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Top Five Must-See Salzburg Attractions

Top Five Must-See Attractions in Salzburg, Austria

Discover the enchanting allure of Salzburg, Austria, a beautiful city nestled in the Austrian Alps and only a short train ride away from Munich, Germany. This city in Bavaria is not only famed for its connections to Mozart, The Sound of Music, and Red Bull Energy Drinks, as you will learn by exploring the top five must-see Salzburg attractions, but also for its baroque architecture and classical music scene that continues to thrive to this day. In fact, Salzburg is often referred to as the "Rome of the North" or the "Rome of the North Alps" due to its rich architectural heritage, historical significance, and cultural contributions, similar to Rome in Italy. This nickname highlights Salzburg's status as a cultural and artistic center in Europe, with its Baroque architecture, musical legacy, and UNESCO World Heritage sites adding to its allure as a captivating destination. From the grandeur of Salzburg Cathedral to the medieval Hohensalzburg Fortress, the Old Town's picturesque charm and winding streets, the beauty of Mirabell Palace Gardens, and the cultural significance of Mozart's Birthplace (called Mozarts Geburtshaus in German), these attractions in Salzburg promise a journey steeped in history, art, and nature. Come along with us as we dive into the top five must-see Salzburg attractions and help you plan a trip of a lifetime! 

View of Salzburg from Salzburg Fortress_Salzburg

Salzburg Cathedral

Salzburg Cathedral, also known as Salzburger Dom in German, stands as a magnificent testament to Baroque architecture in the heart of Salzburg's Altstadt (Old Town). Salzburg Cathedral is the beating heart of the city, a must-see site that encapsulates the essence of Salzburg. Its grandeur is marked by beautifully ornate stucco work adorning the interior, showcasing the elaborate craftsmanship of the period, while its iconic copper dome and two towers leaves a lasting impression on the Salzburg skyline.

Salzburg Cathedral_Exterior_Sazlburg

Upon entering Salzburg Cathedral, visitors will immediately notice how bright and airy the cathedral feels. As the light beckons you closer, you will find yourself standing beneath the majestic dome of the cathedral, gazing towards the heavens with a sense of awe and reverence. 

Salzburg Cathedral_Dome_Interior
One of the cathedral's most notable features is its famous medieval baptismal font, located to the left upon entering the cathedral, where renowned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized in 1756. (Joseph Mohr, who wrote the popular Christmas carol "Silent Night" was also baptized in this same baptismal font in 1792.) The medieval baptismal font, adorned with lions at its base, is made of bronze and dates back to the early 14th century (the lions at its base are even older - dating back to 1200 AD). This historical link adds an extra layer of significance to the cathedral, as it symbolizes the intertwined heritage of music and religious history in Salzburg.

Baptismal Font_Salzburg Cathedral

Furthermore, visitors of Salzburg Cathedral can explore the crypts below the Cathedral where Prince-Archbishops and other notable figures from Salzburg's past were laid to rest. This sacred space offers a small glimpse into the city's historical narrative and the lives of those who shaped its legacy.

Reconstruction of Salzburg Cathedral 

The Salzburg Cathedral that you see today dates back to the 17th century, after two prior cathedrals stood on this site. The first Salzburg Cathedral dates back to 774 AD, but burned down after a lightning strike less than 70 years later. Another iteration of Salzburg Cathedral was built in the 12th century. After being ravaged by fire and numerous unsuccessful restoration efforts, the cathedral met its demise once again in the early 17th century, paving the way in 1628 for the grandeur of the Salzburg Cathedral that graces the city today.

During World War II, Salzburg Cathedral suffered significant damage due to bombing raids, particularly to its roof and interior. The most devastating blow occurred on the fateful night of October 16, 1944, when a bomb dropped by Allied forces struck the cathedral's dome, causing it to crumble and leaving a trail of destruction to the cathedral's interior and crypts in its wake. However, extensive restoration efforts post-war, completed in 1959, have restored much of its original splendor, allowing visitors to marvel at its beauty once again. 

You will notice as you approach Salzburg Cathedral that the wrought iron gates outside the entrance are marked with three significant dates in the Cathedral's history: 774 (the year of the first Salzburg Cathedral's consecration), 1628 (the year of the current Salzburg Cathedral's consecration), and 1959 which somberly marks the completion of repairs after significant damage during World War II. 

Live Music & Concerts at Salzburg Cathedral

Musically, Salzburg Cathedral boasts five impressive organs, including the main processional organ - located above the cathedral's entrance in the gallery. This organ, along with others within the cathedral, contributes to the rich musical tradition that resonates within its sacred walls. Mozart was once an organist in this cathedral and his musical legacy at the cathedral lives on today.

Salzburg Cathedral offers daily live organ concerts at 12:00 PM, except on Sundays and public holidays. The concerts begin promptly after the midday church bells chime, filling the cathedral with enchanting music. The daily organ concerts are €9 and last approximately 30 minutes. The concert provides a beautiful sampling of the different organs within the cathedral. It was a phenomenal experience and if you have the time to attend one of these concerts, I highly recommend it! 

Salzburg Cathedral_Organ

Salzburg Cathedral also hosts more formal concerts on a regular basis, including concerts centered around the music of Mozart and concerts featuring all five of the cathedral's organs. These concerts range in price from €15-35, with discounted admission available for students. To see a schedule of upcoming concerts, please visit the Salzburg Cathedral website. 

Overall, Salzburg Cathedral stands as a living testament to the city's rich cultural heritage, blending architectural magnificence, musical legacy, and historical significance into a singular experience for visitors and locals alike.

Looking to learn more about Salzburg Cathedral? Check out this page from the TSG Tourismus Salzburg GmbH website to learn more about the cathedral and view its opening hours and upcoming events. Tickets for Salzburg Cathedral can be purchased in-person from the ticket office or online on the Salzburg Cathedral website.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress, also known as Salzburg Fortress, is a formidable symbol of the city's history and resilience. Perched atop the Festungsberg Mountain and overlooking Salzburg's Altstadt, this mighty fortress offers beautiful panoramic vistas of Salzburg and the surrounding Austrian Alps, making it a must-visit attraction for tourists and history enthusiasts alike.

The fortress dates back to the 11th century, with its origins tied to the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg who commissioned its construction. Over the centuries, it evolved from a simple fortification into one of the largest and best-preserved medieval castles in Europe. The fortress played a crucial role in Salzburg's defense during various conflicts, including the German Peasants' War which was the only time the fortress ever came under siege. Despite its military significance, the fortress also served as a residence for the Prince-Archbishops.

One of the fortress's remarkable features is its massive size, spanning over 8 acres and inclusive of some 50 buildings, courtyards, and, of course, its distinctive stone walls. Visitors can access the fortress via a funicular railway or by walking up the scenic path, both of which offer fantastic views along the way. All ticket types include the funicular railway for your descent back to Salzburg's Altstadt. (When Brian and I visited Hohensalzburg Fortress in October 2023, we opted to take the funicular railway up to the top because it was quite cold and the price difference in tickets was only a few Euros!) Upon reaching the fortress grounds, a journey through history awaits, with various attractions, incredible views, and exhibits showcasing different aspects of life within the fortress's stone walls.

Salzburg Fortress_Interior Courtyard2

The Castle Museum & Armory

The Castle Museum, located within the fortress complex, presents a comprehensive overview of the fortress's history, architecture, and the lives of its inhabitants over the centuries. Exhibits include artifacts, models, and interactive displays that depict the evolution of the fortress from its medieval origins to its role in later periods.

The Armory, a part of the Castle Museum, showcases a remarkable collection of historical weapons, armor, and military equipment. From medieval swords and crossbows to Renaissance-era firearms and protective gear, the Armory offers a glimpse into the evolution of weaponry and warfare through the centuries.

Suit of Armor_Salzburg Fortress

Visitors can marvel at intricately crafted suits of armor worn by knights and nobles, study the craftsmanship of ancient weapons, and learn about the tactics and technologies employed in medieval and early modern warfare. The Armory's exhibits highlight not only the martial aspect of life within the fortress but also the artistic and technological achievements of the time.

Prince's Chambers

If you purchase the more expensive, all-inclusive ticket to Hohensalzburg Fortress, it includes admission to the Prince's Chambers. The Prince's Chambers are just as the name suggests, the private state rooms of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg within Hohensalzburg Fortress. The Prince's Chambers includes: the Prince's Hall, the Golden Chamber, and the Golden Hall. The furnishings and decor of these rooms are original, remaining unchanged since the early 16th century. The ornate decorations of these rooms alone make them worth seeing!

Panorama Tour

The views from Hohensalzburg Fortress are truly spectacular, but the most unforgettable vistas await you on the Panorama Tour. The path takes you up to the very top of Hohensalzburg Fortress to its observation tower. (The walk itself was not strenuous. However, it did include stairs and is not handicap accessible. If you have trouble walking or are traveling with small children, it might be best to skip this part of the fortress.) The viewing deck at the top of the observation tower offers incredible, unobstructed 360-degree views of Salzburg and the surrounding Austrian Alps. This was my favorite part of visiting Hohensalzburg Fortress! As an added bonus, there was also signage on the observation tower pointing out the different landmarks in view.

Salzburg Fortress from Observation Tower

Today, Hohensalzburg Fortress is a cultural heritage site and museum, offering insights into Salzburg's history, art, and military heritage. Visitors can access the fortress via a funicular railway or a scenic walking path, culminating in a memorable experience at one of Austria's most iconic landmarks. For more information about visiting Salzburg Fortress, including opening hours, special events, and admission costs, please visit the Salzburg Fortress website.

Austrian Alps from Salzburg Fortress

Explore Salzburg's Altstadt (Old Town)

Salzburg's Old Town, known as the Altstadt, is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved and opulent Baroque architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and rich cultural heritage. The Altstadt stands as a testament to Salzburg's history as a prosperous trading center during the 17th and 18th centuries and the seat of powerful Prince-Archbishops. A visit to the Altstadt is an essential experience for every traveler in Salzburg!

Residenzplatz Fountain

The heart of the Altstadt is dominated by the majestic Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom), which is one of the city's finest examples of Baroque architecture. Its stunning façade, adorned with elaborate sculptures, columns, and intricate ornamentation, epitomizes the Baroque aesthetic. The nearby Residenzplatz, a grand square surrounded by elegant Baroque buildings, is another landmark within the Altstadt. The Residenzplatz is home to the Residenz Palace, once the residence of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg and now a museum, part of the DomQuartier Salzburg. The museum showcases the lavish palace interiors, art collections, and other historical artifacts. The Residenz Fountain, with its magnificent horse statues and water features, adds a touch of grandeur to the area and serves as a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike.

The Old Town is also a hub of musical heritage, with landmarks like Mozart's Birthplace (Mozart Geburtshaus) attracting music enthusiasts from around the world. This historic building, where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and spent his early years, is now a museum showcasing his life, works, and contributions to classical music. We will cover more specifics on Mozart's Birthplace shortly. 😊

Aside from the picturesque buildings and winding streets, the Altstadt features plenty of shopping and dining experiences for travelers to enjoy.

Shopping in Altstadt 

Shopping in Salzburg's Altstadt offers a blend of high-end boutiques, popular international brands, and charming local shops that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences.

For luxury shopping, the Altstadt is home to brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Prada, where discerning shoppers can indulge in exquisite fashion, accessories, and leather goods crafted with impeccable craftsmanship. Other popular international brands have a presence in the Altstadt, selling a range of clothing and accessories for people of all ages, including: United Colors of Benetton, Wolford, Tod's, H&M, Longchamp, and more.

In addition to international brands, the Altstadt is also home to a number of local shops specializing in traditional crafts and souvenirs. Visitors can explore quaint shops selling handcrafted nutcrackers, intricate Christmas ornaments, and other seasonal decorations that capture the festive spirit of Salzburg. A favorite shop of mine in the Altstadt is Christmas in Salzburg which sells a large assortment of beautifully handcrafted decorations for both Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween, including traditional hand-painted eggs. 

Trachten, traditional Bavarian clothing worn during festivals and special occasions, can also be found in specialty stores throughout the Altstadt. These shops offer a range of Trachten garments, including Dirndls for women and Lederhosen for men, along with accessories such as hats, aprons, and jewelry, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in Austrian culture and heritage. I found the prices of Trachten to be cheaper in Salzburg when compared to Munich, so if you are visiting both cities and looking to bring home traditional Bavarian clothing, Salzburg is your best bet!

Wrought-Iron Guild Signs

One of the most iconic landmarks in the Altstadt is the bustling Getreidegasse, a narrow street lined with charming shops, historic buildings, and beautiful wrought-iron guild signs. These signs, crafted by skilled blacksmiths, serve as unique identifiers for shops, businesses, and historic buildings throughout the city.


Each wrought-iron sign is a work of art in its own right, often featuring intricate designs, scrollwork, and depictions related to the business or establishment it represents. These signs are not only functional but also add a touch of character and nostalgia to Salzburg's streets, harkening back to a time when craftsmanship and attention to detail were highly valued.

The designs on the wrought-iron signs vary widely, reflecting the diverse range of businesses and services found in Salzburg's Altstadt. You might come across signs depicting musical instruments for music shops, culinary motifs for restaurants and bakeries, symbols of craftsmanship for artisanal workshops, or historical emblems for museums and heritage sites.

Dining in Altstadt 

The Old Town's culinary scene is equally enticing, with traditional Austrian taverns (Gasthäuser) offering hearty local cuisine, cozy cafes serving up delicious pastries and coffee, and plenty of upscale restaurants. 

One of the most famous restaurants in the Altstadt is St. Peter Stiftskulinarium which is said to be the oldest restaurant in Europe, dating back to 803 AD. St. Peter Stiftskulinarium is celebrated for its commitment to culinary excellence and traditional Austrian cuisine. The menu features a range of dishes showcasing local ingredients and flavors, prepared with skill and artistry. One of the standout features of dining at St. Peter Stiftskulinarium is the historic ambience of the restaurant's dining rooms. Guests can dine in elegant halls adorned with antique furnishings and historical artifacts, adding an element of grandeur to the meal. 

A list of five of the most popular restaurants in the Altstadt can be found on the Culture Trip website. I could spend all day listing the food options scattered throughout Salzburg's Old Town. But sometimes, the real joy of travel is in the spontaneity of stumbling upon that perfect spot to eat. That is how I find many of the places I eat at when I travel - including Zwettler's Wirtshaus and Sternbräu in the Altstadt. I promise, whatever food you are in the mood for, you will not be short of options in the Altstadt!

Mirabell Palace Gardens

Mirabell Palace is one of Salzburg's most iconic and picturesque attractions, known for its Baroque splendor, architectural beauty, and, of course, its scenic gardens.

Mirabell Palace Gardens_Salzburg Fortress_Salzburg

Originally built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau as a lavish gesture for his beloved mistress Salome Alt and their children, Mirabell Palace underwent extensive renovations in the early 18th century. The result was a stunning example of Baroque architecture, featuring ornate façades, grand halls, and elegant interiors. Today, most of Mirabell Palace has been repurposed and houses administrative offices for the city of Salzburg. However, its famous Marble Hall and the Mirabell Palace Gardens remain open for tourists and locals alike to enjoy in all of their glory. 

The Marble Hall, a magnificent space adorned with marble columns, detailed frescos on the ceiling, and ornate stucco work, is often used for concerts, weddings, and official ceremonies. The Marble Hall's beauty and acoustics make it a sought-after venue for musical performances and events. Classical music concerts are frequently held in the Marble Hall, often featuring the music of Mozart. Information regarding upcoming concerts and advance ticket purchases can be found on the Mirabell Palace website.

However, it is the Mirabell Palace Gardens that truly steal the show with their beauty and meticulous landscaping. The gardens are designed in the formal Baroque style, featuring symmetrical layouts, manicured lawns, vibrant flower beds, ornamental sculptures, and charming pathways lined with statues and fountains.

Pegasus Fountain_Mirabell Palace Gardens

One of the most famous features of the Mirabell Palace Gardens is the Pegasus Fountain, a masterpiece of Baroque artistry depicting the mythical winged horse. For fans of The Sound of Music, it is this fountain that makes an appearance in the Do-Re-Me scene. The garden's other highlights include: the Dwarf Garden at the north end of the garden which features a peculiar collection of dwarf sculptures, the Hedge Theater, and the Orangery. 

The Mirabell Palace Gardens have also served as a backdrop for cultural performances and events, including concerts, weddings, and film productions (including The Sound of Music). The gardens' romantic ambiance and scenic vistas of Fortress Hohensalzburg make them a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Admission to the Mirabell Palace Gardens is free. The Dwarf Garden is closed during the winter. Information regarding the gardens, as well as the most up-to-date opening hours, can be found on the TSG Tourismus Salzburg GmbH website

Mozart's Birthplace

Mozart's Birthplace, known as "Mozart Geburtshaus" in German, is a historic landmark in Salzburg that holds great significance in the life and legacy of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the world's most celebrated composers. The birthplace of Mozart is located at Getreidegasse 9 in Salzburg's Altstadt, a street lined with charming shops and historic buildings. The Mozart family occupied the third-floor apartment at the front of the house beginning in 1747. The house itself is a typical 18th-century townhouse, providing a tiny glimpse into the living conditions of the time.

Mozarts Birthplace_Salzburg
Mozart was born in this house on January 27, 1756, and spent his early years here with his family. The house is now a museum dedicated to preserving the memory of Mozart's life, music, and contributions to classical music. Visitors to Mozart's Birthplace can explore various rooms furnished in the style of the period, including the kitchen, and exhibits showcasing Mozart's musical genius, family history, and personal belongings.

The museum displays a collection of original manuscripts, musical instruments, portraits, letters, and memorabilia associated with Mozart and his family. Highlights include Mozart's childhood violin, his clavichord, his first compositions, and items related to his performances and travels across Europe. The museum also offers insights into Mozart's early musical education, influences, and the cultural milieu of 18th-century Salzburg, providing a comprehensive view of the environment that shaped the young prodigy into a musical genius.

Mozart's Birthplace is a pilgrimage site for music enthusiasts, historians, and visitors interested in classical music and the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It stands as a testament to Salzburg's musical heritage and the enduring legacy of one of the greatest composers in history. Unfortunately for me, Mozart's Birthplace was closed due to staffing issues when I visited Salzburg this past October. However, a visit to the museum is at the top of my list for my next trip to this beautiful city. Additional information regarding opening hours, admission costs, and advance purchase tickets can be found on the Mozart Museums Salzburg website.

Other Popular Salzburg Attractions

Salzburg boasts a number of attractions beyond its most famous sites. Hellbrunn Palace beckons with its playful trick fountains and stunning gardens, offering a delightful escape just outside the city center. Families can also enjoy a visit to Salzburg Zoo, located on the picturesque grounds of Hellbrunn Palace, showcasing a wide range of animals from around the globe. 

For a cultural experience, a tour based on the iconic film The Sound of Music takes guests on a journey to filming locations from the beloved musical, including Hellbrunn Palace. I recommend this The Sound of Music themed tour of Salzburg with GetYourGuide. (If you book an experience or tour through Jetset Seeker's GetYourGuide affiliate link, we may earn a small commission.) 

Stiegl-Brauwelt, one of Austria's oldest and most renowned breweries, with a history dating back to 1492, offers beer enthusiasts an immersive brewery tour. Led by knowledgeable guides, guests learn about malt milling, fermentation, and bottling, while also sampling a variety of Stiegl beers during a tasting session. Beyond the tour, visitors can enjoy traditional Austrian cuisine at Stiegl's Brewpub, indulging in dishes like schnitzels, sausages, and cheese platters that pair perfectly with Stiegl's beers. 

These captivating Salzburg attractions, set against the backdrop of the majestic Austrian Alps, promise an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

Kapuzinerberg Trail_Salzburg

Looking for more information on Salzburg? Check out our Salzburg Travel Guide for more popular attractions, fantastic restaurants, and general information about the Rome of the North!

Have you visited Salzburg? We would love to hear from you!