After our recent time in Salzburg, we talk about what we got up to, and our top ten picks for things to do on your visit to this gorgeous Austrian city.
1. Visit the castle
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is situated on a hill right in the centre of town, looming over the city and forming one of Salzburg’s most recognisable symbols. If you have a Salzburg card, entrance is included to the fortress and all of its museums, as well as an ascent and descent on the funicular railway. Otherwise it’s €7.80 for your ticket and a one-way funicular ride.
Allow two to three hours for your visit, as you’ll want to spend some time looking at the puppets in the marionette museum and checking out the history of the castle in the fortress museum. You can also do a half-hour audio tour through the State Rooms, which is included in your ticket and worth doing.
2. Have a beer at the Augustiner
Salzburg is famous for beer, and there are a wide range of places to drink it. The Augustiner brauhaus is a top choice, though, because that’s where the Salzburgians go — join several hundred locals for a litre of tasty ale served straight from the keg, drunk in an enormous, leafy beer garden.
3. Get your Mozart fix
Salzburg’s most famous citizen is certainly celebrated in his home town; if you’re a fan you have your pick of Mozart-themed activities. You can visit his birthplace and residence, or see a concert in the festival hall named in his honour (the Haus für Mozart). And although he had nothing to do with either, try a Mozartkugeln chocolate and a Mozart chocolate liqueur — they are both delicious.
4. Go to the Salzburg museum
The Salzburg museum has several floors of interesting exhibits as well as a basement level featuring temporary installations. It also caters for children with activities for kids scattered throughout the building — it’s easy to see why it won an award for being the best museum in Europe in 2009.
5. Visit a salt mine
Salzburg is named for salt (salz in German) because of the huge salt deposits in the nearby mountains. A visit to one of the salt mines will give you an interesting glimpse into the history of both the city and the “white gold” as salt used to be known. Choose from the Hallein mines just 15km from Salzburg, or head across the border to Germany to Salzbergwerk in the town of Berchtesgaden.
6. Avoid the Sound of Music
I mean, experience the Sound of Music. This movie put Salzburg on the map for English-speaking tourists, but locals don’t know what all the fuss is about. If it’s one of your favourite films, though, it might be worth doing a Sound of Music bus tour, or just wander around the city noticing landmarks. If you’re staying in the Yoho youth hostel, they play the film every night at 7pm.
You can also go to a Sound of Music dinner show, or learn about the real Von Trapps in the museum. Or see the German-language “Die Trapp Familie” (the Trapp Family) for a more historically accurate account of the story.
7. Walk along Steingasse in the evening
This might not show up in your guidebook as a Salzburg must-do, but almost every local we spoke to suggested a visit to this street. It’s across the river from the more-famous Getreidegasse with its wrought-iron shop signs (also worth a visit), and is mostly residential. However, there is something about Steingasse: it’s narrow and winding, with buildings towering above you on both sides — it’s really quite special.
8. Visit the cemetery (and catacombs) bakery/restaurant
Attached to St Peter’s Abbey monastery is one of the most beautiful places in the city: a cemetery. The graves are marked with intricate wrought-iron crosses, and are planted with a wide array of flowers that are carefully tended. If you enter from near the funicular to the castle, you’ll pass the oldest bakery in the city, and you can see the water wheel in operation outside. Stop in to see the short explanation video and to buy a small loaf of delicious rye bread.
Back in the cemetery, climb up into the “catacombs”, which weren’t catacombs at all — they were hermits’ caves (which is cooler, we think). Entrance is €1.50 and you’ll see two caves and get a good view over the cemetery and the city.
9. See the city from the top of the Mönchsberg
Speaking of good views, you’ll get a great one from the Mönchsberg. If you have a Salzburg Card, use it to ride the Mönschsberglift elevator to the top of the hill, and spend half an hour or so in the Mönschsberg modern art museum before heading out for a walk along the ridge line. Otherwise, climb the steps from near the St Peter’s church, or find the path that leads away from the fortress, and wander along to the tower for a beer.
10. See a show
There are a wide range of shows to choose from, with more on offer during the Salzburg festival. Locals love the puppet shows, while you might prefer a bit of opera or a more-touristy Sound of Music or Mozart dinner show.
Salzburg is also a city of festivals, and if you can time your visit to coincide with one of them, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent ambience. The Salzburg Festival takes place in summer (this year from 19 July to 1 September) and features a variety of shows and concerts. We loved taking part in the mayday celebration at the Freilicht museum on 1 May — many people were dressed in traditional dirndls and lederhosen, and there were plenty of places to get a glass of beer.