I’ve been hosting couchsurfers in Salzburg on and off for six years and keep having many beautiful experiences. I try to give my guests a memorable time, which I must admit is relatively easy in a city, whose beauty regularly leaves everyone amazed, who comes for a visit.
When I have time, I enjoy showing my guests around. It’s always a pleasure to talk, get other travellers’ view on things and share some drinks and stories. Moreover, I almost always find something I haven’t seen before. There’s some small detail, I haven’t noticed or some sight, I haven’t paid enough attention to biking or driving by almost every day. Walking through Salzburg is always wonderful, even after living here for more than 30 years.
If I don’t have time, the typical questions include “What should I visit? What can you recommend? What’s there, that I must not miss?”. So finally, this is my half-day (or full-day) Salzburg walking guide.
I’ll link my GPS track and a detailed list of the streets to follow at the end.
While preparing this post – and walking through Salzburg a bit more than I had planned, I figured there’s probably no need for yet another list of tourist spots. I chose a different approach. What follows is a 15 km, 4-5 hour stroll around – literally around – old town (although we will cover some parts along the way). It’s conveniently starting and ending at the central train station and covering some of Salzburg’s most beautiful nature and two of the three city mountains (and only misses the third because it’s not legally allowed to walk up there). Be aware, that at some points it’s more a hike than a simple walk (about 300 meters up and down), but you’ll be treated with some of the most beautiful views of Salzburg’s historic old town while avoiding most of the tourist masses.
If you’re travelling by train and are thinking of just passing through Salzburg (yes, this happens), think again. Do a layover – 4 hours can be enough (just barely) – before continuing your journey to Vienna, Munich, Zagreb or wherever your trip will take you.
We start our tour at the backside of the main train station (Hauptbahnhof). It is a 2 km walk to the beginning of the path up to Kapuzinerberg. If you want to skip this bit, you can also take bus #4 to Canavalstraße or the local train S3 to Gnigl (about 5-10 minutes away) and start your hike from there. If you decide to walk from the train station you already pass some small parks, the Rockhouse and some great restaurants to eat and drink along the Schallmooser Hauptstraße (Urbankeller, Kastner’s Schenke). Also, Die Weiße, one of Salzburg’s finest wheat beer breweries is just a few steps away.
The path up to the mountain starts right behind an Eni gas station. Walk up the stairs and then turn right following the signs to Franziskischlössl and Basteiweg. As long as you are going up, you are on the right way. It’s just a couple of steps before you leave the city streets behind and go deeper and deeper into nature. It’s a steep hike at some points, so I recommend good shoes. If it’s wet, it can get quite nasty, especially on the way down. If there’s snow or ice, I suggest to skip it altogether. You have the option to walk down on the road on the other side, so you could avoid the slippery trail if you need to.
After about half an hour, you reach the first lookout point for a glimpse down on the northern parts of the city. If you like that brace yourself: it only gets better from here. Going on, it’s just a short walk to an iron staircase helping you ascend the last few metres. Now you can decide if you want to continue along the road (right) and maybe visit the Franziskischlössl and the top of the mountain or take the beautiful Basteiweg trail (left) alongside the old city wall. If the path is dry and you feel comfortable walking down some stairs, I recommend the latter. On your way, you catch some beautiful views over the rooftops of Salzburg’s old town, its churches and the castle sitting on top of the Mönchsberg on the other side of the Salzach river. You pass the spots where I’m sure photographers took a lot of Salzburg’s postcard shots.
Finally, you reach another marvellous lookout spot at the end of Basteiweg. From here we turn left and follow another set of stairs (stone ones this time) down to Steingasse (right to Das Kino, an excellent cinema for alternative, independent and international movies).
Steingasse is one of my favourite “streets” in Salzburg. It’s hidden along the Kapuzinerberg mountain and less crowded than the tourist-packed Linzergasse nearby (let alone world-famous Getreidegasse). It offers a mix of bars and restaurants, and especially wine lovers will be delighted! Stroll along until you reach a small water fountain close to the Äußerer Stein bus station. If the “mountain” hike has been enough, you could catch a bus from here back to the train station. For the rest of us, we’re just getting started.
Follow the Salzach back towards the city centre and cross the river at Mozartsteg, a pedestrian bridge named after Salzburg’s most famous citizen. We stroll through some of the narrow alleyways of old Salzburg (Pfeifergasse, Krotachgasse, Kaigasse) again passing some lovely food places like the Zirkelwirt. Right after a Billa supermarket, we walk up towards Nonnberg Priory to get a view down on the district of Nonntal. You can see one of Salzburg’s newest university buildings, their rooftop cafe only a couple of minutes away. If you want you can finish your walk there and take one of the many buses back to the train station from the stop Salzburg Justizgebäude (note, that there are several bus stops with that name scattered some 100 meters apart). For everyone with more time, our journey continues.
We head on Nonnberggasse and Brunnhausgasse to cross the Krauthügel via Hans-Sedlmayr-Weg. Finally, we arrive at Donnenbergpark, a large, lively, but still peaceful park area next to a retirement home. You’ll find footballers and slackliners, children playing and people walking or just hanging out. From here, you follow the Almkanal for a while. Yes, you can swim in it! A bit further downstream, you’ll find a lot of people doing so on a nice summer day (especially between here and here).
Soon after, Leopoldskroner Weiher comes into view. Walking around it, you can catch some views on the Leopoldskron castle, which has been used as the backside of the van Trapp villa in the Sound of Music movie.
From here we take a short detour through Schwimmschlustraße to spot, among other animals, the flamingos at St. Peter Weiher.
We follow the Almkanal river again to the intersection of Brunnhausgase and Hans-Sedlmayr-Weg. From here we walk up Mönchsberg, the most famous of Salzburg’s three city mountains. You might notice a single house in the middle of the hill. The story goes that it used to be the home of Salzburg’s executioner (back in dark medieval times) and no one wanted to build a house next to him.
After a steep, but short ascent, we reach a system of small roads and paths on top of the mountain. There are almost endless options to explore from here. If you have time, I recommend to stroll around and get happily and purposefully lost! For this track, we choose to cross the mountain towards the north-west (follow the signs to Richterhöhe and then to Mülln). We pass the museum of modern art, the Stadtalm and quite a few excellent places to watch the old town below with its beautiful medieval houses and narrow streets. If you happen to come on one of the few days the water museum is open, it’s worth checking out. On the other side of the mountain lies the district of Mülln, where you can finish your day with a cold beer under the chestnut trees of the Augustiner brewery (not to be confused with the Augustiner beer brand of Munich).
After descending Mönchsberg, we head back to the Salzach river (the Augustiner brewery is a short detour from the path on the map) and cross it towards world-famous Mirabell garden (tourist alert).
From Mirabell, we head back to the train station. Suppose you want to treat yourself with a snack, drink or dinner. In that case, there are a couple of good options on our way in Franz Josef Straße: international, new-age Heart of Joy, traditional Cafe Wernbacher, arty hip Academy Bar or (with a small detour) healthy Organic Pizza. If you’ve made it to here, you’ve definitely deserved it.
This concludes my “little” walking tour through my lovely hometown. Let me know what you think about this walking tour. Any feedback is very much appreciated. Happy exploring Salzburg!