Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Mirabell Gardens

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Comprehensive Review

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Attersee lakeVienna Salzburg Day Trip. Clearly, Vienna is not Austria. To discover a different landscape, head for the region and town of Salzburg. As a native Viennese, I have covered that route several times, usually on my way to the Alps, or over a weekend. If you plan to go for a day and need a reality check for a day trip read my story about an unusually luxurious small group day tour to Salzburg from Vienna.

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip. No doubt my starting position was promising: first, an air-conditioned spacious Mercedes minivan shared with just seven other travellers, and free Wifi and iPads for each of us.

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Melk Abbey from the roadSecond, for tour guide and driver Ben our group meant more than heads to count. Not just calm and polite, Ben managed to build up the momentum of our journey with savvy stories. Because of that the route along the highway turned from a travel corridor to an informative conversation. As we headed out of Wien, Schönbrunn Palace, Lainz Natural Reserve, the Danube Valley of Wachau and Melk Abbey (photo) drifted by.

For Ben, they triggered amazing stories about the Habsburg Emperors, the history of Austria and World Cultural Heritage sites. The further we headed westwards, the more dramatic the landscape became: for example, my favourite was the ‘Sleeping Virgin’ that materialised out of a long mountain range as we approached.

Salzkammergut Lake District

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Attersee photo shootingVienna Salzburg Day Trip. After a bit more than two hours a turquoise-coloured lake showed up. Stretching across 19 kilometres, Attersee marked our entrance into Salzkammergut region, internationally appraised for its beauty and pristine landscape. On the right is a photo of Hawaiian participants Candy and Nane being photographed by Ben, taken just before my toes dipped into Attersee…

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: St. Gilgen town hallSubsequently, we studied lake Fuschl’s shimmering surface providing a slightly different shade of emerald green. While surrounding half of its shore Ben rolled out the recent history of a pink liquid: International energy drink success Red Bull was headquartered just next to the lake.

Outside Salzburg city the biggest highlight of the journey was off-track for large coaches and trains: a lakeside village almost too hard to describe without slipping into kitsch phrases.

St. Gilgen lies along the shores of Wolfgangsee and is quintessentially Austrian. Most of the houses look like the town hall in the photo. The village lies at the foot of Schafberg mountain and was well known for its bobbin lacing tradition.

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Local museum, St. GilgenAs we had almost an hour I promenaded along the shore of Lake St. Wolfgang, discovering very Salzburg-style houses and visiting the church where my Austrian friend Elisabeth got married. Surely my best find was St. Gilgen’s gorgeous local museum: life in a local farmhouse unfolded through original beds, tables, chairs, socks drying in front of a typical tiled stove, a dozen bobbins dangling from an unfinished lace…

Salzburg City Tour

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: Guide MartinaVienna Salzburg Day Trip. By midday we touched down at Mirabell castle in Salzburg. Without delay, local tour guide Martina took over. In general, many guides either weigh you down with facts or blow hot air at you. But Martina wasn’t up to neither, despite Salzburg’s more than 900-year old history and 37 degrees Celsius in the shade. From the gardens of Mirabell and its many Sound-of-Music references we headed across the Salzach bridge into the center.

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: GetreidegasseOn the surface, our walk would have passed as an ordinary orientation tour: Mozart’s birth place, Getreidegasse (photo), Residence Gallery, the Cathedral, a few passage ways. What made it different was Martina’s style of narrative:

She centered her historic and contemporary references around key questions and observations of any mindful visitor: why Vienna and Salzburg were different, why Salzburg had always been a rich town, the role of Fortress Hohensalzburg, Mozart’s and the Sound of Music‘s many traces, the story behind the medieval trade signs in Getreidegasse, Nazi parades and Italian baroque; how to move around the centre through hidden historic passageways; where Mozart played billiard; where to try the original Mozart chocolates, and how local music festivals transform Salzburg into one big outdoor stage every summer.

Free Time In Salzburg

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: CathedralVienna Salzburg Day Trip. Since Martina had established the city’s cultural signposts during our guided tour, she facilitated our own exploration. During the more than two hours free time I returned to my favourite spots. After that I bought fresh strawberries and a traditional sandwich from the local market for lunch along the Salzach river. Then I went for some shopping and indulged in ice cream coffee at famous Fürst cake shop. If I hadn’t visited Fortress Hohensalzburg and the gallery of Residence Palace several times before, you would have found me there. Equally, the spectacular roof terrace of Hotel Stein along the Salzach river would have been another fabulous destination.

At 4.30 pm we whizzed back straight to Vienna. Some of us watched the Sound of Music on their in-car iPads, some dozed or checked their emails. In my case, I was writing up my thoughts of the day.

How to Book the Tour

Vienna Salzburg Day Trip: luxury minivanAs from my experience, those small group tours from Vienna to Salzburg attract individual travellers who care about quality insights and an almost private tour experience. As a matter of fact, our guides excelled at providing relevant context, reaching beyond history to local current affairs and modern day culture.

To check available tours and dates, and book, just click on Vienna to Salzburg tour.

NOTE: I was invited by the tour operator. All opinions expressed and English language errors made are my own. 

go to Vienna Budapest Day Trip – Tour Review
visit Burgenland Wine Tour Review – Wine Tasting Near Vienna
access my Wachau Valley Tour Review – Wine And Danube
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