Silent Night Chapel (Stille Nacht Kapelle)
Silent Night (Stille Nacht in German is one of the world’s favorite Christmas carols. And priest Joseph Mohr and organist Franz Xaver Gruber composed it in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, a little town near Salzburg. The Silent Night Chapel (Stille Nacht Kapelle, built on the spot where the magic happened, commemorates their work.
While Mohr and Gruber lived in Oberndorf bei Salzburg in the early 19th century, this adorable little octagonal chapel with its perfect dome and belfry was actually built in 1937, after the older church burned down. The chapel boasts a pair of stained glass windows depicting the composers and forms the epicenter of a Silent Night cottage industry. In season, you can send Christmas cards postmarked with the name of the carol or shop themed souvenirs at the festive market.
Things to know before you go
- There’s no charge to visit the chapel.
- Don’t confuse Oberndorf bei Salzburg, a pretty town on the Salzach River, with Oberndorf in Tirol, a ski resort, or Oberndorf am Neckar, in Germany. All three can be called simply “Oberndorf”.
- The chapel is reached by steps, but Oberndorf bei Salzburg lies on flat terrain so is reasonably accessible with strollers or in a wheelchair. You don’t need to climb the stairs to take a picture.
How to get there
Oberndorf bei Salzburg is about a 14-mile (22-kilometer) drive north of downtown Salzburg. Regular trains run from Salzburg’s main station (Hauptbahnhof) to Oberndorf bei Salzburg station, roughly a 0.5-mile (800-meter) walk from the chapel.
When to get there
Oberndorf and the chapel are picture-perfect almost all year round, although in spring slush can spoil the effect. The signature time to visit is Christmas Eve, when worshippers sing Silent Night (and other carols) at a special service, both inside and outside the chapel. Photographers should plan a visit around twilight in January or February, after the Christmas rush is past.
Christmassy Things to Do in Salzburg
With the scent of cookies and glühwein filling the air and the mountains capped with snow, Salzburg is magical at Christmas. Festive markets are a must, particularly the Christmas Market by Salzburg Cathedral and the Advent Market at Hellbrunn Palace. But you can also take a sleigh ride through the countryside, skate on Ritzensee Lake, or discover some of the region’s 1,678 miles (2,700 kilometers) of ski slopes.
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- Salzburg Old Market (Alter Markt)
- Mirabell Palace and Gardens (Schloss Mirabell und Mirabellgarten)
- Salzburg Marionette Theater
- Salzburg Museum of Natural History (Haus der Natur)
- Mozart Residence (Mozart-Wohnhaus)
- Mönchsberg Lift (Mönchsbergaufzug)
- Museum of Modern Art Salzburg Mönchsberg (Museum der Moderne am Mönchsberg)
- Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum)
- Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus)
- Stiegl Brauwelt
- Large Festival Hall (Grosses Festspielhaus)
- Museum of Modern Art Salzburg Rupertinum (Museum der Moderne Rupertinum)