Salzburg is a beautiful city to visit any time of the year. Spend at least 3-4 days here in order to discover Salzburg’s treasures, or even more if you want to get a better feel of the whole area. Definitely, you will find things to do! Here you have a list you could start with – Ten things to do in Salzburg:
1. Visit Festung Hochensalzburg
The most iconic image of Salzburg is Festung Hochensalzburg, the 900-year-old fortress watching over the whole city. It can be reached by foot (a 15-minute walk) or by the Festungsbahn funicular. We took the funicular, which reminded me of the one we took a few years ago in Porto (Funicular dos Guindais). Also, the fortress is the largest intact fully-preserved fortress in Central Europe and has never been conquered.
Once at the top, you can enjoy amazing views over the city and the surrounding area (for photography lovers, it’s a feast) and also the museums inside the fortress (access is included in the city pass, which I strongly recommend buying, you will save a lot of money).
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2. Discover Mozart Gebursthaus and Wohnhaus
You’re in his city, the great composer’s place, so you should pay a visit to one of the two houses (or both!) located in Salzburg: the place where Mozart was born (Mozart Gebursthaus) and the other house where he moved later on (Mozart Wohnhaus). And if you are a Mozart fan like I am (being in grade school, I used to read all the Mozart biographies I could find in the library next to my home), you will definitely be thrilled by this experience.
Again, the access is free with a Salzburg pass.
In the Mozart Gebursthaus, the yellow house on Getreidegasse street, you can find well-documented objects, such as the violin he played as a little boy, a lock of his hair, and buttons of his jacket. Walking through the rooms, it’s like you step back in time and follow his steps through the narrow halls. But, sad to say, the house was not entirely as I expected: it didn’t have the feeling of a home, with the furniture and all the stuff arranged in the rooms, but more of a museum with very well-documented materials.
Mozart Wohnhaus it’s overwhelming with information and, unlike the house where Mozart was born, here you can have also a free audio guide. But again, don’t expect to find a house, but more a museum / a collection of objects with a lot of interesting stuff to find out about the composer and his family (here I discovered how Constanze, his wife, was involved after the Mozart’s death in promoting and advertising his work).
Don’t miss the original Mozart’s fortepiano in one of the rooms!
3. Walk around Schloss Mirabell
A great time to visit the Mirabell Palace is during the warmer months when you can deeply enjoy the marvelous blooming gardens. You can find here the Pegasus statue, the Dwarf Garden, and also the stairs where Julie Andrews sang in the famous movie “The Sound of Music”.
As we visited the palace on a cold winter evening, the gardens weren’t as stunning as in the spring, but it was still nice to see them.
4. Visit Hellbrun Palace
The hotel where we stayed was pretty close to the Hellbrun Palace, so, one of the mornings, we took our dog and went to see the other great Salzburger palace, Hellbrun. Over the winter, the castle is closed, but we just wanted to walk around the beautiful castle grounds.
The park around the castle is huge (about 60 ha) and full of gardens, statues, lakes, and alleys. I can imagine how this place looks in the spring. And, for a good reason, the name “Hellbrun” means “healing spring”.
5. Visit St Peter Cemetery / Petersfriedhof
It might sound strange, but I always like having a stroll along the narrow alleys of a cemetery. I think it’s a place where you can discover a lot about the people who used to live in the area, you get a new perspective on that place, and, besides that, it always has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. So, on our first day in Salzburg, before climbing to the Festung Hochensalzburg fortress, we stopped for a moment in the St. Peter Cemetery.
That place is all about history and serenity, with well-kept graves, crypts, statues, and marks, each of them telling a short story about the people buried there.
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6. Go to Salzburger Dom
Salzburger Dom is a masterpiece of baroque art whose origins date back to 767! That is the place where Mozart was baptized and where, later on, he worked as an organist and composed some of his works.
Take your time to admire the beautiful details inside and let your mind have a couple of moments of serenity. The entrance is free, and free guided tours are offered during the summer.
7. Walk along the Salzach River
The promenade along the Salzach River was where we inevitably ended up going from the new part of the city to the old center. It’s a nice place for a stroll, I like it most in the warm light before the sun goes down or late in the dark, when you can see the entire old city and the fortress alight.
8. Go up in the ski at Untersberg
Untersberg is Salzburg’s tallest mountain; you can take the cable car to reach its peak. But, if you don’t have a head for heights, bring some extra courage with you. We did the ascending on the first day of the year (once again, I decided to start my year by doing something that I usually I’m afraid of doing) when the weather was amazing and the skies purely blue.
The trip takes about 10 minutes one way, and it’s included in the Salzburg card; otherwise, it costs about 23 euros.
Once we arrived at the peak, we stopped for a hot chocolate at the restaurant near the cable car station. It was picture-perfect scenery! Far away, you could see the snowy peaks of the mountains, the city of Salzburg, the fortress, and even the airport. The air was crisp and clean, and we could stay in that magical Alpine world for hours, just walking around and being continually amazed by the panoramic views.
There are also some hiking trails you can take, but keep in mind, especially in the winter, you need to have appropriate clothing and footwear because it can get very slippery, and there’s a lot of snow and ice.
9. Discover the old Cafes
Every time we travel, we love to discover also the “cafe culture” of the place we’re in. It’s not just about resting and enjoying coffee but more about looking at the people passing by, discovering the movement of the city, and being part of its life. We definitely wanted to try two coffee houses – Cafe Tomaselli and Cafe Frust (where we tried the original Mozart Kugeln).
It is said that Cafe Tomaselli is the oldest coffee house in Austria; its origins can be traced back to 1700. Here, the coffee is served in an old fashion way: on a small silver tray and with a glass of water. They also have a large hand-crafted cake selection: strudels, Linzer Torte, Esterhazy Torte, Black Forest, and Kardinalschnitte.
We stopped here after a full day, and a strong coffee with a delicious cake was everything we needed. As they didn’t have Maria Theresia Cafe, my favorite, I took a Mozart Caffe (which is served with a little glass of Mozart liqueur) and a chocolate cake. At Cafe Tomaselli, you don’t just order your dessert, you are waiting for a lady with a tray full of cakes to come, and you pick yourself your favorite!
If I’m to be completely honest, this is not a place with fantastic coffee or sweets (don’t get me wrong, they are good enough, but not as I expected); it’s more of a place you can visit for the atmosphere. The interior is cozy, and you can read the local newspaper (they have an old-school newspaper stand) and watch the people going by. It can be very crowded sometimes, especially in high season, but if you have the time to go there in the morning when the hoards of tourists are still sleeping, you can enjoy a much more pleasant experience.
10. Wander around the streets of the old city
No matter what time of the year you find yourself in Salzburg, go and discover the old city and its squares. Forget Google Maps and have the courage to take the not-so-well-known streets and just let yourself immersed in the unknown – will give you amazing insights into the local way of life. Enjoy the bridges, the squares, and the old buildings that seem to be there for an eternity (some of them were constructed during the Middle Ages).
Take a pause and listen to the Glockenspiel in Rezidenzplatz – there are 35 bells playing daily between 11 am and 6 pm.
After all, there’s no point rushing from site to site trying to see it all, you can travel slowly and enjoy the experience. Just let yourself be wondered by the unknown!