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Sound of Music Tour (Self Guided), Salzburg

A true mecca for music fans, Salzburg – the hometown of Mozart – has no shortage of visitors. The iconic blockbuster of 1965, The Sound of Music further added a great deal of popularity to the city. Set in Salzburg on the eve of World War II, the movie follows the lead characters – the Von Trapp family and their nanny, played by Julie Andrews – all around the city, capturing the idyllic locations and the disturbing political changes that are just about to engulf Europe. More than half a century since, the legacy of The Sound of Music is still strong. For those keen on movies, no trip to the city is complete without exploring the locations shown in the film.
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Sound of Music Tour Map

Guide Name: Sound of Music Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Salzburg (See other walking tours in Salzburg)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Author: julian
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mirabell Palace and Gardens
  • Winkler Terrace
  • Horse Bath (Pferdeschwemme)
  • Salzburg Festival Halls Complex
  • St. Peter's Church and Cemetery
  • Residenzplatz
  • Mozartsteg
  • Nonnberg Convent
  • Leopoldskron Castle
Mirabell Palace and Gardens

1) Mirabell Palace and Gardens (must see)

The Mirabell Palace and Gardens are located north of the Salzach River. It was used by the Prince Archbishops to entertain guests and now houses government offices including the office of the Mayor of Salzburg.

The palace was constructed and the extensive gardens were laid in 1606 as the residence of the mistress of Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Salome Alt. At the time it was called the Altenau Palace. His successor renamed it as the Mirabel Palace. Successive Archbishops improved and added to the structure and the gardens. It was damaged by a fire in 1818 and most parts were burned except the marble staircase and marble hall. After the reign of the Archbishops came to an end, it became the residents of the royal family of Austria.

The Mirabel palace today is not open to the public. The marble hall that was once the concert hall and ballroom of the Archbishops is regarded as one of the most beautiful wedding halls in the world. Today it is the venue for meetings, award ceremonies, and concerts. The Mirabell gardens consist of a hedge garden, a dwarf garden with sculptures of dwarfs made of locally quarried Untersberg marble. The famous Pegasus fountain was the setting for the song Do Re Mi in the 1965 Hollywood film, 'The Sound of Music'.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Perhaps the best place to start The Sound of Music tour of Salzburg is the open grounds of the Mirabell Palace Gardens, the location where the Do Re Mi song was filmed for the movie. The Palace was completed in 1606 (rebuilt in 1693) as the home for Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau’s mistress, and its gorgeous gardens appeared later, in 1715-30. In addition to its Sound of Music fame, the Palace is also where Mozart used to play private concerts as a child.

Entering the gardens from the south, you will recognize the two pairs of impressive Greek statues of fencing warriors whose playful poses the Von Trapp children mimicked in the film. Wandering further in, you will also remember the central spouting Pegasus Fountain (opposite the Palace & guarded by lion statues) around which they danced. From here you can turn around and check out the fantastic views of the High Salzburg Fortress (Hohensalzburg) towering over the city, and then follow the steps that the kids hopped up like musical notes in the dramatic finale of the song.

Near the fountain there's a small footbridge leading to the Dwarf Gnome Park (Zwergerlgarten) housing the total of 28 gnome statues carved out of the local Unterberg Marble. As you leave the dwarf garden to exit the Palace grounds, make sure to visit the long pergola vine tunnel and the hedge maze through which Maria and the Trapp children ran while singing the song.

Why You Should Visit:
The palace, which is also the venue for many classical concerts (need pre-booking) makes a nice backdrop to the marvelous gardens.
Standing next to the palace and gazing towards the garden, you get a spectacular view of the Hohensalzburg Fortress as well.
Winkler Terrace

2) Winkler Terrace

Sitting high up on the Monk’s Hill (Mönchsberg) overlooking the west side of Old Town Salzburg from a steep cliff, Winkler Terrace is where the Do Re Mi song begins in “The Sound of Music” as Maria has the children mix up the order of the musical notes, just for practice, while bringing the song into the city from a meadow. Earlier in the film, Maria also appears on this terrace when leaving the convent on her way to the Von Trapps for the first time.

Back in 1965, this terrace housed the historic Cafe Winkler offering a stunning panorama of Salzburg; now that cafe has been replaced by another M32 Cafe and the Modern Art Museum, but the view is still there. From here, you can observe the entire city center and the Salzach River down below, plus the High Fortress and the red Nonnberg Abbey spire straight across the Old Town.
Horse Bath (Pferdeschwemme)

3) Horse Bath (Pferdeschwemme)

Underneath the cliff-side of Mönchsberg Hill sits the largest of the two surviving Medieval horse baths in Salzburg which, back in the Middle Ages, were analogues to today's car washes. In the Sound of Music movie, this long fountain is the one that Maria and the Von Trapp kids dance around and splash in water during the instrumental ending to “My Favorite Things”. Additional scenes for the movie were also shot at the fountain but were later cut out from the end version. Both of Salzburg's horse bath fountains are fed by ancient underground canals that have been in use since the Roman times and revamped repeatedly during the 700s and 1200s.
Salzburg Festival Halls Complex

4) Salzburg Festival Halls Complex (must see)

The main stages for the world famous Salzburg Festival are the two festival halls and the Felsenreitschule. The former were once the riding stables of the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg. Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau commissioned the buildings in 1606 and they were completed in 1607. They continued as stables until the early 20th century. They were converted as halls to stage theatrical productions in 1925.

The small festival hall called the Haus für Mozart was built in 1925. Besides theatrical productions during the Salzburg Festival during Easter and summer, the annual carol singing event, the Salzburger Adventsingen takes place here. The Grosse Festspielhaus or the Large Festival Hall was opened in 1960. It is used for staging concerts and opera and the play 'Jedermann' when the weather is not suitable for staging it in the cathedral square. The Felsenreitschule was built in 1693 and designed by renowned architect, Johann Fischer von Erlach. Max Reinhardt the famous theatrical producer used it for many of his productions.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Stretching for more than a city block, tucked against the steep cliff of the Monk’s Hill (Mönchsberg), the massive Rock Riding School is an iconic location that hosted some of the most powerful scenes in The Sound of Music movie. It is here that the Von Trapp children rehearse for the festival and where, later on, Captain Georg von Trapp performs “Edelweiss” with the help of the audience, at first, and then of his family joined him on stage to sing “So Long, Farewell”, prior to fleeing Salzburg to escape the Nazis. This theater also housed two indoor scenes in the film (along with the wedding) shot on a location in Salzburg, and not in Hollywood studio.

In real life, though, the Von Trapps' performance at the Festspiele happened somewhat differently. The family did perform at the Festival, in 1935, and then in 1936, after officially forming their choir, they won the first place there. Only that was almost two years before the Anschluss (Nazi annexation) of Austria. After their refusing to sing for Hitler at his birthday in April of 1938, the family fled to Italy a couple of months later, ahead that year's Festival depicted in the movie.

Why You Should Visit:
A backstage tour of the Festival Halls is well worth doing, especially to see the Rock Riding School, converted to a theatre now with a retractable roof.
The tour runs for about one hour and is conducted in both German and English.
St. Peter's Church and Cemetery

5) St. Peter's Church and Cemetery (must see)

Editor's note: St. Peter’s Church will be closed for renovations from 25.9.2018 until provisionally 22.9.2019. The catacombs, cemetery, and bakery remain open, however.

St. Peter's Church forms part of the oldest functioning monastery in Austria. It also houses the oldest library and the oldest restaurant in the country. The cemetery has the last remains of several well-known citizens and a maze of catacombs built into a rock face.

St. Peter's Church was founded in 700 AD by the Franconian monk, St. Rupert and has continually functioned as the place of worship of a monastery since it was established. The monks were expelled during WWII but returned after the end of the war. The present church was built between 1125 and 1143 and has undergone several additions and restorations since. The main organ dates back to 1444 and there is an ornate gothic cross-ribbed vault in the atrium. The onion-domed tower was built in 1756 and the interior of the church has several magnificent rococo altars.

St. Peter's Cemetery is the last resting place of well-known citizens of Salzburg including the architect Santino Solari who designed the cathedral, Mozart’s sister Nannerl, an accomplished musician in her own right and Joseph Haydn’s brother Michael. The cemetery is surrounded by wrought iron fences and there are early Christian catacombs built into the surrounding rock face. A steep stone stairway leads to the catacombs. They are filled with early altars, faded murals and inscriptions.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Toward the end of The Sound of Music film, the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis that wield flashlights behind the tombs in the cemetery of the Nonnburg Convent in Salzburg. The real Nonnburg cemetery, however, is extremely small and modest, so the filmmakers instead decided to use the picturesque cemetery of Saint Peter’s Church (Petersfriedhof) for the inspiration to build a Hollywood set where the actual filming took place. Ringing the edges of the flower-filled cemetery are the large crypts for the local wealthy families enclosed within the elegant wrought iron gates which are expertly reproduced in the movie.

While the real-life Von Trapps never hid in a cemetery, the scene and the confrontation with Rolf adds a great deal of drama to the plot, which is somewhat different from the original Broadway play produced in 1959.

Why You Should Visit:
Everything is free to visit except for the catacombs which cost not very much at all.

Opening Hours:
[Catacombs] Catacombs: Daily: 10am-12:30pm / 1-6pm (May-Sep); 10am-12:30pm / 1-5pm (Oct-Apr)
Last admission 15 min. before closing. Closed: Jan 1, Dec 24-26, Dec 31
[St. Peter Cemetery] Daily: 6:30am-7pm (Summer); 6:30am-5:30pm (Winter)
[Bakery of St. Peter] Mon-Fri: 7am-5:30pm; Sat: 7am-1pm

6) Residenzplatz (must see)

The Residenzplatz is a large square located in Salzburg’s Old Town. It is flanked by the old and new residences of the archbishops and the Salzburg Cathedral.

During the initial construction of the square, the surrounding Medieval homes and the cemetery above the ancient Roman Forum all had to be leveled. The Forum, dating back to Salzburg’s early days as the Roman settlement of Juvavum (15BC-488AD), was partially excavated in 2008 revealing artifacts and walls from the time of Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211).

Archbishop Wolf Deitrich von Raitenau commissioned the building of the Residenzplatz in front of the old residence of the Archbishops. Over fifty-five medieval burgher houses and an ancient cemetery were demolished to make way for the square. The design was based on the style of Baroque Italian piazzas and was built according to the plans of Italian architect, Vincenzo Scamozzi. Besides the residences and the cathedral, the square is also flanked by a row of burger houses that now house shops and a café.

The most beautiful part of Residenzplatz is the ornate fountain called the Residenzbrunnen. It is the largest Baroque fountain in Central Europe. It was commissioned by Archbishop Prince Archbishop Guidobald von Thun and created by Tomasso di Garona between 1656 and 1661. The base of the fountain has three sea horses around a central rock. The rock is covered with figures of marine plants and animals. The statues of four men carrying a bowl stand on the rock and the figures of three dolphins rise from the bowl carrying another bowl where there is a figure of the Greek sea God Triton holding the shell of a snail. The burgher houses around the square have uniquely ornamented facades and Residenzplatz is the venue for an open air cinema that takes place annually in July and August.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Set on the site of a former ancient Roman Forum, the large Residenzplatz square is the location where Maria belts out “I Have Confidence in Me” in The Sound of Music movie while crossing the square by bus on her way to the Trapp villa, after leaving the convent. The focal point of this square — and one of the main filming sets – is the massive central 45-foot-tall Horse Fountain (Residenzbrunnen) in which Maria playfully splashes the spouting horses. Completed in 1661, the upper section of this fountain is the replica of an iconic Bernini’s Triton Fountain in Rome, and is the largest Baroque fountain outside Italy.

Later in the film, Nazi soldiers march through the square against the backdrop of their flag draped over the entrance to the Old Residenz Palace on the west side. The dreary scene of the soldiers entering the town symbolizes German annexation of Austria, the so-called Anschluss, in March of 1938. Because of the disdain for the Nazi symbols in Salzburg, filming this scene took a lot of effort.

Why You Should Visit:
Has a very beautiful fountain from the 17th century in the middle (considered one of the most significant Baroque monuments in Europe), and a perfect view of the Salzburger Dom.

Grab some lunch from bakeries/shops nearby and sit on one of the benches near the fountain, enjoying the view.

7) Mozartsteg

The Mozartsteg is a filigree art nouveau iron bridge over the Salzach River connecting the Rudolfskai and Giselakai areas of Salzburg. The pedestrian bridge gained international fame after being featured in the 1965 Hollywood film, The Sound of Music.

The Mozartsteg was built in 1903 by a private group called the Mozartstegverein. The bridge was the result of the efforts by a wealthy owner of a cafe, Georg Krimml who lobbied and donated the funds for its construction. His object was to increase customer traffic to his café, the Café Corso. It was inaugurated by the Governor of the Duchy of Salzburg and the then Mayor of the city.

The Mozartstegverein group owned the bridge until 1920 and charged a toll. The small toll house ceased to function in 1921. It still exists and is now a store that sells crafts and jewelry. It was purchased by the City of Salzburg in 1921 and converted into a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. In the movie, the Sound of Music it was the footbridge over which the Von Trapp children skip. Today, the picturesque Mozartsteg is a spot for photographs by tourists and part of the tours that take visitors around locations where the Sound of Music was filmed.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
A definite must-visit on The Sound of Music tour of Salzburg, Mozartsteg (or Mozard Bridge) is an art deco footbridge opened in 1903 linking the Old Town and Stone Lane (Steingasse), and named after Salzburg’s legendary resident, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

In the film, it is across this bridge and along the grassy riverbank nearby that Maria and the kids cheerfully skip while pointing at the sights during the instrumental ending of the song “My Favorite Things”.
Nonnberg Convent

8) Nonnberg Convent (must see)

The Nonnberg Convent is the oldest continuously existing nunnery in the German-speaking world. The monastery complex is today a protected monument and part of the Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The church of the convent, the Maria Himmelfahrt is the second oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Salzburg.

The convent was established between 713 and 715 by St. Rupert. He placed it under the control of his sister St. Erentrudis who became the first Abbess. The complex that makes up the Nonnberg Convent includes the Maria Himmelfahrt church, the cloisters, a hall with pillars, the convent, the kitchen court, the dining hall, the St. John’s Chapel, the Pieta Chapel, and other small buildings.

The Maria Himmelfahrt church was built in 1463. It is a simple gothic structure with a baroque principal altar and side altars dating back to 1515. The principal altar depicts the Virgin Mary between St. Rupert and St. Virgil. At the back of the church are Roman frescoes painted around 1140. The Romanesque West Tower was constructed in the 12th century and was remodeled in Baroque style during the 19th century. It contains a crypt containing the tomb of the first abbess St. Erentrudis. The St. John’s Chapel has a magnificent winged gothic altar donated by the Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. The convent also houses a museum that is open occasionally to scholars and researchers. Maria von Trapp, the author of the book, 'The Story of the Trapp Family Singers' that later became the well known Hollywood movie, 'The Sound of Music' was a novice at the nunnery.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
Nonberg Abbey (Stift Nonnberg) is probably the most famous of all The Sound of Music sites in Salzburg. Founded by Saint Erentrudis, the niece of Saint Rupert (Bishop of Worms) in 712-715, this historic Benedictine Convent is the oldest abbey in the German speaking world. Perched high over the east side of Salzburg, it made an excellent location for many powerful scenes in the movie.

It was also here that the real-life Maria (Maria Augusta Kutschera), aged 19, came to live in 1924, stayed for two years as a nun apprentice, became a tutor for one of the widowed Captain Von Trapp’s sick children, and then married him on November 26th, 1927, 11 years before the Nazis took over the city. At the time of her marriage, Maria was 22 and Georg – 47.

The scene of their wedding was filmed at Collegiate Church in Mondsee Austria. The majority of the indoor scenes were shot in a California studio, as well as that with the nuns singing ‘Maria’ in the convent courtyard. Filming inside the courtyard was not allowed, so they had to do it at a re-created set in Hollywood and a small studio in Salzburg. Still, there were four iconic scenes shot on the actual grounds, near the gate, including those in which Maria leaves the abbey wondering “What will this day be like?”, the nuns talk about Maria, the children come to visit, and the Nazis on the hunt for the Von Trapps after their escape, upon which the nuns disable their car.

At the time of the filming, there were 50 nuns residing in the convent; now there are only 14 left (as at 2017). Each morning at 6:45am the resident nuns gather to sing Gregorian chants in Latin which is a real treat.

Why You Should Visit:
If you want to get off the beaten path and see a church that seems unaffected by the passing of time, this is a great stop!

For some of the finest Romanesque & Gothic artwork in Austria and Europe, go to the Convent's museum ("Stiftsmuseum").
Make sure you also have some 50-cent coins to light up the area at the back of the church and see frescoes or the altar.
Leopoldskron Castle

9) Leopoldskron Castle (must see)

Schloss Leopoldskron or Leopoldskron Castle is a rococo mansion built on the banks of the Leopoldskroner Weiher Lake in the southern part of Salzburg. It is regarded as the birthplace of the Salzburg Festival.

The castle was built by Prince Archbishop, Count Leopold Anton von Firmian as his private residence in 1736. It was designed by the Scottish Benedictine Monk, Pater Bernhard Stuart and was inherited by Leopold's nephew, Count Laktanz Firmian who housed his collection of valuable paintings in the castle. After his death, it was sold to the owner of a shooting gallery who removed most of the paintings and other valuable objects. In 1918, the famous Jewish theater director, Max Reinhardt restored the building to its former glory and used it for theater products. He established the Salzburg Festival here. The property was confiscated by the Nazi regime and restored to Reinhardt after World War II. The widow of Reinhardt sold the property to an American Educational Institution called the Salzburg Global Seminar.

Part of the building is used as a hotel. Visitors can see the grand exterior of the Leopoldskron Castle while strolling along the banks of the Leopoldskroner Weiher Lake.

***The Sound of Music Movie***
The grand rococo Schloss Leopoldskron (Leopold Castle) in Salzburg, located only a mile away from the real-life Von Trapp Villa, which didn’t itself appear in the film, served as the primary location for all the lake terrace scenes at the Von Trapp family house in The Sound of Music movie.

Overlooking a small lake, the Castle façade provided backdrop for the most iconic outdoor scenes including those of drinking pink lemonade on the terrace, Captain Von Trapp hearing his kids sing for the first time, the children and Maria falling off the boat into the lake (that scene was shot at the property directly next door to the main palace building), as well as numerous shots of the lakeside horse statues framing up Untersberg Mountain.

The castle was also the original home to the Gazebo from the movie which was later moved to the nearby, more tourist-friendly Hellbrunn Palace Gardens after the fans started climbing the palace gates to see it. The second and much larger gazebo was built at Fox Studios in Hollywood for all of the scenes set inside the family home – the bedroom, the grand foyer and the staircase, as well as the lavish golden Venetian ballroom. These re-created spaces are featured when Maria is introduced to the children, when they sing at the party, performing ‘Lonely Goatherd’ with carved puppets, as well as when they dance to the song “16 Going on 17” and bid their farewells.

Why You Should Visit:
There isn't an angle of the building to look at that isn't absolutely incredible; inside or out.

Don't miss the fantastic water park (Freibad Leopoldskron) right opposite the castle!

Walking Tours in Salzburg, Austria

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