In another article, I wrote about the Salzburg Card and how to use it. The Salzburg Card is the best deal if you want to save money while visiting all the sights.
I understand, however, if you are on a budget. You only want to hang out, take pictures, and inhale the city.
There are plenty of Free Things to do in Salzburg, and in this article, I will introduce you to some of my favorites.
The fortress is a must-do in Salzburg. Not because of the museums and not for its history but the views. How is that in a list of free activities in Salzburg, you might ask. Let me explain. After the fortress closes, the gate remains open for another hour or two. You can get up and in for free if you walk instead of taking the funicular.
The big gate closes an hour or two after closing time, but the small door inside the big gate only opens from the inside. Meaning you can stay as long as you want. Depending on the season, you can explore the building and then enjoy the sunset. The museums are closed, but the rest of the fortress remains open.
If you would like to learn about the fortress before visiting, here is an article about the history of Hohensalzburg.
Hiking for more Stunning Views
You can hike several mountains right from the city center of Salzburg. Salzburg has three city mountains. Two of them, Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg, are right in the old town. The third mountain, Gaisberg, is a little further away, but if you are up for a day hike, you could even reach the top of Gaisberg walking from the city center.
The easiest hike would be Mönchsberg. Mönchsberg surrounds the old town on the left side of the river. Once you are on the mountain, it is flat. A good plan would be to start your hike from Mülln and Müllner Steg and hike all along the hill. Time your adventure, so you get to the fortress right after closing time. As I mentioned before, the fortress is free after closing time. Here is an article to find out more about the city hikes of Salzburg and another article on the best views in Salzburg which you find on these mountains.
Still an easy hike, however, more strenuous is the hike along Kapuzinerberg. Kapuzinerberg, on the right side of the river, feels more like a real mountain and is the recreational area of Salzburg. There is almost only forest, and with 640 meters, Kapuzinerberg is higher than Mönchsberg.
Gaisberg is a real mountain. While still an easy hike, Gaisberg can certainly be exhausting. You climb almost 1000 meters in altitude to the top, which will take you about 3 hours from the city center. If that exhausts you, you can get back from the mountain by bus number 151. The bus goes all the way to the top of Gaisberg.
Many more hikes are in the surroundings of Salzburg, but these are these three mountains are the ones you can reach, spending no money. Most other mountains require public transport, cable cars and or more time and experience.
Here I created a complete guide on hiking on the three city mountains of Salzburg.
Visit more Churches
There are an incredible amount of over 20 churches in the small old town of Salzburg. You will find one on almost every corner. Many of them are unique and filled with stunning art. I encourage you to visit as many as you can. All of them are free. Some of them are more special than others. My favorites would be the University Church, the Franciscan Church, and the Church of Saint Peter, but there are many more. Here is an article that highlights all of the churches in the old town of Salzburg.
The Salzburg Cathedral is a stunning piece of art and deserves its chapter. See the Cathedral from the inside! I sometimes meet people who turned around at the entrance after seeing the donation box thinking it requires an entrance fee. It doesn’t. Check out the crypt in the front on the left side. Stairs are leading down to where the archbishops are buried. One of the 14 modern art pieces from the Salzburg foundation is located in the crypt as well.
Read this article if you would like to find out more about the Salzburg Cathedral and know why I consider it an absolute must.
The Walk of Modern Art
Speaking of the artwork of the Salzburg Foundation inside the cathedral. The Salzburg Foundation is a private initiative. From 2002 on, they placed modern art in public space as part of the walk of Modern Art. The project is meant for us to enjoy art outside of museums and as a counter-movement to the patronage in Salzburg.
The Salzburg foundation nowadays consists of 14 artworks as part of the “walk of modern art”. The walk is a fantastic way to explore Salzburg. The artworks are all over the place. By exploring them, you are also exploring all of Salzburg. Red signs mark each of the artworks and give information.
Here is a Self Guided Tour along the Walk of Modern Art and more information about each of the Modern Art Pieces.
Our meeting point, for example, the “spirit of Mozart”, is part of the Salzburg foundation and also the “Beyond Recall” cubes in each of the corners of the bridge. I am not a fan of modern art but the more I research and the more I know of the art in Salzburg, the more I like the Salzburg Foundations Art.
The Hangar, next to the Salzburg airport, houses the planes, helicopters, and racing cars of the founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz. He is the richest man in Austria and sponsors lots of sports, including the Salzburg soccer team, Salzburg ice hockey, and many extreme sports. The entrance to Hangar 7 is free.
I have to confess. Until today I have never visited the Hangar. If I will, I will update this post with pictures and more recommendations. If you visit the Hangar, please post your opinion in the comments. I would be very curious to know about your experience.
The Hangar also includes a Restaurant called “Ikarus” but far from free. They invite a different international celebrity chef every month Gault Millau rates the restaurant with 18 points out of 20, which means three toques out of 4.
Mozarteum is the world-famous music and arts university of Salzburg. About 1700 students are attending it, and they need to rehearse. Preferably in front of an audience to make the rehearsal realistic. That’s where you come into play. You can visit these rehearsals for free. They are just as good if not better than paid concerts.
The concerts are available during the semester and depend on the instruments that are practiced. If it’s a piano, guitar, or violin performance, the concert is always worth going. The schedule is only available in german, but the only thing that matters for you is the time and where the performance takes place. Usually, the rehearsals are in the University itself, which is the grey building in Mirabell gardens. Follow this link to find the schedule for the concerts!
Siemens Festival Nights
Student Concerts don’t happen in summer because the universities are on holiday. That, however, should not stop you from finding music in Salzburg for free. The main event in Salzburg is the Salzburg Festival in July and August. The Festival is the biggest classical music festival in the world and attracts 250.000 visitors every year.
The tickets are expensive, and the popular operas are sold out, but since 2002 there is a way to enjoy opera for free. Not live but on a giant LED screen at Kapitelplatz. Some shows are live streams from the concert hall, and for popular operas, thousands of people gather on the square. The atmosphere is beautiful during warm summer nights, and I would recommend to hang out even if opera is not for you.
Here you find more on where to find Concerts in Salzburg and here you find out everything there is to know about the Salzburg Festival.
Free Walking Tour Salzburg
Well, you might have guessed it. Last but not least. Something to do in Salzburg for free is joining one of my tours to get an overview. The tour is tip-based. You are probably familiar with the concept. At the end of the tour you pay what you want and what the tour is worth to you. Not only what you want but what you can. Meaning you don’t need to pay if you are on a tight budget.
Preferably you join the tour at the beginning of your stay to get familiar with the history, the main sights, and get recommendations to plan the rest of your time in Salzburg.
We are looking forward to guiding you!
These are some of my favorites, but this list is non-exhaustible. I would say that Salzburg despite its size has a higher density of exciting things to see than most other cities. You won’t even need instructions to find many free things to do in Salzburg.