Museums bring history to life, and Salzburg’s museums are no exception. They tell stories from the past, present, and future and give you a unique insight into the local culture and the nature of the city. But which are the best museums in Salzburg?
The best history museums in Salzburg are the Salzburg Museum and the Domquartier but you also shouldn’t skip a visit to Salzburg’s Landmark, the Hohensalzburg Fortress. The most popular museum in Salzburg, however, is Mozart’s Birthplace.
Landmark: The Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is not only the landmark of Salzburg but the fortress alone is home to a number of museums, all of which are included in the entrance fee or in the Salzburg Card:
- The Fortress Museum exhibits historical artifacts highlighting the history of Salzburg City as well as the life in Salzburg under the archbishops. The Fortress Museum is a must when visiting the fortress.
- The Rainer Museum exhibits weapons, uniforms, and other artifacts related to the former Salzburg house regiment of the Habsburg dynasty, the Rainerregiment.
- The Princely Chambers, on the third floor of the fortress, is made up of the Golden Chamber, the Golden Hall, the Magic Theater, and the Princes’ Hall. These rooms require an additional entrance fee, even with the Salzburg Card. Unless you are interested in art history or want to explore every nook and cranny of the Fortress, I don’t think they are worth the extra money.
- The Panorama Tour, formally an audio-guided tour, leads you through parts of the fortress-like the salt storage and the torture chamber to one of the towers, the highest point of the fortress. Although I preferred the audio-guided tour, the Reckturm, the highest point of the fortress, makes the Panorama tour a must. Make sure to not miss this part of the fortress, as it is separate from the other museums.
- The Armory was established as a museum in 2020 and has an interactive exhibition dedicated to armor and weapons and includes games and quizzes.
- The Marionette Museum displays historical string puppets from the 19th century. You might remember these puppets from the “Lonely Goatherd” song in the Sound of Music.
Now, that sounds like a lot of museums but the first 3 are basically the same with the Princely Chambers requiring an additional entrance fee. The Armory is nice because it’s very interactive but only has one room and the Marionette Museum doesn’t occupy more than 5 minutes of your time.
There is a far better reason for visiting the fortress than the museums: to see the views from the bastions. Besides offering views of the city, the Fortress Hohensalzburg also offers breathtaking views of the Alps in the south of Salzburg. There are 3 main viewpoints. Make sure to visit them all!
If you would like to get to know the history of the Hohensalzburg Fortress before your arrival, here is an article on the Free Walking Tour Blog.
Mozart’s Birthplace in Getreidegasse
Considering Salzburg’s nickname is the city of Mozart, it comes as no surprise that Mozart’s birthplace is the most popular museum in Salzburg. But should you actually visit the birthplace? I walk by the birthplace almost every day on my free walking tours. The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is located in Getreidegasse, the most famous street in Salzburg.
Getreidegasse is a shopping street and was once a center of bourgeois life in Salzburg. Getreidegasse is a must-see regardless of whether Mozart is important to you or not. You will also want to take a look at Mozart’s birthplace and perhaps snap a picture. My recommendation, however, is to enter the birthplace, if you are really interested in Mozart or if you purchase a Salzburg Card.
Due to its popularity, the birthplace is one of the most visited museums in Austria and the most visited museum in Salzburg (if we don’t count the fortress). Mozart, regarded as one of the greatest musicians of all time, was born there in 1756 and lived there until age 17 when he moved to the other side of the river. There are some family souvenirs, letters, and a violin in the Mozart Museum, but none of the furniture is original. Here is an article on the Free Walking Tour Blog, if you would like to find out more about Mozart’s birthplace.
Mozart’s birthplace can be found in Getreidegasse but the musical genius moved to the other side of the river when he was 17 years old. It is the residence that Mozart lived in before moving to Vienna when he was 25 years old, but there is more to Mozart’s Residence than meets the eye.
During World War II, two-thirds of the Mozart Residence on Makartplatz were destroyed by bombs. The destroyed part of the building was replaced by an office building before the office building was demolished again and the Mozart residence was rebuilt in 1996 partially funded by a Japanese insurance company and opened as a museum.
There is still a white line between the Austrian flag and the Mozart Wohnhaus sign where the original building ends and the rebuilt part begins. Portraits, documents, musical instruments (such as Mozart’s fortepiano), and information about the Mozart family are displayed at the museum.
Salzburg Museum & Panorama Museum in the New Residence
The Salzburg Museum dates back to the 19th century when the city lost its independence and the population wanted to preserve its identity. Despite initial space shortages and funding problems, the Salzburg museum now encompasses much more than the main branch at the new residence on Residence square. From Roman remains to the Salzburg Festival and the Second World War, the Salzburg Museum at residence square tells the history of Salzburg.
Other branches of the Salzburg museum include the folklore museum in Hellbrunn, the cathedral excavation museum, the toy Museum Salzburg and even the Silent Night and the Celtic Museum in Hallein.
The Salzburg Museum is the place you want to visit for a comprehensive history museum in Salzburg. If you have a Salzburg Card, you must visit the Salzburg Museum even if you only browse. But even if you don’t have a Salzburg Card, if you are curious about the history of Salzburg, I highly recommend visiting the Salzburg Museum.
If you do, make sure you don’t miss the Panorama museum! Twenty-five meters long and five meters high, it depicts Salzburg in 1825. The Panorama museum is a part of the Salzburg museum but has a different entrance. If you wanted to see just the Panorama, you could also buy a ticket for a few euros. However, the Salzburg Museum ticket already includes the Panorama.
Domquartier in the Old Residence
Despite the fact that the Domquartier museum in the old residence has a similar historical theme to the Salzburg Museum, its origin as a museum in Salzburg is different. Domquartier is one of the most modern and one of the best museums in Salzburg. The museum opened in 2013.
Domquartier is not just a museum, but a complex that includes the Residence Gallery, the archbishop’s staterooms, and previously inaccessible areas of the cathedral and the monastery of Saint Peters. The residence, cathedral, and monastery were historically linked by arches, and you will pass through these arches to move between the buildings.
You receive an audio guide at the entrance to Domquartier that explains artworks and other exhibits in great detail. Expect to spend one to two hours here.
Domquartier is especially wonderful since the cathedral decided in 2022 to charge an entrance fee, making it the only museum in Salzburg that is not included in the Salzburg Card. If you have a Salzburg Card, however, you have access to the Domquartier, which includes the West Gallery of the Cathedral. This doesn’t allow you to walk around in the cathedral, but it does give you an incredible balcony view.
Museum der Moderne on Mönchsberg Mountain
Atop the cliff of Mönchsberg, the controversial Modern Art museum of Salzburg is visible from everywhere in the city. If you are a modern art lover, the museum of modern art might be one of the best museums in Salzburg for you.
If you are not a modern art lover, chances are you shouldn’t include the Museum of Modern art in your exploration of museums in Salzburg. Having worked in tourism in Salzburg for more than 10 years, I have met many travelers who disliked the museum but it of course also depends on the current exhibition.
If you own a Salzburg Card, you might want to give it a try, and if you love modern art, the “Museum der Moderne” might be the best museum in Salzburg for you. Modern art lovers should also visit the Rupertinum, which was the predecessor to the Museum der Moderne before it was built in 2004.
What is always worth taking, is the Mönchsbergaufzug, the elevator to the museum of modern art, especially with a Salzburg Card since it’s also included. However, the hike on Mönchsberg would be a great alternative as well and totally free of charge or the need for a Salzburg Card.
Additional Information about Museums in Salzburg
This article is not a comprehensive list of museums in Salzburg but these are the 6 best museums in Salzburg or the museum that you are most likely going to visit. There are more museums in Salzburg that are tailored for special interests or that are on the outskirts of the city.
Other museums in Salzburg include:
- Domgrabungsmuseum is the excavation museum, an archeological site. It’s three meters underneath the cathedral where the foundations of ancient Roman buildings were found.
- The Christmas Museum is a private collection of Christmas decorations.
- The guided Tour at the Concert Hall is the only way to see the interior of the Festspielhaus concert hall without attending a concert.
- Haus der Natur is the natural science museum of Salzburg. The natural science museum of Salzburg is one of the best museums and activities for children in Salzburg.
- The Toy Museum Salzburg, as you can imagine, is one more of the best museums in Salzburg for children but also for young at heart adults.
Museums in the outskirts of Salzburg:
- Hellbrunn Trick Fountains: Hellbrunn was a 16th-century party palace of the archbishop. The trick fountains are water-driven fountains and a mechanical theater.
- The Folklore Museum: The folklore museum is in the same location as the Trick Fountain but nestled on the side of a hill in Hellbrunner park.
- The Salzburg Zoo: The Salzburg Zoo is in the same location as the previous two museums.
- Hangar 7: The private airplane, helicopter, and racing car collections of the Red Bull founder are free to visit.
Why you should consider a Salzburg Card for museums in Salzburg
If you visit two or more museums, you should consider a Salzburg Card. The Salzburg Card includes all the museums listed in this article as well as public transport in the city center for 24-, 48-, or 72-hours for a fixed price. If you would like to convince yourself of the worth of a Salzburg Card, read this article. And here is another article about a local guide’s travel hacks on how to best use the Salzburg Card.