Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterised by the loss of substantia nigra dopaminergic neurons that leads to a reduction in striatal dopamine (DA) levels. Replacing lost cells by transplanting dopaminergic neurons has potential value to repair the damaged brain. Salidroside (SD), a phenylpropanoid glycoside isolated from plant Rhodiola rosea, is neuroprotective. We examined whether salidroside can induce mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to differentiate into neuron-like cells, and convert MSCs into dopamine neurons that can be applied in clinical use. Salidroside induced rMSCs to adopt a neuronal morphology, upregulated the expression of neuronal marker molecules, such as gamma neuronal enolase 2 (Eno2/NSE), microtubule-associated protein 2 (Map2), and beta 3 class III tubulin (Tubb3/β-tubulin III). It also increased expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and nerve growth factor (NGF) mRNAs, and promoted the secretion of these growth factors. The expression of dopamine neurons markers, such as dopamine-beta-hydroxy (DBH), dopa decarboxylase (DDC) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), was significantly upregulated after treatment with salidroside for 1–12 days. DA steadily increased after treatment with salidroside for 1–6 days. Thus salidroside can induce rMSCs to differentiate into dopaminergic neurons.