Imagine walking down cobbled streets that look like they're straight out of a fairy tale, with views that'll have you snapping pics non-stop. History lovers, film, and music fans will find plenty to keep them busy—think “The Sound of Music” filming spots with plenty of Mozart mixed in. If you're wondering what the best things to do in Salzburg are, then you've come to the right place.
1. Fortress Hohensalzburg
Located on a hill, Fortress Hohensalzburg offers the best views of Salzburg and the Alps, and there are two ways to get to the top. You can take the funicular, which is faster, which we recommend if you only have a day in Salzburg, but if you have more time, you can walk up, but it will take you a while.
Once you're up there, you'll find a variety of museums and exhibits to explore, including the Torture Chambers and even a Muppets Museum. Audio tours and information placards in both German and English are available to enhance your experience. The fortress could offer more interactive displays for kids, but overall, it's a rewarding experience with great photo opportunities.
2. Salzburger Altstadt
Mirabell Palace and Gardens are among the best things to see in Salzburg, offering a feast for both the eyes and ears.
“The Sound of Music” fans will love it, as the gardens were used as filming locations for the iconic movie.
Fountains, statues, and well-tended flower beds add to the garden's charm. From here, you can also catch a great view of Fortress Hohensalzburg up on the hill. The palace, now a government building, still has some accessible areas that showcase its fine marble and sculptures.
Wandering the grounds and parts of the palace is entirely free, making it a budget-friendly yet enriching experience, which is what we always love to see at the Frugal Expat.
Untersbery is easily accessible from the city center as the number 25 bus takes you straight to Untersberg and even stops at other attractions like Hellbrunn Palace and Salzburg Zoo, making it convenient if those other places are on your list.
We recommend taking the cable car ride up; although it may be a bit nerve-wracking for some, the lovely views at the top make it well worth it. On a clear day, the panorama is simply breathtaking.
Nature lovers will appreciate the well-marked trails, informative signs about alpine flora, and opportunities to spot local wildlife like mountain goats, birds, and butterflies.
The area also has a few cafes at the top, but be warned, they can get busy in the summer!
4. Salzburg Cathedral
This baroque cathedral stands out for its grandeur and intricate details and should be on your list of things to see in Salzburg. What sets it apart is the daily noon organ recital, a unique chance in Salzburg to hear quality music without breaking the bank.
The cathedral features soaring ceilings filled with elaborate artwork, adding to the visual spectacle. While there is a modest “conservation” fee to enter, most visitors find it well worth the price, and even as a frugal traveler, we don't think you will mind paying it.
The interior, likened to a scaled-down version of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, offers a mesmerizing experience.
5. Schloss Hellbrunn
Schloss Hellbrunn is a top choice for families, ranking high on the list of things to do in Salzburg with the kids, and it's a short ride on the number 25 bus.
Once there, the trick fountains will surely delight everyone—they're designed to surprise you but won't get you soaked.
The Folk Art Museum is part of the ticket price and is worth a visit. For youngsters, the surrounding forest and stone theatre provide plenty of space to explore and let off steam.
Hangar-7 in Salzburg is not just a museum; it's an experience that appeals to all, whether you're a car enthusiast or just looking for an engaging outing.
With rotating displays featuring racing cars, helicopters, and planes, all visits to Hangar-7 are different. They've also upgraded their audio-visual presentations on many exhibits, enhancing the overall experience.
You could try the Carpe Diem for lunch; it's a hit among visitors, or for an upscale dining experience, there's a Michelin-starred restaurant open in the evenings. Adding a unique touch to the venue is a suspended bar under the glass cupola, although it's usually closed during the day. Put this on your list of top things to do in Salzburg.
7. Wasserspiele Hellbrunn
Wasserspiele Hellbrunn is a great spot to cool down and have some fun. When you arrive, you'll find your tour time for the trick fountains. It's usually not a long wait, but if you're eager, you can book online.
Have you got kids? Then, put it on your list of fun things to do in Salzburg with them. There's a small paddling pool and a playground, so bring their swimsuits and let them go wild. The spacious park gives you plenty of room to relax or explore.
The audio tour does a good job of making excellent things interesting without feeling like a lecture. And even if you're not big on getting wet, don't worry—you can enjoy the fountains without a full-on soak.
8. Haus der Natur
If you're looking for one of the unique things to do in Salzburg that's both educational and super entertaining, then the Haus der Natur should be on your list. Haus de Natur simply translates to “House of Nature,” and that's exactly what it is.
You'll find an amazing aqua fantastic that showcases a variety of marine life. If you have kids with you, then don't miss the interactive science lab—it's not just for the little ones; adults will love it as well.
Imagine spending time in a space exhibit one moment and learning about the intricacies of the human body the next. If you're like most visitors, you'll find that time flies, and you've easily spent the whole day here before you even realize it.
9. St Peters Abbey
If you find yourself in Salzburg's old town, stopping at St. Peter's Abbey is a must. This charming church might be smaller than the cathedral, but it's got a character all its own.
Walking into the vestibule, you'll be struck by the Gothic ribbed vaulting, which melds into the church's dominant Rococo interior. Look up, and the richly decorated ceiling will take your breath away, while the Romanesque tympanum at the entrance offers a nod to history.
As you explore further, you'll find two chapels flanking the vestibule, and don't forget to check out the catacombs in the cemetery. Though not catacombs in the strictest sense, this area is home to meticulously maintained graves, including those of Mozart's older sister and Michael Haydn. It's a peaceful spot for some introspection.
The good news for frugal travelers is that it's one of the free things to do in Salzburg, though donations are appreciated.
10. Mozart's Birthplace
The museum may be on the smaller side, but it's full of information about Mozart and his family, including some incredible artifacts—yep, including one of Mozart's very own violins. It also feels like it is one of the must-do things in Salzburg, as while you are there, you may as well see where he was born.
A little pro tip for frugal travelers – If you want to make the most of your Salzburg adventure, consider grabbing the Mozart Pass from Mozart Square. It includes admission to Mozart's birthplace, as well as Mozart's Family Residence and the Fortress. Trust us, this pass is a lifesaver during peak times like holidays and summer, letting you skip those pesky lines.
11. Stift Nonnberg
Suppose you're on your way to Salzburg's main castle. In that case, we recommend taking a quick detour to Stift Nonnberg, especially if you're a Sound of Music fan, as this abbey served as a backdrop for some of the iconic scenes from the movie, which is why we would add it to your list of things to do in Salzburg.
Entry is free, and this spot is still a sacred space for locals who come here for worship. The architecture might not wow you, but the setting has its historic charm.
To get here:
- Take a 10-minute walk up the hill from the Old Town, past the Fenicular, and up to the fortress.
- Once you get there, step inside the church to soak up the atmosphere.
- Don't forget to wander outside and pay your respects at the graves of the nuns.
12. Alter Markt
Alter Markt is a lovely old square full of history and charm. It's like stepping back in time, but with all the modern perks. Surrounding the square, you'll find grand old townhouses and the eye-catching St. Florian Fountain right in the center.
For cafe enthusiasts, this is paradise. You've got the iconic Café Tomaselli and Konditorei Fürst, the birthplace of the first Mozartkugel.
On the square, you will find Salzburg's narrowest house, which is just 1.42 meters wide, which is a great place to stop for a selfie.
This is the place to hang out and soak up the local atmosphere, especially if you visit during the summer. They set up outdoor spots to chill with a cold beer or ice cream. We would recommend this as on your list of things to do in Salzburg on Sunday as it's a nice place to watch the world go by.
This is a stunning gorge that is perfect for things to do with the family in Salzburg. Whether you've got little ones or are bringing the grandparents, this hike isn't challenging, and the views will be worth it. The pictures that you see online won't do it justice, and it's something you need to see with your own eyes.
There are two main walks you can take, either a 30-minute or a 5-minute walk.
The 30-minute walk easily turns into an hour because you'll stop every few minutes to take pictures of the scenery. As for the 5-minute walk, it's got some steep stairs, but it's worth the climb if you are limited with time.
14. Esszimmer – Dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant
There are plenty of Michelin-starred restaurants in Salzburg, but this one is special. Imagine food so good, it's like eating art. Yep, that's Esszimmer for you. It's a family-run place, with the dad cooking up magic in the kitchen and the daughter taking care of you out front.
If you are a meat lover, prepare for the best fillet steak you've ever had. Vegetarian? No worries, they've got plenty of options for you as well.
The best part about Esszimmer? The vibe is high-end but not uptight. Sometimes Michelin-star places can feel a bit, you know, stuffy, but here, it's all friendly faces and attentive service.
15. Walk along the Salzach River
If you're after a different way to soak in Salzburg's beauty, then take a leisurely walk along the Salzach River. It's a break away from all the museums and sightseeing. You get a different view of the city skyline, so you'll want your camera ready.
But you know what we recommend? It is one of the best things to do in Salzburg at night. The cityscape looks excellent with the backdrop of a stunning sunset. The bridges along the river give you some of the best vantage points to snap that perfect photo.
Getreidegasse is the place to go for quality shopping in Salzburg's Old Town. You'll find everything from trendy boutiques to unique, locally-owned shops.
Many of the buildings have dates on them showing when they were built, adding a bit of historical flair to your shopping experience. So, while picking up some souvenirs or treating yourself, you also glimpse the city's past.
So that's the rundown on Salzburg, a city that may be small but is big on sights and experiences. Whether you're into history, shopping, or stunning scenery, Salzburg's got something for everyone. Members of the Frugal Travel team have been here multiple times, and we can tell you it's a place that keeps on giving. Do you have any questions about your upcoming trip? Feel free to drop them in the comments!
I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.