Salzburg (literally means “salt castle”) is the fourth largest city in Austria and has one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps. Along with its scenic Alpine surroundings, the city is renowned for its baroque architecture and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Salzburg is the birthplace of 18th century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and in the mid 20th century the city was the setting for the movie “The Sound of Music.” There is a lot to see and do in Salzburg. Here is our top 10 things to see and do in Salzburg, Austria.
1. Walk the City Centre (Altstadt “Old Town”)
Salzburg’s central district is fairly compact and easily walkable with its charming streets, lovely architecture, plenty of shopping and markets, museums, and historical sites. There’s enough to see that you can easily spend a day strolling leisurely through this area. Wander through Altstadt’s Judengasse (Jewish District) and view the St. Florian Fountain in the Alter Market – a marketplace that dates back to the 13th century.
2. Salzburg Cathedral
A wonderful example of Baroque ecclesiastical architecture, Salzburg Cathedral is a monument to the city’s religion, wealth, and power. The structure awes tourists with its turquoise domes and towering façade. To appreciate its amazing craftsmanship and ornamentation, pay particular attention to the building’s smaller details – such as the statues of apostles Paul and Peter at the front, and the individual murals on the copulas. This building was the location of Mozart’s baptism, as well as a place where he spent time as an organist.
3. Mozarts Geburtshaus (Mozart’s birthplace)
If you’re looking for a quintessential Salzburg attraction, then a stop here is a must. Born Jan. 27, 1756 on the third floor of this building, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart resided here with his family until 1773. Now the property houses a museum that chronicles the musical prodigy’s early years. On display are artifacts such as his childhood violin, family portraits, and family letters. Mementos from his life can also be seen at Mozarts Wohnhaus, where he also lived for a time.
4. The Salzburg Museum
A wide range of archaeological and artistic treasures can be found here, from a 17th century carillon (set of mechanized bells) that plays Mozart compositions to Renaissance paintings and artifacts from Salzburg’s early Roman origins. Some profess the true marvel of the museum is the facility itself – the Museum re-opened in 2006 at its current location inside the Neue Residenz in Altstadt, which is an “overflow” palace for royal guests and governmental diplomats.
5. Mirabellgarten (Mirabell Gardens)
This lovely paradise on the east side of the Salzach River houses sites like the Dwarf Garden, the Pegasus Fountain, and the set of stairs where Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp kids practiced “Do-Re-Mi” in “The Sound of Music.” Visitors can enjoy exploring the beautiful winding paths and taking photos of the Garden’s unique sculptures. Mirabellgarten’s flowers are in bloom during spring/summer, and in the backdrop of the Garden tourists can view Schloss Mirabell (Mirabell Palace), which houses Salzburg’s municipal government.
6. Hohensalzburg Fortress
Originally built in 1077 in preparation for a conflict between Pope Gregor VII and Emperor Henry IV, this fortress has never been conquered by enemy armies. The complex has grown over the centuries and has been used for several purposes – originally as a military stronghold, then later as an army camp and a prison. Today, three small museums – the Fortress, the Rainer Regiments, and the Marionette – as well as several courtyards and even a torture chamber reside within its gates. The original military purposes of this fortress did not dissuade its inhabitants from lavishly decorating the interior. You’ll see complex ceiling vaults, elaborate door frames, and intricate wood paneling in some of the oldest, gothic-style rooms. Climb to the top of the compound for stunning views of Salzburg and the surrounding area.
7. Hellbrunn Palace
This property sits on a hilly perch about 5 miles outside Salzburg. The gazebo where Liesl and Rolf sang “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” from “The Sound of Music” is on display as part of the palace grounds, and its gardens and fountains are immaculately maintained. The 17th century palace features exquisitely decorated rooms, ballrooms, halls, and an octagonal music room.
About 16 miles outside Salzburg lies Mondsee, a beautiful and scenic lakeside town. The crystal clear turquoise water of the lake surrounded by the magnificent Austrian mountains sets a picturesque scene, and lake activities include water slides, sailing, water skiing, a sightseeing cruise, or just a picnic along the shore. The quaint and colorful town of Mondsee has a lively main square with an ample selection of shops, cafes, and restaurants. Mondsee may be most famous for the Basilica St. Michael – the church’s interior is where Maria and Captain Von Trapp’s wedding was filmed in “The Sound of Music.”
9. Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest
About 30 minutes from Salzburg, the Kehlsteinhaus (known as the Eagle’s Nest in English-speaking countries) is erected on top of a rocky mountain outcrop that rises above the town of Berchtesgaden. It was used by members of the Nazi Party for government meetings and social occasions. Hitler was at the building 14 documented times – he disliked the location due to his fear of heights, the risk of bad weather, and the thin mountain air. Today it is open seasonally as a tourist site, beer garden, and restaurant.
10. Salzburg Guided Tours
Okay, it’s corny but can you really visit Salzburg without taking a tour of the film locations from “The Sound of Music?” Several sites have already been mentioned here, but sponsored Salzburg tours include other movie locations around the city and have guides who provide interesting stories and tidbits of information from the time the movie was being filmed. Options range from walking tours, bike tours, and bus tours – the latter includes listening to the “Sound of Music” soundtrack and singing along during the ride between movie locations!