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Whether you love it or hate it, everyone can agree that The Sound of Music is a timeless, worldwide classic, being one of the most popular and quoted musicals of all time. Set in the spellbinding country of Austria, it’s hard not to find some sort of enchantment with this musical.
Much of this film was shot around the historic and beautiful city of Salzburg. Consequently, thousands of people from around the world have visited Salzburg to feel the magic and learn the history of the city, the film, and the real-life von Trapp family, who inspired the events of the film.
Even if you’re not a fanatic, The Sound of Music filming locations in and around Salzburg are stunning and worth seeing, whether part of a private bus tour or a self-guided walking tour.
- A Brief History of The Sound of Music
- The events that inspired the film took place in Austria during the 1920s and 1930s
- The Sound of Music isn’t the first movie about the von Trapps!
- Casting the Leads in The Sound of Music
- Blockbuster Success
- Most Popular Sound of Music Sites in Salzburg
- 1. “Do Re Mi” Picnic Meadow in Werfen
- 2. Nonnberg Abbey Convent
- 3. St. Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs
- 4. Mirabell Palace Gardens
- 5. Frohnburg Palace
- 6. Schloss Leopoldskron
- 7. The “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” Gazebo and Hellbrunn Palace
- 8. The Basilica of St. Michael at Mondsee Abbey
- 9. The Felsenreitschule – Salzburg Festival Theater
- 10. Herbert von Karajan Square and the Horse Pond
- 11. Untersberg Mountain
- 12. Villa Trapp
- 13. St. Gilgen
- 14. Hohenwerfen Fortress
- 15. Residenzplatz Square and Fountain
- Salzburg As A Destination
- When is the best time to go on a Sound of Music location tour?
- What other musical attractions are in Salzburg?
- Where is the best place to stay in Salzburg?
A Brief History of The Sound of Music
This family-friendly movie seems so saccharine to the point where many may assume it’s fiction. But beneath the fairytale facade beats the heart of a true story. Before we get onto the top Sound of Music film locations worth visiting, let’s take a closer look at some tidbits about this beloved musical movie.
The events that inspired the film took place in Austria during the 1920s and 1930s
The Sound of Music movie is actually based on real events. The real-life von Trapp family was an Austrian family of singers that performed around the world as a family choir.
The story follows the widowed Captain Georg Ludwig Ritter von Trapp, his seven children, and his second wife Maria who lived in Salzburg. Maria was a governess Captain von Trapp hired from a convent to help care for his children. They would go on to have three more little von Trapps, bringing the number of children up to ten!
The family was known throughout Salzburg for possessing angelic voices and frequently performed for large audiences (this was a savvy move on Georg’s part, as the family fortune had been wiped out due to the consequences of the Great Depression). They were even invited to perform in front of Adolf Hitler, but Georg, disgusted by the Nazi ideology, declined. It wouldn’t be the last time he said no to the Nazis.
Captain von Trapp was a decorated submarine captain in the Austro-Hungarian Navy who sank several Allied civilian ships during World War I. Following the German annexation of Austria in March 1938, Georg was offered a commission in the Kriegsmarine (the German navy). The Germans, having proven themselves masters of submarine warfare wanted as many battle-hardened submariners in their ranks for the war they were preparing to wage on Europe.
Here’s where the movie differs. In the film, Georg is threatened with imprisonment if he refuses, and the family, using a performance as cover, escapes on foot over the Alps into Switzerland.
In reality, Georg von Trapp refused the commission and bundled the family onto a train to Italy and from there fled to America, where Georg had contact with a talent agent. Following their escape, they toured the U.S. and later parts of Europe (even Salzburg once more) before war broke out in Europe and they returned to the U.S. for good. They finally settled in Stowe, Vermont, where the von Trapp family lives to this day.
The Sound of Music isn’t the first movie about the von Trapps!
The Sound of Music isn’t the first movie about the singing von Trapp family. The first film about the family’s exploits was The Trapp Family, a West German film released in 1956, that was inspired by Maria von Trapp’s The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, published in 1949.
This film would serve as the inspiration for a stage musical by the legendary duo Rodgers and Hammerstein in 1959, released as The Sound of Music, which would then be adapted for the silver screen in 1965.
Casting the Leads in The Sound of Music
The Sound of Music starred Julie Andrews, who played the main character of Maria. Andrews, hot off the success of Disney’s Mary Poppins, was known for her beauty, fun demeanor, and beautiful singing voice. If the world knew that Andrews was famous among her peers for swearing like a marine, maybe folks would have thought twice about casting her as a nun!
Julie would star opposite the Canadian actor Christopher Plummer, who played Captain von Trapp. Through working on this movie together, both he and Julie would form a friendship that lasted a lifetime.
The part would prove to be a breakout role for Plummer, projecting him to superstardom across international cinema for decades. As magnificent as his performance was, Plummer’s singing ability wasn’t quite up to scratch, and his singing voice would be dubbed in post-production by Bill Lee of the Mellomen.
The world premiere of The Sound of Music was held on March 2, 1965, at the famous Rivoli Theater in New York, and was an instant smash hit. The film reigned for five years as the highest-grossing film in history. It won five Oscars at the 38th Academy Awards, including best picture and best score.
Most Popular Sound of Music Sites in Salzburg
So, what Salzburg Sound of Music tours are out there?
It shouldn’t surprise you that there are many incredible Sound of Music tour options, and visiting the various Sound of Music locations is one of the best things to do when staying in Salzburg. Going on a guided Sound of Music walking tour is a great option if you want to learn about the film and the city of Salzburg from a local. There are many operators that also run buses to movie tour locations in and outside Old Town Salzburg too, not to mention options for private group tours too!
Here are the most popular sites and filming locations in and around town for a Salzburg Sound of Music tour.
1. “Do Re Mi” Picnic Meadow in Werfen
What is now known to many as “Do Re Mi” Hill is located in the town of Werfen. It’s arguably the most beautiful primary filming location of The Sound of Music.
The famous picnic scene where Maria first taught the children to sing was filmed here. Even though this is located just outside the city of Salzburg, it’s totally worth the trip.
Werfen is one of Austria’s most enchanting small towns. You can easily get there by rental car or train. Unfortunately, there are not many Sound of Music guided tours to Werfen, and the pilgrimage to this particular location is typically made solo by the most hardcore fans – myself included.
Werfen is a charming, quaint village with colorful buildings that time forgot. Next to the Werfen Tourism Office, you’ll find the start of The Sound of Music Trail that leads to the “Do Re Mi” Hill. The trail is one mile and the hike is easy. Enhancements made in 2015 to honor the movie’s 50th anniversary added path signs to help fans find the way.
Skipping and singing around “Do Re Mi” Hill is one of my favorite memories. When I was prancing there, the meadow was full of wildflowers, and the breathtaking views of Hohenwerfen Castle and Untersberg Mountain made me feel like I was on set. I guess, technically I was.
I was lucky enough to have the “Do Re Me” Hill all to myself. The experience was pure joy. If you want to have a similar experience, I recommend going during the fall off-season. September is best because it’s off-season and the weather is still warm.
See Related: Vienna vs Salzburg: What’s Better to Visit?
2. Nonnberg Abbey Convent
Address: Nonnberggasse 2, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Nonnbery Abbey (aka Stift Nonnberg) is the oldest convent north of the Alps, founded in 714 AD. It’s still a convent to this day and you can hear the nuns singing Gregorian chants in Latin every day at 6:45 am inside the abbey. The abbey itself holds a very significant place in the real von Trapp family’s story.
After graduating from college, Maria Augusta von Kutschera took a train to Salzburg to present herself as a candidate for the novitiate of the Benedictine Sisterhood. The movie portrays Maria as a nun, but she was actually only a novice and governess in the abbey’s school before she was sent to the widowed Baron von Trapp’s house.
After serving as a governess for the von Trapp family, Maria, and Georg von Trapp married in the Abbey Church in 1927. The wedding scene in the movie, however, took place in the Mondsee Cathedral. Even so, the convent wouldn’t miss its place in the limelight.
Five scenes from the movie were filmed at Nonnberg Abbey: the nuns performing the song “Maria” in the courtyard, Maria leaving the abbey to work for the von Trapp family, the von Trapp kids begging at the gate to see Maria after she left their home, Maria returning to speak with the Reverend Mother after falling in love with Georg von Trapp, and the escape scene where the Nazis’ cars were parked outside of the abbey.
Visitors will notice the interior of the abbey itself is different from the movie. Filming inside the convent was not allowed, so the interior scenes were rebuilt and filmed in a Hollywood studio.
3. St. Peter’s Cemetery and Catacombs
Address: Sankt-Peter-Bezirk 1, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
St. Peter’s Church was founded in the 7th Century, and its cemetery is one of the oldest in the world. It’s also Salzburg’s oldest Christian cemetery. The catacombs are carved out of the rocks of Mönchsberg, the mountain in Salzburg’s city center, and provide a stunning view over the beautiful cemetery. St. Peter’s Cemetery is the resting place of Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, and Max Detweiler, “Uncle Max,” in the von Trapp family.
No scenes were actually shot at St. Peter’s Church, but it was a great inspiration for the movie makers. St. Peter’s Cemetery was rebuilt in Hollywood studios for the memorable scene in which the von Trapps hide from the Nazis behind tombstones. St. Peter’s church can also be seen in the distance of the movie’s opening scene when Maria is singing on the mountain.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Austria & Things to Do
4. Mirabell Palace Gardens
Address: Mirabellplatz 4, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich for his mistress. It had a decent music pedigree even prior to The Sound of Music, as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would play private concerts for royalty here as a child. Today, Mirabell Palace and its gardens are a cultural landmark, event & concert space, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Salzburg.
The garden’s landscaping is wildly impressive with grand marble statues, stunning fountains, and unique flower arrangements. You can also enjoy the view of the looming Hohensalzburg Fortress (or High Salzburg Fortress)in the distance.
Mirabell Gardens is a must-see for anyone visiting Salzburg and one of the most popular Sound of Music filming locations for tourists. While visiting Mirabell Palace Gardens, you can reenact the scenes of Maria and the von Trapp children singing “Do Re Mi” while dancing around the Pegasus Fountain, jumping up and down on the steps, and running through the hedge maze tunnel! I’m not saying I did this, but you totally can.
5. Frohnburg Palace
Address: Schloss Fronburg, Hellbrunner Allee 53, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
The Frohnburg Palace was built in the 17th Century as a country house for Salzburg’s prince-archbishops. Today, the palace houses music students from the Mozarteum Music Academy.
Frohnburg Palace played an important role in The Sound of Music, as it was one of two filming locations for the von Trapp Villa. The front gate and courtyard of the Frohnburg Palace were used for the front of the von Trapp house in the movie. Maria arrived at the Frohnburg Palace, masquerading as the von Trapp home, after dancing along the Hellbrunn Alley while singing “I Have Confidence,” to meet the von Trapps for the first time.
There were two other significant scenes shot at the Frohnburg Palace. One was when Georg von Trapp tore the Nazi flag down from above the villa’s doorway when he and Maria returned from their honeymoon and heard about the German annexation of Austria. The other scene is when the von Trapp family pushes their car noiselessly out of the villa’s gate when they try to escape.
See Related: Schönbrunn Palace Tour, Vienna, Austria
6. Schloss Leopoldskron
Address: Leopoldskronstraße 56/58, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Schloss Leopoldskron, (aka Leopoldskron Palace or Leopold Palace) is a place I fell in love with. Built in 1736 by Salzburg’s Archbishop Leopold Firmian, this magnificent rococo palace is an Austrian national historic monument in the southern district of Salzburg. It’s one of the most beautiful Sound of Music filming locations and is right on Lake Leopoldskroner Weiher.
The back of the palace and the lake were used for exterior shots of the von Trapp family home, as well as the lake terrace scenes. These shots include Maria and the children falling off the canoes into the lake, drinking pink lemonade with the baroness, and Maria dancing with Captain von Trapp.
Although no filming took place inside the palace, its gold Venetian ballroom and foyer were rebuilt in Hollywood for the interior scenes in the family’s mansion. In the film, the von Trapp family performed in the foyer for their esteemed party guests.
Today the palace is a fabulous boutique hotel. Staying overnight at Schloss Leopolskron is the only way to visit this film location up close, including the breathtaking Venetian ballroom. Staying here is the ultimate Sound of Music experience because you get to live like the von Trapp family in the film!
If you don’t stay at the hotel, you can still picture the lake terrace scenes and view the Palace at a distance from the west side of the lake. I wasn’t aware that you needed to stay at the hotel in order to see the interiors and exteriors of the Palace; however, I was satisfied with the view of it from across the lake. The reflection of the palace and the blue sky on the lake was unforgettable.
See Related: Best Castle Hotels in Austria for Accommodation
7. The “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” Gazebo and Hellbrunn Palace
Address: Fürstenweg 37, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
I think most of us can agree that some of the most romantic scenes of The Sound of Music are filmed in this famous glass gazebo at Hellbrunn Palace – despite the fact that one of the two lovestruck teens turns out to be a Nazi. Today, it’s known to some as the Sound of Music Pavilion or the Sound of Music Gazebo.
Yes, this is where Liesl and Rolfe danced and sang “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” as well as had their first kiss. Maria and Baron von Trapp also proclaimed their love for each other while slow dancing and singing “Something Good.”
Originally part of the grounds at Schloss Leopoldskron, the Sound of Music Gazebo was eventually renovated and reconstructed in the park of Hellbrunn Palace, where you can visit it today. Unfortunately, you can’t go inside, but you can still take great pictures in front of it.
After checking out the gazebo, I recommend walking through the park of Hellbrunn Palace, another major cultural landmark. It has trick fountains, beautiful flower gardens, and is also home to Salzburg Hellbrun Zoo.
You can also arrive at Hellbrunn Palace in style via a riverboat tour!
8. The Basilica of St. Michael at Mondsee Abbey
Address: Wredepl. 3, 5310 Mondsee, Austria
Mondsee Abbey was built in the year 748 and is only slightly younger than Nonnberg Abbey, where Georg and Maria got married in real life. It is one of the most photographed churches in the world, and more than 200,000 people visit every year.
Mondsee Abbey is located in the picturesque lakeside town of Mondsee. A lot of Sound of Music tours usually stop in Mondsee so that people have free time to explore the town and lake. You can also take a bus from Salzburg or drive yourself.
Maria and Baron von Trapp’s wedding scene was filmed in the Basilica of St. Michael at Mondsee Abbey. This scene was actually one of the first shots filmed for The Sound of Music.
I was blown away by the church’s stunning exteriors and interiors. The pink, cream, black, and gold color palette inside the church is pretty unique. I really enjoyed the paintings and statues as well. It was a special moment walking down the middle aisle of the church while picturing the iconic wedding scene in The Sound of Music.
I’m not the only one who found this special. During the premier in March 1965, the living members of the real von Trapp family were in attendance. Apparently, when Julie Andrews walked down the aisle to Christopher Plummer, the real Maria rose from her seat, entranced by the scene, and began to walk toward the movie screen, as though walking down the aisle again!
See Related: Things to Do in Innsbruck, Austria
9. The Felsenreitschule – Salzburg Festival Theater
Address: Felsenreitschule, Hofstallgasse 1, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
The Felsenreitschule (aka The Rock Riding School, and the Summer Riding School), was initially built as a cathedral. Boulders were cut from the Mönchsberg which left a vast crater where the Rock Riding School now stands.
In 1693, Archbishop Johann Ernst von Thun repurposed the cavernous space into a riding school where tournaments were held. Later, it became a theater. The real von Trapp choir performed here in 1936, winning the Salzburg Music Festival.
Today, the Rock Riding School is one of Salzburg’s most popular concert venues and is featured in a lot of Salzburg Sound of Music tours. It hosts the famous annual Salzburg Folk Festival and is capable of accommodating around 1,500 people.
In the movie, the von Trapp family performs here at Uncle Max’s music festival, singing renditions of “Do Re Mi” and “So Long, Farewell.” To buy the family time to implement their escape plans to Switzerland, Baron von Trapp then sings “Edelweiß”.
See Related: The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
10. Herbert von Karajan Square and the Horse Pond
Address: Herbert-von-Karajan-Platz 11, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
With roots in the 8th Century, and the largest of the two surviving Medieval horse baths in Salzburg, the Horse Pond in its current form dates back to the 17th Century. This was where parade horses from the prince-archbishops’ stables were washed off and groomed. It’s situated below the cliff side of Mönchsberg (or Monk’s Hill).
The statue of the “Horse Tamer” and the beautiful frescoes of horses on the back wall of the pond depict some of the customs at that time. This historic site makes for some gorgeous pictures. Near the beginning of the movie, Maria sings “I Have Confidence” in Karajan Square while walking around the Horse Pond.
The pond also appears later in the film when Maria and the children ride through Karajan Square in a horse-drawn carriage. This is one of the scenes where Maria takes the children on an adventure around Salzburg in clothes she made from drapes.
11. Untersberg Mountain
Untersberg Mountain can be seen during three significant points of the film. One of the most iconic scenes in the history of cinema is when Maria joyously sings “Sound of Music” and runs through lush meadows with the mountains (and the songs they have sung for a thousand years) in the background.
Untersberg is also visible in the distance during the picnic meadow scene on “Do Re Mi” Hill. The film’s closing scene also takes place here, when the von Trapp family escapes Austria while crossing Untersberg and singing “Climb Every Mountain.”
Although the escape across the mountains in the movie is a powerful scene, the geography is inaccurate – and would have made things harder for the von Trapps. Crossing over Untersberg Mountain actually leads right into Germany, not Switzerland. Two-thirds of the mountain is in Bavaria, Germany, while one-third belongs to Austria.
As mentioned, the von Trapp family’s escape was less dramatic than it was in the movie. The family left their villa through its back gate, crossed the railway that ran close to the gate, and boarded a train to Italy.
The family achieved this in broad daylight but pretended that they were going to Italy for a vacation and a stop on their family music tour, rather than fleeing the Nazis. They managed to cross the Austrian border at the perfect time because it closed the next day, despite Italy being an allied fascist nation.
There are walking routes to the summits of Untersberg, but most visitors ascend by the Untersbergbahn cable car which lifts passengers from the lower terminus at the village of St. Leonhard to the Geiereck spur, which has a dizzying altitude of 1,776 m.
12. Villa Trapp
Address: Traunstraße 34, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Though not one of the Sound of Music filming locations, the von Trapp Villa is the real von Trapp family home where they lived for 15 years.
Until recently, the von Trapp Villa operated as a hotel and an educational Sound of Music museum. The museum included the history of the real Von Trapp family as well as behind-the-scenes information about the movie.
Currently, Villa Trapp is closed for bookings, but it does still show up in a lot of Sound of Music tours and can be viewed from the outside. Not far from Leopoldskron Palace, a visit to the real von Trapp estate gives fans a true insight into the life of the legendary singing family.
See Related: Best Day Trips from Vienna, Austria
13. St. Gilgen
Neighboring St. Gilgen is yet another breathtaking Austrian village located on Lake Wolfgangsee. A fun fact about St. Gilgen is that Mozart’s mother, Anna Pertl, was born here, and you’ll find a Mozart museum in the town center.
The opening aerial shots in The Sound of Music are of St. Gilgen, Lake Wolfgangsee, and the gorgeous surrounding mountains. St. Gilgen is a great place to start or end a self-guided Sound of Music tour, and it’s one of the stops on the Original Sound of Music Tour. I highly recommend exploring the village and swimming in the lake if it’s warm enough.
14. Hohenwerfen Fortress
Address: Burgstraße 2, 5450 Werfen, Austria
Like the “Do Re Mi” Hill, Hohenwerfen Fortress is located in the little village of Werfen. It was built on a steep mountain peak, high above the Salzach Valley, and is considered one of the most beautiful castles in Austria.
The fortress was built under the rule of Archbishop Gebhardt von Helffenstein in the year 1077 to protect and defend the pass leading into the Salzburg basin.
Hohenwerfen Fortress isn’t a significant filming location in The Sound of Music, but it’s visible in the background of the scenes on “Do Re Mi” Hill, where Maria and the children sing, play, and have a picnic.
The Hohenwerfen Fortress is a popular destination for families with children. It hosts activities and events throughout the year, including medieval swordplay and falconry demonstrations.
See Related: Things to Do in Vienna with Kids
15. Residenzplatz Square and Fountain
Address: Residenzpl. 4, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Situated in the center of Salzburg Old Town is Residence Square or Residenzplatz, home to the largest baroque fountain outside of Italy.
Maria sings “I Have Confidence” around the square and splashes about in the water of the fountain. Later on in the film, German soldiers march through Residenzplatz and hang their flag over the entrance of the Old Residence Palace.
Salzburg As A Destination
If you’re looking to visit Salzburg, there’s a good chance you’re doing it for because for a Sound of Music tour. I don’t blame you, that’s the main reason I first visited Salzburg. But Salzburg Sound of Music tours just scratch the surface of this enchanting city – do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring Salzburg for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
Apart from the many Salzburg Sound of Music tours, you can visit Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mirabell Palace and Gardens, the Salzburg Marionette Theater, Salzburg Cathedral, the Salzburg Museum, Hellbrunn Zoo, and Mozart’s Birthplace.
When is the best time to go on a Sound of Music location tour?
The spring and fall are the best times to go on a Salzburg Sound of Music tour. Spring tends to be a little milder and wetter, with late spring in Salzburg being absolutely beautiful. Early to mid-September is another great time to visit as you’ll still get to enjoy some late summer sunshine.
What other musical attractions are in Salzburg?
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Alexandra Lacouture is a seasoned travel writer and consultant noted for her strategic, creative, and analytical acumen. She has demonstrated a solid history of success by providing transformative insights to numerous business and technology projects, positively influencing the trajectory of many corporate initiatives. Renowned for her ability to blend methodical thinking with an innovative flair, Alexandra’s contributions have made substantial impacts on her clients’ ventures.