Undoubtedly when you visit Salzburg in Austria, you will be doing something related to the Sound of Music. What about when you have exhausted all the Sound of Music related activities? Although a small city, there are plenty of things to do with kids in and near Salzburg.
Things To Do With Kids in Salzburg
You take a funicular ride up and down to the Hohensalzburg fortress which perches on a mountain over the town. The fortress is the largest and best preserved in central Europe. It was built in 1077 A.D. for the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg who had lots of money thanks to their control of the salt mines in the area. You hear about the fortress’ long history in the short audio guide tour and some of the exhibits.
From the top there are panoramic views over the countryside. We had lunch at one of the restaurants in the fortress. The food was standard Austrian fare (schnitzel for the kids of course) but the view was spectacular. The Hohensalzburg Fortress is open year-round for visitors.
Hanger 7 Aircraft Museum
We discovered that the man who owned Red Bull, the energy drink, is from Salzburg. Located in Salzburg’s tiny airport, he houses his collection of airplanes, racing cars and other big boy toys at Hanger 7 Aircraft Museum. Although called an aircraft museum, there is so much more than aircraft at Hanger 7. When you are this rich, presumably, you don’t like to be limited by mere words.
The hanger itself is a gorgeous glass building which also has a lounge, outdoor cafe, bar, restaurant and a gift shop. My kids were duly impressed with all the toys on display. They were even more impressed that Mr. Red Bull kept his real airplanes (the ones for everyday use) in the hanger next door. The Hanger 7 Aircraft Museum is free of charge and open daily.
On a hot day, the Schloss Hellbrun water fountains are just the thing to keep kids happy. Schloss Hellbrunn was built by one of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg in the early 17th century. This particular Prince-Archbishop had a juvenile sense of humour and lots of money to indulge his whims. He created trick fountains and water jets which when operational would spray his guests with water. All of the mechanisms are operated by water-power.
Schloss Hellbrunn is open daily from March to November. In the Schloss grounds, there is also the famous gazebo which was used in the movie The Sound of Music. The doors are locked because too many people were getting hurt trying to dance around the benches like Liesl in the movie.
The Mirabell Palace and Gardens were built by a Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg in 1606 for his mistress and baby-momma. Having produced 15 children for the Prince-Archbishop, I’d say she deserved the palace. My children enjoyed wandering around the beautiful gardens. Of course, the Sound of Music had a famous musical scene set in the Mirabell Gardens as well.
Old Town Salzburg or Altstadt is an enjoyable place to explore. It is pedestrianised which meant I could less vigilant with my children’s need to stand in the middle of the road and gape at things. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Center sandwiched between the Salzach river and the mountains. It’s got many beautiful buildings including many churches as well as the entrance to the funicular (or the road) to the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
As well as historical buildings, there are a lot of stores and restaurants in the area as well, including Europe’s oldest restaurant, St. Peter Stiftskeller. Located so close to Italy, we found several excellent pizzerias in Salzburg (for when your kids get tired of schnitzel).
Things to Do With Kids Near Salzburg
Berchtesgaden and the Bavarian Alps
Salzburg, surrounded by lakes and mountains, is very near the border with Germany. We visited the beautiful town of Berchtesgaden on the German side of the Bavarian Alps. Berchtesgaden is only about 18 miles away from Salzburg.
Hitler was a fan of the area. He had his summer residence a couple of miles away in the Obersalzberg region. The main Nazis also had homes nearby. (Himmler, himself, was not high enough in the Nazi pecking order to warrant a home in the Berchtesgaden compound and so took over the family home of the von Trapps who found later fame in the Sound of Music). Hitler’s former home was destroyed after World War II and no trace of it has been left. One of the other Nazi homes is now the location of the Kempinksi Hotel Berchtesgaden.
I was told that the Nazi homes were connected by tunnels that went for miles under the mountains. I chose not to tell my kids about the Nazi tunnels because I’m sure they would have wanted to check it out. I saw a sign for it on one of the buildings although I was under the impression that the tunnels were mostly closed.
Berchtesgaden is also a short ride away from Lake Konigsee, one of the most beautiful lakes in the area. It is part of the Berchtesgaden National Park and renowned for being super-clean. We had a wonderful day exploring Lake Konigsee and could easily have stayed longer.
Salt Mines and Celtic Museum at Hallein
As you may have guessed, Salzburg was a very rich little city. It’s rulers, the Prince-Archbishops, got their money from salt mining which was known as ‘white gold’. The Salt Mine at Hallein has guided tours of their salt mine which has been churning out salt for 7000 years.
Children need to be at least four years old to visit the mines. You don white jumpsuits and hop on a little train which takes you into the mine. Once inside the mine, you get around by either walking or going down one of the wooden slides. These slides were great fun! Miners used slides to get deeper into the mountain quickly. The miners had to walk back up to get out but luckily we did not have to. Inside the mine, there is an audiovisual program about mining which some adults might find cheesy. My kids liked it, cheesy or not.
As part of the salt mines, they have established a Celtic Museum on the grounds showing how the Celts lived in the area. The Celts were the first to mine salt. Your entry into the salt mines includes a ticket to the Celtic Museum.
If you thought Salzburg was all about The Sound of Music and Mozart, these activities prove that there is plenty to keep you and your children happy and busy on a visit to Salzburg with a good combination of history, museums and outdoor fun.
We paid for all of the activities mentioned in this articles ourselves. This article does contain affiliate links which will provide us with a small commission should you click on them but at no cost to you.
Tips for Family Travel In and Near Salzburg
Salzburg is a compact city and easily walkable. We spent 2-3 hours on each of the activities within Salzburg. Wear sensible shoes because the cute cobblestones will wear your feet down otherwise!
Both the Berchtesgaden and the Salt Mines though will take longer and were part of day trips we took. We could easily have spent an entire day in Berchtesgaden exploring the town’s hiking trails and cute stores. As part of the trip to Berchtesgaden, we also went to the nearby Lake Konigsee for a few hours of sightseeing. The Salt Mines were part of a tour to Hallstatt which was very pretty and very crowded with tourists.
Good To Know Before You Go:
We flew into Munich because the flights were more frequent and cheaper. There aren’t that many flight options into Salzburg itself. The drive from Munich to Salzburg is only about 70 miles and takes less than 2 hours on the Autobahn. Be forewarned though that you need to buy a pesky little Austrian car permit at the border which will let you drive on Austria’s highways. Called a vignette, these stickers are not expensive (about €9 for 10 days).
We stayed in the historic centre of Salzburg at the Hotel Kasererbrau in a family suite which had two bedrooms and one bathroom. The hotel’s good value included a great location and a buffet breakfast. Although located in a pedestrianised area, our taxi brought our bags to and from our hotel. I liked being in a pedestrianised area as well because then I could let the children explore the street more freely without fear of them getting run over by a car.
We hired our rental car through Hertz which we had for the trip from Munich until Salzburg. My husband took the car to Munich when he went back to work in London. In Salzburg, we walked or used taxis. The children and I continued onwards to Vienna, and we thought the Austrian train service is excellent!
Hitler’s Berchtesgaden by Geoffrey R. Walden
Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
The Austrians: A Thousand Year Odyssey by Gordon Brook-Shepherd