You may not be “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” but if you are a fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, you will recognize this familiar gazebo. The gazebo, and other Sound of Music filming locations, are in Salzburg, Austria. A few years ago, I visited Salzburg with my daughter – we were able to see most of these locations.
Several tour companies have capitalized on the curiosity of tourists to organize guided tours of the sites included in the movie. A popular company, The Original Sound of Music Tour, offers a variety of tours – bus tours, private tours, and tours that include other parts of Austria.
When I visited Salzburg with my daughter, we chose a bus tour with this company. We were able to make the arrangements through our B&B host – a driver picked us up out front. We had paid a small deposit to our host – which was likely her commission. We arrived at the edge of the Mirabell Gardens, and boarded the comfortable coach bus.
The first stop we made was along the road next to a pond. If you’ve watched the movie, you will recognize it as the pond where Maria and the children rowed up to the front of the mansion. They were in the small rowboat, which capsized in front of Captain von Trapp and the Baroness.
Near the pond, we saw the trees that the children climb while wearing their homemade play clothes.
Although the position of the pond and trees seems true to the movie, liberties were taken with other scenes. As we stood by the pond, the tour guide pointed out the Leopoldskron Palace. This palace was used for the scenes looking out of the front of the house, while a different home was used for the back of the house.
The next stop on the tour was the gazebo. The one located in Salzburg was used in the filming of the outside, while a larger one built in a Hollywood studio was used to film the dancing inside the gazebo. Although originally located on the grounds of the Leopoldskron, it has been relocated to the gardens of Schloss Hellbrunn. When tourists on our bus had finished photographing each other in front of the gazebo, the tour resumed.
Continuing to Mondsee
As the bus headed out of town, the guide pointed out the mansion that was used for the filming of the back of the VonTrapp home. The mansion is privately owned (as a school) and gated, so tourists are not allowed to see them up close or to go inside.
The bus stopped for a break at a pull-off overlooking some of the Lake District. It was chilly and partly cloudy, but when the sun peeked out, the view was amazing. We watched several hang-gliders come down from the mountain and land on a meadow below.
The last stop of the tour was in the town of Mondsee, Austria. Here we were given some free time for shopping, lunch, and exploration. The building we most wanted to see was the cathedral on the square.
The Mondsee Cathedral (Collegiate Church of Saint Micheal) was used for the filming of the wedding of Maria and Captain VonTrapp. As I entered, I replayed in my mind the scene of Maria walking down the aisle.
Too soon, we walked to the bus to be shuttled back to the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg where the tour began. Since we hadn’t had time to visit the gardens before we left in the morning, we were glad to be dropped off near them.
Other Sites in Salzburg
The beautiful Mirabell Gardens were used for the filming of most of the singing of “Do Re Mi.” Maria and the children dance around the fountain, run through the arbor and finish the song on the steps at the west end of the garden (where I’m standing to take the picture).
The Nonnberg Abbey, where the original Maria von Trapp was a postulate, is located on the hill near the Fortress Hohensalzburg. When we arrived at the Abbey, the front gate was open, but we did not see anyone inside in the courtyard, so we didn’t enter. The front gate area was the setting of a couple places in the movie, although the view inside is from a Hollywood set. The lane and the steps that lead back to the town are where Maria first started teaching the children to sing.
The Summer Riding School, or Felsenreitschule, is also a familiar setting from the film. The day we visited, crews were preparing for an upcoming concert. The von Trapp family sang on this stage during the Salzburg Festival on their last evening in Austria. When the family didn’t return to receive their first place award, the officials, seated in the front row of the audience, realized they were gone. The family planned to escape Austria, so Captain von Trapp would not have to serve in Hitler’s navy.
The officials give chase, but the family hid out in the abbey. The Reverend Mother brought them to the cemetery, where the family hid behind the large gravestones.
Although the cemetery filmed in the movie was actually built on a Hollywood set, it was patterned after the St. Peter’s Cemetery in Salzburg.
The officials searched the cemetery but did not find anyone. Rolf stayed back and when Lisel saw him, she gasped, exposing her hidden family. As the von Trapps escaped, the chasing officials struggled to start their cars – the sisters had disconnected the battery cables. The family made their escape climbing over the mountains.
Looking for the Sound of Music
Sound of Music fans visiting Salzburg will not be disappointed. Combining the Original Sound of Music tour with these additional sites, visitors will feel like they are part of the popular story.
Prices for The Original Sound of Music Tour start at €50 (in 2020). It is possible to visit many of the sites without a tour, but bikes or a rental car would be necessary for the sites that are out of town. In my opinion, the cost of the tour is worth it for fans of the movie. The sites in or near town can be reached by walking or biking.
Visiting the Mirabell Gardens, walking by the Nonnburg abbey, and seeing St. Peter’s Cemetery were free when we visited. The price for a guided tour of the Summer Riding School is currently €7. Admission to this tour is also available with the purchase of the Salzburg Card, starting at €26.
When is the last time you watched The Sound of Music? Do these photos look familiar?