Where to Stay in Salzburg

SD › Best Places to Stay in Salzburg
Updated: February 10, 2023
By Santorini Dave

Our Favorite Salzburg Hotels

• 5-Star Hotel: Hotel Sacher
• Boutique Hotel: Hotel Goldgasse
• Cheap Hotel: Cocoon
• Family Hotel: Hotel Auersperg
• Best Pool: Schloss Mönchstein
• Near Train Station: K6 Rooms
• Near Airport: Hotel Himmelreich

Old Town Salzburg, Austria.

The magic and charm of Salzburg’s wonderful Old Town.

The Best Area to Stay in Salzburg

Straddling the Salzach River on the northern edge of the Alps, the Austrian city of Salzburg contains one of Europe’s prettiest old towns, with narrow medieval streets, gorgeous palaces and churches, and a fairytale castle sitting high above it all. The city’s most famous son is Mozart – if you don’t know much about the famed 18th-century composer, you will after a visit to Salzburg, where he is celebrated by several museums, squares, statues, and even a line of chocolates. The Mozart connection was also behind the establishment of the annual Salzburg Festival, a fabulous summer celebration of classical music and drama. Almost as prominent is The Sound of Music, the beloved Julie Andrews musical set in, and partly filmed in, Salzburg.

Salzburg is a relatively small city, and most visitors should focus most of their time on the Altstadt (Old Town), the historic core. It’s by far the most atmospheric and beautiful part of the city; home to baroque churches, historic cafés, and major attractions such as Mozart’s Birthplace, Salzburg Cathedral, Dom Quartier Salzburg, St Peter’s Church and its famous cliffside catacombs, and the Hohensalzburg – Salzburg’s dramatic hilltop fortress. There are some great hotels here, but they tend to be expensive. You’ll find cheaper alternatives a short walk away across the river in Neustadt, the lower part of which is an extension of the Old Town and just as charming. The Mozart Residence is here, as well as the beautiful Schloss Mirabell palace and the surrounding Mirabell Gardens, the city’s most elegant green space. You’ll find a bigger selection of contemporary but good value motels and hotels near the main train station (Salzburger Hauptbahnhof) in Elisabeth Vorstadt, north of Neustadt. This district is relatively modern and commercial, lacking the character of the historic neighborhoods to the south but very convenient for train travel. On the southern edge of the city, Hellbrunn is best known for Schloss Hellbrunn, the city’s grandest palace (and home of the “Sound of Music Pavilion”), but also contains Salzburg Zoo and the Volkskundemuseum, an absorbing folk art museum. Hellbrunn is an easy bus ride from the city center, but there are some excellent hotels here if you’re driving and don’t want the hassle of parking in the old center. Finally, it’s worth exploring the small, historic communities of the Salzach Valley beyond Salzburg, with the Alpine views getting bigger the further south you go. Trains will zip you here from the city center in minutes, but you can also stay in some lovely old-fashioned Austrian inns and guesthouses. The small town of Hallein is best known for its Celtic history and ancient salt mines (as well as being the home of the composer of “Silent Night”), while scenic Werfen is home to stunning Hohenwerfen Castle, the mesmerizing ice caves at Eisriesenwelt, and yet more sites associated with The Sound of Music.

While it’s relatively easy to explore central Salzburg on foot, the city’s excellent public transport system is easy to use and useful for trips back and forth from the main train station (which is a fairly long walk from the Old Town), or out to the suburbs. The system comprises “Obus” electric-powered buses and trolleys, with a 24hr travel card just €6.40. It can be useful to have a rental car when exploring the area around the city, but there’s really no need to use one in Salzburg itself – streets are narrow, often crowded, and parking can be tough to find, especially in the Old Town.

Salzburg Travel Tips

  • Bike rental is available through shops like aVelo and Radsport Wagner. Salzburg is a fun place to ride bikes (in summer), with plenty of dedicated lanes and trails, especially along the Salzach and all the way out to Hellbrunn palace.
  • Salzburg Airport is only about 3 miles (5km) west of the Old Town. Though it’s Austria’s second largest airport, it primarily serves European destinations (many flights operate seasonally to feed the nearby ski resorts). The no.10 Obus runs between the airport and the city center in around 15 minutes (every 10 minutes).
  • The Salzburg Card (€30–45 in peak season) offers free entrance to most tourist attractions and free public transport in the city for 1, 2, or 3 days. It’s usually a very good deal, if you intend to visit the main museums and to use the transport system several times a day; the two Mozart museums plus the funicular to the castle alone will cost you around €38.
  • You’ll find many more English speakers in cosmopolitan Salzburg than in small-town Austria, but not everyone working in shops and restaurants will understand you. Try to learn a few words and numbers in German before you go. (Austrians do speak German, albeit with a different accent to Standard High German).
  • Free wi-fi is available at Salzburg Airport, and at hotspots throughout the city center thanks to “Salzburg surft” – look for the “#SalzburgSurft” network.

The Best Places to Stay in Salzburg

Boutique hotel in Old Town Salzburg.

Boutiquehotel am Dom in Old Town Salzburg.

Best Places in Salzburg for…

  • Best Place to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Altstadt or Neustadt
    It makes sense to stay in the heart of historic Salzburg if you can. The Altstadt (Old Town) is the most beautiful and atmospheric part of the city, but Neustadt across the river is also loaded with charm, home to the Mozart Residence (Mozart-Wohnhaus), Schloss Mirabell, the gorgeous Mirabell Gardens, and historic Linzer Gasse, the main drag. You’ll also find slightly cheaper hotel rates in this part of town – accommodation in the Altstadt tends to be expensive. Whether you stay in the Old Town or Neustadt, you’ll be within walking distance of the city’s primary sights: the traffic-free main drag of Getreidegasse, Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus), the Salzburg Museum, monumental Salzburg Cathedral and the Residenz of the Prince Archbishops, the cliffside catacombs of St Peter’s Church, and the mesmerizing Hohensalzburg – the hilltop castle high above the city. You’ll also have access to the best restaurants, bars, and shops in the city.
  • Most Romantic Destination: Altstadt and Hellbrunn
    The Altstadt is by far the most romantic part of the city, a dizzying ensemble of spires and domes framed by the castle high above. It’s crammed with enchanting streets and gorgeous Baroque architecture, with plenty of charming cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Couples often attach padlocks to the Makartsteg bridge, the pedestrian-only link between the Old and New towns, while the Cathedral, Nonnberg Abbey, and St Peter’s Church are art-filled, atmospheric places to explore. There are some pricey but fabulous hotels here for romantic stays: Boutiquehotel am Dom and Hotel Goldgasse are excellent choices, with the luxurious Hotel Goldener Hirsch the pick of the bunch.

    You could also spend time south of the city center at Schloss Hellbrunn, the elegant 17th-century summer palace built for the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. The palace and especially its extensive gardens rarely seem crowded – the neighboring park is laced with trails and contains the Monatschlössl, the “mini” palace built to enhance the view from Hellbrunn. Couples often visit the “Sound of Music Pavilion” (transported here from Schloss Leopoldskron), where the famous “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” scene from the movie was shot in the 1960s.

  • Best Place for Nightlife: Altstadt and Neustadt
    Salzburg isn’t a huge nightlife hub, but there are plenty of bars and pubs scattered around the city. There are three main areas to seek out bars: on Rudolfskai (along the river) and Anton-Neumayer-Platz in the Altstadt, and on and around the Steingasse across the river in Neustadt (all are within walking distance of each other). Along Rudolfskai there’s Shamrock and O’Malley’s Irish pubs, cozy City Alm (Rudolfskai 26), and several other bars, while over on Anton-Neumayer-Platz/Gstättengasse we like the cocktails at Flip, the DJs at Soda Club and Half Moon Club, Mentor’s Bar Kultur, and Murphy’s Law, yet another Irish pub. (Salzburgers really love Irish pubs.) The best traditional beer hall is the Augustiner Bräustübl Müllnerbräu, a bit further north at Augustinergasse 4-6.

    Over on Steingasse, the Watzmann Cultbar and Saitensprung are among the numerous bars to seek out, more popular with locals than tourists. The best live venue in town is the Rockhouse, a little further north at Schallmooser Hauptstrasse 46.

    • Salzburg’s premier beer maker is Stiegl-Brauwelt – the largest independent brewer in Austria. You can tour the brewhouse, bottling plant, and its museum just outside the city center.

  • Best Place for Food and Restaurants: Altstadt and Neustadt
    Though some of the best restaurants in the city lie beyond the city center (Ikarus in Hangar-7 near the airport, and Senns Restaurant further north, are excellent examples), you’ll get the most choice by far in the Old Town and Neustadt – both areas are equally good, though you’ll find cheaper menus in the latter. On the northern edge of the Old Town, Esszimmer is the best place for a splurge, featuring the Michelin-starred creations of Chef Andreas Kaiblinge, while Gasthaus Hinterbrühl is the ideal place to sample classic Austrian cuisine (from roast pork to schnitzel). There are also historic spots like Café Tomaselli, which is touristy but an essential stop for coffee and cake, as well as Cafe Sacher over in Neustadt, outpost of the famous Viennese maker of sachertorte (chocolate cake), and far less busy than the flagship in Vienna itself.

    For cheaper fare, try the food stalls in and around the daily Grünmarkt on Universitätsplatz, where you’ll find sandwiches, giant pretzels, and all sorts of sausages (especially at Salzburger Grill Imbiss, the food truck at Wiener-Philharmoniker-Gasse 2A). Fried chicken is the specialty at Bärenwirt. On the other side of the river in Neustadt we like the Austrian food and beer at Die Weisse and Johanneskeller (Richard-Mayr-Gasse 1), the Mediterranean dishes at Wasserfall (Linzer G. 10), and for something different, Xinchao – Vietnamese Street Food.

    • Salzburg is especially famous for the sweet, fluffy soufflé known as Salzburger Nockerl – any traditional restaurant should have it on the menu. The other local delicacy you’ll see sold virtually everywhere is the Salzburger Mozartkugel, aka “Mozart balls”, the sweet treats of marzipan and pistachio surrounded by nougat and chocolate, first created in 1890 at Cafe Konditorei Fürst.

  • Best Place for Shopping: Altstadt
    Though locals tend to shop at the huge malls on the city outskirts, the Old Town (Altstadt) still offers plenty of shopping opportunities – and it’s not all touristy. Traffic-free Getreidegasse is the traditional main drag, lined with stores specializing in fashion, shoes, watches, and more. It’s mostly Austrian brands here (there’s a Red Bull World store of course, promoting the city’s most famous international product), but Tommy Hilfiger, Benetton, Longchamp and other designers have outposts along or near Getreidegasse. For traditional dirndl-type outfits (known as “tracht” here), try Trachten Stassny (no.35), Wenger (no.29), or Madl (no.13). The 600-year-old Schlosserei Wieber metalworking shop (no.28) is a tourist attraction in its own right, while the Stiftsbäckerei St. Peter (bakery) on Kapitelplatz dates back to the 12th century. Fresh local fruit and vegetables, as well as snacks like giant pretzels are on sale at the daily “Grünmarkt” on Universitätsplatz.

    EUROPARK Salzburg is the city’s biggest mall, with over 100 stores – it’s a short train or bus ride from the city center. Designer Outlet Salzburg is near the airport, offering discounted fashion from major brands.

  • Safety in Salzburg
    Salzburg is generally very safe by global and even Austrian standards, though the usual precautions should be taken at night, especially around the main station (Hauptbahnhof).

The 5 Best Areas in Salzburg for Tourists

1. Altstadt (Old Town)

Hotel in Alstadt (Old Town) Salzburg.

Hotel Elefant in Alstadt (Old Town) Salzburg.

The Altstadt is the historic heart of Salzburg and is where you should spend most of your time. Set at the foot of the hill known as the Mönchsberg, on the south (left) side of the Salzach, it’s a truly beautiful collection of alleyways, charming squares, medieval churches, and historic cafés. The cobbled, pedestrian-only main drag, Getreidegasse, is primarily a shopping street today that can get mobbed with tourists but also contains Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus), one of Salzburg’s biggest attractions. This is where the great composer was born in 1756 and is now a fascinating museum dedicated to his early life. Head further into the Old Town and you’ll hit a series of elegant squares. The Alter Markt is home to historic Café Tomaselli, founded in 1700, while Mozartplatz harbors the main tourist information center and the vast Salzburg Museum, with its eclectic collections of paintings, musical instruments, ancient coins, manuscripts, toys, and folk art. In between is the Residenzplatz, Salzburg’s grandest square, flanked by Salzburg Cathedral and the Residenz itself, home to the Prince Archbishops that once ruled the city. Collectively known as the Dom Quartier, you can tour the magnificent 17th-century State Rooms, admire the rare paintings in the Residenz galerie, and visit the Cathedral Museum and the adjacent Museum of St. Peter’s Abbey. The west side of the cathedral looks out onto austere Domplatz, and another elegant church, Franziskaner Kirche, while the south side is dominated by Kapitelplatz, home to the odd Sphaera art installation (a giant gold ball) and the Kapitelschwemme, an ornamental pond and fountain framed by the castle perched in the hill beyond.

South of Kapitelplatz lies St Peter’s Church, with a fabulously ornate Rococo interior and beautifully landscaped cemetery, but best known for the catacombs carved out of the adjacent cliffs by the region’s early Christian inhabitants. Nearby is the base station for the FestungsBahn funicular that zips up the steep slopes some 400ft (120 meters) above the city to the 11th-century Hohensalzburg, Salzburg’s picturesque hilltop fortress. This former safe haven for the Prince Archbishops is worth a good half day of exploration, with several museums and galleries inside, as well as magnificent views of the city, two restaurants, and the Royal Apartments.

Those are the primary attractions in the Old Town, but there’s plenty more for art aficionados: the contemporary art and photography at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg and its Mönchsberg branch, set dramatically on a cliff; the Salzburger Festspiele performing arts complex; the medieval frescoes at Nonnberg Abbey; and the Stefan Zweig Centre, dedicated to the beloved Austrian author. Kids might enjoy the Haus der Natur, the city’s natural history museum.

• The Altstadt is the most atmospheric part of the city to stay in, but rates tend to be high. The choice across the river in Neustadt (or further north nearthe train station) is much wider and cheaper.

2. Neustadt

The “Right Bank”of the Salzach comprises the “Rechte Altstadt” (“Right Old Town”) and Neustadt (“New Town”) neighborhoods. Cross the Staatsbrücke bridge and the charming Platzl, a small square, does appear to be an extension of the Old Town, with Linzer Gasse, the main drag, running north from here. To the east lies the bulk of the Kapuzinerberg, a wooded hill named after the Capuchin church at the summit. Below it is the cobbled Steingasse, one of the city’s most atmospheric streets. Heading north into the Neustadt, the Mozart Residence (Mozart-Wohnhaus) overlooks busy Makartplatz, dominated by the elegant Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. Mozart lived in the Residence between 1773 and 1780, and the small but absorbing museum here compliments the Birthplace with exhibits about his life and music (don’t miss the small wooden pavilion in the courtyard, the famous “Magic Flute House” where Mozart composed his opera “Die Zauberflöte” in 1791). The other major highlight in Neustadt is Schloss Mirabell, a 17th-century palace, and the surrounding Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg’s loveliest park.

3. Elisabeth Vorstadt

North of Neustadt, the district of Elisabeth Vorstadt around the main train station (Salzburger Hauptbahnhof) was once a working class and immigrant area. Heavily bombed in World War II, it has recently been given a face-lift, developing as an alternative commercial center around the train station (focused on Südtirolerplatz). As well as shopping malls and some newish, good value hotels, live music venues such as Jazzit have helped bring cachet to the area. There’s not much to see here, though, and the dining and drinking scenes are not great – the main reason to stay here is convenience for the train station, and cost, with hotels here often much cheaper than in the Old Town. You can walk to the Altstadt easily enough (around 20–30 minutes), but there are also numerous trolley buses that make the trip.

4. Hellbrunn

Located around 3.5 miles (5.5km) south of the Old Town, Schloss Hellbrunn was built in the early 17th century as a grand summer retreat for Archbishop Markus Sittikus, the ruler of Salzburg at the time. Touring the lavish rooms and extensive gardens is a city highlight today (fans should look out for the Sound of Music Pavilion, used in the movie). The neighboring park contains the Salzburg Zoo and the Volkskundemuseum, a small museum with enlightening displays on Austria’s rich folk traditions.

• Bus #25 runs to the palace from the Old Town in around 15 minutes, so there’s no need to spend the night here.

• Drivers might want to look at the cluster of excellent hotels (see below) just off the main highway (E55) south of Hellbrunn palace. These are not convenient for exploring the city center, though.

5. Salzach Valley

With more time it’s worth heading up the wild and rugged Salzach Valley south of Salzburg, into the Alps proper, for a taster of the city’s beautiful hinterland. Part of the Tennengau region, the main towns and villages along the river are easy to reach from Salzburg via public transportation (Hallein is just 15 minutes by train), but you’ll need a car to explore the hilly areas beyond the central valley.

Your first stop should be Hallein, dubbed the “City of the Celts” thanks to its connections with an ancient Celtic community best explored at the excellent Keltenmuseum. The Celts were attracted by the Hallein Salt Mine (Salzwelten Salzburg), worked for thousands of years and later one of the main sources of wealth for the Salzburg archbishops – a guided tour takes you into the heart of the mine. Nearby, the Keltendorf open-air museum is a reconstructed Celtic village popular with kids (there’s a massive playground attached, and a salt manufactory). Hallein’s small old town, with its medieval streets and houses is also well worth exploring. The Stille Nacht Museum commemorates the life and work of the composer Franz Xaver Gruber, creator of beloved Christmas carol “Silent Night” in 1818.

Further south and deeper into the mountains, the river runs through the village of Werfen, site of another fairytale fortress, 11th-century Hohenwerfen Castle. A scenic spot just above the village was where the “Do-Re-Mi” picnic scene in The Sound of Music was filmed, while Eisriesenwelt, high on the other side of the valley (and accessible by road and cable car) contains some of the most extensive and jaw-dropping ice caves anywhere.

• If you venture down here note that many of the attractions are free or with reduced pricing if you use the Tennengau PLUS-Card (you should be able to get one from your hotel for free). Public transport to and from Salzburg is also free with the card.

Other Salzburg Neighborhoods

We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail above. With more time the following places are also worth checking out:

  • Salzburg Open-Air Museum (Salzburger Freilichtmuseum): Around 7 miles (11km) southwest of the Old Town, Salzburg’s largest museum comprises over 100 historical buildings preserved from the city’s rural hinterland, plus old taverns and a working steam engine. Bus no. 180 runs from Salzburg main train station to the museum in around 35 minutes.
  • Untersberg: This Alpine massif of six peaks south of Salzburg offers sensational views and plenty of hiking opportunities, though most people take the cable car up (the Untersbergbahn) from the tiny village of Sankt Leonhard (around 24 minutes by bus from the Old Town). It’s perhaps best known for featuring in the opening scene of The Sound of Music. You can stay near the cable car base at the excellent Hotel Untersberg or the cheaper Gasthof Simmerlwirt. You can also stay on top of the mountain – Zeppezauerhaus offers basic rooms, but staying here is an incredible experience.
  • Leopoldskron: Sound of Music bus tours are big business in Salzburg, with many of the most famous filming locations in the countryside outside the city. Schloss Leopoldskron served as the main Von Trapp residence in the movie – it’s now a posh hotel, but one-hour guided tours are available for non-guests (the “Sound of Music gazebo” used in the movie was moved to Hellbrunn Palace). The actual former home of the real Von Trapp family is in Aigen (Traunstrasse 34), south of the city center. Converted into the Hotel Villa Trapp in 2008, it closed during the COVID pandemic.
  • Klessheim: Soccer fans may want to head out to Klessheim to see Austrian Bundesliga team FC Red Bull Salzburg play at the Red Bull Arena. Nearby Schloss Klessheim is home to Casino Salzburg featuring all the usual entertainments from slots and roulette to poker. Most visitors take buses or taxis here from the city center, but Hotel Gasthof Kamml and the cheaper Hotel Lilienhof are good options for drivers.
  • There’s not much point in staying near Salzburg Airport (Flughafen Salzburg) west of the city center unless you have an early flight. If you do need to stay here, the most convenient option is Airporthotel Salzburg, but Hotel Himmelreich, a little further away, is much better quality. Fans of all things airplane will want to come out here to visit the futuristic Hangar-7 museum complex which houses the Flying Bulls fleet of 30 aircraft (created by Austrian flying enthusiasts and the Red Bull energy drink company in the 1980s), a collection of Formula 1 race cars, art exhibits, a couple of bars, and the highly rated Restaurant Ikarus.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.