I admit I was a little pessimistic about a bus tour since I like to bounce around on my own time. But here’s the honesty. It was one of the most fun mornings I’ve ever had – a bus full of excitable Sound of Music fans hyper on Do Re Me, My Favourite Things, How do You Solve a Problem like Maria and all other tunes, while staring out of the window at Salzburg’s green vistas. Panorama Tours have created a sing-along, multi-stop schedule that runs every day of the year (because it is THAT in demand).
The Reason to Visit Salzburg, Austria
Get to Steingasse, across the river from the Historic Old Town. It is the oldest street in Salzburg, and the historical alleyway of the city yet is a place where street art and trendy neighbourhood vibes are emerging.
Even if you are on your own, as I was, you will strike up a conversation since sharing tables is a part of the beer culture. My best friend, Steph, demonstrates the scale of the beer and the atmosphere perfectly from her visit a month before mine.
Yet, Salzburg is also a great place to wander and absorb the history that marks it out from other Austrian cities etched with typical Habsburg style and their distinct atmosphere. Salzburg is timeless while having carved out a youthful vibrancy; distinctly famous without being disgustingly overcrowded and charming in a way that you always hear about, but which you only connect with once you are there.
There’s more to Austria’s fourth-largest city than Mozart and the Sound of Music, of course, but the city is first and foremost a musical metropolis, even if this is not your sole purpose for visiting.
Things to Do in Salzburg Beyond Musical Fame
Visit the Historic Palace of Schloss Leopoldskron
The Sound of Music Lake at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg
Honour the legends of sound when you get to Salzburg and take yourself on the musical journeys it is worthy of, yet know there are more stories. Stories in its architecture, art, old alleyways and trendy neighbourhoods that are giving this city more reasons for a visit.
See Archbishop Heritage over Hapsburg Legacy
Fürst chocolate shop in Salzburg – Home of the Mozartkugel
The Getreidegasse shopping mile in Salzburg
It’s no wonder Salzburg takes the tagline “Stage of the World”. That’s a lot of performance to pack into a compact city.
The Sound of Music bus tour in Salzburg
While you are on this side of the river, wander through the neighbourhood of Andräviertel. It’s quieter, has some independent stores and cafes, adding to a growing bohemian feel that makes it feel like a different ‘halve’ of Salzburg across the water.
Wander Getreidegasse – the Stunning Shopping Mile
Stroll the Schloss Mirabell Gardens
Winter in Salzburg is not just one of the most romantic places for all things advent and Christmas related; it is also where the story of Silent Night began. The most famous of all Christmas Carols, Salzburg is pivotal to the beginnings of the song with seven locations related to it. Joseph Mohr, who wrote the Silent Night songtext, was born in Salzburg and lived at Steingasse 31. In wider SalzburgerLand, around 30 minutes from the city, you can visit Arnsdorf village where school teacher Franz Xaver Gruber first composed silent Night before moving on to the neighbouring village of Oberndorf where you’ll find the Silent Night Chapel.
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Find the Smallest House in Salzburg
Enjoy the Best Viewpoint over Salzburg
There are many reasons to visit Salzburg, Austria, and in this travel guide, I highlight what this city is about beyond its well-known parts and cliches detailed on the things to do in Salzburg lists. I visited Salzburg as part of my ‘Year In Austria’ project, on a city-hopping tour. I aim to show you how not all Austrian cities are the same and how they are easily accessible so that you can see different sides of the country even in a short time.
The library of Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria
Walk Along Steingasse – the Oldest Street in Salzburg
Why You Should Visit Salzburg, Austria – The City Beyond Mozart & The Sound of Music
A University City, you’ll stumble across from the hum of coffee houses in courtyards, trendy bars and eateries that feed the young heart. Salzburg is where ‘Lederhosen Donnerstag’ (Lederhosen Thursday) was established, where young people come together in traditional clothing to socialise and muse in a modern establishment on this chosen day of the week.
The legacy of Mozart in Austria, adorned by statues and famous chocolate
Explore Modern Salzburg Filled With Artworks
In place of pastel candy coloured noble houses and overshadowing the art nouveau touches of the Austrian monarchy, you’ll find alternative splendour. In pretty avenues – a highlight being the Getreidegasse shopping mile full of traditional confectioners, tailors and weavers alongside international brands.
Go Local in Salzburg’s Andräviertel Neighbourhood
Drink beer at Augustiner Brewery in Salzburg
READ MORE: Summer in St. Johann im Pongau, Austria – The Salzburg Mountain City After Ski
There’s a lot of pride here over the delicious mesh of green marzipan layered with nougat and dark chocolate, which you can buy from Fürst on Brodgasse. In 1890, master confectioner Paul Fürst invented this treat and named it after the city’s composer, who was not even that famous at the time. It is still produced by hand to this day with the original recipe, and I can confirm it does indeed taste a lot better than the mass-produced ones (because I’m now a chocolate kugel snob).
Still thirsty? Head to the 17th century established Stiegl Brewery that is still in operation today.
Live Five Centuries of Salzburg Beer Heritage
Beyond the centrepieces of Sound of Music Fame, the palace structure, manicured gardens and opulent fountains of the Schloss Mirabell and the Mirabell Gardens are a must for a sample of quintessential, classic Salzburg. Views are topped off with a scattering of mint-coloured rooftops as you gaze towards the castle complex on the hill.
Hollywood can often ruin a city, especially one made famous by the longest standing musical film of all time that attracts over 300,000 tourists a year. However, while some of the 1965 film’s scenes are within the centre of the city, many remain outside of it, accessible only by your meticulous planning (and special permission) or via The Sound of Music Panorama Tours bus.
What to Do in Salzburg for the Music
Go on The Sound of Music Tour Bus
Salzburg’s streets are filled with buskers, opera singers and all manner of harmonic performers, continuing to serve with melodies a city that bore one of the greatest composers of all time. Annually the city hosts over 4,000 cultural events, including the internationally renowned Salzburg Festival. In-between, die-hard fans of the Sound of Music seek out the film’s famous film scenes, just as I did, and winter in Salzburg sees people come to visit the origins of the Silent Night Christmas Carol.
One of my recommendations is St. Johann im Pongau in Salzburg, home to deepest gorge, the hiking point to one of Austria’s best mountain viewpoints, and next to the biggest ice cave in the world.
Admire the city’s 1,000 protected buildings from various elevated viewpoints in the city. The best is the rooftop of the Museum of Modern Art, which is a full window on the city that includes the 11th-century Hohensalzburg Fortress – the medieval castle that watches over the city (itself a frequented panoramic vantage point).
I always like to see how old cities add some modern spark to stay exciting and relevant to all manner of visitors. Salzburg is decadent, but it isn’t without a subtle coating of youthful vibes and modern creative inclusions, which are fun to find and push you to explore outside the historic centre.
Famous view from the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg
Salzburg is a city with over 500 years of beer heritage. It’s a rite of passage to immerse yourself in Salzburg’s beer heritage and sip on a Steiner at the Augustiner Brewery as you marvel the history of the monks. First, you choose the size of your Steiner, pay for it and then let one of the guys fill you up from the barrel. Find a table, socialise with locals and grab some traditional foods, which you can find served outside the giant beer halls.
Salzburg attractions are not just limited to the centre of the city. From salt mines to mountain lakes, city walking tours to a broader exploration of the state of SalzburgerLand, there are lots of Salzburg sightseeing options to see the wider city and beyond if you are staying for a few days.
READ MORE: Silent Night Song Locations in Austria – A 200-Year-Old Old Story of the Famous Christmas Carol
You Can’t Visit Salzburg Without Honouring Mozart
Wander along Steingasse – the oldest street in Salzburg
The smallest house in Salzburg, Austria
In the very heart of the city centre of Salzburg, Austria
Travel to the Origins of the Silent Night Song in Salzburg
The Horse Head Gate, made famous in Sound of Music.
Things to Know About Salzburg, Austria:
It stops at various highlights including the other side of the Schloss Leopoldskron pond (access is only available if you stay at the property), the white gazebo known for “Sixteen going on Seventeen”. It passes the outskirts of Villa Trapp, heads out to the church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp got married and ends at the beautiful Schloss Mirabell in the city. So you can dance on the Pegasus (Do-Re-Mi) fountain and snap yourself on the famous stairs at the Mirabell Gardens.
How to Get to Salzburg
- Salzburg has an airport, Flughafen Salzburg, with connections to major European cities and beyond. Travel to Salzburg is also easily accessible from anywhere in Austria, primarily via the other major city hubs. Salzburg is a 2.5-hour train ride from Vienna, 2 hours from Innsbruck and 4 hours from Graz, easily accessible via the ÖBB network.
Getting The Salzburg Card
- The Salzburg Card gives you access to all museums, transport and discounts in individual stores and other outlets. It’s especially useful if you want to visit the Museum of Modern Art just for the view while using it for other advantages. A 24-hour card costs €24, 48-hour €32 and a 72-hour card is €37. There are also Salzburg hotel and card packages from €119.
Day Trips from Salzburg
Its absence of grandeur Hapsburg touches was replaced by those of the secular kind – with Cathedrals and beautiful baroque church spires, all set within large open Italian flair squares which today brim with artworks and views to the castle on the hilltop. The Archbishops’ power and affluence continued well into the 19th century, who built the city from the wealth accumulated through salt trading (hence the city’s name). It only became a part of the Habsburg Empire in 1816.
Mozart’s birth house – the most famous house in Salzburg
How Can I Book the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg?
- Sound of Music fans should take the Panorama Tours bus in Salzburg all around the key film locations and out into the surrounding lake areas. The musical is also shown at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre and at the Salzburg State Theatre (check if it’s a live sing-along!).
Salzburg Hotels and Where to Stay
Once the gathering place of writers, composers and other creatives, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to a city I had longed to visit for many years. After an emotional arrival (for reasons I cannot work out I just wanted to burst into tears the second I stood on the grounds here) and gorging on Palace interiors, the city was calling.
- A suggested historical city centre Salzburg hotel is the 3* Bergland Hotel for the budget end and the real Villa Trapp for mid-budget.
- I recently stayed at the Stein Hotel – an old legendary city hotel, now renovated in the new art design. Located right on the banks of the Salzach River, its rooftop bar and restaurant provides a panoramic view of Salzburg.
- For those looking to sleep in a palace in Salzburg, stay in the Schloss Leopoldskron for ultimate luxury and a magnificent backdrop of mountains,
- If you want to stay in a former fortification on the Kapuzinerberg in the centre of the city, check out the availability of the restored 1629 castle, Franziskischlössl. Since 2017 guests can stay in the renovated former private residences and two suites with an elevated view of Salzburg’s famous mint green rooftops.
Book a Salzburg Hotel
I Want to Be in Salzburg During a Festival. When Do They Take Place?
For Further Information on Salzburg Tourism and Travel
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Riverside view of Salzburg city, UNESCO World Heritage Site of Austria Modern artworks in Salzburg historical city centre