A huge turkey dinner, the Christmas tree and The Sound of Music – for countless people in America, the essential ingredients of any decent Christmas celebration. We tracked down the legacy and locations of the hugely popular Hollywood film in Salzburg.
You could almost set your watch by it… Actress Julie Andrews twirls her way across a meadow at the heart of Salzburg’s mountain world in her novice’s dress, singing the immortal lines “The hills are alive, with the sound of music…” as she goes. And that’s when people around the world open their hearts for another year, sit back and really know: “It’s Christmas time again.”
Thanks to the broadcasting every Christmas of the 1965 Hollywood film, which won five Oscars, the story of the von Trapp family has become the Christmas classic, especially in the United States. “For Americans,” explains myAustrian fan Vania, “The Sound of Music is as much part of Christmas as Santa and reindeer. People in Asia and around the world also love the cinematic story of young novice Maria, who arrives at the home of widower Georg von Trapp to look after his seven children as their governess. Maria and Georg duly fall in love, get married, the happy new family unit makes music together before all flee to the USA following the Anschluss between Austria and Nazi Germany.
Although the von Trapp family did actually live in Salzburg, and the city is where the original locations used in the Sound of Music can be found to this day, the hugely successful film is broadly unknown in the German-speaking world. One reason for this is that for many years, the rights only applied to the USA, and the film couldn’t be shown in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
Rights or no rights, however, Salzburg enjoys enormous popularity to this day thanks to the film classic, particularly amongst people in the US and many Asian countries. If the tourism industry is to be believed, more guests actually come to the City of Mozart because of the Sound of Music nowadays than do because of Mozart himself. And 52 years after the film hit cinema screens for the first time, the city is perfectly equipped to help fans make real their dream of the sacred Sound of Music world. So here’s an overview of where and how you, too, can best experience the Sound of Music…
Spend a night at the Villa von Trapp
Sleep, wake up and have breakfast in the same rooms as Liesl, Frederic, Maria, Georg & Co. There’s a highly authentic Sound of Music feeling to the grand ambience at the original home of the upper-class family, now the Hotel Villa Trapp, in Salzburg’s green district of Aigen.
Since the hotel is only open to its own guests, and cannot be visited either by Sound of Music tours or ‘normal’ visitors, this one’s a bit of an insider tip!
Explore the original locations
Whether it’s on a tour bus or by private minivan, the Original Sound of Music Tour explores shooting locations used in the film with a personal guide, which also happen to be the most beautiful tourist attractions in and around Salzburg. These include Schloss Mirabell and the Mirabell Gardens, Schloss Leopoldskron, Hellbrunn, and Nonnberg Abbey. The landscape on the journey to St. Gilgen and the Mondsee, in the Salzkammergut lake region around Salzburg, is particularly lovely, and definitely worth a visit. The tour itself includes background facts and insider stories, and will even show the original film on request.
Attend a Sound of Music performance at the Marionettentheater Salzburg
Under no circumstances should you miss Georg, Maria, Liesl and the rest played by puppets – on one of most enchanting stages in the city, at the Marionettentheater Salzburg. The ancient art of puppetry has even been honoured by UNESCO at this much-loved institution, which is now over a century old. The staging of the singing von Trapp family at the Baroque premises (next to the original location in the Mirabell Gardens) isn’t in the slightest bit outdated, and often eerily fascinating, in fact. A must-see!
Track down the von Trapps
You can also search for the legacy of the famous singing family under your own steam, of course – and the original shooting locations in Salzburg city centre, such as St. Peter’s cemetery, the Felsenreitschule riding school, Schloss Mirabell, Herbert von Karajan Square (home to the horse pond where Edelweiss is sung), Nonnberg nunnery, and Leopoldskron Castle can also be explored on foot. It all adds up to an amazing day out!
By far the most romantic way to do the Sound of Music in Salzburg, however, is by horse and carriage. Starting in the Old City, the Round of Music Tour takes you, the sounds of your horse clopping along the cobbled streets, via Freisaal (and the castle of the same name), along Hellbrunner Allee, lined with imposing chestnut and oak trees, to Schloss Frohnburg, which served as the von Trapps’ home in the film along with Schloss Leopoldskron. Hellbrunn, famed summer palace of the Archbishops, is home to the Pavilion where Liesl and Ralf extolled the virtues of their rendezvous in Sixteen going on Seventeen. Nothing is missing on this journey through the breathtakingly lovely Salzburg landscape, happily, apart from the private lesson by Julie Andrews, perhaps, in Do–Re–Mi.
Dine in the best company
Schnitzel with noodles and crisp apple strudels, or even roast pork with dumplings: you can have all this and more at the Sound of Salzburg Dinner Show, held at the traditional Bräugasthof Steinbräu at the heart of Salzburg’s old city. During and after the meal, ambitious Salzburg artistes in dirndls and lederhosen give it all they’ve got to Sound of Music hits like My Favourite Things and Austria’s supposed national anthem, Edelweiss, along with pieces by Mozart and operettas. Salzburg and Sound of Music feeling guaranteed!
Like the idea of tracking down the Sound of Music? To book your flight to Salzburg right now, the film’s beautiful backdrop, click here!