Western part of Austria is not only about skiing and other winter sports. We spent a week in summer 2019 travelling around Salzburg and really loved that area – so much to do and see there. If you’re staying in Salzburg it’s a good idea to explore the region around it. In this post I’d like to share some of the best one day trips from Salzburg.
See my other post on what to see and do in Salzburg – One day in Salzburg. But if you have more than a couple of days there, or perhaps you’re driving through Austria, here is our list of the best places to visit not far from Salzburg.
Trip 1 – Hallstatt
When you look at the pictures of Hallstatt in the Internet you might think it’s a village from a fairy tale. Standing on the lake and surrounded by mountains Hallstatt is beautiful at any time of the year – covered in snow, painted by autumn colors or warmed up by sunlight and green colors in summer.
How to get there
Easiest option is to rent a car in Salzburg and drive to Hallstatt from there. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Salzburg. Alternatively, you can arrive by train to Hallstatt Bahnhof or Obertraun Dachsteinhöhlen Bahnhof stations and take a ferry from there to the city center.
If you’re travelling by car keep in mind that Hallstatt is a relatively small village and there is not that many car parks within the town. I’d advise to leave Salzburg early (no later than 9am) if you want to avoid parking your car outside of Hallstatt town. We have parked at Hallstatt Parking P2 (Kohlstattweg, 4830 Hallstatt, Austria). But you can just follow the signs for the parking direction, they appear once you enter the town.
Salzbergbahn funicular and Skywalk Lookout
Next to the car park (if you parked at Parking P2) there is an entrance to Salzbergbahn funicular (Salt Mine Railway funicular).
If you decide to take a tour to Salt Mine (which we haven’t) then round trip on the funicular will be included in your ticket. But even if you’re not planning to go to the salt mine, just take a trip on the funicular – the view from up top is totally worth it.
You can buy the funicular tickets right there at the Salt Mine visitor center. It takes under 5 minutes for the funicular to reach the top. Follow the signs to go to the Skywalk viewing platform to admire unforgettable views of Hallstatt lying down below, the lake and the mountains before you.
Allow about 30-60 minutes for the round trip on the funicular and spending time at the Skywalk taking in the views.
Check the prices and opening times at the Salzwelten website.
Take a walk along the lake
After the funicular head towards the lake and take a walk along the main street of the town.
Take in the view of residential houses stacked on top of each other on the mountain slopes – there was never much land between the mountain and the lake, and until the 19th century it was not even possible to reach the city by road.
Enjoy views of the lake, have an ice cream if you’re travelling at warm season, stop at the souvenir shops along the way or have a meal at one of the waterfront cafes.
Reach Marktplatz – the central square of Hallstatt. It’s a small place in the center of the town surrounded by small neat houses with blooming flowers on their balconies in summer.
Viewpoint to take pictures
Continue walking up to the classic village viewpoint – where you can take pictures like the one at the top of my post.
Please be a mindful tourist and don’t trespass private property – we saw quite a few tourists going on private porches, staircases and piers just to take a better picture.
We have finished in Hallstatt at around 2pm and instead of going back to Salzburg we went to a lookout high in the Alps – 5 Fingers Lookout.
Trip 2 – 5 Fingers lookout
5 Fingers is a viewing platform in the Dachstein Mountains with spectacular views to Hallstätter lake and surrounding mountains. The platform reminds a palm with 5 outstretched fingers, hence the ‘5 Fingers’ name. It’s located high in the mountains at about 400m above the ground. Due to the altitude you can find snow around the lookout even if you are visiting in summer.
If you’re not planning to take a long hike in the mountains there is a cable car (or a series of cable cars) to take you to the top.
How to get there
Starting point of the cable car to the lookout is at the following address: Winkl 34, 4831 Obertraun. If you are travelling by car it’s about a 1.5 hour drive from Salzburg or 15 minutes from Hallstatt. You can leave your car at the car park (free), walk to the ticket office and buy the tickets there.
If not by car then on arrival to Obertraun you will either take a bus to ‘Obertraun Dachsteinseilbahn Talstation’ stop next to the ticket office, or walk there from Obertraun train station (approx 40 minutes walk).
Access to the viewing platform is free, but to get there you need to pay for the cable car.
There are different types of tickets on sale – Panorama tickets, tickets including visiting Mammut or Ice caves, combined tickets. To get to the top you need to buy Panorama ticket, which includes ride on sections 1, 2 and 3 of the cable car.
When we were there at summer 2019 it was 32 euro for 1 adult return trip. It’s not cheap, but it takes you high to the Alps and includes sections 1, 2 and 3 of the cable car.
You can check the prices here.
Once you reach the top on cable car and get off at the mountain station Krippenstein follow the signs to the 5 Fingers Lookout. It’s an easy walk on the paved path to the lookout, which takes about 20 minutes depending on your walking speed.
After about 5 minutes walking you will pass World Heritage Spiral viewing platform. You can get on top to enjoy 360-degree panoramic view to the surrounding mountains. There are also few wooden recliners installed around.
We stopped there on our way back from 5 Fingers. While Roman relaxed on the reclines, Andrey decided to use them to do pushups instead – good indication that the walk was way too easy and leaving too much energy for a 6 year old boy 🙂
There are few information boards on the way to 5 Fingers lookout – allow some time for it if travelling with children.
Panorama at the 5 Fingers platform is spectacular and breathtaking (especially when you look directly below as the platform is kind of hanging over the rock). One of the ‘fingers’ has a glass floor, another has a picture frame. View at any of them is beautiful – to Hallstatt town down below, to the lake, to the mountains stretched on many kilometers in front of you.
What to wear
We went to 5 Fingers lookout at the end of July, and there was still snow up there when we visited! Keep that in mind and bring a jacket even in summer. We came unprepared – in summer sandals, shorts and t-shirts – it was quite chilly. But we still survived 🙂 and still enjoyed the walk, the views and playing in the snow in sandals! We didn’t want to leave – it was so beautiful there.
It’s always a good idea to wear comfortable shoes for the walk. As I mentioned, we wore regular summer sandals and the footpath to the lookout is mostly paved, so it was Okay-ish. But I wish we came better prepared (closed comfy shoes and at least long sleeves) so we could spend more time there, and perhaps explore surrounding hills and sidetracks.
Trip 3 – Lakes Attersee, Fuschlsee and Wolfgangsee
Being from New Zealand our family likes spending summer days outdoors by the water, swimming and enjoying the sun. When I told my boys that for July vacation we are going to Austria they were not too excited – ‘Austria? We’ve been there at Christmas and it was cold!’ – summer vacation without water fun is not complete! So, I went to do my research and found out that we can have our outdoor water fun in Austria and it’s not far from Salzburg.
There are several lakes around Salzburg where you can go for a swim. We have shortlisted few of them to visit:
Attersee – Austria’s third largest lake – has public beaches, hotels and resorts, campsites and also few water parks.
Although there are several beaches with free public access, we decided to go to ‘Erlebnisbad Attersee’ (can be found on Google Maps as ‘Erlebnisbad Attersee am Attersee, Nußdorferstraße, Attersee, Austria’). They had big green area, water slides on the lake and in the outdoor pool, indoor pool (we didn’t swim in it, but if it’s a bit colder outside it can be useful) and a cafe – we were going to spend most of the day there, so we needed variety in the entertainment and a food 🙂
You can check prices and opening times on the Erlebnisbad Attersee website.
Here are also two addresses of public beaches with free access (which I researched when planned the trip):
Freibadeplatz Sprinzensteinpark, Nußdorferstraße, 4864 Attersee am Attersee, Austria;
Freibadeanlage Litzlberg, 4863 Litzlberg, Austria.
Fuschlsee – much smaller lake, but still with several public beaches and, importantly, one of the closest to Salzburg – only 30 minutes by car.
Wolfgangsee – big lake in Salzburg region, its Freibad St.Gilgen resort can be reached by car from Salzburg in about 30 minutes.
On our way back from Hallstatt to Salzburg we stopped at the lake Wolfgang for a swim (use Badestrand Parkplatz Gamsjaga parking). Even though it was after sunset it was warm enough, really quiet and peaceful, and the water felt pleasantly cool after spending the whole day walking.
All of the lakes have clear turquoise water and suitable for swimming in summer. They are worth visiting in any time of the year. Nature and landscapes around are beautiful and you can go for a walk or a hike or a bike ride in the areas surrounding the lakes.
When we were planning our trip we considered taking a bus tour – Hop On/Hop Off from Salzburg and to the lakes. But at the end of the day we decided to go by car – drive around the lakes in our own pace and spend longer at the beach at Attersee.
However, if you are travelling car free then it could be a good option – check the bus tour details here.
Trip 4 – Innsbruck
Although Innsbruck is not too close to Salzburg and it’s worth a night stay on its own, Innsbruck can still be visited within one day trip.
If you are travelling by car, it will take about 2 hours to drive to Innsbruck from Salzburg. So, you can easily fit 2 hours driving one way, spending half a day in Innsbruck, and then drive back – all in one day. Please note, that the shortest way goes through Germany. So, if you are renting a car in Austria you need to notify the rental company that you’re going to cross the border and drive in Germany – that may incur additional costs. Consult with your rental company prior to the trip.
Travelling by train will take a little less than 2 hours. Trains between these two cities go every hour, so you can easily plan your trip to Innsbruck and back within the same day. Taking a train is an easy and good choice – you won’t get tired from driving, and you can enjoy the views outside the windows.
You can book your ticket in advance at the ÖBB website.
Read my other post – What to do in Innsbruck in summer – to get more ideas on spending time in this city.
Trip 5 – Eagle’s Nest
Eagle’s Nest (or Kehlsteinhaus) is a historical building on top of Kehlstein mountain in the Alps. It has been built by Nazi party and Adolf Hitler visited it several times.
Although it’s in Germany, it’s only a 40 minute drive away from Salzburg. If you are interested in WWII history or just like mountain views consider a one day trip to Eagle’s Nest. Nowadays there is a restaurant in the building with indoor and outdoor area, and nice views to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.
Please keep in mind that Eagle’s Nest is not opened in winter times, as the road conditions in winter and late autumn are not safe to drive there.
If travelling by car, you need to drive to ‘Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg’ and leave the car at the car park. From the documentation center you have to take a bus to the Kehlsteinhaus and take a lift to the top. Cars are not allowed beyond the car park and you can either walk the remaining 6.5km (uphill) or take a special bus to the Eagle’s Nest.
Another option would be to take a guided bus tour. There are quite a few tour operators offering historical bus tours to Eagle’s Nest with starting point at Salzburg.
Unfortunately, we didn’t go to Eagle’s Nest due to lack of the time (holidays are always too short!). But we considered it and researched the options, and it’s a really easy trip from Salzburg and can be done in less than a day.