Salzburg is one of the most renowned cities in Austria and Europe, and has a well-preserved old town centre full of beautiful baroque architecture (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). This charming Austrian town is most famous for being the birthplace of the classical composer Mozart, but has so much more in terms of historical sights and fun attractions. Lets explore the best things to do in Salzburg:
Tip – Get the Salzburg Card for free admission to the main sights, discounts & free public transport.
Salzburg Fortress – Otherwise known as Hohensalzburg Castle, this imposing Fortress sits in a dominating position on top of the Festungsberg Hill and has been a major power hive for the rulers of Salzburg since the 1000’s. Since its inception, the castle has undergone many transformations, additions and expansions including a Funicular Cable Car leading from the bottom of the Hill that allows easy access for tourists. The striking white exterior of the building stands out, while there are many courtyards and walls to look down on the city of Salzburg from. Inside, there are many rooms and wings to explore containing various artefacts and traditional decor; a large Aerophon (Organ) sits in the powder room, while the Golden Hall contains many marble pillars and the Chapel is decorated with Stuccos and Ornate busts. The fortress is without a doubt the number one attraction in Salzburg and a wonderful piece of history.
Salzburg Old Town – One of the largest UNESCO World Heritage sights by area, the Salzburg Old town or Altstadt encompasses many of the City’s main sights and is full of historical buildings, beautifully designed squares and quaint little side-streets leading off to forgotten corners. The building style consists mainly of Medieval and Baroque architecture and the old town is just a great place to walk through. The Old Town is a perfect starting place for your time in Salzburg and you could easily spend a day getting lost in the streets, admiring the sights, having a coffee or maybe doing some shopping.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens – Salzburg is not short on historical buildings and gardens, but the Mirabell Palace is outstanding and is one of the finest in Austria. Listed as a cultural heritage monument, the Palace was built in 1606 and was used mainly as a pleasure palace. As well as the striking Marble Hall which is a venue for Palace Concerts, the Palace also has a wondrous set of gardens that can be explored at your leisure. The garden gives great views to Salzburg Cathedral and has a symmetrical design with emphasis on mythology including the Pegasus Fountain and lots of other fountains, hedges, and themed gardens. If you enjoy maintained Gardens and being in the outdoors, the palace is a brilliant place to visit.
Mozart’s Residence – Wherever you go in Salzburg, the influence and fame of Mozart is apparent – Born in a small house originally, the family moved to what is now known as “Mozarts Wohnhaus” in Makartplatz. The building was reconstructed as closely as possible to the original design after its destruction during World War II and is now open as a museum. This fantastic museum contains biographies of the family members together with displays of their day to day life and how they would have lived. For any Mozart fan this museum is a must.
Hellbrunn Castle– Located in the southern Morgz district of Salzburg, Hellbrunn Castle or Palace is surrounded by a beautiful park and also has the Salzburg Zoo close by. Created in the 1600’s as a residential villa much like Mirabell Palace, Hellbrunn has a lively yellow rendering and its front façade is fully symmetrical. The main attraction of Hellbrunn Palace however is the gardens and trick fountains. The gardens are simply magical and contain many different Grottos, Fountains and Water Automats. What people love most is the water features that try and trick you such as the seats with holes in that spurt water on the unsuspecting guest when you sit down – Its loads of fun and during the summer months a wonderful outdoor space to enjoy.
Salzburg Cathedral – A fine example of a Baroque Cathedral, the Salzburg Cathedral is located in an enclosed square next to the Salzburg Residenz and St. Peter’s Abbey, creating a lovely historical area to visit. This Cathedral has been demolished and rebuilt several times from its initial creation in 774 and now stands as a striking piece of architecture; the front facade has dual bell towers and outside sits the Marian Column in the middle of the “Domplatz”. Although a relatively simple design, it is still striking while its interior is magnificent. The interior is fairly simplistic too, and has many columns, knaves, a beautiful organ and detailed frescos in the dome.
Neugebäude – The Neugebäude or New Residence is a beautiful building in its own right and has halls decorated with Stuccos from the 1600’s and also hosts the Salzburg Museum but the main draw is the musical Glockenspiel. This wonderful arrangement of 35 bells was created in the 18th Century in Antwerp and shipped over to Salzburg where it took several years to tune and setup correctly (Or to the best of the clock makers ability who installed it!). These amazing musical pieces play at set intervals during the day and perform beautiful renditions of Classical numbers such as the Menuett by Mozart and Tochter Zion by Handel. Not only can you sit and admire this classical display, but guided tours of the bells and mechanisms are available too.
Getreidegasse – This famous and popular street runs for a stretch in the old town and is a standout destination for shopping. The narrow street has many buildings packed together that stretch far back and have beautiful designs and quaint little windows. Many passageways and courtyards spring from the main street and create romantic areas to explore, while small details like the wrought iron guild signs give Getreidegasse extra charm and character. Shops include fine Jewellery, fashion, antiques, traditional costumes, and many boutiques. There is also a mouth-watering selection of eateries and cafes to enjoy, and several historical buildings and points of interest.
Toy Museum – Located close to Mozartplatz and Mirabell Palace, this fantastical place will provide hours of fun and wonder for children and adults alike. Split into two sections – The “museum” part contains various historical displays of old toys and games, while the “hands-on” part contains different interactive rides and activities such as a marble run, a mini race-circuit, and an imitation shop where children can learn how an old shop looked and worked. With seasonal and special themed activities too, you can be guaranteed to always find something different and entertaining in this brilliant museum.
Mozartplatz Square – Buried right in the centre of the Old Town, Mozartplatz is a peaceful square dominated by an ornate Bronze statue of the square’s namesake that was unveiled in the presence of his sons in the 1800’s. Aside from the statue, there is also several museums and attractions directly on the square including the Salzburg Museum, the Traklhaus and The Salzburg Christmas Museum. Furthermore, just off of the square, are two more adjoining squares that are worth exploring – The Residenplaz and the Domplaz.
Hangar 7 – This fantastically designed building is not your typical hangar, but does contain many aeronautical artifacts. Situated next to the main Salzburg Airport (Keeping in with the theme!), the “Hangar” contains several bars, a cafe, a Michelin Star restaurant, and outdoor lounge, several motorbike and Formula 1 exhibits, and an amazing display of aeroplanes ranging from a Cobra Helicopter to an Alpha Jet Aircraft. Hangar 7 is just a fun and exciting place to see, not only for the amazing architecture of the hydrofoil dome, but also the well-presented displays and swanky social areas.
Mozarts Birthplace – As one of the most visited museums in the world, the birthplace of this legendary Classical Composer is a must see sight in Salzburg. The city has various museums, monuments and places dedicated to Mozart, but his birthplace is definitely the defining one. The sight is easily accessible as it is in the Old Town, and a full tour of the displays etc should take around an hour. The museum contains everything Mozart, from details of his childhood life, to musical instruments he owned and composed his famous symphonies with. It really is a treat to gain such a detailed insight into Salzburg’s most famous residence life.
St. Peter’s Abbey – Not to be confused with Salzburg Cathedral, the Abbey dedicated to St. Peter was originally constructed over old Christian remains in 696 by Saint Rupert and has stood in some form ever since. This Benedictine Monastery is the oldest in the German-speaking era and also holds the oldest Library in Austria. The architecture has changed over the years to suit the various fashions of the eras, and now has a combination of Romanesque and Renaissance styles. A very decorated and ornate religious building, the Abbey also has Catacombs that are open to the public, a lovely Cemetery, The Long gallery which includes many large paintings, and also an extensive Library with over 100,00 volumes (Unfortunately the Library is only accessible by very selective guided tours). If you are interested in historical buildings, St. Peter’s Abbey is an interesting place to visit whilst in the Old Town area of Salzburg.
The Eagles Nest – This Third Reich era building was constructed as a mountain getaway high up near the town of Berchtesgaden in Germany and although it is not in Salzburg itself, is easily accessible as a day trip. Today the building stands as a restaurant and tourist site and attracts many visitors, not only for the architecture of the building and its historical significance, but mainly for the unbelievable views of the Bavarian Alps. To reach the summit where the Eagles nest is situated, it takes around two hours on foot from the Obersalzberg area – You will then be rewarded with some stunning views of the mountainous countryside beneath you. To enter the building/restaurant, you walk through a long 124m underground tunnel and descend into a lift that takes you a further 124m inside. Although not a well published site, the Eagles Nest is still an interesting place to visit and great for hiking.
Gaisberg Mountain – Lying in the eastern area of Salzburg, this mountain is the perfect place to try your hand at some adrenaline filled activities or a hike. There is a bus link from outside Mirabell Palace so if you do not have a car, the mountain is still accessible. If you love the outdoors and outdoor activities, Gaisberg will be your dream – There is over 20km of well-marked trails ranging in length and difficulty, and a host of outdoor activities including Paragliding and Mountain Biking. To experience a different side to Salzburg’s historical centre, get out of the town and explore the expanses of the Gaisberg!