The picturesque Austrian city of Salzburg, with its picturesque Eastern Alps, has a rich cultural heritage. This heritage has the deepest connection to classical music, where the famous composer Mozart was born. In fact, his birthplace has been preserved as a museum displaying his childhood musical instruments and is one of the most popular tourist landmarks in Salzburg.
Geographically, the Salzach River divides the city, with the medieval and baroque Altstadt (Old Town) of medieval architecture under a steep hill on the left bank and the 19th-century New Town (Neustadt) on the right. On both sides of this border, visitors can see a lot to see and do – some more than others. Here is our selection of the most unique attractions in Salzburg.
Plan your trip.
Visitors to Salzburg can choose from a large number of accommodation options, ranging from budget hotels to ultra-luxury hotels. Most of these options are in the old town, but there are some scattered throughout the rest of the city. If you need an affordable room in Salzburg, be sure to check out our editorial selection, which you can read about here.
1. Schloss Hellbrunn Castle
Who says aristocrats don’t have a sense of humor when, at the beginning of the 17th century, Markus Sittikus, Archbishop of Salzburg, had an idea to transform the large garden of his summer playground into a cheerful place, at least for him. Since the palace was built on top of a natural spring, the archbishop decided to set up fountains in the gardens to spray water from time to time on unsuspecting guests. Some of the fountains were installed in the guest seating, and the results are imaginable. Nearly 400 years later, Hellbrunn is almost completely unchanged, except for a fountain with a variety of fountains and a mechanical theater added in 1750 that showcases a bustling baroque town with 200 moving figures repeating their clock movements to the music of a water-powered pipe organ.
2. 2. San Sebastian Cemetery
Mozart’s wife and father and Archbishop Wolf Dietrich are just some of the notable figures in Salzburg’s history who are buried in one of the most historic cemeteries in Europe, which dates back to 1502. In the heart of the San Sebastian Cemetery can be seen the huge mausoleum of Dietrich himself, who was buried here because he was denied the honor of being buried in the Salzburg Cathedral crypt for his misdeeds against the state. Other notable names to be found here include physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, mystic and philosopher Theophrastus Paracelsus, often referred to as “the father of modern medicine”.
3. Dom Museum’s Kunst und Wunderkammer Art Museum
Salzburg’s rich artistic and cultural heritage can be seen throughout the city, but nowhere is it more impressive than at DomQuartier, a vast baroque complex that includes a cathedral, a monastery and five separate museums. One of the famous Dom Museums is housed in the Kunst und Wunderkammer, a fascinating and carefully restored collection that once belonged to Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. Here, visitors can find a wide variety of mysterious objects, including stuffed animals, fossils, scientific instruments, and crystal-milled artifacts, all nestled in their original cabinets, arousing the curiosity of all visitors.
4. St. Peter’s Stiftskeller
Located in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town, within the monastic walls of St. Peter’s Basilica, it is said to be the oldest restaurant in Europe with over 1,200 years of history. As one might expect, its walls are lined with stories, including the time it was forced to close due to Napoleon’s invasion. There are 11 different restaurants that have hosted countless dignitaries over the years, including cardinals, kings, and modern-day Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood. Today, it is most often visited by tourists, not to mention its cuisine. The restaurant also hosts weekly Mozart dinners, where staff and musicians dress up in period costumes.
Founded in 1715 by Archbishop Prince Franz Anton Harrach, many of the disturbing dwarven statues are modeled after real human dwarves who once lived in the court and served as entertainment for the archbishop and his entourage. Situated at the northern end of Mirabel Gardens (see photo below), the political correctness of such an “attraction” may leave much to be desired, but one thing is undeniable: it is one of Salzburg’s most unusual – and popular – landmarks.
6. Schloss Mirabell
In a country with no shortage of opulent homes and palaces, Mirabel Castle is one of the standouts, attracting a large number of visitors every year. It was once frequented by Mozart and his family, who used the palace as a source of inspiration for their music, and its baroque gardens provided much of the material for the set of the famous film The Sound of Music. To this day, the palace still draws thousands of fans to witness the immortal legend of the von Trapp family on the silver screen. There is also a live theatre, and during the summer months, this is also the place for folklore events and other special events.
7. Panorama Museum
In this age of selfie sticks and high-tech digital cameras, the traditional “panorama” seems a bit dated. In Salzburg, however, visitors come in droves to see the masterpieces of this genre and gain a unique insight into the daily life of the city two centuries ago. The Panorama Museum is located in the Old Town, where a large number of large paintings by Hubert Sattler, a painter popular during the 19th century, are on display, capturing unusual cities and landscapes. However, the central attraction of the museum is a huge circular painting – with an incredible 26-metre circumference – that shows the splendour of Salzburg and its surroundings. There is a dedicated visitor platform where the painting can be viewed.
The resort area of Salzkammergut, known as the Austrian Lake District, is a popular day-trip destination for trips to Salzburg. From Salzburg, the journey follows the Austrian Alpine forelands and the limestone mountains of the Northern Alps eastward to the peaks of the Hirschstein Mountains, where numerous lakes, flanked by beautiful towns and villages, exude the beauty and charm of nature. Some towns are surrounded by rolling hills, others by tall peaks, and many towns still recall the splendor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with their ornate facades of historic buildings. The region is still favored by European aristocrats and wealthy elites, many of whom have hermitages here away from tourist attractions. Whether sunbathing by the lake or hiking on secluded trails, Salzkammergut will fascinate everyone who visits.
9. Hangar 7
Airport hangars don’t usually appear on tourist attraction recommendation lists, but this is no ordinary airport hangar.Hangar 7, located at Salzburg Airport and owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, founder of the energy drink company Red Bull, is home to the billionaire’s private car collection, which includes planes, helicopters and racing cars. Located under a striking glass dome, the hangar attracts a large number of visitors each year, who marvel at its striking transportation. The hangar also hosts regular art exhibitions, and there is a high-end restaurant and two bar areas.