by Rebecca Holland
“The hills are alive, with the sound of music…” Not only for musical enthusiasts, these words are familiar and beloved to millions. Julie Andrews captivated the world when she sang her way through Austria’s beautiful mountains as Maria in the Sound of Music. Visitors to Salzburg, Austria, can relive Maria’s journey on a tour through the city and surrounding hills. The Sound of Music was filmed mostly in Salzburg (as well as Germany, London and Hollywood), and some of the movie’s most iconic images are still perfectly intact.
While there are many companies offering the Sound of Music tour, Panorama Tours is the most reputable, has the most knowledgeable and entertaining guides, and provides the best value.
Panorama Tours will send a driver to pick you up from your hotel and bring you cheerfully to a meeting point, where you will board a very obvious bus and be introduced to your guide. The guides are hilarious in that cringe-inducing tour guide way. They tell jokes to the children, sing with the women, and men who look reluctant to be there in the first place often end up laughing the hardest.
Once the tour begins, you’ll be taken to the filming locations of the most famous movie scenes, including historic Nonnberg Abbey, the Mirabell Gardens where “Do-Re-Mi” was filmed, the trees where the Von Trapp children hang like monkeys in their curtain clothes, and the gazebo where Rolf and Liesl share a song and dance. A favorite of many tour goers, the church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp are married sits only a few miles away in neighboring Mondsee. The bus stops for an hour so you can visit the stunning church where, if you’re lucky, an actual wedding will be taking place. (Weddings are usually on Saturdays in Austria, and it’s actually quite common for tourists to catch a glimpse).
Soon you’ll be taken up into the mountains to overlook some of Austria’s most magnificent lakes and enchanting villages. The movie’s famed hills are even more breathtaking when seen firsthand, and the tour takes plenty of photo stops.
Almost more interesting than the Sound of Music trivia though, is the history of Salzburg. Panorama’s guides will give you crash courses on empires, World War II, architecture and Austrian culture before your four hours are finished, saving you time and money on additional tours you might have planned on taking.
For 40 Euros per person, you’ll see the entire city of Salzburg, surrounding areas you probably would not have visited unless you had a car and learn more about the Sound of Music than you thought possible, all while getting a history lesson with an ever-witty tour guide. For those who don’t normally like group tours, this one is an exception.
The sing-a-long as the bus heads back to city center is the corny, somehow irresistible, icing on the cake. Driving through the lush hills, they really do seem alive with the sound of music.