7 Attractions to See and Experience When Visiting St. Gilgen

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It’s tough to resist the idea of a day trip from Salzburg, especially with all the charming, amazing, and breathtaking destinations just around the corner from the city. The Hellbrunn Palace, Hohenwerfen Fortress, Berchtesgaden, and Saint Gilgen are the top gems I’ve discovered.

Out of these four, Saint Gilgen is the one that stands out for a truly beautiful wandering experience. From the colorful murals adorning the houses to the breathtaking alpine views of the lake and mountains, St. Gilgen has left me in no doubt that it’s one of Austria’s most charming villages. You’re sure to get this “stepped-into-a-fairy-tale” sensation once you set foot there. If you’re planning a two-day stay in Salzburg or even a 3-day Salzburg escape, St. Gilgen is definitely worth considering. What’s more, St. Gilgen offers more than just sightseeing — and that’s really nice!

In most cases, people only spend a short time in St. Gilgen. Typically, after checking out the village center and snapping some photos of the landmarks, they usually head off to other attractions in the Salzkammergut region. For example, Hallstatt.

However, while a couple of hours may be enough for those on a tight schedule, to truly experience all that St. Gilgen has to offer, it’s worth spending a full day or more. All in all, I discovered seven fantastic attractions and experiences that you can enjoy when visiting this village! You might need two days if you want to discover St. Gilgen’s hidden gems and visit its off-the-beaten-path attractions.

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Where is Saint Gilgen?

So, where is St. Gilgen in Austria? Looking at the map of Austria, it’s easy to tell where St. Gilgen is located. You simply have to look for Salzkammergut region — the area which has a number of lakes in the central part of the country, north of the Alps. Finding Salzkammergut requires no effort with its five big lakes that’s immediately visible from the map: Fuschlsee, Irrsee, Mondsee, Wolfgangsee, and Attersee. St. Gilgen sits on the northwestern shore of Wolfgangsee, the southernmost lake of Salzkammergut.

At the same time, St. Gilgen lies also within the Austrian state of Salzburg. Idyllic and only 36 kilometers from the city, it is one of the favorite day trip destinations of travelers staying in the city for days.

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The Sound of Music in St. Gilgen

From the pictures, you’ll see that St. Gilgen is like a scene straight out of a movie… and it actually is! The St. Gilgen bird’s eye view panorama is featured in the opening scenes of the beloved classic, The Sound of Music. From the iconic onion-domed church spire of the village to the turquoise blue waters of Wolfgangsee and the beautiful mountains surrounding the lake.

View of St. Gilgen similar to the opening scene of The Sound of Music, Wolfgangsee, Salzburg, Austria
View of St. Gilgen similar to the opening scene of The Sound of Music

And every year, thousands of fans flock to St. Gilgen to experience the stunning scenery for themselves.  If you’re one of the fans of The Sound of Music and you’re visiting Salzburg, you must join the Original Sound of Music Tour. The picture-perfect Mirabell Palace, located in Old Town Salzburg, is a featured stop on the tour.

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Mozarts in St. Gilgen

In addition to everything I’ve mentioned so far, St. Gilgen also is a village with a rich cultural heritage, particularly in relation to Salzburg’s musical history. In fact, the Wolfgangsee Tourist Board promoted St. Gilgen as the “Mozart Village” in 2005.

Although Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart never had the chance to visit St. Gilgen as he had intended, his family has deep roots in the town. His grandfather worked there, his mother was born there, and his sister Nannerl moved to St. Gilgen after her marriage. You can even visit their house while you’re there – it’s one of the top attractions in St. Gilgen. I highly recommend visiting Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg if you are interested in Mozart and want to see pictures of his family members.

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1. Wander in One of Salzburg’s Most Picturesque Villages

St. Gilgen is a special place because of its charming streets and houses decorated with murals. Walking through the town feels like strolling through a colorful book! The murals are not just decorative, they also introduce you to the local culture of the village. They depict scenes from everyday life in St. Gilgen, as well as historical events and religious stories.

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If you have been to Bavaria (Mittenwald or Garmisch-Partenkirchen) or Tirol (Innsbruck), you may have seen similar murals. However, each place is unique, and so its murals are as well. Interestingly, the murals are a means for locals to share their culture with visitors and to keep their history alive. And indeed, exploring St. Gilgen village is a one-of-a-kind experience, especially if you reside in a concrete jungle or an archipelagic country like me.

So, which part of St. Gilgen’s village you must see? St. Gilgen, like most European towns, is most beautiful in its town center. A stroll through its three most beautiful squares, Mozartplatz, Pichlerplatz, and Kirchenplatz, is a must.

Mozartplatz

The most famous landmark of the village and one of the most beautiful, the Rathaus or Town Hall, is located in Mozartplatz. 

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What’s to expect in Mozartplatz

Definitely, with its charming oriel and beautiful line art decorating the top of each window on the building’s facade, St. Gilgen’s Town Hall is the perfect place to take a photo souvenir. In front of the Town Hall is the fountain of Mozart, surrounded by intricate railings and colorful flowers. If you like, you take a few minutes here to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the soothing sound of the fountain.

Across from St. Gilgen Town Hall, you can find Gasthof Zur Post, which has a mural across its façade. I believe it depicts the favorite pastime of the princes who ruled over Salzkammergut: hunting. Raiffeisenbank, located to the left of Gasthof Zur Post, also has fascinating relief murals on its façade. I believe they depict the local way of life of the people of St. Gilgen.

Pichlerplatz and Kirchenplatz

After sightseeing in Mozartplatz, I invite you to go to Pichlerplatz and Kirchenplatz which are located just behind the Town Hall.

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What’s to expect in Pichlerplatz & Kirchenplatz

More of St. Gilgen’s beautiful murals, such as those in Hotel Kupferkrug, Gutjahr Clothing store, and Gasthof Kendler, can be seen in these squares.

This part of St. Gilgen is also home to a coffee shop named after Nannerl, Wolfgang Mozart’s sister. The coffee shop has been serving coffee since 1966. The coffee shop was a converted house with furniture and portraits of Nannerl. Come inside to feel the cozy ambiance — it’s a nice place to relax with a coffee for half an hour or so.

After exploring St. Gilgen’s village center, why not take a stroll down to the lakeside promenade for some relaxation and sightseeing? From the village center, head down Ischlerstrasse, which is right next to the church. Keep going straight until you reach Lienbachweg. Along the way, you’ll come across the village’s two little gems.

The first is a monument honoring the victims of World War II. You’ll find it on the right side of the road, beside the village cemetery.

Just a few steps away from the WWII monument, you’ll find the Mozarts-Mutter-Brunnen. This fountain is dedicated to the memory of Mozart’s mother’s childhood and is located to the left of the road, heading towards the lakeside promenade.

2. Imagine the Life of Anna and Nannerl in Mozarthaus

If you walk along Lienbachweg towards Wolfgangsee, you’ll pass by the Mozarts-Mutter-Brunnen. And just beyond that, you’ll find the house where the Mozart family lived, “Mozarthaus”. Today, Mozarthaus is home to a permanent exhibition dedicated to “Nannerl” Mozart, who lived in St. Gilgen for 17 years. Step inside and explore the history of the former court and its famous residents. There’s also a children’s corner to keep the little ones entertained.

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More Information about Mozarthaus

To give you some background (just in case you didn’t know yet), Nannerl was actually Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister and was a talented musician herself. She married Johann Baptist von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg, who was the caretaker in St. Gilgen.  And in this beautiful village they started to build a family. They had three kids together, but, sadly, only their son Leopold made it to adulthood.

After her husband passed away in 1801, Nannerl moved back to Salzburg and lived there until she passed away on October 29, 1829. 

Overall, the Mozarthaus St. Gilgen museum gives a really interesting look into the family life of the Mozarts, especially Wolfgang’s mother and sister. It’s a great place to check out on a rainy day, and it only costs a few euros

Mozarthaus’ visiting information is linked at the resources section of this post.

3. Unwind Along the Wolfgangsee Lakeside Promenade

St. Gilgen’s lakeside promenade is the second must-see location in the village. With its crystal-clear water and majestic mountains in the background, this part of St. Gilgen offers a truly relaxing sight that you cannot miss, especially on a sunny day.

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What to do in Lakeside Promenade

During your time here, relax and unwind on the shady seating while enjoying the stunning views of the lake. Take a leisurely stroll along the beautifully laid out promenade and enjoy the tranquil sound of the fountain’s water feature.

Stop by one of the many restaurants and cafes for a bite to eat.  Treat yourself to a delicious ice cream from one of the local ice cream parlors. (There are plenty of ice cream shops!!!)

For families, visit the nearby park which offers a large playground for children to play and explore. If you travel alone, enjoy the company of other tourists while taking in the sights and sounds of this charming spot in St. Gilgen. Alternatively, you can simply watch the departing ships or be fascinated by other people engaging in water sports.

4. Take a Boat Ride

Imagine gliding across the tranquil waters of Wolfgangsee, surrounded by the stunning scenery of Salzkammergut. This dream can become a reality with a boat ride from St. Gilgen. The Wolfgangsee Schifffahrt company, which owns the traditional Lake Wolfgangsee fleet of boats, offers this unique experience.

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Riding a boat in Wolfgangsee from St. Gilgen, Salzburg, Austria
Riding a boat in Wolfgangsee from St. Gilgen
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More info about the boat ride

The company has this paddle steamer “Kaiser Franz Josef I,” which was first launched in 1873 and is said to have been a “technical achievement” at the time. And yes, the 33-meter-long nostalgic vessel has starred in numerous films, like St. Gilgen.

If you want to make your trip to St. Gilgen romantic, exploring Wolfgangsee with “Kaiser Franz Josef I” is a good idea. During peak season, there’s no need to worry about missing out – the “Österreich” (Austria) can accommodate 365 passengers, and there are several other boats operated by Wolfgangsee Schifffahrt and private companies.

From St. Gilgen, you can visit other parts of Wolfgangsee and villages around it, such as Fürberg, St. Wolfgang, and Strobl. The farthest is Strobl, which takes an hour and 15 minutes to reach by boat.

You can learn more about Wolfgangsee boat services on the lake’s official website, which is linked in the resources section of this post.

5. Ride the Cable Car to Zwölferhorn for an Epic View

If you are seeking a breathtaking view of St. Gilgen, Wolfgangsee, and the Alps, similar to the scenes from the opening of the Sound of Music, then the peak of Zwölferhorn is the place for you. This 1,522-meter-tall mountain offers the most breathtaking views in St. Gilgen, and it is a must-see, especially since it is accessible right from the village center via cable car.

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What to expect from visiting Zwölferhorn

Located just a 3-minute walk from Mozartplatz and a 5-minute walk from Mozarthaus and the lakeside promenade, reaching the Zwölferhorn cable car valley station and ascending the mountain is an easy task. Once you’ve hopped into the cable car cabin, you’ll be ascending to the mountains, reaching Zwölferhorn in just 11 minutes.

If the weather is clear, you will be rewarded with stunning views as soon as you take off. Fascinatingly, you will be able to see Mondsee, another lake of Salzkammergut, even before you reach Zwölferhorn. The Voit’l Hütte am Zwölferhorn mountain hut awaits you at Zwölferhorn, where you can enjoy breathtaking views while eating snacks.

If you have plenty of time to spend in St. Gilgen, Zwölferhorn has hiking trails that you may enjoy exploring. The Pillstein trail, which is popular with hikers of all ages, is the most popular hiking trail. The scenery from the hiking trail’s viewpoint is breathtaking, with lakes and layers upon layers of blue mountains. Sometimes, a sea of clouds appears, which is simply stunning.

6. Explore the Musical Instruments Museum

The Musical Instruments Museum is an absolute gem in St. Gilgen. This museum, located in the charming town of St. Gilgen, is a treasure trove of musical instruments from all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia.

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The amazing experience you can have from this museum

Indeed, you’ll be amazed by the variety of musical instruments from around the world. From fancy and unusual instruments from various countries in Europe to outrageous audibility and enchanting instruments from Asia, there are plenty to discover! 

The museum also features instruments from Africa that are more than just wood, metal, and horn, giving you the feeling that there is something truly special about them. You’ll also see archaic-looking flutes from America made of clay, bone, and convillage edders, giving you insights to what they believed in: the gods of fertility and the earth. And finally, there are musical instruments from the land of the Aborigines from Australia. Their most famous instrument, the didgeridoo, is also in the museum.

But what really sets this museum apart is its owner and curator, who is described by visitors as a humble and talented man who collects and plays instruments from all over the world. He is able to share his passion for music during your visit, making it an unforgettable experience for everyone! Amazingly, he plays many of his 5000+ instruments from everywhere, and it can blow your mind. Visitors have praised the proprietor for being incredibly friendly, talented beyond belief, and clearly loving what he does.

Overall, your experience at the Museum of Musical Instruments in St. Gilgen will be nothing short of inspiring, heart-felt, educational, cultural, and deeply human. It is an amazing journey into a person’s lifetime worth of passion for music, and you are sure to be enchanted by every moment of it.

If you are interested in visiting the Musical Instruments Museum in St. Gilgen, it’s located along Aberseestrasse, a minute walk from Cafe Nannerl in Kirchenplatz. Please check its official website linked at the resources section for the visiting information. The museum owner’s YouTube Channel is included.

7. Go Off-the-Beaten-Path: European Monastery of Gut Aich

Are you looking for authentic and unique experiences? Then during your visit to St. Gilgen, visit its off-the-beaten-path destination: the European Monastery of Gut Aich. This newly established Benedictine monastery, situated on an old pilgrim’s route between Mondsee and St. Wolfgang, offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty and serenity of monastic life. It’s a place to find peace, tranquility, and spiritual rejuvenation.

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Discover the unique experience in this monastery

With its church and peaceful atmosphere, The European Monastery of Gut Aich may seem just like any other European monastery. But not so fast! It has an impressive 3-part herb garden that sets it apart: the herb garden (since 1993), Hildegard herb garden (since 1996), Liqueur herb garden (since 2004).

At Gut Aich monastery, using herbs for healing is an important part of their medical care. Since the monastery was founded in 1993, the monks have been dedicated to growing and using medicinal herbs. Herbal medicine is a key part of their “specialty” — an approach to treating both the body and soul in a holistic way. At the monastery, you can explore their herb gardens and join a guided tour to learn more about their herbs.

If you’re a Catholic, you can join the holy mass. Then, take a tour of the monastery’s cellar, taste liquor, and shop in the monastery’s shops. The monastery’s shop offers a wide range of products, including herbal preparations, tinctures, ointments, and other locally crafted items. You can also participate in midday meditation, and evening prayer, and there are opportunities for pastoral help and deceleration. Every Thursday at 14:30 from June until October, you can also join a guided tour of the gold and silver blacksmith’s shop, lasting about 90 minutes.

To get to the European Monastery of Gut Aich, take bus #156 from St.Gilgen Busbahnhof to the hamlet of Aich still in St. Gilgen.

You can learn more about the European Monastery of Gut Aich by visiting their official website, which is linked in the resources section of this post.

How to Visit

If you are now prepared to visit St. Gilgen, I am pleased to inform you that traveling to St. Gilgen from Salzburg is very simple: Take bus #150 from Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (main station) to St. Gilgen Busbahnhof. The journey takes about 40 to 50 minutes, and buses depart every 20 minutes. To return to Salzburg, simply take the same bus.

To get to St. Gilgen from other cities, you must first travel to Salzburg by train or bus. Salzburg has the most frequent bus departures and the most convenient route. Alternatively, you can join a tour that includes a visit to St. Gilgen for a stress-free experience. You can browse the various tours by clicking on this link. Recommended tour for groups — Salzburg: Full-Day Private City & Lake District Tour

Resources

So, that concludes my list of the best things to do in St. Gilgen. For further planning, the links below will provide you with the information you need to visit different attractions in St. Gilgen.

Are you still looking for a hotel in Salzburg or St. Gilgen? Check out these fantastic hotel deals! They’re offered by my trusted partner, who specializes in finding excellent accommodations. Keep in mind that this is an affiliate link, so if you book through it, I may earn a small commission. However, there’s no extra cost to you, and your support will help WanderInEurope create more helpful guides like the one you’re currently reading. Thank you!

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Know that there’s more to see in Salzburg aside from St. Gilgen. If you love to wander, exploring Old Town Salzburg on foot is a must. You’ll see not only beautiful sights but also incredible landmarks and historical sites. For example: Salzburg Cathedral, Nonnberg Abbey, and Hohensalzburg Fortress which also offer panoramic views of the city. Speaking of breathtaking scenery, the mountains—Monchsberg and Kapuzinerberg—surrounding the Old Town are the place to be. Some of the best spots for watching the sunrise and sunset are located in these mountains. Lastly, check out my suggestions on how you can spend a day in Salzburg without breaking the bank, along with my recommendations for unique experiences that can make your Salzburg trip special.

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