My family and I regularly went to Salzburg and I was always amazed by the crowds in the city. I thought they would visit because of Mozart. Of course, I had heard about Sound of Music. However, I did not know how famous it actually was and, like the majority of Austrians, had never watched said movie before I did my exchange semester in Beijing. I met my Kiwi-friend Olivia, the biggest Sound of Music fan, and she decided that Liesel (that is actually one of the abbreviations of my name Elisabeth) had never seen the movie. I then realized the real reason why a lot of tourists visit Salzburg – the “Sound of Music Tours”.
I cannot judge those tours here, as I have never booked any. However, I put together this article with my personal highlights of the Salzkammergut, the region around Salzburg where the famous aerial shots were taken. This region is so beautiful and there is so much more to it than what you can actually see in these opening sequences. I would like to introduce you to my personal favourites of the “Sound of Music Country”.
The town of Gmunden is directly located next to the A2 Autobahn (highway) and is the capital of the lake district of Salzkammergut.
It is famous for its “Gmundener Porzellan”, a special type of porcelain, and the castle Schloss Orth.
If you would like to enjoy a nice lunch with a view of the lake, I recommend restaurant Dollmanns. (Schiffslaende 3)
And for those of you who look for an adrenaline kick, you can go skydiving to get a real aerial view of the whole region. My boyfriend went skydiving with Alpenfreifall and we had a really good experience with them – very friendly, easy-going and professional service and English is not an issue.
If you want to go for a swim, St. Gilgen located at the Wolfgangsee is a really nice place. The town of St. Wolfgang itself is famous for the Hotel Zum Weissen Roessl, which was featured in an extremely popular play and movie. (It actually used to be one of my favourite movies and still is. And I am currently singing the songs while writing this part of the article 🙂 ) In winter, the Christmas market of St. Wolfgang is one of the most beautiful in Austria.
Attersee and Mondsee
The Attersee is the biggest lake of the region and popular among Viennese who own a summer home in the region. If you are in the mood for a hike, I recommend the Schafberg mountain at Lake Mondsee. If you do not feel like hiking in the summer heat, there is a cogwheel railway taking you up the mountain. This railway itself is a sight because it is the steepest in Austria and has been operating since the late 18th century. And you will be rewarded with some “Sound of Music” worth views.
Bad Ischl used to be the summer home of the Habsburgs and Empress Sisi, in particular, loved the area. It was also the place where she and the young Emperor Franz Josef met.
As a child, I loved the movie about the young princess. Walking through the small town of Bad Ischl takes you back to the imperial times of Austria.
A visit of Zauner, a restaurant and patisserie, is a must. On a hot day, I recommend the Eiskaffee (coffee with ice cream and whipped cream) and one of their delicious Zaunerkipferl (a kind of puff pastry crescent with nuts).
Their selection of pastries is endless. Another special recommendation is the Ischler Krapfen – short pastry filled with chocolate cream and dipped in chocolate – or the Zaunerstollen (if you are looking for a gift). Of course, their Schnitzel is also delicious.
They have two branches. One in the centre, and one next to the Traun river, which is beautiful in summer.
I love to stroll down the promenade along the river.
If you are looking for authentic Austrian “Tracht” – the dirndl and lederhosen you see in Sound of Music – I recommend visiting the Heimatwerk in the centre of Bad Ischl. (Kreuzplatz 17) Right across, you can have another delicious ice cream at Eissalon Giovanni. (Kreuzplatz 4) For local food, I recommend dinner at Restaurant Attwenger. (Franz-Lehar-Kai 12) And if you crave a drink, k.u.k. Hofbeisl is the place to go. (Wirerstraße 4)
A lot of you might be familiar with Hallstatt. For some reason, it is one of the most popular towns of the area among tourists. It is very beautiful but Austrians wonder why exactly that town has become so famous. Even before becoming on of the famous Instagram spots in Austria, tourist crowds had been visiting this small town deep in the mountains. One explanation for the Chinese crowds is that the whole town was copied and rebuilt in Southern China. Because of all the crowds, I advise you to visit Hallstatt very early in the morning. Later, the whole place will be closed down once the maximum of visitors has been reached. I highly recommend to visit the Beinhaus of the local church. This place is famous for painting skulls, a local tradition dating back to the early 18th century.
This lake is one of the smaller and lesser known lakes and is located in the neighbouring region of Styria.
I think the pictures speak for themselves. It is just stunning.
You can drive along the Northern part of the lake and enjoy the view or even stop and go for a swim right next to the small road.
Near the Grundlsee, there is another small lake, which is one of my favourites. I highly recommend visiting Altaussee and have another Eiskaffee or cake at Hotel Seevilla and enjoy the view. You can also drive further until you reach Bad Aussee and buy some authentic gingerbread there.
Just a general piece of advice: plan ahead – check the weather forecast before your day trip as the rain can be nasty. Once it starts to rain in the region, the “Salzburger Schnuerlregen”, heavy rain falling vertically, can last for days. You can reach all the destinations via public transport. However, I recommend renting a car depending on the locations you would like to visit. It is just easier to be a bit more flexible as the bus/train intervals can be quite long.
If you plan to visit Salzburg, check out my Salzburg Mini Guide here.