Every year, 300,000 'Sound of Music' fans make the journey to Salzburg, Austria.

For more than 50 years, The Sound of Music has captured the imagination of movie-goers and musical fans with its catchy tunes and lovable characters set against the stunning Austrian Alps.

And this has proven to be big business for the city of Salzburg, where the real-life singing von Trapp family lived and the 1965 Hollywood movie was filmed.

While Mozart and classical music remain the city's main tourist attractions, half of all visitors who come here every year from the US, Britain, Canada and Asia make the trip because of The Sound of Music, according to the tourism office.

"Three-hundred thousand visitors who come to Salzburg almost exclusively because of The Sound of Music, that's just a great story, a success story," said Herbert Brugger, managing director of Salzburg Tourism.

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"It's the most successful location placement in film history," he said.

Bus tours take visitors around the movie's locations twice a day, Sound of Music dinner-and-concert evenings are organised regularly and the Salzburg puppet theatre has even created its own version of the musical.

But Austria itself was slow to catch on to this worldwide craze.

The story of the von Trapp family was made into several German-language films here in the 1950s and was widely known locally.

But the 1959 Broadway musical, on which the Hollywood version was based, only premiered in Vienna in 2005 and in Salzburg in 2011 — to great success.

Most Austrians have never seen the Oscar-winning film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Even now, asking a Salzburg resident where one might find the Do-Re-Mi steps — where Maria von Trapp teaches the children how to sing in the movie — is likely to provoke a bemused reaction.

For a Mozart-obsessed city, which prides itself on its prestigious music festival: "It just brings diversity . . . I think it adds to the greatness of Salzburg," said Keijo Halinen, from Finland, who joined one of the Sound of Music tours with his wife Monica.

Every day, dozens of tourists of all ages and nationalities jump on a bus to see the romantic gazebo where Liesl sang Sixteen going on Seventeen, the church in Mondsee where the famous wedding scene took place and Leopoldskron Palace, where the lake scenes at the Trapp villa were filmed.

On the way, many sing along to the well-known music by the American partners Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.

"It's a family film. We've had visitors who were first here backpacking, then came with their wife, later with their children and today they come with their grandchildren," said Stefan Herzl, who organises the Original Sound of Music Tour.

The breathtaking countryside of green hillsides and deep blue mountain lakes adds to the magic for visitors, touring not just film locations but the city where the real von Trapps lived.

"We probably wouldn't have come here if it wasn't for this to be honest . . . The Sound of Music was a massive draw," said Matt Preston from London, who opted for the tour rather than visit Mozart's birthplace.

"Something about the movie captures audiences' attention," added Jennifer, from Austin, Texas, who was taking the tour for a second time.

"It's magical. Just seeing the beautiful scenery, the Alps, it's very heartwarming."

Austria: A few of our favourite things

The Danube

At more than 2800 kilometres, this mighty river is the longest in the EU, and the second longest on the European continent. Starting in Germany's Black Forest and flowing through to Romania and the Black Sea, the Danube travels through four national capitals — Vienna, Bratislava, Budpest and Belgrade — making it a popular choice for river cruisers.

Vienna

Austria's capital is packed with attractions and you'll want to spend a few days here at least. Top of your list should be the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the largest art museum in the country. Elsewhere in this beautiful city, make time for the Hofburg Palace, the Spanish Riding School, the State Opera and Unesco-listed Schonbrunn Palace.

Durnstein

This wine-growing area on the Danube is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the Wachau region and is a must for riesling drinkers. Check out Durnstein Castle, on a hill overlooking the town, which is where Richard the Lionheart was held captive in the early 1100s by Duke Lepold V.

Linz

The third-largest city in Austria, and the capital state of Upper Austria, Linz is famous for the Linzer torte — said to be the oldest cake in the world, dating back to 1653 — and its Baroque Old Town. There's plenty of new attractions here too — the city's cultural scene and forward-thinking art and technology saw it named a Unesco City of Media Arts in 2014.

Innsbruck

The capital of Western Austria's Tyrol region, Innsbruck is a haven for winter sports — twice host to the Winter Olympics (1964 and 1976), the Winter Paralympics (1984 and 1988) and the first host of the Winter Youth Olympics (2012). Anyone inspired by recent feel-good flick Eddie The Eagle could try out their ski-jump skills here — or just have a look at its dizzying heights — at the Bergisel stadium. But it's not all about the mountains here — the Old Town has plenty of castles, museums, churches, galleries, parks and gardens worth checking out too.

Melk Abbey

One of the most famous monasteries in the world, this Benedictine Abbey is perched high on a cliff, overlooking the Danube. Once a royal castle, the building was gifted to the monks in 1089, who converted it into a fortified abbey. It is now one of the greatest examples of Baroque architecture in the world.

FACT FILE
Emirates flies daily A380 services from Auckland to Vienna, via Dubai.

Uniworld offers many river cruise itineraries, including the 8-day Enchanting Danube.