Why is Salzburg so beloved? Dig into all the city has to offer, and you'll quickly see. From medieval architecture to music festivals, here are just five of the reasons Salzburg should make it to the top of your itinerary.
Step Back in Time in the Old City
The historic center of Salzburg is also known as Altstadt, or the Old City of Salzburg. As the name suggests, the Old City is filled with historic locations. The neighborhood is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its well-preserved Baroque buildings and the area's longstanding importance in the arts. Take a stroll through the neighborhood's narrow streets or wander the courtyards of the central DomQuartier complex and cathedral. This former home of Salzburg's political and ecclesiastical leaders recall the culture and architecture of a distant medieval era.
Snap shots of the Baroque fountain at Residenzplatz square, or explore the largest fully intact castle in all of Central Europe at Festung Hohensalzburg. The fortress dates back to A.D. 1077 and has dominated Salzburg's skyline ever since. Other noteworthy sites include the Salzburg Cathedral with its twin spires, the Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter, and the Mirabell Palace with its lavish gardens. The Salzach River, meanwhile, cuts through the center of the city. You can walk along the pedestrian paths at Kaipromenade for panoramic views of ornate spires and Gothic towers on both sides of the water.
Salzburg Is a Music-Lover's Paradise
Another important destination in Salzburg's Old City? Mozarts Geburtshaus, a museum located in the childhood home of Salzburg's most famous son — and one of classical music's most eminent names — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Learn more about the life of this legendary composer and view the clavichord, fortepiano, and violins he played as a child. Nearby, you can also visit the Magic Flute House, an idyllic garden cottage where Mozart composed one of his most famous operas.
Mozart isn't the only composer you'll hear and learn about in Salzburg, however. The city has also gained fame as the location of several scenes from The Sound of Music, one of the most beloved films in Hollywood history. Fans of the musical will love visiting iconic locales like the convent at Stift Nonnberg (seen at the beginning of the movie) as well as the auditorium at Felsenreitschule. The latter is where the Von Trapp family performs before fleeing the country in the film's final scenes.
Whatever your musical tastes, Salzburg hosts world-class performers in every genre today. For higher-octane tunes, check out locales like Rockhouse Salzburg, a legendary rock spot dating back to 1842. In the mood for jazz? Jazzit has you covered. Even if you choose to forgo a concert or symphonic performance, you'll hear street performers of an incredible caliber throughout the city, lending a vibrant charm to the city's medieval ambiance.
Climb Every Mountain — Or Just One
Salzburg sits on the northern boundary of the Alps, making it the perfect starting point for a mountain adventure. You don't have to travel far to reach the peaks, either — Untersberg, the highest summit in the vicinity, is located just 10 miles from the city center. It offers stunning views of Salzburg and the entire Salzach River valley, while immersing you in classic alpine beauty and fresh mountain air.
If you're interested in getting out of the city for a day hike, take one of several trails up the mountain. Adrenaline junkies can also enjoy rock climbing, paragliding, and snowshoeing at Untersberg. If you're more into leisurely pursuits than huffing and puffing your way to the top, you'll appreciate the cable cars that run every 30 minutes from the base to the summit. Whatever your style, you can get to the base of Untersberg via bus from Salzburg.
Visit Any Time of the Year
You know Salzburg as a winter wonderland. Whether you visit for the traditional Christmas markets or the various holiday symphonic events, you're in for a romantic time in a magical, medieval setting. You can also get to Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn — one of Austria's biggest ski resorts — in less than two hours to enjoy some of the best skiing in the Alps.
What you may not know, however, is that Salzburg has just as much to offer the rest of the year. In the summer, the city plays host to the world-famous Salzburg Festival, with five weeks of music and dramatic performances. Summer also represents the peak time for exploring the various palace grounds throughout the city, including the gazebo and gardens at Schloss Hellbrunn. The palace is another site recognizable in The Sound of Music and is home to quirky "trick fountains" over 400 years old. Look out for hidden jets throughout the courtyards and grottoes, and expect to get doused!
Meanwhile, don't forget about spring and autumn. During these shoulder seasons, Salzburg offers all of the charm and beauty of a historic culture with none of the crowds. Learn more about Salzburg's history at the Salzburg Museum. Or, get your fill of modern art in the gorgeous clifftop building at the Museum der Moderne, without waiting in peak-season lines. You can also take advantage of the milder weather to explore both the city and surrounding hillsides.
Taste the Best Cuisine in Austria
With a higher concentration of Michelin stars than anywhere else in Austria, Salzburg is the culinary capital of the country. Whether you're craving the region's traditional schnitzel and strudel or more elegant dishes inspired by cutting-edge culinary trends, your taste buds will enjoy the flavors of Salzburg.
No Austrian vacation would be complete without a visit to one of the region's iconic beer gardens. While there are plenty of options across Salzburg, one of the most famous is Stiegl-Keller, located in the shadows of the Hohensalzburg Fortress. With some of the best views in the city, it's the perfect place to enjoy good food and great company.
For truly unique flavors, the more daring gourmands among us will want to visit Restaurant Ikarus at the futuristic Hangar-7 on the city's western side. There, you'll be treated to an original menu by the guest chef of the month, a concept that draws talent — and visitors — from all over the world.