Day 1 - Salzburg and Oberndorf
There’s a special feeling to waking up in Salzburg. To know you’re surrounded by centuries of European history and just a short walk from the house Mozart was born. Keep that excitement alive with breakfast at Cafe Bazar, a Salzburg institution since 1909. Soft boiled eggs, croissants with butter and jam, and plenty of outdoor seating make the Bazar a favourite with visitors and locals.
Hop in your rental car and drive 30 minutes north to Oberndorf. This sleepy town has a secret history that ripples out far beyond Salzburg: in 1818, the Christmas carol “Silent Night! Holy Night!” was first performed in Oberndorf’s village church. The song was written by a local school teacher and priest, and a commemorative chapel sits in the location of its inaugural concert.
On your drive back into the city, stop at Gastwirtschaft Fuxn, an urban tavern with sprawling outdoor spaces and a classic Salzburgian menu.
Salzburg used to be ruled by the Prince Archbishops, as the world’s second-largest church state after the Vatican. If you pay attention while walking the UNESCO protected Old Town, you find signs everywhere. 50 churches that range from Romanesque to Baroque add to the fairy-tale city scape and Salzburg Cathedral stands tall in the centre. Visit the DomQuartier, the Prince Archbishop’s extravagant former residence, which also houses five museums: the Cathedral Museum, St. Peter’s Museum, the state rooms of the Residenz, the Residenz Gallery, and the Salzburg Museum.
Walk towards Hohensalzburg fortress until you hit St. Peter’s Cemetery, maybe the oldest site of Salzburg’s ecclesiastical history. St. Peter’s was founded in the 7th century and features stone catacombs that date back to late antiquity. They jut out from Mönchsberg mountain and are open to visitors. Find the entrance near the graves of Nannerl Mozart (Wofgang’s sister) and Michael Haydn.
Hotel Blaue Gans isn’t just one of the city’s most innovative boutique hotels, but a fantastic restaurant inside a 14th century townhouse. Order the roasted lamb, offal with sweetbread, or a simple Wiener Schnitzel.
Day 2 - Salzburg and Eisriesenwelt
For a taste of Salzburg’s young and modern side, get breakfast at 220 Grad, a coffee shop and brunch purveyor in the heart of the city. Eggs, homemade bread, and superb roasts get you going for the day.
You’ll need the energy for your Salzburg bicycle tour, which starts at 9:30am at Mirabell Palace. Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tours takes you on a 3.5 hour exploration of Salzburg’s top sights, and some Sound of Music movie locations. See the Horse pond, Nonnberg Abbet, Leopoldskron Palace, and the famous Gazebo, which stands in the gardens of Hellbrunn Palace.
Take a last look over Salzburg from the terrace of Hotel Sacher and enjoy lunch in a gorgeous setting. Just make sure to leave room for a piece of Sachertorte!
Follow the highway south of Salzburg for an hour to the town of Werfen. Above, Hohenwerfen Fortress looms with its mystical stone walls and sets the scene for your afternoon Alpine adventure. Deep inside the nearby mountains waits the "World of Ice Giants,” the world’s largest ice cave. Wander the aquamarine-coloured ice caverns and see a 75 foot-tall wall of cascading ice that looks translucent in the light.
After your underground visit, drive one hour to Zell am See where you will spend the night.
Schloss Kammer near Zell am See is a repurposed country castle that now houses a hotel and a charming Austrian restaurant. Enjoy dinner in the idyllic atmosphere of a 16th century landmark.
Day 3 - Grossglockner High Alpine Road and Hohe Tauern National Park
Zell am See looks like something out of a picture book. Perfect blue sky is broken up by SalzburgerLand’s mountains, and reflected in an emerald lake. The town of Zell nestles along a scenic boardwalk, perfect for an early morning stroll. For breakfast, head to Cafe Seegasse, a friendly meeting place for locals and visitors.
If you’ve been pining after rugged relief of the surrounding Alps, this next stop is for you. The Großglockner High Alpine Road snakes through the mountain terrain just below Zell am See, past Austria’s tallest mountain. Just drive south on route 107 until you hit the winding stretch of high alpine terrain. Hikers can park their car and explore nearby trails, but even from the road stunning views of Austria’s majestic Alps are guaranteed.
Grossglockner mountain sits inside Austria’s largest national park, Nationalpark Hohe Tauern. Drive east towards Mittersill, where the national park’s visitors’ centre is located.
Plan a lunch that’s appropriate for Alpine exploration: Gasthof Bräurup in Mittersill. Emperor Franz Joseph already loved this 18th century inn. During hunting and fishing season in the SalzburgerLand, the Habsburg Emperor liked to stay and dine here. Specialties include regional fish, cheese spätzle, and of course a list of Salzburgian beers!
Hopefully you’ve filled up on some quality carbs, because your afternoon is dedicated to exploring the national park - by foot. Begin your discovery tour at the National Park Center in Mittersill and check out the Eagle's Flight Panorama, a 3-D computer animation of the surrounding mountains. Then, embark on a hike with a National Park Ranger who will tell you about the fascinating fauna and flora and the history of the park itself while showing you the most stunning spots. 30 hikes that range from easy to difficult are accessible in the summer.
Hohe Tauern is not just impressive to look at: it measures 695 square miles (1,800 km2) total and boasts 226 peaks that reach over 9,800 feet - or 3,000 meters.
Back in Mittersill, recharge over dinner and drinks at Schloss Mittersill, which serves elevated Austrian cuisine on its breathtaking panoramic terrace. The castle’s kitchen sources most of its ingredients from their pristine surroundings.
Day 4 - Hohe Tauern National Park and Krimml Waterfalls
Drive 30 minutes West to the village of Krimml for a scrumptious breakfast at Hotel Post Krimml. The buffet spread of regional delicacies is impressive and invites you to linger on the sun terrace. If you want an active start, opt for the hotel’s yoga breakfast, which combines relaxing stretches with your fresh squeezed orange juice.
Next, hike from the village of Krimml to Central Europe’s tallest waterfalls! The Krimml waterfalls measure an astounding 1,246 feet (380 meters) and shoot crystalline droplets of meltwater into a forested creek. Viewing platforms along the cascade allow for close examination of the falls, and the rainbows that sometimes form in their spray.
For those who haven't had enough of this Alpine water spectacle, the WaterWorlds Krimml experience centre delivers interactive exhibits and interesting facts about the waterfalls. The panorama terrace in the WasserWunderBar has great views of the falls and makes for a romantic spot to enjoy a glass of bubbly! Families can't miss the waterfall play area outside.
Embark on your actual excursion for the day: a hike south through the Krimmler Achental valley. A well-marked trail leads you past the different stages of the waterfall and further up into the mountains.
Your first stop is 3.5 hours into the valley, at the Krimmler Tauernhaus hut. This mountain chalet started as a classic Alpine refuge, but was renovated to offer guests cozy rooms for comfortable overnights and even a small spa are. Plop down at one of the tables in the wood-pannelled dining room and order something to refuel your muscles.
Once your legs regained their energy, it’s time to hike a little further. The Krimmler Achental has a fascinating and moving history that you can explore on your walk. In 1947 around 5000 Jews fled from Nazi-occupied Austria to Italy, via the very route of your hike. You can find the occasional commemorative sign that explains the valley’s sober past. Once a year, the Alpine Peace Crossing brings together hikers from all over the world to complete the entire path in the refugees’ honour. The hike raises awareness not just for the 5000 Jews who fled to Italy, but for contemporary refugees who seek shelter. Turn back to the Krimmler Tauernhaus at any point you like and take a taxi back to Krimml (note that you must arrange this transfer in advance).
After this much walking in Austria’s great outdoors, you’ll be ready for dinner. Gasthof Weyerhof in Bramberg was first mentioned in 1162 as a local tavern. One thing that likely hasn't changed in 900 years is the restaurant's commitment to regional and raw flavours. Award-winning Gasthof Weyerhof produces its own bread, bacon, and typical elderflower syrup.
The SalzburgerLand Card makes a journey throughout the province immeasurably easier. A six-day card is available for EUR 76 and includes 190 attractions in the region. It also gives you the choice between a 24-hour version of the Salzburg Card, or access to Austria's tallest mountain. Either enjoy a day in the city of Mozart, or redeem it for a free ride on the Großglockner High Alpine Road.
The Salzburg Card is your key to the city of Salzburg. It provides free admission to Salzburg's museums, and free use of the Fortress funicular, the Untersberg cableway, Salzach ship service (tour 1) and public transport. Salzburg Card holders are also entitled to a number of discounts on concerts, theatre performances or excursions to destinations around Salzburg. It is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours, starting at EU 26.