Best known for being the home of Mozart and the classic film The Sound of Music, Salzburg is where melodies and harmonies float through the air every day of the year. Nestled at the foot of towering hills, the city’s Old Town looks almost identical to when Mozart walked through its streets 250 years ago.
With everything from remarkable theaters, manicured parks, and excellent galleries to breathtaking palaces, centuries-old restaurants, and a buzzing beer scene, you’ll never get bored in Salzburg!
Although the city’s rich cultural and artistic heritage has earned it the nickname the “Stage of the World,” its musical history isn’t the only thing it’s known for. Salzburg originally got its name from the many salt mines around the city (Salz = salt and Burg = castle).
The city is also where Red Bull was created way back in 1987! Today, you can even take a trip to the eccentric Red Bull Headquarters just outside Salzburg. From spooky historic cemeteries to vibrant music festivals and Michelin-star restaurants, there really is something for everyone.
With so many fantastic things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To give you a helping hand, we’ve created a list of the absolute best things to do in Salzburg. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Salzburg bucket list and get ready to have an incredible time exploring one of the most musical cities in the world.
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Salzburg
1. Uncover a macabre resting place at St. Sebastian’s Cemetery
Graveyards are rarely cheerful places, but St. Sebastian’s Cemetery is darker than most. This place of rest is decorated in countless memento mori symbols (reminders that death is imminent). They’re designed to encourage you to live in the present but come across more like signs warning of danger or threats of evil.
At first glance, the cemetery looks just like any other. But take a closer look, and you’ll discover many pieces of art which portray the darker side of death. Here you’ll find metal engravings of snakes wriggling through skulls, stone carvings of skulls and crossbones, and surreal depictions of skulls with bat-like wings.
As well as being home to macabre artwork, St. Sebastian’s Cemetery is also the final resting place of some of the most famous people in Austria. Built in 1502, the graveyard guards the bodies of Mozart’s father and wife.
It’s also where Archbishop Wolf Dietrich is buried. Before he was imprisoned over salt-mine rights, he helped Salzburg rise to wealth and fame through its salt mines. Instead of being buried in the crypt at Salzburg Cathedral, his remains were stored in a huge mausoleum, which is the center of St. Sebastian’s Cemetery today.
2. Explore Salzburg Fortress
One of the must-do things in Salzburg is to take a look around the city’s fortress. Also known as Festung Hohensalzburg, Salzburg Fortress rises high on Festungsberg Hill and can be seen from almost every part of the city.
With its multiple levels, curved towers, high turrets, and defensive gateways, the building’s white façade makes it look like something out of a fairytale. But step inside the fortress, and you’ll find it’s even more remarkable on the inside.
Inside the Salzburg Fortress, you’ll discover the grandiose Princes’ Apartments with its late-Gothic decor and the Golden Room with its marble doorways, as well as the Golden Hall where you’ll find dazzling red columns and a blue coffered ceiling.
Home to many weapons and torture devices, the Fortress Museum is also worth seeing, as are the charming courtyards spread throughout the fortress’ grounds.
You can take a leisurely 20-minute stroll up to the top of the hill to reach the fortress. If you’re short on time, you can even ride the funicular to the top in a couple of minutes.
3. Celebrate a musical genius’ birthday at Mozart Week
Mozart Week is one of the best Salzburg attractions in the city’s events calendar. Around the time of Mozart’s birthday (January 27), the city comes to life to celebrate the famous composer and all his incredible work.
During this special week, the city’s concert halls host spectacular music shows, including chamber concerts, orchestra concerts, soloist concerts, staged operas, and recitals with world-class artists from around the globe performing.
New artists and groups appear each year, but you can expect the Vienna Philharmonic, Cappella Andrea Barca, Sir András Schiff, and Maestro Daniel Barenboim to feature on most lineups. A small number of extra-special performances use Mozart’s original instruments. This gives you a unique opportunity to hear his work exactly as he intended it to sound.
The Mozarteum Foundation Salzburg has hosted the festival almost every year since 1956. Most days are packed with up to five performances being held at important locations, such as the Mozarteum Foundation, Mozart Residence, and House for Mozart.
4. Be left speechless by St. Peter’s Abbey
For one of the best Salzburg sightseeing opportunities, spend a few hours at St. Peter’s Abbey. The original building was constructed by Saint Rupert in 696 BCE and was used as a residence for the archbishops until 1110.
Over the centuries, the abbey has gone through intense reconstruction and restoration, resulting in the combination of Renaissance and Romanesque styles you can see today. The modern buildings are mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Although St. Peter’s Abbey might not look like much on the outside, the interior is astounding. The walls are covered in decorative arches, marble columns, golden sculptures, and dramatic frescoes. Raise your eyes to the ceiling, and you’ll discover even more skilled artwork painted onto the delicately curving coved structure.
As well as the abbey, this part of the city is also home to the oldest library in Austria, catacombs, a cemetery, and an art gallery where you’ll find a huge collection of giant paintings that date back hundreds of years.
5. Dig into traditional bosna sausage
Austria is known for its incredible sausages, and there’s no better place to try a bosna sausage than in Salzburg. Bosna is a spicy type of sausage similar to bratwurst. It’s served like a hot dog – inside a long white bread roll that’s briefly grilled before being topped with onions, mustard, ketchup, and curry powder.
One of the best things to do in Salzburg when you’re hungry but haven’t got time to stop for a proper meal is to grab a bosna sausage from Balkan Grill Walter. One of the oldest sausage stands in the city, this place is hugely popular among locals as well as visitors.
It’s a bit off-the-beaten-track from Salzburg’s main street, and there’s usually a pretty long line outside the window, but it’s always worth the wait! The service is super-fast, and the line gives you time to decide exactly which type of sausage you want and pick your toppings.
For less than the change you’ve got in your pocket you’ll get a hot, hearty snack to enjoy while you wander the streets of Old Town.
6. Be wowed by Hangar 7
For one of the coolest things to do in Salzburg, visit Hangar 7. A one-of-a-kind attraction that combines aviation, art, and cuisine, Hangar 7 is an amazing place to spend a couple of hours as a family.
It’s really close to the main Salzburg Airport, making it a handy place to stop off at, so you’ve got something to look forward to on your trip back home, too.
Definitely not your typical aircraft hangar, Hangar 7 boasts a huge display of impressive planes, ranging from an Alpha Jet aircraft to a Cobra Helicopter. The historic section is remarkable, especially when you find out that all the ancient aircraft can still fly safely today.
All the displays have been beautifully curated and planned. The design makes it look more like a type of modern, high-tech art gallery than an aircraft hangar.
As well as the aviation displays, Hangar 7 features motorbike displays and Formula 1 exhibits. There’s also a sophisticated outdoor lounge, cafe, multiple bars, and an amazing Michelin-star restaurant that gives you a much better option than grabbing food at the airport for your flight home.
7. Stroll through Salzburg’s Old Town
A casual walk through the city’s Old Town is something you’ve absolutely got to do during your visit. Also known as Altstadt, Salzburg Old Town is one of the largest and most monumental UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet.
This part of the city boasts many of the best sights in Salzburg, including the fortress, cathedral, DomQuartier, Haus der Natur, Mozart’s birthplace, and Panorama Museum. There’s also a never-ending choice of cafes, bars, restaurants, and boutiques that you can pop into when you need a break from all the sightseeing.
If you prefer to take things at a more leisurely place, Old Town is ideal for just wandering and seeing where you end up. Here you can stroll between Medieval and Baroque architecture, following winding side streets and discovering beautifully designed courtyards.
The narrow passages, known as Durchhäuser, provide an excellent place for a wonderful walk. Located between Universitätsplatz and Getreidegasse, these paths will take you past ancient merchant houses, some of which date back to the 15th century!
8. Listen to the musical Glockenspiel at Residenz Neugebäude
You’ll find one of the most unique things to do in Salzburg at Residenz Neugebäude. Also known as New Residence, this graceful building is noted for its stunning halls decorated with intricate stuccos that date back to the 1600s and the Salzburg Museum, where you’ll find all kinds of artifacts that tell the history of the city.
But our favorite part of Residenz Neugebäude is outside at the top of the tower. If you look hard, you can see 35 small bells inside that play music at set intervals throughout the day. This is known as the Glockenspiel.
If you plan your visit for the right time, you’ll have the chance to hear all kinds of classical masterpieces, including “Tochter Zion, freue dich” by Handel and the “Minuet” by Mozart. The Glockenspiel plays daily at 7 am, 11 am, and 6 pm.
The musical device was originally built in the 18th century in Antwerp, Belgium. It was then shipped over to Salzburg, where it took experts years to properly step up and tune the bells so they played correctly.
9. See where Mozart was born
Even if you’re not particularly into classical music, seeing where Mozart was born is still one of the top things to do in Salzburg. With 400,000 visitors each year, this museum is one of the most popular in the city and covers almost all periods of his life.
The displays feature stories and details from his childhood all the way up to genuine musical instruments he used to practice and compose his world-famous symphonies. You’ll also have the chance to explore rooms originally occupied by the Mozart family and admire one of the composer’s first violins and original scores of his compositions.
Through portraits, costumes, models, set designs, and excerpts from operas, you’ll be able to learn all about his life, operatic works, and the lives of his family. There’s even a room that has been decorated and furnished to look exactly as it was when Mozart lived there.
10. Treat your sweet tooth to Salzburger Nockerl
When you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, one of the most fun things to do in Salzburg is to indulge in a Salzburger Nockerl. A light and delicate dessert made of vanilla-flavored dumplings, a Salzburger Nockerl is similar to a soufflé – but even better!
The decadent dish was created in 17th-century Salzburg. The three airy peaks which define its shape represent the three hills that surround the city.
Salzburger Nockerl is always served warm and is one of the best ways to end a meal on a chilly winter evening. It’s usually topped with a light dusting of powdered sugar and sometimes served alongside a selection of rich fruit sauces.
We had one of the most incredible Salzburger Nockerl at St. Peter Stiftskulinarium. This gourmet restaurant is tucked inside St. Peter’s Abbey and dishes up a decadent Salzburger Nockerl with lingonberry cream. All portions of this iconic dessert are made to order, so expect to wait around 25 minutes if you choose it.
11. Have your breath taken away by the Mirabell Palace
You’ll find some of the most beautiful things to see in Salzburg inside the Mirabell Palace and its gardens. A listed cultural heritage monument, this dazzling palace was built in 1606 and was the backdrop for some scenes in the Sound of Music.
Some of the palace’s many highlights include the 18th-century Grand Staircase decorated with various statues, the Marble Hall that is still used for concerts today, and the Schloss Mirabell Baroque Museum, which is full of European art from the 17th and 18th centuries.
While the inside of the palace is fascinating, our favorite part is the gardens. They feature a gorgeous Baroque landscape design that was put together in 1690. Take the time to look around, and you’ll discover staggered terraces, marble statues, and beautiful fountains. The Pegasus fountain is particularly stunning!
The exhibition center, which was originally an 18th-century aviary, is worth seeking out, as is the small open-air theater that’s tucked away in the southwestern section of the gardens.
12. Let your inner kid run free at the Toy Museum
If you’re looking for a fun place to spend a few hours that your kids will love, check out the Toy Museum. More of a playground than a real museum, Salzburg’s Spielzeugmuseum will wear your little ones out and guarantee you a peaceful evening!
Located just a short walk from the Mirabell Palace, the city’s Toy Museum is divided into two sections. The first part is full of historical displays of old toys and games, some of which are hundreds of years old. There are small cards telling you what each toy is, when it was most popular, and how much it used to cost.
For the most fun, head to the second floor and let your kids get hands-on with the interactive games. Here they’ll discover dolls houses, marble tracks, mini racing circuits, and tons more toys and games to entertain themselves. There’s even a replica of a 100-year-old toy store where they can play pretend.
13. Be amazed by the talent on display at Winterfest
If you’re planning your trip for December or January, don’t miss out on the chance to watch all the phenomenal performances put on for Winterfest. One of the best things to do in Salzburg in winter, this huge cultural event is one of the biggest and most important circus festivals of the year, with only the very best performers invited to appear.
Approximately 30,000 people huddle up under the big tops in the Volksgarten to watch the incredible performances each year. Join them, and you’ll be blown away by dramatic acrobatics, magical storytelling, unforgettable pictures, and family-friendly humor.
Although the circus shows are the highlight of the festival, there’s a lot more going on during Winterfest. From music concerts and dance recitals to performing arts shows and marionette theaters, the program is absolutely jam-packed.
The dates and locations of performances change regularly. So check the website first to see what’s happening during your visit.
14. Go window-shopping along Getreidegasse
Whether you’re on a budget and limited to window-shopping or you’ve got some spare cash and you want to spoil your friends and family back home, a walk along Getreidegasse is a must during your trip to Salzburg.
This consistently bustling street runs through Old Town and is one of the top places in the city to go shopping. It’s lined by buildings that are tightly packed in together and feature classic, timeless designs, giving the impression that they’re centuries old.
Here you’ll find a fantastic collection of high-end fashion, fine jewelry, traditional costumes, souvenirs, antiquities, stationery, leather goods, and perfume boutiques. You can even pick up gourmet deli products and groceries.
Even if you’re not actually looking for anything, taking a stroll along Getreidegasse is a great way to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the city. The stunning doorways, charming window displays, intriguing through-houses, and open-air art galleries will keep you entertained for hours.
15. Say “Cheers!” with Monk Beer
For an authentic place to sip some local beer, you can’t beat Augustiner Bräustübl. Keeping Austria’s beer tradition alive for over 400 years, Augustiner Bräustübl is an ancient monk brewery in the city that boasts five classic beer halls where you can choose from a huge selection of local and international brews.
Sit in any of the beer halls if you’re searching for a real Austrian beer experience. With dark wooden seating, giant beer barrels, and a lively atmosphere, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time. If you’d prefer something a little more laid-back, enjoy your drink in the beer garden, where you can sip in the sunshine and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Augustiner Bräustübl dishes up a fantastic range of local dishes to help soak up the suds. Expect to find the likes of fried chicken, pork roasts, sausages, pork knuckle, and roasted potatoes available. All food can be ordered from the deli food windows, which have been set up to look like an old marketplace.
Don’t miss out on the chance to try a freshly-baked pretzel with sweet and spicy mustard dipping sauces!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Salzburg. What’s your favorite thing to do in Salzburg?
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