The Sound of Music in Salzburg – What’s Left 50 Years Later?

How To Follow In Maria's Footsteps

Over the last half-century, the Austrian city of Salzburg has become synonymous with The Sound Of Music. Who could have guessed that more than 50 years after its release in March 1965, there would still be so much left of The Sound of Music in Salzburg? More than 300,000 fans of the movie come to Salzburg every year to visit the filming locations and Trapp family landmarks.

Mirabell Gnome Garden Salzburg
Recognise this gnome?

A huge success on its release in March 1965, the film has gone on to earn a special place in the hearts of moviegoers as one of the most beloved motion pictures of all time. Who among us can’t hum at least one of its many memorable tunes?

But how is it that a decidedly old-fashioned tale about a singing nun (who turns an unmusical brood of siblings into a contest-winning choir, marries their father, and escapes from the Nazis over the Alps) remains so popular?

And who could have guessed fifty years ago that filming The Sound of Music in Salzburg would prove so successful at a time when so many other Broadway and West End successes failed to translate their stage magic to the screen?

Here are some interesting facts about The Sound of Music to read before you visit Salzburg, together with a breakdown of the Sound of Music attractions and activities that are on offer in the city today.

The Sound of Music In Salzburg Today

Original Sound of Music Tour

Panorama Tours’ relationship with The Sound of Music in Salzburg goes back to the filming of the movie when their drivers were ferrying the cast and crew around. When the first tourists arrived looking for the filming locations, it was only natural for them to act as tour guides. And it’s still the same Albus company providing the transport!

The Original Sound Of Music Tour starts at Mirabell Square before whisking fans off to Hellbrunn Palace and the Sound of Music gazebo. Different filming locations are pointed out along the way with a wealth of behind the scenes information.

The nice thing about this tour is that it also takes you to the rolling hills and lake district seen in the opening scenes of the movie. The first stop is to admire the view over the Wolfgangsee (Lake Wolfgang). Then there’s a longer stop in Mondsee to visit the church where the Von Trapp wedding scenes were filmed.

The guides are informative and fun, and if you play along the whole bus will be singing along to “Do Re Mi” and “Edelweiss” in no time.

We bought our tickets on Get Your Guide the night before and had no problems getting on the bus with our mobile voucher.

Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour

From April to October, you can hop on a bicycle, complete with basket and bell just like Maria’s, and explore some of Salzburg’s Sound of Music filming locations on two wheels. This tour is ideal for people who love fresh air and being active while exploring.

Fräulein Maria’s bicycle tours start at Mirabell Platz and last about 3,5 hours. You’ll cover around 13 km of mostly flat ground, taking in most of the film locations of The Sound of Music in Salzburg centre as well as the outlying Leopoldskron and Hellbrunn Palace.

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Sound of Music World

The Sound of Music World in Salzburg is the latest addition to feed fans of the movie’s hunger for information about the Von Trapp family. The small museum mainly features photographs and information about the real Von Trapps. However, there is more than enough to satisfy the curiosity of those interested in the filming of The Sound of Music in Salzburg.

Sign at the entrance to the Salzburg Sound of Music World.You’ll find The Sound of Music World at the end of the famous Getreidegasse opposite the St Blasius Church.

You can buy tickets for the Sound Of Music World online. The attractions are also included in the Salzburg Card, the city’s value-for-money tourist pass.

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Filming locations

Many of the filming locations of The Sound of Music in Salzburg still look exactly the same as they did more than 50 years ago.

Residence Square Fountain is a filming location of The Sound of Music.
The water coming from the horses’ mouths was a bit hard for me to reach!

Here is a list of 7 locations in Salzburg’s historic centre that you may encounter while exploring in general.

SIGHT/LOCATIONMOVIE RELEVANCE
Fountain on Residence SquareMaria splashes the water back to the horses while singing “I Have Confidence”.
St Peter’s CemeteryWhere the Von Trapps supposedly hid from the Nazi’s behind the tombstones.
Mirabell Palace GardensSeveral scenes from “Do Re Mi” were shot here.
Mozart Footbridge (Mozartsteg)The footbridge over the Salzach River where Maria and the kids run over singing “Do Re Mi”.
Horse Pond on KarjanplatzSeen while Maria sings “I Have Confidence”
Nonnberg AbbeyA little walk up the hill next to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, but many of the scenes with the nuns were filmed here. And it’s where Maria and Captain von Trapp got married in real life.
Winkler Terrace on MönchsbergSeen during “Do Re Mi” and when Maria leaves the convent for the first time.

These sites are all within walking distance of each other, although you may want to take the Mönchsberg lift near the end of Getreidegasse to get to the Winkler Terrace faster.

Hotel Experiences For Sound Of Music Fans In Salzburg

If you really want to walk in the Von Trapp family’s footsteps, why not stay in the original Villa Trapp? It’s where the family stayed from 1923 to 1938 in the quiet, green suburb of Aigen. All the rooms are decorated as if the Von Trapp family is still living there. Guided tours of the house are available on appointment.

Villa Trapp in Salzburg
Villa Trapp still looks very much the same today.

Those who’d like to know what it felt like to be Julie Andrews during the filming of The Sound of Music in Salzburg, can book a room in the Hotel Sacher. The actress stayed here with her baby daughter, away from the noise of the partying members of the cast and crew.

So where did the party animals, including Christopher Plummer, stay? They were all in the Hotel Bristol not far from Mirabell Palace. Legend has it that they ran up a huge bar bill.

Bristol Hotel where famous stars stayed during the filming of The Sound of Music in Salzburg.
Christopher Plummer and other party-loving members of the cast and crew stayed in the Bristol Hotel.

The child actors playing the Von Trapp children got to stay in the Hotel am Mirabellplatz. Charmian Carr, who played Liesl, wasn’t among them as she was already 21 and got to be part of the party crowd at the Bristol.

Leopoldskron Palace, one of the most scenic filming locations, is also a hotel. Guests have exclusive access to the garden and the castle with its fascinating rooms, which served as inspiration for the Hollywood production.

Leopoldskron Palace where the Sound of Music lake scene was filmed.
View of Leopoldskron Palace across the lake where the boat scene was filmed.

The Hotel Der Salzburger Hof has given an entire floor a Sound of Music theme. It’s also conveniently close to Mirabell Palace.

Finally, those who want to connect the movie scenes with the film locations of The Sound Of Music in Salzburg can do so in the YOHO International Youth Hostel.  The film is shown every evening at 20:00 in the lounge. Perfect for refreshing your memory before going on a Sound of Music tour the next day.

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Puppet Show

Remember “The Lonely Goatherd” puppet song in The Sound of Music? Well, today you can watch a puppet show version of the entire movie in the historic Salzburg Marionette Theatre.

Sound of Music tour guide.
Not the goat from the movie, but our tourguide on the Original Sound of Music Tour did a pretty good job with this one.

The beautiful little theatre with its masterfully crafted actors has earned itself a spot on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. If there’s a Sound of Music show at the time of your visit, it’s definitely worth considering.

Sound of Music Musical

The Sound of Music musical was performed in the Salzburg Landestheater for the first time in 2011. It was so well received that it played for eight years, making it the longest-running production in the company’s history. A favourite part of the show is when the actors sing some of the well-known songs with the audience.

  • I tried my best to find information about future performances of The Sound of Music musical, but it doesn’t seem to be included in the 2019/2020 season playlist. You can also check the theatre programme before your visit to make sure you’re not missing out.

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History Of The Sound of Music Before It Came To Salzburg

First, there was the stage musical which premiered on Broadway in November 1959. The source material was a memoir by Maria von Trapp about her singing family and their escape from Austria to the United States before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Von Trapps in Salzburg
The real Von Trapps somewhere between 1935 and 1939 with the Hohensalzburg Fortress behind them.

The music was by composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein III, a duo who had enjoyed enormous success with their stage musicals Oklahoma! (1943), The King and I (1951), and South Pacific (1949).

The Sound of Music completed their run of hits, eventually playing in New York for almost 1500 performances and winning Rodgers and Hammerstein their final Tony for Best Musical.

Hollywood couldn’t ignore such phenomenal success. Already in June 1960 Twentieth Century Fox had bought the rights and put Ernest Lehman in charge of the screenplay. Lehmann had previously adapted the musicals The King And I (film, 1956) and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story (film, 1961) for the cinema to great success.

Sound of Music in Salzburg – WOW Fact

Every third Japanese has seen the film, and it’s the main reason for 75% of US tourists in Salzburg to visit the city.

Robert Wise was brought in by the studio as producer and director. He had filled both roles on West Side Story and earned an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director for his efforts. Meanwhile, Richard Rodgers was brought on board (Oscar Hammerstein died in August 1960) to write two new songs for the production. 

Mary Martin who had played the leading role of Maria von Trapp on Broadway was deemed too old for the film version of The Sound of Music in Salzburg. Instead, the studio snapped up the then relatively little-known Julie Andrews, who at that time was filming Disney’s Mary Poppins.

Christopher Plummer, a theatre actor, was cast as the male lead, while Richard Haydn and Eleanor Parker provided support in the roles of Max Detweiler and Elsa von Schraeder.

Robert Wise and the studio were keen to make the film version as distinct as possible from the stage musical. The two new musical numbers they commissioned from Rodgers were a part of this plan as was the decision to film The Sound of Music in Salzburg to open the story up.

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Filming The Sound of Music in Salzburg

While principal photography began on studio sets in Hollywood in late spring 1964, the production team moved to Salzburg over the summer.

No expense was spared on this prestige production. The movie was shot on expensive 70-millimeter film stock using the new Todd-AO widescreen photography system.

Sound of Music World is one of the latest attractions of The Sound of Music in Salzburg.
Photos of the filming of the movie in the Sound of Music World.

The original plan was to spend six weeks shooting scenes from The Sound of Music in Salzburg. It wasn’t cheap to accommodate and feed more than 250 crew members and actors. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t play along, and the six weeks turned into eleven.

Unprecedented Success And A Cinematic Phenomenon

Expectations were high all round when the film premiered in March 1965. At first, it toured selected theatres as a roadshow presentation which included reserved seating, stereo sound and an intermission. The initial national reviews were quite bad, with many critics drawing particular attention to the film’s sentimental nature and toothsome storyline. 

Local reviews were much better, however, and good word of mouth meant that within only a few weeks the film was the top-grossing movie in America. Eventually, it would become the highest-grossing film for 1965. With figures adjusted for inflation, The Sound of Music remains in the top five grossing films ever.

In 1966 the film received Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture as well as nominations for Best Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, and Art Direction.

What was it, though, about the story and setting of The Sound of Music in Salzburg which made it so popular? Of course, the soundtrack played a large part. It went on to become one of the biggest-selling albums of the 1960s, and songs such as the title tune, “My Favorite Things”, “Climb Every Mountain”, “Do-Re-Mi”, and “Edelweiss” soon came to be regarded as classics.

Sound of Music meadow near Salzburg
You can “run” beside Maria and the kids in the Sound of Music meadow near Salzburg.

Julie Andrews’ commanding performance, hard on the heels of her Oscar-winning appearance in Mary Poppins, certainly played a part too. The juxtaposition of cheeky nuns with dangerous Nazis proved irresistible to the viewing public. So did the film’s many set pieces full of charm and joie de vivre such as the children’s numbers and the opening sequence sung high in the mountains and filmed from above.

The Sound of Music remains as popular as ever. Who could have guessed back in 1965 as the film opened with Julie Andrews’ paean to mountain singing that fifty years later, the world would still be singing along?

The movie is a television staple, particularly during holiday seasons. A sing-a-long cinema presentation in which audience members routinely appear in costumes inspired by the film has proved incredibly popular in recent years.

Unusually for a screen adaptation, meanwhile, the film is generally held in higher esteem than the stage musical — elements written for the film, for example, are usually now included in the stage version.

The Alps, Salzburg, and the Austrian scenery generally — all rendered in spectacular widescreen cinematography — are the movie’s great uncredited stars. The viewer almost feels as if he or she has been on holiday abroad. That’s why following in the footsteps of The Sound of Music in Salzburg is a great way to explore the city to this day.

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*Disclosure*

Dear Reader,

Having fun in Austria, and then writing about it, is hard work 😆 . That’s why some links in this article are affiliate links. I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you use any of them to make a purchase for your upcoming trip. It’s totally cool if you don’t use them. I love to help anyway. But if you do, we’ll probably blow it on another family excursion. Which really isn’t such a bad thing, because it will only result in another blog post for you to read.

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About Linda de Beer 88 Articles
Name: Linda de Beer Profession: Travel blogger and freelance writer
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Sharyn

I love the Sound of Music movie and still do. When I was in Salzburg I didn’t do the tours you mention but we went to many of the places where the movie was filmed. We loved dancing around the Gazebo and I so enjoyed walking through the church grounds. Also enjoyed the Mozart Balls. Thanks for a great post. I look forward to getting back to Salzburg.

Katy

I’ve actually never seen the movie! But after this beautiful post I might give it a go. Thanks for sharing!

Josy A

This is awesome! I guess I should have assumed there would be so many things still around to make sound of music fans happy!

This post made me really happy, I’m going to have the songs in my head all day!

Pia

I have to admit, I have never watched that movie. I heard a lot about it but never watched it myself. However, Salzburg is an amazing city and I love to do sightseeing tours. And if they have a theme even better!