The picturesque Austrian city of Salzburg with views of the Eastern Alps is steeped in a fabulously rich cultural past. This heritage is most deeply interlinked with classical music, with famed composer Mozart having been born here. Indeed, his birthplace is preserved as a museum displaying his childhood instruments and is one of Salzburg’s most popular tourist landmarks.
Geographically, the city is divided by the Salzach River, with medieval and baroque buildings of the pedestrianised Altstadt (Old City) burrowed below steep hills on its left bank and the 19th-century Neustadt (New City) on its right. On both sides of this boundary, visitors will find a huge amount to see and do – some more unusual than others. Here’s our pick of Salzburg’s most unique attractions.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Visitors to Salzburg can choose from a huge range of accommodation options, from budget guest houses all the way through to ultra-luxury hotels. Most of these options can be found in the Old Town, but there are also several dotted around other parts of the city. If you need an affordable room in Salzburg, be sure to check out our editor’s selection, which you can read here.
1. Schloss Hellbrunn
Who said aristocrats don’t have a sense of humour? In the early 17th century, Markus Sittikus, the archbishop of Salzburg, had the idea of transforming the vast gardens of his grand summer playhouse into a place of mirth and merriment – for him, at least. With the palace built over natural springs, the archbishop decided to outfit the gardens with fountains that would sporadically shoot out water at unwitting guests. With some built into guests’ seats, one can imagine the comical results. Hellbrunn remains almost completely unchanged nearly 400 years later, complete with trick fountains along with an incredible Mechanical Theatre, added in 1750, and displaying a bustling baroque town with 200 moving figures, repeating their clockwork motions to water-powered organ music.
LOCATION Fürstenweg 37 HOURS 9am-5pm (closes at 9pm July-August) ADMISSION Adults €12.50 Children €5.50
2. St. Sebastian’s Cemetery
Mozart’s wife and father and the Archbishop Wolf Dietrich are just some of the notable figures from Salzburg’s past that were laid to rest at one of Europe’s most historically significant cemeteries, which dates back to 1502. Dietrich himself can be found in a giant mausoleum, the centerpiece of the St. Sebastian Cemetery, where he resides after being denied the honour of being buried in the Salzburg Cathedral crypt due to misdemeanours against the state. Other prominent names to be found here include physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, occultist and philosopher Theophrastus Paracelsus, commonly referred to as “the father of modern medicine.”
LOCATION Sebastianskirche, Linzer Grasse 41 HOURS Daily 9am-6pm
3. Dom Museum’s Kunst und Wunderkammer
Salzburg’s rich legacy of arts and culture can be seen across the city, but nowhere more so than at the DomQuartier, an expansive Baroque architectural complex containing a cathedral, an Abbey and five separate museums. Housed within one of them – the famous Dom Museum – is the Kunst und Wunderkammer, a fascinating and lovingly restored collection once belonging to the Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. Here visitors will find a huge assortment of intriguing, esoteric items including stuffed animals, fossils, scientific devices and rock crystal grinding works, all nestled within their original cabinets and arousing curiosity among all who see them.
LOCATION DomQuartier, Residenzplatz OPENING Daily 10am-5pm ADMISSION Adult €10; Reduced €8. Children 0-6 Free
4. St. Peter’s Stiftskeller
Nestled in the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town within the monastery walls of St. Peter’s Archabbey, this is widely claimed to be Europe’s oldest restaurant, dating back over 1,200 years. As one may expect, its walls have plenty of stories to tell, including the time it was forced to close due to Napoleon’s invasion. Spread across eleven distinct dining rooms, it has hosted countless dignitaries over the years, including cardinals, kings, and in more modern times, Bill Clinton and Clint Eastwood. Today it is most regularly frequented by tourists drawn by its fabled history – not to mention its excellent brasserie-style food. The restaurant also hosts weekly Mozart dinners with staff and musicians fully kitted out in period costumes.
LOCATION Sankt-Peter-Bezirk HOURS Daily 11.30am-11pm
Created in 1715 by Prince Archbishop Franz Anton Harrach, many of the unsettling dwarf statues that call Zwerglgarten home were actually modelled after real human dwarves who once lived in the court and served as entertainers for the Archbishop and his entourage. Situated at the north end of Mirabell Gardens (see below), the political correctness of such an ‘attraction’ may well divide opinion, but one thing that cannot be denied is that this is one of Salzburg’s most unusual – and popular – landmarks.
LOCATION Gaisbergstraße 37A
6. Schloss Mirabell
In a country not short of magnificent homes and palaces, Schloss Mirabell is one of the finest, attracting huge numbers of visitors each year. It was once frequented by Mozart and his family, who used the palace as inspiration for creating music, while its baroque pleasure gardens also provided many of the shooting scenes for the famous movie The Sound of Music. To this day the palace attracts thousands of fans who come to witness where the Von Trapp Family became immortalised on the silver screen. There’s also an on-site theatre which, during the summertime, serves as the venue for folk-heritage events and other special events.
LOCATION Mirabellplatz HOURS Daily 8am-6pm ADMISSION Free
7. Panorama Museum
In an age of selfie sticks and high-tech digital cameras, the traditional ‘panoramic painting’ seems somewhat antiquated. In Salzburg, however, visitors come in their droves to observe a masterclass of the genre, offering a unique insight into everyday life in the city two centuries ago. Nestled in the Old City, the Panorama Museum is home to a huge variety of large-scale paintings by Hubert Sattler, a widely travelled painter who captured unusual views of cities and landscapes during the 19th century. But the museum’s centrepiece attraction is a gigantic circular painting – an incredible 26-metres in circumference – presenting the Salzburg and its environs in all of their bygone glory. There is a dedicated visitors’ platform where the painting can be enjoyed.
LOCATION LOCATION Residenzplatz 9 HOURS Daily 9am-5pm ADMISSION Adults €4; Children (6-15 years) €1.50; Youths (16-26 years) €2
Known as the Austrian Lake District, the resort area of Salzkammergut is a popular day trip for visitors to Salzburg. Stretching eastwards from Salzburg along the Austrian Alpine Foreland and the Northern Limestone Alps, extending all the way to the peaks of the Dachstein Mountains, it oozes natural beauty and charm, with its numerous lakes flanked by pretty small towns and villages. Some are surrounded by rolling hills, others by tall mountains, and many still recall the glory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with their historical buildings boasting ornate façades. The area is still popular with Europe’s aristocrats and moneyed elite, many of them owning hideaways far off the tourist trail. Whether basking in the sun by the lakes or hiking secluded trails, the Salzkammergut captivates everyone who visits.
9. Hangar 7
An airport hangar would not ordinarily feature on a list of recommended tourist attractions – but this is no ordinary airport hangar. Owned by the founder of energy drink company “Red Bull”, Dietrich Mateschitz, Hangar-7 is located at Salzburg Airport and is home to the billionaire’s private vehicle collection, featuring aeroplanes, helicopters and racing cars. Housed under a striking glass dome, the site attracts large numbers of visitors each year who come to marvel at its eye-catching homage to transport. The hangar also hosts regular art exhibitions and there’s a high-end restaurant and two bar areas here too.
LOCATION Salzburg Airport HOURS Daily 9am-10pm ADMISSION Free