7 Fun Things to Do In and Near Salzburg With Kids

7 Fun Things to Do In and Near Salzburg With Kids

Undoubtedly when you visit Salzburg in Austria, you will be doing something related to the Sound of Music.  What about when you have exhausted all the Sound of Music related activities?  Although a small city, there are plenty of things to do in Salzburg with kids. If you venture further afield for a day trip, there are even more ways to explore the surrounding countryside of Salzburg with children.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

Things To Do in Salzburg With Kids

Hohensalzburg Fortress

You take a funicular ride up and down to the Hohensalzburg fortress which perches on a mountain over the town.  When you are in Salzburg with children, the fortress is an easy way to please the family.

Although it is the largest and best preserved in central Europe, much of the interior decor is missing due to the ravages of time. You won’t have to walk through room after room of artwork and furniture. There is both a marionette display and a torture museum which my kids found fascinating.

The Hohensalzburg Fortress was built in 1077 A.D. for the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg who had lots of money thanks to their control of the salt mines in the area which gave the city its name.

Fun Fact! Salt was known in the Middle Ages as “white gold” because its trade was so valuable. Until the invention of the refrigerator in the 20th century, salt was a primary means of preserving food.

As you can imagine, lots of other people were eyeing up the Prince-Archbishops control of Salzburg and the source of their wealth.  The Prince-Archbishops needed an impregnable fortress to send a “Don’t-even- think-about-it” message.

You hear about the fortress’ long history in the short audio guide tour and some of the exhibits.

things to do in Salzburg

The fortress looms large over Salzburg

From the top of the fortress there are panoramic views over the Austrian countryside.  We had lunch at one of the restaurants in the fortress.  The food was standard Austrian fare (schnitzel for the kids of course) but the view was spectacular.

The Hohensalzburg Fortress is open year-round for visitors.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for the Hohensalzburg Fortress

If you are a lover of Mozart’s music, you can enjoy an evening concert with dinner at the Hohensalzburg Fortress. The  3 course meal may be too much if you are in Salzburg with children (I know mine survived exclusively on a diet of schnitzel!). There is also an option to enjoy an evening concert with dinner at the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

The view from the Hohensalzburg fortress

My kids loved going up and down in the dinky little funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. If I had been a stricter mother, I would have made them walk down the hill because you then pass the gates of Nonnberg Abbey.

Having been established in the 8th century, Nonnberg Abbey is the longest continually-operating convent in the German world. You know it as the abbey where Maria von Trapp was a novice in the movie, Sound of Music. The Abbey’s church is open to visit during limited hours. The real Maria and Georg got married here in 1927 but the movie wedding scene was not filmed here.

Hanger 7 Aircraft Museum

Salzburg kids of all ages will love the Hangar 7 Aircraft Museum. Despite my lack of interest in motorised vehicles, even I was impressed!

We discovered that Dietrich Mateschitz, the man who owned Red Bull, the energy drink, is from Salzburg. He houses his collection of airplanes, racing cars and other big boy toys at Hanger 7 Aircraft Museum in the Salzburg Airport.

NB –Although called an aircraft museum, there is so much more than aircraft at Hanger 7. 

When you are as rich as Mr. Mateschitz, presumably you don’t like to be limited by mere words and titles.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

One of the planes being towed out of the hangar.

The hanger itself is a gorgeous glass building which also has a lounge, outdoor cafe, bar,  restaurant and a gift shop. My kids were duly impressed with all the toys on display.

My kids were even more impressed that Mr. Mateschitz kept his real airplanes (the ones for everyday use) in the hanger next door.  We spent quite some time watching the workers move the machines around and “exercise” the planes.

Mr. Mateschitz lent a plane for the use of Maria von Trapp when the original von Trapp family home became a hotel in 2008. So, he does use his toys for philanthropy!

The Hanger 7 Aircraft Museum is free of charge and open daily.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for Red Bull Hangar 7

Schloss Hellbrunn

Schloss Hellbrunn is one of the fun historical places in Salzburg for children specifically because of its trick fountains. This palace was built by one of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg in the early 17th century by the same architect who built Salzburg Cathedral.

On a hot day, the Schloss Hellbrun water fountains are just the thing to keep kids happy.  This particular Prince-Archbishop had a juvenile sense of humour and lots of money to indulge his whims.  The palace grounds have grottos, fountains and even a water-powered theater.

The Prince-Archibishop created trick fountains and water jets which when operational would spray his guests with water. He would stay dry, of course. All his guests would have to grin and bear it.

All of the mechanisms are operated by water-power pumped in from nearby Hellbrunn Mountain.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

Everyone except the person at the head of the table gets wet.

Schloss Hellbrunn is open daily from March to November. Christmas is a special time to visit Schloss Hellbrunn because it puts on a very pretty Christmas market.

In the Schloss Hellbrunn grounds, there is also the famous gazebo which was used in the movie The Sound of Music when the oldest daughter Liesl sneaks off to meet local boy, Franz, away from the watchful eye of her father.

NB – The doors to the Gazebo are locked because too many middle-aged people were getting hurt trying to dance around the benches like Liesl in the movie. You might need to bench that particular dream.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for the Schloss Hellbrunn

Schloss Hellbrunn is located in the outskirts of Salzburg and you can combine a visit to Schloss Hellbrunn with a boat ride of the River Salzach.

Mirabell Gardens

The Mirabell Palace and Gardens were built by a Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg in 1606 for his mistress and baby-momma.  Having produced 15 children for the Prince-Archbishop, I’d say she deserved the palace.

Today, the Mirabell Palace is used by the city government. You can hire out the the famous Marble Room (the former banquet hall of the Palace) for weddings. Mozart used to perform concerts in the Marble Room.

Want to experience the glamour of the Marble Room without getting married there? You can take in an evening concert in the Marble Room and be transported back to another time.

The gardens are extensive with a fountains, a rose garden and even a dwarf garden. There used to be 28 marble statues of dwarfs originally. In the 19th century, they got auctioned off and 15 marble dwarfs were returned to the garden in 1919. These dwarfs are among the quirker aspects of this city when you Salzburg with kids.

My children enjoyed wandering around the beautiful gardens.  Of course, the Sound of Music had a famous musical scene set in the Mirabell Gardens as well when the von Trapp kids are relishing their new found freedom and singing Do-Re-Mi.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for the Mirabell Palace and Gardens

You can take a tour of Mirabell Gardens and a visit up one of the 5 mountains of Salzburg to get a panoramic view of the city. Of course, you’ll be singing the songs from the Sound of Music along the way.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

The Mirabell Gardens just make you want to Do Re Mi around the flowerbeds.

Salzburg Altstadt

Old Town Salzburg or Altstadt is an enjoyable place to explore.  It is pedestrianised which meant I could less vigilant with my children’s need to stand in the middle of the road and gape at things.

Old Town Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Center sandwiched between the Salzach river and the mountains.  It’s got many beautiful buildings including many churches as well as the entrance to the funicular (or the road) to the Hohensalzburg Fortress.

We had a lovely meal at Europe’s oldest restaurant which has been serving customers since the 9th century. Don’t worry the food is modern so this is Olde World Salzburg for kids that they can enjoy.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for the Salzburg Altstadt

Things to do with kids in Salzburg

The quiet side streets of Salzburg

As well as historical buildings, there are a lot of stores and restaurants in the area as well that make Salzburg fun for kids to explore. Located so close to Italy, we found several excellent pizzerias in Salzburg (for when your kids get tired of schnitzel).

Exploring the Environs of Salzburg With Children

Berchtesgaden and the Bavarian Alps

Salzburg, surrounded by lakes and mountains, is very near the border with Germany.  We visited the beautiful town of Berchtesgaden on the German side of the Bavarian Alps.  Berchtesgaden is only about 18 miles away from Salzburg.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

The beautiful town of Berchtesgaden

Nazi Summer Camp

Hitler was a fan of the area.  He had his summer residence a couple of miles away in the Obersalzberg region.  The main Nazis also had homes nearby.

The architect of the Final Solution, Heinrich Himmler was not high enough in the Nazi pecking order to warrant a home in the Berchtesgaden compound. Himmler took over the family home of the von Trapps who found later fame in the Sound of Music.

Hitler’s former home was destroyed after World War II and no trace of it has been left.  One of the other Nazi homes is now the location of the Kempinksi Hotel Berchtesgaden.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

A book with photos of the Nazi complex as they would have existed.

I was told that the Nazi homes were connected by tunnels that went for miles under the mountains. I chose not to tell my kids about the Nazi tunnels because I’m sure they would have wanted to check it out.  I saw a sign for it on one of the buildings although I was under the impression that the tunnels were mostly closed.

The Eagle’s Nest

The Eagle’s Nest was the 50th birthday present for Hitler from the Nazi party. It’s perched on top of a rocky outcrop and accessed by a 400 foot elevator shaft. Hitler used The Eagle’s Nest less than 20 times overall because he was paranoid about being trapped and killed in the elevator shaft.

Hitler was supposed to have both claustrophobia and a fear of heights. The Eagle’s Nest then was not the most well thought out gift!! Eva Braun, Hitler’s girlfriend, used the Eagles’ Nest much more than him.

Today the Eagle’s Nest is a restaurant. You can take a bus up to the Eagle’s Nest from Obersalzburg or hike for 2 hours like my son’s Boy Scout Troop did.

You can take a half-day tour of the Eagle’s Nest that goes directly from Salzburg.

Lake Konigsee

Berchtesgaden is also a short ride away from Lake Konigsee, one of the most beautiful lakes in the area.  It is part of the Berchtesgaden National Park and renowned for being super-clean.  We had a wonderful day exploring Lake Konigsee and could easily have stayed longer.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for Lake Konigssee

You can take a day tour of Berchtesgaden and Lake Konigssee that leave from Salzburg.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

Lake Konigsee

Salt Mines and Celtic Museum at Hallein

As you know by now, Salzburg was a very rich little city thanks to the access the Prince-Archbishops had to  ‘white gold’.  The Salt Mine at Hallein has guided tours of their salt mine which has been churning out salt for 7000 years.

Children need to be at least four years old to visit the mines.  You don white jumpsuits and hop on a little train which takes you into the mine. Once inside the mine, you get around by either walking or going down one of the wooden slides.  These slides were great fun! Miners used slides to get deeper into the mountain quickly.  The miners had to walk back up to get out but luckily we did not have to.  Inside the mine, there is an audiovisual program about mining which some adults might find cheesy. My kids liked it, cheesy or not.

Check the TripAdvisor reviews for the Salt Mines at Hallein

things to do with kids in Salzburg

As part of the salt mines, they have established a Celtic Museum on the grounds showing how the Celts lived in the area.  The Celts were the first to mine salt.  Your entry into the salt mines includes a ticket to the Celtic Museum.

things to do with kids in Salzburg

A Celtic Museum exhibit

There are tours that explore the salt mines that leave from the center of Salzburg.

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If you thought Salzburg was all about The Sound of Music and Mozart, these activities prove that there is plenty of history, museums and outdoor fun to keep a family happy and busy on a visit to Salzburg with kids.

The best places to visit in and near Salzburg with or without kids

We paid for all of the activities mentioned in this articles ourselves.  This article does contain affiliate links which will provide us with a small commission should you click on them but at no cost to you.

Tips for Family Travel In and Near Salzburg

Visiting Salzburg with kids is ideal because it is a compact city and easily walkable.  We spent 2-3 hours on each of the activities within Salzburg.

NB – Wear sensible shoes because the cute cobblestones will wear your feet down otherwise.

With respect to what to do in Salzburg’s environs:

  • Both the Berchtesgaden and the Salt Mines were part of day trips we took.
  • We could easily have spent an entire day in Berchtesgaden exploring the town’s hiking trails and cute stores.
  • As part of the trip to Berchtesgaden, we also went to the nearby Lake Konigsee for a few hours of hiking.
  • We visited the Salt Mines as part of a tour to Hallstatt that we took. Hallstatt was very pretty and very crowded with tourists.

You also have the option of visiting Hallstatt from Salzburg without visiting the Salt Mines.

Good To Know Before You Go:

We flew into Munich because the flights were more frequent and cheaper.  There aren’t that many flight options into Salzburg Airport itself.

The drive from Munich to Salzburg is only about 70 miles and takes less than 2 hours on the Autobahn.

NB – If you drive into Austria from Germany,you need to buy a pesky little Austrian car permit at the border which will let you drive on Austria’s highways.  Called a vignette, these stickers are not expensive (about €9 for 10 days).

We stayed in the historic centre of Salzburg at the Hotel Kasererbrau in a family suite which had two bedrooms and one bathroom.  The hotel’s good value included a great location and a buffet breakfast.

Although located in a pedestrianised area, our taxi brought our bags to and from our hotel.  I liked being in a pedestrianised area as well because then I could let the children explore the street more freely without fear of them getting run over by a car.

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We hired our rental car through Hertz which we had for the trip from Munich until Salzburg.  My husband took the car to Munich when he went back to work in London. In Salzburg, we walked or used taxis. The children and I continued onwards to Vienna, and we thought the Austrian train service is excellent!

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Falling Asleep to The Sound of Music

Falling Asleep to The Sound of Music

Salzburg is known by many as the setting for one of the most famous films of all time, The Sound of Music.  In fact, every year about 300,000 visitors flock to the city to recreate the songs and story from the film.  Do you want to stay in a hotel associated with The Sound of Music?

I have found two great options – one is Villa Trapp which is the actual home of the real von Trapps depicted in the movie.  The Schloss Leopoldskron is the von Trapp home from the movie, a Hollywood reimagination of what the von Trapp home would have looked like if the family had oodles more money.

Villa Trapp

The Villa Trapp is located in the outskirts of Salzburg.  Open as a hotel since 2008, the management have worked with the actual remaining members of the von Trapps to make the house as authentic as possible.  Maria von Trapp visited the hotel at its inauguration thanks to a private plane lent by a Salzburg local, the owner of Red Bull.  She was able to provide lots of details of how the family lived.

For example, this Chinese chair was a gift to Georg von Trapp for his defense of Austrian interests during the Boxer Rebellion in China.  Presumably they abandoned it because it was too heavy to unobtrusively sneak over the border.

Villa Trapp Chair

The von Trapps were pretty unhappy with Hollywood movie version of their father.  Unlike the serious disciplinarian played by Christopher Plummer, the actual Georg von Trapp was a loving father and somewhat of a pushover.  Yes, he did use a whistle, but it was only because the von Trapps had the largest private garden in Salzburg at the time.  The sound of the whistle would carry better than his voice over the acres of gardens because the children were usually playing outside.

The History of Villa Trapp

Georg von Trapp bought the house which had been built in 1863 from the previous owner, his uncle.  After his first wife died, Georg von Trapp wanted a country house to raise his children.  The von Trapps lived at this house from 1923 to 1938.

When the von Trapps fled the Nazis, they rented the house to the neighbouring Missionaries of the Holy Blood.  The house then was appropriated by Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s feared commander of the SS and Gestapo, for his personal.  The grounds were used for barracks and the walls were covered with barbed wire to create a compound.

Hitler would meet at Himmler’s house in order to hatch their nefarious plans.  One story says that on one visit to Himmler, Hitler overheard a German guard whistling a Russian song which infuriated him so much, he had all of the guards on duty shot.

After the fall of the Nazis, the von Trapps convinced the Missionaries of the Holy Blood to purchase the house.  The order built a chapel in Himmler’s office in order to cleanse the house of its bad karma.  It was only in 2008, that the Order partitioned off part of the estate and allowed the house and some of the grounds to be opened as a hotel.

The Interiors of Villa Trapp

The 14 bedroom villa makes a charming and peaceful hotel in a secluded location.  Here is the staircase where according to Maria von Trapp, the children would slide headfirst on their stomachs down the bannister.   You can also see the door that the daughter Maria (renamed in the movie to avoid confusion) locked behind her when the von Trapps left for the last time in 1938.

Villa Trapp staircase

The living room is a welcoming and comfortable space which opens out into the garden.

Villa Trapp Living Room

From top to bottom:  a photo of the von Trapp family with the first Mrs. von Trapp; the rear of the house and the enormous garden; the dining room (one of the earlier scenes from the movie where all the children burst into tears); the room of the children are individually labelled from Maria von Trapp’s memory; and Maria von Trapp’s bedroom (where the famous song My Favourite Things was sang in the movie).

Villa Trapp in Salzburg is the original home of the family from the film Sound of Music movie

Villa Trapp is a beautiful large house with extensive gardens but it is not the lakeside castle pictured in the movie. For the Hollywood film, the exteriors were from Schloss Leopoldskron (for the back) and Schloss Frohnburg (for the front).  The interiors were sets recreated in a Hollywood studio.

Schloss Leopoldskron

The Leopoldskron castle is truly impressive both on the inside and out.  Movie scenes could only be shot on the outside of the castle because it was in private hands at the time the film was being made.

The castle is a frothy white and gold confection created in 1736 for the family of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Leopold von Firmian.  Yes, you read that right. The Prince-Archbishops of Salzburgs were not so big on the vow of celibacy.  Anyway, Leopold loved the house so much, his heart is buried in the Castle’s chapel even though his body is at Salzburg Cathedral.

Schloss Leopoldskron

The Sound of Music At Schloss Leopoldskron

The artificial lake was used in the scene in the movie when Julie Andrews and the children fall out of the boat.  Then everyone has lemonade on the terrace (photo above).

Schloss Leopoldskron lake

The gazebo from the song “16 Going On 17” used to be in the grounds of the castle but had to be removed to Schloss Heilbrunn because so many people wanted to see it.  You may also remember it from the song “Something Good” when Georg and Maria pledge their love.  The actual pavilion used in the movie was a larger model that was recreated on a Hollywood set.

The Sound of Music Pavilion

The Venetian Room in the Schloss was recreated in its entirety in Hollywood for the ball room scene in the film.

Schloss Leopoldskron parlour

The Hotel at Schloss Leopoldskron

There has been a hotel at Schloss Leopoldskron since 2014.  Many of the bedrooms are located in the Meierhof, another building on the grounds which is not the castle.  It’s definitely not as spectacular but then the prices no doubt are cheaper.

The Schloss has been restored to its former grandeur.  You really do get a sense of how much wealth the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg had thanks to the production of salt.

Schloss Leopoldskron hallway

Schloss Leopoldsron ceiling

The breakfast room in the Schloss is a two-story grandiose room.  You definitely get the impression that you are in a castle!

Schloss Leopoldskron breakfast room

The grounds at the Schloss are great.  My children had fun chasing ducks and playing on a swing hung from the tree.  The hotel manager told me that they are family-friendly insofar as children are welcome at the hotel but there are no specific facilities for children.  Families do have access to the public park (right outside the grounds of the Schloss) which has a pool and a mini golf.

Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron was used as the setting for the von Trapp family home in the movie The Sound of Music

Details for Visiting Villa Trapp and Schloss Leopoldskron:

Villa Trapp is located at Traunstrasse 34, Salzburg 5026.  There are bus and train connections to the hotel.  It is not, however, the easiest to access if you don’t have your own car.  The website is in English and is pretty informative.  If you choose to stay elsewhere, you can just do a tour of the Hotel with an advance booking (which is what we did).

Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron is much closer to the old town section of Salzburg.  It is located at Leopold Leopoldskronstarasse 56-58, Salzburg 5020.  You need to be a hotel resident to have access to its grounds or otherwise join in one of their public events (such as the Sunday brunch or Shakespeare in the Park events).  The Meierhof has 55 rooms and the Schloss has six suites.

 

Visiting the Oldest Restaurant in Europe 

Visiting the Oldest Restaurant in Europe 

When I was told about St. Peter Stiftskeller in Salzburg, the oldest restaurant in Europe, I was expecting some Ye Olde Worlde place. Instead, I was greeted with an entrance of stone arches and tall planters leading to a courtyard which was strikingly modern with traditional touches. The restaurant envelopes a courtyard on three sides and the fourth side is the rock face of a mountain.

entrance to St. Peter stiftskeller
The courtyard tables are delightful with cushions on benches and sunlight screened by the shade of the mountain to the side.  The feel is sophisticated without being pretentious in a calm colour scheme of slate grey, weathered stone and vivid green.

st peter stiftskeller courtyard

st peter stiftskeller courtyard

The interior of the restaurant has an inky atmosphere, with heavy dark wood furniture and low ceilings. You felt you were in a place that had seen lots of travellers and stories passing through it.

St. Peter Stiftskeller interior
As it was a beautiful sunny day, we sat in the shaded courtyard.  Unlike our previous trip when they were taste-testing sacher tortes, this time the kids are trying out apple strudels around Austria. My daughter pronounced the apple strudel delicious and among the best she’s tried!

Apple strudel
I opted for a simple capuccino with every intention of stealing bites of their apple strudels with custard. Then I saw the waiter carrying an intriguing looking dish topped with three meringue peaks.  I was told the three peaks represented the three mountains of Salzburg. Named Salzburger Nockerl, it is a dessert you can only find in Salzburg.  Of course I had to try it.

Salburger Nokerl

The tartness of the berries blends with the fluffy sugariness of the meringue to create a delicious explosion of taste. As my daughter said, it feels like you are eating a berry-tasting cloud.  Although a great dish, we preferred the apple strudel which was somewhat less diabetic-coma inducing.

st peter stiftskeller menu

Established in 803 AD, St. Peter’s used to claim to be the oldest restaurant in the world.  In recent years, however, a Chinese restaurant has disputed this claim by alleging to be 9 years older. The Austrians are contesting this assertion because in true Germanic manner they have full documentation of their 1200  years of restaurant existence. The Chinese, on the other hand, have a couple of hundred years of documentation missing where they can’t prove they were in existence, never mind operating as a restaurant.

St. Peter Stiftskeller in old town Salzbury in Austria which is the oldest restaurant in Europe

Restaurant Details

The restaurant, St. Peter’s Stiftskiller, is located outside the cemetery for St. Peter’s Church and next door to the church in the old town of Salzburg.  We had every intention of visiting the church but ran out of time.  The cemetery is cool though and has catacombs you can visit.

St. Peter’s Stiftskiller is open for lunch and dinner every day.  It is located at St. Peter Bzirk 1/4, 5020 Salzburg.  I thought the prices were reasonable and on par with other restaurants.  There isn’t a premium for the ‘oldest’ restaurant tag.  You can make reservations online.

St. Peter Stiftskeller in the old town of Austria, the oldest restaurant in Europe

 

7 Little Known Facts About The Sound of Music Family

7 Little Known Facts About The Sound of Music Family

Do you think you know everything there is to know about the von Trapp family from the cult classic movie, The Sound of Music?  As Hollywood is bound to do, the film took some liberties with the actual story of the von Trapps. Surprisingly many Austrians haven’t even seen the The Sound of Music.  Shocking!!  I must have seen it at least a dozen times.

The Hollywood Version of Baron von Trapp

One of the most successful movies of all time, The Sound of Music won 5 Oscars on its release in 1965.  In the intervening 50 years, the movie has earned billions of dollars if you adjust for inflation.  Salzburg will be hosting events all year long in 2015 for the 50th anniversary of the movie’s release, including a special 50th Anniversary Festival in October. These 7 fascinating facts about Georg von Trapp, the patriarch of the family von Trapp, show how Hollywood embellishes the truth to create a better story.  Engimatic and handsome as portrayed by Christopher Plummer, Georg was the ultimate dreamboat – loving husband, father and man of principle. I was completely in love with Baron von Trapp as a child but I also wanted to be the oldest daughter, Liesl von Trapp.  In retrospect, I clearly had movie daddy issues.  So, possibly did Maria von Trapp. She was 22 when she married Georg who was aged 47 in 1927.  Christopher Plummer brought out such a dishy-widower-Mr. Rochester vibe to the character, the age discrepancy seemed a minor footnote in the movie. Sound of Music home in Salzburg

The Real Baron von Trapp

Let’s separate Georg van Trapp, the man, from the Hollywood creation shall we? 1. The Villa Trapp, the original home of the von Trapp family is now a hotel. Georg bought the Villa Trap for his family after his first wife died.  They lived at the villa from 1923-1938 which was built in the mid 19th century. It never was the von Trapp ancestral family home as depicted in the movie.  The Villa Trapp was in private use when the movie was being made and so the film makers had no access to it.  The front and the back of the house used in the movie are two different houses, Schloss Frohnberg and Schloss Leopoldskron.  The interiors were film sets created in Hollywood. After the von Trapp’s left in 1938, no less than Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s most trusted men and leader of the SS Nazi secret police, used the Villa Trapp as his summer home. Georg would not have been amused. 2.  The von Trapps were wealthy because Georg’s first wife, Agathe Whitehead, inherited a substantial fortune.  Her grandfather, James Whitehead, was the inventor of the torpedo.  When the British government turned down his invention, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph took Whitehead under his wing. The von Trapps, however, were not as wealthy or as aristocratic as the movie made them out to be.  In fact, Georg technically wasn’t even a baron.  He was possibly only just a baronet if Austria hadn’t abolished titles after World War I.

Sound of Music pavilion

The pavilion setting for the famous ’16 going on 17′ song.

3. After the end of the first World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up.  The new Austria was left as a land-locked country.  Georg found himself unemployed – it’s hard to be a naval commander if your country doesn’t have a navy.  Presumably he occupied himself churning out little von Trapps. 4.  Georg was indeed stuffy about his family singing in public. On the other hand, a banking crises had decimated the fortune his first wife had left him.  Maria von Trapp lead the family on singing tours in order to keep them financially afloat.  In need of money, Maria sold the rights to the von Trapp memoir she had written for $9000 in 1955 which was more money than they had ever earned singing.  The von Trapps never saw any royalties from the millions earned from the movies or the Broadway musicals.

Mirabell gardens

The Mirabell Gardens where Maria and the kids sing and fall into a fountain.

5. Georg was tempted to join the Nazis who had made him an attractive offer in the German Navy long before the invasion of Austria by Germany.  The Nazis needed someone with his naval experience and Georg had no other occupational skills.  In the end, though, he decided he couldn’t agree with Nazi ideology.  Maria and the kids would just keep singing to keep a roof over their heads. 6. Although Austrian by ethnicity, Georg was born in what became Italy after World War I.  As a result, the family were all Italian citizens.  When they left Austria in 1938, the took a day train to Italy from the station which was at the edge of their estate. Not nearly as exciting as being chased by Nazis through the cemetery at night as the movie depicts.

gates from the Sound of Music

Image credit: Carolyn

7. Georg and Maria had 3 children together taking the number of little von Trapps to a grand total of 10.  Unlike the movie version, Georg and Maria had been married for years before the Anschluss occurred.  Their first two children were born in Salzburg.  Their youngest child, Johannes von Trapp, was born in Pennsylvania in 1939 because the family had settled in the USA by then.

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I am taking the children to Salzburg next week to see the Sound of Music sites for ourselves.  Their school play for this year is the Sound of Music so it is all apropos. We have booked both a Sound of Music tour as well as a visit to the original Villa Trapp itself.  I have threatened to make them wear outfits made of curtains just to make the whole experience more authentic.  The threat would carry more weight if only I knew how to sew. I can’t wait to share our experience with you!