Whether you know Salzburg as Mozart’s birthplace, as the setting for The Sound of Music, or you don’t know it at all yet, Salzburg absolutely deserves a stop on your Austria itinerary. This charming city along the river, with its pastel-teal rooftops and Baroque towers, will absolutely steal your heart. Many visit Salzburg as a day trip from Vienna (or from Munich), but I recommend staying a night or two. There are so many things to do in Salzburg, so let’s get right to them.
Salzburg’s Aldstadt, or Old Town, is the center of the action. Here, you’ll find the bulk of the things to do in Salzburg. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time while exploring Salzburg.
It’s pretty difficult to miss this fortress on a hill overlooking Salzburg below. Definitely walk up to the castle for lovely views over the Old Town on both sides of the Salzach River. Tickets to enter will set you back €15.70, and you can purchase in advance online from the official site. For any of you The Sound of Music fans, the gates to the castle are actually where Maria says goodbye to Mother Abbess as she leaves the abbey.
Mirabell Palace & Gardens
Mirabell is a blend of the Italian words for “admirable” and “beautiful,” which are the exact two words to describe this lovely place! This palace was once the rulers’ banquet hall, but today, it’s home to city and mayoral offices. Definitely take some time exploring the colorful gardens here. The Sound of Music fans will absolutely recognize this entire area, but especially Pegasus Fountain, where Maria and the children dance as they sing “Do Re Mi.” Entry to the gardens and palace are free.
Related reading: Best Things to Do and See in Vienna, Austria
St. Peter’s Abbey & Cemetery
St. Peter’s is the oldest monastery in the German-speaking world. It also has a very beautiful cemetery worth (respectfully) exploring. For The Sound of Music fans, the Trapp family hides in this cemetery when fleeing. Entry into the catacombs is €2, while viewing the cemetery and church interior is free.
Salzburg Cathedral, with its marble facade, is a key part of the historic Old Town. Entrance to the cathedral is free.
This bustling area is Salzburg’s main shopping street. Its blend of traditional buildings with international brands offers a unique and charming atmosphere.
This bright, yellow building on Getreidegasse street is where a baby Wolfgang Amadeus Mortars was born. Today, the building is a museum, where visitors can take an hour-long tour through his family’s apartment. Entry to Mozart’s birthplace alone is €12, or €18.50 for the birthplace plus the residence.
This light pink building is where the legendary composer lived before moving to Vienna, the city where he achieved his fame. Like his birthplace, today, this apartment is a museum. Entry to Mozart’s residence alone is €12, or €18.50 for the residence plus the birthplace.
Residenzplatz & Residence Fountain
This is a large public square in Salzburg’s historic center. In the center is Residence Fountain, which The Sound of Music fans will recognize as the fountain Maria reaches into and splashes water out of.
This is Salzburg’s former palace and residence of its prince-archbishops. Tickets to enter and tour the Residenz are €13.
Salzburg’s Old Town Hall building is in the middle of the Old Town, in Rathausplatz. You can see its clocktower peering out above the surrounding buildings.
St. Sebastian’s Church & Cemetery
This is another beautiful church in Salzburg’s historic Old Town. It’s unique, onion-shaped dome tower stands out in the city’s skyline. Entry is free.
This is another church whose tower stands out in Salzburg’s skyline. Entry is free.
Karajan Square & Horse Pond
This square and its beautiful pond with a horse statue in the middle lie at the edge of the historic Old Town. The pond used to be for washing the prince-archbishops’ parade horses. Today, it’s just a pretty pond, and one that The Sound of Music fans will recognize from the movie.
Hellbrunn Palace & Park
Hellbrunn Palace and it’s Trick Fountains are located outside central Salzburg, You can get there by car and pay for parking, take a 25 minute bike ride, or take bus 25 from the city center. Once at Hellbrunn, you can enter the beautiful palace and enjoy the fountains for €13.50, or just enjoy the park and orangery for free. The Sound of Music fans will want to stop by the iconic pavilion (pictured below) where Liesel and Rolf sing “Sixteen going on Seventeen.”
This weekly market takes place every Thursday from morning until 1pm, right in front of St. Andrew’s Church. It’s one of the biggest and most famous in all of Austria. At the market, you’ll find rural products, like specialty foods and plants.
The Sound of Music Bike Tour
If it isn’t obvious already, exploring Salzburg is like exploring a living, breathing The Sound of Music film set. Sure, you could look up every film site beforehand, save it on a map, and stop by each place one by one. But why do that, when you can just sign up for a group bike tour to take you to each spot instead? This is the exact tour I booked for my last morning in Salzburg, and I loved it. It was perfect to have a guide with the images from the movie all printed out to compare to the real life spots. Plus, biking was a great way to get around to film spots that aren’t in the compact Old Town. The tour costs €35 and is about 3.5 hours. I highly recommend watching the film the night before to refresh your memory. I was able to do that at this hostel, which literally plays the movie in its lounge every night.
Hiking in Salzburg
As Salzburg sits at the edge of the Austrian Alps, it’s got some really pretty options for hikes. I did and can highly recommend hiking the Gaisberg. I took bus 151 from the city center and got off when all the other bus riders got off. Then I hiked the rest of the way up to the top for spectacular views of the Alps in the distance and the city down below. Gaisberg has a number of different hike routes and loops, so check them out and choose one that tickles your fancy
Hang Out Along the Salzach
Unwind after a busy day of sightseeing by finding a plush patch of grass along the Salzach River banks. Grab (or find!) some companions, bring some food and drink, and do as the locals do. I recommend choosing the east side of the river, so that you can have a nice view of the castle on the hill.
I honestly loved Salzburg and have been dying to go back ever since my short visit. Let me know what questions about things to do in Salzburg you might have in the comments below. I’d also love any tips on things to do that I’ve missed, so I can hit them up on my next visit!