I have visited the Austrian city of Salzburg in 2015 and since it was a very short visit (I only spent 24 hours in Salzburg), I know I had to go back, with the kids one day. Salzburg – I can’t say this word without the songs and hymns of the movie The Sound of Music playing in my mind. Though you must know that there’s more to Salzburg than the classic movie that was set there in the 1960’s (yes, that sounds ancient but I like ancient movies) the whole reason of visiting Salzburg with the kids for me was mainly, The Sound of Music tour.
WHAT THE SOUND OF MUSIC MEANS TO US
If I remember correctly, I chanced upon the movie when I was a teenager and instantly fell in love with it. I mean, who won’t? It’s a clean, entertaining movie that has no boring moments. Plus, hello pretty Austria as the location!
When my kids turned 2 years old, I took out a heirloom from my precious trove of trinkets – the Sound of Music DVD that I had for more so many years and played it for them to watch. Pristine was ready when she was two and she watched through the whole movie with the same enthusiasm from start to finish. Benjamin wasn’t ready at two, and he watched it when he was 3 and a half years old.
Yes – the first movie that my children ever watched was this musical. It is two hours and 54 minutes long.
It has since been played at my house at regular times again and again and again. We never get tired of it.
When our trip to Austria was finalized, there was no way we couldn’t squeeze this tour in our itinerary!
We were based in Innsbruck while we were in Austria and Salzburg is a good hour and a half train ride away. We left Innsbruck in the morning and arrived at our accommodation in Salzburg just before lunch time, checked in at Motel One Mirabell and headed towards the meeting place at Mirabell Gardens (it’s a 10 minute walk).
It was raining in Salzburg that time. Summer I guess was slowly fading away. It was difficult for my 5 year old son to understand the concept of wet weather, especially those rains that last for hours and hours on end. After all, he was born in the UAE and had been living here all his life, where the sun shines on the average of 330 days out of 365.
FIRST STOP: Leopoldskron
The bus was full with Sound of Music fans from all over the world. Despite the bad weather (the rain didn’t look like it was stopping) everyone was keen to see where the movie was shot. Our first stop was just a few minutes outside Salzburg’s Old Town – Leopoldskron. This was the world-famous former family seat of one of the prince-archbishops as well as an original shooting location from the movie “The Sound of Music” as the von Trapp family residence.
You can actually stay at Leopoldskron Palace and feel like you’re in a movie because this place has been converted into a hotel, thus the main reason tour groups weren’t allowed in the premises so we only get to see this across this lake.
THAT 16 going on 17 GAZEBO
We didn’t spend much time looking at Leopoldskron from afar and we got on the bus again to Hellbrunn Palace. We passed by that yellow building called Schloss Frohnberg that was used for th exterior shots of the Trapp villa. This was where Maria first entered the gate singing I have confidence as she reports to the family to serve as a nanny.
The path outside, which Maria skips down when she first arrives, is pedestrian only so we weren’t allowed to visit, but we did drive past it on the main road. I can only imagine walking through the lines of trees there or riding a bike!
One of the highlights of this tour (for me and my daughter!) was to see the white gazebo where Rolf and Liesl dance and sing Sixteen going on Seventeen. Originally, the gazebo was at the Leopoldskron grounds but it had to be moved to Hellbrunn Palace ground for better safekeeping.
GAH. It was so beautiful I could cry. I actually shed a tear or two, especially when I read the tribute to the late actress Charmian Carr who passed away in 2016. She played Liesl, the older of the seven von Trapp children in the movie.
Unfortunately tourists are not allowed inside because of safety concerns – the tour guide said a middle aged woman has broken her hip trying to imitate the dancing and skipping around the benches inside so they had to lock this gazebo. I don’t know how true!
OFF TO THE LAKES REGION
Now, we were off for a longer journey to the lakes and mountains region. Austria’s Salzkammergut area (Lake District), with a total of 76 lakes, is one of the most impressive regions in the heart of Austria.
We only passed by the abbey where the nuns and the real Maria von Trapp lived. I am not sure why were didn’t stop there. The Sound of Music movie soundtrack was played to keep us entertained during the long ride and people sang along. It felt so wonderful to be able to take a trip down memory lane to the movie, while listening and singing to the well loved songs and looking outside at the beautiful country side.
We headed up into the mountains surrounding Salzburg, giving us a gorgeous view over the entire city, and drove upwards through the Austrian countryside, past the most beautiful lakeside villages against that mountainous backdrop. It had been raining non-stop but the views were still beautiful.
The Wedding Chapel
We arrive at Mondsee, a cute little town with colorful restaurants and shops and probably the most popular spot – St. Michael’s Church, where the wedding scene was filmed. Buses were prohibited from driving into the town so we had to get down and transfer to this chug train like vehicle, to the joy of my son.
Here, we were given 30 minutes (?) to see around and shop or try the recommended apfel strudel from the nearby cafe.
The kids and I opted out the cafe business and went straight to church. Just like me, they have this fascination with churches in Europe, because…we don’t see these in the UAE, of course!
We were taken back to Salzburg and dropped near Mirabell Gardens. We were hungry after the 4 hour tour that lasted from 2pm to 6pm. We had early dinner first and even if it was still drizzling, I couldn’t let the chance go by without seeing Mirabell Gardens. There is that hedge tunnel where Maria and the children run through.
At Mirabell Garden there is the hedge “tunnel” that Maria and the children run through. There is the pond and fountain they dance around and also the set of steps where they sing the finale of “Do-re-mi.”
IS THE SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR WORTH IT?
Short answer, yes. Especially for Sound of Music movie fans.
For those otherwise, my answer would still be YES. It’s a beautiful way to spend half day in Salzburg and driving through the lakes district. Despite the weather not in our favor, we had a magical day. The scenery on the way out to Mondsee (where the wedding church is located) is breathtaking, and singling along to the movie’s soundtrack with fans from around the world will warm your heart. We were in a big party and our tour guide was brilliant. His narration was very informative peppered with anecdotes and jokes. Also he gave a narrative about the original book.
Panorama tours conduct the Sound of Music tour, dubbed as “the original”. The tour promises to “follow the traces of the Trapp family and take a tour through Salzburg and its surroundings and visit all of the original film settings.”
A few notes before you buy the tour (because they’re not cheap at 42 euros for adults.)
As someone who has experienced it, I’m going to share what you need to know before you go.
It’s important to understand going into this tour what you will see, and perhaps more importantly, what you won’t. Note that many of the film’s most iconic scenes like the gazebo dance scene and the graveyard were filmed in Hollywood, not in Salzburg. In addition, you won’t be able to get very close to some of the filming locations you will visit. For example, you will only see Leopoldskron which were used for the back of the family’s home from cross the lake. The abbey (I was hoping to see the square where the nuns were singing How do you solve a problem like Maria). Similarly, the gazebo cannot be entered, but you can take pictures outside of it. There were several people on my tour who weren’t aware of some of these restrictions ahead of time (me included) and may have been slightly disappointed.
With all of that said, now you know more than I did before I went with the tour so you can manage your expectations better and will have an absolutely magical time.
So, if you’re a big Sound of Music fan, this tour will become one of your favorite things. And if you have kids who love the movie, you may want to take them before they become 16 going on 17 (when they’d probably think it’s too cheesy!).