Journey Into the Past: a Review of the Open Air Museum Salzburg
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The Open Air Museum Salzburg, also known as the Freilichtmuseum Salzburg, is a historical open-air museum located just outside Salzburg. The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the traditional rural architecture and culture of the Salzburg Land region, focusing on the period from the 16th to the 19th centuries. How do they do that? They literally deconstructed old houses from the countryside and reconstructed them on the museum grounds.
The museum is home to more than 100 historical buildings, including houses, farmsteads, mills, and workshops. But before you pack your bags and head over, let’s discuss whether the Open Air Museum Salzburg is the right fit for you.
I’ll take you through the museum, history, collections, and visitor experience in this article. By the end, you’ll know if the Open Air Museum Salzburg is worth your time and if it’s the perfect fit for you.
History of the Open Air Museum
The Open Air Museum Salzburg is like a time machine that takes you back to the good old days of rural life in Salzburg. I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else. It certainly can’t compare to a regular museum. The museum was founded in 1978 by a passionate local historian and folklorist who specialized in houses and wanted to preserve the disappearing architecture and culture of the region.
Over the years, the museum has expanded, adding more and more buildings to its collection. Today, it’s home to over 100 structures, including houses, farmsteads, mills, and workshops.
The Museum’s Collections
It takes effort for a building to find a new home at the Salzburg Open-Air Museum. The process is delicate to ensure each structure is preserved and restored to its original state. Each part of the building is numbered in preparation for the deconstruction. Photographs are taken of the building’s unique features and details.
Using the dismantling plan as a guide, the building is reconstructed on the grounds of the Open Air Museum, ensuring authenticity. Missing and damaged parts are complemented and restored to ensure the final product is authentic. Finally, the building is furnished concerning the relevant time frame. The result is a restored piece of history that has been given a new lease on life at the Salzburg Open-Air Museum.
The museum’s collection is a feast for the eyes and mind. From farmhouses to mills, you’ll see how people lived, worked, and played in the past. But, I find the workshops most fascinating, where you can see traditional crafts being practiced. If you’re looking for something specific, the museum’s website lists all the buildings and their historical significance.
The Experience of Visiting the Open Air Museum
It is different from your typical museum experience when you visit the Freilichtmuseum. More than a museum experience, it’s a walk in the woods. The walk from one side to the other takes about 20 minutes, even without exploring the buildings. The 50 hectares are divided by the five Salzburg counties (Gaue) where the buildings came from.
Take a Heritage Railway Ride
The heritage railway train chugs along a 1.7 km track, passing through the entire museum grounds. Operating daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, the ride is included in the entrance fee. It is an exciting way to explore the museum. On weekdays, there’s at least one train running, with a capacity of 69 people, while on weekends, there are usually two trains in operation. The ride lasts around 30 minutes, and you’ll experience the picturesque journey from “Flachgau” station to the final destination “Pongau” and back.
The Open-Air Museum’s Restaurant
The mid-station “Tennengau” is located right at the museum’s restaurant. You could treat yourself to regional dishes at the restaurant, but that’s optional. The restaurant is alright but nothing special either. I recommend packing a picnic since you are outdoors. The restaurant’s hours coincide with the museum’s, so you can enjoy a meal after exploring the exhibits. And if you’re looking to pack a lunch to enjoy during your visit, Salzburg offers plenty of options for delicious local cuisine to take with you.
Entertain the Kids at the Open-Air Museum
I have fond childhood memories of visiting the Salzburg Open-Air Museum. I was a regular visitor there for the first ten years of my life, and even now, as an adult, or perhaps because of it, I find it a magical place. There’s something special about being in nature while stepping back in time and exploring the region’s traditional rural architecture and culture.
I don’t recommend the Open Air Museum to everyone. For most travelers, there are more exciting things to do in and around Salzburg, but I 100% recommend the Open Air Museum for families. For more information on kid-friendly activities in Salzburg, read my article.
One of my favorite things to do at the museum is to take a ride on the heritage railway. It’s an exciting way to explore the museum and set the kids’ hearts racing. But the fun doesn’t stop there. The playground next to the museum’s restaurant offers slides, monkey bars, and an attractive water play area, perfect for keeping the little ones entertained. In the months between May and October, you can encounter a herd of goats in their enclosure.
The natural Kneipp hydrotherapy area, historical classroom, and butterfly-watching trail are additional features that make the museum even more enjoyable. Handcarts are available for rental at the entrance. Rest and picnic areas are available throughout the museum.
Guided Tours at the Open Air Museum
The Open Air Museum Salzburg offers guided private tours of approximately 1.5 hours for groups of up to 20 people, with an additional guide fee of 70 euros. The admission fee for each person is 10 euros, and the extra person is 3 euros. The tour offers topics such as Construction, life and housekeeping, Ancient trades, and the museum railway ride.
Open Air Museum Souvenir Shop
Make sure you visit the museum’s shop to buy some unique souvenirs! Those who have read my article on souvenirs in Salzburg will know that I am not a fan of souvenir shopping, but the shop at the Freilichtmuseum is filled with local products and useful items that reflect the area’s rural culture. The shop offers high-quality souvenirs that are more than just cheap trinkets; it’s a great place to find a special memento of your visit to the Salzburg Open-Air Museum that you can treasure for years to come. It’s a perfect spot to find the ideal gift for a loved one or a special keepsake for yourself.
Opening Hours and Prices
If you are a traveler, I recommend the Open Air Museum if you have at least three days in Salzburg, but even with three days, more popular day trips might still be a better choice. But let’s assume you want to visit the Open Air Museum. Three days in Salzburg will give you enough time also to visit other attractions, such as the fortress, Hellbrunn palace, the Salzburg Museum, and Domquartier, and even ride the Untersberg Cable Car. If that’s the plan, you should consider a Salzburg Card, which allows you to access all these attractions, including the Open Air Museum, and save a lot of money.
Here are the prices if you visit the Open Air Museum without a Salzburg Card and need to pay the entrance fee. You get an additional discount if you arrive by public transport, so keep your bus ticket!
|Ticket Type||Prices (2023)|
|Families (parents with children)||EUR 24,00|
|Children (up to 6 years)||Free|
|Adults with handicap||EUR 10,00|
|Groups (minimum 15 people)||EUR 10,00|
Occasionally, there is an increased entrance fee for special events, such as seasonal events. I remember participating in an Easter Egg hunt over 20 years ago. For information about such special events, visit the Open Air Museum’s website.
Since, as the name suggests, the experience at the Open Air Museum is outdoors, it heavily depends on the weather. That’s why the museum is closed in the months of winter between November and April. For the exact opening hours, I would also recommend checking the opening hours on the museum’s website.
How to get to the Open Air Museum from Salzburg
If you are traveling by car, you get to the Freilichtmuseum by taking the highway exit “Salzburg-West” or “Wals/Exit 297”. Then follow the signs for 5 km to the Open-Air Museum. Parking at the museum is free, but you get a small discount if you arrive by public transport.
If you’re arriving by bus, Bus number 180 leaves from Salzburg main station and takes you to the “Freilichtmuseum” bus stop in about 35 minutes. An eco-friendly and fun way to get to the museum is by renting a bicycle. Not only will you get to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Salzburg, but you’ll also get some exercise while at it.
The Open Air Museum Salzburg is a hidden gem that offers an authentic look into the past. If you’re interested in history, architecture, or traditional rural culture and have more than just a day or two in Salzburg, the museum is worth a visit. If you would like to enjoy a walk in nature, it’s also worth a visit.
However, if you have limited time and lots of things on your bucket list, the Open Air Museum might not be the perfect fit for you since not only does getting there take about 35 minutes by bus but walking around the museum takes time since the grounds are enormous. A visit to the Open Air Museum Salzburg will be a half-day trip, even if the museum is only 10 kilometers from the center of Salzburg and there are so many more things to do in Salzburg.
Either way, I hope this article has given you a good idea of what the museum offers and whether it’s the right fit for you. And, if you decide to visit, I guarantee you’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for the history and culture of Salzburg and will have an authentic off-the-beaten-path experience. If you have a question, feel free to contact me!