds of tourists at beer halls like Hofbräuhaus for a pint.
Less than 30 km (20 miles) east of Salzburg is Wolfgangsee, a lake in the resort region known as Salzkammergut. On the banks of the Wolfgangsee, there are lots of charming restaurants and small towns with a rich, historic appeal. One such town, St. Gilgen, boasts so-called “chocolate box houses” with visible exterior timbers and a classic Austrian style. The Wolfgangsee is a place for outdoor adventure, and pastimes like hiking and boating are a big draw to the area. Don’t leave without trying the local culinary specialty, Steckerlfisch, which is a local fish grilled on a skewer over an open flame.
Southeast of Salzburg is Hallstatt, a small town that overlooks the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Hallstatt. The history of this town dates back for more than 4,000 years, with the region being used primarily because of its available salt mines. Today, most visitors arrive for the picturesque views and the charming town itself. During the summer, cars aren’t allowed in Hallstatt, making it a completely pedestrian-friendly spot to explore on foot. You can tour the original salt mines, if you wish, or you could explore a very unusual attraction called the Beinhaus. The Beinhaus, or Bone House, is where the stacked bones of previous residents are dried and stacked because of limited burial space in the town.
Just over the German border, and still just 30 minutes away from Salzburg, is Berchtesgaden. This charming, postcard-perfect town is beautiful in its own right, and its backdrop is made up of stunning mountain peaks and salt mines. These salt grottoes look like they are made from diamonds, not to mention the surreal subterranean lake. However, what makes Berchtesgaden so popular is that it houses the Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus. From this vantage point, you can admire spectacular vistas, and it was created as a gift for Adolf Hitler. Even after the end of World War II, Kehlsteinhaus was preserved. It is, today, a poignant reminder of the past.