The best time to visit Salzburg

With a busker on every corner and opera singers openly flaunting their talent in the…

With a busker on every corner and opera singers openly flaunting their talent in the streets, the hills around Salzburg really are filled with the sound of music. There’s plenty to see and experience in this city that’s also a stage, but Salzburg is so much more than just do-re-me and così fan tutte.

The summer months get busy in Salzburg (and also in Vienna), but this is when you’ll experience the best of the weather. The streets are quieter in winter, meaning you’ll have an easier time sightseeing, but be aware that many visitors come for the Christmas markets and the nostalgic Christmas Museum in the winter.

Whenever you decide to visit, Salzburg is one of Austria’s prettiest destinations in any season, and there’s always a lot going on. Here are the best times to come.

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The high seasons (June–August and December–February) are the best times to visit for perfect weather

If you like warm days and sunshine, the summer high season is the best time to head to Salzburg. With blue skies, and temperatures hovering around 60-70°F (15.5-21°C), the surrounding hills are ripe for walking. The city’s most important music event, the Salzburg Festival, takes place in July and August and the historic streets are full of people finding their inner Maria von Trapp.

The famous movie actress Marlene Dietrich came here in the 1930s and was followed by a long list of other famous people. Head to Café Bazar for some people watching and you might spot a celeb or two in season.

In winter the city looks completely different with a covering of fresh snow. Ski resorts turn on their lights and winter sports lovers take to the slopes. Both summer and winter are busy; prices are highest in the summer and while you can get some good deals in the winter, hotels keep their prices high for the busy Christmas holidays.

The shoulder season (March–May) is best for seeing Salzburg like a local

As the ski season draws to a close in March, more traditional activities and small local festivals burst into life. It’s a quiet lull between the two high seasons, and temperatures climb upwards from 50°F (10°C). There’s a sense of transition at this time of year. While the ski resorts pack up and prepare to sleep for the summer, tall maypoles are raised around the city by locals in traditional dress. Beer tents are erected close by and every bar feels like a micro beer festival, while brass bands begin to play outside.

At Easter, falling in either March or April, bonfires are lit on mountain tops and ‘minister boys’ run through the streets with wooden instruments. However, keep in mind that it’s very rainy at this time of year. It may well be humid and warm, but there’s a much higher chance that you’ll see showers, especially in May. 

Salzburg is a vision from a fairytale in winter © canadastock / Shutterstock

Low season (September–November) is great for peaceful walks and budget prices

The Mirrabell Gardens are on the must-see list for most visitors to Salzburg, and most assume that the best time to see this iconic natural display is in spring or summer. However, while it’s true that this is when most of the flowers are in bloom, the autumn (fall) holds a special charm you won’t find at any other time of year.

For a start, Salzburg is much quieter in the low season, and the entire city, not just the gardens, has that cool, laid-back feeling that comes with the change of season. The leaves turn to orange and rust and the Angel Staircase and the many unusual sculptures in the gardens can be viewed easily. Even better, the gardens are free to enter. Couple this with lower hotel prices in low season and you have the perfect time to visit Salzburg on a budget.

Historic buildings in Salzburg, Austria
The low and shoulder seasons are good times to explore Salzburg without the crowds © Feel good studio / Shutterstock

January is quiet and cold in Salzburg

January is the coldest month in Salzburg, and also the quietest. While the ski slopes in surrounding resorts continue to draw dedicated skiers, in the city, there’s a collective hangover from Christmas. Culture-wise, the city celebrates its most famous son with a week of music around Mozart’s birthday (27 January).
Key events: Mozart’s birthday celebrations 

Salzburg is quiet in February, as tourists stick to the ski slopes

In February, Salzburg begins to wake with a yawn. This is when many society balls are held, but it’s still a quiet time for tourism and many attractions remain closed. Nearby ski resorts stay busy though.
Key events: Aperschnalzen (competitive whip-cracking)

March brings a hint of spring in the air

The weather in Salzburg is unpredictable in March, but if you’re lucky spring will begin to open its eyes. If Easter falls in March, the city’s traditional celebrations are something special to behold.
Key events: Salzburg Easter Festival (can fall in April)

April is the start of the music season

Although the traditional Austrian saying “April, April, does what he wants” is certainly true of the weather, many musical events begin this month, and buskers begin to appear on the streets as the ski season winds to a close.
Key events: Salzburg Pentecost Festival 

Visitors drinking in the sun at Stieglkeller's beer garden. Salzburg
As summer comes into view, locals spill into Salzburg’s beer gardens © Jonathon Stokes / Lonely Planet

May is maypole season

There’s a bit of a lull in tourism in May. The ski season is over, but the summer season hasn’t started, making this a great time to visit for decent weather and peaceful sightseeing.
Key events: Maypole ceremonies 

Summer brings a crowd in June

Salzburg starts to get busy in June, as summer arrives. Avoid the crowds and head to the city’s Bach festival, which takes place in churches around town. Locals in traditional dress stage parades to honor the biblical figure Samson, a folk hero for the Lungau region since 1635.
Key events: Samson processions

July sees high summer temperatures and crowds

July is high summer and temperatures climb. Many locals head out of town as tourists swarm in. This is the perfect time for some wild swimming, as the lakes around Salzburg are still refreshingly cool.
Key events: St Jacob’s Day ceremonies 

The Salzburg Festival kicks off in August

In August, the Salzburg Festival takes over the city and the entire town becomes a stage. On the fringes golf tournaments take place and mini art festivals appear.
Key events: Salzburg Festival, Hellbrunn Festival (at Schloss Hellbrunn)

View over the Christmas Market at Residenzplatz, Salzburg
As Christmas approaches, Salzburg’s squares fill with busy Christmas markets © Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

September sees people head to the hills as the Salzburg Festival finishes

As the Salzburg Festival closes, there’s an exodus of visitors, but it’s still warm, and some tourists still arrive seeking a quieter experience. It’s the perfect time for hiking and climbing in the mountains.
Key events: Final events of the Salzburg Festival 

October is a quieter month in Salzburg

October is the driest month in Salzburg and while autumn has officially arrived, it can be very pleasant here. Serious music lovers arrive for the Kulturtage, a purist’s music festival.
Key events: Salzburger Kulturtage, Almabtrieb (decorating of cows)

November sees Salzburg at its most traditional

November is a great time to visit for local traditions. It’s Salzburg’s “day of the dead” on 1 November, and on 11 November it’s St Martin’s Day and restaurants serve traditional goose dinners.
Key events: All Saints Day, St Martin’s Day

December is all about Christmas markets

Teeming Christmas markets are the main attraction in December; you can find some less touristy Christmas markets in districts out of town. Look out for the Perchta custom, in which young men dress up as the devil.
Key events: Christmas Markets; New Year’s Eve