Dear reader: This article contains links to products and services that I may be compensated for, at no extra cost to you.
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. Overall, Salzburg was probably our favorite of the many awesome places to visit in Austria with kids.
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).
A month later, we would return to Austria again to visit the capital of Austria, Vienna with our kids, before finally moving to Canada!
Why We Loved Salzburg
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.
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; read here to find out how to make the best use of your Salzburg Card. Also note that kids age 6 and under are free for most things, so they don’t need a card.
- I suggest staying in the Old City so that you can easily walk to all the attractions with your kids. Search for the best hotels or apartments in Salzburg, or 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 fortress and funicular tickets online.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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. If you decide to visit the Salzburg Zoo, you can buy your entrance tickets online before you arrive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
After this, we were totally exhausted 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.
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.
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. Admission is included on the Salzburg Card.
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.
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.
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! Admission is once again included with the Salzburg Card.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I never travel without a good guidebook! Here are my recommended ones: