The trip from Vienna to Salzburg might only last 3 hours, however, the road is filled with historic stops and landmarks that will turn the trip into nothing short of an adventure. Check out this Lartisien itinerary, up the Danube River, that will take you from the Austrian capital, passing through the ruins of Dürnstein and the iconic heritage of Melk, before reaching the historic Salzburg.
On leaving Vienna, we head for the Wachau, the part of the Danube valley between Krems and Melk, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as having a particularly beautiful landscape and which bears the traces of its evolution since prehistoric times: architectural traces (monasteries, castles, ruins), urban and agricultural traces with the cultivation of vines.
Our first stop is a small town one hour from Vienna, on the Danube River. With magnificent vistas of lush hills and vineyards, Dürnstein invites visitors to slow down and take in the atmosphere of pastoral Austria. Given its size, the city is easy to explore on foot.
Named after the medieval Dürnstein Castle, which is on top of the hills, Dürnstein has retained its medieval and rustic charms. Visitors can stroll through the small town along the narrow, cobbled streets, admiring the small houses with their window boxes lining each window, the vines growing along the arched stone porches. The taverns usually display their range of wines on a stand outside the restaurant and are the best way to discover the latest local vintage or to enjoy a glass of Marillenschnaps, a popular apricot brandy traditionally associated with the Wachau region.
The town is also home to a number of historic landmarks like the ruins of the eponymous rock castle. They are a steep climb from the town, but the views from there are worth the trip. Dürnstein Abbey was originally built in 1372 and is another iconic landmark, with its Baroque-style blue tower rising from the terracotta rooftops of the rest of the property. Inside the Abbey, visitors will come across a number of exhibition rooms, and even rental apartments.
Less than 30 minutes drive from Dürnstein, Melk is primarily known for the iconic Melk Abbey. While Melk might feel similar to the slow-paced atmosphere of Dürnstein, the city is bigger and more contemporary.
Founded in the 1090s, Melk Abbey sits atop a rocky hill, overlooking the Danube River and Old Town Melk. Its striking yellow Baroque architecture rising high above the town catches the eye. The abbey was a gift from Leopold II, Margrave of Austria (title of nobility given to military leaders), to the Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. Named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, the current building was made between 1702 and 1736, with an interior that features intricate frescoes, relics, and a central library that is home to over 115,000 volumes of literature. The main hall, the only one that can be accessed by the public, houses 16,000 of those volumes and features a beautiful fresco by Paul Troger, a famous Austrian painter from the Baroque era.
With the exclusive Immersions from Lartisien, visitors may benefit from a private tour of Melk Abbey outside the usual public hours, in the company of Father Ludwig. The guided tour would include assisting the Father’s choir prayer at 6 P.M., followed by a visit of the monastery stopping at the Imperial Corridor, the Marble Hall, the Imperial Oratory and more. Guests will even be able to enjoy a glass of wine or liqueur made by the monks with ingredients from the Abbey’s very own gardens.
The Siftrestaurant Melk (established in 1750) is located inside of the Abbey itself, and is the perfect place to enjoy some of the local cuisine. However, the highlight of the culinary stop is the Pavilion Café. Located in the superb park of the abbey, the Pavilion is a magnificent baroque building, where guests can go to enjoy local delicacies, desserts, and traditional coffee beverages, in the sublime setting of the frescoes by Johann Wenzl Bergl.
In addition to Melk Abbey, the old town of Melk at the foot of the hill is worth a visit for its medieval architecture, rustic restaurants and taverns and wine shops.
3. St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut
On the northern shore of the Wolfgangsee, 45 minutes from Salzburg, the community of St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut is worth a visit, both for its medieval architecture and its natural landscape.
The town’s is known for its alpine setting, with quaint little houses of stone and wood, narrow sloping streets, and its iconic Schafbergbahn (a rack railway that runs up the Schafberg Mountain). The town is filled with local craft shops where visitors can purchase traditional Austrian goods such as wooden bibelots to gingerbread. It is the wealth of local craftsmanship that makes the Christmas market in St Wolfgang im Salzkammergut one of the best in Austria.
To enjoy the beauty of the Wolfgangsee and its surrounding views, it is possible to hire a small boat. Some areas of the lake are reserved for swimming.
The Pilgrimage Church of St Wolfgang displays an altarpiece carved by Michael Pacher (a 15th century painter and sculptor) which is considered a Gothic masterpiece. The gilded altarpiece depicts the Coronation of the Virgin, with painted panels that show scenes from The Life of Christ and of the miracle-working Saint Wolfgang, after whom the town was named.
Hallstat is a quaint little village located 40 minutes drive from St Wolfgang and is one of the most scenic locations in all of Austria. Its lush natural landscape is positioned on the shore of Hallstätter See and includes views of the Dachstein massif. The entire town is part of the Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape, which was declared as one of the World Heritage Sites in Austria by UNESCO in 1997.
The village of Hallstatt is like a Christmas story, nestled between the mountains with its small cottages and half-timbered houses forming winding streets, and is particularly suitable for walking. The market square with its colourful houses and the Holy Trinity fountain in the centre has retained all its folklore. As for the chapel of St Michel, it is one of the most mysterious and intriguing places in the village. This small Romanesque church and cemetery houses an Ossuary where visitors can discover more than 600 decorated and painted skulls arranged on shelves.
The history of the village is intrinsically linked to salt production. The Hallstatt salt mine is the oldest active salt mine in the world, with 21 levels, ranging from 514 to 1267 metres above sea level. A cable car is available for visitors who wish to tour the salt mines. The view of the mountain slopes from the cable car is breathtaking.
The city of Salzburg, today the capital of the state of Salzburg and the fourth most populous city in Austria. It was founded in 696 as an episcopal see and archbishopric. It is said to have taken its name from the river Salzach and the castle that dominates it, the Hohensalzburg fortress. The city is nestled in an Alpine setting with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and rivers and is a jewel of Baroque architecture. It is famous for being the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, its music festival, and for being the location of the cult film The Sound of Music (1965), starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, that sits atop the Festungsberg. This iconic Fortress landmark started construction in 1077 and continued under the reigns of numerous Prince-Archbishops until 1519. Today, the fortress is a major tourists spot, where they can admire the impressive courtyard, explore the Fortress Museum, the Marionette Museum, and the Golden Chamber and Golden Hall.
The entire city center, known as Alstadt, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Across the 236 hectares that make up this historic city center, visitors can admire the city’s iconic mishmash of architectural styles, with buildings from the Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Throughout its history, Alstadt’s reputation beckoned personages from around the world, including Italien architects Vincenzo Scamozzi and Santini Solari, who were responsible for giving the city its Baroque influence. Mozart’s birthplace, which has been converted into a museum, is located at No. 9 Getreidegasse, precisely in this part of Alstadt.
Experiences in Salzburg
Two of the immersions offered by Lartisien focus entirely on the discovery of Salzburg through the lens of either Mozart or the movie The Sound of Music.
Our first immersion: Immersion at the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg gives visitors the opportunity to enter the world of Mozart and his musical composition. The orchestra was founded by none other than the Mozart’s sons, Franz Xaver and Karl Thomas, alongside his widow, Constanze. Today, the Orchestra regular performs at such venues such as the Großes Festspielhaus, the Great Hall of the Stiftung Mozarteum, and accompanies operas and theatre performances at the Salzburg State Theatre. During the immersion, guests will have the chance to assist a rehearsal of the Orchestra, interact with the conductor and musicians, and even opt for a private concert.
A unique experience for Mozart enthusiasts, Lartisien also offers the possibility to have an exclusive access to the Autograph Vault within the Mozarteum Foundation, in the company the Head of the Library, Geneviève Geffray. She is one of the utmost expert on Mozart, having translated his letters from German to French. The Vault is home to some 200 letters written by Mozart himself, as well as more than a 100 original music scripts.
The Sound of Music immersion allows guests to embark on a tour of the city with a private guide to learn about the production of the movie, alongside the hidden spots and locations that featured in the 1965 film.
Another iconic landmark of Salzburg is the Hellbrunn Palace. A Baroque villa of palatial proportion, the Hellbrunn Palace was built between 1613 and 1619 by Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg at the time. Used as a day residence, the Palace has no bedroom. It is, however, famous for its water fountains and water games, imagined by Markus Sittikus himself, and scattered across the grounds.
Through a Lartisien immersion, visitors can opt to discover the Hellbrunn Palace in the company of Ingrid Sonvilla, the Head of Administration of the Palace. During the guided 90-minute tour, visitors can explore specific areas of the Palace, including the courtyard and the grounds. Guests will learn about the numerous trick fountains, the unknown history and mythologies associated with the palace’s architecture and design, with access to areas that are closed to the public. The immersion also includes a multimedia exhibition to learn more about the life of Markus Sittikus.
Where to stay in Salzburg:
Hotel Sacher Salzburg
Located on the banks of the Salzack River, the Hotel Sacher Salzburg is the city’s only 5-star luxury hotel. Since its debut in 1866 as the Österreichischer Hof, the grand dame of Salzburg has been a favourite haunt of artists. Austrian director Max Reinhardt and novelist Hugo Hofmannsthal have stayed here, as did actors Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer during the filming of The Sound of Music in 1965.
The Hotel Österreichischer Hof was acquired in 1988 by the Gürtler family, owners of the iconic Hotel Sacher in Vienna, who integrated it into the Sacher Group. In 2000, the hotel became the Hotel Sacher Salzburg. The hotel was renovated just in time to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
In its spacious neoclassical building, the hotel houses 110 rooms and suites in muted shades of cream, red, green and grey. Overseen by Alexandra Winkler herself (current co-owner and general manager of the group), the rooms have a mix of old-world charm and contemporary elements. Wallpaper, botanical prints, paintings and knick-knacks decorate the rooms.
The hotel’s culinary offer includes 3 restaurants and a bar. The Zirbelzimmer is the flagship gastronomic outlet of the Hotel Sacher Salzburg. Welcoming guests in a sumptuous dining room, reminiscent of a hunting lodge with its dark woodwork and original decorations. Executive Chef Michael Gahleitner offers a menu that celebrates Austrian classics. The Sacher Grill is a contemporary restaurant where guests can enjoy the hotel’s famous SalzBurger while admiring the river view. Café Sacher Salzburg, with its classic décor, chandeliers and rich red velvet fabrics, introduces guests to Salzburg’s coffee culture and the iconic Sacher-Torte, created by Franz Sacher, whose son went on to open the Sacher Vienna Hotel. The Sacher Bar offers an intimate setting with velvet sofas and mood lighting, where guests can enjoy a wide selection of cocktails, overlooking the Salzach River.
The Health Club completes the offering of the Hotel Sacher Salzburg. The spa’s contemporary design make for a regenerative experience where guests can enjoy a wide array of massages and treatments, as well as access to a steam room, a sauna, and a fully equipped fitness center.
Address: Schwarzstraße 5/7, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Transfer: 20 minutes from Salzburg Airport
Opening period: All year
Booking A Trip From Vienna to Salzburg
Lartisien offers a hand-picked selection of luxury hotels in Austria and Salzburg that offer exceptional service, amenities and facilities during your stay. Our Guest Experience team ensures you make the most of your trip by offering one of a kind experiences to immerse yourself in the surrounding areas. Get in touch with our team if you have any questions about a trip or booking.