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Salzburg: City of Churches

You might be surprised to hear that Salzburg was an independent state for most of its history and ruled by the church. Explore its rich legacy of ecclesiastical power and wealth

It wasn’t until about 200 years ago that Salzburg joined Austria and the Habsburg Empire. Before then, Salzburg was a political island, ruled by the Prince Archbishop who held both secular and ecclesiastical power in his firm grasp. This unique history gives Salzburg a stunning legacy of church architecture, holy music, and a local culture all of its own. Experience it by visiting the church’s seats of power.
 

A walking tour of history

Gold and salt are the building blocks of Salzburg’s iconic city scape. Their trade brought Salzburg great economic prosperity and allowed the Prince Archbishop rulers to erect grandiose ecclesiastical landmarks like the famous Salzburg Cathedral. Ornate Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque facades earned Salzburg its UNESCO World Heritage status and are must-sees on your visit to the city. A special walking tour through the inner city connects the most impressive churches, a convent, and even antique catacombs. The Churches Walking Tour takes you to top sights as well as hidden gems that usually go undiscovered. It’s the perfect way to explore Salzburg’s history as a rich, idiosyncratic church state from the perspective of its former residents. 

  • Nonnberg convent © Tourismus Salzburg Nonnberg convent © Tourismus Salzburg

The hills are alive with sacred music

For centuries, the church was Europe’s most important artistic patron. This was no different in Salzburg, where Wolfgang Mozart himself found a generous sponsor in the Prince Archbishop. The city's Prince Archbishops were great supporters of music in general and Salzburgians still reap the benefits of their patronage today. Sacred music is the focus at the Musica Sacra concert series: every Saturday, works by important composers are performed on the organ at Trinity Church - the same organ Mozart played in his day. 

The Overture Spirituelle kicks off the famous Salzburg Festival each year, shining a spotlight on the centuries-old tradition of sacred music. These concerts both tie in with the concept of the festival program and follow their own specific theme. Experience the best of sacred music, and afterwards the secular glamour of the acclaimed Salzburg Festival.
 

Special spiritual experiences

Salzburg tries to enliven its history as a church state by inviting you behind the scenes at even the most sacred places of worship. Find out how you can step into the insular world of Salzburg’s Prince Archbishops.

  • Salzburg's churches at night © Salzburg Tourism Salzburg's churches at night © Salzburg Tourism

Once a year, the Long Night of Churches puts on an impressive program of performances, tours, and even sacramental wine tastings across the city’s churches. The late-night event opens up Salzburg’s sacred spaces like the Collegiate Church, the Cajetan Church, or the Salzburg Cathedral in a never-before-seen way. You get access to the hidden treasures of Salzburg’s ecclesiastical world completely for free. 

Have a look at the most important documents of the Salzburg Archdiocese on a special tour of their archive. The oldest documents go back as far as 1189 and one of the highlights is the original baptismal certificate of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. By prior appointment the archive gives private tours free of charge and also helps you trace any family genealogy in Salzburg.

  • Trinity Church © Salzburg Tourism Trinity Church © Salzburg Tourism
  • Sebastianskirche church © Salzburg Tourism Sebastianskirche church © Salzburg Tourism
  • View from above © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH View from above © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH
  • St. Peter's cemetery © Salzburg Tourism St. Peter's cemetery © Salzburg Tourism
  • Salzburg © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH Salzburg © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH
  • Salzburg city panorama © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH Salzburg city panorama © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH

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