Last updated: July 2018
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Most people planning a trip to Salzburg probably know about the Sound of Music or the birthplace of Mozart.
These are just two of the many different things to do in Salzburg.
Surprisingly, this historic Austrian city has a lot to offer its visitors.
I was there during the winter, in December, and it was amazing. Who doesn’t love backpacking Europe in the winter, right?
There’s the picturesque city skyline standing over banks of the Salzach River. The river meanders on while the Old Town, or Altstadt, beckons you over to explore.
Looking up you’re bound to be impressed by the medieval fortress overlooking the town. Once you’re up there you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding Austrian Alps.
So what makes Salzburg so impressive?
During World War II nearly 50% of the buildings in the city were destroyed. The historic medieval bridges and the Salzburg Cathedral dome were left in ruins.
Thankfully, almost everything else was left untouched. Most of the buildings with Baroque architecture were unharmed!
This resulted in Salzburg becoming one of the best preserved cities in Europe. In 1997 this was globally recognized with the city being given UNESCO World Heritage status.
That’s enough of me rambling on! In this post I want to share with you the highlights as well as some of the best things to do in Salzburg.
This way you’ll be better equipped to make the most of your trip to Austria.
Let’s jump right into it!
Where to Stay in Salzburg
Finding the right place to stay can be a stressful part of the trip planning process.
To make things easier for you I’ve put together a quick list of some great places to stay in Salzburg.
- ACHAT Plaza Zum Hirschen – Elegant hotel just 5-minutes from the main train station. Double rooms starting at $80 per night.)
- Hotel Goldgasse – Modern, upscale hotel in the historic old town – perfect for exploring. Queen rooms starting at $160 per night.)
- Hotel Sacher Salzburg – The most grand hotel in Salzburg. Ultra-luxurious rooms with incredible views. Double rooms starting at $770 per night.)
Would you prefer a local experience? Then consider booking an apartment or private room on AirBnb!
Sign up using my referral code here and get up $45 off your first trip!
How to Get Around in Salzburg
For the most part you can walk everywhere in Salzburg.
The majority of the popular tourist sites are all within a few kilometers of one another.
During the warmer months consider renting a bicycle in Salzburg.
The city is the cycling capital of Austria. It’s quick and easy to explore the city on bike and get out into some natural areas as well.
Otherwise, the bus is the best mode of public transportation in the city.
24-hour tickets are available if you’re going to be riding the bus more than three times. Tickets can be purchased at the machines beside any of the stops.
If you’re interested in checking out the sights I mention in this post then I highly recommend picking up a Salzburg Card.
It offers free-entry and discounts to many of the sights, attractions and landmarks in the city and it’s definitely worth it if you’re visiting for two or three days.
Whether you’re visiting because of your love of The Sound of Music or you’re just interested in exploring a new Austrian city here are 10 of the best things to see in Salzburg during your trip.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the highlights of Salzburg.
Built in 1077, it’s the one of the largest and best preserved fortresses in Europe.
At first was a much smaller stone structure overlooking the city. Today, the Fortress is a sprawling defensive structure with a commanding position in the city center.
Reaching the Fortress is easy. There is a funicular ride if you’re feeling lazy or it’s a 15-minute scenic walk up a wooded path.
At the top you’ll find some amazing views of the surrounding mountains. It’s here where you’ll get the best views of Salzburg as well, especially on a clear day.
Some of the other highlights of the Fortress include the Marionette Museum, the Fortress Museum, and the Golden Hall.
Take your time to walk around and explore the exhibits. There is a small cafe and restaurant at the Fortress for refreshments
Cost: Adult €15.50 (Entrance included in your Salzburg Card)
Hours: October to April 09:30-17:00 | May to September 09:00-19:00
The Mozart Museum
The Mozart Museum can be found at Getreidegasse 9 in the heart of the Salzburg Old Town.
This beautiful house was used by the Mozart family for more than 26 years. On January 27th, 1756 its in this very house that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born!
Today, the museum features a number of different Mozart related exhibits.
Visitors are able to see the different instruments Mozart used and other interesting items from his life.
Despite not being interested in classical music I found the museum to be interesting. It provides a unique insight into life during that time period.
- Cost: Adult €11.00 (free with the Salzburg Card)
- Hours: July to August 08:30-19:00 | September to June 09:00-17:30
- More Info: http://www.mozarteum.at/en/museums.html
The Salzburg Cathedral
The Salzburg Cathedral is one of the biggest, and most impressive, churches Austria.
In 774 the first religious structure was built on this site. Over the years it was destroyed, renovated, and rebuilt.
During the seventeenth Century it was rebuilt again in a Baroque architectural style – this is the Salzburg Cathedral that you see today.
One thing you should know is that Mozart was baptized here just one day after he was born!
Despite all of the changes the Salzburg Cathedral has remained an important symbol of the city.
The cathedral is generally open throughout the year between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m..
Entrance to the inside is free. Guided tours for adults are €5.
St.Peter’s and the Catacombs
The St. Peter’s Complex was founded in the second century. Since then the church, cemetery, and abbey have remained spiritual center of Salzburg.
It’s at the cemetery where you can explore the catacombs.
The catacombs were carved out of the small mountain in the city, Monchsberg.
For hundreds of years they were developed and used as hermitage’s, burial sites, and a shelter for those looking to escape religious persecution.
These are some of the best preserved early Christian catacombs in Europe.
Cost: €2 (Free with Salzburg Card)
Hours: May-September: daily 10 am-12:30 pm, 1 pm-6 pm | October-April: daily 10 am-12:30 pm, 1 pm-5 pm | Closed: Jan. 1, Dec. 24-26, Dec. 31
More Info: https://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/churches-cemeteries/st-peters-monastery-cemetery
Similar to Festungsberg, Mönchsberg is another mountain in Salzburg and looms more than 500m above the city.
In English it’s called “Monks Mountain” and got its name from the local Benedictine monks that occupy the St.Peter’s Abbey near the northern foot of the mountain.
Monchsberg and 4 other mountains in the area make up the 5 mountains that Salzburg was built around.
In between 1764 and 1766 a tunnel was built through the mountain and acted as one of the city’s main gates.
During World War II there were air raid shelters carved out of the mountain that could be accessed through this tunnel and today it’s one of the oldest street tunnels still in use in Central Europe.
At the top of Monchsberg is a large, forested park area that’s frequented by both tourists and locals looking to partake in some outdoor recreation.
When I was there in December there was only a few other people walking their dogs and during the colder winter months you’ll likely have the entire place to yourself if you want to hike around and explore.
During the summer there are many tourists that visit this forest to relax and escape the crowds of the Old Town below.
Also at the top you’ll find one of the locations of the Museum of Modern Art along with a small café/restaurant.
In the summer there is a large terrace adjacent to the restaurant but all year long the walkway along the edge of the mountain offers an incredible panoramic view the Old Town and Hohensalzburg Castle.
I think there’s a way to reach the top on foot but it’s easy to reach from the Old Town through an elevator that runs through the center of the mountain itself.
An ascent and descent on the Monchsberg Lift costs €3.60 but it’s free if you have a Salzburg Card.
The Augustiner Brauhaus in the Mulln Monastery
Since 1621 the Mulln Monastery has been brewing beer for the city and all of Austria.
The famous beer, Augustiner, is a local and national favorite and the delicious recipe has been kept secret and guarded for nearly 400 years. Augustiner gets its unique flavor from the traditional and environmentally friendly brewing technique that has been perfected over the centuries.
Today, the Mulln Monastery houses the Augustiner Brauhaus known as the Braustubl.
For many people this is one of their favorite things to do in Salzburg and is an interesting and unique drinking establishment worth checking out.
It’s the largest beer inn in the entire country and beer is poured into intricately designed steins from wooden barrels – a historic and long-standing tradition.
Along with beer you can also enjoy a variety of local, tasty snacks that you’ll be able to purchase from a small arcade lined with shops and market stalls known as the Schmankerlgang.
These snacks are a great addition to the drinking experience and really add another level of enjoyment to a visit to one of the oldest breweries in the country.
The Mirabell Gardens
First opened to the public in 1854, the Mirabellgarten is an absolutely magical place to visit!
Fans of The Sound of Music will immediately noticed the scenery at the gardens. A number of different scenes were filmed here and this is a popular stop on The Sound of Music tours!
For the rest of you, the Mirabellgarten is a great way to escape the hectic tourist-crowds of the city center.
The beautifully manicured and geometric rearranged gardens are peaceful and stunning.
Don’t miss the famous hedge at Mirabellgarten.
This hedge, which runs along one side of the garden, was designed between 1704 and 1718. This is supposedly one of the oldest landscaped hedges in the world – what a cool fact!
Everything else from the patterned flower beds to the bright colors everywhere you look makes this one of the best places to visit in Salzburg.
Make sure to bring your camera. The uninterrupted views from the Mirabell Garden of the Hohensalzburg Fortress are incredible!
Cost: Free (Tours are available)
Hours: 06:00-dusk daily
The Sound of Music
Fans of The Sound of Music are going to love Salzburg with all of its scenes from the famous movie.
The Mirabell Gardens are one of the popular stops for movie scenes. There are a number of other filming locations throughout the city that you can check out.
Rather than having to navigate to the different sites on your own it’s a good idea to go on a guided tour.
The one I recommend is called The Original Sound of Music Tour. This is a half day tour that brings you to some of the best places from the movie.
Enjoy the scenery while being whisked around on a coach bus. Music from the movie soundtrack will be playing on the bus to give you an even better experience!
Some of the stops on this tour include:
- The Lake District (mountain scenes)
- Mondsee (a small town nearby where Maria was married)
- Hellbrunn Palace (the gazebo from the movie)
- Leopoldskron Palace (boating scene and von Trapp house)
Prices for tours are reasonable. Expect to pay around $50 USD for a half-day tour with transportation included.
These tours are the best way to experience The Sound of Music highlights in Salzburg!
The Getreidegasse Neighborhood
In the north-western area of the Old Town is where you’ll find the Getreidegasse neighborhood.
This is one of the most picturesque and affluent neighborhoods in the city center.
The neighborhood is full of well-preserved historic buildings and quiet passageways with small shops, cafes, and boutiques.
This is a great place to pick up some local souvenirs. Those of you not interested in shopping will still find Getreidegasse a wonderful place to explore.
What I love most about Getreidegasse are the wrought-iron guild signs above each of the shops. They’re all so intricately designed and unique in their own way!
During the Christmas holidays a number of markets pop up inside the passageways.
Check out my Salzburg Christmas Market video if you’re planning to visit during this time.
Take your time to explore all of the courtyards and arcades in this neighborhood – they’re wonderful!