Salzburg is an Austrian city famous as the home of Mozart and the location for much of The Sound of Music. It is popular as a summer location (verdant gardens) and a winter location (Christmas Markets). Melynda Harrison has experienced both seasons in Salzburg with her children and was gracious enough to share some of her favorite tips. Follow Melynda at www.travelingmel.com and www.yellowstonetrips.com.
As our family travels around Europe for a year, we have found many cities to love. One of those small cities is Salzburg, Austria. There are so many things to do in Salzburg with family, that it’s hard to narrow it down to a day or two’s worth.
Tourist Information Offices
It’s not the most exciting stop on the Salzburg tour, but starting at one of the tourist information centers in Salzburg will get you oriented and ready to go. Buy the “Leo the Lion” book for the kids. (€6.99) It’s a cute city guide for kids, which will show them the city, teach them some history and get them excited to check out the City of Mozart.
You may also want to get a Salzburg Card that will give you free entrance to many museums, attractions, and public transportation, including the funicular to the fort.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a free walking tour of Salzburg, although there were several paid versions. Instead we used the Big Boy Travel self-guided walking tour and added in a few stops from the self-guided Sound of Music tour.
Salzburg Fortress / Hohensalzburg Fortress
If you take a city tour, you will no doubt end up at the Hohensalzburg Fortress at some point. It sits on Mönchsberg hill atop the city with magnificent views. To get there take the Festungsbahn (funicular) or walk up. The walk isn’t far or difficult, but it is uphill. It’s more than just views, of course, the medieval castle is home to the Prince’s Chambers, Castle Museum, the Marionette Museum, the Museum of the Ranier Regiment, and is host to the Salzburg Fortress Concerts.
Tip: Get there before 10 am for an early bird discount or buy your ticket online for a lower price.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens / Mirabellschloss und Garten
Known for its Baroque architecture, formal gardens, and playful statues, the Mirabell Gardens are a must-see in Salzburg. It’s also known from the “Do-Re-Me” scene in “Sound of Music.” During our summer visit to Salzburg there was a small orchestra playing in the shade. There is music in the gardens as part of the Salzburg Festival. What our kids really loved was the hedge maze and Gnome Garden.
Sound of Music or Silent Night Tour
During our winter visit to Salzburg we visited Oberndorf and the Silent Night Chapel. This tour only runs on Christmas Eve, so you have to time it right, but we were delighted to hear about the famous carol and see the little chapel where it was first performed.
The rest of the year, you can take Sound of Music tours. Load up on a bus and visit sites used as settings in the movie. Just make sure your kids watch the movie first, so they will appreciate what they are seeing.
Mozart’s Birthplace and Residence / Mozarteum
You can visit the place Mozart was born and grew up in. Our eight-year-old music lover got really into seeing the old instruments and listening to music on the audio tour. We all were fascinated with the history of the famous composer. Be sure to get the audio guide or take a guided tour.
We didn’t make it to the Residence before it closed, but it has biographies of family members and showcases what everyday life was like during Mozart’s time. We watched a Mozart documentary before visiting Salzburg and were hoping to see this location, but there’s only so much time!
Tip: If you think you will make it to both museums, purchase the combi-ticket.
Eat and Drink at a Beer Garden / Biergarten
At first blush, it might not seem like a family friendly activity, but you’ll find all ages in the beer gardens. They are such a part of Austrian culture, that we felt like we couldn’t skip an Austrian beer garden. In fact, we are so dedicated to cultural experiences that we went to two.
Stiegel Keller is en route to the fortress and has superb views of the city. In winter, we sat inside and enjoyed the view through large glass windows. In summer, we sat outside beneath the chestnut trees and sipped grapefruit Radlers above Salzburg. They serve food and sodas, making it super kid-friendly.
We also had dinner and beers at the Augustiner Bräu during our winter visit. The large, but cozy, interior is full of community tables. In the hallway outside the beer hall, vendors sell food. We liked all the choices and each got dinner from a different vendor. They also have an outdoor beer garden for summer visits.
Museum of Natural History and Technology / Haus der Natur
Our kids love natural history and science museums and were thrilled with the exhibits at the natural history museum in Salzburg. From dinosaurs to the universe, the Arctic to rainforests, the Haus der Natur takes you on a journey through space and time with interactive exhibits, bright colors, and hands-on activities. In addition to the general natural history exhibits, don’t miss the aquarium, the science center, or the observatory.
Tip: Visit during feeding times at the aquarium to see the octopus, sharks, and other fish chow down.
Salzburg Christmas Market / Christkindlmarkt
You obviously need to be in town at the right time to catch the Christmas Market, but if you can plan to be there in winter, it is a magical experience. The market runs from about the end of November through the New Year. This advent market has been running for over 500 years and is filled with events, booths, activities, exhibitors, carols, and gluhwein (warm, spiced wine). We especially loved the perchtens.
Is that all there is to do in Salzburg with kids? Not at all, but these are a few of our favorite things. Let us know what we can’t miss on our next visit!