Salzburg is the perfect stop on any trip through Central Europe. As Austria’s 4th largest city at about 150,000 people, it’s also a nice respite from the buzz of Vienna or Munich. Plus, it’s a “must” for any fan of The Sound of Music or lover of scenic mountain views. Here are five things to do in Salzburg that you don’t want to miss.
1. DIY The Sound of Music Tour
Many people visiting Salzburg will pay around €50 to go on a guided The Sound of Music tour that includes the Trapp family’s home from the movie and the gazebo used for “16 Going on 17,” among other sites. Though I heard from fellow travelers that these tours were great, I opted to check out a few of the filming locations on my own for free. Here were a few that were easy to visit while exploring the city:
Mirabell Gardens is stunning on its own accord, even without its ties to The Sound of Music. Particularly in the spring, there are endless roses and greenery, all with the beautiful Hohensalzburg Fortress perched in the background. The gardens are one of the most recognizable locations from the film. The “Do-Re-Mi” sequence included shots of Maria and the children walking around the Pegasus fountain, frolicking through the tree tunnel, posing with the Greek statues, marching by the dwarf with glasses in the Zwerglgarten (Dwarf Garden), and jumping between steps on the iconic stairway. Give yourself at least an hour here if you want to check out each of these spots, as well as exploring the rest of the grounds, including a small art gallery and a quick peek inside Mirabell Palace.
St. Peter’s Monastery & Cemetery
St. Peter’s was the inspiration for the scene toward the end of the film when (spoiler alert) the Von Trapps were hiding from the Nazis. This is clear as you walk around the narrow paths looking at the graves locked behind gates. Most all the graves are ornately decorated with candles and fresh flowers. There are also catacombs that can be viewed for €2. While the catacombs themselves were very disappointing, I can’t complain too much because they were located in a tower where I got some of my favorite photos from the area.
Residenzplatz Square & Residence Fountain
Maria splashed in the Residence Fountain during “I Have Confidence In Me,” which is instantly recognizable for many fans of the film. While you’re in the area, also make sure to pop in the Salzburg Cathedral, the Mozart statue and piano in Mozartplatz, and maybe a museum or two.
Ceiling of Salzburg Cathedral
2. Mozart’s Residence
Mozart fans have three options in Salzburg: visit his residence, his birthplace, or both (note that you can purchase combo passes for the latter). I elected to go to the Mozart Residence because it was closer to my hostel and I heard that it’s much less crowded because it’s relatively off the beaten path. This was true to my experience. I enjoyed viewing his original piano and other instruments with only a few other people around, whereas any time I walked by Mozart’s Birthplace there was a long line out the door. I also loved that in Mozart’s Residence, you get to learn about his sister, Nannerl, who was a highly skilled musician and may have been just as famous had she been born in more modern times.
Did you know that Salzburg actually means “Salt Fortress”? Once I learned this and had an extra half day in my itinerary, I had to see if I could hop on a last-minute tour of some nearby salt mines. I got lucky and there was space on one of the afternoon tours departing from in front of Mirabell Gardens. For about €55, I rode a bus into the Berchtesgaden Alps, put on some goofy required protective gear, and descended 650 meters deep into a mountain via train and slides. Yes, you read that correctly. There are two long slides that you can ride down on your own or with a group. If you’re not up for that adventure, there are paths you can take instead. Another highlight is the “Salt Cathedral,” which used to be filled with water to extract salt from the rocks. Today, there are beautiful crystal formations remaining. The only downside is that there is a cheesy light show during this portion of the tour and at times it feels like one big advertisement for salt. You also take a boat ride over mirror lake, a body of salt water under the surface. Overall, I highly recommend the tour for its uniqueness, particularly if you haven’t been to other salt mines before.
4. The Sound of Music Marionette Show
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t super excited about this show because I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I bought a €26 ticket after reading multiple rave reviews. It turned out to be absolutely fantastic and I would go to another show in a heartbeat. When I first arrived, I got a drink at the bar and wandered around to view the marionettes used in previous shows. Once the performance started, I was amazed at the way the marionettes danced all over the stage, and how at times it was easy to forget they were even marionettes. The script was a blend of the movie and Broadway versions, with some of their own humor thrown into the mix. At the end, the curtain was lifted and you could see the people maneuvering the marionettes and what an art form it is. I felt like I was getting carpal tunnel just watching them and was thoroughly impressed. By the way, this particular show was in English, with subtitles available on the side of the theater.
5. Take the cable railway to Festung Hohensalzburg
This fortress is situated on a hill overlooking the city of Salzburg and the Alps. The easiest and most scenic mode of transportation is the Festungsbahn, a railway that takes visitors up the hill every 10 minutes. For about €14, I purchased a round trip Festungsbahn ticket and fortress admission online in advance. While I could take or leave the brief tour of the fortress itself, a walk around the grounds is truly breathtaking. My favorite was having espresso at a tucked-away cafe with this view:
Hungry after all the sightseeing? My favorite place to grab a bite was the vegetarian Heart of Joy Cafe. I loved it so much that I went twice during my few days in Salzburg.
What’s on your Salzburg bucket list? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you liked this post or want to save it for later, do me a favor and pin one of the images below: