Salzburg Sightseeing & Travel Guide

View on the city of Salzburg with Salzburg′s mountains in the background

Salzburg is a fairly recent "acquisition" of Austria: until 1816, it was an independent principality ruled by powerful Prince Archbishops. The first of them, St. Rupert, had founded Salzburg on the ruins of the lost Roman city Iuvavum. Originally under the control of Bavarian rulers, Salzburg gained independence in the Middle Ages and gradually increased its wealth and power, peaking in the Baroque days of the 17th century.

Salzburg′s Most Wanted: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Today it attracts enormous amounts of tourists, especially in the summer the historic city centre can be crowded like an anthill. This "Altstadt" is the biggest UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site - essentially all of the old town is part of it. It gained this status because of its homogenous baroque appearance - three Prince Archbishops  in particular, Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Markus Sittkus and Paris Lodron had caught the building bug.

They transformed the Medieval city into a gem of Baroque architecture. You will not find a similar place anywhere in Europe: Marvel at the elaborate cathedral (Salzburger Dom), the castle Hohensalzburg (supposedly the biggest in Central Europe, but I always find this claim a bit dodgy), and the scenic hills on the northern edge of the Alps.

Top-10: Best Attractions of Salzburg

1.) Hohensalzburg Fortress, Dom Cathedral & Altstadt
2.) Saltmines, Mount Dürrnberg & Hallein
3.) Großglockner Hochalpenstraße
4.) Müllner Bräu Brewery & Beer Garden
5.) Mirabell Palace & Baroque Gardens
6.) Hellbrunn Palace, Parks & Trick Fountains
7.) Fuschlsee, St. Gilgen, Schafbergbahn & Zwölferhorn
8.) Zell am See, Lake Zell & Kaprun Reservoirs
9.) Krimml Waterfalls & National Park Hohe Tauern
10.) Gasteinertal Valley, Bad Gastein & Thermal Spa

Baroque centre, Mozart & the best castle of Austria

Dozens of baroque churches and Europe′s oldest nunnery that was in constant use (Stift Nonnberg), other monasteries like the Capuchin one or the ancient Benedictine Abbey St. Peter, the Mirabell Palace and its beautiful gardens, and more than a dozen more palaces and castles just in the city itself would do enough to keep the tourism going.

Aerial impressions of Salzburg, presented via YouTube and shot right in Austria′s most beautiful place (note that I am from Salzburg...).

But wait, there′s more: Mozart′s birth added another highly commerce-friendly touch to the city. The genius himself left the place in anger and wrote some very rude comments about the Prince Archbishop upon his departure. Nevertheless, he′s everybody′s darling in Salzburg and can be found on T-shirts, chocolates, booze, sausages and pretty much any other random souvenir.

Salzburg′s Musical Heritage beyond Mozart

Big money is also made through the "Salzburg Festival", which attracts rich aficionados of opera and classical music. "Ordinary" tourists will typically not attend the rather expensive festival performances, but they cheer to "The Sound of Music", the second-most successful film of all times (after "Gone with the Wind"). Everybody knows it and it is among almost everybody′s favourite things - only Austrians have no clue about it.

Salzburg′s historic City Centre

It was first broadcasted in 2001 and when it was in the movies decades ago, most Austrians found it as silly as I do. However, I had to watch it a few years ago before I took some American friends to Salzburg and hey - now I know eventually what the fuss is about. Nevertheless, I would still rather recommend you to hike over the hills, go for a cool beer to the "Müllner Bräu", one of Austria′s most traditional beer halls.

Or spend a day for a trip to the Hellbrunn trick fountains, the National Park Hohe Tauern, the Hallein salt mines or Burg Hohenwerfen. The Salzburg part of the Salzkammergut includes the pretty village of Fuschl, the town of St. Gilgen and the village Strobl near the Schafbergbahn. In the south, you will find access to the spectacular Großglockner Hochalpenstraße, the city of Zell am See and the Alpine ressorts of Bad Gastein in the Gasteinertal and Radstadt as well as the impressive waterfalls of Krimml.

The Basilica Maria Plain just outside of Salzburg

North of Salzburg, the town of Oberndorf makes a good day-trip destination: It was in Oberndorf where the Christmas carol "Silent Night" was written in 1818. Another day-trip would go to Großgmain, which has an open-air folk museum on traditional rural life. The south of the province with towns like Obertauern, St. Johann im Pongau or Saalbach-Hinterglemm has some of Austria′s best areas for skiing. For remote days in the Alps, try the Lungau and villages like St. Michael or Tamsweg. If you plan to explore the surroundings of the town, note my article on Day-Trips from Salzburg.

Please note that I collaborate with the website, which I can recommend for further information. I helped doing it and there is plenty of independent information available there. That′s why I won′t go into further detail with Salzburg - despite of being from there. Additional advice can be obtained through the Salzburg Tourism Council. See also my list of communities in Salzburg and my article on festivals and events in Salzburg.

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Sightseeing in other Provinces

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Linz & Upper Austria - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Travel and Sightseeing Information on Salzburg

Salzburg Hotels

Map of Salzburg with Tourist Attractions

Official website of the Local Tourism Council