Italy: If you’ve only got one day in Venice

Obviously I am not actually recommending that you only spend one day in Venice but what if your travel itinerary allows you only one day to see La Serenissima? It is still worth doing!

“So now, thank God, Venice is no longer a mere word to me, an empty name, a state of mind which has so often alarmed me who am the mortal enemy of mere words.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is what happened to my brother recently and we did a mad tour around the city, seeing all the main sights. Despite the sometimes overwhelming summer tourist crowds we managed to give him a whistle stop tour of Venice, including many beautiful churches, bridges and canals. It helped that I’d visited Venice several times before.

An emergency Venice walking tour

If you have arrived in Venice by train or bus your entry point to the City of Bridges will be Piazzale Roma and this is where you should start your walking tour of Venice. It may be worthwhile buying a transport ticket from the office here, for example a one day travel card for 20 Euros may be worthwhile depending on how much public transport you are going to use (tip: Venice is very walkable). A single adult one-way fare on the water taxi costs 7.50 Euros but your journey can last up to 75 minutes and you can use more than one line during that time.

Head across the bridge into Giardino Papadopoli, walk through the gardens and cross another bridge before turning left onto Fondamenta dei Tolentini. This becomes Calle dei Amai and then continue straight ahead onto Fondamenta Sacchere, which becomes Calle Chiovere. At the end of this street turn right briefly and then left onto Calle Larga O Campiello de le Chiovere. Have a look at the beautiful Chiesa San Rocco with its Tintoretto paintings and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum if you have time.

“It is charming to wander through the light and shade of intricate canals, with perpetual architecture above you and perpetual fluidity beneath.” – Henry James

Next turn left along the side of the Frari, one of the greatest churches in Venice. It’s full name is the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and it was completed in 1338. It is full of great art, particularly the huge Assumption altarpiece by Titian.

Venetian Palazzo Italy

From the facade of the Frari cross the little bridge and turn right onto the Fondamenta Frari. Then turn left onto Rio Terra Cazza, right onto Calle Seconda dei Saoneri, then left onto Calle Saoneri. Continue straight(ish) until you get to Campo San Polo, one of the biggest public squares in Venice and home to Chiesa Rettoriale di San Polo.

Cross the Campo and duck down Calle Cavalli then follow Calle Luganegher and then Calle Perdon until you get to Chiesa Sant’Aponal. Turn right into Calle Sbianchesini, follow this until you get to Campo di Silvestro and cross this until you get to the Riva del Vin waterfront. Stroll along here until you get to the Rialto Bridge, the oldest fixed way to cross the Grand Canal. With two levels and lots of shops it has become one of the architectural icons of Venice since it was completed in 1591.

Venice Rialto Bridge Italy

On the other side of the Rialto turn left and follow Pescaria San Bortolomio until you turn left into Calle Bembo – just after the European Cultural Centre in the magnificent Palazzo Bembo. Then carry on straight ahead until you get to Piazza San Marco, perhaps Europe’s most famous set piece with the exotic San Marco Basilica surrounded by so many architectural gems. The Correr Museum is here, as well as the National Archaeological Museum.

“It is very old, and very grand, and bent-backed. Its towers survey the lagoon in crotchety splendour, some leaning one way, some another.” – Jan Morris, Venice

More than likely by the time you get to St Marks the queues for both the Basilica and the campanile (bell tower) will be long and with only one day in Venice you don’t want to waste it standing in line! Never fear, there is a much easier and just as satisfying way to get an aerial view of beautiful Venice.

Venice Piazza San Marco Italy

Walk down to the lagoon between the Doge’s Palace and Sansovino’s exquisite Library. Turn left and walk along to see the famous Bridge of Sighs, the brilliant white limestone construction whereby prisoners crossed from the prison to the interrogation rooms in the palace.

Venice Bridge of Sighs Italy

Then, carry on along the Riva degli Schiavoni to the San Zaccaria vaporetto stop and catch a No 2 water taxi across to the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore.  Here there are no queues and an elevator up the campanile for spectacular views across the whole of Venice. Enjoy the peace and the sea breezes. You also get a great view of the beautiful (private) monastery gardens.

San Giorgio Maggiore Venice Italy

When you’ve finished on San Giorgio Maggiore, catch the No. 2 back to San Zaccaria and then board a water taxi that will take you all the way up the Grand Canal to Piazzale Roma for bus, train and flight transport connections.

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.” – Italy Calvino, Invisible Cities

Venice at Night

If your day in Venice extends into the evening, after the overwhelming business of the day you’ll love the more peaceful atmosphere and the soft air that makes Italian nights so divine. I recommend booking a meal on the terrace at Restaurant Terrazza Danieli near the Doge’s Palace followed by a drink at the Skyline Rooftop Bar over on Giudecca.

Venice lagoon and gondolas Italy

Those are my tips for spending a day in Venice. You’ll inevitably wander off track here and there. Don’t worry, that’s part of the joy of being in Venice. Of course you’ll return one day and spend more time in this wonderful city, visiting the incredible museums and just sitting on ancient steps listening to the slap, slap of water against stone.

“The trip will be short,” he thought, and wished it might last forever. – Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

By Natasha von Geldern

If you’ve only got one day to see Venice pin this post!

What to do if you only have one day in Venice!

Magical Christmas holiday ideas around the world

Whether you’re dreaming of a white Christmas or a day on the beach, people are already turning their minds to Christmas holidays, so here are some great ideas for those planning their Christmas break, from beautiful Christmas markets trips to less traditional festive escapes.

Christmas holidays in the United Kingdom

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is London’s largest and most dazzling winter event and is open for six whole weeks of festive fun from late November until early January. With no admission fee, Winter Wonderland offers a whole day out from 10:00 to 22:00 with beautifully themed attractions set out under thousands of twinkly lights. The event seems to add more rides and attractions every year, including the popular ice rink, the iconic 50m observation wheel and the atmospheric German Christmas market. The free Father Christmas experience will welcome all children with a surprise gift. Read here for more ideas about Christmas in London.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland London

Discover the magic of an Edwardian Christmas in Britain at Batemans, the former home of Rudyard Kipling in East Sussex. This 17th Century home provides a remarkable insight into the life of the well known author. For the second year running Batemans will be opening its doors for the first three weekends in December to display the ground floor of the house all decked out for Christmas.

Santa’s Winter Wonderland at the Snowdome in Tamworth looks set to be just as popular as ever, with families and visitors flocking to experience Christmas magic in the Midlands. This festive attraction guarantees real snow to play in, have snowball fights or hitch a ride on a sledge as you wander through the snowy Christmas forest.

Basel Christmas decorations in the Old Town, Switzerland

Christmas can sometimes be a stressful period with family members coming to visit, a Christmas dinner to prepare for everyone and debates over who does the washing up! If this sounds all too familiar then why not take a break from it all this year with a Christmas holiday in Edinburgh?

At Christmas Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most memorable destinations for romantic getaways, family adventures, cultural explorations and shopping breaks.  Scotland’s capital is staging a month of winter festivities and this beautiful city will be alive with markets, entertainment and events from late November. Beneath the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, thousands of fairy lights illuminate the streets and gardens where activities include one of Europe’s largest outdoor ice rinks, the iconic Big Wheel swirling with colour and lights and a range of exhilarating fun fair rides, combining to create a breathtaking way to celebrate Christmas.

Sip traditional Gluhwein and browse handcrafted gifts at the popular German market, or enjoy the first class food at the Highland village market This year a new lantern parade, twinkling through the city streets, will mark the arrival of Santa himself in Princes Street Gardens, before thousands take to the streets for the Great Santa Run.

For a UK Christmas holiday with a difference head to the beautiful island of St Mary’s in the Isles of Scilly. The largest and most vibrant of the islands, St Mary’s offers around 30 miles of coastal paths and nature trails to explore. The landscape ranges from woodlands to heaths and marshland to sand dunes. There are also many ancient monuments to see.

Basel Christmas decorations, Switzerland

One of the best Christmas Grottos in the south of England this year will be at Colchester Zoo. Their Magic of Christmas season will feature beautiful lighting displays, loads of special activities and of course the opportunity to meet Santa between 09:30 and 16:00 each day. Every child will receive a present and Santa will even be bringing his reindeer.

European Christmas breaks

There is no better time to visit the stunning medieval city of Bruges than over the Christmas period, when the city’s main square comes alive with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas market. Browse tables laden with elegantly wrapped chocolates, brightly coloured sweets and handmade decorations while admiring the lights that adorn the cobbled streets and historic buildings. At the centre of the market is a beautiful ice rink and for those who would like an extra wintery experience, Europe’s only Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival is held in Station Square. Read more about Christmas markets holiday ideas in Europe here.

Basle Christmas Markets Switzerland

Visiting Santa on his home turf

For some a trip to Lapland to meet Santa Claus is the ultimate Christmas holiday and with fairy-tale landscapes, Christmas attractions and magic in the air it’s little wonder the old gent chose the snowy wilderness of Lapland to be his home. You can do day trips and three and four night stays in Lapland throughout December, as well as special seven-night holidays. Enjoy starlit firework displays, visit the Snow Ice Park and the amazing ice hotel, go husky dog sledding, snowmobiling and of course meet Santa and the elves.

Christmas in the sun

Forget the traditional turkey and trimmings, how about a festive escape with a tropical twist? Treat yourself to Christmas in Hawaii this year and enjoy stunning beaches, sun-filled vistas, dramatic landscapes, welcoming locals, the world’s best surfing spots and a balmy 28 degrees Celsius during winter. Christmas in Hawaii comes with a definite (hula) twist, from street parades to rice cake making, there’s a variety of activities across all of the islands for the whole family to enjoy.

Christmas holidays with a difference

For an event capturing the traditional spirit of a pioneer Christmas, how about a trip to Texas? The National Ranching Heritage Centre hosts the annual ‘Candlelight at the Ranch’ event, when luminarias light the paths around historic structures and Ranch Hosts recreate holiday scenes of trimming trees with home-made decorations, playing traditional music and gathering around the campfire on a cold winter’s night. Visitors can experience authentic yuletide celebrations that took place on the open prairie more than 100 years ago.

London Christmas Jumpers

Indulgent Christmas holidays

Escape the cold and dark days and celebrate the festive season Polynesian style in Bora Bora with a turquoise Christmas dream in Bora Bora’s pristine lagoon, fringed with coral islets and soft sands. Have a festive season of indulgence and leave your winter woes behind as you enjoy the special programme of culinary treats, as well as pampering in the Spa Miri Miri. Father Christmas himself even makes his way to the French Polynesian island bearing gifts for all on Christmas Day – after the champagne brunch of course.

By Natasha von Geldern

Where is your favourite place to travel for Christmas and why?

Magical Christmas Holiday ideas around the world

10 fun family things to do in the English Lake District

We had a fabulous active week in the Lake District this summer. Whether you are camping, staying in a B&B or a cottage or a hotel, there are so many fun family things to do in the Lake District and here are my top 10!

Go for a walk

I have written before about my favourite day walks in the Lake District (it’s one of my most popular posts!) With young children it is not always so easy to tackle satisfying day walks but there are lots of beautiful short walk options. Get your kids some decent hiking shoes (and fleeces/waterproofs) and have a go! I recommend a family walk at Blea Tarn, there’s even a little stream to play in if the weather is warm. We also had a beautiful beach walk on the coast near Ravenglass.

English Lake District Day Walks Langdale Valley

Get out on the water

All that water means plenty of opportunities for water sports in the English Lakes. We hired a kayak for a few hours from Low Wray and pottered about on Lake Windermere, enjoying the views, the birdlife and looking out for otters.

Kayaking on Lake Windermere Lake District

Rock climbing

There are a number of easy access rock climbing crags and guides who will take you and your family on a rock climbing experience. I recommend the Scout Crags in the Great Langdale Valley – just along from the Sticklebarn pub.

Rock climbing Mt Arapiles, Australia

A train ride

The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is a perfect family day out in the Lake District. This gorgeous 15 inch gauge steam train line is affectionately nicknamed La’al Ratty (“little railway” in the old Cumbrian dialect) and passes through beautiful scenery over a 40-minute ride.  It’s one of the oldest narrow gauge railways in England. A hundred years ago it was for mining and construction but now it’s purely pleasure. There is a mix of open-topped and closed carriages. Have a look at the museum at Ravenglass station and the visitor centre at Dalegarth, from where you can explore the area on a number of easy walks.

Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Lake District

A bike ride

The bike ride we did in the Lake District merges seamlessly with the abovementioned train ride. You can put your bikes on the Ravenglass railway (for free but call ahead to book a space) and then ride back the eight miles from the end of the line at Dalegarth visitor centre to Ravenglass station. Be warned, there is a whopping great hill in the middle of this 8.5 mile (14 kilometres) cycle route, which you will have to push your bike up.

Eskdale Trail cycle route Lake District

However the remainder is very pleasant and near the end you can include a pitstop at ….

Muncaster Castle

The Eskdale cycle trail passes through the edge of Muncaster Castle’s stunning estate so it would be silly not to leave your bike at the visitor centre and wander down to see the castle, visit its famous owlery and enjoy the stunning views. Try to time your arrival for one of the wild heron feeding events. Combined with the Ravenglass Railway and the bike trail, Muncaster is an outstanding day out for all ages!

Muncaster Castle Lake District

View from Muncaster Castle Lake District

Gorge scrambling in the Lake District

This was first time we had tried gorge scrambling, with or without children, and I have to say it was a huge success for the whole family.  The Lake District is peppered with ghylls, or mountian streams that are perfect for gorge scrambling. I’m afraid I didn’t take my camera on the gorge scrambling experience but here’s a picture of us scouting the route up the Sticklback ghyll

Gorge scrambling in the Lake District

When it rains… in the Lake District

Notice I said when not if. The chances of spending a week in the Lake District without experience a rainy day or two is pretty much impossible. It’s one of the rainiest places in the United Kingdom after all. So what to do on a rainy day in the Lake District? We only had one day where it simply rained ALL day, meaning we couldn’t get out and about and a whole day sitting in the tent listening to Harry Potter audio books could have been disastrous. The solution was a lovely National Trust property called Allen Bank. This house has cosy rooms with sofas, easy chairs and open fires blazing merrily, rooms where kids can mess about with arts and crafts, a mountaineering library upstairs, a nature trail in the garden, and the opportunity to see some of Cumbria’s red squirrels from the windows. There is a little tea room with hot and cold snacks, and you can make your own tea or coffee for free.

Allen Bank House Lake District

Climb a mountain

We talked Wandering Kiwi Jr into attempting something big on our last day in the Lake District. We had contemplated Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head but I ended up doing that hike solo. Having done it I think it is very achievable for kids with a bit of stamina. Instead we chose Bowfell, one of the best peaks in the Great Langdale Valley. It took us about four hours up and three hours down, at the pace of an eight-year-old. It gets a little scrambly at the top – over big rocks – but it was nothing Wandering Kiwi Jr couldn’t handle. We certainly deserved our pub dinner at the end…

Climbing Bowfell in the Lake District web

Go to the pub

This also comes under the rainy day category – we spent a rainy couple of hours playing scrabble in our favourite Sticklebarn pub in the Great Langdale valley – but Lake District pubs are also beautiful places to be on sunny days or evenings. They are also generally very family friendly. The Lake District certainly has an appealing selection of pubs, from traditional to gastro. Carnivores shouldn’t miss a dish created from the local Herdwick sheep breed. Another Langdale recommendation is the excellent food at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, where we celebrated our conquest of Bowfell.

Sticklebarn pub Great Langdale Lake District

Those are my top 10 fun family things to do in the Lake District, I hope you enjoy your trip there as much as we did!

By Natasha von Geldern

If you liked this post why not pin it?

Top 10 fun family things to do in the Lake District

Italy: Wandering in Pieve di Cadore

At the end of my big week hiking in the Italian Dolomite Mountains I landed in Pieve di Cadore, a tiny town at the head of the Lago di Cadore in the province of Belluno.

My first priority on arrival in Pieve di Cadore was taking off my hot hiking boots, having a loooong shower, enjoying the crisp clean linen on a soft bed, and eating Italian pizza.

But I did have time to wander around this little gem of an Italian town. Because it’s not just the finishing point of the Alta Via 4 hike!

In medieval times this stronghold was heavily fortified and its magnificent Palazzo della Magnifica Comunita boasts a crenellated tower built in the later half of the 15th century.

Most of all, Pieve di Cadore is famous for being the birthplace of the Italian painter Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), who made an indelible mark on the history of art as the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian School.

He was the son of of the castle superintendent in Pieve di Cadore. Gregorio Vecelli and his family were well established in the area. Although we don’t know exactly when Titian was born (probably around 1488), we know that he lived here until he was sent to Venice at about 10 years old to be apprenticed to a painter.

He maintained a relationship with his hometown despite his immense success in Venice. He had timber business interests here and in 1565 he visited to organise the fresco work in the apse of St Maria Nascente, a 15th century church. He did the preliminary drawings for these frescoes.

Titian's birthplace Pieve di Cadore Italy

His birthplace is now a museum, and has been restored as much as possible to remove various alterations over the centuries. Casa del Tiziano was clearly owned by important people in the context of a small town, with its stone door frames and portals, as well as a heated room with a chimney.

“Pieve” means “Parish church” so unsurprisingly it has a beautiful church. The only surviving structure of the old church is the 16th-century bell tower. However, the present church does have some of the ornaments from the original, including an altarpiece by Titan in which he included the faces of his older brother Francesco and his daughter Lavinia. There is also an altarpiece thought to be painted by Francesco.

This charming town also has some nice hotels and restaurants, as well as beautiful paths setting off into the landscape surrounding the lake, with the stunning Dolomiti as a backdrop.

FYI I stayed at the Hotel Belevedere and it was excellent, super comfortable and the reception staff went out of their way to be helpful (arranging bus tickets) and welcoming.

Just another lovely area of Italy to enjoy!

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you been to Pieve di Cadore?

Austria: The ultimate Sound of Music tour of Salzburg

This summer Wandering Kiwi Jr and I fulfilled a dream. We are both huge Sound of Music fans – me from childhood and, well, she is a child – so we decided to indulge our inner von Trapp and experience the ultimate Sound of Music trip to Salzburg.

I’ve been to Salzburg several times before and enjoyed the many delights of this exquisite, cultural Austrian city including Christmas markets and foodie delights. But this time it was all about this legendary film. To my surprise Mr Wandering Kiwi wanted to join us. He is a latecomer to the delights of the Sound of Music but declared himself enough of a fan to want to tour Salzburg… singing.

One thing you need to realise before you embark on the ultimate Sound of Music experience in Salzburg is that Austrians aren’t really that into the Sound of Music. In fact you might notice that local people tend to roll their eyes when you mention the film and grumble about the coach tours blocking traffic.

However, in more recent years Salzburgers have got more on board with the phenomenon and in 2016 there were even a few events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music.

Funnily enough Germans know a lot more about it because there were two German films made a few years before the Rogers and Hammerstein created their Broadway show and Hollywood film.

It’s certainly a fact that people from all over the world come here to experience a little of the magic of the von Trapp story.

A self-guided Sound of Music walking tour

I have outlined my favourite walking tour of Salzburg before but here I will focus on the famous sites used as locations in the film. The best place to start is the Mirabell Gardens and I recommend getting there earlier in the day, before the tourist numbers build up. This where Maria and the children jumped up the steps between the Unicorn statues and tramped around the Pegasus fountain singing “Doh-a-deer etc”.

The Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg

Take a quick side step into the oddly unique Zwerglgarten or ‘Dwarf Garden’, which was created in 1715 by one of Salzburg’s powerful Prince Archbishops. The sculptures were apparently modelled after dwarves who worked as entertainers in the court. Can you find the dwarf statue that the children patted on the head during the Doh-re-mi song?

Dwarf garden Mirabell Salzburg Austria

Next walk return through the gardens to Schwarzstrasse and walk along (or catch a bus) to the Mozart Bridge, a pedestrian bridge across the Salzach River. Remember in the film where the children cross the bridge as they skip off to their picnic?

Mozart Bridge Salzburg Austria

Once you have crossed it’s only a few steps to Mozartplatz and then a few minutes to the cable car up to the Hohenzalzburg Fortress. From the fortress take the path along the Mönchsberg. This ridgeline runs high above the city, with regular views across the beautiful old town, which is of course a Unesco World Heritage Site. Follow the pretty trails through woods to the Museum of Modern Art. The terrace of the M32 restaurant here has a wonderful vantage point for a coffee stop. Maria and the children spent some time looking out from the balcony here.

View from M32 terrace, Salzburg (2)

If you have time catch the lift in the museum down to the town level to see the famous early 17th-century Horse Pond in Herbert von Karajan Square, where paraded horses from the prince-archbishops’ stables used to be washed off and groomed. The children and Maria paraded beside this fountain.

Nearby is the Felsenreitschule or Summer Riding School, which is built into the Mönchsberg itself. This is where the von Trapp family performed at the Salzburg Festival before fleeing from the Nazis. The Felsenreitschule was created in the early 17th century in the space where rock had been quarried to build the cathedral. It has been one of Salzburg’s most important concert venues since 1926. its stage as well as arcades hewn out of the rock. Able to accommodate an audience of as many as 1,437 people, it is one of Salzburg’s most important concert venues. You need to arrange a guided tour to see the 96 arcades of this theatre, unless you attend a performance of course.

Nonnburg Abbey, Salzburg - Maria's convent

Now return the way you have come up the lift and back along the Mönchsberg past the Hohensalzburg  taking the path signposted to Nonnburg. The Nonnberg is a Benedictine monastery that served as Maria’s abbey in the film. Here under the shadow of the castle the outlook is over the city, green woods and fields, and towards the Untersberg town mountain. You can look into the same gates the von Trapp children did when they were asking after Maria.

View of Hohensalzburg from behind

Carry on down Nonnberggasse, past the charming villas and drop down to the grassy parkland below. At the crossroads of this park is a lonely cottage – once the home of the castle executioner. Don’t forget to look behind you … at the view of the magnificent Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Schloss Leopoldskron and Hohensalzburg Castle

On the far side of the park cross the road and follow a path beside a small canal through trees to Schloss Leopoldskron. This rococo palace was built in the late 1730s by a Salzburg Prince-Archbishop. Now it is probably more famous as the von Trapp family house in the movie… but you can’t go in it unless you are something to do with the American educational institution that runs it. However, a wander around the willow-fringed shores of the lake is an idyllic way to spend some time and from the opposite side of the lake you get a great view of the terrace where so many key scenes are set.

Climb every mountain on the Untersberg

You can add this on to your Sound of Music walk through Salzburg or do the trip on a separate day. The Untersberg cable car ferries you up to 2,000 metres – often into the clouds – on Salzburg’s beloved town mountain. The views from the top are dramatic, taking in the lovely city and its surrounding green meadows, craggy mountains and limpid blue lakes.

In the film Maria describes the Untersberg as her home mountain and the final scenes of the von Trapp family escaping over the mountains were filmed here. The opening “Hills are Alive” scenes were filmed on the meadows on the German side of the mountain.

Of course, crossing the Untersberg gets you into Germany rather than Switzerland and the family more sensibly caught the train to Italy and ultimately safety in the United States. But it’s a great finale so I’m not complaining.

Untersberg view Salzburg Austria

We spent a few hours up on top, walking and enjoying the views. Take care of the Untersberg’s sensitve ecosystem by staying on the paths. You can also hike up and/or down the Untersberg but it is a steep climb so make sure the weather conditions are good and wear good hiking boots.

It is easy to get to the village of Grodig, where the Untersberg cable car is situated. Just catch the No. 25 bus from the rail station or as it passes through the city.

The bus also passes Hellbrunn Palace so you could stop there on the way back to see the Trick Fountains and enjoy the beautiful parkland. As well as the famous summer house from the film, near Hellbrunn you can also see the house that was used for the facade shots of the von Trapp mansion in combination with the Leopoldskron terrace. It’s just along the avenue of trees, which also featured in the movie as the children rode their bikes.

Sound of Music tree-lined road Salzburg

Take a Sound of Music bus tour

There are a few different types of Sound of Music coach tour in Salzburg. There is the original Panorama tour, one with Grey Lines, and also a Hop-on-hop-off tour. In some ways it is more satisfying to do your own walking tour of Sound of Music sites, with time to take photographs and get up close to the sights. On the bus it is often just a drive-by experience.

However, I also wanted a bit of ‘cheese’. I wanted singing and laughter and inside information. The best way to get that is on a coach tour. You should note there is a line of small print (in German) on the Panorama advertisement that states there will be singing on this tour. Just so you know what to expect.

I recommend getting there early to make sure you get a good seat. We were glad to be sitting at the front where the energy and sense of fun was riding high! Our guide’s name was Anna but she also answers to “Maria” or “Julie”.

The first half of the tour stopped at or passed various sights and was full of interesting information about the filming, the actors and the original story. There are screens on the bus on which we watched relevant clips from the film as well as some amazing footage of the actual shoot. Particularly the boating scene, but I won’t be a spoiler.

Hellbrun summer house Sound of Music Salzburg

The tour heads out to Hellbrunn Palace to see the summer house that set the scene for Liesl and Rolf’s “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” number and the “Something Good” duet between Maria and Georg von Trapp. It used to be in the grounds of Leopoldskron but was moved out here a few years ago.  If you want to tour the palace and grounds of Hellbrunn properly (highly recommended) you’ll have to visit separately.

One of the big bonuses of doing the coach tour is that it is an easy way to see the beautiful landscape of lakes and mountains outside Salzburg, especially if you have limited time. The tour travels out through the countryside past the gorgeous lakes Fuschl and Mondsee.

St Michael's church Mondsee Sound of Music wedding church Austria

In the lakeside town of Mondsee there is a half-hour stop to enjoy the surroundings and take a look inside the fabulous yellow church of St Michael’s, where the wedding scene was filmed. There are some equally fabulous cafes and bakeries.

Apfel strudel in Austria

I was starting to feel that the tour was a little bit staid but things brightened up significantly in the second half. That’s when the singing started, which really made it for Wandering Kiwi Jr and I. Anna turned out to be an excellent singer and we raised the roof with renditions of our favourite things/songs.

So how did Mr Wandering Kiwi feel about the tour? He wasn’t the only husband/father joining the tour with varying degrees of enthusiasm. He was a bit taken aback to hear the tour is four hours long… But as Anna pointed out, it’s only four hours of your whole life and a happy wife equals a happy life… Sadly, he felt it spoilt his warm feelings about the film to find out all the background information. It shattered the dream a little. Aaawwww!

See the Sound of Music at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre

To cap off your Sound of Music experience in Salzburg, make sure you see a show at the historic Salzburg Marionette Theatre, which has recently been inscribed on the Unesco world heritage list. This beautiful theatre on Schwarzstrasse has a range of productions which bring to mind the ‘Lonely Goatherd’ puppet play in the film and we were lucky enough to see their fabulous production of the Sound of Music.

Until only five years ago the Salzburg Marionette Theatre was guided by the Aicher family, who put on their first show in 1913. That’s 100 years of incredible tradition and artistic expression and the current directors are passionate about carrying their vision of what is truly a unique artistic language.

Salzburg Marionette Theatre in Austria

The performance is in English but there are subtitles on a screen in several different languages. In the lobby are displays of puppets and scenes from past performances and if you get a chance have a look at the Marionette Museum in the Hohensalzberg Fortress, where the theatre regularly sends puppets for display. These handmade works of art are created in workshops right here in the theatre.

Sound of Music Marionette Museum Hohensalzburg Salzburg

I loved it that at the end of the show the curtains fall back to reveal the puppeteers above the stage, looking strangely enormous and quite exhausted from their efforts (although still smiling). It is incredible to think of all the skill and sweat that go into this quality marionette theatre.

The Salzburg Marrionette Theatre offers a wonderful mix of child-like fairytale with a proper (grown-up) theatre experience and I hope that combination continues to share its wisdom for hundreds of years to come. I recommend getting a little dressed up and making a special night of it.

Buy a Salzburg Card

City discount cards are not always worthwhile but because everything in Salzburg is quite close and easy to get to, you do end up using the Salzburg Card a lot. It’s easy to order online or pick up at the tourist information office in Mozartplatz.

The Wandering Kiwi family used it for the Untersberg cable car (as well as the bus to the base station), The Hohensalzberg Fortress (and the funicular up the hill), Hellbrunn Palace (and the bus there and back), the Mozart House, the Modern Art Museum,as well as a few other random bus rides that saved tired little legs during our time in Salzburg. The card also got us a 10% discount on the Panorama Sound of Music tour (this isn’t official but ask) and part of the bus fare to Lake Fuschl.

A quick calculation shows that we would have spent a total of at least 100 Euros per adult on the above, whereas the 72-hour Salzburg card only cost 42 Euros. That’s a no-brainer.

We could probably have fitted in a few more included attractions but we were too busy singing!

Now go and watch the film again and be inspired to visit beautiful Salzburg!

By Natasha von Geldern

For more tips on visiting Salzburg and its beautiful surrounds read my other posts:

Top places to eat and drink in Salzburg

A Walking Tour of Salzburg

A Beautiful Day Trip from Salzburg

A Ski Holiday in Zell am See

If you enjoyed this post why not pin it for future reference?

The Ultimate Sound of Music Guide to Salzburg Austria