Explore Salzburg with its array of great things to do as a family, including a toy museum (Spielzeug Museum) and a natural history and technology museum (Haus der Natur). Everything is clustered around the River Salzach, with the ornate Old Town on one side, the marginally less old New Town on the other, book-ended by two mini-mountains, the Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerburg.
Start with Hohensalzburg fortress, taking the near-vertical funicular up the rock face. Kids love climbing the pile of cannonballs, seeing the torture chamber and scaling the tower. Then walk along the Mönchsberg ridge, clambering over ancient fortifications, looking down on a townscape that enthrals with its clusters of ancient, extravagant buildings. Other must-visits in Salzburg with your family are Mozart’s Birthplace, with instruments dating from his days as a child prodigy, the cathedral (Dom), St Peter's Abbey, and colourful Getreidegasse shopping street.
The Sound of Music settings are everywhere – not least the fountains and steps of Salzburg’s Mirabell Gardens. (A coach tour also gets you to settings out in the Salzkammergut lake district; see below). On the city outskirts, Hellbrunn Palace has amazing 400-year-old trick fountains where children adore getting soaked, as well as large, grassy grounds, a chunky adventure playground and a neighbouring zoo.
Venture into the great outdoors, which is is all around – hire bikes from Salzburg’s riverside kiosk for an easy ride along riverbank paths, or walk up the Kapuzinerburg, watching out for chamois. Within an hour of the city there are the staggering Eisriesenwelt ice caves and close to that the mountain-top Hohenwerfen fortress, the Salzwelten salt mines (where kids whoop as they whoosh down the slide that miners once used to get to work), the Untersberg, a mountain with a cable-car and hikes over to Germany, Krimml Falls, Europe’s highest waterfall, plus many other peaks, mountain railways, lakes and walks.
Ski. Ski Amadé (named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) unites 25 resorts in Salzburgerland and four other regions with 860km of piste on one lift pass, none more than an hour from the city. There's also year-yound skiing at Kaprun, one of the few places on Earth where you can enjoy the slopes in the morning and relax by the pool or lake in temperatures of 26°C+ in the afternoon. Kaprun is a charming lakeside village, but the big draw Kitzsteinhorn glacier with its guaranteed snow. Two other areas are covered by the Europa Sport Region lift pass; all cater to beginners and advanced skiers, so a family of differing abilities can enjoy being in the same general area. Beginners can learn on the Lechnerberg slopes next to Kaprun, or there are gentle slopes on the glacier ideal for learning. For intermediates and advance skiers there’s a great range on both the glacier and the Schmittenhöhe slopes. Even if you don’t ski, check out the glacier – the gondola ride is spectacular. There’s also an indoor–outdoor pool, bowling, tobogganing and tennis. In summer, in addition to skiing, Kaprun offers gold-panning, kayaking, hiking, mountain-biking and swimming, making it one of the best summer resorts in Austria.
Near Kaprun, the picture-postcard town of Zell-am-See is great for shopping and/or an evening out. Don't miss a family trekking expedition with llamas or alpacas, with the option of staying the night in a cabin.
Other major ski resorts such as Saalbach-Hinterglemm and Kitzbühel (in the Tirol) are close by. Note that the Salzburgh Snow Shuttle bus runs to a different resort each day of the week, allowing you to comfortably stay in the city and still ski.
If you're wondering where to go in Austria in summer, we highly recommend the lovely Salzkammergut, to see Sound of Music locations (see above) but also to swim in picturesque Lake Wolfgang. Or come in winter and ice-skate on it.