9 Things to Do in Salzburg for First-Timers
Looking for things to do in Salzburg? It has all the ingredients for the perfect fairytale city – carefully manicured gardens, a fascinating labyrinth of streets in a charming old town, a fast-flowing snow-fed river, and of course, a classic castle on the hill set against a backdrop of the most pristine forested mountains. Of course, Salzburg is also the birthplace of Mozart, and the unofficial home of The Sound of Music, lending a cultural edge to this already impressive city.
Things to do in Salzburg
1. Visit the castle on the hill
Hohensalzburg Castle sits high above Salzburg, and its pull will be hard to resist from the moment you arrive. The impressive structure dates back more than 900 years, and was initially built to safeguard the archbishops and confine certain prisoners. These days, it’s one of the most popular things to do in Salzburg – visitors can explore the castle throughout the year, and a tour will take you into the medieval rooms, courtyard and bastions.
Insider tip: The castle also hosts a series of concerts and events during the warmer months. Even if you decide not to enter Hohensalzburg Castle, the views of Salzburg from the top of Festungsberg hill are well worth the energy you’ll expend getting up there.
2. Watch the fountains at Hellbrunn Palace
Schloss Hellbrunn was once the summer palace of the Archbishops of Salzburg, and while it no longer serves this function, it’s still as grand and enthralling as ever. Visitors can explore the house and the estate grounds, but the principal attractions are still the famous trick fountains that you’ll find outside. It’s an absorbing attraction for the whole family to visit, and there is also a children’s playground, wading pool, and zoo located in the area.
3. Walk the gardens of Mirabell Palace
The Sound of Music will follow you around most of Salzburg. Nowhere else in the city is the famous musical more prominent than Mirabell Palace and its surrounding gardens. It’s here that the cast sang Do-Re-Mi while dancing around the fountain, and several other scenes were shot in the vicinity.
Insider tip: Be sure to visit the gardens even if The Sound of Music isn’t your favorite musical. They’re free to explore, meticulously manicured, and offer a stunning perspective of Hohensalzburg above.
4. Pay tribute to Mozart
Salzburgians are particularly proud of their musical heritage. When you consider that one of the great composers, Mozart, was born in the city, it’s easy to understand why. Whether you have a love and appreciation for classical music or not, a visit to Mozart’s birthplace is thoroughly rewarding. The house where Mozart was born in 1756 is now a popular museum. Visitors can explore several rooms filled with memorabilia and letters that lend context to one of history’s great composers.
Insider tip: Keep an eye out for the statue of Mozart in Mozartplatz.
5. Embrace The Sound of Music
You’ll find it hard to avoid The Sound of Music while in Salzburg – some hotels even have screening rooms dedicated to movie – so you may as well embrace it with a full tour of the main locations. The famous von Trapp family is closely linked to the city. Thousands of tourists visit Salzburg each year just to visit the movie locations and the Trapp family homes. There are several tours that will take you to the major attractions and key landmarks used in the famous musical. This is a must for anyone who enjoys the movie or live theater production.
6. Sink a pint of Austrian beer
Austrians take their beer very seriously. There are few better places to drink a pint of the famous Stiegl than at the brewery itself. The Stiegl-Brauwelt brewery dates back to the late 15th century, and it’s a beer lover’s paradise. Aside from many kegs of the amber liquid, you’ll find an interactive cinema, a traditional Austrian restaurant, and various exhibits that walk you through the history of brewing.
Insider tip: The monastery-run Augustiner Bräustübl is equally popular. In warmer weather, the large beer garden fills up with up to 1000 revelers eager to devour the famous brew.
7. Learn about the history of Salzburg
If you’re intrigued about this inimitable little city – and who wouldn’t be? – then take a walk back in time to learn more about its history in the Salzburg Museum. This is one of the city’s flagship museums, and its setting alone is truly captivating. You’ll walk through the elaborate rooms of the Neue Residenz palace that showcase key moments in the city’s history. Visits start in the dramatic courtyard, which is home to rotating art exhibitions.
Insider tip: There is a free tour of one of the exhibits every Thursday at 6pm.
8. Get lost in the Old Town
Salzburg’s Old Town is relatively small but full of surprises. With the river on one side, and a hill on the other, it’s hard to get lost in this small network of quaint store, coffee and restaurant lined streets. Walk the Old Market Place and explore Cathedral Square before retiring at one of several coffee houses, bars, or restaurants.
Insider tip: Ditch the map and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the city.
9. Venture into the mountains
There are five beautiful mountains that surround Salzburg. There is no better way to get a full appreciation for the region’s pristine natural beauty than with a walk to the summit of at least one. The city is famous for its alpine walks, and the province alone has more than 4,400 miles of marked hiking paths.
Insider tip: Pick up a map or book from a local store, or do some research online – VisitSalzburg.net offers a wealth of free information on some of the best walks and hikes in and around Salzburg.
The city of Salzburg has a mythical allure that has the ability to enchant visitors of all persuasions, and it’s not uncommon to leave the region wondering if it was all a dream. With stunning scenery, a captivating history, intriguing cultural icons, and easy rail accessibility to several of Europe’s other top cities, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include a trip to Salzburg on your next Austrian rail adventure.