While there’s plenty to do in the picturesque town of Salzburg, Austria, if you want a day out then it’s easy to create an independent day trip across the border to Germany. Combine a visit to the salt mines that gave the city its name with a cruise on the beautiful lake Konigsee, and do it at your own pace.
Catch the bus to the salt mines
Bus 840 leaves from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof at 8.15, 9.15, 10.15, and other .15s throughout the day. If you want to get the most out of your day, though, try for an early one. You can also catch this bus three minutes later from the Mirabellplatz, which might be better depending on where you’re staying.
Buy a day pass (Tageskarte) from the driver; it’ll cost you about €11.60 for zones 1-5; if you want to go to Konigsee, ask for a zone 1-6 ticket for €13.80. You could get a single ticket, but a day pass costs about as much as a return, and you get a lot more flexibility with it.
You’ll be on the bus for about 40 minutes; it’s a pleasant trip that takes you out of Salzburg city, through the countryside, and alongside a river. You want to disembark at the Salzbergwerk stop — stops are announced in advance so keep an ear out. However, if you miss your stop it’s no big deal, just disembark at the terminus and walk back — it’s about half an hour along the river, or a bit longer if you take the route through the town of Berchtesgaden.
Go to the salt mine
If you managed to get off at the correct stop, you’re at the Salzbergwerk mine. Before you do anything else, go inside and get your ticket, which will put you on the next available tour. Tickets cost €17 for adults, and €9.50 for kids, but you get a 20% discount if you have the Salzburg Card. Depending on demand, you might have to wait a little while for your tour to start; spend this time on the rooftop balcony or have a coffee beside the river.
There are other mines to choose from, both on the Austrian side of the Salzberg mountain and the German one, but Salzbergwerk provides an entertaining option that includes a train ride into the mountain, two slides, a raft trip across a mirror-clear lake, and a funicular ride back up towards the surface. And it’s all done in miners’ overalls, which adds a slightly surreal element to it all.
The trip takes about 90 minutes and is conducted by a German-speaking guide; visitors who speak other languages are given an audioguide so they can hear the commentary in their own language. Bring your headphones if you don’t want to spend the whole time raising and lowering your arm.
Check out Berchtesgaden
After your tour, head through the carpark and under the road; follow the signs to Berchtesgaden. Here, stop into the tourist office for a walking-tour brochure, or just admire the main sights: the pink Parish Church, the grey Abbey Church, the arches in the Schlossplatz painted with war scenes as a memorial to soldiers who died in the World Wars.
The Marktplatz square is also very pleasant; stop in one of the bars in the pedestrian area for a drink or Tagesmenu lunch, or continue on through the town, past the station, and on to the Konigsee walk.
Walk to the Konigsee
You can catch a bus to the Konigsee, which will only take ten minutes, but they also only run at quarter past the hour. Plus, this walk is a truly pleasant stroll, and about five minutes into it, you’ll see picnic tables by the river — a great place to stop for lunch. An added bonus is that two supermarkets are conveniently located at the start of the walk, so it’s easy to stock up on supplies.
After lunch, the easy, well-marked trail leads you all the way to Konigsee, and it’ll take you about an hour and a quarter. Although you mostly follow a river, there are several pubs along the way where you can stop for a beer if you need one; otherwise, just keep walking.
Take a short boat trip
A boat trip on the Konigsee is well worth considering. A 35-minute journey to St Bartolemä costs €15 return, while a 55-minute trip to Salet costs €18.50. Both have pubs and walking trails, so it’s easy to fill up a bit of time — just check the return ferry times before you set off, as the last one goes at around 4.30pm outside of the peak summer season.
Home and optional extras
Bus 841 from Konigsee back to Berchtesgaden leaves at half-past the hour, and you’ll have a half-hour wait at Berchtesgaden station for your trip back to Salzburg. Depending on time, you can either head straight back into the city, or stop in at Hellbrunn to look around the gardens, check out the trick fountains, and tour the palace.
The zoo is also right nearby, as is a folk art museum; all three of these attractions are covered by a Salzburg Card, so it might be worth investing in one. This card also gives you use of public transport within the city, which will be useful as bus 25 runs every 20 minutes back to the centre of town.
There are plenty of ways to customise this trip: add a stop at the Eagle’s Nest (Hitler’s summer palace) while you’re in the Berchtesgaden area, or go up the cable car at Grödig on your way out or back (this is best done with a Salzburg Card). It’s your day, do what you want with it!
Note: This post was originally published in 2013, but was updated in 2018 with new prices and information.