The Salzburger Glockenspiel, even though not many tourists climb the tower, is one of the landmarks of the town. It’s located right in the heart of the old town at residence square. Public tours only happen on Thursdays and Fridays in summer, but when Gemma and I decided to climb the tower in December 2019, we found an alternative.
Why I got to climb the Glockenspiel Bell Tower
In my photography, I am always searching for unique perspectives. That’s because my main subject is always the same small city. I have been shooting Salzburg over and over again for years.
When Gemma, a wedding photographer on my walking tour, in December 2019 asked where the best place to take pictures of the Salzburg Christmas market would be, I remembered a photograph I saw on Instagram. The picture was taken from the Glockenspiel, and we embarked on a journey to finding our way up.
But before I tell you how to get to the top of the bell tower, let me tell you what the Glockenspiel is and about the history of the bell tower in Salzburg.
What’s the Glockenspiel in Salzburg?
The Glockenspiel is the bell tower of Salzburg. Glockenspiel means carillon, and the tower with the 35 bells is on top of the New residence at residence square, the main square of the old town. The New residence also houses the Salzburg Museum and the Salzburg Panorama. Besides Domquartier, the main history museum.
The History of the New Residence and the Bell Tower
Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau built the new Residence. If you hear anything about the history of Salzburg, you will listen to about this notorious archbishop. Why is that? Well, Wolf Dietrich was unhappy about the architectural landscape he found when becoming archbishop of Salzburg around 1600. Therefore he took down many old buildings and began rebuilding Salzburg in a modern style. In the styles of baroque and renaissance.
But Wolf Dietrich started too many projects at the same time. Not many of them were finished when he lost his position as an archbishop. Therefore other archbishops kept working on what he started. The bell tower could be regarded as one of the final constructions from that project, which took the whole 17th century. The first time the bells rang was in 1704.
Where did the bells for the Glockenspiel in Salzburg come from?
The Netherlands and Belgium were known for their bells and carillons, and that’s where the bells for the carillon in Salzburg were bought in 1695. The bell tower holds 35 bells. The smallest of those weighs 5 kilograms while the largest weigh up to 300 kilograms. These bells were transported on land from Antwerp to Salzburg in the year 1696.
However, when the bells finally arrived, there was no clock and no mechanics and no one who knew how to set a carillon up. Two years later, one famous clockmaker even traveled to the Netherlands to learn how to set up the Glockenspiel. Furthermore, they had to enhance the bell tower to hold six tons of carillon. Therefore it took around ten years from buying the bells to having a bell tower.
At what times can you hear the Glockenspiel?
The bells play at 7 am, at 11 am and at 6 pm every day. Currently, there are 40 melodies that change from time to time. On a sign at the corner of the old residence, opposite the bell tower and the new residence, you find the current melody and the time it is played.
Be aware that the bells usually are 5 minutes late. When I was riding the Rikscha our stand was at residence square. Every day I would see people waiting to hear the bells while doubt came up whether they are in the right location.
Can you join a tour to the Glockenspiel Bell Tower?
Public tours to the bell tower run from March to October on Thursdays at 5.30 pm and Fridays at 10.30 am. Availability also depends on the weather. In snowy or icy conditions, there are no tours to the bell tower, and in Salzburg, it might still snow in March.
The public tours to the bell tower are timed in a way that you will hear the bells ring while you are there. I know the guides conducting these tours. They are kind and knowledgeable, and you will get a lot of exciting information about the tower, the clock and the bells.
How much is the tour to the Glockenspiel?
Joining the public tour is €4,50 and the entrance to the Panorama museum, which is another €4,50. To put it another way, it’s €9,- to join the tour and the Panorama is included. The Panorama will enable you to see Salzburg from 200 years ago. I also really like the painting and its history. More on that in the article about the Salzburg Museum.
If you like museums, I would recommend to take the time and visit the Salzburg museum before or after your tour of the Glockenspiel. The Salzburg museum entrance fee is €9,- and includes the Panorama. You would anyway have to pay the Panorama to access the bell tower so for an extra €4,50 you get to see the museum as well. That makes a total of €13,50 for the Salzburg museum, the Panorama, and your spot on the tour to the bell tower.
And as I always say. If you want to go all-in on sightseeing in Salzburg, get a Salzburg card. It includes all of the museums and attractions in the city. Not the bell tower tour but the Salzburg Museum and the Panorama.
Do you need a reservation for public tours to the Glockenspiel?
The group size for these tours is limited to no more than 15 participants. Therefore registration is recommended. You can reserve your spot at the entrance to the Panorama Museum. That’s not the main entrance to the Salzburg museum but the entrance on the side where also the post office is located. When you enter the building, there would be the post office on the right, and on the left is the entrance to the Panorama and the counter where you ask to reserve your spot on tour.
How I got to climb the Glockenspiel Tower?
I told you at the beginning of this article that it was winter when my walking tour guest and I came up with the plan to get to the top of the bell tower to shoot the Christmas market. There are no public tours in winter. I thought so, but we were going to ask anyway. After all, the entrance is only a minute away from Mozartplatz, the place where my tours end.
As expected, there were no public tours, but we were told that there is the option to take a private tour for €65,-. Without hesitation, we agreed. After all, we are passionate photographers. We would share the cost and take the opportunity. To reserve the tour, we were given a phone number, and over the phone, we arranged for Thursday from 4 pm to 5 pm.
The advantages of taking a private tour to the Glockenspiel Bell Tower
I didn’t think about the option of a private tour before. I once climbed the bell tour many years ago with the public group. That was already a highlight. Now that we found out about the private tour, I couldn’t wait to visit again.
We arranged the time so we would be on the tower for sunset. In December the sun sets before 5 pm, and we were on the lookout from 4 pm to 5 pm until it was completely dark. Also, we skipped all the information.
I wouldn’t recommend skipping the information if your main purpose is not photography. There are two more floors below the platform where the mechanics and the clock are. If your purpose is photography and the view, however, you will be able to enjoy the platform on the tower for an entire hour and without other people.
For us, it was worth the €32,50 each to get one hour of distraction-free photography from a place other people can’t access. I am all about that because I almost exclusively shoot Salzburg every day.
And if your purpose is sightseeing and you are a small group, it gets very affordable. You split the €65,- and the maximum group size for private tours is 15 participants, the same as on the public tours to the bell tower. There is not a lot of space on the platform on top of the building.
Even though not a must, the Glockenspiel bell tower is an off the beaten path sight right in the heart of the old town. No matter if you show up on the square to hear the bells, join the public tour in summer on Thursday or Friday or decide to go for a private tour, it’s worth including the bell tower in your visit of Salzburg, if you have spare time and are looking for something unique.
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