a frosty, wintry scene in the salzburg city center with a frozen garden and fountain

13 Magical Things to Do in Salzburg in Winter

Salzburg is one of those places that captures your heart the moment you arrive, regardless of the season.

However, anyone who knows a thing or two about this beautiful medieval city knows that winter is the absolute best time to visit. 

Once winter falls over the city, you can admire the (already dazzling) cobblestone streets complimented by hanging lights and festive garlands. 

As you walk around the old town, the mouth-watering smell of roasted almonds will guide you to one of the best Christmas markets in all of Europe.

lit up christmas tree in the center of salzburg with lights all around it and a sign that says welcome with lots of christmas market stalls
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Here, you can sip on a warm cup of mulled wine as you shop for unique, handcrafted gifts. 

And that’s just the beginning! Every moment in Salzburg is somehow more magical than the last. 

So throw on your winter coat and get ready to have one of the best winter vacations of your life!

Things to Do in Salzburg in Winter

Visit the Christmas Markets.

The Christmas Markets of Salzburg come alive with festive cheer, opening around late November and typically running through Christmas Eve or New Year.

These markets are some of Austria’s best and they may even beat out Vienna’s in winter!

With their twinkling lights, highly-decorated stalls, roasted sausages and vats of steaming soups, and aromatic smells of mulled wine and gingerbread, they’re a highly atmospheric way to experience Salzburg in winter.

Here are a few of the best Christmas markets in Salzburg!

winter and christmas toys for sale at a salzburg christmas market

Salzburg Christkindlmarkt (Main Salzburg Christmas Market)

Location: Situated in the heart of the historic old town, this market spreads across Domplatz and Residenzplatz. More information here.

2023 Hours: From November 23 to January 1st. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 AM to 8:30 PM. Fridays, 10 AM to 9 PM. Saturdays, 9 AM to 9 PM. Sundays, 9 AM to 8:30 PM. There are a few holiday exceptions:

  • December 24: 9 AM to 3 PM
  • December 25 & 26: 11 AM to 6 PM
  • December 27-30: 10 AM to 8:30 PM
  • December 31: 10 AM to 1 PM
  • January 1: 10 AM to 6 PM

Highlights: This is perhaps the most famous Christmas market in Salzburg and one of the oldest in the world, with a history dating back to the 15th century. Enjoy around 100 stalls offering traditional Austrian handicrafts, festive foods like wurst and garlic soup, and all sorts of delightful gifts.

Winter scene with lit up Christmas market stands in the festive Salzburg Christmas market during winter in salzburg Advent period

Hellbrunner Adventzauber at Hellbrunn Palace

Location: Situated outside the city center, this market is set in front of the beautiful Hellbrunn Palace. More information here.

2023 Hours: From November 23 to December 24. Tuesday to Friday from 1 PM to 8 PM. Saturdays & Sundays from 10 AM to 8 PM. On Christmas Eve, from 10 AM to 2 PM.

Highlights: The romantic ambiance, with over 700 trees illuminated with tens of thousands of ornaments and lights, is truly enchanting. There’s a charming Christmas market with unique crafts and an advent path with life-sized nativity scenes. The palace itself is adorned with festive decorations, too!

Lebkuchen cookie (gingerbread heart) that says Frohes Fest, a winter slogan.

Advent Market at the Fortress Hohensalzburg

Location: Atop the Mönchsberg, this market is within the medieval walls of the Fortress Hohensalzburg. More information here.

2023 Hours: Friday through Saturdays only between December 1 and December 18, from 11 AM to 7 PM.

Highlights: It’s a smaller, more intimate market compared to the others, but it offers a unique atmosphere with its historic setting. Browse through a selection of handcrafted goods and enjoy the views of Salzburg below. The fortress itself is lit up, making it a beacon anywhere in the city!

Take a Stiegl Brewery tour.

sign of the stiegl brewery in salzburg austria
Photo Credit: Mattes, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a country known for its beer, it only makes sense that one of the best ways to warm up on a winter day is by indulging in some beer yourself! 

What better place could you find to sample Austria’s famous beer than the brewery that gave the country its reputation as “Beer Paradise”? 

The Stiegl Brewery is one of the oldest breweries in Austria, drenched in history with roots dating back to the 15th century. 

By taking the Stiegl Brewery tour, you’ll learn all about the brewery’s claim to fame and see how things have changed over the last 500 years. 

Not to mention, you’ll also get to enjoy a variety of Stiegl beers, including the iconic pilsner, along the way. 

Start off at the Stiegl Museum before making your way into the production facility where you will get to see the beer making in action. 

Once the tour has finished, stick around to enjoy another beer and admire the picturesque views of the waterfront property. 

stiegl brewery view Girl goes on a snow-covered winter beautiful city.Walking through the streets of snow-covered city Medieval. Very nice view of Salzburg.Winter town.Journey in winter Austria

I can confirm that it is one of the best views in Salzburg!

And I promise it’s not just the beer talking — it’s actually that good. 

Book your Stiegl brewery tour here!

Watch a classical Mozart concert.

Picture this: You’re seated in one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, that dates back to the 11th century. 

You can see the snow falling down upon the city from the castle’s grand windows. 

You’re listening to musical masterpieces produced by Mozart in the city in which he was born. 

Christmas carols are perfectly intertwined in the performance to create a sense of holiday magic. 

Fortress Hohensalzburg in Salzburg, Austria in Winter, view from below

Talk about a dream, right? Well, it doesn’t have to be! 

The Best of Mozart Fortress Concert brings all of this to life!

But to experience a concert this magnificent, you’ll have to have a bit of dedication, and more than a bit of advance planning. 

Tickets tend to sell out months in advance so this is an experience that you’ll want to try to book the moment you know you’re taking a winter trip to Salzburg. The earlier the better! 

Book your concert at the fortress here!

Classic view of famous Mirabell Gardens with historic Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background in scenic golden evening light at sunset on a beautiful cold sunny day in winter, Salzburg.

But what if you booked a last minute flight to Salzburg and still want to get a taste of Mozart? 

The Mozart Concert at Mirabell Palace is a great alternative and tends to have more availability. 

Here you can listen to Mozart in one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world, while marveling at the idea that Mozart himself once performed in the very same space!

While it isn’t a fortress, it’s still a palace, so it’s not much of a downgrade!

Book your concert at the Mirabell Palace here!

Take a Sound of Music tour.

Detail of the Residence Fountain, Salzburg, Austria

Put on your winter coat, grab a cup of hot chocolate and get ready to spend half a day exploring the many filming locations of the crowd pleasing “Sound of Music”. 

Have someone in your party who doesn’t care for the film? You may as well leave them at the hotel because they don’t deserve to be in Salzburg anyways… (just kidding!)

The beauty of the Sound of Music Tour is that you’ll get to see film-famous locations like the Residenz Fountain where Maria sang “I Have Confidence”.

You’ll also get to see a variety of historic landmarks like the Mondsee Cathedral and the Leopoldskron Palace!

Winter in Salzburg, Leopoldskron Castle and Fortress Hohensalzburg, with frozen-over water in front of the castle

Even better, the incredible views of Lake Fuschl and Salzburg’s surrounding countryside are hard to beat. There’s really something for everyone to enjoy on this tour!

The tour ends at Mirabell Gardens, where you can reenact the Trapp family by dancing around the Pegasus Fountain and admire the incredible Baroque statues peppered through an already breathtaking garden. 

Visit the Salzburg Fortress.

Winter landscape and medieval fortress on top of the mountain. Hohensalzburg Fortress. Austria.

A trip to Salzburg wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, regardless of the season, but there is just something about the sight of this magnificent fortress covered in snow.

It’s a striking scene that makes winter my absolute favorite time to experience it!

Walk through the oldest well-preserved castle in Central Europe, exploring its many museums and wide-sweeping city views along the way.

View on Salzburg from the high tower of Hohensalzburg castle

Even the journey up to the fortress is a memorable experience in its own right, as you travel high above the old town on the Fortress Funicular

If you plan your visit between December 1st and 18th you’ll also be treated to Salzburg’s highest Christmas market! 

The fortress’ courtyard is transformed into a winter wonderland full of charming hanging lights, the chatter of local artists selling their craft, and the smell of the mouth-watering tarte flambée from the Fortress Bakery. 

Ski down a mountain.

Skiers on ski lift enjoying the view to foggy Alps in Austria and beautiful snowy country panorama in famous Kitzbuehel mountain ski resort

With mountain views in every direction, it’s no surprise that Salzburg is a great central hub for a ski vacation!

Within an hour’s drive, you have access to five major ski resorts, and that’s not even including the many smaller resorts like ​​Untersberg (nearby and great for beginners). 

Head to St. Johann for an afternoon of reliable snow, breathtaking views of Horn Peak, and an atmosphere that is both family-friendly and free of crowds. 

Check out Bad Gastein if you want to take a relaxing dip in a thermal pool between runs. 

the zell am see skiing resort with a clear lake in the background

Zell am See is the place to be for those skiers who are in it for the views (think horseshoe-shaped mountain range, charming medieval town, and massive frozen lake). 

You can even ski down Dachstein glacier with a visit to Schladming

Planning to visit more than one resort? Look into buying the Salzburg Super Ski Card

The 10-day flex ticket can seem like quite the investment, but if you consider the lift cost for every resort, there is a good chance you will be saving money. 

The ski card will give you access to 85 ski resorts and 926 ski lifts throughout Austria. It’s time to ski all winter long!

Explore a festive Alstadt. 

Salzburg old town city streets decorated for Christmas advent

Even on the rainiest of days, the charm of Salzburg’s old town (Aldstadt) is impossible to ignore.

My first visit here was paired with bad weather and I still immediately fell in love with its cobblestone streets, tight alleys, and iron guild signs. 

Now, imagine replacing gloomy, gray weather with a peaceful snowfall and Christmas lights galore. 

Salzburg had already earned the title as my favorite old town but visiting again during the holiday season just ensured that no other old town would ever top it! It truly is an experience like no other. 

Walk along Getreidegasse to see the already picturesque street covered in a variety of Christmas decorations, from massive holiday wreaths to an abundance of hanging lights, and enjoy an afternoon of window shopping. 

breze pastries in salzburg

Then, grab yourself a bite to eat at one of the many traditional restaurants before taking a tour of some of the old town’s historic landmarks. 

Just make sure you save time for the Christmas markets and all their delicious pastries, like the Breze.

Yum!

Warm up at Cafe Tomaselli.

Speaking of the Altstadt (old town), located right at the heart of it is the iconic Cafe Tomaselli

This impressive cafe has been run by the same family for more than 150 years and it has built itself a reputation for being the best place to sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It’s also the oldest coffee house in Austria — no small feat in a country known for them!

After an afternoon of walking around the festive old town, nestle into one of the cozy seats in Cafe Tomaselli as you sip on a delicious cappuccino and treat yourself to one of the bakery’s many fresh cakes and pastries. 

Enjoy the beautiful atmosphere and delicious treats, all while enjoying a session of people watching (and maybe even some snow falling) from the cafe’s perfect window-facing seating.

Go for a horse-drawn sleigh ride.

horse drawn sleigh ride in the austrian countryside with beautiful brown horses and mountain village landscape

Just when you think winter in Salzburg couldn’t get any more romantic, you realize that there are full-day tours of the countryside via horse drawn sleigh ride… How are you supposed to resist that? 

Head to the Mirabellplatz bus station to meet your guide and take a scenic bus tour through the Salzburg countryside to get to Ramsau where you will begin your sleigh ride. 

But not without having lunch first! Walk around the charming town of Ramsau and enjoy a meal of your choosing before setting out on your horse drawn sleigh ride adventure. 

Then, wrapped in a warm blanket, let yourself get swept away by the romance of the horse drawn sleigh as you admire the breathtaking views of the famous Dachstein Glacier and Styria’s surrounding alpine landscape. 

Enjoy a quick stop along the way to buy a hot chocolate or traditional gluhwein to keep you warm all afternoon long!

Book your horse-drawn sleigh tour here!

Ice skate around Mozart Square.

mozartplatz sign with white background and red ornate letters

Between the months of November and January, Mozart Square is transformed into a recreational wonderland for ice skaters… but this isn’t your ordinary ice rink! 

A typical historic plaza nine months out of the year, the rink is constructed every winter to give skaters the opportunity to glide amongst some of Salzburg’s most iconic landmarks. 

You can admire a variety of churches and palaces as you skate around Mozartplatz.

When you need a break, you can visit popular nearby attractions like the Neue Residenz, the Salzburg Christmas Museum, the Residenzplatz and the Salzburg Cathedral… Or just admire them from the rink! 

You will, however, most definitely want to call a brief intermission in order to grab a traditional glühwein from the concession stand to keep you warm out on the ice! 

Attend the Krampus Festival.

krampus demon like figure with red lighting in salzburg in winter

When you envision a magical holiday season in Salzburg, you probably don’t imagine a terrifying creature running through the streets of the old town… right?

Believe it or not,  it’s part of the tradition! 

The Salzburg Krampus Run takes place every year on the night of December 5th and it’s definitely a sight to see… even if it gives you nightmares. 

Krampus is everything that Santa is not.

Instead of rewarding good children with presents, he beats children deemed bad and may even kidnap the real trouble makers to spend the rest of eternity in the underworld. 

Forget a jolly old fat man and replace him with a six foot tall hairy demon, sporting massive horns and a truly uncomfortably long tongue. 

Now multiple that demon by ten, twenty, or maybe even thirty? That’s the Krampus Run. 

A large collection of people in elaborate, unique Krampus costumes roaming free throughout the old town scaring bystanders and chasing children. 

So who’s in?

Visit the Christmas Museum.

Salzburg Christmas Museum or Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum. Christmas Museum located in Mozartplatz square in the old part of Salzburg city, Austria.

The Salzburg Christmas Museum is open year round but there is just something about visiting during the holiday season that makes this place feel that much more special. 

Make your way through Café Glockenspiel (and maybe grab something warm to drink while you’re at it!) to reach the small yet charming museum. 

Once inside, admire a collection of Christmas decorations that have been collected for more than 50 years. 

From nativity scenes to advent calendars, seeing the way these decorations have changed over time is not only interesting, but also the perfect way to get you in the Christmas spirit! 

Unwind with a thermal bath.

Spa resort Bad Ischl Austria at sunset - nature and architecture background

After a day of exploring the many wonderful winter activities that Salzburg has to offer, you’re bound to start feeling a chill in your bones that not even an excessive amount of glühwein can fix. 

That’s where a thermal bath getaway comes in! 

Aside from the fact that thermal baths offer a variety of health benefits such as fighting inflammation and boosting your immune system, they also provide a soothing way to warm up after a day of adventure. 

Take your pick of nearby thermal spa resorts and consider spending the night to take your relaxing evening to the next level. 

One charming spa town is Bad Ischl, about an hour from Salzburg.

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