Best Things To Do in Salzburg
Would you rather live like a king or a world-renowned classical composer? If you choose the former, you'll find yourself at home in the Schloss Hellbrunn admiring its furniture and the grounds, or in the Mirabellgarten while perusing the flowers. If you prefer the artistic lifestyle, you'll enjoy touring the residences of Mozart and traversing the streets of Altstadt (Old Town), passing ancient marketplaces and restaurants on the way. Both the regal and the musical converge at the Dom zu Salzburg, the area's religious hub for centuries and a must-see for visitors.
Updated January 28, 2016
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A giant monument to this city's religion, power and wealth, Dom zu Salzburg awes visitors with its turquoise domes and towering facade. Built, burned and re-built multiple times in the past millennia, the current structure — which came in the 1940s and 50s after the roof suffered damage from World War II — demonstrates the pinnacle of early Baroque ecclesiastical architecture.
During your visit, pay particular attention to the structure's smaller details — such as the statues of apostles Peter and Paul at the front or the individual murals on the copulas — to appreciate its supreme craftsmanship and ornamentation. And music lovers will appreciate the cathedral's prominence in Mozart's life: The building served as the location of the musical prodigy's baptism, as well as where some of his pieces were composed during his time as an organist.
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Since this central district contains some of the city's most popular attractions, such as Mozarts Geburtshaus and the Salzburg Museum, you will undoubtedly spend hours exploring here. We recommend not rushing through it, however, since there are tons of architectural marvels, markets and shops to see.
Wander around Altstadt's Judengasse (the Jewish District) and examine the St. Florian Fountain in the Alter Markt, a marketplace that dates back to the 13th century. And for architecture fans, spend plenty of time gazing at the neighborhood's array of buildings. Some structures were originally constructed during the Middle Ages, while others are newer and show Alstadt's progression over time.
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This paradise on the east side of the Salzach River shelters notable sites like the Pegasus Fountain, Dwarf Garden and the set of stairs where Julie Andrews and company practiced "Do-Re-Mi" in "The Sound of Music." Visitors like to explore the beautiful winding paths, snap photos of the unique sculptures or simply drink in the sights. Angel Staircase, a supreme example of the Baroque style, impresses visitors daily.
If you can, visit in summer. That's when Mirabellgarten's flowers are in bloom. In the backdrop, you'll see Schloss Mirabell (Mirabell Palace), which hosts Salzburg's municipal government; however, you can only explore the palace's interior during select hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays).
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Never conquered by enemy troops, Festung Hohensalzburg opened to the public in the mid-20th century. It was originally built in 1077 in preparation for a conflict between Pope Gregor VII and Emperor Henry IV. Over the centuries, the complex has grown, serving as a prison, an army camp and, of course, a military stronghold. Today, a torture chamber, several courtyards and three small museums — the Fortress, the Rainer Regiments and the Marionette —reside within its walls.
When you visit, you'll notice this fortress' rugged purposes did not dissuade rulers from adorning the interior lavishly. Some of the oldest gothic-style rooms have intricate wood paneling, elaborate door frames and complex ceiling vaults. And despite the eclectic decor, most people appreciate the imposing exterior. For stunning views of Salzburg and the surrounding area, make your way to the top of the compound.
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Although "The Sound of Music"was shot at a handful of places throughout Salzburg, the movie's gazebo scene, where Liesl and Rolf sang "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," was filmed at Schloss Hellbrunn. But even without the cult movie's following, travelers say this palace would still be enormously popular. The simple exterior hides exquisitely decorated rooms, ballrooms and halls (check out the octagonal music room). Here, you'll preview the lives of Salzburg's archbishops, the former religious and political rulers of the region who built its palaces.
Immaculately maintained, the gardens have stolen much of the thunder from the actual house. This 17th-century palace is the only royal estate in the world that will squirt you with water if you aren't looking. The Wasserspiele, or trick fountains, send streams of cool water at visitors from humorously placed jets — an archbishop's idea of a joke. So if you're not looking to get wet, make sure to wear a poncho while wandering the gardens.
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If you're looking to tour a quintessential Salzburg attraction, then a stop at Mozarts Geburtshaus is a must. Born on Jan. 27, 1756 on the third floor of this property, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart resided with his family here until 1773. Now the building houses a museum that chronicles the musical prodigy's early years. Artifacts from his life are spread out between this site and Mozarts Wohnhaus, where the famous composer also lived.
If you're short on time and can only visit one of these melodious houses, however, spring for Mozarts Geburtshaus. On display there are exhibits like Wolfgang's childhood violin, portraits and family letters. Exhibits are stretched among three levels: Visitors learn about Mozart's family and birth on the third floor, progress to his opera-composing period on the second, and get an insight into his everyday family life on the final ground floor. Travelers claim all of the exhibits are extremely informative and interesting, even if you aren't big on classical music.
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The Salzburg Museum has a wide range of archaeological and artistic treasures: from a 17th-century carillon (a set of mechanized bells) that plays Mozart compositions to religious Renaissance paintings and artifacts from Salzburg's early Roman origins. The most remarkable exhibit (listed as a separate museum for admission) contains several 360-degree panorama paintings. Still, others profess the true marvel of the museum is the facility itself.
In 2006, the Salzburg Museum re-opened at a new location in Altstadt. The museum is now located inside the Neue Residenz, an "overflow" palace for royal guests, diplomats and advisors. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., combined tickets for this site and the Panorama Museum will set you back 10 euros (or $11), plus there are available discounts for minors and families. For those with a Salzburg Card, admission to both museums is free.
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Before Mozart relocated to Vienna, he wrote many cherished symphonies, concertos and operas at Mozarts Wohnhaus, the composer's former home which sits across the Salzach River from Mozarts Gerburtshaus and Festung Hohensalzburg. Unfortunately, only a third of the original house remains intact due to a World War II bomb blast. An office building was initially constructed in the devastated section but was torn down in 1994. The property has since been restored to its original state.
Exhibitions at Mozarts Wohnhaus display the composer's original drafts and sheet music written in Salzburg. Most notably, Mozart's original pianoforte resides here, as well as a famous portrait of the Mozart family. And although some recent visitors wished more information was provided about Mozart's life, many appreciated the artifacts on display.
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