With its towering fortress perched on an emerald green hill, the tranquil Salzach river that winds through the historic centre and soaring mountain peaks, Salzburg, Austria is quite the sight. Perhaps best known as the backdrop of the beloved movie The Sound of Music, fans from around the world make the pilgrimage here to trace the footsteps of Maria, her captain and the musically-inclined von Trapp children.
It’s easy to do a day trip to Salzburg from major European cities like Munich and Vienna since direct trains only take a couple of hours, and during the ride passengers get to admire the lush, rolling hillsides, farmhouses and tiny villages that make this area so idyllic.
Whether you only have 24 hours or plan on spending a few nights here, there are plenty of fun things to do in Salzburg for all ages. From trick fountains to scoping out Hollywood film sets, here are some of the quirky, fun spots to see in Salzburg.
When you get to Salzburg, you’ll arrive at the central train station which is only a 15-minute walk from the city centre. You can easily see the main sights in just a few hours, and many visitors start with a trip up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which is perched on a hill overlooking the entire city.
Considered one of the best things to see in Salzburg, the fortress is open daily, and admission costs €11 including a trip up and down on the cable railway—a great option if you’re not up for the hike (or are exploring Salzburg with kids). Wander around the medieval rooms and courtyard, enjoy panoramic views of the city spread out below, and see the Prince’s Chambers which is one of Europe’s most well-preserved secular Gothic buildings.
Just down the hill from the fortress, you’ll find Mozart’s birthplace. Yes, that Mozart.
It’s hard to miss the building’s bright yellow façade in the town centre, which is now home to a museum dedicated to the famous composer and one of the most popular Salzburg attractions. Walk through what used to be his family’s apartment, admire his musical instruments, and see other memorabilia dating back to the 18th century.
Admission costs €10, and gives visitors access to the museum and exhibitions. Click to book
Salzburg Cathedral (Dom zu Salzburg) is one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks and found in the historic centre. Dating back centuries, the whitewashed, baroque building features a crypt, seven bells, a baptismal font where famous composers where baptized, and even graffiti that’s about 400 years old.
The interior is open year round, and particularly enchanting during the Christmas season.
The Sound of Music locations
“The Hills Are Alive” on this fun Sound of Music tour, which is one of the top Salzburg tourist attractions for fans of the much-loved musical. Visit filming locations in the city and surrounding countryside that were featured in movie, all while listening to the soundtrack, natch.
Highlights include Leopoldskron Palace which appeared as the Trapp family home, Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a nun, and Mondsee Cathedral where the wedding scene took place. Click to book
Then, head over to the Sound of Music World Museum to see artifacts and documents detailing the history of Austria’s favourite family, and the history of Villa Trapp. If you’re a true fan, this just might end up being one of your ‘Favorite Things’ to do in Salzburg! Click to book
Mirabell Palace was another filming location for The Sound of Music, with its gardens serving as the spot where Maria and the children skipped as they sang ‘Do-Re-Mi.‘ Schloss Mirabell was built in 1606 by prince-archbishop Wolf Dietrich, and has immaculate, manicured gardens and the grand Marble Hall which is considered one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world.
Admission is complimentary, which makes this one of the best free things to do in Salzburg. To up the experience, reserve a ticket for an evening concert where a string ensemble performs classical masterpieces like “Four Seasons” by Vivaldi and Mozart’s “Salzburg Symphonies” in the baroque Marble Hall. Click to book
Take a boat ride over to Hellbrunn Palace, the cheery, sunshine-yellow castle best known for its trick fountains. This ‘pleasure palace’ (get your mind out of the gutter!) was built in 1615 as a holiday spot, and the local archbishops loved wandering through the gardens to see the water features, geysers and grottos.
OK, so this fairytale spot isn’t actually in Salzburg, but it’s so darn gorgeous that it’s definitely worth making the trip over to Hallstatt.
It only takes an hour to get there by car or train, and there are also organized tours like this which stop at a few small villages in the Salzkammergut en route. Admire the Dachstein mountain range, relax along the shores of pristine Lake Wolfgang, and capture the famous, Instagram-worthy shot of the picturesque town centre along the waterfront.
If time allows, go to the nearby Berchtesgaden Salt Mines and head inside the salt mountain to learn about how this ‘white gold’ was produced, and enjoy an underground boat ride across a subterranean lake. Click to book
Where to stay in Salzburg
- Hotel Schloss Monchstein: Looking to splurge during your trip to Salzburg? This opulent property is perched on a hill in the middle of the city, which makes for incredible views. There is a pool and spa on site, rooms are elegant, and guests rave about the attentive service. Click to book
- Hotel Garni Frauenschuh: This cozy spot is in a residential area outside the city centre, making it easy to get away from the crowds. Rooms are large with separate kitchen and living areas, making this a good option for longer stays or families. Click to book
- Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron: This elegant property is THE spot for Sound of Music fans to stay in, as it served as the backdrop of the von Trapp’s home in the movie. Overlooking the water, the hotel is surrounded by manicured grounds, and has a mix of modern and historic rooms. Click to book
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This article was originally published in May 2013 and updated in May 2020
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