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My Favourite Things to Do in Salzburg, Austria

Updated on May 18, 2020
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I enjoy travelling and visiting new, interesting places whether they be near to home or abroad.

Salzburg Altstadt | Source

Places to Visit in Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria, home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and 'The Sound of Music', is a fantastic place to visit, but most people aren't aware of the many things to do and see in the city. In this article I will list 'a few of my favourite things' to do in Salzburg and what to look out for when you visit. Some are well known Salzburg tourist attractions, some less well known, but all are great reasons to visit this beautiful, historic city.

HohenSalzburg Castle | Source

Hohensalzburg Castle

One of the largest medieval castles in Europe, Hohensalzburg castle was originally built in 1077 for the Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein and was added to over the following centuries by various Archbishops, with the current walls and towers mainly added during the 15th century. It became a tourist attraction in the late 19th century, with the Festungsbahn funicular railway being added in 1892. For me, the trip on this railway is almost as interesting as the castle itself. It's great fun!

Once up to the castle, there are many different sections to explore. The living quarters with original furniture are an excellent glimpse into the lives of the Prince Bishops, there is a chapel to view and many exhibitions full of war memorabilia from the castle's long history.

A particular favourite of mine is an exhibition on marionettes (string puppets). Here you can see many of the exquisitely crafted puppets used by the world famous Salzburg Marionette Theatre as well as having a go at controlling a puppet yourself.

On top of all that, the view from the castle is unbelievable. A great way to see Salzburg.

St Peter's Stifftskeller String Players | Source

Stiftskeller St Peter

Mozart dinner concert

If you are spending the night in Salzburg, I cannot recommend the Stiftskeller highly enough. Claimed to be the oldest inn in Europe, dating back to at least the early 9th century, Stiftskeller St Peter is situated within the walls of St Peter's Arch abbey and puts on a nightly food and music extravaganza.

Guests are served a four course dinner based upon traditional 18th century Austrian recipes such as roast capaun (chicken) breast served with potato-pumpkin dumpling, semolina and locally grown vegetables. In between each course, professional musicians entertain you with pieces from Mozart's work such as 'Don Giovanni', 'The Magic Flute', 'The Marriage of Figaro' and of course, 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'.

My wife and I visited the Stiftskeller a few years ago and it was an amazing evening. The food was excellent, the musicians (a soprano, a baritone and 5 string players) were all professional standard (all graduates of music universities, including the Mozarteum in Salzburg) and it made for an outstanding evening.

One tip though. If Salzburger nockerl is the dessert for the night, give it a go, but don't be worried if you can't eat much. It is a kind of extra sugary meringue-based dessert with cranberries and is the sweetest thing I have ever tasted. I managed a couple of spoonfuls before it became too much.

Non piu andrai - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

A performance of 'Non piu andrai' from Mozart's opera 'The Marriage of Figaro', performed by Bryn Terfel. This is my favourite of Mozart's work and was performed during our meal at the Stiiftskellar (although not by Bryn Terfel).

Mozart's Geburtshaus | Source

Mozart's Geburtshaus and Wohnhaus

Austria's most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born and raised in Salzburg and also spent a lot of his adult life in the city. The house where he was born (geburtshaus) and the house where he lived for a while (wohnhaus) are both open to the public and full of exhibits and displays about the famous composer and his family.

The third floor of the geburtshaus was home to the Mozart family from 1747 to 1773, with Wolfgang himself being born in 1756. It became a museum in 1880 and now includes exhibits such as various instruments used by Mozart, paintings of the family members and letters written by them.

The wohnhaus, situated across the river, became the Mozarts' home in 1773 and was considerably larger than the previous house. It remained the home of Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang's father) until his death in 1787. The wohnhaus is also full of original musical instruments and portraits and provides further details into Mozart's adult years.

Both museums are included on the Salzburger card and are well worth a visit for music lovers and history lovers alike.

Favourite Mozart Opera

Which is your favourite Mozart opera? If your favourite does not appear in the list, please add it to the comments list below.

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Austrian Music

Austria is home to some extremely famous musicians. Austria's favourite son is Mozart, but did you know Hayden, Schubert and Johann Strauss I, II and III also originated from Austria. In modern times Austria has given us Falco (the only native German speaker to reach number one in the U.S.) and DJ Otzi.

Haus der Natur | Source

Haus der Natur

The Haus der Natur is a natural history museum based in central Salzburg. I first visited the museum about 10 years ago and haven't been back since it was refurbished recently, but it was an interesting museum and I have been told it's even better now.

The stand-out part of the museum for me was the aquariums section. A 10 000 litre tank is home to sharks which you can see being fed, as well as other tanks featuring many species of fish and coral. There is also a large reptile zoo for those more interested in live creatures than the usual stuffed variety found in natural history museums. There are great technology and space exhibits and a new hands-on exhibit which is always fun.

I recommend the Haus der Natur if you have the Salzburger card (this gives you free entrance) or if you are tired of the more Salzburg specific attractions and want a break from them. It's also a great place to take children and can keep them amused for hours.

Photo Courtesy of wikimedia commons

Mozartkugeln (Mozart balls)

If you visit Austria, you will find these sweets everywhere. Mozart balls are small ball shaped sweets consisting of pistachio marzipan wrapped in nougat and then coated in chocolate. Absolutely delicious, I find it difficult to stop eating them once I have started. One of my favourite restaurants in Austria even does a Mozart ball ice cream complete with a little Mozart flag on top.

Apparently the humorous name is lost on German speakers though.

The Sound Of Music Tour

I haven't been on any Sound of Music tours myself (the thought of being stuck on a coach with a load of people singing Do-Re-Mi brings me out in a cold sweat), but for a lot of people, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is one of the main reasons for visiting Salzburg.

The Sound of Music tells the story of Maria, the recently appointed governess to the Von Trapp family of Salzburg, consisting of the stern Captain Von Trapp and his 7 children. It is set during the time of the Anschluss between Germany and Austria and mixes the love story between Maria and the Captain with the political problems faced during the time.

The 1965 film, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, was a huge success, winning 5 Oscars including Best Picture, and its huge fan base continues to drive tourists to Salzburg from all over the world.

There are a variety of tours based around the Sound Of Music, some lasting 3-4 hours, some lasting twice as long and there is a choice for any budget. Some of the tours take in other tourist hotspots such as the nearby salt mine that give Salzburg its name. As I mentioned above, I haven't been on any of these, so I can't give a personal recommendation, but I have provided a link to a useful website below.

Photo Courtesy of

Did you know?

Edelweiss is not a traditional Austrian folk song, but was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein specially for The Sound of Music.

Statue in the Hellbrun Palace Gardens | Source

Hellbrunn Palace and trick fountains

If you've got the time to venture out of Salzburg a little bit, I highly recommend a visit to Hellbrunn palace and its gardens. I've visited the palace a couple of times now and the second time was just as good as the first.

Originally commissioned by the Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems in 1612, the palace remained a retreat for the Salzburg Prince Archbishops and is now a well visited tourist attraction.

The palace itself is interesting enough, with large ornate rooms full of exhibitions to walk around, but the main attraction has to be the royal gardens with their water features.

Join a guided tour and learn about the Wasserspiele (trick fountains) and see them all in action. The fountains are all powered by natural water pressure from the water's source in the Hellbrunn mountain and are a truly magical sight. Just be careful where you sit!

Hallein Salt Mine | Source

Salt mine - Hallein

Another attraction outside of Salzburg is the salt mine at nearby Hallein. If you hadn't already guessed from the name, Salzburg grew up around its salt mining. The Prince Bishops of Salzburg grew extremely rich from the mining of the "white gold" from sites such as this one. The Celts were mining on this site 2500 years ago and, as well as going down the mine, there is a Celtic open air museum to walk around as well.

The trip down the mines is great. You get to dress up in miners' protective gear, take a train into the mines and then slide down two sets of 42 metre long wooden slides. It's worth a visit for that part alone! The tour guide who accompanies you explains about the history of the mine and some of its characters and will do this in English as well as German if required.

Photo Courtesy of Wolfgang Sauber - wikimedia commons

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© 2013 David


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