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Top Things to do in Salzburg, Austria

Beautiful Baroque architectures, the birthplace of classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, filming locations for The Sound of Music, palaces and castles galore, gorgeous mountain scenery and an old town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Salzburg has it all. 

With so much to offer, it can be difficult cramming all of Salzburg’s attractions into one itinerary, so here is a list of the top 10 things to do in Salzburg, as well as transport advice, so you can squeeze all the best places to see in Salzburg into one trip. I was able to cram most of these in two days. It’s a lot to see but it is doable.

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The Top Ten Things to Do in Salzburg, Austria

1. Salzburg Fortress (Hohensalzburg Castle) 

Dating back to the ninth century, the impressive Salzburg Fortress, also known as Hohensalburg Castle, sits atop Festungsberg Hill, looking over the picturesque surrounds. 

Once you’ve admired the historic architecture and fairy-tale white exterior from every angle, venture inside to explore the interiors. Opulent décor, a labyrinth of rooms, wings, winding staircases, and turrets, as well as artifacts brimming with history await you. 

Don’t miss the organ in the powder room, the busts and stuccos in the chapel, as well as the breathtaking Golden Hall with its decadent marble pillars.

The fortress is open from 9am to 5pm from October to April, and 9am to 7pm from May to September. Note that opening hours may differ on public holidays, including Advent weekends, Easter and Christmas. 

Queues can be long if you arrive and buy your ticket at the entrance, especially during the summer holiday months of July and August. Therefore, it might be best to buy online in advance. There’s also the option of an early bird discount, but you must arrive before 10am.

Basic tickets without the funicular start from €10 for adults, €5.70 for children aged six to 14 years old, and €22.20 for families of a maximum of two adults and three children. 

All-inclusive tickets include a return ride on the funicular, an audio guide, plus access to the Prince’s Chambers, Magic Theater, Castle Museum, Rainer Regiment Museum, Puppet Museum, and Alm Passage Exhibition.

 

Funicular in Salzburg in Austria in a beautiful summer day

Salzburg Fortress Funicular Cable Car

A thoroughly modern addition to the fortress is the addition of a funicular cable car, which starts at the bottom of Festungsberg Hill and ascends to the fortress with an amazing view. 

The funicular is in operation during the same hours that Salzburg Fortress is open, however, there are some closing days due to maintenance, but the castle can still be reached via a footpath. Check the website ahead of time to be sure.

 

2. Mozart’s Birthplace & Museum

No trip to Salzburg would be complete without paying homage to the city’s most famous and revered resident, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The classical composer was born here on January 27th, 1756, specifically in the bright yellow building that proclaims “Mozarts Geburtshaus” in large gold lettering.  Make sure to book your ticket for the museum entrance ticket.

Located in Old Town, it’s hard to miss this landmark and a visit here is sure to give you a thorough education of everything Mozart, from details of his childhood to his first musical instruments, to snippets of his most recognizable symphonies.

Mozart’s Residence

Of course, Mozart sightseeing doesn’t just stop at the composer’s birthplace. For more Mozart madness, visit Mozarts Wohnhaus (Mozart’s Residence), which was where the Mozart family moved to later on. 

Though the original building was destroyed during the Second World War, it was reconstructed to the original design and today houses displays on Mozart’s family and what their daily lives would have been like.

3. Salzburg Old Town

Also known as Altstadt, Salzburg Old Town’s charming little streets, picturesque squares and stunning mix of Medieval and Baroque architecture have gained the whole area UNESCO World Heritage status. You can book a 2-hour walking tour of Salzburg that will take you through the old town, Mozart and more.

Get lost in history and heritage, pop into quaint boutiques for souvenir shopping, or stop for a people-watching coffee moment at a local café, Austrian-style. 

See the bronze statue of Mozart at Mozartplatz, as well as the two squares which connect to space, Residenplatz, and Domplatz. Other sites of interest include the Salzburg Museum, the Christmas Museum, and the Traklhaus. 

4. Mirabell Palace & Gardens

Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 and was a loving gift from prince-archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Reichenau for his mistress, Salome Alt, and their many children (Salome gave birth to 15 children, though only 10 survived). It was originally named Schloss Altenau, but Markus Sittikus renamed it Mirabell after he deposed and imprisoned Dietrich.

Though the story is colorful and a little sad, the palace was originally designed with romance in mind. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the palace is today widely regarded as one of the most beautiful wedding venues in the world. The building also hosts concerts and houses local government offices as well.

The interiors are just as impressive as the architecture. Ascend the cherub-adorned “Angel Staircase” to Marmorsaal (Marble Hall), which was once a place of banquets and now a renowned concert venue. 

Then, head outdoors to admire the views out to Salzburg Cathedral and have a true “Alice in Wonderland” moment in the gardens. Designed with mythology and typical Baroque symmetry in mind, you’ll see sculptured bushes, themed garden-ettes, and idyllic fountains.

You may recognize the Pegasus Fountain from The Sound of Music, as this was the filming location for the iconic scene where Maria and the children sing “Do Re Mi,” which ends with them running up and down the steps of the Rose Hill.

Admission to the palace and its gardens are free, making a visit to Mirabell one of the best free things to do in Salzburg. The grounds are open from 6am to sundown, the palace is open from 8am to 6pm, while the Marble Hall is open from 8am to 4pm (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) or 1pm to 4pm (Tuesdays and Fridays).

5. Salzburg Cathedral

With a history dating back to 774 AD, the enduring legacy of the Salzburg Cathedral is definitely something to witness, though the building itself has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries.

Striking from the outside, once you venture inside you’ll truly appreciate the artistry of the architects, sculptors, and painters who brought the Cathedral to life. Don’t miss the organ, as well as the frescos in the dome.

6. Sound of Music Tour

Another significant religious and historic building to visit is St. Peter’s Abbey, which was built by Saint Rupert in 696 AD on top of existing Christian remains. It was once a cathedral but later converted to a Benedictine monastery, making it one of the oldest monasteries in Central Europe. Make sure to get your tickets for the Original Sound of Music Tour.

Though the architecture has changed with the passing eras, the original structure is still there, and the current incarnation is a mix of Renaissance and Romanesque design. Visit the catacombs, the art collection in the Long Gallery, as well as the oldest library in Austria, home to 100,000 books. Make sure you get to see the original gazebo from the Sound of Music scene from “16 going on 17”.

 

7. Hangar-7

The Red Bull Hangar-7, located near Salzburg’s airport, is a world away from palaces, gardens and Baroque architecture. The elliptical glass dome and cylinders are an architectural masterpiece and a feat of engineering, especially considering what the hangar houses.

This unique space exhibits the historic Flying Bulls aircraft fleet and a collection of F1 cars, hosts art and photography exhibitions, and is also home to several bars and restaurants. 

So, whether you’re interested in Formula 1, planes, art, architecture, or great food and drink – Hanger-7 is a great place to hang-ar out.

8. Eagle’s Nest

Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) is a mountain getaway 1820 meters up on Obersalzberg Mountain, offering epic panoramas of the undulating scenery, but also a dark story. 

The house was originally built by the Nazi Party for Adolf Hitler to mark the dictator’s 50th birthday. During World War II, Eagle’s Nest was used for state occasions, as well as for important meetings. 

In 1960, Kehlsteinhaus was converted into a mountainside restaurant and the journey up Obersalzberg is as breathtaking as the views from Eagle’s Nest itself. The best way to get up to the house is by guided bus tour, though you can also take a public bus and hike for two hours through the mountains.

9. Hellbrunn Palace

Austria is not short of palaces and castles, and Hellbrunn is definitely another to add to your list while you’re in Salzburg. The building dates back to the 17th century and is similar in many ways to Mirabell, however, the real treat here is the gardens. 

Don’t miss the “trick fountains” – seats with holes in them – which surprise visitors with a spurt of water when you sit down! Hilarious fun for families, especially in the heat of summer. Expect to get wet with these trick fountains.

If the weather’s favorable, the 3.3-kilometer route to Hellbrunn Palace is flat and quite shady, so cycling is ideal and provides gorgeous views of Untersberg and the surrounding mountains.

Hellbrunn Palace is open from 9am to 4:30 pm (April and October), 9 am to 5:30 pm (May, June, and September), or 9am to 9pm (July and August). Tickets start at €12.50 for adults, €5.50 for children and €26.50 for families including two adults and a child.

 

10. Mozart Dinner Concert

You can’t visit Salzburg without attending a Mozart Dinner Concert. Make sure to book your dinner ahead of time to avoid disappointment as it does book up. I loved the dinner concert and I would highly recommend it. The food is great and the performers are amazing. Check for availability here.

How to get around Salzburg

Public transport in Salzburg includes eco-friendly electric trolleys (or trams) and buses. The Trolley buses run every 10 minutes, while most regular buses run every 15 minutes. However, timetables may change during the busy summer holiday period, July and August. Night buses run late on Friday and Saturday nights.

Both trolleys and buses operate using the same ticketing system: single journeys cost €2.10 if you buy them from the driver, but are slightly cheaper if you buy them before you travel, from a ticket machine or a Tabak stand (€1.90). There are 24-hour tickets available that cover all buses and trolleys and cost €5 for adults and €2.50 for children.

Exploring Salzburg on foot or by bike

However, much of Salzburg can be explored on foot or bike. Many hotels rent bikes for around €7 for the day, or even free for guests. There are plenty of bike lanes, as well as nice paths and trails to follow, so it’s a very safe and enjoyable way to experience the city.

Salzburg Card

For free admission to some of the best of Salzburg’s attractions, free travel on public transport, as well as other discounts and advantages, purchase a Salzburg Card. Buy your Salzburg Card Here.

The card is available online, so you can buy it before your trip, then pick it up from the tourist information center on Mozart square or at Salzburg station, using a printed or mobile voucher. Simply select the number of people, adult or child (ages 6 to 15), the date(s) and your language (English or German).

  • 24 hours – adult €29 and child €14.50
  • 48 hours – adult €38 and child €19
  • 72 hours – adult €44 and child €22

Note that Salzburg Cards are only active from 8am to 6 pm; a limited amount are sold for each day, so be sure to make your purchase in advance; a child’s card cannot be bought without an adult card too, and the tourist information opening hours are:

  • Mozart Square: Monday to Saturday 9 am to 6pm (closed on Sundays between October and March)
  • Salzburg Station: Monday to Sunday 9 am to 6pm all year

Salzburg attractions with free admission using the Salzburg card include the fortress funicular, the Untersberg cable car, and the panorama boat.

Where to Eat in Salzburg

Mozart Dinner Concert

St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, 5020 Salzburg

You can listen to Mozart’s music anywhere in the world – but it will never sound like in his birth town. The Dinner Show takes place in St. Peter Stiftskulinarium, a place dating back to 803.

Schloss Fuschl

Schloss-Straße 19, 5322 Hof bei Salzburg, Austria

It is worth driving out to Schloss Fuschl for a great lunch and take in the stunning views over Lake Fuschl. Schloss Fuschl is just a 25-minute drive from Salzburg.

Pitterkeller

Rainerstraße 6 A-5020 Salzburg
The PitterKeller is Salzburg’s oldest beer cellar and is a popular meeting point for locals and tourists. This is a traditional, cozy restaurant that offers regional food selections as well as a great beer selection.

I would highly recommend trying the Salzburger Nockerl. It is the famous Salzburger Nockerl and is absolutely delicious. Although this is a dessert item, we were told that many Austrians will have this as their main course. Make sure to order early as there is a 20 minute waiting time.

Where to Stay in Salzburg

The Mozart Hotel is located in a great location. It is in a quiet location but yet walking distance to everything. If you have never seen the Sound of Music then you are in luck. You can find it playing non-stop on one of the tv channels in your room. The rooms are spacious and extremely comfortable.

The Mozart Hotel is a family-run by HeymCollections and is centrally located in Salzburg. It is a 10-minute walk from the Old Town with all major sights, the Getreidegasse and the Hohensalzburg Fortress, and a short 5-minute walk from the Mirabell Gardens. Check for the most up to date pricing.

 

Other Things to Do in Salzburg

If you love strudel and love to cook then you might be interested in booking a strudel cooking class. What do you make of our recommendations? Did we miss out on any of your favorite places to see in Salzburg, or do you have any top tips for visiting Salzburg’s attractions? Write your suggested best things to do in Salzburg in the comments below.

If you are heading to Austria, these may also be of interest:

Make an Authentic Austrian Pancake

Fun Facts About Austria

Things to Do in Vienna

Top Traditional Austrian Food you Need to Try

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