Located 2.5 hours from Vienna by train, Salzburg is famous for music. Music, as in, The Sound of Music, which was filmed here. Going even further back, Salzburg is also the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. But there’s far more things to do in this small Alpine city—whether you’re interested in music, beer, art, hiking, or just desserts.
You might want to consider expanding your Salzburg visit to include more of Austria. Check out my 7-day Vienna itinerary here!
Six Things to Do in Salzburg
Salzburg is sometimes called the City of Churches (but let’s be honest, which European city isn’t?). Cynicism aside, Salzburger Dom, located at the heart of the Altstadt, is stunning. It’s bright and airy, with a massive domed ceiling and intricate frescoes. I’m not religious at all, but I love to stop through a cathedral and just admire the space and its silence. The Salzburger Dom is one of my favorites to do that.
On my first trip to Salzburg, I stumbled into these gardens without realizing what they are. Built in the 1600’s as a token of love by an Prince-Archbishop, these baroque gardens look like a colorful rug, laid across the lap of this little city. It’s also one of the famous filming locations for The Sound of Music. Maria and the Von Trapp kids dance around the gardens’ Pegasus Fountain to trill Do-Re-Mi.
If you’re looking for more hands-on things to do in Salzburg, why not try a cooking class? Made popular in the Hapsburg era, strudel is still a renown dessert throughout Austria. A delicate crust—so thin you can read a love letter through it!—is wrapped around nuts, fruit, or savory goodies and then baked. Plenty of places in Salzburg offer a strudel-making lesson, oftentimes with lunch rolled in.
Read about our Salzburg strudel-making class experience here!
One of the five mountains in Salzburg, Mönschberg is named for the Benedictine monks who once lived here. Visitors can take one of the many trails up the mountain, climb the stairs, or opt for the sweat-proof funicular experience. The view from the top provides stunning views over Salzburg, the Salzbach river, and the Alps beyond. You can then head back to the city, or stretch out your stroll another hour to end at the Augustiner Brewery for a well-earned beer.
Salzburg is divided into sections, Neustadt and Altstadt. The winding, postcard perfect Old City (Altstadt) was named a UNESCO Heritage Site in the early 90’s. Clear an hour or two to wander the curving alleys and riverside walk, including some of Salzburg’s many historic bridges. Tucked away inside: beautiful dirndl shops, cozy cafés, handmade toy stores, and the birthplace of Mozart himself. Fun fact: I took one of my favorite photos of myself traveling along the river with Altstadt in the background.
In 2002, Salzburg launched “Salzburg Art Project”, a public art initiative. Every year for eight years, a different international artist created a new installation for the city. Every piece is meant to interpret Salzburg and its history. The city has created a self-guided route that winds through the city, taking visitors to each installation. I absolutely love the dual-piece: Sphaera and Woman in the Rock. Nine meters tall and bright gold, Sphaera is definitely eye-catching. Woman in the Rock, on the other hand, is more demure, and harder to spot.
These modern installations aren’t the only public art you can spot in Salzburg, however. The city has a long history of subsidized art partnerships. Basically, beginning in the 30’s, every public building had to include some aspect of art. This could include ornate architectural details, lighting, or sculptures out front. Whether you go out of your way to follow the routes, or simply appreciate them as you find them, checking out the public art should definitely be on your list of things to do in Salzburg.