Sure, Vienna is stunning, but don’t overlook the gem of northern Austria: Salzburg. This small city close to Munich has the perfect combination of urban and rural.
The area surrounding Salzburg is a beautiful example of the variety of the Austrian Alps, with mountains, lakes, meadows and cute villages.
The city itself is easy to navigate and consists of the Old Town with its Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo buildings on the left bank and the New Town on the right bank.
Salzburg has a fascinating history and is the birthplace of Mozart. Most people, however, will know it as the location of ‘The Sound of Music’, a highly inaccurate, but very entertaining movie that made Salzburg world-famous.
The best way to explore Salzburg is with the Salzburg Card, which gives you free entrance to most museums as well as public transportation.
So what do you absolutely have to do in Salzburg? Let me give you a few ideas of things to do in Salzburg:
Take a tour of the city
I had the absolute pleasure of Couchsurfing with Gerhard in Salzburg in July. At that moment, he was still developing his Free Walking Tour of Salzburg and did a test-run with me, but these days it’s all up and running.
Not only is Gerhard a fun and friendly guy, he is also a knowledgeable and gifted guide. He truly loves his city and knows all the best places to go and see. He actually started out as a rickshaw guide, those are still around as well, and they’re a really fun way to see the city by having one of the cute guys peddle you around.
Salzburg itself is small enough to walk in so you can opt for a self-guided tour instead. Sound of Music fans will love the Fräulein Maria bike tour along all the film locations.
Hike up Kapuzinerberg
It’s a bit of a climb, but the best sunset views of Salzburg require a short hike up the Kapuzinerberg on the south bank of the river. From there you can see the Old Town lit up at night, truly a postcard view. Walk along the wall to get all the different vantage points. Also really lovely during the day!
Visit the churches and abbeys
Salzburg boasts a lot of churches, abbeys and a cathedral. You can easily visit all of them in one afternoon, by starting at St Peter Abbey. The abbey has a beautiful church with Rococo style design, something not often seen in Europe. The graveyard behind the church is stunning as well. Leave the graveyard out of the bottom left gate to grab a freshly baked bun at the old Abbey bakery as well.
From there, walk to the Dom, both impressive from the in- and outside. Don’t skip the Franziskaner and University church either. The market stalls at the University church sell local delicacies such as sausages and pretzels.
The last stop requires a short climb to the Nonnenstifft, the nunnery you may recognize from The Sound of Music.
Check out Schloss Hellbrunn
A short bike or bus ride out of the city lies Schloss Hellbrunn. The Salzburg Card covers the bus ride over, entry to the palace, the fountain tour and entrance to the Zoo. The park is freely accessible to all and the perfect place to hang out if the weather allows.
Go museum hopping
Should the Austrian weather turn on you, as it often does, there are plenty of museums in Salzburg to keep you entertained. The Salzburg Card includes entry into almost all of them. The Salzburg museum will give you some insight into the cities tumultuous history. The adorable little Christmas Museum is perfect for fans of Christmas, with lots of antique ornaments and info about Austrian Christmas traditions. Mozart fans can visit the three Mozart related museums in the city.
Bonus: take a tour of the Stiegl Brewery
Austria is a beer country and each region has its own brew. Stiegl is the house brand of Salzburg and perhaps my favorite big Austrian beer brand. The old malt house just outside of the city has been converted to a beer museum.
Here you can take a tour and learn about the history and manufacturing of beer as well as taste a few Stiegl brews. It’s a really fun excursion for beer lovers and entry to the museum is free with the Salzburg Card!
What are your favorite things to do in Salzburg? Let me know in the comments.
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