12 Amazing Things To See & Do In Salzburg! (Salzburg City Guide)

The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, home to the internationally renowned Salzburg Festival, and famed worldwide as both the setting and filming location for the OSCAR-winning classic The Sound of Music (1965), Salzburg is a city steeped in a rich tradition of music, arts and culture.

The Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, and with its narrow, cobblestone alleys, baroque architecture and large public squares, it can at times appear almost frozen in time, with much of the historical Old Town feeling much the same as it might have been back in Mozart’s time.

We recently spent some time exploring Salzburg, so here are our recommendations for some of the best things to see and do when visiting the city that has often been nicknamed “The Stage of the World.”

Mirabell Palace and Gardens © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Perhaps the most beautiful monument in all the city, the striking Schloss Mirabell was first built in 1606 as a pleasure palace for Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich and his mistress Salome Alt, and nowadays is home to municipal offices as well as those of the mayor of Salzburg.

Tourists are not able to go inside the palace complex itself as the buildings are now government occupied, however the magnificent Marble Hall – the former banquet hall of the prince-archbishops and a beautiful wedding and concert hall – can be visited by the public, and the stunning baroque gardens are free to visit all year round.

Numerous scenes from The Sound of Music (1965) were filmed in and around Schloss Mirabell – notably the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ sequence which features the famous Pegasus fountain -making it a must visit for so many when visiting the city.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Sitting proudly atop the Festungsberg mountain and visible from all over the city, the towering and historic Hohensalzburg Fortress is one of the largest and most impressive medieval castles in Europe, offering stunning panoramic, 360-degree views across the city rooftops and the surrounding landscape from the fortress walls and the viewing platform of the Reckturm (high tower).

The Fortress complex itself feels like a small village as you explore the various buildings and museums featured within. Highlights include the Fortress Museum, housed in the historic rooms of Hohensalzburg and detailing the long and varied histroy of the Fortress, and the lovely “World of Marionettes” museum, housed in the vaulted former gun deck and exploring the history of Salzburg through traditional Marionette puppets.

If you fancy a walk then the Fortress can be reached on foot – though the walk is steep, and long – however the best way to access the top is via the Festungsbahn Funicular, which runs every 10 minutes and takes you from the Old Town directly to the top in less than a minute.

Mozart’s Birthplace © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Mozart’s Birthplace (Hagenauerhaus)

There are two main Mozart museums in Salzburg: Mozart’s Birthplace, the official birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at No. 9 Getreidegasse, the historic Hagenauer Haus; and the Mozart Residence, located on the other side of the town where the Mozart family lived from 1773 to 1787. While both offer fascinating glimpses into the life and times of Mozart and his family, if you only have the time to visit one, then make it Mozart’s Birthplace.

The Mozart Residence building was destroyed during an air raid in World War II and was demolished, with the majority of the current building having been reconstructed true to the original building plans. With Mozart’s Birthplace, it is the real deal, and as you explore the various rooms and narrow corridors of this famous address, you are retracing the steps and journeys that a young Mozart once made centuries ago

The museum features original certificates, letters and memorabilia that document Mozart’s life in Salzburg, as well as a lock of his hair, Mozart’s childhood violin, portraits, documents, and early editions of his music. The second floor features exhibits dedicated to Mozart’s operas, with fascinating set models, sheet music and costumes from many of his most famous works.

St. Peter’s Cemetery © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

St. Peter’s Cemetery (Petersfriedhof)

Located in the grounds of the imposing St. Peter’s Abbey, the beautiful St Peter’s Cemetery is the oldest burial site in the city of Salzburg, adjoining the Festungsberg mountain that sits below the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Built in late antiquity and predating the Abbey itself, the cemetery is home to a range of impressive, late-Gothic crypts and monuments that mark the final resting places of various well-known local artists, musicians and scholars. The graves are exceptionally well kept with attractive flowers beds and ornaments sitting around the winding pathways.

Visitors are also able to visit the historic catacombs which are carved into the rock of the Festungsberg and date back to the fifth century.

Salzburg Old Town © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Explore the Old Town

Boasting a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, and with immaculately preserved streets and buildings, there are few things as enjoyable in Salzburg as simply exploring the Old Town or Altstadt itself.

Take a leisurely stroll past historic buildings and churches, observe baroque monuments and cross the famous bridges that connect the two sides of the town over the Salzach river.

Untersberg © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Ride the Cable Car to Untersberg

If you are looking for one of the most memorable things to do in Salzburg and a really special way to remember your trip, then taking the Cable Car to the top of the Untersberg is an absolute must do experience.

Depending on what time of year you visit, you can expect either thick snow covering the mountaintop or a light dusting of snow with clear paths for easy walking. No matter when you visit, you can expect astonishing views over the landscape all year round from a height of 1,320 m.

The best way to reach the cable car station is via the 5 or 25 bus, which takes you from the Old Town to Grödig Untersbergbahn (the final stop) in less than half and hour. The first cable car leaves the bottom station at 8.30am and takes around 8 minutes to reach the top, so try to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds. If you are lucky, you may be the only ones on the first car of the day and be able to enjoy the views all to yourselves!

Check salzburg.info/en/sights/excursions/cable-car-untersberg for operating hours throughout the year.

Salzburg Cathedral © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Visit Salzburg Cathedral

This stunningly beautiful seventeenth-century Baroque Cathedral is Salzburg’s most important sacred building and the real centrepiece of the city, proudly towering over the Domplatz cathedral square in the Old Town with its impressive dome and twin towers.

Inside, the architecture and design work is extraordinary, with stunning marble work and magnificent frescoes to be found throughout. The Cathedral was bombed during World War II which destroyed the central dome over the crossing. The magnificent restorations we see today were completed by 1959 when the Cathedral had its third and final consecration.

Look out for the original baptismal font where Mozart was Christened back in 1756.

Salzburger Nockerl © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Try Traditional Salzburger Nockerl

If you love food then you cannot possibly visit Salzburg without trying the traditional Salzburger Nockerl, the most famous dessert in the city and a real showstopper to end any good meal.

An icon of Austrian cuisine, the Nockerl is designed to resemble the three peaks of the surrounding city and features a trio of large, fluffy meringues on a bed of raspberry jam and dusted with icing sugar to resemble the snow capped peaks of the hills.

If you are looking for the best place to try Nockerl then make sure head to the rustic Gasthof Goldgasse, housed in the famous Hotel Goldgasse, to try a host of traditionally prepared dishes and the best dessert in the city!

Salzburg Festival Halls © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Tour the Salzburg Festival Halls

Not many people seem to know about them but the Salzburg Festival Halls run daily guided tours of the Large Festival Hall [Großes Festspielhaus], the House for Mozart [Haus für Mozart] and the the Summer Riding School [Felsenreitschule] – pictured above and famously featured in The Sound of Music (1965) – giving visitors a fascinating behind the scenes look at the world-famous Salzburg Festival.

Depending on the setup and performance schedule, it may not be possible for the public to visit all rooms on any given tour, but you will still get a good peak behind the curtains and see spaces that are usually off limits to the general public.

Running at 2pm daily, the tours last around 1 hour and are given in both German and English. Tickets are available from the Festival shop 15 minutes before the tour is due to start and there are a maximum of 20 spaces available, so get there early to guarantee a space. Entry to the tour is inlcuded in the SalzburgCard.

Nonnberg Abbey © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Nonnberg Abbey

A key filming location in The Sound of Music (1965), and in the story of the young Maria Kutschera (later von Trapp), who became a postulant at Nonnberg in 1924, the Benedictine Abbey is situated about the Old Town at the foot of the Fortress, and is accessed via the rather steep Nonnbergstiege staircase.

Famed for its rich Gothic architecture and intricate murals and frescoes, a visit to Nonnberg is certainly highly recommended when visiting Salzburg. The church and cemetery are open daily from 6.45am until nightfall and the nuns can be heard singing Gregorian Chorals every morning.

Cafe-Konditorei Fürst © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Try the Original Salzburger Mozartkugel at Cafe-Konditorei Fürst

First created in 1890 by confectioner Paul Fürst, and named in tribute to the city’s most famous son, the iconic Mozartkugel is undoubtedly the most famous and widely copied confection in all of Austria, though there is only one place in the world where you can still try the true original.

Located at Brodgasse 13 in the heart of the Old Town, the family-run Cafe-Konditorei Fürst dates back to 1884 and still produces Mozartkugels by hand and using Fürst’s original trademarked recipe. The famous bonbon is made from a marzipan and pistachio core wrapped in nougat and dipped in dark chocolate.

The Mozartkugel has been the subject of numerous heated legal battles over the years and various imitations can be found in virtually every gift shop and tourist trap in Austria, but to try the genuine original, head to Cafe-Konditorei Fürst and pick up a box or two of the authentic, silver and blue foil-wrapped bonbons!

Salzburg Card

Salzburg Card

If you are looking for the most cost-effective way to explore Salzburg and see some of the top attractions in the city, then the Salzburg Card is certainly something to consider.

A convenient and money-saving way to discover the City of Mozart, the all-inclusive card provides free admission to all major tourist attractions and museums, free use of public transportation, and many additional discounts to help make your Salzburg trip a truly unique experience.

All benefits of the Salzburg Card at a glance:

  • One-time FREE admission to all city tourist attractions and museums
  • Free travel on public transportation (except s-railways / S-Bahn!)
  • Attractive discounts on cultural events and concerts
  • Additional discounts at many excursion destinations
  • In some cases, express entrance without having to stand in line at the ticket window

The card is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours.

How to get your Salzburg Card

Enjoy the convenience of being able to buy the digital Salzburg Card online and use it immediately on your smartphone. Then begin exploring the city!

NOTE: If you do not have a Salzburg card, then tickets for public transport can be purchased at the bus stop (machine) or directly from the bus driver. All advance tickets must be validated on the first journey (the validation machines can be found in the vehicle).

For more information, visit: salzburg.info/en/hotels-offers/salzburg-card

Salzburg Airport © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Getting To Salzburg

Regular flights are available daily and throughout the year from the UK direct to Salzburg Airport W. A. Mozart, however, for our trip, we took the direct Westbahn Train from Vienna to Salzburg which took approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

All coaches have free wifi (WESTlan) and comfortable ergonomic leather seats, and power outlets at each regular seat. In the WESTcafés, you can treat yourself to hot and cold beverages as well as fresh snacks. The double deck railcars are specially designed for intercity journeys between Vienna and Salzburg and reach a peak speed of 200 km/h. A beautifully smooth ride, so much so that you can barely feel the train move.

If you book in advance, you can purchase a single journey fare for as little as 13.99 euros per person, with free seat reservation.

Train Station to Salzburg City Centre

From the train station, there is a bus terminal only a short walk away outside the main entrance/exit. You have plenty of choice of public transport to get to attractions, such as: Mirabell Palace and Gardens, and Mozart’s Residence north of the river. And Mozart’s Birthplace, Fortress Hohensalzburg, and St. Peter’s Church, graveyard and catacombs in the old town south of the river.

Salzburg City Centre to and from the Airport

The number 2 and 10 bus runs every 15 minutes from the main station/city centre to the airport. Depending on where you are traveling from, the journey will take approximately 20 minutes. And then only a short walk from the bus stop to the airport terminal.

Salzburg Station © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Getting Around

Salzburg is a city best explored on foot as there are no public transport options within the Old Town, though most attractions are accessible and located within walking distance.

Rides on public buses are included with the Salzburg Card (trolley buses 1-14; regular buses operated by Albus: 20-28, 34, 35, 151; trains operated by Salzburger Lokalbahn as far as the Acharting halt).

The easiest way to find the quickest route to your destination is by either using Google Maps, or the Salzburg Verkehr-App.

Hotel Stein Rooftop View © The Arts Shelf/A&M Travel

Where To Stay

Salzburg is a relatively compact city and there isn’t a huge a range of accommodation options in and around the Old Town, which is where you really want to be based if you are visiting on a short city break.

For our visit, we stayed at the exceptional Hotel Stein, a luxury, four-star boutique design hotel located on the banks of the Salzach River, right in the heart of the Historic Centre of Salzburg.

With unparalleled customer service, luxury accommodation and breathtaking views from its award-winning rooftop bar, the hotel is probably the finest hotel to be found anywhere in the city and most definitely worth exploring if you are planning a trip to Salzburg.

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