From imposing castles to graceful cathedrals, there's more to Salzburg than just music. The city made famous by Mozart and The Sound of Music has a lot more to offer than just a tour of Maria von Trapp's old stomping grounds (although you can do that, too).
Here are our "top ten" sights in Salzburg.
1. Mozart's Birthplace (Geburtshaus) and Residence (Wohnhaus)
A visit to Salzburg isn't complete without a visit to the childhood home of Salzburg's most famous former resident. Located in the heart of the city, the three-floor Geburtshaus museum features Mozart's first violin and other instruments, as well as videos of his most famous operas. If you can't get enough of the celebrated Baroque composer, cross the river to check out the affiliated Mozart Residence (Wohnhaus).
The birthplace is open every day and admission is €7 (€6 reduced and €2.50 to €3 for children); a combination ticket for birthplace and residence is available for €12. For serious Cheapos, there's also the free Mozart Ton-und Filmmuseum (open weekdays), which contains films and music by the composer.
2. Mirabell Gardens and Palace
The ornate Mirabell Gardens, located just across the river from Salzburg's Old Town, are a popular place for both tourists and locals to relax. Although the beautifully landscaped gardens are an attraction on their own, you shouldn't miss the incredible Schloss Mirabell, a whimsical baroque palace that is the current home of Salzburg's mayor.
Admission to the gardens and palace is free. You can view the palace's grand marble staircase daily and the ornate Marmorsaal (wedding and concert hall) on weekdays.
3. Hellbrunn Castle
Situated four kilometers south of Salzburg's Old Town, Hellbrunn Castle (despite its somewhat ominous-sounding name) is most famous for its magnificent gardens. One of the many delights of the castle gardens is the Mechanical Theater, a miniature model of a baroque city complete with water-powered moving people and organ music—by Mozart, of course. You can also visit the gazebo where the infamous "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" number from The Sound of Music was filmed.
Like many Salzburg attractions, the castle is open daily with extended hours in the summertime. Adult admission is €9.50, but students and groups receive a small discount and you can visit the gardens for free.
4. Salzburg Cathedral (Domkirch St. Rupert)
Located in the very center of Salzburg on the south side of Residenzplatz, the city's cathedral is a masterpiece of Renaissance art. Its modest style reflects the approach of Archbishop Markus Sittikus' favored architect, Santino Solari. The cathedral is famed for housing a spectacular organ and Mozart's baptismal font, and its philosophy is centered on the themes of Faith, Hope and Love.
Admission to the cathedral is free, although there is a small fee to view the excavations of the building's original foundations. It is open daily.
5. Festung Hohensalzburg
You can tell just by looking at this hilltop fortress that the Festung Hohensalzburg was built over the course of several centuries—six, to be exact. The mix of architectural styles, from late Medieval to early Baroque, makes for an interesting visit, as do the many elegant staterooms and museums featuring Gothic artifacts, Medieval art, torture devices, armor exhibits and a 500 year-old organ.
The museum is open every day. A "Fortress Card," which includes admission and a funicular ride up to the fortress, costs €10.50 (€9.60 reduced and €6 for children).
6. Haus der Natur
Be sure to get here at 10:30 on a Monday to catch a shark and piranha feeding at this Left Bank science museum. Aside from the aquarium, the Haus der Natur also features a reptile zoo, Space hall, and dioramas of exotic habitats. Permanent exhibits like "Journey into the Human Body" are sure to thrill adults and children alike.
The museum is open daily; admission is €6 (€4).
7. Residenz State Rooms
If you’re in the Altstadt, make sure to stop into the Residenz State Rooms, a collection of 180 elegant rooms and halls once used by princes to entertain foreign guests. Even today, the Residenz State Rooms are used for formal state events. And it’s probably no surprise that Mozart is linked to this Salzburg landmark as well: his violin concerto K. 219 in A minor premiered here. There is also an art gallery on the second floor.
The Residenz Gallery is closed on Mondays and admission is €8.50 for adults.
8. Museum Carolino Augusteum
The Museum Carolino Agusteum is a short walk from the Old Town. Sprawled out over five buildings, the museum’s artworks span centuries, from Gothic to modern times. Start your visit at the main building, which is devoted to the history of Salzburg.
The museum is open daily from 9-5 and the entrance price (€3.20 for adults) is sure to please Cheapos.
9. Augustiner Bräerstübl Beer Hall
At the city's famous Augustiner Bräerstübl Beer Hall, a full liter of Augustiner Bräerstübl brew will run you just €4; but be sure to save room for the various Austrian specialties like sausages, pretzels and more sausages, which are sold at kiosks in the beer hall's basement. And vegetarians, don't despair: There's also a deli-type counter with lots of veggie options.
Although Augustiner Bräerstübl has a cozy wood-paneled beer hall for winter drinking, in summer the party moves to an outdoor garden.
10. Sound of Music Tour
There’s no two ways around it: For many Americans, Salzburg equals The Sound of Music, the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp. So if you don’t mind a cheesy tour guide or listening to “The Lonely Goatherd” on repeat, a Sound of Music tour is the best way to see all of the movie’s filming sites. It’s also a great way to experience the Salzburg countryside. You’ll pass by the Mirabell Gardens, Leopoldskron Castle, Hellbrunn Castle, Nonnberg Abbey, Lake Wolfgang and the wedding church in Mondsee, a nearby hilltop town.
The tour departs daily from Mirabellplatz at 9:30 and 2:00. The cost is €37, but some hotels and hostels (like the Yoho International Youth Hostel) offer a discount rate. Or, in true cheapo style, you can do your own Sound of Music tour.