• Salzburg Cathedral

    A Peaceful Walk on Salzburg’s City Mountain

    I love returning to my hometown of Salzburg and a walk around the Mönchsberg is a must. The path from the banks of the Salzach that leads across the Mozartsteg, through the city centre, and up the city mountain is as unspectacular as it is wonderful. Because here, above the rooftops of the Old Town, you find yourself surrounded by silence.

    •                     Mozartsteg Salzburg
    •                     City of Salzburg - Domplatz
    •                     City centre of Salzburg
    •                     Salzburg city centre Kapitelplatz

    The Mönchsberg

    Time Out on Salzburg’s City Mountain

    "Let’s go up the Mönchsberg!" is a suggestion locals will often make when they fancy going for a walk. Having grown up in Salzburg, this is something I have heard a lot, as my mother regularly enticed me to go on walks.

    Although reluctant at first (the prospect of a walk is never very appealing to children), the Mönchsberg always managed to deliver. In winter there are hills to toboggan down, and in summer various secret paths, caves, and exciting lookouts transform the Mönchsberg into one big play area. In spring the delicate leaves of beech, sycamore, linden, and oak trees cast a fresh green shimmer over the entire Mönchsberg, and in summer you walk through a fiery, colourful sea of leaves.

    City walk in Salzburg, Mönchsberg
    • Leisure Time on the Mönchsberg

      Meanwhile, my own kids know the paths of the little magic mountain inside out. But seeing as they have nearly outgrown their children’s (hiking) shoes, I often pay a visit to Salzburg by myself to enjoy a leisurely stroll over my Mönchsberg.

      You can reach the Mönchsberg from various directions. My preferred route begins on the right shores of the Salzach near Imbergstraße. An avenue of ancient, gnarled sycamore trees lines the quayside next to the placid river and behind it you see the world-famous silhouette of the colourful town houses, Salzburg Cathedral, and Hohensalzburg Fortress.

    • What a picture! Salzburg’s locals are often accused of a certain arrogance – possibly a relic from the city’s heydays owed to the wealth and power of the Salzburg prince archbishops?

      Mozarts Hood and Glorious Sounds
      Salzburg shows traces of famous personalities on almost every corner, with bridges, squares, alleyways, and monuments dedicated to perhaps the most renowned one. I thus cross Mozartsteg and enter the Old Town, where I stroll across Mozart Square and the Mozart Monument.

    • The genius loci is ever-present here, of course – including the sweet balls named after him (but that’s another story). Next up is Residenzplatz, the forecourt between the archiepiscopal residences, located directly by the cathedral.

      You should almost time your Mönchsberg excursion to hear the midday bells ring when standing on top at one of the viewpoints. The chimes are considered to be amongst the most beautiful in Austria, and the history of the cathedral bells is a particularly eventful one. Should you arrive an hour earlier, at 11 am, you will hear the carillon melody, which floats across the Old Town three times a day. Yet another of Salzburg’s charming touches.

    •                     Mönchsberg Salzburg
    •                     Mönchsberg Salzburg
    •                     View from the Mönchsberg mountain
    •                     Mönchsberg Salzburg
    • Ascent With Sweet Provisions
      No Mönchsberg visit is complete without a slice of freshly baked Baumkuchen from the market stall on Universitätsplatz: a hollow spit cake made from yeast dough, dusted with cinnamon and sugar. From there, the Wiener-Philharmoniker-Gasse leads – as you might have guessed – directly to Festival Hall. To my left is the Toscaninihof, so it’s time to take a deep breath and climb the many steps of the Clemens-Holzmeister stairway. A brief exertion that takes me right into the Mönchsberg region. The first breather gives me a view of the Old Town from the height of a church tower. There they stand in the smallest of spaces, magnificent churches, embedded in narrow streets and wide squares: the green domes of the cathedral, St. Peter’s Monastery, the slender Gothic tower of the Franciscan Church, and the Collegiate Church, like an image from a Baroque picture book. A wonderful, architectural confusion of eras that somehow forms a perfect unity and fills me with joy every time I see it.

      Tranquility Between City and Nature
      I am usually alone on this route, bar a few locals, sometimes residents or a couple of tourists. Most opt for the Mönchsberg lift to reach the top. And this is where the peaceful part begins, climbing the steep path step by step past houses peeping out from behind walls or wooden fences, bushes, and trees. It’s so quiet.

    • The dividing line between the Festungs- and Mönchsberg tells me that the first stage of the walk is complete. To my left the path leads to the fortress and along the elongated Mönchsberg ridge to my right. There is a bit more bustle where the paths cross – particularly in summer, when visitors from near and far come to admire the fortress. That’s not a problem for me, as there are plenty of calmer routes to choose from when in hermit mode. I definitely recommend being a little adventurous and leaving the main track, but beware: the Mönchsberg has steep cliffs that are not always fenced off.

      My favourite circuit branches off from the main path uphill where the little "Buffet zur Richterhöhe" serves hot sausages and apple strudel. From there I walk along the edge of the mountain, enjoying the view of the dolls houses in the city down below. The urban border merges with nature, as birdsong meets church bells, the beeping of cars or the howling sirens of ambulance and police. At some point it’s time to tuck into my Baumkuchen – a ritual that rounds off the sensory impressions of my excursion. I usually head home via another path that leads back to the stairway and the Toscaninihof. The great thing is that I never tire of my Mönchsberg, but the same probably goes for everyone’s magical favourite spot.

    •                     Salzburg city view in autumn from Mönchsberg
    •                     Salzburg Cathedral
    •                     Salzburg City Centre Universitätsplatz
    •                     Carriage in Salzburg

    To the Mönchsberg From All Directions

    Culture on the Mönchsberg


    Working up an Appetite on the Mönchsberg: From Sausage Stands to Gourmet Temples

    •                     Frankfurter Würstel

      Buffet zur Richterhöhe

      Where hungry hikers refuel.
      To the sausages
    •                     Glass Garden

      Gourmet Meeting Place: Hotel Schloss Mönchstein

      Awarded with one Michelin star and four Gault Millau toques.
      To the 4-toque menu
    •                     Austrian speciality, Kaspressknödel, dumplings with cheese / Achensee

      Stadtalm – Traditional Austrian Cuisine on the Mountain

      Very small, very good: tuck into traditional Austrian specialities at the Stadtalm.
      To the cheese dumplings
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      Breakfast at m32

      Large terrace, phenomenal view, fine dining; a trendy start to the day. 
      To the breakfast egg

    The Salzburg "Bull Washers"

    The rural population of the 16th century was discontent – too few rights, too many taxes. This led to peasant rebellions against the rich archbishops and Salzburg came under siege. When the defensive walls around Hohensalzburg Fortress withstood the initial attack, the rebels decided to starve the people in the fortress into submission.

    The siege was kept up for a long time until only one bull remained that had not yet been slaughtered. That is when the imprisoned came up with a cunning plan: they drove the brown-spotted bull onto the city wall, so that the enemy could see it from below. The next day the animal was paraded again, but painted white, and the day after that painted black. Assuming the city had plenty of cattle and food left, the besiegers withdrew. And that’s why the people of Salzburg are fondly referred to as "bull washers" to this day.

    View to the city of Salzburg

    Interesting Mönchsberg Facts

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