Top Attractions in Salzburg
With its incredibly well-preserved old town, Salzburg can transport travelers back to the time of Mozart and the prince-archbishops. We’ve compiled our suggestions for the best ways to get to know the city and its elegant and relaxed atmosphere.
As the largest fully preserved fortress in central Europe, the more-than-900-year-old Hohensalzburg has long been the medieval crown above an elegantly baroque city. Its current appearance dates back to the 1495–1519 reign of Prince-Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach, during which the fortress was expanded using funds generated from the nearby salt and silver mines. Inner courtyards lead to an extensive, but not exhausting, collection of medieval curiosities and other artifacts from the political elites of the Holy Roman Empire. The apartments of the prince-archbishops—including the ornately decorated Golden Chamber and Bed Chamber—are highlights of a wonderfully maintained interior, while the views over the city are simply stunning. Access to the fortress is by foot or a short funicular ride.
Since the 12th century, Getreidegasse has been Salzburg’s best-known shopping street, with high-end establishments jostling with souvenir shops and restaurants in tall, narrow buildings with ornately designed wrought-iron guild signs. Alleyways lead to tranquil courtyards with vaulted passageways and molded cornices. Stores here offer a wide selection of fashions, leather goods, and perfumes, as well as handmade Trachten (traditional garments) from shops like Wenger Trachtenmode and Trachten Stassny. Whether people-watching, window-shopping, seriously spending (shops here are rather pricey), or simply enjoying the Old World splendor, a stroll down Getreidegasse is indeed a feast for the eyes.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in a burgher’s house at Getreidegasse 9 on January 27, 1756. He lived here in the heart of the city for several years before his family moved into a more spacious residence, now called the Mozart-Wohnhaus, across the river. Mozart’s birthplace (or Geburtshaus) features several floors showcasing historic furniture, letters, memorabilia, and many of the family portraits painted during his lifetime (although Mozart’s musical genius was not appreciated in the city during his life). It also displays his early instruments, including violins, his clavichord, and a harpsichord, as well as locks of the composer’s hair.
Follow the sound of music to the iconic Mirabell Palace and Gardens, where Fräulein Maria and the von Trapp children delightfully sang “Do-Re-Mi.” Mirabell has become a dream destination for marriage ceremonies, boasting what some call the most beautiful wedding hall in the world. Of course, you don’t have to tie the knot to enjoy this elegant slice of Salzburg: Stroll through the gardens and admire the charming flower beds, statues of Roman gods, hedge theater, Pegasus fountain, and garden of baroque marble dwarfs.
Residenzpl. 1, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg’s splendor took shape under the prince-archbishops who ruled here during the Holy Roman Empire. Their former center of power is now a collection of the city’s most important structures called the DomQuartier, with museums and galleries documenting Salzburg’s golden age. Here among the lively squares are highlights like the baroque 17th-century Salzburg Cathedral and the 7th-century St. Peter’s Abbey—said to be the oldest in the German-speaking world. Browse the art collections of the archbishops in the Residenzgalerie and further explore their history in the state rooms of the Alte Residenz (Old Palace) and in the Salzburg Museum in the Neue Residenz (New Palace).
Makartplatz 8, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
By 1773 the Mozart family had outgrown their residence on bustling Getreidegasse and moved across the river to the more spacious Tanzmeisterhaus, the former home of the court dancing instructor. Mozart lived here until 1781, when he moved to Vienna. His father Leopold remained until his death in 1787. More than half the building was bombed during World War II, but it was restored and opened as a museum in 1996. Inside the house are documents, portraits, and instruments that detail what life was like for the Mozart family during their time here. The Wohnhaus and Mozart’s Birthplace are both worth checking out, particularly if you’ve purchased a Salzburg Card that provides entrance to both; this one, however, is usually less crowded.
Mönchsberg 32, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
While the main attractions of Salzburg are undeniably linked to its baroque and medieval charms, the city is also home to 20th- and 21st-century art. Located atop the Mönchsberg—or Monk’s Mountain—and accessed via an elevator at Gstättengasse in the old town, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg showcases an eclectic mix of visual arts housed in a modern glass-and-marble structure with incredible views of the historic quarter and fortress. Though works by more-recognizable names like Emil Nolde and John Cage have been exhibited here, equally fascinating are the creations by lesser-known artists. A separate Museum der Moderne is located in the old town’s Rupertinum building, with a collection focusing on graphic arts and photography.
Fürstenweg 37, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
While the 17th-century Italian-style Renaissance palace at Hellbrunn is splendid, and its spacious park is filled with grottoes, sculptures, and fountains, the real draw is the unique Wasserspiele, or “trick fountains,” which feature water shooting from various sources. (A highlight is the mechanical theater among the fountains with around 200 water-driven figures.) Commissioned by Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus in 1613, the palace and grounds were designed as the ultimate Lustschloß, or “pleasure palace,” worthy of entertaining a who’s who of nobility—at least those who would tolerate his shenanigans. It still makes a fun getaway on a hot summer day in the Alps. The palace can be visited independently (an audio tour is available), but the trick fountains are fenced off and require a guided tour.
Dr. Ödlweg 2, 5083 Gartenau, Austria
Salzburg’s nearest mountain rises up behind the landmark Hohensalzburg fortress and rewards those who make the short trek out of the city with some incredible views. Accessible via a brief cable-car ride on the Untersbergsbahn, Untersberg provides not only a bird’s-eye perspective on Salzburg itself, but also dramatic panoramas across the Alpine landscape, including vistas of the Berchtesgadener Land district just over the border in Germany and, on clear days, the lakes of the Salzkammergut resort area to the east. Untersberg is a popular destination for those interested in hiking and paragliding, as well as for ski enthusiasts in winter. Lodges are available for those who wish to make it an extended Alpine adventure.
Eishohlenstrasse 30, 5450 Werfen, Austria
The largest ice caves in the world lie just 30 miles south of Salzburg in the Eisriesenwelt at Werfen. Only a portion of the more than 20 miles of caves are open to the public on a 75-minute guided tour, but what’s available to visit is impressive. Magnificent ice formations, frozen waterfalls, and a smooth, rinklike ice palace can be found in this underground world. Visitors will also see Hymir’s Castle, an enormous ice sculpture named for the ice giant of the Edda (the oldest Germanic-mythology saga), and witness layers of time, much like rings on a tree, encased in the glacier (which is actually not a glacier but a massive chunk of accumulated ice).