There is no doubt that the city of Salzburg is one of the prettiest I have seen. Like so much of Europe, Austria’s cities carry loads of history, culture, and charm. Salzburg is a popular destination that offers famous landmarks and well-preserved historical sites like Hohensalzburg Fortress.
Though it is fabled for its rich history and architecture, Salzburg also plays an important role in musical culture. This is where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and lived for the first part of his life. His strong influence is reflected across the city in such attractions as Mozart’s residence and Mozart’s birthday. Salzburg’s landmarks have also been used as filming sites for the famous Sound of Music, which is particularly popular with tourists.
About Tourist Attractions in Salzburg
Salzburg sits on the western edge of Austria, very close to the German border in the Salzburgerland region. It is the fourth-largest city in Austria and stretches along both banks of the River Salzach. Due to its very short distance to the alps, is a popular base for people heading off skiing to such resorts as St Johann.
The area has been a site of human settlement for millennia. Recorded history dates back as far as the 5th century. The various settlements merged into one city, Juvavum, under Roman occupation around 15 BCE. The name Salzburg (literally Salt City) was coined by Saint Rupert around the year 700 ADE.
Today, there are two specific and intriguing areas of the city to visit: the Old City and the New City—separated by the river Salzach. Check what is currently required to enter Austria here before travelling.
Historical sites in Salzburg Austria
While Salzburg is a large city, most of the historical sites are located within the old town. The Old Town district is a must-see, with narrow medieval streets and picturesque courtyards.
The area is not large and you can easily get around the main attractions and sites on foot. Here is a list of essential historical sites to see in this beautiful city of Salzburg Austria.
⇒ Make sure to wear good walking shoes to get around the Salzburg sites. I wear Merrell Low Rise Hiking Shoes, which are comfortable and lightweight.
1. Hohensalzburg Fortress
It isn’t a trip to Salzburg without visiting one of the most famous historical sites in the city, Hohensalzburg Fortress. Perched on top of Festungsberg Hill overlooking the stunning city is this impressive medieval white Fortress. It was originally built in 1077 to protect the rulers and archbishops from invasion and attacks.
Over the years it has had many extensions and expansions making it today one of the biggest fully preserved castles in Europe. One such addition is the Funicular Cable Car allowing easy access for tourists to get from the bottom of the Hill to the Fortress entrance. You can also get there via Monchesberg elevator, or by foot.
There are plenty of amazing things to see and do in the Fortress and you can literally spend a few hours there without a problem. Inside you have the State Rooms, Fortress Museum, Rainer regiments museum, and unique Marionette Museum. As well as the Stables/salt storage, castle courtyard, Romanesque church, and Kuenburg bastion.
For more adventures, head up to the viewing platform at the Reckturm Tower, where you will have spectacular 360 degrees views of the city. Make sure to take your zoom lens for your mirrorless camera or smartphone.
Afterwards, you can stop off and have a drink or something to eat at the top of the cable car at Hasengraben bastion while taking in the views. Hohensalzurg Fortress is worth a visit even for a couple of hours or just for the views. The fortress is without a doubt the number one site in Salzburg and a historical wonder.
- Good to know; The cable car up and inside the Fortress apart from the State Rooms is a part of your Salzburg card.
- Address: Mönchsberg 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
2. Salzburg Old Town
The Altstadt, or Old Town in Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, the buildings reflect the baroque and medieval background of the city. It is an incredibly beautiful part of the city, visited by droves of tourists visiting from all parts of the world every year. The narrow streets are ideal for exploring and for me personally, this was one of my favourite things to do in Salzburg.
It is rumoured that the Altstadt is the largest UNESCO World Heritage site by area. While it’s not officially confirmed, the Altstadt is indeed made up of various sub-areas and makes for several days’ worth of intriguing walking and sightseeing. Because the area is so popular with visitors, the city regulates certain activities, in order to help preserve the integrity of the buildings.
3. Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Built-in 1606, this Schloss Mirabell is still the stuff of dreams and is a very popular place for weddings. Listed as a cultural heritage monument, the Palace was mainly used as a pleasure palace.
The palace features multiple installations like fountains and gardens (including a magnificent rose garden). Which are free to walk around any time of the year. It also contains a theatre and the Marble Hall, where many small concerts take place.
Like so many great palaces of the past, the magnificent Mirabell Palace was built for a lover. In this case, prince-archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau commissioned it for his mistress, Salome Alt.
Appropriately, the Marble Hall is largely regarded as one of the most magnificent wedding halls in the world. The “Angel Staircase”, which leads up to the Marble Hall, is worth a stop as it’s beautifully decorated with numerous cherubs.
While you can’t visit the Marble hall unless there is an event, you can see the gardens and the Angel Staircase. Consider catching a fabulous live concert there.
- Opening hours: 08:00- 18:00 daily
- Address: Mirabellplatz, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
4. Mozart’s Residence
Hagenauer House on Getreidegasse wasn’t the Mozart family’s only home in Salzburg. The family moved to Dance Master’s House which is now “Mozart’s Wohnhaus” or Mozart’s residence. It is located at No. 8 Makartplatz on the same side of the Salzach as Mirabelle Palace.
Mozart himself lived here until he moved to Vienna in 1781. Mozart’s father lived in the home until his death in 1787. During World War II the building was destroyed but after the war was reconstructed as closely as possible to the original design.
Today, it is a museum, much like Mozart’s birthplace. Portraits, documents, and multimedia exhibits detail the composer’s life. You may also be lucky enough to catch a live performance of two of his works. This is a must-see for any Mozart fan.
- Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:30 daily
- Address: Makartplatz 8, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
- Free admission with Salzburg Card
5. Mozartplatz Square
Mozartplatz, formerly known as Michaelsplatz, is a square located right in the middle of the Old Town not far from the Salzach. In the centre of the square is an ornate Bronze statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which in the 1800s was unveiled in the presence of his sons.
Apart from the statue, there are also attractions like Salzburg Museum and Salzburg Christmas Museum on the square. As well as the city’s tourist information office located on one of the corners. If you are looking for somewhere to people watch or just want to take in the atmosphere of Salzburg then head to Café Glockenspiel, directly in front of the statue.
Just off of Mozartplatz square and only a couple of minutes walk are two adjoining squares The Residenplaz and the Domplaz, both are worth seeing.
6. Mozart’s Birthplace
One of the most famous people from Salzburg, Austria, and perhaps in the world, is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was born here, in Hagenauer Haus, No. 9 Getreidegasse, built during the 12th century. Not surprisingly, the city is very proud of this composer’s life achievements and has made nothing short of a monument of his birthplace.
Today the home is a museum and a major Salzburg attraction, albeit with a very modern visual aesthetic. Some original furniture does occupy the rooms and many artefacts like musical instruments, manuscripts, and information sheets are housed in gloriously lit cabinets. The clavichord on which he composed Die Zauberflöte is among the delightful highlights.
- Opening hours: 09:00 -17:30 daily
- Address: Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
- Free admission with Salzburg Card
7. Neue Residenz
The Neue Residenz or New Residence is a stunning building decorated with Stuccos from the 1600’s. The Residenz Neugebäude was built in 1588 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau. The building hosts the Salzburg Museum and the famous musical Glockenspiel.
Between 1670 and 1680, Prince-Archbishop Max Gandolf von Kuenburg had the palace expanded, adding the famous glockenspiel that attracts so many visitors today. Installing the glockenspiel was not without difficulty. The story goes that when the 35 bells were ordered from Belgium, they could not be properly installed.
It took two years for the local engineers to figure out the correct way to install the glockenspiel, but it was worth it. Even some 300+ years later, it’s still regarded as one of the marvels of the city.
These amazing bells play at set intervals every day and perform beautiful renditions of Classical numbers by such artists as Mozart.
- Address: Mozartpl. 1, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
- Free admission with Salzburg Card
8. Shop on the historical Getreidegasse street
Getreidegasse, also known as Grain Lane is a historical pedestrian shopping street in Salzburg’s old town. It is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at No 9, where he lived until the age of 17. As early as the Roman age Getreidegass was an important route through the city towards Bavaria.
The narrow street has numerous townhouses packed together that become steadily smaller from the first floor up. On the outside, each place has a unique characteristic wrought-iron guild sign and quaint little windows displaying their products. Depending on their significance they are often decorated with important dates in their history and the names of former owners.
While you will find many exclusive shops along Getreidegasse, this street is worth exploring. Especially the many through-houses that lead to charming courtyards that offer their own surprise, which was my favourite to see.
9. Hellbrunn Castle/Palace
There’s so much to be seen and enjoyed at Hellbrunn and by far it is one of the most popular attractions in Salzburg. It is located in the southern Morgz district of the city near the Salzburg Zoo. You can walk there or take the public bus, which is super easy to use.
Four hundred years ago, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sittikus, had the notion to entertain his guests with a magical experience. So he had this wonderland of trick fountains built around the palace. The entire spectacle is still something to marvel at today.
Combining a few modern elements like guided audio tours, a trip through the palace grounds is nothing short of breathtaking for the whole family. After all, that was the creator’s intention—to create a summer experience that left you delighted and refreshed.
Aside from the famous fountains, you can explore the grottos, a mechanical theatre, and even themed tours. This is up there as one of the top sights to see in Salzburg.
- Opening hours: 9:30 – 17:30 daily
- Address: Fürstenweg 37, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
- Free admission with Salzburg Card
10. Salzburg Cathedral
What’s an Austrian town without a cathedral? Salzburg’s own cathedral was rebuilt in 1181 after the original church consecrated by St Rupert in 774 was burned down. It is situated on the enclosed square of Residenzplatz and Domplatz in the Altstadt.
It is a fine example of a Baroque Cathedral with the front facade having dual bell towers. The interior is magnificent with detailed frescos on the dome, columns, and a beautiful organ.
One of the major highlights is hearing the bells of the cathedral ring through the streets of the city. There is also a regular organ recital in the cathedral itself.
- Opening hours: 08:00 – 18:00, Sundays 13:00 – 18:00
- Address: Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
- Discount with the Salzburg Card
Other Historical sites you might want to see in Salzburg
Hohenwerfen Fortress is a fortified castle from the 11th century located in the Pongau region of Salzburg.
Do a Sound of Music Tour: Where you will visit some of the best historical and beauty locations where the movie was filmed around Salzburg.
Have dinner at St. Peter Stiftskulinarium restaurant opened in 803, it is the oldest restaurant in Salzburg and is considered to be one of the oldest-running restaurants in the world.
Take a half-day tour to the Bavarian Mountains and Salt-Mines dating back 450 years.
St. Peter’s Monastery & Cemetery & Catacombs is a popular spot for fans of “The Sound of Music”. Located near the Funicular Cable Car.
Save money and get a Salzburg Card
If you are planning on visiting Salzburg’s top landmarks, attractions and museums, I would suggest getting a SalzburgCard. Not only will it save you money and take the hassle out of buying tickets at every attraction. You will be able to go straight into some of the top attractions like Hohensalzburg Fortress.
The Salzburg Card also gives you discounts on things like hotels, tours, restaurants, and even concerts. You can get a 24hr, 48hrs, or even 72hrs depending on your durations.
Here is the tourist site for more information on where you can go with your Salzburg Card.
Discover these other historical sites in Austria and in Europe
⇒ You can check what is currently required to enter Austria hassle-free here before travelling here.
Have you visited the Salzburg historical sites before or know any other landmark attractions that I can add to my list? Please let me know in the comments below.
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