I’ve been a fan of “The Sound of Music” (SOM) movie for pretty much my whole life. My first attempt at improvised harmony was to “Edelweiss” when I was about 10 (my dad was SO PROUD!), and I have memories of singing “I Am 16 Going on 17” when I was, like, 3 or 4, and thinking someone that age was SOOOO OLD!☺ Visiting Salzburg, Austria, and the locations where they filmed parts of the movie, has been a bucket list item of mine for YEARS. So when Joe suggested in mid-late 2015 that we go there in mid-late 2016 as part of my “‘Ending with a zero’ birthday year,” I jumped at the chance.
In doing my online research, I discovered many places that tell you about the SOM locations do it in conjunction with a bus tour. Now, if you only have one day or maybe even just two, I probably would recommend a bus tour – they bring you directly from Point A to Point B to Point C, so they’re the quickest way to get from one spot to another. However (1) your time at each location is limited by how long the tour has allotted for each stop, (2) they can’t get you everywhere and (3) several of the tours include sing-alongs on the bus, bicycle riding, etc….which is fine if you’re into that sort of stuff, but we most definitely are not! So as long as you’re OK with a lot of walking (I logged nearly 13 miles one day and just over 11 another day), a decent amount of hills and stairs, and taking an occasional city bus, doing “Salzburg a’la SOM” without a tour is, as far Joe and I are concerned, easy peasy lemon squeezy. ☺
I’ve only listed the places we visited, which was a nice percentage, but not quite everything that Salzburg and the surrounding area had to offer in terms of SOM-centric locations. I’ve listed stuff we missed at the end of this entry, so you know what else is available. As for us, we figure missing some places gives us an excuse to go back. ☺
For me, it was easiest to list everything based on how/when it was in the movie. Hopefully, that will work well for you, too.
SITE OF THE VON TRAPP BACKYARD/TERRACE (VIEW OF THE LAKE/MOUNTAIN)
I may as well start (at the very beginning…) with the most complicated one: there’s sometimes confusion about where the von Trapp’s “backyard” scenes were filmed. If you look at the photo above, you can see that there are 2 buildings on the shores of Leopoldskroner Teich (the small artificial lake where Maria and the kids fell out of the boat just before they met the Baroness for the first time), one right next to the other. Schloss Leopoldkron, a rococo castle (the one in the above photo with manicured gardens in the back and the light gray roof), had the original horse heads gate by the artificial lake, but when the movie producers could not film there, they recreated the gates next door (as well as built the terrace where Max and the Baroness had lemonade), on the property then known as Bertelsmann (the one in the photo with the grassy area in the center of the building and the pink roof). So Bertelsmann is where those backyard scenes were filmed. But there is little to show at Bertelsmann nowadays that anything was filmed there. You can see the tile path to where the gates had been, the bushes are still there, and the stands for the horse heads may or may not be original (I thought they looked a little too new), but that’s about it. A lot of tour guides like to say that the filming was done where you can still see the horse head gates now. But they’re wrong.
Anyway, at some point, the two buildings became part of the same complex known as Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. And unfortunately, since it’s a gated-with-a-key complex, the only way to get the view of the gate and the lake and the mountains as they were seen in the movie is to stay there. Click on Hotel Schloss-Leopoldskron’s website for more info.
We did stay there, by the way, in the formerly-known-as-Bertelsmann building, in one of their “Sound of Music” themed rooms (because yeah, I’m a geek) that faces the backyard/lake/mountain. We were only able to stay for one night (it was sold out all other nights due to a seminar). Still, it’s just as well…except for the view and the room with the gold wall panels and mirrors (they used it as the space for their breakfast buffet when we were there!) which was the inspiration for the ballroom in SOM (“inspiration” because those scenes were filmed in Hollywood), there wasn’t much else nearby that was included in the filming.
INSPIRATION FOR THE CEMETERY WHERE THE VON TRAPPS WERE DISCOVERED BY ROLFE
The cemetery in the movie was a bit of Hollywood magic that was “inspired” by something the movie people saw in Salzburg. In this case, the locked up family crypts that the von Trapps hid behind were based on the cemetery of St. Peter’s Monastery & Cemetery & Catacombs, which are just a hop, a skip and a jump from Residenz Fountain (see “I Have Confidence”). No one would be able to hide behind these crypts, even if they could get past the locks, as they’re flat against the back wall, but you can definitely see the “inspiration.” Both the church and the cemetery were absolutely beautiful.
THE NAZI HEADQUARTERS/SQUARE/ANSCHLUSS SCENE
You know that square where you see the Nazis march in front of that long, 3-story building? They only show it for a few seconds. Anyway, that is Residenz Square, and it’s actually in the same square as where the Residenz Fountain is (see “I Have Confidence”), just filmed from a different angle. More of that Hollywood magic! I was able to get a photo of the building, despite the street fair that was going on, just to say I was there…but I certainly won’t win any awards for it! ☺
NONNBERG CONVENT ABBEY
Most of the interiors of Maria’s convent were filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, but the outside of it was filmed at the convent of Nonnberg Convent Abbey. Said to be the oldest continuously running women’s religious house (originally built in ca. 714) in the German-speaking world, Nonnberg Abbey is also where the real-life Maria was a postulant after World War I, and where she and Georg really got married in 1927 (not the church in Mondsee – refer to “‘Maria’ – Reprise”). The outside of the building is seen in the film when the children want to speak to Maria after she’s left the von Trapps to go back to the convent, as well as when the family passes the Nazis’ two cars as they drive towards the mountains they’ll walk over to get to Switzerland. One of Nonnberg’s courtyards is also shown when Maria is preparing to leave the convent.
SONG: “I HAVE CONFIDENCE”
There were 3 major locations used during the filming of this song: Residenz Fountain, Hellbrunner Allee, and Schloss Frohnburg.
RESIDENZ FOUNTAIN is where Maria put her hand into the fountain and splashed the water. It can be found in one of the squares of Old Salzburg. We visited it but never got a good picture because there was a festival (carnival, street fair, etc.) going on in the square while we were in town.
HELLBRUNNER ALLEE is the walkway Maria is on right after she exits the bus to go to the von Trapps’ home. It’s where she does the little jig as she’s singing, just before she reaches the von Trapps’ home. It’s suggested that you visit this and Schloss Frohnburg (listed just below) on the same day as Schloss Hellbrun (see “16 Going On 17”) since they are near each other. The area is not accessible by bus or car but can be reached by bicycle or foot.
SCHLOSS FROHNBURG (now the Mozarteum Music Academy), at the far end of Hellbrunner Allee, is the site of the front of the von Trapp’s home, both in the song and when they start pushing the car before they try to escape the Nazis (“Are we going to push the car all the way to Switzerland?”). A fun fact is that in the movie, this building is portrayed as the front of the von Trapps’ home but in reality, it’s the back of the building!
SONG: “MY FAVORITE THINGS” (REPRISE)
After Maria has made the kids’ clothes out of her curtains, she takes them all over Salzburg. One place they briefly visit is the Pferdschwemme (Horse Pond), which was once the royal horse trough. The Horse Pond is right next to the main tunnel through Mönchsberg, the mountain that is directly next to the City Center. It was also directly across the street from our hotel window, which tickled me to no end! ☺
This song, by far, shows the most sites in Salzburg: Winkler Terrace, Mozartsteg, Wefen Picnic Field (alas, we did not go there – more info about that at the end of the entry), and multiple sites in Mirabell Palace and Gardens.
WINKLER TERRACE, on the top of the Mönchsberg Cliffs, is near the short wall where the kids stood up as they sang. The view of Salzburg is in the background.
MIRABELL PALACE & GARDENS has lots of filming locations, including the Pegasus fountain (where the kids skipped along the edge of the fountain), discus statues (there are almost always souvenir stands in front of them so you can’t usually get a great shot), hedge maze tunnel that the kids ran through as they sang, “a longer way to run.” gnome statue that the kids all patted on the head (except Gretel, who couldn’t reach his head), and the steps to the rose garden that the kids jumped/ran up and down at the end of the song.
MOZARTSTEG – Built in 1903, the kids are shown running across this footbridge for a few seconds during this song (how I got a shot with only peoples’ heads in the distance is INCREDIBLE – there are always a bazillion people on this bridge!).
SONG: “I AM 16 GOING ON 17” GAZEBO
Although it did truly exist on the formerly-known-as-Bertelsmann property during the filming (you can occasionally see it in the background during some outdoor scenes), the gazebo used in actual filming was built and shot in Hollywood (that version was also a little bit larger than the original in Austria, to make it easier for filming). All that notwithstanding, the original/inspirational gazebo (“Sound of Music Pavilion”) in Salzburg still exists, but has been moved to Schloss Hellbrunn, a public gardens area (which makes sense, since what had then been known as Bertelsmann is now part of a gated complex). It’s said there were too many people trying to copy Leisl’s dance moves of jumping from bench to bench and were hurt in the process, so the gazebo is now permanently locked, but it’s still a nice photo opp. Schloss Hellbrunn, by the way, has a tour – I’m sure it’s very interesting, but you don’t need to go on the tour to see the gazebo.
SONG: “MARIA” (REPRISE)
Mondsee Abbey Church (which appears to have lots of alternate names – Mondsee Cathedral, Minor Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Basilika St. Michael, etc.) is where the wedding scene was filmed (not when the nuns say goodbye to Maria through the gate – that was filmed in Hollywood; just the part where they walked down the aisle towards the priest). It’s quite a bit away from Salzburg – probably about a 45+ minute ride on the city bus. But if you’re a SOM fan (or one of old cathedrals…I’m a fan of both), it’s a must!
SO WHERE DIDN’T WE GO?
As I said, we didn’t make it everywhere. Some places were just too far or less of a priority to include in our 3 days in Salzburg. One or two places we tried really hard to get to but it just didn’t work out.
OPENING CREDITS SCENES
— Lake Wolfgansee (aerial view)
— Schloss Fuschl (Fuschl Castle)
— St. Gilgen (aerial view)
— Castle Anif (aerial view) (From visit-salzburg.net: “…the only claim to fame of Schloß Anif is the fact that it was used as a film site for “The Sound of Music“. Beyond that, it′s just another piece of neo-Gothic tastelessness as so many others all over Europe and North America.” LOLOL!)
Our time in Salzburg was limited and I thought our time would be better used by seeing things that really pertained to the movie and weren’t just clips, a few seconds long, in the opening credits.
SONG: “THE SOUND OF MUSIC”
Julie Andrews did her famous “twirl” there in the very beginning of the movie, just before she starts singing, “The hills are alive….” It’s currently private property and not regularly accessible to tourists.
SONG: “MY FAVORITE THINGS” (REPRISE)
— Wolfgangsee Schifffahrt
There is a steam train in this area that Maria and the children took that takes up a few seconds of the “My Favorite Things” reprise. Another one of those “not worth the trip when there are so many other things which are closer that are more of a priority for me.”
— Werfen Picnic Field
I really wanted to go there, but it was further out from the City Center and included a hike, and between that and how early sundown was, we just ran out of time. Next time!
— Mondsee Lake
This is where Maria and the children ride bicycles on the edge of the lake. It was 6 miles away from Mondsee Church and simply not enough of a priority for us to try to find it.
— Nonntaler Hauptstraße
This is where Maria and the children take the carriage ride and sing “do mi mi, mi sol sol, re fa fa, la ti ti,” At the time I thought it was out of the way, but when I got home I found out it was directly under Nonnberg Abbey. So it’s possible I WAS there..but if so, I didn’t get a picture of it.
SONGS: “MY FAVORITE THINGS” (REPRISE) / “SO LONG, FAREWELL” (REPRISE) / “EDELWEISS” (REPRISE)
— Festival Hall (a.k.a. The Felsenreitschule, a.k.a. Rock Riding School).
This is the stage where the family sings at Max’s festival before Georg is supposed to be escorted by the Nazis. We kept trying to add this to our schedule so we could see it, and it should have been easy because it was right across the street from Pferdschwemme (Horse Pond), and diagonally across from our hotel. The problem was the only way you could get inside was to take a tour. On one day we weren’t in the area when the tours were being given, and another day there was a discrepancy of what time their website said the tours were and what time they actually were (word of advice: believe the sign on the wall, not the website). We did get a photo of the outside and during our next visit, whenever that will be, we will DEFINITELY see the inside!
2019 UPDATE! We made it in!
When Joe and I decided to go to Germany to see the Christmas markets in December 2019, we discovered that Salzburg has a Christmas market too. What a happy coincidence! So we decided to go back to what has become one of our most favorite towns in Europe. We did a much better job of finding out when the tours of the Felsenreitschule were, and got there about an hour early, just to make sure we got in LOL!
Because they were setting up for a show, we weren’t supposed to take pictures of the stage. But since I started taking photos from the second I entered the theater, I got one in before the guide said not to take pictures 😉
WALKING TO SWITZERLAND
— Roßfeld Mountain
This location was several miles outside of Salzburg and would have required climbing a mountain. Um….no thanks.
HOW TO GET MORE INFO
I discovered several excellent websites that helped us with our planning, as well as gave us more background after the fact. Perhaps they will help you, as well:
Big Boy Travel – this website is incredible and pretty all-encompassing. It even includes maps and how to get places by bus!
The Sound of Music Guide – another good site for info!
This blog is written in Dutch, but they did a great job of photographing the places in Salzburg at the angles as were done in the film.
So that was the conclusion of that bucket list item. Did I love it? Was it worth the wait? You betcha! I hope we can go again someday so we can re-visit a few of my favorite things (did you see what I did there?), as well as catch up on the things we missed!
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary