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Salzburg is maybe best known as the home of The Sound of Music. It’s a great city with plenty to do. Here are our top picks for things to do in Salzburg.
Altstadt (Old Town)
The Old Town of Salzburg became a World Heritage Listed site in 1996, largely due to the vast array of medieval and baroque style buildings. Looking up at the rooftops and spires, it is easy to see how someone like Mozart could draw inspiration. The Old Town is the ideal place to start your time in Salzburg.
It is also well worth your time wandering down Getreidegasse, the city’s main shopping street, which is the envy of many other European cities.
In the Old Town you will find the majority of the “must see” sights, including the Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom) and St. Peter’s Abbey with its fascinating graveyard and catacombs. Just behind the Old Town atop of a steep hill stands Hohensalzburg Fortress, the city’s most famous landmark.
Known to locals as the Salzburger Dom, this impressive cathedral has been a mainstay of the city for centuries. Salzburg was once considered to be a “Northern Rome”, thanks to the archbishops who used called the city home. Remnants of this time, such as the cathedral, are scattered all throughout the Old Town.
Salzburger Dom is located alongside Residenplatz and Domplatz, two popular main squares in the Old Town. Even if you aren’t the religious type, the building is still worth a look due to its size and unique architecture.
St. Peter’s Abbey and Graveyard
Just next door to Salzburger Dom sits St. Peter’s Abbey. Founded in the 7th Century by St. Rupert, St. Peter’s Abbey was constructed to be a monastery, which is still in operation to this day. It holds the oldest library in all of Austria, with over 800 manuscripts.
However, the most appealing aspect of this place is no doubt the cemetery and its catacombs. There are tombs and gravestones dating back almost 1000 years, and wandering around will leave you with an eerie feeling. It is also possible to explore the catacombs which are in the base of the nearby mountain, Festungsberg. This is a truly unique experience, and is included for free if you have a Salzburg Card.
A 15 minute uphill walk from the Old Town, Hohensalzburg Fortress was originally built to help defend the local archbishops from invasions. The fortress is over 900 years old and its beautiful exterior can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. The views from the fortress are truly spectacular, giving you a chance to not only see the entire city of Salzburg, but also the surrounding snow capped mountain ranges.
The fortress itself is free to visit with the Salzburg Card. It has an interesting museum, multiple courtyards, and an impressive gallery of local artwork. If you prefer not to walk, you can also reach the top using the funicular. In our opinion, this is one of the first things to do in Salzburg and you can easily spend a couple of hours exploring this historic site, relaxing and soaking up the great views.
In the heart of the Old Town you’ll find the house in which world famous music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. In the late 1880’s, the city of Salzburg decided to turn the building into a museum depicting the era in which Mozart was born. As you walk from room to room, you see culturally relevant artefacts such as musical instruments, documents and Mozart family treasures. The good news is that once again this experience can be enjoyed for free with the Salzburg Card. The bad news is, that if you are not a classical music or hardcore Mozart fan, you will more than likely find this attraction a little dull. This is a good place to visit if you have a lot of spare time, but definitely not a must do.
Located on the opposite side of the river, away from the Old Town, sits the Mozart’s Family House of Residence. The family moved into this house in 1773, and it was here that Mozart started to shape his famous career. He would perform his musical scores to family, friends and distinguished guests.
The building is now an interactive museum dedicated to Mozart’s upbringing and life’s works. As you wander through the museum you are exposed to a timeline of Mozart’s life and the extraordinary feats that he achieved.
Once again, this is an attraction more suited to those who greatly appreciate music or the arts in general. While not a must do, the Salzburg Card can get you in for free and offer you a good chance to learn about the world’s most famous musical composer. Something to see if you can spare the time.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
The Mirabell Palace and its gardens were built in 1606, and in 1854 Emperor Franz Joseph opened the palace gardens up to the public for the very first time. Since then, the gardens have remained extremely popular amongst locals and tourists alike. This is largely due to the immaculate design and landscaping. Several famous scenes from the movie The Sound of Music were filmed in the Mirabell gardens.
The palace and gardens are a short walk from Mozart’s Residence in the new section of town. It’s within walking distance of the old town, is free, and is a great place to relax, do some reading or have a picnic.
Sound of Music Bike Tours
For a unique experience, go on one of the cities famous Sound of Music bicycle tours. It’s very affordable, and is a great way to explore the city and its surrounds. You see many of the famous locations from the film, but even if you’re not a fan its still worth doing one of these tours for the different parts of the city that you’ll see. Check out Maria’s Bicycle Tours for more info.
- Tip: Use your tour guide to get helpful inside knowledge such as the best places to eat and drink, or what other less “touristy” and more unique things you can do in the city.