Blake Walsh

21 Best Things to Do in Salzburg, Austria

  • Published 2022/07/10

Bathed with a historical significance that can be traced back to the Roman Empire, Salzburg exudes an aura of cultural richness.

This city in Austria has rightfully been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This picturesque city was the epicenter of power during the Roman Empire, which unified the prince and archbishop as one.

Even after centuries, the title Archbishop of Salzburg holds an important position in the Catholic Church.

But Salzburg is much more than its churches, religious significance, domes, and the last remains of a crumbled empire.

Music lovers recognize the city to be the birthplace of the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The city’s main tourist attraction is the museum that was originally Mozart’s family home.

To make matters more enticing, the riveting film, The Sound of the Music, was shot against the backdrop of Salzburg’s breathtaking mountains.

This enchanting city can be seen as a place where the old and the modern world collide.

So, how about finding out what else it has to offer?

These are the best things to do in Salzburg, Austria:

Journey into the Past at Altstadt

People walking along Getreidegasse

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The cobblestone path of Altstadt, also known as the Old Town of Salzburg, leads to Getreidegasse, the old town market that dates back to the 15th century.

Iron signage of Getreidegasse shops

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The winding lanes are home to numerous antique shops, wrought iron shops, boutiques, galleries, cafes, quaint courtyards, and old houses with medieval architecture that will take you back to a different era.

The Old Town is the best place for tourists to collect souvenirs and take a walk down memory lane.

Interior of a vintage shop in Getreidegasse

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See the Impenetrable Walls of Fortress Hohensalzburg

Daytime view of Fortress Hohensalzburg exterior

Andrew Bossi, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Fortress Hohensalzburg is located on Festungsberg Hill; it offers a view of the entire city of Salzburg from the fort’s colossal courtyards.

Since its establishment in 1077, it has undergone several constructions and expansions.

The defensive gates that restricted the entry of the invaders are a sight to behold, along with the ancient cistern and lime tree that dates back to 1539.

Gothic-style interior of Fortress Hohensalzburg

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The fort also maintains tradition by playing the prominent Salzburg Bull, a 500-year-old wheel-driven barrel organ.

Fortress Hohensalzburg’s interior is as grand as the exterior, with marble doorways, Gothic style, and jeweled ceilings.

It showcases a slice of history in its museum by displaying torture devices, paintings, artifacts, weapons, and more.

Scenic view of Fortress Hohensalzburg during sunset

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Tour the Mirabell Garden and Mirabell Palace

Daytime view of Mirabell Garden

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The Mirabell Garden is the most famous attraction among The Sound of Music fans, as it was where some of the film’s garden scenes were shot.

For a long period of time, the garden could not be accessed by the public; it was in 1854 that it was made accessible.

The garden is part of the Mirabell Palace, which is modeled in the Baroque landscape design; hence, it is dotted with various marble statues, fountains, and gardens.

Exterior of Mirabell Palace

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The place was remodeled in the year 1818 in neoclassical design after a fire accident.

Besides the magnificent garden, the grand staircase, the Schloss Mirabell Baroque Museum, and the Marble Hall also hold the interest of tourists.

The museum is known to exhibit the artistic vigor of the 18th century.

Statues inside the Mirabell Palace

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Step into the Home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart Residence

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The popularity of Mozart is worldwide, but it takes a different turn in this small town in Austria.

In every corner of every lane, the influence of Mozart is always apparent.

Interior of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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The Mozart Residence, which is located in the Makartplatz square, houses the museum that was reconstructed after its destruction during the Second World War.

The museum gives a glimpse into the Mozart family’s everyday life and their biographies.

Visit the Famous Salzburg Cathedral

Exterior of Salzburg Cathedral

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The most famous event that took place in Salzburg Cathedral was Wolfang Amadeus Mozart’s baptism.

The cathedral is also one of the oldest and biggest churches in the old town.

Throughout the course of history, this church has been destroyed and reconstructed.

The cathedral you can see today is influenced by the Italian style of architecture.

Interior of Salzburg Cathedral

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Its twin towers, which stand 79 meters tall, make for a prominent landmark.

The unique features of this church are its three bronze doors symbolizing faith, hope, and love, as well as its grand statues of St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Virgil of Salzburg, and St. Rupert, patron of Salzburg.

The museum attached to the church displays Gothic statues, the Carolingian Cross of St. Rupert, several paintings, and many more.

Beautiful ceiling of Salzburg Cathedral

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Witness the Trick Fountains of Hellbrunn Palace

Daytime view of Hellburnn Palace

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Hellbrunn Palace was built solely to serve the purpose of entertainment.

Markus Sittikus, former archbishop of Salzburg, commissioned the palace’s construction in the year 1613.

Most of the statues work on the basis of illusion.

Trick fountain at Hellbrunn Palace

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A simple statue has the tendency to suddenly sprout water, and the benches have the same tricky nature.

The décor of the palace is quite grand and reflects the wealth and power of the church and the state.

Water fountain at Hellbrunn Palace

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Visit the Vast Residenzplatz

Residenzbrunnen Fountain on Residenzplatz square

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The old town is littered with several squares, but none is quite exquisite as Residenzplatz.

Situated on the left bank of river Salzach, the beauty of the marble water fountain known as Residenzbrunnen attracts tourists from all over the world.

Sculpted in 1661 by a famous Italian sculptor, this fountain stands 15 meters tall.

Horse carriage ride along Residenzplatz square

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The Greek Titan god Atlas has been engraved on the marble slab, along with horses and dolphins.

The figure of the Greek god Triton with a conch shell is also part of the sculpture.

Surrounding the fountains are several cafes and boutiques that allow the public to grab a bite and shop for unique collectibles.

Night scene at Residenzplatz square

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Admire the Breathtaking Interiors of St. Peter’s Church

Interior of St.Peter Abbey

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Established in 1143 and again remodeled in Rococo style in the year 1625, the St. Peter’s Church is a sight of artistic creativity and splendor.

Located within the bounds of St. Peter’s Abbey, this church is also called the Abbey Church.

Due to its constant renovation over the centuries, the church has featured various architectural styles, the most prominent being the Romanesque design.

Beautiful ceiling of St. Peter's abbey Church

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This impressive historical church has monuments dedicated to JM Haydn and Marianne, sister of Mozart.

The abbey has a cemetery and catacombs that are open to the public.

The church has one of the oldest libraries, which has more than a thousand books but cannot be accessed by the public without special permission.

The abbey has shelters Stiftskeller, a restaurant that is another source of attraction for the tourists as it holds Mozart-themed dinner events or concerts and serves the best food and wine in Salzburg.

See Johann Michael Sattler’s Famous Painting at the Panoramic Museum

Salzburg is home to the Panorama Museum, which is the residence of a famous panoramic painting by Johann Michael Sattler.

The 125-square-meter painting depicts the life of the Salzburg civilians and gives viewers a glimpse of the old city.

This vast painting has its own viewing platform, which makes visitors feel as though they’re looking at scenes of Salzburg from a window.

It provides an insight into the past lives of the people who resided in the same land nearly 200 years ago.

Relive Your Childhood at the Toy Museum

Exterior of Toy Museum

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This activity-themed museum lures the interest of children and adults alike.

Located near the Mirabell Palace, the Toy Museum showcases the toys and board games of several centuries.

They give detailed accounts of such games and their development.

The museum’s activity sector allows visitors to participate in the marble runs and miniature race circuit.

It also features an old imitation shop that allows the children to have an understanding of the trading system of the old shops.

Catch a Show at Salzburg Marionette Theatre

Display in Marionette Theatre in Salzburg

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There are only a handful of theaters that use the mode of puppetry to narrate a story.

Salzburg Marionette Theatre is one such unique place where lifelike puppets are used.

Puppets performing in Salzburg Marionette Theatre

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The puppets perform various plays by Shakespeare, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The theater also holds performances of works by famous names like Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Saint-Exupéry.

Puppets in Salzburg Marionette Theatre

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Have the Trek of a Lifetime at the Gaisberg

People at Gaisberg Mountain during winter

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The Gaisberg, a mountain that occupies the eastern side of Salzburg, offers a sense of respite from the chaos of modern life.

People who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking will find the place refreshing.

Moreover, the place is not quite far from the main city of Salzburg.

Wooden benches along Gaisberg's peak

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There are automobile links that connect the Mirabell Palace and the mountains, making the place accessible.

To assist the hikers, a 20-kilometer trail is marked, notifying the range of difficulty.

Other outdoor activities that can be done here are mountain biking and paragliding.

The views from Gaisberg

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Drop by the Museum of the Celts Hallein

Celtic chariot at Celtic museum

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Salzburg is not just the birthplace of one famous person.

The composer of Silent Night, the famous organist Franz Xaver Gruber, was born here as well.

He was specifically born in Hallein, which is a 10-minute drive from the epicenter of the city of Salzburg.

Unique-shaped music instrument in Celtic Museum

Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hallein is adorned with statues, gateways, and Salzach-styled houses, which make it a historical landmark.

The museum displays and gives a short recount of Celtic history, art, and Celtic tools used by the people of that period.

One of the oldest Celtic museums in Europe, it has a Celtic burial chamber which is a sight to behold.

Pointed hat displayed in Celtic museum

Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Glimpse into the Lives of Prince-Archbishops at the Grand Salzburg Residenz

Interior of Salzburg Residenz

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The Salzburg Residenz is located in the western part of Salzburg.

The colossal palace is marked by marble gateways, which were not there initially but were added in 1710.

This was the residence of Prince-Archbishops and is luxuriously decorated in the style of early neoclassic.

Exterior of Salzburg Residenz

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The palace has notable objects, like rich stucco ornaments and exquisite fireplaces.

The ceiling of the castle has intricate paintings that add to its elegance.

There is a gallery that was established in 1923, showcasing the artistic creation of 16th- and 19th-century painters.

Some of the famous painters whose masterpieces hang on the walls of the Residenzgalerie are Brueghel, Rembrandt, and Rubens.

Grand interior of Salzburg Residenz

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Hear Mozart’s Music Being Played at Neugebaude Palace

Exterior of New Residence Building

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Salzburg is surely a town of musical wealth.

Neugebaude—or the New Residence, as it’s called in English—is a building of artistic grandeur that was built in 1702.

The building houses government offices, but it is famous for its 35 bells that play the tune of Mozart’s collection three times per day.

Interior of Neugebaude Palace

Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The bells were manufactured in Antwerp and shipped to the town of Salzburg.

It is said that it took years to set up the bell in the proper format so that it could play the tunes of famous composers.

Visitors may join guided tours that explain the mechanism of the bells.

Fall in Love with the Intricate Design of the Franciscan Church

Exterior of the Franciscan Church

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The churches of Salzburg give a glimpse of the past with the help of their architecture, and the Franciscan Church is no different.

The high roof of the choir makes it a prominent landmark and a sight of pure wonder.

Interior of Franciscan Church

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Its interior has a Romanesque design, which happens to be a direct contrast to the bright Gothic-themed choir.

The carved statue of Madonna, which dates back to the 15th century, also attracts tourists.

Ceiling of Franciscan Church

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See the Exotic Animals at Salzburg Zoo

A bear at Salzburg Zoo

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Those traveling with the whole family must add Salzburg Zoo to their itineraries.

This 14-hectare ground is a tremendous place to visit if you have an interest in animals and a love of nature at heart.

Not just the towering ancient trees but also natural rock formations and open grassland give the area its special charm.

Interesting species such as white rhinos, lions, and pygmy mice can be admired here in simulating natural settings that are specially adapted to their habitat requirements.

A rhinoceros at Salzburg Zoo

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Also known as Tiergarten Hellbrunn, the zoo is home to around 1,500 different animals and a total of 150 different species.

The Africa section is the zoo’s most popular area, as it resembles a broad savanna full of exotic animal life.

The Eurasia section offers an entirely different kind of zoo adventure, featuring lions, red pandas, Alpine ibex, and brown bears.

Visitors looking for something more unusual will find sloths and lowland tapirs in the Americas section, along with Parma wallabies in the Australia section.

An african penguin at Salzburg Zoo

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Explore Nockstein

Daytime view of the Nockstein

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A trip to the Nockstein is a must for those looking for shorter hiking routes and glorious mountain vistas.

No matter which way you come from, many routes will lead through the forest to this imposing summit.

The bulk of the route goes over forest terrain, though steep rocky ridges are also included.

One of the most interesting ways to get from the Koppler Moor to Nockstein is through a route that has several great sculptures along the way.

For inexperienced hikers or those who are simply afraid of heights, this might not be for you as it’s a rather precarious path with steep drops and a rocky trail.

However, if you’re feeling brave or have had experience in traversing such routes, go right ahead.

The hike takes anywhere between 30 to 40 minutes, depending on where you start.

Once you reach the summit, you’ll have great views of Salzburg city and other scenic spots nearby.

Embrace Your Inner Motorhead at Hangar-7

Exterior of Hangar-7

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Hangar-7 is a lavish location that invites its customers to indulge in its luxurious surroundings.

This attraction is known for its unrivaled offerings, which include warm hospitality, treasured traditions, and the finest culinary delights.

The Tauroa seal of quality on this unique home away from home guarantees the exceptional services it provides.

A racing car in Hangar-7

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Hangar-7 is like a majestic palace dedicated to the skies and is filled with historical treasures and future-facing technology.

It’s a meeting place for art appreciators, aviation fans, and F1 enthusiasts alike.

Hangar-7 also houses special art exhibits, an event venue, two bars, and one cafe where people can enjoy a variety of drinks or memorable meals.

Interior of Hangar-7

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Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Side Trip to the Eagle’s Nest

People heading towards Eagle's Nest

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The Eagle’s Nest is not essentially a part of Salzburg, but it is easily commutable.

You can find it in Berchtesgaden, Germany, just 40 minutes away from Salzburg.

It is a Third Reich-era structure that was the former retreat of Hitler.

People dining at Eagle's Nest

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It gives a picturesque view of the Bavarian Alps, and the building is rich in historical significance and architectural grandeur.

An interesting fact about the building is that to reach the spot, one has to travel through a 124-meter-long underground tunnel and then take an elevator which will descend another 124 meters.

Entrance tunnel to the Eagle's Nest

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Tour the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine

Hallein Salt Mine Tour

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If you’re interested in going on a side trip to Germany, you can avail yourself of a tour of the Bavarian mountains and the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine.

On such a tour, the guide takes you through the underground salt mine while sharing an account of the place’s 450-year-old history.

You’ll also get to go on a drive around the scenic Königssee, also known as the King’s Lake.

The crystal clear appearance of the lake is soothing to the eyes, and the Bavarian Alps serve as a beautiful backdrop.

Your visit to such attractions provides the perfect excuse to tour the small town of Berchtesgaden, which sits on the Austrian border.

Final Thoughts

The charming and breathtaking city of Salzburg is best known for being the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest composers of all time.

While Salzburg’s unique music culture has inspired generations, this historic city in Austria isn’t merely all about Baroque-style nostalgia.

The city is home to stunning attractions and secret gems that are waiting to be discovered.

Whether you’re traveling solo or bringing your family along, Salzburg’s countless treasures will surely make your visit nothing short of wonderful.

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