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Things to Do in Salzburg

Classical music, a beautiful Old Town, and spectacular Alpine vistas make the Austrian city of Salzburg a top priority when visiting Europe. In Salzburg’s Old Town (Aldstadt)—an area resonate with Baroque charm and a UNESCO World Heritage Site—you’ll find the Residence Gallery (Residenzgalerie) and Salzburg Cathedral. Get the history behind these buildings and others on a sightseeing tour. Fans of “The Sound of Music” will recognize Salzburg’s castles, Baroque churches, and mountain lakes from the iconic musical movie, which catapulted Salzburg to fame in 1965. Take a “Sound of Music”–themed tour, and experience Mirabell Palace and Gardens (Mirabell Schloss und Garten); the 17th-century Hellbrunn Castle (Schloss Hellbrun); and Mondsee Abbey, used as the location for the wedding of Maria and Georg von Trapp. A visit to the Mozart Residence (Mozart Wohnhaus) and an evening concert at Baroque Hall of St. Peter are a must for Mozart fans, and tours for music-lovers highlight places of interest in his life. Other tours include a half-day trip to the Bavarian Alps and the Berchtesgaden salt mine. Day tours to Vienna, Austria’s elegant capital city, and the Salzkammergut, a region of lakes and mountains, showcase the region’s charms. Absorb the beauty of Alpine towns such as St. Wolfgang, Hallstatt, and Lake Mondsee; visit Hitler’s former mountain retreat, known as the Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) in Berchtesgaden; or check out Swarovski Crystal World and the Central Inn Valley on an excursion to Innsbruck.
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Eagle's Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)
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Journey through the fairytale scenery of the Bavarian Alps and explore Berchtesgaden, Hitler's mountain retreat and Eagle's Nest, the southern headquarters of the Nazi party. Located on top of Mt Kehlstein, the lodge has some of Germany's most amazing views of the snow-capped Alps mountain range. See the hunting castle Hellbrunn, and the Konigsee River Valley along the way to Obersalzberg where a brass elevator ascends to Eagle's Nest.
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Hohensalzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)
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Perched on its craggy mountain lookout, Salzburg’s famous castle, Festung Hohensalzburg, dominates the city and its Old Town. Surrounded by walls and dotted with towers and battlements, Festung Hohensalzburg is one of the largest and best preserved castles in Europe.

The fortified castle was built in 1077, from its lofty position protecting Salzburg, with cracking views of the surrounding countryside. Take a guided tour around the palatial state rooms, Gothic torture chambers, lookouts and museum collections. Keep an eye out for more than 50 examples of the castle’s symbol, a regal lion holding a beetroot – or is it a turnip?

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Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn)
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Fun fountains and Baroque style are the attraction at Hellbrunn Castle, or Schloss Hellbrun, on Salzburg’s doorstep. The palace was built in 1619 as a summer residence for Salzburg’s Archbishop, and the gardens are filled with ingenious landscaping, featuring trick waterworks. Visit on a warm day when you don’t mind getting wet!

Highlights of the water park include the outdoor dining table with jets of water shooting from diners’ seats, a water-operated theater, Gothic grottoes, splendid statues and colonnaded promenades.

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Mirabell Palace and Gardens (Schloss Mirabell und Mirabellgarten)
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Mirabell Palace is a fine example of high Baroque architecture, surrounded by formal gardens, statues, flower beds and grand walkways. The palace was built and remodeled in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and today it houses the city’s administrative offices. Decorated with marble angels, frescoes and gilt, the palace’s Marble Hall makes a pretty grand backdrop for civic meetings and regular evening concerts of Mozart. The beautifully landscaped gardens appeared in The Sound of Music as the location for the Von Trapp children’s rendition of 'Do-Re-Mi.'
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Salzburg Old Town (Salzburger Altstadt)
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Lovely Salzburg’s enchanting medieval heart lies along the southern bank of the Salzach River; the Aldstadt is an enclave of winding cobbled alleyways, airy piazzas and many fine Baroque churches.

The wealth of Salzburg originated in the 14th century when it became an independent principality ruled by powerful prince-bishops, and thanks to its glorious architecture it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The Old Town’s many highlights include the massive Baroque Salzburg Residenz (Prince-Bishops’ Palace) in Residenzplatz and the landmark Dom (cathedral), majestically gilded inside and with a dramatic Baroque façade rearing up over Domplatz. St Peter’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery with a fine, frothy rococo interior and a gastronomic treat in its cellars; Stiftskeller St Peter is one of Salzburg’s oldest restaurants.

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Salzburg Cathedral (Dom zu Salzburg)
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Salzburg’s Cathedral, or Dom, is a restrained exercise in classic Italian Baroque, topped with green bronze domes. Mozart was baptized here, and the building was completed in 1628.

Highlights include the light-filled atrium and dome, the crypt with its Romanesque foundations and tombs, and the statues of angels surrounding the altar. The Cathedral Museum tells the history of the Cathedral’s construction and artworks.

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Nonnberg Abbey (Stift Nonnberg)
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Nonnberg Abbey is a Benedictine nunnery with a landmark spire in the center of Salzburg and is perhaps best known throughout the world as the home of the troublesome novice nun Maria in The Sound of Music, the magical movie that celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015. The nunnery sits tucked under the Hohensalzburg Fortress and was founded somewhere around 715 AD; it is the oldest constantly inhabited convent in Europe and its complex of buildings consists of the abbey, convent, chapels, church, cloisters and refectory, all built in a charming jumble of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural styles.

Nonnberg’s main church of Maria Himmelfahrt is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is Gothic in style, adorned with gleaming stained-glass windows and a series of biblically themed paintings. Largely rebuilt after a fire in 1423, the church nevertheless retains fragments of its original Byzantine and Romanesque frescoes in the choir.

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Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus)
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Two museums in Salzburg celebrate the life of genius composer and child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Born in the city on January 27, 1756, he grew up in two different houses before turning his back on the city in preference for the bright lights of Vienna and beyond. Both are now museums.

The Mozart Geburtshaus (Mozart’s Birthplace) is located on Getreidegasse, the smartest street in Salzburg’s enticing Aldstadt. The massive townhouse itself dates from the 12th century, but by the 1750s it was divided into apartment and the Mozart family were crammed onto one floor. Mozart’s family lived in this surprisingly humble abode for 26 years before their precocious son hit the big time and started earning good money. This museum has recently has something of an overhaul and is much improved; the exhibition highlighting Mozart’s early life stretches over three floors and incorporates period furniture as well as the clavichord on which he composed The Magic Flute.

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Salzburg Salt Mines (Salzbergwerk)
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Escape Salzberg through the Alpenstrasse for an authentic mining experience in the Alps! Put on traditional mining clothing and descend into the grottos to experience this magical underground world. You will also get the chance to take a raft sail across the famous salt lake and explore Berchtesgaden on your return trip.
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More Things to Do in Salzburg

St. Peter's Abbey (Stift Sankt Peter)

St. Peter's Abbey (Stift Sankt Peter)

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In the heart of Salzburg’s Old Town, St. Peter’s Abbey (or Stift Sankt Peter) is known for its cemetery and ancient lineage, dating back to the 800s. The Benedictine monastery’s abbey church has a Romanesque structure and lavish rococo interior.

The abbey library is a treasure trove of musical manuscripts, and the abbey also houses a prized collection of artworks, musical instruments and treasures. In the abbey cemetery lie the tombs of Mozart’s beloved sister and the brother of Haydn. While you’re here, visit the Stiftskeller St. Peter restaurant, in the abbey cellars. Mentioned in a document from the year 803, it is thought to be one of the oldest hostelries in Europe and is an atmospheric choice for a night out in Salzburg.

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Getreidegasse

Getreidegasse

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Lose yourself in medieval-era Salzburg on a stroll through Getreidegasse. The atmospheric laneway is lined with upmarket boutiques and shops.

Getreidegasse is as historic as it is pretty. Harking back to Roman days, the thoroughfare has always been the city’s high street, connecting Salzburg to Bavaria. The street is lined with beautiful medieval and Baroque buildings, built by rich merchants over the centuries. It was in one of these buildings that Mozart was born in 1756.

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Hohenwerfen Fortress (Erlebnisburg Hohenwerfen)

Hohenwerfen Fortress (Erlebnisburg Hohenwerfen)

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The 900-year-old Hohenwerfen Fortress squats 510 ft (155 m) up on a rocky hilltop, surrounded by swathes of pine trees and the harsh peaks of the Tennengebirge Mountains. From its lofty position the castle dominates the village of Werfen in the Salzach Valley region of the Austrian Alps. Accessed by either steep climb or funicular from the car parks, Hohenwerfen Fortress has its beginnings in the 11th century; it was built in tandem with the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg as a refuge for the ruling prince-bishops. Parts of the fortified medieval walls can still be seen but the castle’s history has been turbulent and it was razed to the ground during the Peasants’ Rebellion of 1525.
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Mozart Residence (Mozart-Wohnhaus)

Mozart Residence (Mozart-Wohnhaus)

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Mozart lived in the Tanzmeisterhaus with his family from 1773 to 1780. The eight-room apartment was a big step up for the family from the crowded lodgings on medieval Getreidegasse.

The house was built in 1617, and has been totally rebuilt and renovated to return its appearance to that of Mozart’s era. Mozart composed many of his masterpieces in this house, and a visit to his home provides a glimpse into the life of the musical genius. Entertaining and informative displays trace Mozart’s many journeys and his links to Salzburg.

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Mozart Square (Mozartplatz)

Mozart Square (Mozartplatz)

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Salzburg is immensely proud of its most famous son, and Mozartplatz is just one of the city’s many tributes. The square, with its elegant statue of a youthful Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, dates back to 1842 and was partly funded by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who was a big fan. One of Salzburg’s most famous squares, it is a popular spot for a photo stop and a stroll.

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Werfen Ice Caves (Eisriesenwelt)

Werfen Ice Caves (Eisriesenwelt)

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The world’s largest ice caves wend 19 miles (30 km) under the Tennengebirge Mountains in the Salzach district of the Austrian Alps; they were discovered in 1879 and a mystical subterranean underworld was unveiled to the world. Pick a clear, sunny day as your visit to Eisriesenwelt starts with a spectacular twisting drive up through the scenic Salzach Valley, followed by a 20-minute uphill hike and then a breath-taking cable-car ride over sheer mountainsides. Finally there’s a further 20-minute walk up to the caves, with superb Alpine views across mountains and lush valleys.

Led by professional guides, the cave tour penetrates half a mile (1 km) into the caves, following 700 steps up and 700 down on a prepared pathway with handrails. Once underground, the reward for the strenuous uphill trek is instant. This is a magical world of sparkling ice formations in a series of cathedral-like caverns full of stalagmites and stalactites eerily illuminated by magnesium lamps.

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Salzburg Old Market (Alter Markt)

Salzburg Old Market (Alter Markt)

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Salzburg’s Old Market Square (or Alter Markt) dates way back to 1280. The medieval buildings have long since gone, replaced by grand Baroque townhouses that line the square.

Take a seat at an outdoor cafe, or pick up some handmade chocolate Mozartkugeln balls at Fürst chocolatiers. You’ll want to take a photo of one of the buildings lining the square at number 10a; you might miss it as it’s the smallest house in Salzburg.

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Silent Night Chapel (Stille Nacht Kapelle)

Silent Night Chapel (Stille Nacht Kapelle)

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Silent Night is arguably one of the world’s best-loved Christmas carols and its words were written in 1816 by a priest called Josef Mohr, who lived locally to Salzburg in the rural village of Oberndorf. Its sentimental but catchy tune was composed two years later by Franz Xaver Gruber and the carol was performed for the first time on Christmas Eve 1818 in the village’s St Nicholas Church. This church destroyed by heavy flooding at the end of the 19th century, only to be replaced by the white-washed, many-sided neo-Baroque Silent Night Chapel in 1937. Since then a whole local industry has grown up around the carol, which has been translated into more than 300 languages, and life in Oberndorf has changed forever.

Although a visit to this idyllic little village is a joy any time, and it has a small museum where there are copies of the original manuscript and score, Oberndorf really comes into its own at Christmas.

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Hangar-7

Hangar-7

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Schloss Leopoldskron

Schloss Leopoldskron

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A short stroll from the historic center of Salzburg, the lakeside palace of Schloss Leopoldskron is one of Austria’s most acclaimed works of architecture, built in 1736 by the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian. The masterwork of architect Pater Bernhard Stuart, the Rococo-style palace is renowned for its elaborate stucco works, the handiwork of Johann Kleber, and a series of striking interior paintings, including Andreas Rensi’s Four Seasons in the Festsaal hall and Franz Anton Ebner’s Wedding of Atalante, which adorns the ceiling of the chapel.

Changing hands several times throughout its over 200-year history, Schloss Leopoldskron has amassed a fascinating history, once belonging to King Louis I of Bavaria, hosting the engagement ceremony of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria and Empress Sissi, and being purchased by Max Reinhardt, co-founder of the Salzburg Festival, who used the dramatic setting as a backdrop for the festival’s main events.

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Large Festival Hall (Grosses Festspielhaus)

Large Festival Hall (Grosses Festspielhaus)

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Building started in 1956 on Salzburg’s Large Festival Hall, which was designed by Austrian architect and stage designer Clemens Holzmeister specifically to host the annual Salzburg Festival. The grand green-and white theater is neo-baroque in style and the main auditorium can seat an audience of 2,170; it opened to great fanfare in 1960 with a performance of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier conducted by Herbert von Karajan and is renowned for its acoustics; the circular stage has a width of 100 meters (328 feet) and is one of the largest in the world. The interior decor is a monument to 1960s design, with marble statues by sculptor Wander Bertoni, as well as installations by Anton von Webern and notorious Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka.

As well as hosting the Salzburg Festival, the venue has a full repertoire of year-round performances and also holds concerts during the city’s Easter and Whitsun Festivals as well as carol services at Christmas.

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Austrian Lake District (Salzkammergut)

Austrian Lake District (Salzkammergut)

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Affectionately known as the Austrian Lake District, Salzkammergut is one of Austria's premiere holiday destinations, featuring crystal clear lakes, picturesque hillsides, and quaint yet fantastic villages.

Those travelers with a penchant for athleticism best utilize these majestic grounds—with seemingly endless opportunities at every turn—including mountain biking or hiking on one of many trails (for all levels of endurance), swimming, skiing, the list doesn't end. There is even an opportunity for the adventurous traveler to soar 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) over the valley with an available paragliding site, the Krippenstein. Another worthwhile destination in the Lake District is the Dachsteinwelterbe Cave World at Obertraun, with three natural show caves, going as far as 3,200 feet (975 meters) deep, the three ice-caves are amongst the largest in the world and are considered to be one of Austria's most important natural sites.

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