Every year, music lovers from far and wide flock to Salzburg to listen to what the city has to offer. But what’s the big deal, why the music migration? Two big reasons. Mozart. And, the Sound of Music. Rarely should those two be seen in the same company, but this is Salzburg. Add in some Austrian beer and you’ve got yourself a musical weekend to remember. But, of course, there’s much more to Salzburg’s music scene than concertos and a Julie Andrews classic.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find alternative bands, international artists and some uni students wowing audiences with a concerto or two – and ridiculously cheap tickets. Culturally diverse and critically acclaimed, this music scene is going to take some navigating. Which is why we’ve rifled through Salzburg’s sopranos and tenors, grunge bands and operas to find the best venues.
Music events in Salzburg fall into two distinct categories. Gigs laid on for Mozart tourists and Sound of Music fans looking to add a smidge of their favourite classics to a weekend in the city. And then there’s the regular concerts featuring local bands, classical orchestras and alternative music offerings. Which one is best? It’s open to interpretation. You’ll pay a premium for the tourist gigs – and, they aren’t always delivering value for money. Yes, you can listen to a Mozart concerto in the Mirabell Palace … but it’ll cost you. Here’s a quick run down of some options, including the ones laid on just for tourists, so you can take your pick.
If there’s a central player in the Salzburg music scene, it’s RockHouse. Over 200 concerts a year, local and international artists and an eclectic menu of music to suit (almost) all tastes. Expect their lineup to feature bands playing rock, pop, avant-garde, blues, jazz, folk, metal, punk, underground. The list goes on. You’ll find few tourists here – though some do find their way into the mainly local crowd.
Things get a little more serious at the Salzburger Landestheater – Salzburg’s state theatre puts on gigs that are perhaps a little more highbrow that your average pop concert. Expert opera, musicals and ballet to be the order of the day. There’s usually an annual theme to the theatre’s output, and if you’ve got more than 2 or 3 days to spend in Salzburg, it’s one we’d add to the list of Salzburg music musts.
If RockHouse and the state theatre aren’t delivering that little piece of Mozart you’ve come to Salzburg for, we’ve got a little tip for you. Skip along to the concert hall at Mozarteum University. Here, the music students perform classical concerts for eager crowds. Tickets are cheaper than any of the tourist-aimed gigs and the quality is matched, if not, dare we say it, better.
Salzburg Marionette Theatre
This quirky theatre manages to cross the line between tourist hit and culturally worthy option. The Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s Sound of Music production is a bit hit with residents and visitors alike. It’s still in their repertoire, though you’ll have to time your visit right to catch it. In town and missed it? No matter, there’s still plenty of puppet perfection to catch.
If you want to fling yourself headfirst into the full tourist experience, Salzburg Castle – or the Hohensalzburg Fortress is the place to do it. A Mozart concert in one of central Europe’s most impressive fortresses certainly leaves a lasting impression. High above the city, you’ll be booking a seat at one of the hundreds of concerts hosted in the Golden Hall. The acoustics and surroundings make this a stand out event. Though Mozart mostly features – other classical works are played by composers such as Strauss.
Orbzii tip: While you’re here, do take time to check out the vast beer halls built into the rock under the castle. The beer recipe dates back centuries – but is regarded as one of Salzburg’s best beers.
If classical music, rock, pop, grunge and musicals just aren’t your bag, how about some opera? There are several venues across the city to catch an aria. One of the best times to experience opera in Salzburg is the summer. The city’s musical festival celebrates the genre with performances popping up across the city. More on that below, but if you’re not in the city during the festival, here are the places to pack your opera glasses for.
Perhaps the most famous Salzburg opera venue is the Felsenreitschule. Opera’s have been staged here since the early 1920s after the venue was converted from a former riding school. The building’s impressive enough, but the opera’s will keep your eyes and ears firmly on the stage.
A theatre entirely made from stone certainly delivers on the acoustic front. Aesthetically, it’s a little one note – but the Hellbrunn Steintheater is quirky enough to make seeing an opera here well worth your time. Though frankly, seeing any production in a theatre tucked away in a forest is going to be an experience. Once an old quarry, this small, but imperfectly formed theatre should be on your radar. These days performances are rare – so catch one if you can.
Every summer, the entire city of Salzburg becomes a stage for the snappily titled… Salzburg Festival. Live productions take place across the city, with ticketed concerts, free events, plays, concertos, operas and more. Venues include traditional spaces, such as concert halls and theatres – but also move into Salzburg’s urban landmarks, such as cathedral square. For the month of August the city is awash with the sound of Mozart, naturally, but also Beethoven, philharmonic orchestras and recitals. Classical music lovers will be in their element, but if you love music, and happen to be in Salzburg, there’s no better introduction to this music genre.
Christmas in Salzburg
Getting festive in Salzburg is incredibly easy. Christmas markets are the obvious event, but there are musical ties to the season too. Silent Night was by a Salzburg priest and an Austrian teacher. If you’re keen to trace the carol’s history, there are Silent Night venues to explore – across Salzburg and beyond. The famous Christmas song was first performed in Oberndorf, near the city. The parishioners of St. Nikola Church were the lucky few who got to hear the premier. In total, there are twelve key Silent Night locations to explore around Austria, to see five of them you can use the itinerary provided by the carol’s official website: Stillenacht.
Orbzii tip: Christmas fans may be tempted to book a ticket or two for the city’s famous Salzburger Adventsingen. And, it may be a lovely, festive, Austrian celebration of Christmas music – but it’s also almost entirely sung in German. Don’t expect to sing along, and you’ll enjoy the rousing spectacle.