Whether you’re a music aficionado, a museum devotee, or a hiking enthusiast, Austria’s fourth-largest city, Salzburg offers something to captivate every traveler. There are so many things to do in Salzburg. This quaint, elegant, and picturesque city is known for being the birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as well as the primary filming location for the classic film, The Sound of Music. So are you ready to explore Salzburg? Let’s Go!
Top Things to Do in Salzburg
With attractions such as the world-class Salzburg Old Town, The Golden Hall of Fortress Hohensalzburg, and iconic Mirabell Palace and Gardens, there are truly so many things to do when visiting Salzburg – so let’s get exploring.
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Below are some of the top tours in Salzburg. Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Salzburg!
Top Activities and Tours in Salzburg:
1. Salzburger Altstadt (Old Town Salzburg)
Salzburg’s Old Town, also known as Salzburger Altstadt, is easily one of Europe’s most impressive old towns. Located on the left bank of the Salzach River, visitors can get lost for hours marveling at Salzburg’s beautifully preserved medieval and baroque architecture, as well as its narrow winding streets, vibrant atmosphere, and pastel-colored buildings.
With highlights such as Getreidegasse, Mozart’s Birthplace, Salzburg Cathedral, and Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburger Altstadt is filled to the brim with architectural treasures, charming boutiques, and important religious sights.
If you’ve also come to Austria to dabble in culinary delights, here’s the place to do it – as some of the country’s best cafes, restaurants, and beer gardens are located right here. In comparison to other old towns in Austria, such as Vienna, I can safely say that Salzburg’s Old Town is my favorite.
2. Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Mirabell Palace and Gardens is a striking Baroque palace complex loved by visitors for both its beauty and historic importance. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace was built as early as 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau and later expanded in the 18th century. The Mirabell Palace currently serves as the municipal office for the Mayor and City Council of Salzburg but was originally used mostly as a pleasure palace.
Like many of Salzburg’s attractions, Mirabell Palace was designed with a few architectural styles in mind – namely, the Late Renaissance and Early Baroque styles. With eye-catching features such as its grand arched windows and use of marble as one of the palace’s primary materials, the exterior of Mirabell Palace is one of Salzburg’s impressive buildings.
Speaking of marble – inside the palace, visitors can find Marble Hall (otherwise known as Marmorsaal) – one of the Palace’s highlights. With its exquisitely gilded walls, stunning chandeliers, and tastefully decorated marble floor, the Marble Hall is regarded as one of the most beautiful halls in the world and is frequently used as a wedding hall and performance venue.
While strolling through Mirabell’s immaculately kept gardens, don’t forget to visit the Pegasus Fountain – an iconic symbol of Salzburg itself. The Pegasus Fountain features a statue of a mythical winged horse surrounded by the water fountain and is a popular spot for photographers. Other things to see around the Mirabell Gardens include the Rose Garden, Dwarf Garden, Hedge Theatre, and its many flowerbeds, sculptures, and enchanting pathways. You cannot visit Salzburg and not pay a visit here.
You might recognize the grounds of Mirabell Palace and Gardens if you’ve ever watched the 1965 movie, ‘The Sound of Music’. It’s here, at the grand staircase and the Pegasus Fountain, where the film’s famous ‘Do-Re-Mi’ scene was shot. Due to its appearance in the film, the Mirabell Palace and Gardens has gained international recognition as an instantaneously recognizable Hollywood location. If you are a fan of the movie then this Sound Of Music tour is right up your alley.
3. Fortress Hohensalzburg
Salzburg is a city full of breathtaking viewpoints, and Fortress Hohensalzburg is one of the best places for a truly unforgettable view. I visited around sunset time and as the sun began to set, the sky unfolded into a dreamy blend of purple, pink, and blue colors. From up there, you’ll also be able to witness Salzburg’s magical surrounding Alpine scenery, serving as the perfect background to the city’s stunning buildings.
With its origins tracing back as early as the 11th century, history buffs will be left satisfied after visiting its extensive complex featuring chapels, dungeons, courtyards, and living quarters. Inside the Fortress, you can also explore the Fortress Museum – an opportunity to learn about the fortress in more depth by examining a range of artifacts, objects, weaponry, and historical exhibits.
Other highlights within the Fortress include the Marionette Museum, State Rooms, and Golden Chamber. Dedicate at least a few hours to explore these in detail, as they all represent an important piece of the city in Salzburg’s jigsaw puzzle of history.
Fortress Hohensalzburg, also known as Festung Hohensalzburg, is accessible by a short funicular ride or a steep hike. As a hiking enthusiast, I hiked it all the way to the top and would totally recommend it if you’re looking for a scenic workout.
4. Salzburg Cathedral
Known as Salzburger Dom by German speakers, the Salzburg Cathedral is an imposing baroque cathedral centrally located in the city’s Old Town. Because of its grand façade, rich history, and religious significance, it’s easily one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
Salzburg Cathedral was originally constructed back in the 8th century as a church dedicated to Saint Virgil of Salzburg, an Irish churchman known for his religious works during that time. The cathedral’s twin towers reach a height of approximately 81 metres (265 feet), and can be seen as a prominent feature of Salzburg’s skyline.
While the cathedral’s exterior is certainly memorable, visitors would be missing out if they didn’t enter inside. Featuring soaring ceilings and ornate decorations, the interior of Salzburg Cathedral is truly awe-inspiring (Especially since the roof did suffer damage in World War II). In particular, the opulent high altar, designed by artist Santino Solari, is considered a Baroque masterpiece.
The Salzburg Cathedral also has strong ties to music history, as one of its attendees, Mozart was baptized here in 1756. In fact, some of his early works were also performed in front of the church congregation – making it one of the first venues where Mozart’s pieces were ever unveiled. Salzburg Cathedral continues to serve as an active place of music and worship today as regular masses and religious ceremonies frequently take place here.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of this fascinating cathedral, you can also visit the Cathedral Museum, which showcases a collection of religious art, historical artifacts, including objets d’art from the Salzburg archdiocese and liturgical items related to the Cathedral.
5. St Peter’s Abbey
Another religious building worth visiting, St Peter’s Abbey (also known as Stift St. Peter) differs from Salzburg Cathedral as it’s an ancient monastery that’s one of the oldest monastic establishments in the German-speaking world. In fact, St Peter’s Abbey’s origins trace back to the early 7th century when it was established by Saint Rupert, the patron saint of Salzburg.
Although it looks relatively unassuming from the outside, St Peter’s Abbey is full of hidden treasures inside. A walk through the abbey’s complex would take you through to impressive structures such as the Abbey Church, Cemetery, Library and Long Gallery.
I found St Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs to be especially interesting to visit. Not only was it a peaceful place to generally experience and stroll through, but it’s here that you can also find the final resting place for some of Salzburg’s most distinguished individuals – such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister, Nannerl Mozart.
St Peter’s Library is also well worth a visit as it houses some of Salzburg’s most important texts, such as medieval manuscripts, significant religious books, and other historic documents that have lasted multiple centuries. At various points of the year, St Peter’s Abbey also hosts artistic performances and other classical concerts.
6. DomQuartier Salzburg (UNESCO World Heritage site)
If you love museums, then the DomQuartier Salzburg should be one of the top things on your list of things to do in Salzburg. A series of interconnected buildings (including the Salzburg Cathedral), DomQuartier is also where you’ll find the Residenz, the former residence of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg.
As you tour the residences, take note of the intricate stucco work, beautiful tapestries, and immaculate furnishings. It’s here that visitors can also explore an extensive collection of European paintings from the Middle Ages right up to the 19th century. For example, in the Residenz Gallery, art lovers will get the opportunity to examine artworks from names such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and Veronese, as well as local Salzburg artists.
In the Long Gallery, you’ll be able to find a collection of valuable sculptures and artifacts. A short walk through the terrace will lead you to panoramic views of Salzburg’s Old Town. While the elevation here isn’t quite as high as you’ll find in Fortress Hohensalzburg, this view offers a different perspective of Salzburg that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the city.
DomQuartier was one of the most extensive museums I explored in all of Austria, and I found that it was extremely well-equipped to inform visitors of all languages through its use of audio guides, informative panels with different translations and helpful, knowledgeable staff.
Salzburg has no shortage of intricate religious buildings, and Francizkanerkirche, or the ‘Franciscan Church’, is yet another one. Built in the 8th century, Franciscan Church displays a blend of architectural styles, including Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque – a feature that it shares in common with other Salzburg icons such as the St Peter’s Abbey. This makes the church quite a unique one, as visitors will be able to notice the slight differences by examining features such as the stone carvings, soaring ceilings, graceful arches, stained glass windows and altars.
The Franciscan Church was founded by St Maxiumus and his fellow monks and over the years has gone through major restoration and transformation, particularly between the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Franciscan Monastery (Franziskanerkloster) can be found right next to the church. As an active monastery, the Franziskanerkloster currently houses friars and continues to be a place of contemplation and study. A crypt also lies beneath the church, where the remains of noble families and distinguished individuals from Salzburg’s history are kept.
8. Mozart’s Birthplace
Known as ‘Mozarts Geburtshaus’ by locals, Mozart’s Birthplace is another must-do in Salzburg simply because of its historical significance. The birthplace of one of the world’s greatest composers and contributors in the history of music, this quaint yellow townhouse has since been transformed into an informative museum where visitors can explore Mozart’s personal belongings, musical instruments, family portraits, and other significant items across all three floors.
Mozart’s family townhouse was built in the 12th century but was purchased by Mozart’s father, Leopold, much later in 1747. You can find the house on Geitreidegasse, a popular street that’s also on this list of 21 Things to do in Salzburg,
At Mozart’s Birthplace, you can even explore the very room where Mozart was born on 27 January 1756. The museum is well-aided by audio guides, informative displays, and other presentations which offer an even greater insight into Mozart’s stories life and musical development. I spent about an hour here learning about Mozart’s life – definitely a worthwhile stop.
Visitors are also able to buy a souvenir of their visit in the small gift shop, located within the townhouse. At the gift shop, you’ll be able to find a wide range of Mozart-related items, such as music recordings, books, and replicas of Mozart’s musical instruments.
As one of Salzburg’s main pedestrian-only streets, Linzergasse is known for being a shopping haven amongst Salzburg’s historic buildings and picturesque architecture. You’ll find some of the city’s best boutiques, art galleries and speciality stores as you stroll down this famous street.
Along Linzergasse, visitors will also have the choice to dine at some of Salzburg’s most well-known cafés and restaurants. These include Café-Konditorei Fürst, Café Bazar and Triangel Restaurant. In particular, Café-Konditorei Fürst is known for inventing the original ‘Mozartkugel’, a chocolate covered confection consisting of pistachio, marzipan and nougat. It’s alternatively known as the ‘Mozart-Bonbon’, and is yep – you guessed it – dedicated to Mozart and his contributions to Salzburg.
It’s important to note than Linzergasse is more than just a street for shopping. It also served as a historically important trading route between Salzburg and the city of Linz. In fact, an exploration of Linzergasse’s surrounds may also lead you to encounter other Salzburg landmarks such as St Sebastian’s Church and Mozart’s Residence (Mozart-Wohnhaus).
10. Old City Hall
Salzburg’s Old City Hall (‘Altes Rathaus’ in German) is an icon of Salzburg that you definitely can’t miss when exploring the Old Town. Constructed in the 14th century, the Old City Hall is adorned with beautiful ornate windows and intricate decorations, as well as a prominent clock tower. It’s also another great example of both the Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles, a common theme among important buildings in the city.
The Old City Hall is traditionally where important business meetings and other administrative matters are handled, and it currently serves as the seat of the Salzburg City Council. It’s here that important historical assemblies, public announcements, proclamations, dignitary visits and historical celebrations have taken place (and continue to take place).
One of the Old City Hall’s highlights is the Carillon, a musical instrument comprising of a series of bells played by a keyboard mechanism. This striking feature can be found in the Old City Hall tower, specifically on the front façade facing the Mozartplatz. The Carillion is popular with visitors due to its collection of large bronze bells, each a different size and tuned to a specific pitch.
Salzburg boasts a lot of famous city squares, but Mozartplatz is my favorite because it features a grand bronze statue of Mozart at the center of the square. It’s transformed into somewhat of a pilgrimage site for music lovers and is an important reminder of just how valued Mozart and music are to the city.
The bronze statue was created by Austrian sculptor Ludwig Schwanthaler in 1842, and although it is the main attraction in Mozartplatz, there is still plenty to see and do here. Throughout the year, the square hosts open-air concerts, cultural festivals, and seasonal markets, attracting locals and tourists who visit to enjoy the charming atmosphere.
12. Residenzbrunnen and Residenzplatz
Yet another lively square in Salzburg worth visiting, the Residenzplatz is where visitors can find the Residenzbrunnen, also known as the Residenz Fountain. This fountain was designed by Italian sculptor Tommaso di Garone in 1661 and is today considered one of the finest baroque fountains in the country.
Visually striking the moment you see it, the Residenzbrunnen displays a stunning central marble column adorned with statues and figures that represent various mythological figures. At the top of the column, you’ll find a statue of a male figure holding a gold basin as water cascades down into the base of the fountain, creating an impressive show for onlookers.
If you’re visiting close to Christmas time, the Residenzplatz is an excellent place to check out the famous Christmas markets in Austria. Also known as the ‘Christkindlmarkt’, the markets stretch out from the Residenzplatz through to the Cathedral Square (Domplatz) and other nearby squares. Also, be sure not to miss the Salzburg Christmas Museum if you love Christmas.
Founded on the façade of the New Residence building, which also houses the Salzburg Museum in Mozartplatz, the Glockenspiel is a unique musical instrument that has delighted visitors for centuries. Catch a scheduled performance and you’ll be treated to a presentation of familiar tunes and animated figurines.
More than just an entertaining show, watching the Glockenspiel is also a fantastic opportunity to learn more about Salzburg’s past. This is because the animated figurines depict scenes from Salzburg’s history and folklore, and they sometimes even include notable figures such as Mozart.
The Glockenspiel performs multiple times a day usually at the top of the hour – although you might have to hang around a few minutes, as when I visited, it played about 5 minutes later than it was expected to.
14. Salzach River
The Salzach River is a jade-colored waterway flowing through Salzburg that can be seen from various points in the city, including the Hohensalzburg Fortress and Winkler Terrace. Aside from being a pretty river to photograph, it serves as a natural border between Salzburg’s Old Town and the more modern parts of the city.
About 225km (140 miles) long, the Salzach River originates from the Austrian Alps, where it flows through picturesque valleys and towns before reaching the city of Salzburg. One of the best ways to experience the Salzach River is to embark on a riverboat cruise. These cruises typically take you through green spaces, recreational areas, and bridges and offer a unique perspective of Salzburg’s Old Town.
A popular way to experience the beauty of the Salzach River is to walk along Salzach Promenade. Also referred to as ‘Salzachufer’, the promenade is a scenic pedestrian pathway that runs along the perimeter of the river. Stretching several kilometres, visitors can enjoy the promenade’s pretty trees, decorated benchworks and greenery while taking in the riverside atmosphere.
Wander down the Getreidegasse, one of Salzburg’s most visited streets, and you’ll feel like you stepped back in time. Celebrated for its charming townhouses, elegant boutiques and enchanting cafes, a stroll through Getreidegasse’s cobbled streets gives you a good feel of what Salzburg is all about – architectural treasures and a whimsical atmosphere.
It’s at Getreidegasse where you’ll also find a collection of street performers, musicians and artists. Seeing that Salzburg is one of the world’s most famous musical cities, it should be no surprise that these street performers here are sometimes at a world-class level.
Getreidegasse is also home to other worthwhile Salzburg attractions such as Mozart’s Birthplace (previously mentioned on this list), the historic Goldener Hirsch Hotel, and The Old Pharmacy. You can also find unique house signs and facades along the street, making it a popular photography location too.
16. Café Tomaselli
Café Tomaselli is not just a pretty café in the heart of Salzburg – it’s practically an institution and an icon in its own right. This quaint café has been around for some 150 years and is one of the oldest establishments that still exist in the city.
Originating in 1705, Café Tomaselli has been delighting visitors for centuries through its delicious pasties, renowned coffee and peaceful ambiance. Designed with an elegant, old-world charm in mind, guests are immediately transported to an era gone by as they sit down and enjoy the Café’s famous food.
This is a great spot to people-watch, read the newspaper and just hang out. It’s been said that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself spent a lot of time here working on his music. I would recommend ordering the café’s delicious cakes, such as its Esterhazy cake and apple strudel, along with a cup of wonderful Austrian coffee.
Just opposite Café Tomaselli, you can also find Kiosk Tomaselli, an extension of the café. With its leafy trees and colourful umbrella shades, dining at Kiosk Tomaselli is perfectly suited for the summer.
17. Winkler Terrace/M32 Café
Formerly known as Winkler Terrace, this panoramic viewpoint is now known as the M32 Café. One of the most trendy café and rooftop bars in Salzburg, the M32 Café can be found on the top floor of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg and is truly a must-see for any visitor in Salzburg.
Although the views from Hohensalzburg Fortress are equally as amazing, the main point of difference in comparison to the view at M32 Café is that you can actually see the grandeur of the fortress from the latter viewpoint.
Hence, this is possibly the most scenic viewpoint in all of Salzburg as from this vantage point, you’ll be able to see Salzburg’s Old Town in its entirety. I’ll admit that the food and drinks at M32 Café are a little expensive, but given the magnificent panorama in front of you, it’s still totally worth it to spend a few hours here. My recommendations at M32 Café include their apple strudel, sachertorte and their range of cheesecakes. The café offers both indoor and outdoor seating areas, making it a great choice no matter the season.
Once you’re done taking in the views, spend some time exploring the Museum der Moderne Salzburg on the lower floors. This renowned museum features contemporary artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries – showcasing a diverse range of sculptures, installations, photographs, and paintings from both Austrian and international artists. The Museum der Moderne Salzburg is quite unique in the sense that it features modern work, in contrast to other nearby Salzburg museums which feature more historical works.
The Makartsteg, also known as the Love Lock Footbridge, is a pedestrian bridge that serves as a sort of entry point into Salzburg’s Old Town. Named after the celebrated Austrian painter Hans Makart, the bridge serves as one of the best ways to see the Salzach River.
Because of its beautiful surroundings that include both Salzburg’s charming buildings and the gorgeous Salzach River, there is an undeniable romantic atmosphere as you cross the bridge. Over the years, couples started to attach colorful padlocks onto the railings of the bridge as a symbol of their everlasting love.
These ‘love locks’ have become so popular that the railings of the bridge are now completely covered in colorful locks, serving as a heart-warming reminder of Salzburg’s romantic qualities.
19. Collegiate Church
The Collegiate Church has many different names so it can be a little tricky to find if you’re just inputting one name into your navigation app. Just for reference, it’s also referred to as the ‘Kollegienirche’ or ‘Holy Trinity Church’ (try all of them if one of the names doesn’t work). This Baroque church was first constructed in 1694 and wasn’t finished until 1707. Characterized by its curved forms, specific ornamentation, and use of lighter colors, the Collegiate Church is one of the few examples in Salzburg of architecture that is distinctively Baroque – as opposed to other churches in Salzburg, which were built with a blend of architectural styles in mind).
One of the differences between the Collegiate Church and other churches such as Salzburg Cathedral or the Franciscan Church is its use of marble columns and specific types of ceiling frescoes. The ceilings were painted by renowned artist Johann Michael Rottmayr and depict very detailed visuals relating to the Holy Trinity.
Additionally, the Collegiate Church is especially known for its great acoustics for choral singing and classical music, making it a popular venue for musical performances and concerts in Salzburg.
One of the most popular day trip spots from Salzburg, the charming lakeside town of Hallstatt is only 75 kilometres, or 46 miles, from the city. Hallstatt can be reached after a 1.5 hour car ride, and is an unmissable destination if you’re staying in Salzburg for more than a few days.
Undoubtedly in the top echelon of things to do in all of Austria, Hallstatt has garnered mass popularity across social media platforms over the years for its ridiculously picturesque town, Alpine scenery, enchanting lake and range of activities on offer. In fact, you may have already seen images of Hallstatt already on wallpapers, screensavers or framed print photos – that’s how beautiful it really is.
When in Hallstatt, don’t miss out on doing the Hallstatt Skywalk – a scenic viewpoint offering 360-degree vistas of Hallstatt’s surroundings. Another must-do attraction is the Hallstatt Salt Mine. The town has historically been an important hub for salt trading, and the Salt Mines provide a great opportunity for visitors to explore its underground tunnels, wooden slides and learn more about the salt extraction process.
For a slightly more macabre – but extremely interesting experience – visit the Hallstatt Bone House (Beinhaus), where you can find a collection of intricately decorates bones and skulls housed in a picturesque small chapel.
Of course, it’s impossible not to take in the breathtaking sight of Hallstatt Lake from Hallstatt town. Commonly regarded as one of the prettiest lakes in the country, the lake is perfect for boating, swimming and other water activities in the summer. It’s also easy to take a tour of the lake by boat, where you’ll be able to take in the beauty of Hallstatt town from the water.
21. Saint Gilgen
Given its strategic location in Austria, Salzburg serves as a fantastic jumping point to some of Austria’s best destinations. Some of these day trip options include charming Alpine villages such as Zell am See, Wolfgangsee and Mondsee. Although all these destinations are worth a visit, my favorite was the quaint village of Saint Gilgen.
Less than a 40-minute bus ride from Salzburg, visiting Saint Gilgen is the perfect way to get properly acquainted with Austria’s one-of-a-kind alpine scenery. With Wolfgangsee Lake as its majestic centerpiece, the village of Saint Gilgen elegantly unfolds itself all the way to the towering mountains.
Its well-preserved historic village center features some of the prettiest architecture I have seen in Austria, and I spent hours just strolling through the charming traditional buildings and colorful facades.
In the summer, Saint Gilgen is another popular place to go boating or engage in other water sports activities. Because of its natural beauty and crystal-clear lake water, kayaking, paddleboarding, row boating or swimming are all recommended during this season.
How to get to Salzburg?
The easiest way to get to Salzburg is to fly to W. A. Mozart Airport, which is just 4 kilometers away from the city center. Salzburg Airport is well-connected to larger European cities such as London, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Istanbul, and Frankfurt, and you can readily find flights on popular airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, SAS, and Turkish Airlines.
However, given its location close to the border of Germany in Austria’s west region, Salzburg is actually most easily accessible from the German city of Munich. Munich Airport is a much busier airport than Salzburg Airport and offers many more connections to destinations not just in Europe, but around the world. From Munich, taking the train takes you less than 2 hours to get to Salzburg.
Salzburg is also well-connected by international train services from major cities such as Zurich, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava.
If you’re arriving from Austria’s capital, Vienna, there are a range of train options you can take. Trains typically take around 2.5 or 4 hours and can be purchased online beforehand on the ÖBB Website.
Final Thoughts on Salzburg
Salzburg is a uniquely beautiful city that has undoubtedly captured my heart. With its rich musical roots, elegant architecture, grandiose religious structures, and charming streets, there is truly no shortage of things to do in Salzburg.
To get a true sense of Salzburg’s beauty, I would recommend staying at least 4 days in the city. This will give you the opportunity to spend a couple of days exploring Salzburg’s treasures while also allowing enough time to venture out on some unforgettable day trips in the surrounding area.
The easiest way to get around Salzburg is by renting a car, although Austria’s excellent public transportation system should be easy enough to navigate that you’ll be able to see most of the city’s sights without a car – it just might require a bit more time and planning.
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