Perfect Itinerary for a Quick Trip to Salzburg, Austria
The city of Salzburg and The Sound of Music go hand-in-hand for most people. Walking through the Altstadt with Hohensalzburg rising above the city makes it easy to imagine how the city felt when Mozart was born here. It’s a backdrop that fairytales are made of and whether you’re a classical music fan or a Sound of Music fan, it’s hard not to be inspired by this city with so much musical history. Spending 36 hours in Salzburg, Austria gives you the perfect amount of time to explore the city and all that it has to offer.
Wandering around the streets of Salzburg you can get lost amongst the lanes, full of hidden courtyards and squares. You’ll find traditional wrought-iron signs hanging above shops. Popular streets for shopping and strolling include Linzergasse. The Altstadt straddles both banks of the Salzach River but centres largely on the left bank.
The city is extremely walkable, but if you’re planning on doing lots of sightseeing, save by buying the Salzburg Card. This will get you entry into all of the major sights and attractions and unlimited use of public transport. The card can be purchased at the airport, most hotels, or online at www.salzburg.info.
Salzburg is so full of history no matter where you are in the city. On the right bank of the Salzach River, Steingasse was the main trade route to Italy in medieval times. Look out for the house of Joseph Mohr, who wrote the lyrics to the classic Christmas carol Silent Night. No matter where you stay in the city, you’ll be surrounded by beauty and within a 20-minute walk from most sights.
Where to Stay in Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg isn’t a huge city so most areas to stay are all within walking distance of many attractions. For convenience, staying near the main train station makes it easy to leave your luggage while you’re out sightseeing. Or some may prefer a quieter experience outside the city. In this case, there are a number of traditional Austrian guesthouses available.
One of these is very famous as the current owners have transformed the original von Trapp family home into a beautiful guesthouse. The 19th-century villa is elegant, with tasteful wood-floored rooms and clean decor. Family snapshots and heirlooms, including the baron’s model ships, grace the dining room. To get here from Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, take a train or bus 160 to Aigen. It’s important to note that the Villa is not right in the city.
What to Do in Salzburg, Austria
1. Festung Hohensalzburg
Salzburg’s most famous icon is this 900-year-old cliff-top fortress that watches over the city. Festung Hohensalzburg is considered one of the biggest and best-preserved landmarks in Europe. It’s easy to spend a few hours up there, roaming the fortress and admiring the views of the Salzach River and the Tyrol mountains. There are two ways to reach the fortress: a steep 15-minute walk from the city centre or a fun ride up the cliff in the glass Festungsbahn funicular.
The fortress was originally built in 1077. The grandeur state of the present structure remains from the rule of Leonard von Keutschach (prince-archbishop of Salzburg from 1495-1519). You can still visit the Golden Hall where his lavish banquets were once held.
2. Schloss Mirabell
Schloss Mirabell was built in 1606 as a palace by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich to impress his mistress. Later in 1721, Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt remodelled the palace in baroque style before going on to build the beautiful Schloss Belvedere in Vienna.
The lavish interior is free to visit, but many stick to the beautiful gardens outside. The gardens are a great photo spot with the fortress as a backdrop. The Sound of Music fans will also recognise the Pegasus statue, the steps and the gnomes, where the von Trapps practised Do-Re-Mi.
3. Mozart’s Geburthaus
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg’s most famous composer, was born in this bright-yellow house in 1756. He spent the first 17 years of his life here. Today, the museum holds a collection of instruments, documents, and portraits from Mozart. You can see the mini-violin he played as a toddler, a lock of his hair, and even buttons from his jacket.
4. Mozart’s Wohnhaus
After visiting the home where he was born, you can continue your Mozart tour over to this house. Tired of their cramped living conditions on Getreidegasse, the Mozart family moved in 1773 to this more spacious spot. Mozart composed some of his works such as the Shepherd King (K208) and Idomeneo (K366) in this house. The house is open for tours by an audio guide. You’ll be able to see more family portraits, documents, and Mozart’s original fortepiano.
Salzburg’s DomQuartier showcases baroque monuments and museums in the historic centre. A single ticket will give you access to the Residenz staterooms and gallery, the upper galleries of the Dom, the Dommuseum, and Erzabtei St. Peter. If you follow the audio guide, it’ll guide you through the quarter in about 90 minutes, although you can easily spend much longer here.
The Dom stands out in this square as a masterpiece of baroque art. Its origins date to an earlier cathedral founded by Bishop Virgil in 767. The current one was redesigned during the Thirty Years’ War and it was consecrated in 1628.
6. Erzabtei St. Peter
St. Peter’s Abbey was founded around 700, making it the oldest monastery in the German-speaking world. Originally more of a Romanesque-style, today’s church follows the baroque look of the rest of the city.
You can take a stroll around the cemetery here, where the graves feature intricate stonework and wrought-iron crosses. Another famous composer, Michael Haydn, is buried here. The cemetery is also home to the catacombs cut out of the Mönchsberg cliff face.
7. Residenz Salzburg
The crowning glory of Salzburg’s DomQuartier is the Residenz is where the prince-archbishops held court until Salzburg became part of the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century. The exuberant staterooms are lavishly furnished with tapestries, stucco, and frescos. The 3rd floor has been given over to the Residenzgalerie, where the focus is on Flemish and Dutch masters. This regal baroque palace was built on the site of an 11th-century bishop’s residence that once stood here.
Outside in the Residenzplatz with its horse-drawn carriages, this stately baroque square is the Salzburg of a thousand postcards. Its centrepiece is the Residenzbrunnen, an enormous marble fountain in the middle of the square. Take time to walk around and admire the architecture or take a horse-drawn carriage tour to complete your fairytale of a day.
8. Schloss Hellbrunn
Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus, built Schloss Hellbrunn in the early 17th century as a summer palace and an escape from the Residenz. Be prepared to get soaked in the mock Roman theatre, the Neptune Grotto and the Bird Grotto. Tours run every 30 minutes and round out at the 18th-century water-powered Mechanical Theatre, where 200 limewood figurines depict life in the baroque city.
Full of ponds, sculptures, and hedge-line lanes, the palace gardens are free to visit and open year-round. Here you’ll find the Sound of Music pavilion from Sixteen Going on Seventeen. Hellbrunn is 4.5km south of Salzburg and can be easily reached by a 20-minute bus ride or bike tour along the river.
9. Stift Nonnberg
A short climb up the Nonnbergstiege staircase from Kaigasse or along Festungsgasse brings you to this Benedictine-style Nonnberg Convent. It was founded 1300 years ago and made famous as the nunnery in The Sound of Music. You can visit the beautiful rib-vaulted church, but the rest of the convent is off-limits. If you’re an early riser, time your visit to hear the nuns singing at 6:45 am daily.
Other Things to See in Salzburg, Austria
1. Salzburg Museum
Housed in the Neue Residenz, the Salzburg Museum takes you on a tour through Salzburg of the past and present. Ornate rooms showcase everything from Roman excavations to royal portraits. The Kunsthalle presents rotating exhibitions of art, while the Panorama Passage also provides models of the city at different points in history.
2. The Sound of Music Museum
If you’re crazy about The Sound of Music, the Sound of Music Museum will definitely appeal to you. It provides info on different aspects of the making of the movie and insight into the real Trapp Family Singers. Memorabilia from the movie, photos, costumes, and furnishings are all featured in the museum.
3. Salzburg Zoo
For kids and adults alike, the abundance of animals at the Salzburg Zoo, near Schloss Hellbrunn is a fantastic place to visit if you have time. The zoo is home to 140 animals from across the globe and is located just 20 minutes outside of Salzburg.
4. Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum
If you’re a huge Christmas-lover then the Salzburger Weihnachtsmuseum is a must-visit stop while in the city. The private collection brings tons of festivity in the form of advent calendars, hand-carved baubles, and nutcrackers, while also providing a lesson in the history of Christmas traditions.
5. Salzburg, Austria Weihnachtsmarkt
If you’re in Salzburg in December, you can’t miss out on visiting the Salzburger Weihnachtsmarkt! Austria has some of the most beautiful Christmas Markets around. The main market is in the Residenzplatz and has such a beautiful backdrop to help you get in the Christmas spirit!
Final Thoughts on Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg, Austria is such a beautiful city to visit no matter the season! It’s an easy few-hour train ride from both Munich, Vienna and Zurich, so is very accessible too. The city is not huge so it is easy to see in a day or two, but there is still plenty to explore. Whether you are a music lover, history lover, or Christmas lover this city has something for everyone.
If you’ve visited Salzburg already, what was your favourite place? And if not, hopefully this guide will give you some inspiration and ideas for when you’re able to visit!