the Sound of Music in Salzburg

It has been my dream for years to visit Salzburg, the city of The Sound of Music! I’m sure locals hate that their city is best known for an American movie that most of them have never even seen or heard of, but it was my motivation for visiting.

About 150,000 people live in the city, which was designed to feel small so that the greatness of the city isn’t overwhelming. When we began our day around 9 AM, there were very few people on the streets. We were concerned that most of the city would be closed because it was Christmas (Austrians celebrate Christmas on December 24), but it turned out all right. We visited the Altes Rathaus and the Salzburg Cathedral.

We did as all tourists do in Salzburg and visited all the Mozart-themed shops and stops. Mozart was born in Salzburg, in a house that now hosts a museum about his life. Most of Salzburg’s tourism seems to focus either on him or The Sound of Music. Half the shops were selling Mozartkugeln, a small chocolate with Mozart’s face on the foil. Inside they have pistachio, marzipan, and nougat. They were surprisingly delicious!

For breakfast we had a Käsekrainer, a delicious sausage with cheese, and an apple pretzel.

Around 11 AM, the city seemed to wake up and crowds of people started gathering downtown. For lunch, we visited three of the city’s Christmas markets. The Salzburger Christkindlmarkt was huge and had small stands selling food, drinks, and holiday decorations. The most beautiful ones were hand-painted egg shells. It seems like a tricky souvenir to pack in a suitcase but otherwise an elegant gift. We tried the Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake) with applesauce on top (still confused about the obsession with applesauce) and it was a great warm dessert. We also got another mug! The Sternadvent-markt was smaller and focused on selling decorations and other small items.

Mirabellplatz is the area surrounding the Mirabell Palace and has a beautiful garden. Next to it was another market where we sampled Fleischkrapfen mit suppe. Many pieces of ham from inside the pastry fell out which made for a delicious soup.

For dessert, we made the mistake of trying Salzburger Nockerl, a dessert that is special to the city of Salzburg. It originated at Café Mozart, so naturally we tried it there. The dish is a soufflé with three peaks served over a raspberry compote. It’s large enough to be either a dessert or a main course. Unfortunately, Robert and I found it quite disgusting. We got sick of eating the fluffy egg whites for the texture was not at all stimulating and made me feel like I was eating out of a bubble bath. We weren’t ‘even able to finish the third mountain and, despite acknowledging the technical challenge of baking a soufflé, we felt ripped off by the 13.50€ price tag.

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Thoroughly displeased with our life choices, we made our way to the Sound of Music tour bus which made everything okay again. The bus drove us around the city to certain movie filming locations and explained a lot of behind-the-scenes Hollywood magic. We visited Lake Leopoldskron, the lake in which Maria and the children fall off the boat. The little girl playing Gretl couldn’t swim, and if you watch the clip closely (which they showed on a screen in a bus), you can see her struggling to stay afloat. The scene ends abruptly because other film crew had to jump in to save her. We had a beautiful view of Untersberg Mountain where they filmed the opening song (The hiiills are aliiive!) and the final scene. Although the film depicts the von Trapp family as climbing the mountain towards freedom, Hitler’s summer home actually lies on the far side of the mountain…

We saw Nonnberg Abbey, where the real Maria lived. She was originally sent to the von Trapp family to tutor their youngest daughter, since she had a teaching degree.

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I was most excited to visit the GAZEBO! 16 going on 17 is one of my favourite songs and I even made Robert watch the scene the night before to prepare for our dancing debut. Unfortunately, as expected, we weren’t allowed inside. (Many people injured themselves dancing in the gazebo and had to go to the hospital.) It’s the smallest of the three gazebos used in the film, so there wouldn’t have been much space to dance anyway. Next time.

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We did a sing-a-long in the bus on our way up the mountain where we visited St. Gilgen (where Mozart’s mother was born) and Mondsee. The beautiful wedding scene in the movie was filmed in the Mondsee Church.

Once we returned to the city, we looked for an open restaurant. We tried making reservations earlier in the day but the affordable ones were all booked. So we wandered and landed in Zum Mohren. The food was overpriced and mediocre, and we again questioned our food choices. It was not a great ending to a fun day. At least we saved the yummy Mozartkugeln for dessert.


Salzburg is a very small city with attractions focused around music – Mozart and The Sound of Music. We had fun while exploring the markets and on the tour, but the rest of the city (particularly the food) failed to impress. However, I don’t regret visiting the city because I finally got to fulfill the Sound of Music dream!

Logistics/Tips:

  • Make restaurant reservations in advance if you are visiting during the holidays, especially on Dec 24 or Dec 31, since few restaurants are open.
  • Try the Mozartkugeln (you can buy in small quantities of 1 or 3 if you don’t want too many), but skip the Nockerln unless you love soufflé.

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