The Definitive Guide to Museums in Salzburg
Like I tell you in many of my articles, Salzburg is small, but there is a lot to see. That also applies to museums. This guide to museums in Salzburg introduces you to all of the many museums in Salzburg. It explains what they are about and how to visit them.
In many of my writings, I also tell you that it’s best to get a Salzburg Card if you want to go all-in on sightseeing. The card is €26,- or €29,-, depending on the season, and it includes all of the museums. Therefore, if you visit two or more museums, it’s cheaper to get a Salzburg Card than paying single entrance fees.
Listen to the Episode on the Free Walking Tour Podcast instead:
Here is a Google map to help you discover each of the museums in Salzburg.
Let’s look at each of the museums, and then I tell you more about the Salzburg Card.
For History Geeks
Salzburg’s history is unique. The cities history museums are, therefore, some of the unique things to do in Salzburg. I would recommend them as an addition to my tour. With the basic understanding I provide, the museums will make a lot of sense to you and everyone who wants to know more.
The Salzburg Museum
The Salzburg Museum is the oldest museum in Salzburg and the best place to learn about the history of Salzburg. To understand the importance of the Salzburg Museum, let me give you a little context.
The History of the Salzburg Museum
After the Napoleonic wars, Salzburg, the former independent church-state, was incorporated in the Habsburg empire. Salzburg, however, did not only lose its independence. It also lost all its sovereignty with the Salzburg administration established in Linz in the province of Upper Austria.
The Salzburg Museum was founded as a pursuit to preserve Salzburgs identity during these troubling times. According to the circumstances, the beginnings were modest, but the quest was successful. The Salzburg Museum is still the best place to understand Salzburg and all its particularities.
Before the city took over the museum in 1849, it was a private foundation. Later the widow of the deceased Habsburg emperor Francis I became the patron of the Salzburg Museum. But that’s not when the struggles ended. Due to housing shortages after the first world war, damage during the second world war, and the growing number of exhibits, the museum had to move several times. The museum’s collection was overtime divided into separate museums as well as branches of the Salzburg Museum.
The Salzburg museum found a worthy home in the heart of the old town with the New Residence on Residence square. At the same time, six of its branches are scattered all over the city and with the Celtic Museum in Hallein even into the province of Salzburg. You see, the Salzburg Museum is much more than what you would expect at first sight and you will hear about it several times in this article.
What’s on at the Salzburg Museum?
When you visit the main branch of the museum in the New Residence, you overview everything Salzburg is about. Topics range from the archbishops to the Salzburg Museum’s history, the cathedral, and the Salzburg festival to old paintings and the time when Salzburg became relevant as a tourist destination.
Because the New Residence was the archbishop’s residence, there are staterooms you can visit. Furthermore, there are temporary exhibitions in the basement that are usually about a current topic.
Here is the Salzburg Museums website to find out what’s currently on at the temporary exhibition. And here you find the location of the Salzburg Museum on Google Maps.
Those with time and curiosity are in the right place at the Salzburg museum to get insight into everything Salzburg. I recommend the Audio guide to make the most of it.
The Panorama Museum is a part of the Salzburg Museum. It’s in the same building and included in the price for the Salzburg Museum. The reason it’s mentioned as a separate museum is that you could pay a few euros to see the Panorama. I love that painting.
It’s twenty-five meters long and five meters high and shows Salzburg in the year 1825. It took Hubert Sattler five years to finish the painting. When his work was done, he packed his bags and traveled together with his family and the art in a horse carriage for ten years.
There were no photographs yet at that time. Paintings, therefore, were the only way to see a place without actually traveling there. By touring with his massive 125m² picture, Hubert Sattler was the first to spread the word about Salzburg’s beauty all over Europe.
If you visit the Salzburg Museum, don’t miss the Panorama! It has a separate entrance, but your ticket or the Salzburg Card is valid. The kind of museum staff will point it out anyway.
While the historical theme of the Domquartier museum is similar to the Salzburg Museum, the circumstances are different. Domquartier is one of the most modern museums in Salzburg. It opened in 2013. That’s when parts of the cathedral and Saint Peter’s monastery that was previously inaccessible became accessible to the public as a part of the new museum.
The entrance to Domquartier is the Old Residence of the archbishops on Residence square. The Residence gallery was already there before Domquartier was established in 2013. The gallery features paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, it began as the archbishop’s art collection. Napoleon and his troops stole many paintings. The rest is still there and a part of the Domquartier museum.
Like in the New Residence, there are staterooms in the Old Residence. These staterooms are a lot fancier than the ones in the New Residence. In the staterooms of Domquartier, you should use the audio guide. The paintings on the ceiling depict stories of Alexander the Great and Greek mythology, and the audio guide will explain them to you.
The highlight of Domquartier is the balcony on top of the arches that connect the residence and the cathedral. That balcony leads you to the gallery above the cathedral entrance where the processions organ is located. From there, you can go on to the chamber of wonder and the gallery in parts of Saint Peter’s monastery that were inaccessible before.
These previously restricted areas are why you should walk through Domquartier with a Salzburg Card, even if you are not interested in the museum and its expositions. In the north oratory of the cathedral, there is always a temporary exposition. To see what’s on, visit the Domquartier website. Here is also the location on Google Maps.
The Domgrabungsmuseum (cathedral excavation museum) is an archeological site. It’s three meters underneath the cathedral. There are the foundations of ancient Roman buildings and the rest of the two predecessors of today’s cathedral.
You find the entrance to the excavations in the arches that connect residence square with Domplatz square and the entrance to the cathedral. The museum is one of the six branches of the Salzburg Museum. It’s not a must, but if you have a Salzburg Card, it’s free and worth taking a look at the remains of these ancient buildings. Three meters underground, the Domgrabungsmuseum is also an excellent place to cool down on hot summer days.
The Fortress Hohensalzburg
You will read about the fortress in many of my articles. If you read some of them, you might already know that I consider it the most important sight in Salzburg. I consider it the most important sight because of the stunning views. If you like museums, however, there are several great ones in the fortress alone. Let me tell you about each of them.
The fortress itself is like a museum. The archbishops initially built the fort as a place to retreat to in case of war. Later, however, they expanded it into a residence. Within the walls of the Hohensalzburg fortress, something like a separate city emerged. At times 300 people lived there. There was a church, a bakery, a blacksmith, restaurants, a school, and other attractions you nowadays discover on your sightseeing adventure.
The Festungsmuseum (fortress museum) is where you learn about the history of the fortress. In several rooms, you find historical artifacts and explanations of the functions of and life in the fort. This museum is nowadays another one of the six branches of the Salzburg Museum.
The entrance is included in the entrance ticket to the Hohensalzburg fortress or in the Salzburg Card. Hence the visit is a must if you visit the fortress.
The Rainer Museum appears like a part of the fortress museum but is, in fact, an independent museum. It’s about an old military regiment from Salzburg.
I am not a fan, but you can check it out anyway. It’s included in the entrance fee, and it might interest you.
Staterooms and Magical Theater
The staterooms and the magical theater are not included in the standard entrance fee nor the Salzburg Card. These were the rooms of the archbishop.
They are from the late middle ages and feature some of the best-preserved late gothic artwork. The magical theater is part of the same premises. I would recommend paying the extra fee for the all-inclusive ticket if you are interested in art history. Otherwise, skip it!
String Puppet Museum
The string puppet museum is an exhibition of historical string puppets belonging to the string puppet theater. The theater was an invention of the 19th century and still operates today near Mirabell gardens.
If you have seen the Sound of Music, you maybe remember the puppets from the lonely goatherd song. The museum is just string puppets, but it’s included in the entrance fee for the fortress, so there wouldn’t be a reason not to visit.
Museum in the Arsenal
Another museum was recently established in the Zeughaus (armory) in the yard of the fortress. The Zeughaus was one of four weapon storage buildings, and the museum features weapons and more details about life on the fortress.
Audio Guided Tour at the Fortress
What you shouldn’t miss at the fortress is the audio-guided tour. It takes you through the salt storage to the torture chamber and one of the towers, the fortress’s highest point. Taking the audio guide is the only way to reach that point.
How to visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress?
In 2020 the way the fortress works changed. Before, there was a standard ticket, one that included the staterooms and an early bird ticket that included the staterooms for the standard price in the morning. Now there is no more early bird ticket.
Still, there is a discounted ticket for two hours in the morning or in the evening that doesn’t cover the museums but the audio guided tour and the viewing platforms. The views are my favorite part of the fortress, and you get all of them with the audio guide and the platforms. Skipping the museums is therefore worth considering if you have limited time and don’t care about museums. In case you have a Salzburg card, the museums are included, and there would be no point in skipping them.
Here is one secret tip for you. After closing time, the gate usually remains open for an hour or two, and there is a small door that only opens from the inside. That means you can enter the fort at closing time and leave anytime because you can always open the small gate from the inside. You will have to walk up, and none of the museums are open, but that’s how to get the views for free.
For more detailed information on the fortress, visit the official website of the Hohensalzburg fortress, and if you would like to know about the history of the fortress beforehand, here is an article I wrote for you.
The Catacombs at Saint Peter’s Cemetery
The Catacombs at Saint Peter’s are the windows you see in the mountain when you visit the cemetery. They are not catacombs. Historians believe that the early Christians used to pray in these caves, but they are not sure. What’s sure is that the caves already existed long before the city.
Besides the fortress, the Birthplace of Mozart is the most famous tourist attraction in Salzburg. Getreidegasse, the most famous street in Salzburg, is where Mozart was born. Therefore there is no way not to visit the birthplace. If you enter is up to you, but you surely want to take a look at the building and a picture.
The museum is excellent for lovers of Mozart and those in possession of a Salzburg Card. It teaches you on several floors about the life and the work of Mozart.
Mozart’s residence is similar to the birthplace. It’s where Mozart moved to when he was 17 before moving to Vienna at the age of 25. What’s interesting about the residence is the story of the building. Part of the house was destroyed during the second world. That part was replaced by an office building taken down in 1996 to reconstruct the Mozart residence according to old plans. So half of the house is not original.
When visiting the Mozart residence, you either pay a single entrance fee, purchase a combination ticket for the birthplace and the residence, or use a Salzburg card. In 2020 the individual entrance fee is €12,-, the combined ticket €18,50 and the Salzburg Card €26,- or €29,-, depending on the season. I would always go for the Salzburg Card if you have time left. After all, you probably want to visit the fortress, and that way, you get more for less.
For those interested in Culture
Hellbrunn Palace in the south of Salzburg was the party palace of archbishop Markus Sittikus. Because his cousin Wolf Dietrich built Mirabell, Sittikus needed his castle, and Hellbrunn became the second countryside palace in Salzburg’s surroundings.
Because the purpose of Hellbrunn was entertainment rather than living, it has a host of art and cultural heritage like a ballroom, the trick fountains, and a park with ornamental ponds. Walls surround that park because they used it as hunting grounds.
The castle is a museum, but there is a lot more to Hellbrunn. The guided tour at the trick fountains or the Salzburg Zoo, for example, which are highlights for kids. If you are going to visit Hellbrunn, you should also plan to walk around the park, visit the trick fountains in summer or spend time at the Hellbrunn Christmas market in winter.
Here is an article on everything there is to do in Hellbrunn.
The Folklore Museum is one more of the attractions in Hellbrunn. It’s situated in the small yellow castle that’s visible on the hill next to Hellbrunn castle. That little yellow castle is called Monatsschlössl (monthly castle). Legend has it that the archbishop once received a guest that had to sleep in the living room due to a lack of sleeping rooms at the party castle. So he bet that he would build a guest castle on the hill that would be ready in a month when his guest returned.
The Folklore museum in the Monatsschlössl is one more of the six branches of the Salzburg Museum. It also emerged in 1924 from the effort to split the museum due to a lack of space at the main museum. The museum is all about Salzburg’s old folklore, like the different traditional clothes in the regions of Salzburg, the furniture of past centuries, theater and Krampus masks, and more.
If you visit Hellbrunn and have the time and a Salzburg Card, it’s worth climbing the mountain to visit the Folklore Museum. Not only for the museum but the view as well. If you have even more time, you could continue through the forest on the mountain to reach the stone theater. More on that in this article on everything there is to know about Hellbrunn.
Open Air Museum
The Freilichtmuseum (open-air museum) is a real hidden gem. It’s popular among Austrian families but not among tourists. Among Austrian families because the toy train and the surrounding nature are a highlight for children. What the Open Air Museum is, is a collection of old buildings. That’s right. The museum comprises of actual old buildings that were removed in one place and rebuilt in the museum.
You can enter those buildings, and inside there are the living conditions of the time replicated. It’s as close to rural living conditions in Austria in the past as it can get. The museum calls itself the biggest museum in Salzburg, which it is. That’s because it’s a massive area in the forest in Großgmain. The open-air museum is not only a cultural but also a natural experience.
To reach the Freilichtmuseum, take bus number 180, which takes you straight to the bus stop called Freilichtmuseum in 35 minutes. An alternative would be to rent a bike and cycle there, which is an excellent idea on warm summer days. Here is my photo report of the open-air museum for more information and a guide to cycling in and around Salzburg.
The Christmas Museum
Other than you might expect, the Christmas museum in Salzburg is relatively new. It was established in 2014 because the upper floor of the building on Mozart Square was vacant. What’s old, however, is the collection, and that’s where the Christmas Museum in Salzburg becomes fascinating.
The museum comprises of a private collection of Christmas souvenirs. All of the exhibits are original items from the time between 1840 and 1940 collected by one person in the last 40 years. They contain everything from Christmas tree decoration to authentic wishlists.
The Guided Tour at the Concert Hall
The Concert Hall is not exactly a museum, but I can’t recommend it more. The guided tours are the only way to visit the inside of the concert hall during the year. While the festival is on, expensive festival tickets would also be a way to visit. Even with a festival ticket, you wouldn’t see as many parts of the concert halls as on this tour, and you wouldn’t get all the background info.
The tour costs a few euros, is included in the Salzburg Card and includes at least two of the three concert halls. The two times I joined them, the guide was highly knowledgeable and presented the information well. The only thing that might prevent you from joining this tour is time. It only starts once a day at 2 pm.
Changing your schedule might not be worth it, and the tour is not a must, but when you are out sightseeing, preferably with a Salzburg Card, it’s worth trying to fit it in.
The Natural History Museum
When it comes to museums in Salzburg, this is my sweetest childhood memory. It’s a real highlight for kids but also for curious adults.
I will never forget the enormous dinosaur at the entrance, the space shuttle simulation, and the baby sharks in the Aquarium. For children, these attractions seem massive. These days I perceive them differently.
Many of the museum’s features are precisely how they were 30 years ago when I was still a child. Other areas like the science center are new and modern.
The “Haus der Natur” museum was founded when the Salzburg Museum in 1924 decided to give away their natural science collection due to a lack of space.
Toy Museum Salzburg
The toy museum is another branch of the Salzburg Museum. Like the Christmas museum, it emerged from a private collection in 1978. In 2011 it was completely refurbished and redesigned. Even if you are not a child, the museum is a pleasure to visit. The exhibition comprises of toys from the past centuries, but the toy museum is far from mere information about toys. Most of it is actual playgrounds with toys to play with.
For children the toy museum is of course especially entertaining and a must. But even if you are not a child and especially if you own a Salzburg Card and have a bit of time to spare, you should just pop in and look around. Like all the museums, it’s included in the card. You could schedule your visit, for example, after visiting the Sound of Music world on the other side of the street.
Hellbrunn Trick Fountains
The trick fountains are the main attraction in Hellbrunn. They are behind Hellbrunn palace, the party castle in the south of Salzburg, and were there to entertain the archbishop’s guests. Maybe, even more, to entertain the archbishop because the water at the fountains splashes out of random places. Chances are visitors rather than the host getting wet.
Part of the trick fountains is the mechanical theater, a puppet theater with hundreds of puppets driven by water, performing everyday tasks.
You can imagine that children have fun at the trick fountains, but even adults who visit Hellbrunn are a must. The only way to visit is a guided tour, but that tour is included in the Salzburg Card.
The Salzburg Zoo
The Zoo in Salzburg is like the Folklore Museum, Hellbrunn palace, and the trick fountains in the area of Hellbrunn and included in the Salzburg Card. It can easily be reached by bus number 25 in less than 20 minutes. As long as you have time and a Salzburg card, it’s an excellent addition to Salzburg’s other attractions.
Some say that the Zoo in Salzburg is one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe and I would agree. It’s a magnificent location with the Hellbrunnerberg mountain in the background. The Zoo is especially interesting for children and for all who like Zoos, but it’s not a must-do in Salzburg.
For Fans of the Sound of Music
The Sound of Music deserves its category. It’s the least Austrian thing in Salzburg, but many international visitors care more about the movie than about anything else. Understandable.
For half a century, the Sound of Music remained the most successful movie of all time. Austrians and Germans are the only ones who have never heard about or seen the movie.
The Sound of Music World
Nevertheless, in 2018 an Austrian couple dedicated a private museum to the movie. Or not so much to the film than to the real story of the Trapp family. The couple who launched the museum also runs the pension at the house where the Trapp family lived.
Even if I am a typical Austrian in the sense that I am not a massive fan of the Sound of Music, I like the Sound of Music museum. It does not feel like a tourist trap, but you can feel the love with which the information was put together. The staff is welcoming. The souvenirs you find in the shop downstairs are pricey but also not the low-quality crap you find in many souvenir shops.
The price of €8,- is fair and again, if you have a Salzburg Card, the entrance fees are included.
For Modern Art Lovers
Modern art is a topic where the spirits differ. I love the Walk of Modern Art by the Salzburg Foundation. If you are interested, you should read this comprehensive guide to modern art in Salzburg. When it comes to the museum, however, the majority of those not actually interested in contemporary art are somewhat irritated.
Museum of Modern Art
The modern art museum in Salzburg is visible from everywhere in the city. It’s the white building on Mönchsberg mountain. The one with the tower next to it. The new building on the hill finished and opened in 2004. Inside the mountain, there is an elevator that takes you right into the building.
You could also take that elevator just to enjoy the view. The museum is recommended for modern art lovers and again for owners of the Salzburg Card because it’s included.
Rupertinum was the predecessor of the Museum of Modern art. Founded in 1983, Rupertinum was the first museum for contemporary art in Salzburg. While it features its exhibitions, it still belongs to the main museum on the mountain. It is conveniently located next to the concert hall, a central location in the old town, and you might want to give it a try if you own a Salzburg Card or are a lover of modern art.
I put Hangar 7 in this category because the most impressive aspect of it is modern architecture. Hangar 7 is home to the airplane, helicopter, and racing car collection of the Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz. His collection is open to the public and free to visit. To get there, you take bus number 2 from Hanuschplatz. The Hangar is also home to the Ikarus, the most expensive and exquisite restaurant in Salzburg.
More museums in Salzburg
There are more museums if you have enough time or particular interest. There are, for example, the Stefan Zweig Center and the Georg Trakl memorial, which are interesting if you are into literature. They don’t get their category because of their inconvenient opening hours and because you need to be genuinely interested in them.
Another museum worth mentioning is the water museum on Mönchsberg mountain. In case you walk the hill, you have a Salzburg Card, and it’s open, you could learn about the water supply in Salzburg. It’s, however, not a must, and there is no need to go out of your way for a visit.
I recommend the Stiegl Brauwelt in Maxglan if you like beer and have a Salzburg Card. Their guided tour and the beer tasting is included in the card. Another place you could visit is the Bible world. I have never been there, but it’s in a slightly remote area behind the station, and the reviews are mixed. If I ever visit, I update this article.
When should you get a Salzburg Card
Whether or not you get a Salzburg Card for your museum visits is an easy decision. The card costs less than €26,- in low season and €29,- in high season. In addition to all the above museums, there is the Untersberg cable car included which is €25,- for a return ticket and the bus to get there is included in the card.
Let’s say you have one day to explore Salzburg and anyway want to visit the fortress and Mozart’s birthplace. The fortress costs €12,40 and the birthplace €12,- By spending a few cents more on a Salzburg Card, you get free entrance to 10 more museums. If you have 3-4 hours to spare, you can take the cable car to the peak of Untersberg at 1800 meters.
The only reasons not to buy a Salzburg card would be if you don’t want to enter any paid sights, don’t have time for more than one paid attractions, or are on a budget don’t want to spend any money. In that case, there are still plenty of things to do in Salzburg for free.
That all being said, the old town of Salzburg is somewhat like a museum. There are traces of history on every corner and in every street. Visiting Museums in Salzburg is not a must but highly recommended if you want to go deeper and have the time.
It’s recommended to get a Salzburg Card to make the most of your sightseeing. The card is not worth it if you only visit one museum. As soon as you visit two or three, it’s the same price and gets you from deciding what to attend to an all-inclusive experience.
In case you are on a budget and don’t want to spend any money, I recommend visiting churches by using the Free Walking Tour guide to churches in Salzburg. There are 22 churches that are free and, with a little background, tell the history of Salzburg just like a museum.