13 Top-Rated Things to Do in Salzburg
1. Explore the Residenzplatz
The Residenzplatz is located on the left bank of the Salzach, in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town (Altstadt). One of the largest squares in the city, it is the perfect place to start exploring the many attractions and things this beautiful city has to offer.
The focal point of Residenzplatz is the magnificent Residenzbrunnen. This marble masterpiece was created by an Italian sculptor in 1661 and is the largest and finest Baroque fountain this side of the Alps. Standing next to the god Atlas, a 15-meter statue of brave horses with a shaggy god, also inspires dolphins. The entire screen is crowned with a conch cover.
From here, it’s easy to pass the time away at the rooftop cafes and boutique shops that line the adjacent streets. You can jump right in and see major attractions like Salzburg Cathedral and the Residenz, the former palace of the city’s Prince-Bishops.
The square is also frequently used for concerts and events such as New Year’s Eve parties and the excellent Salzburg Christmas Market.
2. Explore the Salzburg Residenz and the Residenzgalerie
The western part of Salzburg’s Residenzplatz is dominated by the Residenz, the former palace of the once influential prince-bishops of the city. This massive palace was built between 1596 and 1619 around three courtyards, with a large marble gate added in 1710.
His magnificent estate apartments are lavishly decorated in the late Baroque and early neoclassical styles, with exquisite frescoes and ceilings, stucco decorations, and elegant fireplaces. Of particular note are the Knights’ Hall (Rittersaal), the Conference Hall (Konferenzsaal) and the impressive Audience Hall (Audienzsaal) with its Flemish tapestries and fine 17th-century Parisian furniture.
Other highlights include the Whitehall (Vice Sal), with its fine stucco decoration in the style of Louis XVI from 1776; the Functioning Room (Gesellschaftszimmer), with its 18th-century silk carpet; and the Imperial Hall (Kaizersal), which contains portraits of the Holy Roman Emperors and Habsburg emperors.
The Residenzgalerie, an art gallery founded in 1923, displays works by European painters from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
3. See How the Wealthy of Old Lived: Hellbrunn Palace and Fountains
This pleasure palace was built in 1613 by the Archbishop of Salzburg, Marcus Cettius, for relaxation and entertainment. Never intended as a residence, Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn) is absolutely stunning, and the tour gives you an inside look into the world of these rich and powerful rulers of both church and state.
Sittikus conceived of extraordinary entertainment for his guests. These include water features and a fountain garden, where an innocent-looking floor sculpture can suddenly turn into a shower, or what appear to be seats around a table that suddenly starts throwing water at all of the guests. The tour is light and fun, especially for kids and those who don’t mind getting a little wet (it’s a good idea to keep your camera and phone covered).
In addition to the cascading fountains and beautiful flower gardens, the park is interesting because of the location of the gazebo and the large avenue of trees used in the filming of The Sound of Music. In December, the gardens are home to a beautiful Christmas market. Admission to a nearby folk museum is included in the admission ticket.
4. Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Another garden used in the filming of The Sound of Music is in the beautiful Mirabel Palace (Schloss Mirabel) in Salzburg. This excellent example of Baroque landscape design was laid out in 1690 with its many terraces, marble statues and fountains.
The palace was rebuilt in the Baroque style between 1721-1727 before being restored in a simple neoclassical style after a fire in 1818. Highlights of the tour include the impressive Grand Staircase, built in the 18th century, with its many statues of George. Raphael Donner and his disciples.
Other interesting features are the Marble Hall, still used for concerts and events, and the Schloss Mirabell Baroque Museum. Housed in the Gardener’s Building (Gärtnergebäude), part of the estate’s orangery, the museum displays European art from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Also of interest is the small open-air theater in the southwest corner of the gardens.
5. Visit the Franciscan Church
To the north of St. Peter’s is the Franciscan Church (Franziskanerkirche), which was the town’s parish church until 1635. Notable features from the outside are the high roof of the choir and the tower on the south side from 1498.
Interior features of note include a dark 13th-century Romanesque nave, which contrasts with a high, bright 15th-century Gothic choir. There is a ring of Baroque chapels dating from 1606 in front of the high altar, which was added in 1709 and is famous for its Madonna carved in the late 15th century.
In the main chapel behind the altar is a marble winged altar from the old cathedral of 1561. In front of the chapel is a still functioning Franciscan chapel. Visitors are welcome here to attend Mass.
6. Mozart’s Birthplace
The house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 is one of the best places to visit in Salzburg if you are a fan of classical music. Highlights include rooms once occupied by Mozart’s family, and a museum that displays a number of interesting memorabilia, including a young Mozart’s violin, photos, and original scores of his compositions.
Attractive exhibits showcase his family members and their lives and explore his operatic work with costumes, designs, models, and excerpts from his operas. Furnished room as if it were in their time. Guided tours can be arranged in English.
7. Salzburg’s Festival Theaters
Salzburg has long been known for its music festivals, as evidenced by the city’s many historic theaters and concert halls. Collectively known as the Festival Theaters (Festspielhäuser), these buildings consist of the large Festushäuser. The small Haus für Mozart, in the middle of which there is a foyer with wonderful frescoes. and the Karl Boehm Hall, which is used for exhibitions and receptions.
In this building adorned with magnificent 17th-century frescoes, the famous Salzburg Festival has been held since 1925. This popular, multi-week summer event showcases the best of European music and drama.
Other major festivals in Salzburg include Mozart Week, a winter event focusing on the works of the great Austrian composer. and Salzburg Culture Day, an annual two-week festival in October that includes symphony concerts, concerts, and opera performances.
For a completely different theatrical experience, check out the Salzburg Marionette Theatre. Founded in 1913, it is one of the oldest puppet theaters in the world.
8. Neugebäude & The Salzburg Carillon
In front of the Salzburg residence is the New Building (Neugebäude), built in 1602 as the archbishop’s guest house and expanded in 1670. Now home to the offices of the regional government and the Salzburg Museum, the building is famous for Karlin’s famous Glockenspiel.
Erected in 1702, it contains 35 bells rung three times a day (7 am, 11 am and 6 pm) from Mozart’s extensive repertoire. Guided tours of the tower are available, providing a unique view of the workings of this remarkable mechanism.
A highlight of the experience is hearing the famous Salzburg Paul, an organ at the nearby Hohenzalzburg Palace, respond to the song with the sound of a chorus.
9. St. Sebastian’s Church and Cemetery
The highlight of Salzburg’s district is St. Sebastian’s Church (Sebastianskirche), on the right bank of the Salzic River. Built in 1512 and completely rebuilt in Rococo style in 1753, the church features a flight of steps leading to St. Sebastian’s (Friedhof) tomb.
Founded in 1595, in the center of the cemetery stands St. Gabriel’s Church (Gabrielskapel), with its ornate faience, completed in 1603 as the tomb of Archbishop Wolf Dietrich.
On the way to the church are the graves of Mozart’s father Leopold and his widow, Constance. West of the church is a path that leads to Loreto Abbey (Loretokloster) and Paris Lodrunstrasse.
10. See the Old Town Hall
With its Rococo façade and iconic tower, the Old Town Hall makes up one of Salzburg’s most attractive sights. He played important roles throughout history: ringing the bell when curfew approached, keeping time for fans, and as a bouncer.
Today, its aim is mainly to share the local culture with tourists and provide space for bureaucratic offices. Check out rotating exhibitions of work by Salzburg artists in the City Gallery on the first floor. While the second floor is mainly used for city council meetings, it also displays Franz Klostrink’s famous 1916 painting The City of Salzburg to the public.
11. Climb to the Salzburg Catacombs
Just behind St. Sebastian’s church and cemetery are the catacombs carved into the Mönchsberg rock face. This attraction, estimated to be around 1,000 years old, served dual purposes as a sanctuary and burial site. You can recognize it from The Sound of Music as where the Troupe family sought refuge before fleeing to Switzerland.
To access two levels of the catacombs that are open to the public, you’ll need to climb a set of steep ancient stone steps (rubber shoes a must!) On the first level is the “Chapel of Gertradon”, while at the top is the “Maximus”. Chapel”, which is believed to be even older. You can also enjoy a great view of Salzburg from the windows and balcony.
12. Ride the Cable Car to the Top of the Untersberg
Untersberg, a popular recreational area with a rugged peak, attracts outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. You can reach the summit by taking the Untersbergbahn (cable car), which is located about 10 km south of the city and is easily reached by bus. The 8.5-minute ride in one of the two gondola-like cars is a treat, offering stunning views of Salzburg, the Roseten Valley, and the entire Berchtesgaden region.
However, the best views can be enjoyed when the cable car takes you near the 1,805-meter-high Gerik Peak as you look up at the white clouds and snow-capped Alps. No wonder so many couples get engaged in this beautiful place.
Spend an hour or two exploring the stunning alpine terrain, and when you’re ready to refuel, pull up a seat for coffee and pancakes at a mountaintop café.
13. Take a Drive to Hallein and the Celtic Museum
The ancient Celtic city of Helen is located on the Salzic River, a 10-minute drive from downtown Salzburg, and is one of the many interesting places to visit near Salzburg. The town is particularly known for its charming narrow streets, gates, and statues, as well as the historic houses built in the typical Salzich style.
Hallein is the birthplace of organist Franz Zephyr Gruber, composer of Silent Night. This is where you’ll find the Celtic Museum (Keltenmuseum Hallein), one of the largest and most comprehensive museums of Celtic art and history in all of Europe. Housed in a former 17th-century orphanage, this reconstructed Celtic farmhouse includes buildings and tools used by Celtic settlers, as well as an ancient cemetery.
Other highlights include exhibits from Hallstatt and La Tène (Iron Age) finds from 800-15 BC. There are also exhibits on local customs and the history of the town’s guilds.