Sound of Music Self-Guided Tour,
The Sound of Music is one of my very favorite films of all time. Therefore, visiting Salzburg, Austria and experiencing all the magical places made memorable by the movie was a dream come true. I did loads of research in order to locate as many famous filming locations as possible and make this the BEST, most comprehensive guide out there. Basically, I’m making the guide I wish I’d had when I set out to explore Salzburg! I hope it gives you confidence to make your DIY touring experience a singing success!
*This list is meant to save you time as you plan your own tour, but realistically it will be very difficult to see all the spots in one day and enjoy your time in Salzburg with everything else there is to do. Try to plan at least two days to take in the sights, and of course if a bus tour is more your style, there are plenty of (pricey) options available!
✓ General Tips:
- Parking is sparse in Salzburg, so to get a good spot, arrive before 10 AM, and expect to do a lot of walking. The closest parking lot to Old Town is Rot-Kreuz Parkplatz, but it is small. Other options are the Contipark inside the fortress hill and Parking Müllner Bräu if you want to walk the beautiful trails on the outskirts of the old town that lead up to Museum der Moderne of Salzburg (which is one of the stops on this list).
- Food is everywhere, as well as little shops and market carts. It is easy to grab pretzels, souvenirs, fresh flowers, and delicious meats and treats all over the plazas. Pack your own water, but don’t fret if you didn’t pack a lunch. There are also plenty of restaurants – every place we ate at was delicious – and many had sidewalk dining options.
- Restrooms are available, but usually for a price. Expect to gain access to bathrooms at various hotspots like the Hohensalzburg Fortress, the Museum der Moderne, or a restaurant. Otherwise, plan accordingly (or find the Starbucks!).
- Flying into Salzburg is great – the airport is quaint and lovely – but it’s also pricier than choosing Munich airport and taking the train or renting a car to Salzburg. For many of these locations just outside the city, you will definitely need a vehicle or a very strong pair of legs to bike or walk!
- Stay in an Air BnB or Inn that is within walking distance of the Old Town and save yourself the trouble of parking. Rent a bicycle for the just-ouside of town locations to make the experience more immersive!
- I recommend marking all of these points on google maps, and plan your own walking tour accordingly, depending on where you stay and how long you have in Salzburg. Remember that this city has so much to offer beyond The Sound of Music hotspots (it is the home of Mozart, for starters…) so please don’t go to Salzburg and forget to wander the streets, try the delicious food, and immerse yourself in the surroundings. What a beautiful, historical city!
✓ Mirabell Palace & Gardens
Mirabell Gardens is another hotspot with a plethora of places to peruse. It will make you giddy to recognize the scenes below during the last minute of the “Do Re Mi” medley in the movie. Maria and the children sing and dance through the city of Salzburg, ending here, frolicking through the gardens, under vine tunnels, around statues and water fountains, and finally hopping up the steps with the great Hohensalzburg Fortress in the background. Take your time wandering around the paths and see how much you can spot from one end to the other. Keep your eye out for the dwarf statues in the garden (right), like the one the children bop on the head!
✓ Mozart Bridge
Since Mirabell Gardens is the only filming spot on the far side of the river, walk south along the river until you reach Mozart Bridge. There are many bridges crossing the Salzach, but only one appears in the film. The Mozart Bridge (or Mozartsteg) is a pedestrian-only bridge that crosses directly into Mozartplatz on the south side of town. It has been updated over the years but still has the iconic design reminiscent of mid-20th century Salzburg! I recommend walking all along the promenade on the far side of the river to behold the green dome-topped views of Salzburg at your leisure, especially in the afternoon or at sunset, but Mozart Bridge is the one to catch in the morning and snag your photo op!
A must-see on your DIY Sound of Music tour is in the dead center of the city, at Residenzplatz. Rising proudly from the middle of the square is the horse fountain Maria splashes while singing “I Have Confidence.” She can also be seen walking through the huge domgang archways that lead from the Salzburg Cathedral into Residenzplatz. Stop for a photo op with the fountain (splash the horses if you can reach!) and be sure to breathe in the impressive setting of the movie all around. (This is also the platz where the Nazis can be seen taking over the city later in the movie.)
✓ Museum der Moderne
Things have changed here since The Sound of Music was filmed high up on this hill almost 60 years ago. The museum was built in the mid 80’s and many renovations of the paths have occurred in the last few years to make it safer. There are two ways to access this lovely lookout point – either from behind the museum via the long walking trails (free) or by taking the lifts from the building at the intersection of Museumsplatz and Gstättengasse streets. Expect to pay around €4/adult and €2/child for an “up and down” elevator ticket (prices can be bundled with museum entry ticket if you’re interested). It’s worth it for the wonderful views over the salty city! This is where Maria walks with the Von Trapp children along the cliffside path teaching them, “when you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything!” From the museum you can either take the lift back down, or if you want to get more steps in, you can walk the paths down the hill and back up again to Hohensalzburg Fortress! (Of course check out the fortress if you have time – the views are gorgeous, and even though they didn’t film here, it’s an important piece of Salzburg history.)
✓ Leopold Horse
In the second half of the movie, Liesl runs into Rolf and notices he’s changed. This happens in front of a beautiful horse fountain, behind which the cliffs of Salzburg loom. Just to the right of Siegmundstor (Stadttor) tunnel, this Leopold horse statue (and pool?) is colorful and easy to spot. This is a perfect pitstop before going up or down the nearby museum lift for the views over Salzburg.
The end of the Sound of Music was filmed in Felsenreitschule, a gorgeous 17th century riding school converted into a concert and event venue, located in Max-Reinhardtplatz on the west side of the city. This is where the Von Trapp family sang at the festival – and escaped from the their would-be captors. There is no mistaking the backdrop of stone archways and sprawling stage. It is possible to get tickets for a tour without attending an event, but it is difficult to time it right. Each time I visited Salzburg, I missed out. If this is a priority, call ahead and ask about tickets and plan around the schedule. Last time I asked, they were doing two tours per day, and they last around 30 minutes. How cool would it be to watch a concert here?
✓ St. Peter’s Cemetery
Although the final scene in the Sound of Music (where Rolf hides behind a grave stone and catches the hiding Von Trapp family as they escape) was originally filmed on a set, it was inspired by the crypts at St. Peter’s Cemetery (Friedhof Salzburg). Before heading up into the Hohensalzburg Fortress or to Nonnberg Abbey, take a stroll through St. Peter’s Cemetery to pay homage to this impactful scene.
✓ Stift Nonnberg
Nonnberg Abbey is a beautiful walk along Festungsgasse that is truly a destination of its own. Once at the abbey, the views toward the east out over the cliffs are glorious. From the fortress, keep walking all the way up Festungsgasse and around the Abbey until you recognize the gate the Von Trapp children arrive at to inquire about Maria after she fled unexpectedly from her governess responsibilities. You have to be an early bird to hear the nuns singing – every day at 6:45 AM – but it isn’t unusual to see the nuns walking around town. This city is also a popular pilgrimage site for nuns from all over the world. It made me smile whenever I spotted a nun!
Planning Your Trip
The best way to see everything is to split up sites between the above “in-city” filming points and the below spots on the outskirts of town, and a little drive away. So day one, see everything you can in the Old Town, and the next day cruise around to find these next destinations. If you missed something, take a third day and check out whatever is left on the list. It helps to have a car, although most of this can be done on buses and public transport too…I just don’t recommend it due to the lack of freedom. Marked on the map to the right with stars is Salzburg, Mondsee, Schafberg Railway, and Werfen, for distance reference.
✓ Schloss Leopoldskron
Just outside of Old Town (15 minute drive or 25 minute walk) is one of the most beautiful filming locations – the backyard of the Von Trapp mansion known as Leopoldskron. Did you know the house scenes were actually filmed at several locations? This is where Maria and the children tip over their boat as they greet the Baroness, and Maria has an argument with Captain Von Trapp on the patio near the lake. Seeing it – even from afar – gave me shivers! The property is private, so you can’t tour it unless you pony up to stay or host your wedding there, but the views of the backyard are unobstructed from the shores of the lake. The mountains are gorgeous, just like in the movie. If you squint you can even see the horse sculptures that flank the gates from the water to the balcony! There is no official parking area for this lake or Schloss, but you can snag a spot at a nearby restaurant or business and walk over if you don’t linger too long. Obviously it is easier to pull this off in the low season, or early in the day!
✓ Schloss Frohnburg
Ahhh, the Von Trapp Mansion. Schloss Frohnburg is where the “I Have Confidence” scene ends, and Maria meets Franz, the old butler (and likely Nazi sympathizer?). She walks bravely through the big yellow courtyard and straight up to the front door that looks the same today as it did then – albeit maybe a little weather worn. This location is on the outskirts of town, but it’s a bit difficult to get all the way there by car…unless you follow google maps and drive straight past it like we did, completely by mistake! Oy. By the time we realized we weren’t on a driving road (it was most certainly a path meant for walkers and bikers only), it was too late. We didn’t get out to take photos out of respect – we just wanted to get out of there! Instead, park at a store or lot on nearby Alpenstrauss and walk or bike the beautiful country paths to the entrance just as Maria did when she hopped off the bus. Hellbrunner Alle is the main trail past the mansion. Avoid the mid-day crowds and arrive early or around sunset for the best experience.
✓ Schloss Hellbrunn
Further south lies Schloss Hellbrunn. Besides having the familiar feel of the grand yellow mansion, it is a stately palace with beautiful gardens and is the home of the romantic gazebo used in the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” and “I Must’ve Done Something Good” scenes. Although the pavillion has been moved from the original filming set, it still has the misty-forest feel here at its new home at Hellbrunn. At the time we went, we didn’t need to pay to enter the park area and visit the gazebo, but I believe we paid a small fee to park our vehicle. If you want to go to the museum, castle exhibition and participate in the water games, you need to purchase a ticket.
✓ Basilika St. Michael
Less than 30 minutes outside of Salzburg lies the Basilika St. Michael. It is here where Maria and Georg’s wedding takes place, and the glorious bells of the cathedral rang to celebrate their nuptials. The cathedral is located at the northern tip of Lake Mondsee, west of Salzburg. If you really want to see where the children rode their bikes along the lake, the location is here, on the south side of Mondsee. It is difficult to reach and experience properly via car, but wonderful on a bicycle! There is a free parking lot north of the Basilica where you can park and visit from there. If you’re here, you might as well walk down Dr. Franz Muller St too, nearby. This is where the children were climbing trees like monkeys as Max, the Baroness and the Captain were returning home!
✓ Schafberg Railway
This is the little mountain train that appears briefly in the scene when the children are frolicking through the countryside in their “play clothes.” They all lean out of the train windows and wave as it toots up the mountainside. I wouldn’t consider it a “must see” on this list, but if you’re die-hard, it is definitely cool to see the train in operation! Park at the station and hop on just like the Von Trapp kids!
✓ Werfen’s Sound of Music Trail & Hohenwerfen Castle
If you have an afternoon to spend hiking around alpine valleys and want to sing “Do, Re, Mi” like the Von Trap children picnicking with their governess, definitely seek out this trail! The hike is relatively gentle and well marked. Information on the hike can be found here. If you want to extend your visit in Werfen, check out the crowning Hohenwerfen Castle that appears in the background of the mountain scenes.
No matter how many spots you’re able to hit up, just being in Salzburg is dreamy! I would love to hear how your trip went, what spots were your favorite, and especially, if anything has changed post-pandemic. Have a fantastic fairytale trip through time!