Backdrop to the 1965 film The Sound of Music, Salzburg shows that Maria and the Von Trapps aren’t the only game in town.


Good or bad, fans of the film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music have seemingly staked their claim upon this picturesque Austrian city.

There’s a host of organised bus tours to choose from. Even a sing-along (yes, sing-along) bike tour that takes you to movie locations that the bus can’t get to. Imagine singing “Do-Re-Mi”, “One Lonely Goatherd”, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, and other hits to your heart’s content.

Self-guided tours are also doable, given the abundance of information available on the internet.

Photo: Fraulein Maria’s Bike Tour

Unlike my initial scepticism towards Notting Hill, which sadly resulted in my finally going only after several trips to London (read how that visit went here), the idea of retracing the steps of Hollywood’s take on the Von Trapp family actually intrigues me.

Even though the opportunity to do so has also managed to slip through my fingers on all visits to Salzburg thus far. (Hmmm… detecting a pattern here, eh?)

The Sound of the Altstadt

If not a big fan of this Hollywood film classic, fear not. This town’s got so much more to offer. Salzburg’s Altstadt or Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after all.

Salzburg by night. / Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Matthias Kabel

Salzburg’s charming medieval and baroque Old Town, the imposing Salzburg Castle and Fortress up on a hill, the Benedictine monastery St Peter’s Abbey, and the gracious Mirabell Palace and Gardens across the Salzach river are all worth a visit and can be seen in a day when planned properly. But I suggest you spend at least two days for a more relaxed pace and give yourself a chance to really take it all in.

Inside the Mirabell Palace. / Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Stefano Giustini

Weekdays are typically more quiet. We were there once on a Saturday and the Old Town was bustling, with market stalls spread out not only in the main University Square but also in some of the little pocket squares.

Daily market / Photo: Salzburg Tourism

As with most markets, be they on Saturdays or weekdays, it pays to get there early. Grab a pastry and coffee either at the market or in one of several cafés in the area, and enjoy as you walk around perusing what the vendors have to offer. During our visit, they ran the gamut from specialty food to local artworks to Christmas trinkets (in the spring!).

The regular shops also range from big international brands to local labels. There were even a couple of Christmas shops that sold holiday items all year round.

Lots of shopping to be had in Salzburg. / Photo: Mauro Nogueira

Oh, the sounds of a busy little European town. Whether at a market or sitting in a café, I just love hearing the sound of locals connecting with one another, laughing, chatting away, and everyone else going about their business. Basically, the sound of everyday life. Music to my ears.

Mozart is Everywhere

Of course, if actual music’s what you hope to find in Salzburg, then yes, Mozart is alive and well here. His music, at least.

And well, we also couldn’t avoid seeing his face plastered on shop windows and chocolate boxes, because of that quintessential Austrian souvenir, the Mozartkugel or Mozart Ball. Made in Salzburg, it’s a delicious sweet with pistachio marzipan and nougat in the center, then covered with dark chocolate. Fortunately for Mozart and Mozart fans, it’s actually pretty good.

A quintessential Austrian souvenir. / Photo: Mirabell Mozartkugel

You can visit Mozart’s birthplace along Getreidegasse in the center of the Old Town or his home on the Makartplatz near the Mirabell Palace. I think a visit to only one of them would be enough, just to get a feel of what Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was all about.

When it comes to his music, there are many ways to get a sample of it live. Most of it are geared towards tourists. But hey, our vacation, our terms, right?

We stayed the weekend once. And on one of those evenings, we went up to the Castle to hear a concert of Baroque music – most of it Mozart’s. I’m no music expert, but I thought it was rather lovely. Though serious music lovers might disagree.

Enjoy a Baroque concert inside Salburg’s Castle / Photo:

Held in one of the Castle’s state apartments, I’d say the setting alone was well worth it. At intermission, we were ushered out towards the hall to enjoy some sparkling wine. Sure, the cost of the wine was covered in our ticket, but I think it was a nice touch. Specially as the hall had a large window that provided a view of the city down below. Now that you can’t put a price on.

Some tickets include a sit-down dinner in the package, but we didn’t get those as we wanted to have dinner in town.

The Hohensalzburg or Salzburg Castle up the hill with the Mirabell Gardens in the foreground. / Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Amiodarone

Other venues for these concerts are St Peter’s Abbey (also with optional sit-down dinner) and the Mirabell Palace. All considered touristy and a bit overpriced, but you do get to support local students or recent graduates of Salzburg’s music and arts university, the Mozarteum.

Jazz and Christmas and Yodelling, Oh My!

Salzburg plays host to several festivals a year, the biggest of which is the one held in the summer that typically runs for five weeks. But they’ve also got a Jazz Festival, Advent Singing, Winterfest, an Easter Festival, and many more.

To see which events are scheduled during your planned visit, check here.

And while we’re on the subject of music and the Alpine region, what’s the one thing most associated with both?


A 2-1/2-hour drive from the city of Salzburg, you’ll find what’s called the Yodel Hiking Trail, where they teach you how to yodel while you hike. As you go through the different stations that they’ve set up in the Austrian Alps, you learn a little bit more about Alpine music and progress with your yodelling at the same time. Sounds cool, huh?

I personally haven’t done this bit myself. But I must say that my first yodeling lesson  actually came from one of the songs in The Sound of Music. And Maria taught it to me.

In fact, it’s been playing inside my head the entire time I’m writing this. You guys know which song I’m talking about.

It’s the one that goes,

🎶 High on a hill was a lonely goatherd

Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo

Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd

Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo 🎶

Okay, hopefully that won’t get stuck in your head all day like it did mine. But if it does and it makes you even for a second consider going to Salzburg, perhaps The Sound of Music’s tiny stake on this city is well-deserved after all.

Songwriters: Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers

The Lonely Goatherd lyrics © Imagem Music Inc

Photo Credits:

Main Photo of Old Town:  Dillif

Bike Tour: Fraulein Maria’s Bike Tour

Old Town at night:  Matthias Kabel

Inside Mirabell Palace:  Stefano Giustini

Daily Market: Salzburg Tourism

Shopping Street: Mauro Nogueira

Mozartkugel: Mirabell Mozartkugel

Concert at the Castle:

Old Town from Mirabell gardens: Amiodarone