Bubbly Tourist has been to Salzburg twice now this past year and we just absolutely love it! With its baroque era architecture and cobblestone streets, this small city is perfectly romantic. Salzburg, where water, salt, and the Alps meet, became rich on salt and trade and created its place in history along the way. And as the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for the Sound of Music, well, fans couldn't ask for a more beautiful location to celebrate the origins of such everlasting masterpieces. Find out the Top 11 Places to see and things to do in beautiful Salzburg.
The Top Places to See and Things to Do in Salzburg
1. Visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Hohensalzburg fortress that sits above Salzburg is one of the first things you'll see in Salzburg. It provided both protection of the citizens of Salzburg as well as residence for some of the arch-bishops. Try to make this your first stop as it not only provides a history of the area but also gives you a birds-eye view of Salzburg and the surrounding countryside. The museums inside the fortress are really good and informative. There is plenty of information to be learned including the "white gold" known as salt, the arch-bishops who made this area prosperous and built the castle into an impregnable fortress, the fortress itself (how it looked and evolved), and the rooms inside the castle of the time. If you're into war museums, the fortress also contains several rooms of the chronological history of war leading up to and through WWII.
Definitely make your way to the rooftop of the Hohensalzburg Fortress as the views are the best in the city ,not only of Salzburg, but of the the surrounding countryside. After your visit of the fortress itself, be sure to stop off at the onsite cafe for a refreshment and view. There are two eating establishments on the grounds. Access to the fortress is via funicular which is included with the Salzburg card. Bubbly Tip: Get there early when it opens to avoid the crowds. Also, the fortress and the funicular are one of the "free" admissions you'll get when you purchase a Salzburg Card (more later).
2. Take in a Sound of Music Tour
It may sound a little hokey, but it's actually a lot of fun! Bubbly Tourist has done two Sound of Music tours in Salzburg: one by bus and one by bike. We loved them both but can't recommend one over the other as they are both equally as fun. They both will take you to the Mirabell Gardens ("Do Re Mi"), the Sound of Music Pavillion (Liesl's first kiss) at the Hellbrunn Palace, and the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron (Hollywood's Von Trapp home for the fall in the lake scene). The bus tour will take you a little further out to Basilika St. Michael in Mondsee (Hollywood's wedding scene) and on the way you'll pass by Red Bull's Headquarters for you F1 fans. The bike tour will keep you closer to Salzburg, so you'll see the Nonnberg Abbey where Maria came from and where the Captain and Maria got married in real life, the felsenreitschule / festival hall where "Edelweiss" was performed and St. Peters Monastery, Cemetery and Catacombs where they hide from the Nazis in the movie. If the thought of these tours absolutely delight or intrigue you (as they should), read more from Bubbly Tourist to get further details about these Sound of Music locations.
3. Do a Mozart Dinner
So, this is an absolute fun thing to do! There are several options around Salzburg where you can listen to Mozart, and we absolutely took advantage of one of the Mozart dinners. Where else can you be drinking bubbly while watching a quintet of strings playing Mozart with two opera singers well, singing? The food was good, the music and singers and environment was excellent.
4. Walk through the Old Town (Altstadt)
The Old Town (Altstadt) of Salzburg, starting at Makartplatz, is truly beautiful. It's not very large, so we'll call it quaint. The narrow cobblestone streets that are impeccably clean, yet maintain an ambiance of yesteryear, are in and of themselves charming. Be sure to walk down the pedestrial shopping street Getreidegasse (Grain Lane). Whether it's just a stroll, some shopping, or looking for a bite to eat or something to drink, there's plenty to see and do. There are Christmas shops (including a Christmas museum), authentic bavarian clothing shops, high end shops, and just your everyday local shops. There are plenty of squares (like Mozartplatz), churches (see photo of Salzburg Cathedral below) and monasteries too including St Peters with its beautiful cemetery (mentioned further below).
5. Take your photo in the beautiful Mirabell Palace Gardens
These beautiful garden are part of the Mirabell Palace that was built way back in 1606. It is said that it serves as the backdrop for the most romantic weddings possible. Indeed, Bubbly Tourist saw a wedding party taking pictures in these gardens and can understand why given the mix of all that color and its perfect views of the Salzburg Cathedral and Hohensalzburg Fortress. One of the other noticeable features of the gardens are its geometrical form that is typical of the Baroque period. Throw in a scene from the Sound of Music and you'll absolutely want to come visit so you too can sing Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do.
6. See St. Peters Church, Cemetery and Catacombs
The cemetery at St. Peters is one of those nicely manicured, conveniently located cemeteries worth a visit. This beautiful but small cemetery (Petersfriedhof) has baroque tombs of nobility as well as 12th-century catacombs & chapels. There are no famous gravesites here, not even Mozart as he didn't have enough money upon his death to afford this burial ground. It is tucked away in the back corner of Old Town behind St. Peters Church (Stiftskirche St. Peters) which is the oldest existing monastery in the German speaking area founded by St. Rupert towards the end of the 7th century. Don't miss the catacomb (Katakomben Petersfriedhof) which is built into the side of the mountain with ancient stairs that will give you another view from up above. For Sound of Music fans, the cemetery is where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazi's towards the end of the movie.
7. Go inside the Salzburg Cathedral
Look for the massive dome with its two towered facade in the Old Town and you'll find the Salzburg Cathedral. It was built between 1614 and 1628 in baroque style and the interior is just stunning. In his younger years, Mozart was the organist here on Sundays. You can arrange a guided tour or download a free app for your smartphone which gives you options for the "complete", "short", or "children's" tour. There is a small cost to visit the church and slightly more to take in the daily (except Sunday) noon music performance. Additionally, you can see concerts within the cathedral which can be also be purchased online or in person.
8. Celebrate St. Rupert's Festival (Rupertikirtag)
If you happen to be in Salzburg at the end of September, you may be lucky enough to experience Salzburg's Oktoberfest equivalent to Munich's. A sort of mini-Oktoberfest of quite different origins. Held in honor of St. Rupert around St. Rupert's Day on September 24, St. Ruperts festival runs from Wednesday to Sunday. It takes place in the squares around Salzburg Cathedral and you can't miss the festival activities like carnival rides, a parade and the traditional beer tents with live bands. Given the same time of year as Munich's Oktoberfest and only 1.5 hours separating the two cities by train or by car, you may wish to consider a twofer of Oktoberfest celebration. Bubbly Tourist did! Read about Oktoberfest in Munich and all you need to know to make it happen.
9. Enjoy the Salzach River by foot, by bicycle or by boat
There are some really nice pedestrian and bike paths that run along the Salzbach river on both sides and free from cars. There are also several bridges right in the center of town that allow you to cross on foot or by bicycle. Salzburg has really designed it well to take advantage of the river's beauty and safe from cars. So, whether it's a stroll or a bike ride, you can go down one side of the river along the beautiful tree-lined paths and come back on the other or head out into the country to see other sights. If you want to also take in a boat ride, use your Salzburg card for a free trip down the river and for some additional thrills at the end of your ride, the captain will take you on some 360º spins. The boat ride doesn't allow for reservations so be prepared to wait a bit in line as you sign up in person. Find out more boat ride information here. Bubbly Tip: Go early in the day to get your tickets (using your Salzburg card) so you can have your choice on which timeslot you'd prefer and then head down the riverwalk until your scheduled time. FYI, the boat will take you up the river (against the current) and back.
10. Visit the Mozart Residence
To learn more about one of the greatest composers of all time, visit the Mozart Residence. Conveniently located right in the center of Old Town Salzburg in the area known as Markatplatz, you'll find Mozart's Residence, now a museum. This spacious 8 room apartment is where Mozart lived from 1773 to 1787, the year he moved to Vienna. Caution: this is NOT his birth home. Mozart's birth home is a separate location on the other side of the river and in our opinion, not worth the time to visit. In Mozart's Residence you'll find several of Mozart's instruments including his piano and viola and many original documents and portraits. The museum also provides a history of the house including its time as the "Dance Master's House", Mozart's Salzburg years, and the life of the Mozart family. Bubbly Tip: This is one of the "free" admissions you'll get when you purchase a Salzburg Card (more later).
11. Head to a Biergarten
Looking for a break or just wanting to experience an authentic biergarten? There's nothing like seeing a barmaid trek eight 1 liter steins out to thirsty patrons. Some of the walks are a good distance too, so you know they are getting a decent workout. With an indoor seating area of 54,000 square feet across 5 beer halls, the Bräustübl Tavern and Brewery is Austria’s largest and boasts a further 1,400 seats in the outdoor beer garden. The beer is drawn from wooden barrels and served in stone jugs, or steins. Regional and traditional dishes can be bought directly from various food stands in the delicatessen arcade which is set up to resemble a traditional marketplace. Recommended!
Bubbly Tourist Bon Voyage!