Updated August 13, 2020.
A friend of mine from high school used to tell this joke:
Her: What’s the scariest movie ever made?
Me: The Blair Witch Project?
Her: No, The Sound of Music. Because “the hills are ALIVE!”
Hahaha! But really, The Sound of Music is quite possibly the most famous movie ever made (if not the scariest!), and I couldn’t let my Year of Movie Moments go by without visiting to see the sites for myself! Taking a tour was fantastic, and I wouldn’t have skipped it, but that is not in everyone’s budget. For all the Sound of Music superfans out there, here is your quick list of the top 10 sites you can’t miss while you’re in Salzburg!
10. Sound of Music World
This little museum is included in the Salzburg Card (the best tourism deal in all of Europe), and it is “a very good place to start!” Here you’ll find personal anecdotes told by the family, personal possessions that have been given to the museum, and you’ll learn about some of the important and distinctive differences in the film and real life. For instance, did you know that Georg and Maria actually got married in 1927? Or that they had three more children who were not included in the movie?!
First things first: What to Know Before You Visit Salzburg
9. Salzburg Festival Halls
The Salzburg Festival was already a big deal before the movie, but this is one fact the movie did get right: the von Trapp family did win first place the Salzburg Music Festival in 1936! You can take a tour of the historic concert halls, but unfortunately for us, the timing didn’t work out! Check the times before you go, as tour times change daily and on event days, tours may not happen at all!
8. Nonnberg Abbey
This is a favorite for me. You can’t miss it–it’s the only red dome in town! Nonnberg is the abbey where Maria was a postulate before going to the von Trapp family, and it’s where the couple got married in real life! It’s a bit off the beaten path, but still walkable from the Altstadt (Old Town), and it’s less visited than some of the other sites in town. You can’t go into the abbey itself, but visitors are welcome into the courtyard and the church. But the best part? The abbey was founded in 714! That is not a typo!
Have your own movie moment! The Sound of Music Movie Moments in Salzburg
7. St. Michael’s Basilica
There’s a reason you don’t recognize Nonnberg Abbey Church from the movie… because they used the inside of St. Michael’s Basilica in nearby Mondsee! You will need a car to get there, or you will see it on your Sound of Music driving tour. It’s absolutely beautiful, and quite a bit grander… you can see why Hollywood chose it when the Mother Abbess said they could not film inside the Abbey walls!
Keep reading: Top 10 Things to do in Salzburg
6. Apple Strudel and Schnitzel with “Noodle”
Okay, so this is not a “site,” but it is definitely something you have to do for the Sound of Music experience in Salzburg! Two of Maria’s “favorite things” are apple strudel and schnitzel with noodle, but don’t expect to find it with noodle anywhere in Europe! The reason Rogers and Hammerstein chose “noodle” instead of “potato” or “spaetzle” is that neither of the last two rhymes with “strudel”!
Read on: What to Eat in Salzburg
5. St. Peter’s Cemetery
I have a confession: way back when I was little and the movie came on two VHS tapes, I would only watch the first one. Why? Because the second tape had all the scary parts! And the cemetery scene where they all had to hide was the scariest part of all. Now that I’m an adult it’s not so scary, and I was excited to see where they filmed that part of the movie! Don’t forget to check out the catacombs while you’re there, too.
More here: Best in the Year of Movie Moments
4. Schloss Leopoldskron
I’m about to blow your mind: the real Villa Trapp where the family lived is not in the film! But never fear, there are plenty of beautiful estates that made their way into the film! One of which is Schloss Leopoldskron. You’ll recognize it from the lake and back facade as soon as you see it! In the movie, it serves as the back of the house, the lake is the same one where the kids and Maria fell in while meeting the Baroness for the first time, and some of the rooms inside were also used in the film!
Fun fact: this is also where the original gazebo was located during filming!
Read on: 9 Habits of Successful Travelers
3. The “16 going on 17” Gazebo
And speaking of the gazebo, you can visit a replica at Hellbrunn Palace. You can’t go in and dance around–sorry!–but you can get photos at the gazebo. You can also get married or renew your vows inside, but I’m pretty sure that comes at a price! You can rent a bike, drive, or visit on a Sound of Music driving tour. Don’t forget that the rest of Hellbrunn Palace is included in the Salzburg Card, too!
More here: Travel Couple Bucket List
Dying to know why you can’t go inside to sing and dance like Liesl and Rolf? You can thank the 90-year-old woman who tried it out and broke her hip! But she’s not the only one who broke a bone inside. Charmaine Carr, who played Liesl in the movie, fell during filming and broke her ankle, stopping filming for two weeks!
2. Mirabell Gardens
You will definitely recognize the iconic film spots in Mirabelle Gardens! From the ivy tunnel to the Pegasus fountain to the world-famous three-octave “do” shot, every Sound of Music fan will want to spend some time here! The best part? It’s FREE, so you can go back again and again throughout your trip to Salzburg!
Read on: Your Guide to the Salzburg Card
1. Schafberg (Sheep Mountain)
Schafberg Mountain is the iconic spot where Maria sings “The Hills are Alive” in the opening scene, and she taught the kids to sing up there, too! You can take a tram up there, but you will definitely be able to see it from Salzburg, and you can get closer to it on a Sound of Music driving tour as well!
More here: The Secrets to Happy Couple Travel
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