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Salzburg has remained one of Europe’s most captivating tourist destinations; the vibrancy of this Austrian community is partly fuelled by its young and chic university-going population, although its timeless past remains ever-abundant thanks to the well kept array of magnificent architecture. Salzburg boasts UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to its stunning Baroque churches, fountains and open plazas, and visitors can take in excellent riverside views that have changed little since the days when Julie Andrews graced the city in ‘A Sound of Music’. Finally, the city’s location between Bavaria and a fantastic portion of the Alps makes for an impeccable spot to explore via car hire, as well as a terrific launch pad for alpine sports enthusiasts.
Who to Book With
Salzburg boasts a good selection of major car rental firms in a variety of locations around town. Names on offer include Avis, Sixt, Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, National, Budget and Europcar. Nearly all companies have branches at Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Airport, about eight miles west of the city centre, whilst several of the major brands have offices adjacent to Salzburg Hauptbahnhof rail station in the New Town district. Booking in advance rather than simply showing up is highly recommended for those that want the best rates, particularly during peak season.
Best time to go
Salzburg sees its largest influx of visitors during its beautiful summers, although a second peak occurs during mid-winter and in early spring due to the city’s close proximity to dozens of world-class ski resorts. During these times, don’t be surprised to see car rental rates inflate a bit. Be sure to plan accordingly and book ahead.
Need to Know Essentials
Bring the following information when picking up your rental vehicle in Salzburg:
- A full and valid UK driving license (International Driving Permit may be required for some firms)
- The credit card used to book your hire car
- A rental confirmation printout
- Your passport or a second form of photo ID
Visitors headed to Salzburg are advised to opt for car hire, as it allows for easily exploration of the breathtaking beauty of the Alps and Bavarian countryside on the other side of the German border. However, there are a number of variables to consider for those thinking about doing so.
Like many of Europe’s best tourist cities, Salzburg is extremely dense and partially pedestrianised, making parking and traffic a concern for tourists. If you’re out for a day of sightseeing in the city centre, it’s generally best to use park-and-ride and then walk between the major attractions.
Additionally, Britons must remember to drive on the right, whilst all visitors should be prepared for potentially treacherous road conditions in the winter months, particularly if you’re headed south or west into the higher elevations. Traffic laws and speed limits are rigorously enforced throughout the region, and don’t forget that Austria’s drink drive limit is significantly lower than the UK’s, at 0.5 mg of alcohol per 1ml of blood.
Salzburg is well connected to the rest of Austria and Europe by rail and coach, and the city’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Airport offers a wealth of nonstop flights throughout the region. For in-town trips, public transport is efficient and inexpensive for getting to several attractions and to the airport. However, if you’re headed out of town in any direction, you’ll do best with a hire car, whether you’re planning to whiz along the autobahn or ascend up the windy side roads for panoramic views of the mountains.
Tickets for Salzburg’s bus network and Lokalbahn trains can be bought onboard, although visitors are advised to consider picking up a Salzburg Card, which combines unlimited public transport with entry to major tourist attractions. They can be purchased at major hotels and city information offices.
Rail travel is a very good option for those heading out of town; Salzburg’s primary train station of Hauptbahnhof is located in Salzburg’s New Town area, just a few hundred metres east of the Salzach River. Direct departures are available to a wide variety of regional and long-distance destinations, including, but not limited to, Vienna, Munich, Innsbruck, Zurich, Budapest and Zagreb. Visit OBB for ticketing, schedules and more information.
With the exception of the latest hours of the night, taxis are readily available in Salzburg, and taxi ranks are located throughout the central part of the city (there are several in suburban areas as well). The main firms include the Salzburg Taxi Service (phone: 0664 851 6643) and Salzburger Funktaxi-Vereinigung (0662 8111). If you’re on a tight schedule, try to arrange one in advance with your hotel.
Buses and Trams
The StadtBus and POST-BUS services are quite useful for point-to-point transit within Salzburg, and they provide good access to the city’s pedestrianised areas. Those staying in town for several days can save by purchasing a weekly pass (around £10) or by picking up a Salzburg Card.
Don’t be afraid to move beyond the dazzling fountains and Baroque charm of inner Salzburg; this is, after all, a gateway to the Austrian Alps as well as to southern Germany’s unforgettable Bavaria region. There are endless possibilities for exploration and amusement in the area, but we’ve provided just a few ideas below to get you started.
Dürrnberg Salt Mines - Many tourists enjoy a side trip to these famous salt mines. This attraction offers a haunting descent into the caverns on a guided tour via an electric mine train. The drive is about 30 minutes from Salzburg and features great views of the town of Hallein and the surrounding valley.
Kitzbuehel - In the colder months, head to the world-renowned Kitzbuehel ski resort for some of the region’s finest snow and terrain. The drive generally takes around 1.5 hours and will lead you through a fantastic stretch of Austrian Alps, across the German border through a stunning valley and finally back into Austrian Alpine wonders and the resort.
Salzkammergut - Finally, any trip Salzburg would benefit from a cruise to Wolfgangsee Lake in the Salzkammergut resort area. Here, visitors can enjoy water sports and other leisure activities amid outstanding views and pristine alpine waters.