It’s an inevitable question when planning a trip to Austria – which city is worth visiting – Salzburg or Innsbruck? I too wanted to know which is more scenic.

Is it Innsbruck, the alpine town in the middle of the majestic Nordkette mountain range? Or is it Salzburg, the historic cultural city? Yes, and yes!

Salzburg vs Innsbruck- they both deserve to be seen. But which one will be your preference depends on what type of traveller you are.

As travellers, we’re all different. We all have different interests and budgets. So, hang tight, as I break it down for you and answer the great debate of Innsbruck or Salzburg – which is worth visiting.

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What is Salzburg known for

Salzburg is an Austrian city that lies very close to the border of Germany. The city is divided by the fast-flowing Salzach River. But it’s the views of the domes and spires of Old Town, and the clifftop fortress with the Eastern Alps in the background that makes this city so picturesque.

Salzburg is known for its storybook Old Town, or Altstadt full of beautiful Baroque buildings. And, the Old Town is the birthplace of Mozart, the famous composer.

Also, fans of The Sound of Music, the Julie Andrews movie, will recognize some of the city’s top sites as filming locations.

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What is Innsbruck known for

Innsbruck, the capital of Austria’s state of Tyrol, offers the most majestic views of the jagged rock spires of the Nordkette mountain range. This city in the Alps is best known as a world-class destination for winter sports and hiking in the warmer months. Having hosted the winter Olympics twice – 1964 and 1976 – this is a world-class skiing destination!

Innsbruck is also known for its architecture. The late-medieval Old Town is another storybook vision, only a little smaller than Salzburg.

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Salzburg or Innsbruck – At a Glance

IT Venice vs Florence

Is Salzburg worth visiting

rooftop view of cathedral in salzburg

Things to Do in Salzburg

Some of the top attractions and key landmarks to visit in Salzburg include:

  • Fortress Hohensalzburg- a hilltop fortress dating back to 1077
  • Mirabell Palace and Gardens – an impressive palace from 1606
  • Schloss Hellbrunn – 17th century villa
  • Salzburg Cathedral – 17th-century church
  • Mozart’s birthplace – the residence where he lived
  • Salt mines – tour the underground mines producing salt

Food in Salzburg

Let’s start with dessert. You can’t visit Salzburg without trying Sachertorte. This dense chocolate cake that melts in your mouth is layered with sweet apricot jam in the middle and is always topped with fresh whipped cream. Other specialties include Weiner schnitzel and Bosna which is street food consisting of a bread bun stuffed with bratwurst sausage rubbed with spices and onions.

Day Trips from Salzburg

The most popular day trip from Salzburg is to visit one of Austria’s most incredible destinations- Hallstatt (73 km). This mountain town is postcard perfect and on many traveller’s bucket list.

Popular day trips from Salzburg to Germany include:

  • Berchtesgaden National Park includes Konigsee known as the prettiest lake in Germany
  • Eagle’s Nest, the former retreat for Adolf Hitler – yet today is a vantage point for panoramic views
  • Werfen Ice caves, the world’s largest ice cave
  • Vienna, Austria’s capital city is 2 hours and 22 minutes by train

Popular Guided Tours or Activities in Salzburg

Is Innsbruck worth visiting

colourful houses on bank of river with mountains in innsbruck

Things to Do in Innsbruck

Some of the top attractions and key landmarks to visit in Innsbruck include:

  • Hofkirche, one of Europe’s finest royal court churches
  • Hofburg, a 15th-century state building
  • Golden Roof, or Goldenes Dachl, the royal court box
  • Dom St Jakob, an 18th-century cathedral
  • Alpenzoo, a zoo with animals you might find in the Alps
  • Top of Innsbruck – take a cable car to the top of the Alps

Food in Innsbruck

Traditional and hearty meals are what you’ll find in most restaurants in Innsbruck. Dishes like cheese dumplings called Kaspressknödel are served with rich beef gravy or soup. Or, Kasspatzln which are soft egg noodles or dumplings coated in cheese and baked (similar to our version of Mac & Cheese) with crispy fried onions. A typical lunch is Gröstl, pan-fried potatoes, bacon and onion with an egg on top.

Day Trips from Innsbruck

Innsbruck day trips include Hall, the largest historic town in the Tyrol region, which is only 10 km away. Achensee, known as the fjord of the Alps is popular in the summer months for swimming (55 km).

Popular day trips from Innsbruck to Germany include:

  • Mittenwald – a picturesque alpine village (41 km)
  • Garmisch-Partnerkirchen – a popular area of Germany for outdoor adventures, including visiting Germany’s tallest peak of Zugspitze (63 km)
  • Fussen – a storybook town best known for being close to the fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle (112 km)

Popular Guided Tours or Activities in Innsbruck

How long to spend in the city: Innsbruck vs Salzburg

Both Salzburg and Innsbruck can easily be seen in one day. However, if you want to experience more beyond just the city both Innsbruck and Salzburg make for a good home base.

Ideally Salzburg you can spend 4 nights and in Innsbruck 2 to 3 nights.

How to get there Salzburg vs Innsbruck

Salzburg

  • Fly into the Mozart International airport which lies just outside the city.
  • Salzburg to Innsbruck is 185 km and can be reached by car or train in 2 hours.

Innsbruck

  • The closest international airport to Innsbruck is Munich Germany (124 km).
  • Next, take the scenic train to Innsbruck at 1 hour 45 minutes through the Alps.
green valley with mountains and red train Germany to Austria

Where to Stay in Salzburg

Each of these recommended hotels receives 9+ star reviews from guests.

Where to Stay in Innsbruck

Each of these recommended hotels receives 9+ star reviews from guests.

As a holidaymaker…

Salzburg or Innsbruck, have you decided which city is more scenic and worth visiting? Depending on what type of traveller you are, one is likely to appeal to you more than the other. They both are incredibly beautiful and offer travellers many things to see and do. You might be wondering how did I add both to my itinerary? You’ll just have to read about my experience taking the ultimate road trip through Alpine Road.

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