Three Unforgettable Days in Salzburg with Kids

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We visited Salzburg, Austria with a four- and five-year-old in the second half of our two-month Central European trip. After Salzburg, we also spend one surreal night at Hallstatt, one of the most beautiful lakeside villages in Europe, before devoting another three days (four nights) to the Austrian city of Innsbruck with our kids and then moving on to Bavaria in Germany.

The Austria portion of our trip fell at the beginning of November, which is one of the slowest times for travel in the region, coming between the summer high season and winter ski season in Austria. It was often gray and a little chilly during our visit, but we did have one perfectly clear day when the sun brought out the stunning colors of the autumn foliage (we didn’t have such luck on our previous stop, Lake Bled in November).

 

Visiting Salzburg with kids in autumn
Salzburg was gorgeous in Autumn!

 

The UNESCO-designated Salzburg Altstadt (Old City) truly stole our hearts. The Old City is not only easily walkable with kids but unimaginably picturesque; it almost felt unreal to us at times.

Visiting Salzburg with kids was even better than we expected. Besides the usual things to do in Salzburg, we uncovered some excellent children’s museums, the best zoo we’ve ever been to, and surprisingly kid-friendly beer halls.

 

Our kids running around a statue in a Salzburg square at night
Our kids disturbing the peace of Salzburg at night

 

Most travel literature you’ll read about Salzburg focuses heavily on Mozart and Sound of Music-related attractions. Well, I’m not going to lie to you are pretend that my kids care in the slightest about either of those things (and while we’re being honest, neither do I). So no, we didn’t do the famous Sound of Music tour, but if you want to, here’s a highly recommended one!

Having said that, we LOVED Salzburg. Below, I’m going to cover in detail how we spent three days in Salzburg with our kids, and I’ll provide all the details for any other kid-friendly things to do in Salzburg that we missed.

 

Essentials for a Family Trip to Salzburg

– You’ll want to research whether or not to get a Salzburg Card, which you can book online here. The card includes transportation in the city and a number of attractions, but is only worth it if you visit enough of those attractions; simply add up the costs for each attraction you intend to visit. For us, it wasn’t quite worth it. Also note that kids age 6 and under are free for most things, so they don’t need a card. Older kids get discounts, so you’ll have to do the math.- I suggest staying in the Old City so that you can easily walk to all the attractions with your kids. See where we stayed below.- It’s quite a walk from the Salzburg train station to the Old City (we did it once; it was doable but a bit far for the kids), so it’s a good idea to take the bus instead. The buses are really long (like two buses connected in the middle), so we had no issue going on with our luggage.- We also loved picture-postcard Hallstatt, a few hours away from Salzburg. We stayed overnight (it was very pricey), so if we went again we’d consider booking this day tour to Hallstatt instead.

 

Our Kid (and Budget)-Friendly Apartment in Salzburg

View of Salzburg Fortress from our family friendly hotel in Salzburg
View of Salzburg Fortress from our very cheap and kid-friendly apartment

 

Since we were on the road for quite a while in Europe, we were trying to keep our accommodation costs to a minimum. We really wanted to stay within the Old City close to all the sights for convenience sake with the kids, but all the accommodation choices seemed unreasonably expensive.

Then we found this very cheap (for Austria) apartment on Airbnb that could not have been better located. In less than five minutes, we could walk to Salzburg Cathedral, the Fortress Funicular, Residenzplatz, St. Peter’s Abbey, the bus stop to the zoo, grocery stores, and more.

What made the apartment kid-friendly, besides the amazing location, was that it had an elevator, too! After weeks of hauling our luggage up flights of stairs almost everywhere we stayed, this was a very welcome feature!

The apartment itself was basic, in need of a renovation, but it was clean, warm, had a full kitchen, and even a bathtub, which is always great at the end of the day, whether or not you have kids. If you are looking for an insanely well-located apartment in the center of the Old City at an unbeatable price, then this is it.

If you prefer something a little classier, you can find the best hotel deals in Salzburg here or the best Salzburg apartment deals on Airbnb.

 

If you’d like to read more about our family adventures, here are my articles on Taiwan with kids, Oman with kids, Istanbul with kids, Amalfi Coast with kids, Montenegro with kids, and Dubrovnik with kids!

 

 

Our 3-Day Salzburg Itinerary with Kids

In total we planned four nights in Salzburg, giving us three full days to explore the city and its kid-friendly attractions.

In the end, we felt this was a perfect amount of time; we saw everything we had wanted to, and we didn’t have to cram too much into any of our days, with room for some down time at our apartment every day.

 

DAY 1: The Main Sights

On our first full day in Salzburg, we did a self-walking tour of some of the city’s most famous buildings and squares.

Since our apartment was only a few minute’s walk from Salzburg Cathedral (Dom zu Salzburg), the heart of the Old City, we naturally began there.

 

Side view of Salzburg Cathedral
Impressive Salzburg Cathedral

 

The kids had already seen several churches and cathedrals on our trip before Salzburg, but we were all stricken by the magnificence and extraordinary detail of this cathedral.

 

Organ and ceiling of Salzburg Cathedral
Organ in the same cathedral where Mozart once played

 

The Roman Catholic Salzburg Cathedral was founded in 774, but the current Baroque structure dates to the 17th century. From the striking sculptures on the exterior to the intricate ceilings paintings and enormous organ on the second floor at the back, our heads were constantly tilted back as we entered and explored.

 

My daughter lighting a candle when we visited Salzburg Cathedral with kids
The kids always love lighting candles when we visit cathedrals.

 

Although I’ve read the Cathedral may start charging an entrance fee, it was still free at the time of our visit, and we practically had the cathedral to ourselves on a weekday morning.

While we didn’t partake, it’s important to note that the Cathedral Museum is part of the DomQuartier, a collection of sites with a combined entrance ticket available (13€, children 5 €, 6 and under free, family 27€). Other sites in DomQuartier include the Residence Palace and the Museum of St Peter’s Abbey.

 

Our kids playing with the giant chess set at the Golden Sphere Statue, or Sphaera (Goldene Kugel), in Kapitelplatz, Salzburg.
Salzburg’s iconic Sphaera (Goldene Kugel) artwork; though the kids cared more about the giant chess set…

 

Just south of Salzburg Cathedral is Kapitelplatz, a large square at the foot of Festungsberg, the hill on which Salzburg Castle sits. Today the square is known for Sphaera (Goldene Kugel), a nine-meter golden-sphere with a man bearing a neutral expression standing atop. It is the work of German artist Stephan Balkenhol, and has become one of the most iconic sights in Salzburg.

The kids were of course a little surprised by it, but there attention was soon stolen by the oversize chess board and movable pieces right next to it, which was more at their level.

 

My son reaching into a hallow statue on Kapitelplatz Square in Salzburg
Sage demonstrating that this statue in Kapitelplatz is indeed a ghost

 

From Kapitelplatz, we moved along into adjacent St. Peter’s Abbey, with its famed cemetery (Petersfriedhof) and catacombs. The monastery is the oldest still running in the German-speaking world, while the cemetery is one of the world’s oldest. The cemetery and its ancient tombs are beautiful maintained, and an air of reverence for the dead pervades.

 

Visiting Salzburg's St. Peter's Cemetery with kids
Pondering over the ancient tombs in St. Peters Cemetery

 

The cemetery is free to enter, while there is an entrance fee of 2€ (1.50€ for 6-15, under 6 free) for the catacombs.

The kids were intrigued but also had a lot of questions, and they were nervously interested in entering the catacombs. After ascending a few staircases carved into the cliff walls, we found ourselves facing spaces where bodies once rested. Meanwhile, the windows provided exceptional views over the cemetery and Old City.

 

A catacomb at St. Peter's cemetery (Petersfriedhof) in Salzburg, which we visited with our kids
Catacombs at St. Peter’s Abbey

 

The kids were a little spooked, but the feeling wore off quickly, and they were back to jumping contests before we even made it out of the cemetery. On the way out, we stopped at Stiftsbäckerei St Peter, billed as the oldest bakery in Salzburg (dating to the 12th century!) to buy some freshly baked bread for a snack.

 

Bread from Stiftsbäckerei St Peter, the oldest bakery in Salzburg
Bread we purchased from the oldest bakery in Salzburg

 

From there, it would have made sense to take the funicular (officially the FestungsBahn Cable Railway) to Hohensalzburg Fortress, the most famous tourist attraction in the city. The enormous castle sits atop 542-meter Festungsberg Hill and dominates the Old City.

 

The Salzburg Fortress Funicular, one of the main things to do in Salzburg with kids
The Funicular up to Salzburg Fortress

 

The steep funicular only takes 54 seconds to reach the top, from where visitors can enter a museum and enjoy panoramic views over the Old City.

I must admit that we decided to give the funicular and fortress a miss. Our kids don’t care as much about views as we do, not to mention that it was a chilly, overcast day, and we heard that the museum at the top is nothing special. But if the weather is fine and your kids are up for it, this is actually a must-do when in Salzburg.

If you decide to go, a return ticket on the funicular, including museum entrance, is 12.90€ (7.40€ for 6-14, under 6 free, family 28.60€). It is also included on the Salzburg Card, or you can buy your tickets online.

 

Residenzplatz, Salzburg Old Town
Residenzplatz, the main square of the Salzburg Old Town

 

Instead, we headed next to Residenzplatz, the main square of the Old City, admiring the glorious architecture along along the way. In adjacent Mozartplatz, we were a little too early in the season for the Salzburg Christmas Market, which was in process of being set up.

Although our kids don’t have the patience for palaces and art museums, you can find Salzburg Residence, Salzburg Museum, Panorama Museum, along with other famous sights, around this square.

 

Visting Salzburg Residence with kids
Statues of the exterior of Salzburg Residence

 

After a prolonged siesta, we headed out again in the late afternoon and ventured further west in the Old City, getting lost in the gorgeous lanes, where a festive atmosphere and a lot of Christmas decorations were already up.

On the way, we finally sampled the famous Mozart Balls, which are made of marzipan around a pistachio center and coated in chocolate and are sold from shops all over the city. We went with the Lonely Planet Austria recommendation and tried the ones at Confiserie Fürst, which were of course mouthwateringly delicious.

 

Our kids looking at Mozart chocolate balls through the window of Confiserie Fürst, a shop in Salzburg
Spotting the famous Mozart balls in a shop window

 

My daughter holding up a Mozart chocolate ball in Confiserie Fürst, a chocolate shop in Salzburg
Lavender patiently waiting to eat her Mozart ball

 

From there, Emily’s shopping instinct naturally brought us to Getreidegasse, the famous shopping street of Salzburg’s Old City. It is also the location of Mozarts Geburtshaus (“Mozart Birthplace” on GoogleMaps), the house Mozart grew up in.

But guess what we did instead of going into it like all the other tourists? Well, we spend an hour and a half buying much needed winter clothes for the kids next door at H&M…

 

My wife and kids in front of a store on Getreidegasse, the main shopping street of Salzburg
Festive Getreidegasse, the most famous shopping street in Salzburg

 

And as a word of warning, it’s really hard to find anywhere to use the toilet in Salzburg if you don’t pay to go into museums. We ended up going into McDonalds on Getreidegasse a lot, but had to pay 0.50€ each time. There is also a public toilet (same price) near the entrance to Salzburg Cathedral, but it ate Emily’s 1 euro coin once and wouldn’t let her in, so we never went back.

We finished off our rather fruitful day by dining at Restaurant Stieglkeller, a restaurant beerhall operated by Stiegl Beer, whose main brewery is a popular attraction and a short bus ride away from the Old City.

 

Large glass of beer at Stieglkeller Restaurant Salzburg, run by the Steigl Brewery
Excellent beer (and food!) at Stieglkeller Restaurant

 

Restaurant Stieglkeller is just up the road from the entrance to the Fortress Funicular, and it is elevated enough on the hill to offer a commanding view of the Old City’s rooftops from the large outdoor terrace.

This was actually our first beerhouse experience in this part of the world, and as a beer lover, I was in seventh heaven. It was a pretty quiet night, with most tables empty, and we sat indoors in an atmospheric, traditional beerhall-style room.

 

Me holding a Christmas beer at Stieglkeller, a kid-friendly restaurant in Salzburg
Me with a special seasonal Christmas beer

 

Vegetarian strudel at Stieglkeller Restaurant in Salzburg, which we visited with kids
Excellent vegetarian strudel at Stieglkeller Restaurant

 

The beer was exceptional, as were our meals. I especially liked my vegetarian strudel with yogurt sauce and fresh greens. The kids were given coloring papers, so they were just as satisfied. As a side note, it is totally normal to bring kids to beer halls in Austria!

 

DAY 2: Salzburg Zoo

With the main sights that we cared to see covered on the first day, we handed over the reins to the kids, and they chose the Salzburg Zoo Hellbrunn for our main activity on our second day.

We woke up to a gorgeous, cloud-free day (some of the photos in the day 1 section above I actually shot as we were passing through on day 2). November is known to be constantly gray and wet, so we felt very blessed for this unexpected great weather.

To catch bus #25 to the zoo, we headed to Salzburg Mozartsteg bus stop near our apartment, on the Old City side of Mozartsteg (Mozart Bridge). The bridge and autumn foliage on the opposite bank looked so stunning that we couldn’t resist walking across and spending some time on the bridge admiring the view before getting the bus.

 

Our kids running across Mozartsteg (Mozart Bridge) in Salzburg
Crossing Mozartsteg (Mozart Bridge) on a gorgeously clear morning

 

Most tourists flock to Makartsteg (Love Locks Bridge) in Salzburg, as it connects the Old City to Mirabell Palace (Schloss Mirabell) on the opposite side, but we would loved the more natural view from Mozart Bridge.

 

View from Mozartsteg (Mozart Bridge)
The stunning view from Mozart Bridge

 

View from Mozartsteg in Salzburg
Looking the opposite way

 

After a short bus ride out of the city, we disembarked to find a gorgeous, typically Austrian countryside view with mountains in the distance, on one side of the road (see the cover image of this article).

On the zoo side, we hardly realized at first, but the whole zoo is built into the base of a long cliff that sticks out from the fields. It is a very natural and inconspicuous, so couldn’t even tell where it was at first.

 

View of Salzburg zoo, one of the best children's activities in Salzburg
Salzburg Zoo nestles inconspicuously between the wall and cliff in this photo.

 

Our positive impression continued as we began making our way through the zoo. The autumn colors on the vegetation and trees throughout made the scenery striking everywhere we looked. With our two young kids, we found the Salzburg Zoo to be a perfect, manageable size size. We were able to cover pretty much the whole thing without totally draining our energy.

 

Leopard couple at Salzburg Zoo

 

The animal enclosures are large and natural; you are often looking up into them as they are built into the cliff. Some reviews I had read even complained that many of the animals can’t even be seen because they have so much space, but we see that as a good thing. We also noted that lots of reviewers who claimed to not normally be “zoo people” still did enjoy this one.

 

My son riding on a fire salamander statue at Salzburg Zoo
We saw fire salamanders in the wild in Croatia, and Sage has been in love with them since…

 

The highlights for the kids were the fire salamanders, rabbits in the petting zoo, and leopard couple, the lemurs (which walked around freely), and the snow leopards.

 

My son looking up at a lemur on a fence at the Salzburg Zoo
The lemurs were so tame our kids could practically touch them!

 

There was also a decent playground, as well as free wagons for visitors with very young kids or lots of stuff to haul around. Entrance is included with the Salzburg Card, or you can purchase your ticket in advance on Viator.

 

Salzburg Zoo playground
Playground inside Salzburg Zoo

 

It’s worth noting that another of Salzburg’s most famous attractions, Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn), is right next door to the zoo, and one stop before it if you’re coming by bus.

The palace is famous for its landscaped gardens and “trick fountains” which spray water on you unexpectedly. We definitely would have included this in our schedule if we had visited in summer, but in November we read that the gardens are a little bare, and no trick fountains would be on, so we didn’t see the point. If you visit Salzburg with kids in summer, then definitely consider it!

 

Visiting the unusual statues at Mirabell Palace (Schloss Mirabell) with kids
Creepy statues at Mirabell Palace

 

After heading back to the Old City, we took a stroll across the river to the gardens at Mirabell Palace (Schloss Mirabell). Mainly I wanted to the kids to see the ghoulish statues in one section of the gardens. The gardens themselves weren’t overly impressive to us, which again may have been due to the time of year.

 

My kids touching the butts of some nude statues in at Mirabell Palace gardens
According to my wife, they are like this because of me…

 

After this, we were totally pooped and spent the rest of the day relaxing at our apartment.

 

DAY 3: Toy Museum and Haus der Natur

On our third day in Salzburg, we scheduled two more kid-friendly stops: Salzburg Toy Museum (Spielzeug Museum) and Museum of Natural Science and Technology (Haus der Natur). Both are located at the western end of the Old City, only five minutes apart from each other.

 

Our kids playing with toys at the Toy Museum Salzburg
Playtime at the Salzburg Toy Museum

 

The Toy Museum Salzburg is more of an indoor playcenter than a museum. There are some old toys on display on the upper floor, but not many. The main attraction for our kids were the rooms with marble games, toy train sets, building blocks, toy groceries, and so on.

Without kids, there’s no way I would recommend this museum. For us it was quite boring, and there are even some designated couches for parents to veg out and check their phones.

 

My son playing with a marble tower at Salzburg Toy Museum
The kids got free marbles to play with in this tower, and take home after.

 

But for our kids, who had been on the road for over a month at that point and were totally toy-deprived, the museum gave them some much needed toy playing time, and after two hours there, it was still difficult to drag them out.

The Salzburg Toy Museum entrance fee is 5€ per adult, 2€ per child (4-15), free under 4, 10€ per family) and it is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Our kids in the dinosaur room at the Salzburg Museum of Science and Technology (Haus der Natur)
Dinosaur room (always a child-pleaser) at Haus der Natur

 

Luckily the kids still had plenty of energy to tackle the much larger Haus der Natur, also known in English as the Museum of Science and Technology, although it is more focused on nature than technology.

 

Our kids with an exotic ice age animal display at the Salzburg Nature Museum
The Ice Age section

 

This ambitious, 5-story museum covers just about everything, including dinosaurs, space, the ice age, local flora and fauna, the human body, oceans, geology, myths & fables, and our children’s favorite: an aquarium and reptile center.

 

My son looking at a sting ray in the aquarium of Haus der Natur (Museum of Science and Technology) in Salzburg
Aquarium section of Haus der Natur

 

We never even made it over to the technology and science center, which is in a separate building connected to the main building via a walkway above the road on the second floor (“Floor 1” in Europe).

We aren’t normally much of a museum family, but this particular one was really fun for the kids (especially for the animal displays). We would highly recommend it.

 

Our kids inside of a huge sea creature's jaw at Salzburg Haus der Natur

 

With the kids fully satisfied, now it was time for Mom and Dad to have a turn. From Haus der Natur, it was a 15-minute walk north along the river to Augustiner bräu – Kloster Mülln, the most well-known brewery in Salzburg and largest beer hall in the country, and not to be confused with the brewery of the same name in Munich, Germany.

 

Exterior view of Augustiner Brau brewery and beer hall in Salzburg, Austria
Augustiner Brau, the largest beer hall in Austria

 

We actually got to the beer hall too early, before the opening time of 3 p.m., so we killed some time by going for a stroll along the riverside park (Spielplatz Franz-Josef-Kai), where we found a great playground.

 

Spielplatz Franz-Josef-Kai riverside playground in Salzburg
Riverside playground we found while waiting for the beer hall to open (gotta keep everyone happy…)

 

Back at the beer hall, now filled with people, we grabbed enormous 1-litre porcelain mugs from the wall and had them filled with delicious märzen beer (a beer style commonly served in autumn and at Oktoberfest).

Outside the main beer hall, there was a hallway filled with snack vendors (called Schmankerlgang), selling everything from pretzels and pastries to cheese platters and meat dishes.

 

Visiting Augustiner Brau beer hall with kids
The kids were genuinely impressed with the size of my beer.

 

The beer hall had a lively atmosphere, and I’d say it really is an absolute must when in Salzburg, especially if you’ve never experienced a beer hall in Austria or neighboring Germany/Bavaria before.

With the kids, we liked that they could be noisier than they are usually allowed to be when we eat out, as nobody even noticed. They also devoured the apple pie and other sweet pastries that we bought to appease them while we enjoyed our beers.

 

Visiting Salzburg with Kids: Conclusion

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! Overall, we truly loved our family trip to this intriguing Central European gem. Not only were there some great choices for kid-friendly activities in Salzburg but also the town itself is so beautiful that going anywhere was enjoyable for us too. We didn’t even mind that we missed some of the major tourist sights.

If you’ve got any thoughts or questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comment form below!

 

 

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