I remember it well. I was standing exactly at the place you see in the photo below. It suddenly hit me. I gasped and spoke out: ‘Mum, dad, this is the cemetery of The Sound of Music!’ My mind was immediately drawn back to the zillions of times I had watched the Hollywood film starring Julie Andrews, and I almost literally saw the Von Trapp family running and hiding behind the tombstones. I was 10 years old. A fangirl in the making.
10 years later. Back in Salzburg, with vivid memories of that ‘moment of shock’ so many years ago, I decided I had to do my little self justice and take a self- guided Sound of Music tour. I bought a The Sound of Music brochure in one of the many souvenir shops, and started my search for the film’s locations.
My first stop was Nonnberg Abbey, which played a large role in the film, as well as in the real life of Maria Augusta von Kutschera. She presented herself as a candidate for the novitiate of the Benedictine sisterhood. She and Baron von Trapp married in the Abbey Church in 1927. If you’ve seen the film, you probably know that the opening scene was shot here where we see Maria running in too late for mass. Also the song ‘Maria’, the scene at the gate where the children ask Maria to come back home, and the escape scene where shot here. Nonnberg Abbey is the oldest female convent of the north of the Alps, and has been founded in the year 714 A.D. The building has been destroyed several times during history, but has always been rebuilt. The current building dates back to the 16th Century.
St. Peter’s Church Cemetery
The next location I was about to visit was St. Peter’s Church Cemetery. Yes, that’s right, the cemetery I visited 10 years ago. I was a bit disappointed to learn that the cemetery scenes were actually filmed in Hollywood. But they did a great job replicating it, as my 10-year-old-self still recognized it as such. The cemetery is a peaceful place right in the heart of Salzburg and dates back to 700A.D., complete with underground catacombs that are even older.
Rock Riding School
Soon enough we walked on to Rock Riding School (Festival House), where the ‘real’ Von Trapp Family sang in a choir competition, and the actors in the film sang ‘Edelweiss’ while they were planning their grand escape. Nowadays it is a theater, but this cavity in the mountain had a riding school built in before, hence the name Rock Riding School. Unfortunately I couldn’t access the theater at this time.
The Archbishop’s Residence
The Archbishop’s Residence was the next stop on my self-initiated tour. In the film, we see Maria crossing the square singing ‘I have confidence’, while she is on her way to the Von Trapp family for the first time. The Glockenspiel of the residence was created in Antwerp, Belgium in 1689 and now overlooks the square. The buildings were in use from the 17th century onwards by the prince archbishops. Nowadays, the square is also famous for its horses and carriages that wait for couples who want to go on a romantic ride through Salzburg. The horse statues on the other hand at the fountain can be seen in the film when Maria playfully splashes water at the horses while singing ‘I have confidence.’ The Residence Fountain was built between 1658-1661, and is made of marble for the Untersberg, a mountain near Salzburg.
The Mirabell Palace Gardens
My final stop in the city center of Salzburg were the Mirabell Palace Gardens. Probably the most famous song of the film, ‘Do Re Mi’, was filmed here. The gardens with all its flowers, statues, vine tunnel and even a maze are gorgeous, and they provide a stunning view of Hohensalzburg Fortress. The park was designed by the famous architect Fischer von Erlach and was built in the 18th century. And do you remember the steps which were also part of the ‘Do Re Mi’ choreography?
The Gazebo at Hellbrunn Palace
Most of the other film locations of The Sound of Music are outside of Salzburg, and obviously we didn’t have time to visit them all. I was allowed to pick one other location though, before we headed back to the campsite we were staying at. I picked Hellbrunn Palace, the palace that isn’t in the film itself, but its gardens are definitely home to one ‘prop’ that played a major part in a few particular scenes of The Sound of Music. The Gazebo, which was originally located at Leopoldskron Castle, is now situated at Hellbrunn, and we all know it from the songs ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and ‘Something Good.’ Hellbrunn Palace itself is a wonderful visit, with stunning gardens, fountains and lakes. It was built between 1613 and 1619, and it has never undergone any dramatic changes. Therefore, you can still imagine renaissance life when walking around the grounds or in the castle itself.
All The Sound of Music Locations
Even though I wasn’t able to visit all The Sound of Music film locations in Salzburg and the surrounding area, I’ve tried to compile a complete list of all the film locations if you would like to do your own self-guided tour:
Salzburg city center:
- Mirabell Palace and Gardens (‘Do Re Mi’ scene)
- Nonnberg Abbey (several scenes throughout the film)
- Villa Trapp ( Only accessible when booking a guided tour and to hotel guests)
- Rock Riding School (‘Edelweiss’)
- The Archbishop’s Residence (‘I have Confidence’)
- Residence Fountain (‘I have Confidence’)
- St Peter’s District (St. Peter’s Cemetery. Inspiration for the escape scene)
- Frohnburg Castle (the fictive Von Trapp Villa in the film)
- The Gazebo at Hellbrunn Palace (‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ and ‘Something Good’)
- Leopoldskron Castle (the rear view was used for the fictive Von Trapp family home in the film)
- Untersberg Mountain (‘Climb Every Mountain’)
- Anif Water Palace (opening scenes)
- Hohenwerfen Fortress (‘Do Re Mi’)
- Schloss Fuschl (opening scenes)
- The Collegiate Church of St Michael (setting of Maria’s wedding in the film)
See the map below for all the locations.
Guided Sound of Music tours
If you prefer going on a guided tour, there are a few companies in Salzburg organizing The Sound of Music Tours:
(I don’t have any experience with these tours myself).