The Ultimate 10 Things to Do in Salzburg

Updated August 13, 2020.

After two less than stellar weeks traveling around Morocco last month, I was kind of not looking forward to our Salzburg trip, or any trip for that matter. I was pretty discouraged and ready to just stay home and hibernate for the winter (starting September 27), but nonrefundable flights and the prospect of excellent cheese and chocolate won out—we were going to Salzburg come hail or high water! 

And I have to say, I’m exceptionally glad we did! Salzburg stole my heart and refueled my love of travel. It had been on my “must go” list for a very long time, and the city did not disappoint. I’m already plotting my return, but for now, here is my quick list, in no particular order, of the top 10 things to do in beautiful, musical, incredible Salzburg, Austria! 

Sunrise is one of the most beautiful moments in Salzburg!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Salzburg

10. Visit the Christmas Museum

This was an unexpected delight! The Christmas Museum is small, but I learned so much about Christmas in Europe while we were there! I had no idea about the origins of ornaments, nutcrackers, Krampus, or Christmas pyramids until we visited! It’s included with the Salzburg Card, but was only 6 Euros if you wanted to visit without buying a card.

I never knew why Christmas Pyramids were a German tradition until we visited the Salzburg Christmas Museum!
What else is included? Check out Your Guide to the Salzburg Card!

9. Walk the Mountain Trail between Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Modern Art Museum

Well, it’s a paved walking path, so it’s not really a “trail,” but it does boast stunning views on either side! You can see for miles and miles in all directions, and we found ourselves awestruck looking out at the snow-capped Alps, church domes of the old town, and natural beauty all around us. This is quite possibly my favorite thing we did the whole trip, so I can’t wait to go back and take the walk again!

The view from the north side of the trail.
The view from the south side of the trail.
Keep reading: The Ultimate List of Hiking Tips

8. Eat a Slice of Sacher Torte

We enjoyed our stay at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna so much a few years ago, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay at the one in Salzburg! Again, after a truly terrible experience at Marrakech’s famous La Mamounia Hotel in Morocco, we needed a good experience—and we got it! But even if you’re not staying at the 150-year-old hotel, you can still enjoy a slice of their namesake dessert: the Sacher Torte. You can walk right into their sweet shop, cafe, or one of their two restaurants and order a slice, or you can get a whole one for yourself! They also ship their famous tortes all over the world; just order one online

The many variations of the Sacher Torte! Choose your own size, or have just a slice!
Still hungry? What to Eat in Salzburg

7. Visit The Sound of Music Sites

Salzburg is famous all over the world for a little movie based on actual events: The Sound of Music! There are organized tours that will show you all the important sites and give you some fun facts (did you know Charmaine Carr, who played Lisle, fell and broke her ankle while filming the dancing scene in the gazebo?!), or you can do a little research and create your own tour of the famous sites! Stay tuned for my Sound of Music Movie Moments blog post coming up in a few weeks!

Our tour took us to Leopoldskron, which was one of the homes used for the von Trapp villa in the movie! Recognize that lake? It’s the one Maria and the kids fell into when they first met the Baroness!
More here: Top 10 Sound of Music Sites in Salzburg

6. Visit Nonnberg Abbey

Okay, so this is a Sound of Music site, but it also deserves its own entry. This is the abbey where the real Maria began her life as a nun before running off with Captain von Trapp! It’s also been around since the 714 (that is not a typo!), and it’s one of my favorite places we visited on our trip. It’s a bit off the beaten path (but still walkable from the old town) so fewer people tend to visit, or even know that you can visit since it’s still a working abbey. Visitors can find a bit of peace and quiet in the courtyard and the church that’s many hundreds of years old. You can’t miss it—it’s the only church with a red dome! 

Nonnberg Abbey—the one with the red dome!
Inside Nonnberg Abbey Church
Read next: The Sound of Music: Movie Moments in Salzburg

5. Take a Salzach River Cruise

This was not on our radar at all, but since it was included with the Salzburg Card, we figured we should check it out! The boat is enclosed with windows, so everyone gets an amazing view on the way out and back to the dock again. What’s more, our captain gave us some historical information about Salzburg in both German and English!

One of my favorite views from the Salzach River!
Keep reading: What’s Worth the Splurge?

4. Visit Mirabell Gardens and Palace

This is one place where I wish we’d spent more time! Both the Palace and Gardens are FREE, and they are absolutely stunning. Fun fact: it was built in the 17th century for a Prince Archbishop’s mistress and their 15 children!

It was also the setting for some of the scenes in The Sound of Music!
Keep reading: How to Savor Your Travels

3. Explore the Hohensalzburg Fortress

This is another site you can’t miss—it quite literally looms over the city! You’ll get the best view from the lookout tower (of course), see plenty of armor, learn all about the importance of salt, read about the Prince Archbishops who lived there, and you can visit several other museums inside while you’re at it! (The Marionette Museum was a favorite.) You can take the funicular cable car up to the top and back down again, or you can walk up!

There is a lot of ground to cover inside the Fortress, so plan to spend a couple of hours here!
Read more: How to Practice Self Care on Travel

2. Visit Hellbrunn Palace

Hellbrunn Palace is a bit farther out of the city, but you can get there by bike, taxi, or bus and spend the better part of a day here if you like! This is yet another one we need to go back for, as we only had time to see the Sound of Music gazebo and gardens while we were here during our movie tour. It is definitely worth going back for!

Hellbrunn Palace
More here: 9 Habits of Successful Travelers

1. Eat the Schnitzel

I mean, do I even need to put this on the list? This is a given! I’ve only had authentic Schnitzel a few times in my life, but I had the best one at the Sacher Grill in Salzburg! It will most likely come with potatoes instead of noodles, but the real surprise might be the cranberry sauce it’s traditionally served with. Take my word for it: order the Schnitzel!

The best schnitzel—maybe ever!
More here: The Most Iconic Eats Around the World

Bonus! Stroll, Run, or Bike Along the Salzach River

No, really, I’m telling you to just walk around. I know that sounds lame, and you’ll be walking around anyway, but honestly, you will be glad you took some time to walk, run, or bike along the well-maintained pedestrian or bike paths on both sides of the river! You’ll have beautiful views of mountains, foliage, architecture, and history by just looking around from the river. It’s different than seeing it all from a boat and different from hurriedly going from one attraction to the next. Steve and I ran along the path on two consecutive mornings, and it’s one of the best things we did on the whole trip! I’d go back just for that. 

We had two perfect fall mornings to run in beautiful Salzburg!
Tips here: How to Run Anywhere in the World

Are you ready for a Salzburg adventure? Can I tag along? 

In the meantime, check out more fun stuff to do in Salzburg and Vienna on my Austria Page!

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2 responses to “The Ultimate 10 Things to Do in Salzburg”

  1. I’ve always wanted to go there and you’ve just reignited my interest in it. I can’t wait for your Sound of Music 🎶 post!

    1. quickwhittravel Avatar

      I’m so glad! It was fantastic, and I already can’t wait to go back! Movie Moment blog post coming on November 1!

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