Many summer mornings I got up at 5 am to hike one of the city mountains next to my house and take photos.
Yes, hiking in Salzburg city is so close.
In this article, I will present you with three hiking options in the center of Salzburg and provide all the information you need for a successful hike.
The Three City Mountains of Salzburg
Have you ever heard of Salzburger Nockerl? Salzburger Nockerl are a dessert.
What does a desert have to do with hiking in the city of Salzburg, you ask?
The dumplings are oven-baked egg white with sugar. When baking, they rise and form three mountains. These three mountains are a symbol of the three Salzburg city mountains.
I hope you don’t have to think about this sweet delicacy throughout your hike now.
Back to the actual city mountains. They are:
- Mönchsberg (Monks Mountain)
- Kapuzinerberg (Capuchin Mountain)
These three mountains are your options for hiking in the city of Salzburg. By hiking in the city I mean hiking without taking public transport to the starting point. Each of the three city mountains in Salzburg has its own difficulty and purpose.
Mönchsberg (Monks Mountain) – Easy Hiking in Salzburg City
In my opinion, you have to have seen the city of Salzburg from above at least once. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from the fortress, Kapuzinerberg, or Mönchsberg.
Mönchsberg doesn’t only make sense for hiking in Salzburg but for sightseeing as well. That’s because it surrounds the old town on the left side of the Salzach river. From Mönchsberg you see the sights of Salzburg from up close, from above and from many angles.
The hike is easy and if you don’t actually want to hike uphill but only enjoy the view, you can even take an elevator up to the museum of modern art instead.
There are many ways to Mönchsberg mountain, but only a few paths along the mountain. That’s because Mönchsberg is not what you would expect from a mountain. Mönchsberg is 500 meters long, but almost the same height over the entire length. Once you are on top of mount Mönchsberg almost the entire hike is flat.
In contrast to the other two city mountains in Salzburg, Mönchsberg doesn’t feel like you’re out of town. You are away from the action because you are a little higher and in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the old town, only a few walk on the Mönchsberg, but you are still in the middle of the city.
The most common ascent to Mönchsberg is the same path that leads to the fortress, even if the fortress is not officially on Mönchsberg but has its own mountain, Festungsberg (fortress mountain). To hike Mönchsberg you walk past the funicular and turn right at the next junction. After that, you continue straight all along the mount Mönchsberg.
Other ways up to Mönchsberg can be found at the Nonnbergstiege (Nonnberg stairs) in Kaigasse, at the Clemens Holzmeister stairs behind the Concert Hall, at the Müllner Schanze on the other end of the mountain and with the Mönchsberg lift at the Museum of Modern Art.
On top of Mönchsberg, everything is connected and you can hike all the way from the Nonnberg abbey to the church in Mülln. The entire hike takes less time than you would first assume. With no stops, you can walk the route in less than an hour. The distance is only 500 meters.
The elevator up to the Museum of Modern Art can spare you the climb and would be a convenient way to only see the view in case you don’t have enough time or don’t want to hike. But the climb doesn’t take more than 5-10 minutes and the elevator would take you to the middle of the mountain. You would see more of the mountain by walking from one end to the other.
My preferred climb is the one from Müllner Schanze because you are on the other end of the old town walking towards the fortress and explore the whole mountain. As a starting point, it’s also ideal for walking towards the rising sun in the early morning. In the evening you could time your hike to arrive at the fortress just after closing time and therefore get in for free.
As you have probably noticed, I like Mönchsberg. If I have motivated you enough and you need more information about the hike, here you find an article about Mönchsberg and the hike, another article about the fortress and an explanation of how to get in for free after closing time and here is one about my favorite photo spots in Salzburg, especially on Mönchsberg.
Kapuzinerberg (Capuchin Mountain) – Salzburgs Recreational Area
Salzburg is at an altitude of 424 meters and the top of the Kapuzinerberg is at 640 meters. That doesn’t sound like much, but even if the hike is easy and you are still in the center of Salzburg on Kapuzinerberg, you will feel like you’re in nature and away from civilization.
There are only three houses on the Capuchin Mountain. On your two-hour hike you will encounter a monastery, one private house, and an old fortress turned into a restaurant on while the starting point is only two minutes walking from the Free Walking Tour meeting point, one of the most central locations in Salzburg.
Most tourists climb Kapuzinerberg to take a panoramic picture or to see the sunset. Very few visitors explore the forest that lies behind the monastery. The reason is that it’s just forest but if you want to go hiking in Salzburg, the forest might be the reason to walk past the monastery.
And although a road leads to Kapuzinerberg, there is no effortless way up. No public transport, no elevator, and no cable car.
This makes the Capuchin mountain different from Mönchsberg on the other side of the river. It is also different because it feels like a mountain with a mountain top. At the top of Kapuzinerberg, there is a small fortress. It now houses a restaurant with strange opening hours. Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite restaurants in the city of Salzburg for the spectacular location and good food. If it is open when you are there, I recommend it.
There are two starting points for hiking on the Capuchin mountain. One is in Linzergasse and the other one is Imbergstiege (Imberg stairs) in Steingasse only about two minutes apart from each other. I love and recommend taking the stairs in Steingasse and going down the street in Linzergasse. Each of those options is different and you should experience both.
When you reach the top there are two platforms. The first one you reach after climbing the 261 stairs of Imbergstiege. At the end of the stairs, you find a few more steps to the right. Take these and you will get to the first platform and to one of the most famous panoramic views of the old town of Salzburg.
If you went straight ahead instead of taking the stairs to the right, you would have come to a second viewpoint from which you see the new part of town, all the way to the train station and into Germany.
The path from Linzergasse and Steingasse also meets there. Most of the tourists end their hike there when in reality it is just beginning. You can either walk along the city wall from the first viewpoint I mentioned or walk past the yellow building, the Capuchin monastery past the Mozart statue, and into the forest.
I highly recommend the first option, the so-called Basteiweg along the city wall because you have many beautiful views on this hike, while on the second option you would only see the forest. You can and should take the forest path on the way down.
Although I go to Kapuzinerberg at least once a week, I still get lost sometimes and sometimes even find new ways. But that doesn’t matter. Each of the paths you can take leads you up or down. You can’t actually get lost up there.
In summary, the Capuchin mountain is the mountain you want to hike in the city of Salzburg if you want real nature without spending all day or even half a day. The hike takes an hour or two and is neither technically nor endurance demanding.
Nevertheless, it feels like a real mountain and you usually don’t meet many other people during a hike on the Capuchin mountain.
If you would like to know more about the Kapuzinerberg to prepare for your hike, here you find an article about hiking on Kapuzinerberg and related to this city mountain.
Gaisberg Mountain – Half Day Hike in Salzburg City
To climb Gaisberg there are 900 meters of altitude to overcome. Therefore, the Gaisberg hike is a real hike and takes at least 2-3 hours in one direction. Although it is technically simple, it can be exhausting due to the incline and the duration. Good shoes are recommended.
Unlike the Capuchin mountain, you can shorten your route to the Gaisberg by bus or even take the bus all the way to the top. More on this below. But what this article is actually are mountains that can be reached on foot from the city center of Salzburg.
I lived in the Salzburg district of Schallmoos for many years. Gaisberg mountain is located in the neighboring district of Gnigl, from where the Jägersteig (hunters track), my favorite route, leads to the top of mount Gaisberg. That’s also the hiking track you can reach walking from the old town of Salzburg.
Back when I used to live close to the mountain, it only took me 10-15 minutes to reach the trail. I often hiked Gaisberg. Today I live in Salzburg’s old town, but even from the old town you can walk to Jägersteig and therefore to the starting point of your Gaisberg hike in 45 minutes.
To find the beginning of the trail, you have to navigate to Gnigl to the house at Eichstraße 66. If you look at the house, you will see a staircase on the right of the building. There you will also find the first signs indicating the trail. Hiking trails in Austria are usually very well signposted, but the duration indicated is never correct. In fact, the time may increase from one sign to the other, so forget about that.
As soon as you have found the signs and the trail, you are already on the way to the top. In the case of Gaisberg, I recommend taking the same route down. That’s because the other routes would take you to another part of the city and you would then have to take a bus back to the center of Salzburg.
There would also be the possibility to take the bus to the top. Bus number 151 is the Gaisbergbus. Since it’s a public bus, the ride is inexpensive and the bus takes you to the top in half an hour. With the Gaisbergbus you can also shorten your hike or just hike to the top and take the bus back to Salzburg. The bus starts at Mirabellplatz (Mirabell Square). Here you find the timetable.
Another option that the Gaisbergbus opens up is the Rundwanderweg (circular hiking trail). If you take the bus to Zistelalm, half an hour before the top, you are at the start of the circular hiking trail. The trail leads around Gaisberg mountain. This means you don’t have to climb. The Rundwanderweg takes about an hour and at the end or even halfway you can still decide to hike the remaining half an hour to the top.
In this article, I only recommend the Jägersteig or bus number 151 to the Gaisberg. However, there are many ways up. Here is an article for more information about Gaisberg mountain and the various hiking options.
Can you hike in Salzburg in Winter?
Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg can also be hiked in winter without putting yourself in danger. Most of the trails on Mönchsberg are even freed from snow.
Snow is not cleared at Kapuzinerberg and if a hike in the snow proves impossible, you just have to turn around. What is recommended on Kapuzinerberg in winter is not to take the Basteiweg along the city wall. Instead, take the second option I presented to you and go straight at the end of the stairs and to the Mozart bust. There you choose either path to the right or to the left. These paths are safe, even in winter.
Gaisberg is for sure not recommended if there is snow in the city. Gaisberg, however, is also 900 meters higher than the city, so there could be too much snow for hiking in winter even if there is no snow in the city of Salzburg. What’s good about Gaisberg is that the bus runs all year round. If a hike turns out to be impossible, you can still catch the bus up or down halfway. They won’t have to rescue you with a helicopter.
Mönchsberg, Kapuzinerberg, and Gaisberg are the three mountains known as Stadtberge in the city of Salzburg and the mountains that can be climbed on foot from the old town. The Mönchsberg is more of a walk and suitable for sightseeing, while the Kapuzinerberg is the local recreation area of Salzburg and the Gaisberg can be a real hike and quite a challenge.