Mozart and markets: Things to do in Salzburg in winter

From Mozart to markets: The best things do in Salzburg in winter

There’s something magical about historic European cities in winter. A dusting of snow, twinkly lights, crisp chilly nights and the smell of glühwein and Christmas biscuits make everything seem extra special. So when Jet2Holidays asked me to try out one of their city break packages, I couldn’t resist a winter weekend in Salzburg. I usually plan and book everything separately, but there was something so nice about having everything organised for us. All we had to do was just turn up and enjoy ourselves, and Salzburg was a great place to do it, overflowing with festive sparkle. So here are some of my favourite things to do in Salzburg in winter.

Read more: 10 festive European winter weekend break ideas

Christmas lights in Salzburg in winter

Festive lights

The weather in Salzburg in winter

The weather during winter in Salzburg is chilly – with average temperatures ranging from a high of 5°C (41°F) to a low of -4°C at night (25°F). So expect frosty nights and wrap up warm, especially as you’re likely to be outside at the Christmas markets, and make sure you pack a scarf, gloves and hat. There are usually around 10 days of precipitation a month, so if you’re lucky you’ll get snow – and if not you don’t normally have to go far out of the city to find some.

Things to do in winter in Salzburg

Salzburg Christmas markets

Views of the market from the DomQuartier Museum

Eat, drink and shop Salzburg’s Christmas markets

Winter in Salzburg means one thing – Christmas markets. It seems like there’s hardly a city left in the whole of Europe that doesn’t have a Christmas market now. But Germany and Austria got there first – and they do it best. Think wooden chalets draped with fairy lights selling wood carvings and glass tree decorations, cosy hats and gloves, candleholders, gingerbread biscuits, cheese, glühwein and punch. At most markets you can pay an extra couple of euros as a deposit for a special glühwein mug which makes a good souvenir to take home.

Salzburg Christkindlmarkt Christmas market

Salzburg Christkindlmarkt

The Christkindlmarkt in Dom Square is Salzburg’s biggest market, but there are lots of smaller markets tucked around the city too. Check out the side streets running off the main shopping street Getreidegasse as well as behind the Mirabell Palace and outside the Sternbräu brewery. Beyond the city centre, prices tend to be a bit lower – Hellbrunn Palace’s market had lots of lovely handcrafted gifts, or you can take the boat between the villages of St Gilgen, St Wolfgang and Strobl which each have their own markets (this is a great round up of them all).

Salzburg at Christmas

Glühwein and tree decorations

Get to know Mozart

You can’t go far in Salzburg without coming across the city’s most famous son – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (though it turns out Amadeus wasn’t even his real name!). Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756 and lived there for 20 years, and there are two different Mozart houses to visit. First is Mozart’s Birthplace in an apartment on Getreidegasse, where you can see the rooms he lived, worked and even was born in, as well as his letters and first violin.

Then there’s the Mozart Residence on Makartplatz where his family moved to in 1773 –  a lot grander with eight rooms and own concert hall where young Mozart (and his equally talented sister) used to play. We also called in at Café Tomaselli, a regular haunt of Mozart’s, for coffee and cake – though if you want to be authentic his favourite almond milk is on the menu too.

Café Tomaselli in Salzburg

Cake stop at Café Tomaselli

There are lots of different Mozart concerts in Salzburg but we went for a dinner concert at the Stiftskulinarium. It’s the oldest restaurant in Europe, dating back to 803. Their Baroque concert hall is lit by candlelight and you’re served dishes from Mozart’s time. A giant Christmas tree and twinkling lights made it extra beautiful – and between each of the four courses we had a taster of Mozart’s music from The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute.

And of course we couldn’t leave Salzburg without bringing some Mozart chocolates home. There are different versions of them for sale all around town, but the original pistachio marzipan balls in dark chocolate come from the tiny Konditorei Fürst shop – you can tell them apart as they have blue and silver wrappers instead of the more common red wrappers.

Salzburg Mozart dinner concenrt

Mozart dinner at the Stiftskulinarium

Follow the Sound of Music trail

The Sound of Music is as much of a British Christmas tradition as the Queen’s Speech and giant boxes of Quality Street. A lot of the film’s exterior scenes were shot in and around Salzburg (with a little help from Hollywood). If you’re a real Sound of Music fanatic, there’s a tour of the locations, but it’s also easy enough to follow in Julie Andrews’ footsteps on your own.

In the Mirabell Gardens you’ll find the steps where Maria and the Von Trapp children sang ‘Do-Re-Mi’. Schloss Leopoldskron, just outside the city centre, was used for the family’s house. You can find the pavillion from ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’ in the gardens at Hellbrunn Palace. ‘I Have Confidence in Me’ was shot in the Residenzplatz. And the Felsenreitschule concert hall is where the family played their final concert before escaping from the Nazis.

Hellbrunn Palace

The ‘Sixteen going on Seventeen’ pavilion

The Sound of Music isn’t Salzburg’s only festive musical link. It’s also the city where, 200 years ago, priest Joseph Mohr penned a poem which would become one of the world’s most famous Christmas carols – Silent Night. His words were put to music by his friend Franz Xaver Gruber and first performed in the nearby village of Oberdorf on Christmas Eve 1818.

Joseph Mohr was born and grew up in Salzburg, and you can see his house at Steingasse 31 and the font where he was baptised in Salzburg Cathedral. After that first performance the song with its message of peace spread across the world – it’s been translated into 300 languages and has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. You can discover more of its story on a journey around the Silent Night locations across Austria.

Salzburg cathedral – one of the top things to do in Salzburg

Salzburg Cathedral

Gorge on gorgeous views

Salzburg is surrounded by three hills, so you don’t need to go far to get a bird’s eye view over the city from all angles. The Hohensalzburg Fortress towers over the city and it’s an easy ride to the top on the funicular railway. It’s almost a whole mini town up there with a church, old houses and shops, and a terrace which overlooks Salzburg’s rooftops and church domes.

There’s also the Kapuzinerberg mountain on the one side of the river and the hilltop Museum of Modern Art on the other. In the city centre you get a great view of Dom Square and the Christmas markets from the DomQuartier Museum. It’s actually five small museums in one, with the lavish staterooms of the archbishops’ palace and a panoramic terrace connecting it to Salzburg’s cathedral, so you get a bonus extra view into the cathedral nave from the gallery.

Views from Hohensalzburg fortress

Views from Hohensalzburg fortress

Discover the city’s high-octane side

For something a bit different – especially on a rainy day – head just outside central Salzburg to Hangar 7, next to the airport. This unique steel and glass dome couldn’t be any more of a contrast to Salzburg’s fairytale architecture. It was built to hold Dietrich Mateschitz’s collection of cars and planes, the Austrian entrepreneur who co-owns Red Bull.

There are Formula 1 cars from the Red Bull and Torro Rosso teams on show, as well as aircraft used by the Flying Bulls aviation team who take historic planes and helicopters and restore them in next-door Hangar 8. If you love planes you’ll love this place, and the building is definitely worth seeing – there’s a really good restaurant and bar overlooking the airport runway too.

Hangar 7 Salzburg

Hangar 7

The details

Getting to Salzburg

Our Salzburg winter city break cost £335 per person, including checked bags and four nights B&B in a four-star hotel. We flew with Jet2 from London Stansted to Salzburg and I was impressed with the leg room and friendly service – and that we managed to arrive on time despite the UK being bombarded by snow as we flew out. Their baggage allowance is generous too with 22kg for checked bags and 10kg for hand luggage, and flight times weren’t too early. Jet2 fly from nine airports across the UK to 55 destinations across Europe plus New York.

Jet2 plane in snow

Snowy Stansted

Where to stay in Salzburg

We stayed at Hotel Villa Carlton, close to the Mirabell Palace and just 10 minutes’ walk across the river to central Salzburg. The historic building has 39 rooms with lots of quirky artwork and design touches – and was warm and cosy despite chilly nights. A continental breakfast was included in our package (normally €16 per person) with ham, cheese, pastries and juices. There’s also a bar area in the foyer. If you’re arriving early you can’t check in before 2pm, but they do have a luggage storage room (though it’s not locked so keep your valuables on you).

Hellbrunn Palace's Christmas markets in Salzburg

Stalls at Hellbrunn Palace’s Christmas markets

Looking for somewhere to stay in Salzburg in winter?

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The best things to do in Salzburg in winter – from glühwein at the Christmas markets and gorgeous viewpoints to music from Mozart and the Sound of Music #Austria #Salzburg #winter #ChristmasA winter weekend break in Salzburg, Austria – things to do in winter in Salzburg, including Christmas markets, Mozart dinners and the Sound of Music trail #Austria #Salzburg #winter #Christmas

Big thanks to Jet2Holidays and Visit Salzburg for hosting me. This article contains affiliate links, where I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, thanks.

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  • Reply
    December 20, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Wow amazing trip! Love the sound of music so gave always wanted to go to salzburg

    • Reply
      December 20, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Me too – it’s such a Christmas tradition watching it (and singing along!).

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    December 20, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    I’ve missed a European Christmas market this year so I’ve been enjoying the Salzburg one through your Facebook and Instagram posts. Salzburg looks like a winner in the winter. I’ve been in summer but would like to make a return visit to soak up some of that Christmas atmosphere.

    • Reply
      December 21, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      I’d like to come and see it in summer now! Do love those European Christmas markets though, can’t help getting in the festive mood.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Lovely post, one of my favourite cities. I’d also recommend fitting in a Krampuslauf while in Salzburg during Advent. I blogged about it here:
    I’d suggest leaving the Sound of Music sites for the summer as you can take a super cycling tour with Fraulein Maria – much more fun than visiting on the huge coach I saw while at Hellbrunn’s Christmas market this month (feel free to look it up on my blog but I won’t spam you with multiple links!) And one tiny criticism – it’s Strobl not Stobl.

    • Reply
      December 21, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks, missed that in my proofing! The Krampuslauf looks great fun – one to check out next time for sure.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Sounds like a fabulous city break (and that price is quite good!), Salzburg has always been on my wish list, I hope to finally visit it next year. By the way, when did you fly to Salzburg? December 10th by any chance? If so, we were stuck in the same Stansted craziness, haha.

    • Reply
      December 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      Yep it was! Luckily we were flying out at 8am so it hadn’t got too crazy by then but I saw your IG stories and it looked awful. Not my favourite airport at the best of times!

      • Vlad
        December 21, 2017 at 1:28 pm

        I like it for one reason only: Joe’s Coffee House. The airport was so crazy that day though, that I couldn’t even dream of getting near it, haha.

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    December 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I really got quite excited when I saw the pavilion from Sound of Music. I wouldn’t be able to resist a quick song there atop one of the benches. Likewise with the Mirabell Gardens steps! perhaps I should go alone so that I don’t embarrass anyone!

    Aside from that, Salzburg looks like a fabulous city to explore in the lead up to Christmas.

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      I do not have a good singing voice so I kept to humming the tunes! Need to watch it again now though to see which locations I can spot onscreen.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    There’s a sound of music trail… I’m in! Looks like a gorgeous place to explore at Christmas!

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:14 pm

      It was so festive!

  • Reply
    Sara @ Travel Continuum
    December 21, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I absolutely need to visit Austria asap – it’s one of the few European countries that has eluded me so far – and my mum is No.1 Mozart fan, so she”’ be coming along too! And you’re so right about European cities in winter time – utterly fairytale environments. 🙂

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:24 pm

      My husband is a huge Mozart fan too so was so jealous that we got to do the dinner concert! Austria’s a great country too, especially love the mountains in summer.

  • Reply
    December 22, 2017 at 11:03 am

    This would be such a perfect pre-Christmas trip- and had never thought of Jet2 for city breaks before.

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:27 pm

      Me neither but they had a really good selection of destinations – counldn’t resist a mulled-wine and Christmas market break though!

  • Reply
    Pooja Thakur
    December 24, 2017 at 4:32 am

    Oh wow! The city looks awesome. I wish I could be there for this Christmas. I would definitely try to visit Salzburg next year. Thanks for this post!

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:38 pm

      You’re very welcome! It’s a great place for a festive trip.

  • Reply
    December 24, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Looks like you had a wonderful time, Lucy! As far as I got was the Christmas market at York, but you’re right- they’re everywhere now. 🙂 🙂 I was in Salzburg one Spring many years ago and some of it was distinctly damp. I remember the horses in their raincoats. 🙂 Hope you’re with family, having a lovely Christmas. Good health and happiness in 2018!

    • Reply
      December 24, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      You too Jo, have a lovely Christmas and here’s to a great 2018! x

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    December 26, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I have never been to Salzburg, and since the Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies, I am determined to visit. The winter markets are beautiful. I had the pleasure of visiting some last year along the Rhine River. Magic is the right word to use when describing them!

    • Reply
      December 28, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      It was so lovely to see some of the Sound of Music locations, I’ve grown up with the film and it’s always such a big part of Christmas!

  • Reply
    December 28, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    wonderful Christmas markets!

    • Reply
      December 28, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      So festive! They always make me feel so Christmassy.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Everything is so beautiful at this time of the year! I wish I lived in Europe so I could pop over to Salzburg for a weekend!

    • Reply
      January 3, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      The snow and Christmas lights do make it all look extra special (though I’m quite looking forward to being warm again!).

  • Reply
    February 2, 2018 at 3:09 am

    Wow, Salzburg looks so beautiful during Christmas time! Definitely on my list for next Christmas 😀

    • Reply
      February 2, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      So pretty! It definitely gave me a taste for Christmas market breaks.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Salzburg is one of my favorite cities of all time – peaceful and beautiful! 🙂
    Some moments captured in my blog, too.

    • Reply
      February 15, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      It’s a lovely place – I’d like to visit in summer sometime to see what it’s like when it’s a bit warmer!

  • Reply
    the Curious Pixie
    November 4, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    Amazing Lucy! This post has got me so excited for my Christmas market trip in a few weeks.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this article! I’m in that area this week and planning a day in Salzburg an this has been really helpful for finding winter activities. 🙂

    • Reply
      January 14, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      So glad it was useful, it’s such a lovely place in winter!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2019 at 8:17 am

    I am planning to visit Salzburg this Christmas. Is it the good time to visit this place.

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