Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Hills Are Alive: Touring the sites from The Sound of Music

My favorite childhood movie, and the first film our family ever owned, was The Sound of Music. I watched it more times than I can count. I used to pretend I was Liesl and jumped from couch to couch while singing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen".

I knew if the time ever came where we got to visit Austria, we would definitely be touring the scenes from the iconic film. I will have to say, in my opinion, that the popular bus tour did, in fact, disappoint. It was, not surprisingly, very commercial and for the time and money, left out so many great spots that I was hoping to see. I decided that in addition to the bus tour, I would just research the sites myself and visit them. I am so glad that I did. I have complied the list of places we saw here in this post so if you ever plan to visit, perhaps this article will be helpful. 

I'll start with the sites that the bus tour covered. One pro to taking this tour was that a couple of the sights would be a bit difficult, time-wise, to get to so if you have the time, I'd still recommend taking the tour. 

The Sixteen Going on Seventeen Gazebo 

Ahhhh the gazebo. I found it interesting that the external shots of the gazebo were all filmed with the one pictured, but due to size (and safety) constraints, the dance number of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" was filmed in a larger replica of the gazebo at Fox Studios. Originally located on the grounds of Schloss Leopoldskron, the gazebo was later relocated to Hellbrunn Palace Park to be more accessible to tourists. Unfortunately, the interior of the gazebo is now locked to the public, apparently due to a high volume of dancing-related injuries among tourists.


Schloss Leopoldskron

Currently a hotel, this is where the exterior shots of the back of the von Trapp family house were filmed, including the very entertaining scene where the boat capsizes in the water. Unfortunately, the hotel is closed to outsiders so unless you book a stay, you aren't able to walk out onto the patio.

Mondsee Abbey

Mondsee Abbey, aka Basilika St. Michael, is located about 30 minutes away from Salzburg. This church is the stunning filming location for the wedding of Maria and Captain von Trapp. Found in the beautiful town of Mondsee, the church is a former Gothic monastery, built in the mid-15th century. The architecture of the church is absolutely breathtaking. 

Salzburg Lake District 

This is where one of the many beautiful opening scenes in the movie takes place. We drove around Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang, where along with the opening scenes, panorama shots of the picnic and the children on the train, were filmed here as well. I am so glad we were able to get out and take some photos as the views were amazing.

That's all that the bus tour covered. They do drop you off at the end of the tour at Mirabell Palace and Gardens so you are free to browse on your own.

Mirabell Gardens 

One of my favorite sites, this is where parts of the song "Do-Re-Mi" were filmed. From the Gnome Garden, to the Hedge Tunnel, to the Pegasus Fountain, to the Musical all takes place right here! There are so many familiar spots that the entire park just feels super nostalgic, not to mention, the gardens are beautiful to roam. 

Frohnburg Palace

This was the setting for the exterior shots of the front of the von Trapp family home. Just down the lane from the "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" gazebo, this is presently a music school and visits aren't allowed but you can still walk around the exterior of the house and down the "I Have Confidence" lane. The bus tour does not cover this so I just took an Uber to see it a different day. 

Summer Riding School (aka Felsenreitschule)

This performance venue, located in the heart of Salzburg, is the setting for the von Trapps’ final farewell to Austria. The venue is carved out of the rock and is also in the open air (while mostly covered due to unpredictable weather). You are only able to see the auditorium via a guided tour, however, this is heavily dependent on the site’s performance calendar since it remains a functioning concert venue. Unfortunately, when I visited, the stone arches were covered due to a current production, but I was still happy to be able to visit inside since it's not always guaranteed. 

"They're gone!!!"

Residenz Square & Fountain

Located right in the centre of Old City Salzburg, in front of the Salzburg Cathedral, the Residenzplatz was featured in several of the film’s city scenes. We see Maria cross the square en route to the von Trapp villa singing “I Have Confidence” and stop at the fountain to splash the statue. It is also used later in the film as the set depicting the changed political situation in the city, as Nazi troops are seen marching through the center of the square.

The Horse Pond

As you emerge from Sigmund’s Gate, you come to the Herbert von Karajan Square and the famous “Horse Pond”, which dates back to the 17th century. It was here that parade horses from the prince-archbishops’ stables used to be washed off and groomed. In the movie, during a carriage ride through Salzburg, Maria and the von Trapp children marvel at the famous square and the unique Horse Pond. 

St. Peter's Church & Cemetery

Josh and I visited the inside of this beautiful abbey (which I would highly recommend). Located right behind the church is the St. Peter's cemetery and catacombs. Though no actual filming was done here, it was this cemetery that was the inspiration for the setting of the dramatic graveyard hideaway (and subsequent discovery) of the von Trapps in the film. The cemetery is a surprisingly serene place to visit, with beautifully maintained graves surrounded by Baroque-style open chapels enclosed with wrought-iron gates—the exact model for the family’s hiding place in the movie. 

Mozart Bridge

This is a fun little pedestrian bridge with a great view of The Fortress. It is the scene in the film where Maria and the children run across it dressed up in nothing but "some old drapes". :) 

Nonnberg Abbey 

Besides Mirabell Gardens, this was my favorite SOM site to visit. The Abbey, dating back to around 713, is situated on top of a hill, close to the Fortress, and has a beautiful view of Salzburg. Being that it is an active convent, visitors are not allowed inside with the exception of services. You are, however, able to enter the gate and roam the courtyard. It was pretty surreal standing where the von Trapp children stood and rang the bell when inquiring about Maria and noting the same scene where the getaway car drives past the Nazis attempting to start their vehicles.

One fun fact for fans of the film: the real life Maria was married at Nonnberg Abbey (the only person ever allowed to be married in the abbey as she had been a nun) instead of the Church at Mondsee, where the film depicts. 

I had so much fun venturing around Salzburg and beyond while exploring sites from one of the greatest movies ever made. A bucket list item that I was so happy to be able to check off! 

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