Andrea Bailey discovers there’s much more to this Austrian city than Do, Re, Mi…

[Photos by Nigel Bailey]


“Did you know that for years the natives of Salzburg and indeed Austria had no idea about this famous movie or why the city was so popular with visitors?” chuckles my Sound of Music tour guide Stephan.

He is of course referring to the movie that made Julie Andrews a household name in her role as Maria Von Trapp. It was only after innumerable visitors began to descend on Salzburg as a result, that the residents realised an epic film had been made in their town.

And the dramatic countryside and beautiful outdoor scenery portrayed in the classic musical are completely true-to-life: this Alpine town is picture-postcard perfect, with green mountainsides and striking blue skies.

The city is home to the famous Mirabell Gardens, where Julie Andrews and the children sing Do-Re-Mi in the movie. Across its manicured lawns, you catch a glimpse of the Fortress Hohensalzburg, high up on the hill – and the famous Nonnberg Abbey where the real life Maria von Trapp was a postulant after World War I.

As I follow the Sound of Music tour, I revisit many of the beautiful locations from the movie. One of the first stops is the Von Trapp house, compete with lake in the background. It was interesting to discover that the front and back of the house were in fact two completely different buildings and that this lake house is now owned by the Harvard Business School.

Other sites included on the four-hour tour are the gazebo where Liesl sings Sixteen going on Seventeen with her ultimately traitorous sweetheart Rolf; the church where the wedding was filmed; and Sacher Hotel, where Julie actually stayed during the filming.

For those with the means, this is the hotel to stay at whilst in Salzburg – not least because the Austrian chain of Sacher Hotels is home to the original and delicious Sacher Torte cake.

Hollywood took a few liberties at the time of filming, such as the location of the mountain that the family used to escape to Switzerland: in fact, that mountain leads into to Germany, right up to the doorstep of what was Hitler’s second headquarters. In reality the family got away by means of a train station at the back of their house – a far less dramatic escape.

While this tour is highly entertaining, there is of course a lot more to Salzburg. The Alpine city – whose name literally translates as ‘salt fortress’ – is one of Austria’s most popular destinations. The local Salzach River was formerly used to transport salt (or salz in the local lingo), which gave the area its name. During my visit, the river – which gushes with some force under the bridges of Salzburg – is a murky brown colour, caused by unseasonal summer rains.

Walking around the old town, I notice little boutiques filled with quirky Mozart souvenirs, including bouncy spring puppets and boxes of chocolates.

The famous composer was born in Salzburg and his music still fills the cobblestoned pathways of the city. Buskers are a common sight, as they stand in busy corners playing their violins or guitars for the listening pleasure of visitors.

It’s a city with a spectacular skyline: green and gold onion-shaped domes sit atop baroque towers, while charming churches with black steeples dot theold town, or Aldstadt, that spreads along one bank of the river.

One of the most striking features of Salzburg is its imposing Fortress Hohensalzburg, which sits like a majestic grand dame high above the city. It’s a rather steep walk up the town to the castle lift, but the view from the fortress is stunning: the city spread out like a tapestry of spires, towers and domes in shades of red, green and black.

I’d also recommend you spend some time inside the fortress that houses the Fortress Museum, home to a wealth of information about the building, as well as the Rainer Regiments Museum, the Marionette Museum showcasing puppets from the well-known Marionettentheater, and the gothic Regency Chambers.

Evenings are particularly beautiful in Salzburg, as the sky turns dark and the hilltop castle lights up. A good tip for some night time photos is to go to the rooftop café of the Hotel Stein that overlooks the Salzburg River. The views are stunning with the old town set against the backdrop of the Alpine mountainside.

For day-trippers, check out the Eagle’s Nest Tour , which takes you up to the giddy heights of the Bavarian Mountains and into Hitler’s former retreat. The Kehlsteinhaus, or Eagle’s Nest, was a gift to Hitler – and it’s said he actually disliked the place, as he was terrified of heights.

Alternatively you can take the Salt Mine Tour that offers a glimpse into the working of a salt mine, while the freezing Ice Caves Tour is recommended for the adventurous at heart.

For more information, just visit:


–           The Sound of Music Tour

–           City Tour – On the Traces of Mozart

–           Panorama City Tour

–           Classical Salzburg

–           Lakes & Mountains Tour

–           Bavarian Mountains

–           Bavarian Mountains & Salt Mine Tour

–           Eagle’s Nest

–           City & Country Highlight

–           The Ice Caves Tour


[Photo: CR Helen Page]

Sacher-Torte: The original Sacher-Torte cake made famous by the Sacher Hotels is a dark chocolate cake served with whipped cream. It’s a treat for the eyes as much as the tastebuds, and can be sampled at the Sacher Hotel Café during afternoon tea.

This piece originally appeared on the Arabian Radio Network’s Dubai Eye website

Andrea Bailey

Andrea Bailey

Andrea Bailey is a Dubai based travel writer. She is also a travel consultant with Travel Counsellors and specializes in cruises, family holidays and honey moons. When she’s not out and about discovering destinations and different cuisines of the world, you would probably find her busy with her 3 daughters and her other passions involving art and music.

As a mosaic artist, she has travelled to Italy and studied ancient Roman techniques of the art form and as a jazz flautist she has had the opportunity of performing across various Dubai venues.