The Salzburg myth

Salzburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Austria and it’s easy to fill your time. Here’s my guide to some of the best things to do on a visit.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


The best things to do in Salzburg

Within the historic old town of Salzburg, music hangs in the streets while the opulence built with the fortunes of salt looks on.

Visiting Salzburg is a real treat and it's easy to spend a few days exploring the city. Here are my top tips for the best things to do in Salzburg.

Just the name ‘Salzburg’ is enough to conjure up images of European modern fairytale – majestic churches, colourful facades, quaint shops on quiet streets, narrow bridges over a wide river.

Even if you have never been (and I hadn’t until now), you probably have a feeling of Salzburg, regardless of whether you have a mental picture.

The Austrian city is one of those places that’s talked about as an iconic destination for a trip in this region – and, I can tell you, it’s justified.

Salzburg is beautiful from the approach, beautiful from above and beautiful from within.

As a whole, it creates a consistent panorama of style. Zoom in further and each building, plaza, restaurant is captivating on its own.

Salzburg, Austria

In a moment, I’ll tell you about some of the top sights to help you plan a visit to Salzburg. But I want to jump ahead to one of them – the Salzburg Museum.

The museum tells the tale of the history of the city – with some archaeological evidence of the Roman Empire, the period of wealth when the sale of the region’s salt brought money flowing in, the transfer of ownership between neighbours and self-rule, and the blossoming of the Baroque architecture.

Salzburg, Austria

In the final exhibition space, taking up an entire floor, it poses a question about something called ‘the Salzburg Myth’. The introduction puts it like this:

On the one hand, Romantic painters, writers and scientists publicise their overbrimming enthusiasm for the region of Salzburg in words and pictures throughout the whole of Europe.

On the other hand, the political situation is changing: the prince archbishops lose their power, Salzburg is annexed to Austria – now the citizens themselves can determine public life.

The city and the Province of Salzburg place their stakes with great success on tourism and culture, the population grows, the pressure to modernise increases.

We’re talking here about the early nineteenth century, a big period of change in Salzburg. In some ways, it could be today, though. And the exhibition, as it continues, makes that point.

The city now relies on tourism as its main source of income – a situation that fortunately creates the need to preserve the history but also presents some challenges.

Salzburg Museum, Salzburg, Austria

As the exhibition’s conclusion says:

Salzburg remains a projection surface for historical clichés, individual fantasies and cultural dreams within the charged polarities of Romantic transcendence and commercial exploitation of the prince archbishops’ baroque heritage.

The Salzburg myth lives on. But does it really live on everywhere?

Best things to see in Salzburg

I don’t think this idea of the ‘Salzburg Myth’ is something that needs to be dwelled on. I bring it up to make the point that there are many layers to this city beyond the alluring facades that will invite you in to see the culture and the history.

There are centuries of stories of industry, aristocracy, religion, technology and economy. Salzburg should not be looked at simply as a snapshot of a bygone era.

Having said that, most of the highlights from a tourist perspective are historical and I want to tell you briefly about a few of them.

The great thing is that the historic part of Salzburg is very small and you can walk to almost anywhere in less than about fifteen minutes. It means you can maximise your time and see a lot of things.

Salzburg, Austria

I would strongly recommend you buy the ‘Salzburg Card’ which gives you free entry to most of the important sites and discounts on a bunch of activities.

All of the places I’m going to mention now are covered by the Salzburg Card. You can buy the card for 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours.

I think it would be a bit of a rush to do all of these things I’m going to mention in 24 hours (although possible if you just walk through them all and not look at the details). So I would recommend getting the 48 hour card for most visits.

At the end of this article, I’ll do the maths for you to show you what you would save.

Salzburg Museum

I’ve already mentioned a fair bit about the Salzburg Museum. It’s an excellent place to start and tells the story of the history of the city really well with some innovative display techniques.

I found the exhibits on the top level particularly interesting.

Salzburg Museum, Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €8.50 / €3
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 0900 – 1700
Official website:

Panorama Museum

The Panorama Museum is connected to the Salzburg Museum with an underground passage and you can get a combined ticket. It is basically just one room that has a 360 degree panorama of how Salzburg looked hundreds of years ago.

Unless you are particularly interested in this kind of thing, I don’t think it’s worth the individual ticket price but it’s a nice addition to the Salzburg Museum if you’re using the Salzburg Card.

Panorama Museum, Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €4 / €1.50
Opening hours: 0900 – 1700
Official website:

Hohensalzburg Fortress

This is one of the highlights of Salzburg and a must visit. The fortress is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and has been well preserved.

To get up to the top, you can climb the stairs or use the cable car (which is free with the Salzburg Card).

Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg, Austria

The first thing you’ll notice are the views and you can get some excellent photos of the city from the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Other than wondering around, there are two main things to do up here.

The first is to go into the museum which has lots of exhibits that show life in the castle and Salzburg.

The other is to take the 30 minute tour through some of the rooms and up to the roof of the tower.

Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €12 / €6.80
Opening hours: Jan-Apr 0930 – 1700; May-Sep 0900 – 1900; Oct-Dec 0930 – 1700
Official website:

Salzburg Cathedral

The Salzburg Cathedral is hard to miss. In the centre of the historic town, its spires rise above almost everything else.

It’s free to go inside the main part of the cathedral (although there’s a donation box) and you won’t be disappointed. Artwork fills the walls and the elaborately decorated chapels. The paintings on the ceiling are also very impressive.

Salzburg Cathedral, Salzburg, Austria

Just before the main doors, you’ll see the entrance to the museum, which does have a fee.

It’s a large museum which goes over several levels of the cathedral and attached buildings. It has an excellent collection of artwork and treasures, including some significant religious relics. You can also see some of the state rooms.

Salzburg Cathedral, Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €12 / €5
Opening hours: Wed-Mon 1000 – 1700; in July and August it’s open every day 1000 – 1700 and until 2000 on Wednesday
Official website:

Catacombs at St Peter’s Abbey

Near the cathedral is another beautiful church, St Peter’s Abbey, which is free to enter. It also has a graveyard around it which is actually quite pretty and worth having a look at.

In the cliff to one side are catacombs where important people were once buried. They are quite small and it doesn’t take long to look around them.

I’m not sure if it’s worth any special effort to go in but you might as well, while you’re there.

Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough, like me, to see a group of elderly German women holding crystals over the tombs, trying to detect spirits!

Catacombs at St Peter’s Abbey, Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €2 / €1.50
Opening hours: May-Sep 1000 – 1800; Oct-Apr 1000 – 1700
Official website:

Mozart’s Birthplace

Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and you’ll find references to him all throughout the city (including a large statue in Mozart Square). There are two main sites to see if you’re interested in learning more.

Mozart's Birthplace, Salzburg, Austria

The first is Mozart’s Birthplace, the house where he was born and spent his early years. The focus of the exhibits here is on his family life and his transformation into a musical genius.

There is also a lot of information about the life of people in Salzburg during his time – particularly those of a higher social class. It’s worth getting the audioguide to learn a lot more.

Normal admission price: €10 / €3.50
Opening hours: Every day 0900 – 1730; in July and August 0830 – 1900
Official website:

Mozart’s Residence

The second Mozart site is called Mozart’s Residence. This is where his family moved to later in his life.

The emphasis of the exhibits here is much more on his music and there’s an excellent collection of instruments. The museum also looks at how his image has been used in popular culture since his death.

Again, the audioguide adds a lot of value to the visit.

Personally, I’m not convinced that the entry prices for both museums are justified because they really feel like half a site each (there is a combination ticket available). But, once again, they’re free with the Salzburg Card so that’s not something to worry about if you get that.

Normal admission price: €10 / €3.50
Opening hours: Every day 0900 – 1730; in July and August 0830 – 1900
Official website:

Museum of Modern Art (Mönchsberg)

Up on the city’s hill, you’ll find Salzburg’s Museum of Modern Art. Obviously this has nothing to do with the history of the city but it’s a great place to visit while you’re here.

To get up there, you can use a lift. Alternatively, you can walk along the crest of the hill from the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Museum of Modern Art (Mönchsberg), Salzburg, Austria

The large building is well designed and the galleries are spread over several levels. There are a lot of temporary exhibits so there’s not much point me describing the works on display.

When I visit, though, I’m impressed with the variety of media that has been included and the way the themes and stories of the works are linked together.

There is also another section of the museum about five minutes away, down in the old part of town.

Normal admission price: €8 / €6
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 1000 – 1800; Wed 1000 – 2000
Official website:

Salzach Cruise

The river is one of the defining features of Salzburg and there’s no better way to see it than on a river cruise. I love that this is one of the things you can do for free with the Salzburg Card.

The trip starts in the historic centre and goes for about 8 kilometres along the river towards Hellbrunn Palace. You’ll get some wonderful views of the city and the surrounding landscapes, including the mountains.

Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €15 / €7.50
Opening hours: Check website for departure times
Official website:

Hellbrunn Palace

On the outskirts of Salzburg (about 40 minutes walk, if you choose to do it that way), is Hellbrunn Palace. It is designed in the baroque style and was intended as a day residence in the summer months, which is why there are no bedrooms.

Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg, Austria

The palace building itself is an interesting and well designed museum but I was a bit disappointed that you can’t see more of it in its original interior design.

The real highlight here are the ‘trick fountains’ and they’re great for visitors of all ages.

You have to see the fountains as a tour where the guide will show you all the interactive parts of the display. I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say you should be prepared to get a little wet (which is nice and refreshing on a summer day!).

Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg, Austria

Normal admission price: €12.50 / €5.50
Opening hours: Mar 24-Apr 0900 – 1630; May, Jun, Sep 0900 – 1730; Jul-Aug 0900 – 1800; Oct-Nov 1 0900-1630
Official website:

Is the Salzburg Card worth it?

So, remember how I said I would do the maths for you on whether you should get the Salzburg Card? Well, I keep my promises.

If you did the ten things I’ve listed above, the total price comes out at €82. (Actually, it would be a few euros less because of some combination tickets you could do… but close enough.)

If you look at this table, you’ll see that even if you get the 72 hour card during peak season, you’re already saving €42.

Plus, keep in mind, there are lots of other things the card gets you into for free that’ll you’ll be able to see if you are here for three days.


24 hours

48 hours

72 hours









I’m not going to go on about it anymore, but I think you can see the value. You can book yourself a Salzburg Card here:

As you explore the city, you’ll hear the voices of choirs waft out from churches, see horse-drawn carriages pass you by, stop for a beer or a glass of wine, and take hundreds of photos.

Enjoy it all – that’s the point. The people of Salzburg are friendly and like to show you their city.

But always remember that it is their city. It is still alive… and so is the Salzburg Myth.


I would recommend staying in the historic centre – and there are wonderful options on either side of the river.


You’ll find very comfortable and modern dorm rooms at the cool Wolfgang’s managed by a&o.


For great value right in the Old Town, check out Institut St Sebastian, which is in a historic building.


With an interesting design and very comfortable rooms, I would recommend Small Luxury Hotel Goldgasse.


And if you’re looking for something special, Hotel Schloss Mönchstein is pure luxury with a stunning mountain location.

Time Travel Turtle was supported by the Austrian National Tourist Office in partnership with Captivate but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.


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10 thoughts on “The Salzburg myth”

  1. I’ll put Salzburg on my itinerary to visit for a weekend next year! I didn’t really consider visiting this town in Austria, until I saw your post. I never knew it was so rich in history!

    • Oh, you’ll love it there! Not only is it full of history, but it’s just so pretty and such a pleasure to spend time in! It’s perfect for a weekend for people who are based in central Europe!

  2. great post!! wow, that looks truly incredible. Great pictures. Looking forward to reading more of your post! Cheers. Thank you so much for sharing it.


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