10 Must-See Places in Salzburg
10 places you must see when you visit Salzburg, Austria.
Salzburg, Austria was the first place in which I truly lived while abroad and where I discovered my love of travel. The city and surroundings were so beautiful and magical that I go back and visit almost every year. Known worldwide as the place where the classic movie The Sound of Music was filmed, as well as the birthplace of famous classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg is filled with picturesque views of towering mountains and lush gardens, breathtaking churches and cathedrals, and historical sites dating back to the year 12 A.D. Though there are so many things to see and do here, below are the top 10 places you should absolutely visit if you go to Salzburg.
1. Schloss Mirabell & Mirabell Gardens
One of the first places I visited in Salzburg and a dream-come-true for any lover of The Sound of Music, Mirabell Garden is a beautiful place to relax in the city center. While beautiful at any time of day, make sure to visit when the sun is low in the sky in the morning or evening – you won’t have to deal with most of the tour groups present at the height of the day, and the angle of the sun casts such beautiful light on the scenery. At night, the large fountain lights up with all sorts of fun colors, too. The grounds, together with the palace, are listed as a cultural heritage monument and part of the Historic Center of the City of Salzburg UNESCO World Heritage Site – make sure to see both, especially the wedding hall on the second floor of the palace. Some call it the most beautiful wedding hall in all of Europe.
2. The Altstadt
The Altstadt, or the “old town,” is the heart of the city. Lined with colorful buildings and unique shops, this part of town is an essential part of any visit to Salzburg. Back when many people were still illiterate, shopkeepers would hang metal pictures and signs above their storefronts to tell passersby what the shop sold, and many of these signs can still be seen today. Don’t forget to stop by a café to eat some world-famous Sacher torte or munch on a cone of eis, a delicious variant of gelato (my friends and I were obsessed with it).
3. The Church District
Though most of the Austrian population doesn’t regularly practice religion, the country’s foundations are based in Christianity, and the church district of Salzburg is evidence of this. This large collection of cathedrals and churches range from gothic to baroque to rococo in style, and whether you’re religious or not, you’ll need to sit in the pews for a moment to regain your breath that’s been taken away by the sight.
Start at Salzburg Cathedral, simply known as “Dom” to locals, located on Domplatz and work your way northwest through the city. Make sure to see Dom, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the Collegiate Church at the very least. Search for Salzburg Cathedral on Google maps to find its precise location, as well as the location of other churches and cathedrals surrounding. At the very least, make sure to see Dom, St. Peter’s Cathedral and surrounding cemetery, and the Collegiate Church (Kollegienkirche).
4. Mönchsberg Hike
This hike along the rim of the Mönchsberg is one of the best ways to see not only the eastern side of the city with the Altstadt along the Salzach river, but also the western side of the city on the other side of the fortress. Be prepared for some tiring climbs, but the view is well worth it.
How to get there: The hike can be accessed via stairs or elevator near the horse arena and right outside of an event center located inside the mountain (Kavernen 1595). Just search for “Mönchsbergaufzug” (“Mönchsberg elevator”) on Google maps to find the precise access point.
5. Augistiner Brewery & Beer Garden
The perfect place to visit after a hike on the Mönchsberg, this old monastery-turned-brewery has been brewing beer since 1621. Known for creatively working around the rules set in place by the Christian Church, its foundations in brewing began when ancient monks were required to fast for various religious reasons – although they couldn’t eat, they could certainly drink! Because of this, Augistiner Bräu beer is rich and full-bodied. Get a stein filled directly from the barrel and some wurst (German sausage) from one of the many food stalls within the old church, and enjoy them out in the charming beer garden overlooking the city.
6. Festung Hohensalzburg (literally, “High Salzburg Fortress”)
The city of Salzburg was never attacked during medieval times thanks to this formidable-looking castle perched atop the Festungsberg, which served as both barracks and a prison while guaranteeing the safety of archbishops. It is currently the largest completely preserved castle in all of central Europe. According to Salzburg’s official travel guide website,
“Of particular interest are the fortress museum and the medieval stately chambers. The interior of the fortress was furnished to impress with magnificent gothic carvings, ornamental paintings and frescos, and decorative gold leaf – all of which attests to the wealth of the prince bishops.”
How to get there: This depends on how athletic you are/ambitious you’re feeling. You can either take a funicular to the top, which costs about 7 euros, or take the steep climb by foot. My friends and I chose the latter to save money – it was good exercise and it certainly wasn’t impossible, but it will take longer and you will likely have to rest while ascending, even if you’re in decent shape. The funicular is located behind St. Peter’s bakery on Kapitelplatz, called the “Festungsbahn Salzburg” on Google maps. If walking, follow the winding Festungsgasse from the base of the funicular up the mountain to the gate of the fortress.
7. Schloss Hellbrunn & The Sound of Music Gazebo
Just south of the city lies Hellbrunn Palace, a beautiful villa completed in 1619 by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. On the grounds you will find rich green lawns, sculpted bushes and shrubs, and “trick” water fountains. For lovers of The Sound of Music, the gazebo used to shoot some of the outdoor scenes in the film is located on the premises as well; however, it is locked, and you will need to know a guide to unlock it for you (luckily our wonderful guide, Andreas, had a key!). Even if you can’t get in, it’s still an exciting piece of memorabilia to see in real life! If you go to see the “wasserspiele,” ask for Andreas – you are sure to love him and the upbeat tours that he gives.
How to get there: Hop on Bus 25 within the city center, and you’ll arrive at Schloss Hellbrunn within 15 minutes.
8. Schloss Leopoldskron
Though this location will especially thrill lovers of The Sound of Music, Schloss Leopoldskron on Leopoldskroner Weiher (Leopoldskron Lake) is another gorgeous locale for any nature lover. The lake on the banks of the estate, now a hotel, is the location where the children were filmed falling out of the boat on the banks of the von Trapp family home in The Sound of Music. Take a relaxing stroll and breathe in the salty alpine air as you meander around the lake and take in the view.
How to get there: Take Bus 22 for about 8 minutes from Ferdinand-Hanusch-Platz (Franz-Josef-Kai) to Firmianstrasse. There, you can walk on a gravel trail around the lake.
9. Maria Plain
A famous pilgrimage site for many Catholics since the 17th century, the church and meadows at Maria Plain are a beautiful and peaceful sight to behold just northeast of Salzburg. Take a moment to rest and reflect within the Basilica, and then frolic and spin in the lush green fields like Maria from The Sound of Music. The view of the city and surrounding mountains is breathtaking and is sure to give you a unique view that most visitors don’t see.
How to get there: Take O-Bus 6 for approximately 13 minutes from Theatergasse to Plainbrücke
The night before my friends and I left our program in Salzburg, we all went to the top of the Gaisberg to watch the sunset and have a picnic with our beloved program guide, Andreas. The view of the Austrian Alps from the top of this mountain is indescribable, and it is a perfect way to see and remember just how beautiful Salzburgerland is. Don’t miss the timber playground on the way up to the top, too!
How to get there: Take Bus 151 from Mirabellplatz to Gaisbergspitze; the ride is about 30 minutes long.