Things to do in Salzburg

Must-see Salzburg sights

When you think of Austria, what you imagine is pretty much what you can find in Salzburg: ornate architecture, mountain air and the musical heritage of Mozart. The city and surrounding area was once ruled by prince-archbishops, and it’s their pomp and wealth that you can still spot everywhere with its fine Baroque architecture.

  1. Salzburg Museum, Residenzplatz
  2. Domplatz and Franziskanerkirche
  3. Mozarts Geburtshaus and Mozarts Wohnhaus
  4. Hohensalzburg
  5. Monchsberg
  6. The Sound of Schloss Mirabell
  7. Schloss Hellbrunn

Salzburg’s compact centre straddles the River Salzach, squeezed between two dramatic mountains. The west bank forms a tight-knit network of alleys and squares - Alter Markt, Residenzplatz, Mozartplatz (with obligatory statue of the composer) and Domplatz – overlooked by the medieval Hohensalzburg fortress high above.

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1. Salzburg Museum, Residenzplatz

Residenzplatz, at the very centre of the city, is a splutter of Baroque buildings, with the likes of the lavish Residenz, the former-archbishops living quarters dominating the west side - a self-guided tour also sees you take in the state rooms and Residenzgalerie paintings collection. On the east side of Residenzplatz is the Neue Residenz, with its Glockenspiel - a 17th-century musical clock - topping the building. Today the Neue Residenz houses the excellent Salzburg Museum, which, as well as showing some of the archbishops’ snazzy rooms, explores the city’s history and tourism industry, and its rediscovery by Romantic painters.

Best for: Getting stuck into Salzburg.

While you’re there: The Glockenspiel chimes at 7am, 11am and 6pm.

2. Domplatz and Franziskanerkirche

Looking for things to do in Salzburg that will leave you feeling dazzled? The pale marble facade of the cathedral dominates Domplatz (Cathedral Square), but brace yourself for what’s inside. This high-domed, white interior will make you feel like you’ve found where angels live, and look up to see the colourful ceiling frescoes. If you’re not fully dazzled, head across Domplatz and through an archway which leads to the Gothic Franziskanerkirche, with a Baroque altar and a 12th-century marble lion.

Best for: Gothic and Renaissance art and architecture.

While you’re there:

3. Mozarts Geburtshaus and Mozarts Wohnhaus

If you’re wondering what to do in Salzburg that tells you all you need to know about Mozart, head to Getreidegasse, the main street in Salzburg’s Old Town, which is lined with lovely boutiques and painted facades. And at no.9 is the canary-yellow Mozart's Birthplace, where the musical prodigy was born in 1756 and lived until he was 17. Then, cross over the Salzach River to Makartplatz, where Mozarts Wohnhaus sits: this was the family home from 1773 till 1787 and contains a captivating multimedia history of the composer.

Best for: All things Mozart.

While you’re there: At Mozarts Geburtshaus, check out one of Mozart’s baby-sized violins.

4. Hohensalzburg

Overlooking the city from the rocky mountain, the fortifiedHohensalzburg Fortress (built in 1070) is a key landmark and one of the best things to do in Salzburg. You can get up here on Austria’s oldest funicular, although the walk up isn’t as hard as it looks. Included in the price is an audio guide tour of the observation tower - with incredible views - and battlements, access to the impressive state rooms and various exhibitions.

Best for: Legal highs.

While you’re there: Entry is €12, or €15.20 including the funicular.

5. Monchsberg

We may all love Salzburg for its Baroque, Renaissance and general chocolate-box-like charm, but if you fancy adding a bit of modernity, we don’t blame you. Just take the Monchsberg lift up to the Monchsberg from Anton-Neumayr-Platz, where at the summit, the sleekly concrete-and-glass Museum der Moderne is a stylish contrast that puts on big-name art exhibitions.

Best for: Contemporary Salzburg.

While you’re there: There are great views looking across to the Hohensalzburug fortress.

6. The Sound of Schloss Mirabell

Across the river from the Alstadt is Schloss Mirabell, on the site of a palace built by the Archbishop Wolf Dietrich for his mistress Salome, although the site is more familiar from The Sound of Music. And Salzburg wastes no time cashing in on its connection with the legendary singing Von Trapp family. From its kiosk on Mirabellplatz, The Original Sound of Music Tour takes you around the key film locations, such as Hellsbrun Palace and Mondsee Cathedral - they play the soundtrack and you’re encouraged to sing along.

Best for: Families. Especially singing ones.

While you’re there: The palace’s ornate gardens have a great view back across the city.

7. Schloss Hellbrunn

The Italianate palace that is Schloss Hellbrunn on the city’s southern fringe - 5km from the city centre - was built in the early 17th century as a place for entertaining. Check about the gardens’ impressive fountains and watery gimmicks, or wasserspiele; guided tours take 40mins, with the tour guide showing off all the tricks and hidden fountains, including an elaborate, water-powered mechanical theatre (prepared to get splashed). The palace itself features unusual animal paintings, a frescoed festival hall and lavish music room. Jump on bus 25 to St Leonhard, where a cable-car climbs the 1853m Untersberg for impressive views of Salzburg to the north and the Alps to the south. If you’re looking at Salzburg holiday packages, excursions to areas like Schloss Hellbrunn and Untersberg are easily doable during your trip.

Best for: Getting away from the city centre.

While you’re there: Stop for coffee at Parkcafe Schloss Hellbrunn, where you can soak up the ambience in the outside area or rest up indoors.

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