Austria has quickly become one of my favorite things. Walking around the charming town of Salzburg made me feel like I'm sixteen going on seventeen. The little towns nearby will make you want to climb ev'ry mountain and maybe you'll be lucky enough to see a lonely goatherd. Okay, how many “Sound of Music” songs did I just include in this paragraph? Hopefully my references won't make you say so long, farewell to this blog post. OKAY I'm stopping. Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. Here's my complete guide to the Sound of Music in Salzburg.
Salzburg: The Sound of Music Shooting Locations
You know how a movie often over romanticizes a place and it's beauty? That isn't the case in Salzburg, or Austria in general. Watch the first few minutes of The Sound of Music and the movie pans to various locations of loveliness in Austria. This sincerely paints a picture of Austria's immense mountains, tiny villages filled with tower steeples, and crystal blue lakes. It's beautiful and quaint and I adore it.
When I started doing research on what to do in Salzburg I knew I was doing ONE thing for sure: The Sound of Music Tour. But I found a blog post talking about how it wasn't “authentic” and real Austrians didn't know a thing about the movie. To that I say: no, you're just wrong. The Von Trapp Family is a TRUE STORY and obviously made an impact not only because of the Hollywood movie. It illustrates the tough times during Nazi reign in Austria and across the world. It boasts some of the best music of all time and it traces through the real history of nuns, music, and Austria itself. Basically, don't listen to the haters and do your thing. Because seeing The Sound of Music sites is awesome. And yes, I sang aloud. A lot.
As far as your options go for tours you have: a bus tour, a bike tour, or do it yourself. I am not really a bus person and I just wanted to do it on my own. So we did a self guided tour. Don't worry, I'll provide you with all the details here! If you are wanting to do an organized tour then go for it! It's just a little pricey but obviously easier to find the spots when someone takes you around. Salzburg's official website does a wonderful job of listing out the locations as well.
The Sound of Music sites around Salzburg
We started with the lovely Mirabell Palace and gardens. This is a luscious garden with statues and fountains throughout. You'll remember the scene where Maria and the children are singing “Do-Rei-Mi” on the steps. You'll also see the vine-covered tunnel (it was a bit sparse during the hot summer month when I went) and the fortress that appears in the scene in the background.
This is the fountain they sing around before marching up the steps as pictured in the top photo.
Dress found here. (Similar in blue)
You can frolic and sing around the gardens as you please. As you walk to the next locations, cross over the love-lock “Makartsteg” bridge for a great view of Salzburg.
From here, you can walk to Karajan Square and the “Horse Pond.” This is called the Horse Pond because it was used in the 17th century for horses to cool off. In the movie they marvel at the fountain while singing and as Maria sings “I Have Confidence” on her way to the Von Trapp family.
Walk just a short distance to the “Felsenreitschule” in German or Rock Riding School. This is where the whole family comes together for the talent show to sing for the choir competition right before they fled from the Nazis. This is the exact same place the real family sang!
Next, we walked over to Stitfskirche or “Nonnberg Abbey” which is the nunnery and prayer scene. Don't forget to go inside the beautiful church. The interior of the abbey was recreated in the studio, but the exterior is the actual nunnery where the real Maria was a nun! This is also the same backdrop for the movie.
Walk on over to towards the Fortress (the tall castle on top of the hill) to St. Peter's Cemetery. Here, you'll see more flowers than graves. This is well known as one of the most beautiful cemeteries. You'll notice this is a scene from when they are hiding from the Nazis.
Remember when Maria and the children are in the carriage ride through the city? In it, they pass by the lovely Residenzplatz Square and fountain. I loved this area in general because it's filled with beautiful baroque architecture. Fifty five medieval buildings were torn down to make room for this square, so it's huge. If you have time, you can also pop into the DomQuartier museum. This former palace, now museum has lots of beautiful artifacts and art.
The next day, we rented a car to tackle some more of The Sound of Music filming locations and go a little outside of town to Hallstatt- a beautiful lake about an hour or so from Salzburg. First, we headed to Schloss Leopoldskron which was the scenes for the Von Trapp Family home. It's now a hotel and sits right on the edge of the lake. It's really beautiful with meticulously decorated gardens.
Next we drove to my favorite, arguably, most iconic spots: the gazebo. I admit it, I started tearing up as we made our way up to the beautiful little gazebo. And of course, I sang “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” Here's another advantage of going on your own: there was no one around. I gallivanted, skipped, and leapt while my very kind husband snapped pictures. Then the throngs of people came off the tour bus.
The gazebo is on the grounds of Schloss Hellbrunn and you can take a tour inside of this bright orange palace. There are gardens and even “trick fountains” here as well. You do have to pay extra for that, but going to the gazebo is free.
Outside of Salzburg filming locations:
I didn't venture here, because truly, you can climb up any mountain in Austria to feel like the hills are alive. But if you want THE mountain, go over to Mount Untersberg, about 2 hours from Salzburg.
The wedding scenes were also filmed outside of Salzburg. You can go to Cathedral of Mondsee which was used for their ceremony. The church dates back to a 748 Roman settlement and is worth the trip to see the grand cathedral.
Here is a map of all the locations to make finding them a breeze!
Just walking around the city you'll get a feel for music and Salzburg. It's small and beautiful, so it's easy to tackle this city as well as Mozart's childhood home and a few museums, in addition to The Sound of Music shooting locations.
What I love about touring the city via the Sound of Music sites is that you unravel the truth about the Hollywood legend. The movie did a great job of capturing the beauty of Salzburg. The family truly believe in music as a way of bringing people together and you get that same feeling in Salzburg. Whether you're interested in the movie, Mozart, or just want to get a taste of the alps, this city should be on your list.