Salzburg is a kind of little Vienna with more romance and less traffic. There is the royal residence (which is not of the Habsburgs but is equally sumptuous), the music of Mozart (who preferred the capital but was born here), the river (which is not the Danube but is equally charming) and the elegant cafés (less famous but no less gourmet).
The size is certainly smaller, but that is part of Salzburg’s charm: small and nestled in the surrounding hills, it is surrounded by fantastic natural scenery and is ideal for wonderful walks, both easy strolls in the city and long treks in the green.
Salzburg’s name is inextricably linked to music, between Mozart the prodigy, who was born here, and the American film The Sound of Music, a blockbuster of yesteryear that was filmed here. You can visit dedicated museums, participate in themed tours, attend concerts and performances.
At the top of the Monchsberg hill, Salzburg‘s iconic fortress seems to gaze impassively and proudly at what is happening at its feet, heedless of the inexorable passing of time and the ceaseless flowing river. Climb up here for a bird’s-eye view of one of Europe’s most enchanting cities.
Salzburg’s tourist reputation is inextricably linked to the name of the genius composer who was born in the city. Most tourists come here to see the places where this prodigious talent, who wrote musical history, was born and grew up.
There are two unmissable Mozart-themed attractions in the city: the Mozart Geburtshaus (Mozart House) and the Mozart-Wohnhaus (Mozart Residence).
Start your Mozart itinerary from Mozart’s Birthplace, a yellow-walled stately home where Wolfang Amadeus was born in 1756 and lived the first 17 years of his life, now converted into a museum that will give you an in-depth insight into his family, his personal life, his music, the Austria of his time, his friends and patrons.
The museum occupies three floors, filled with historical documents and personal items of the composer, including the violin he played during his childhood, the clavichord used for famous compositions such as The Magic Flute, autographs; you can also see the room where Mozart was born.
In 1773 the Mozart family moved to a more spacious and elegant house on Makartplatz, destroyed during World War II, rebuilt and since 1996 open to the public as the Mozart-Wohnhaus museum.
It was the last house in which Mozart lived before he left Salzburg. Here, too, you will find numerous documents, paintings and portraits testifying to what life was like for the composer, but the highlight of the collection is definitely Mozart’s original piano.
Super enthusiasts can quench their thirst for rarities by listening to previously unreleased recordings of Mozart symphonies at the Mozart Ton-und-Filmmuseum, housed in the Mozart-Wonhaus.
If these two houses are not enough for you and you would like to learn even more about the composer’s life and the Salzburg of his time, you can join one of the many Mozart tours that are organised in the city, which will take you to other places related to his personal and professional life.
You can’t leave Salzburg without buying the most typical, greedy, refined and kitschy souvenir at the same time: the famous Mozartkugein, the chocolate balls with Mozart’s face on the foil covering them.
You’ll find them everywhere and you might even get a little nauseous during your holiday, but once you’re home, all you have to do is put one in your mouth to recall the sweetest memories of your days in Salzburg.
Mozart’s House is one of Austria’s most famous attractions and is packed every day, so you should start your day in Salzburg here, visiting it as soon as it opens.
Once you’re done visiting, you can choose to stop for some shopping in the Getreidegasse, the quaint street with little shops and boutiques where Mozart’s house is located, or move elsewhere and return here in the evening when the day-trippers have left.
Salzburg’s top attraction after the Mozart houses is the medieval fortress that dominates the city from above, perched on a 900-metre-high hill.
Built in 1077 and lavishly embellished in the 16th century, the fairy-tale Festung Hohensalzburg, one of the best-preserved fortresses in Europe, is definitely Salzburg’s emblematic image and one of the best spots to admire the city from above.
The climb to get there is rather steep, so we recommend taking the convenient funicular railway and then walking down.
It may not be Vienna, but Salzburg can also boast elegant stately homes of Habsburg opulence, starting with Residenz4, built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries at the behest of Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, the city’s prince-archbishop, and used as a court residence until the 19th century.
A visit to the royal flats is an exuberance of richly decorated rooms with stucco, gold, brocades and works of art. He may not have been a Habsburg nobleman, but the prince-archbishop certainly loved luxury.
Another splendid palace bequeathed to us by von Raitenau is Mirabell Castle5, a ‘little gift’ that the prince-archbishop gave to his mistress Salome Alt. Unfortunately, it cannot be visited inside, but you can admire the sumptuous Marmorsall by attending the evening classical music concert held every evening. Alternatively, you can be content, so to speak, to admire the castle from the outside and take a stroll through the elegant gardens.
Outside the centre is Schloss Hellbrunn, the summer residence surrounded by magnificent gardens. It can be reached by an easy bike ride or on foot with an atmospheric walk along the river.
Among the city’s churches, it is impossible not to mention Salzburg Dome6, a true Baroque masterpiece (as well as the church where Mozart was baptised); less majestic from the outside is the Stiftskirche St Peter, which, however, conceals Baroque and Rococo treasures inside.
In the adjoining Gothic-Romantic cemetery, illustrious citizens of the city are buried, including Paul Fürst, the founder of the confectionery dynasty of the same name who invented Mozart chocolates. If, however, you want to see the humble graves of the musician’s family members, you should visit the cemetery next to the Sebastiankirche church.
There are so many attractions in Salzburg that one sometimes forgets about its interesting museums. We recommend the three that are most worth a visit:
If you are staying in town for the evening, book a ticket for a performance at the enchanting Marionette Theatre and allow yourself to be enchanted by the magic of the puppets, which are made with such craftsmanship that they are as expressive as a live actor.
The small Salzburg Marionettentheater is as elegant and sumptuous as an opera house, but small and with a warm atmosphere; in the corridor leading to the main hall, some of the puppets used in previous productions are on display: look closely and you can admire their precious details. The performances have subtitles in several languages, so they can also be watched by non-German speakers.
One of the wonders of Salzburg are the hills surrounding the old town, which are criss-crossed by hiking trails within everyone’s reach: day-trippers never do this, but if you have time, climb to the top of the Monchsberg hill for a splendid view of the fortress or the Kapuzineberg for the best panoramic view of the city.
If you are staying in Salzburg for a few days, you can check out the attractions in the surrounding area. Children, but also adults with a bit of an adventurous spirit, will love the salt mines in Hallein, which testify to the importance of this product in the local economy.
A chilling (cold) attraction is Eisriesenwelt, the largest ice caves in the world, only open from May to October for obvious temperature reasons!
For a great day outdoors, you can take a trip to the mountains around Salzburg, Untersberg and Gaisberg.
Quite a different tune from Mozart’s symphonies are the songs from the film ‘Sound of Music’, a 1960s musical starring ‘Mary Poppins’ Julie Andrews whose key scenes were filmed right here in Salzburg.
Austrians are crazy about the story of the Trapp brothers and their governess, and everywhere in the city you will find references to this film. Join the collective celebration by taking part in a tour that will catapult you into a Disney-like Salzburg.
The best and cheapest way to visit every corner of the city is with the Salzburg Card. When you buy the card, you get free admission to the most famous sights in and around Salzburg, as well as free use of public transport.
If you’ve worked up a thirst after seeing so many museums and historical buildings, don’t worry: Salzburg is a great city to drink a fresh mug of beer. There are in fact two historic Austrian bre weries in the city that are really worth a visit, the Stiegl Brew ery and the Augustiner Brewery(not to be confused with Munich’s Augustiner).
Salzburg’s most atmospheric brewery is definitely theAugustiner Bräustübl, a brewery inside a monastery at the foot of the Monchsberg, a 15-20 minute walk from the centre.
Visiting it is a unique opportunity to drink tasty monastic beers in traditional ceramic mugs inside magnificent stone-vaulted halls that will magically transport you back to the Middle Ages or, if you come in summer, in the cool shade of centuries-old trees in the huge outdoor garden.
Succulent meat dishes or snacks from the stalls invite you to stay for lunch or dinner, while true beer geeks will definitely want to join the brewery tour.
More centrally located is the Stieglkeller, the Oktoberfest-chic biergarten of the Stiegl brand, a beer brewed in an old riverside brewery on the outskirts of town.
If you feel like going as far as the Stiegl Brauwelt outside the city centre, you can visit a museum dedicated to Stiegl beer and take a tour of the brewery, choosing from a wide range of options, from gourmet to super-enthusiast tours.
Both beer gardens also serve food and snacks and are therefore perfect for a typical meal, but the taverns in the centre are also perfect for accompanying the frothy Austrian beer with tasty traditional dishes. A typical restaurant with excellent value for money is Alter Fuchs (reservation recommended).
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Sleeping in Salzburg is a magical experience because the city, already fascinating by day, becomes magical at night with the illuminated lights. Many tourists leave during the day and you can take romantic strolls through the centre, along the river or in the hills surrounding the centre (or indulge in the nightlife, if you prefer).
There is a good choice of accommodation of all categories: cheap private rooms, medieval-style guesthouses, design hotels with river views, modern and comfortable hostels, Tyrolean-style hotels with wooden balconies… you will be spoilt for choice!
The centre is the favourite area for tourists and is certainly charming, with a wide choice of hotels and hostels, but it is also the most expensive. Just move a little away from the centre and you will find nice b&b and family-run hotels that are much cheaper.
Book early to spend less
Unfortunately, accommodation in Salzburg is slightly more expensive than the Austrian average, so it is advisable to book early in order to find good deals, especially if you are travelling during the high season.
The peak tourist season is the Salzburg Festival, usually held at the end of May. If you plan to stay in Salzburg on those days, look for your hotel months in advance.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Salzburg is of course to take a direct flight or fly to Vienna and from there travel by rental car or public transport.
To get to Salzburg from Vienna calculate about three hours by car and two and a half to three hours if travelling by train; there are also direct buses, which are the cheapest option.
From Salzburg, it will be easy for you to reach other beautiful Austrian cities and charming mountain resorts by car or public transport.
What's the weather at Salzburg? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Salzburg for the next few days.