If you’re planning to visit Salzburg, you should definitely go on a day trip to Werfen.
Located just 40 kilometres south of Salzburg, Werfen is a small, scenic alpine village set at the foot of the Salzach River and surrounded by the Austrian Alps.
Werfen boasts a medieval castle that sits on a hilltop overlooking the town, it is one of the filming locations for The Sound of Music, plus it is also home to the world’s biggest ice caves! That’s a lot of to offer for a relatively small destination in Austria.
So if you’ve already spent a few days sightseeing around Salzburg and enjoying all Mozart-themed dishes, and you now want to venture a bit further afield, it’s worth hopping on a train to nearby Werfen.
Now, we’re going to help you plan the perfect Werfen day trip.
How to get to Werfen
Getting from Salzburg to Werfen is super easy. There is a direct train from Hauptbahnhof Salzburg (the main train station) to Werfen with multiple departures per day.
If you miss the direct train (like we did), you can ride the train to Bischofshofen and then backtrack one station to Werfen on the local train.
The travel time ranges between 45 minutes to 1 hour, which makes it a super easy day trip from Salzburg, and the perfect introduction to the Austrian Alps.
Things to do in Werfen
Whether you’re visiting Werfen on a day trip or staying for a couple of days, there is no shortage of things to do. From castles and hiking trails, to ice caves and river rafting adventures, there’s plenty to choose from.
Our first stop of the day was Hohenwerfen Castle, a medieval rock castle that was built between the years 1075 and 1078. This is considered the sister castle to Hohensalzburg, which is the fortress overlooking the city of Salzburg.
Hohenwerfen sits on a peak high above the Salzach Valley and the Salzach River, and it’s surrounded by mountains.
There are a few different ways to reach Hohenwerfen Castle; you can ride the funicular to the top or you can hike the trail (look for the sign that says Fussweg Burg). We opted for the latter and it was a nice uphill stroll through the forest.
Once we reached the castle, we realized there were a few different ticket options. We booked the guided tour which gave us access to the chapel, dungeon, arsenal, and clock tower where you get some truly impressive views of the town below. There was a falconry demonstration, though we missed the time for that.
To be honest, while the castle was really interesting, we didn’t have the best guide. Have you ever felt like a person is just going through the motions, but doesn’t really care about their job? That was the situation, so we left feeling ‘meh’, but you could be lucky enough to have a passionate guide – this was just our experience.
Lastly, the one thing to keep in mind before you visit Hohenwerfen Castle is that it’s only open from April to November, so it’s not a year-round attraction.
Sound of Music Trail
After the castle visit, we walked the Sound of Music Trail which offers beautiful views of the Salzach Valley and the Austrian Alps.
For fans of The Sound of Music, this is an important stop because it’s where Frau Maria taught the children to sing the Do Re Mi song and they enjoyed a picnic.
And yes, you can handle this trail even if you’re not an avid hiker! The Sound of Music trail runs 1.4 kilometres from the centre of town to the Gschwandtanger viewing point, and there are plenty of opportunities to rest.
Along the way, there are all sorts of cool art installations related to the songs from The Sound of Music.
One of the highlights was the rest area with wooden benches that had engraved lyrics from the film. The views from that lookout were spectacular!
Werfen Ice Caves
Did you know the world’s largest ice caves are located in Werfen?
Neither did we, or we would have booked a tour, but sometimes you only find out about things after the matter!
Locally known as Eisriesenwelt meaning ‘World of the Ice Giants’, this is a natural limestone and ice cave inside the Hochkogel Mountain in the Tennengebirge section of the Alps.
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It is the largest ice cave in the world stretching for more than 42 kilometres. However, only the first kilometre is open to tourists and that is the section that is covered in ice. The rest of the cave is formed of limestone.
The Werfen Ice Caves receive upwards of 200,000 tourists every year.
The cave’s first official discovery was by Anton Posselt, a natural scientist from Salzburg, who explored the first two hundred meters of the cave in 1879. Prior to that, it was only known to locals, some who supposedly believed it was an entrance to hell and refused to explore it.
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The cave is open from May to October every year, so it is a seasonal attraction. You can check out their opening times here.
As you can imagine, temperatures inside the cave are below freezing, so you’ll want to bring warm clothing for this outing.
River rafting on the Salzach River
Another reason to visit Werfen is to go river rafting on the Salzach River.
This is a popular excursion from Salzburg that’s geared at beginners along a 10-kilometre run.
The tour includes transportation to Werfen and you then begin the adventure with the imposing Hohenwerfen Castle watching over you.
The outing combines beautiful mountains views and adrenaline all rolled into one.
Where to eat in Werfen
Back in town, we ate at Stiege N° 1 and the food was outstanding!
This restaurant takes traditional Austrian recipes and reimagines them with a modern, contemporary twist.
Sam got the Wienerschnitzel with a cranberry sauce and a side of potatoes with parsley, and I ordered the pork roast with bread dumplings and vegetables.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this meal was one of the highlights of our trip to Austria!
We opted to dine outdoors on their patio under the shade of the old chestnut tree, and it was a wonderful setting for an exquisite meal!
Werfen Day Trip Video
We really enjoyed our day trip from Salzburg to Werfen. It was super easy to get there and the relatively short journey rewarded us with epic Alpine views, castles, and the most delicious Austrian food.
If you’re planning to visit Salzburg and you want to see a bit more of Austria without having to travel too far, this village is worth adding to your list.
Another nice option is a day trip to Gaisberg for a taste of hiking in the Alps and more delicious Austrian cuisine.
Now we’ll leave you with a video we filmed of our day trip so you can get a better idea of what to expect from your visit.