Mondsee & the Mondseeland

The old monastery's church of Mondsee featured in 'The Sound of Music'

One of the prettiest towns in the Upper Austrian part of the Salzkammergut - and one of the most touristy ones. Mondsee is easy to get to by car from Salzburg and a popular destination for day-trip tourists of which dozens of busses float into the town every day during the main season. Fortunately, the town is spacious enough to support the crowds and still got plenty of charm to offer.

To start with the obvious features: Like most towns in the Salzkammergut, it has a scenic lakeside promenade with some bits and pieces of extra green; there is a yacht club and other opportunities to do water sports; and there is the stunningly beautiful Lake Mondsee in the middle of an alpine setting, peaking in the bare rock of the "Drachenwand" ("dragon wall") cliffs. Inside of the town, you got the picturesque market square, the old former monastery (now called a "castle") and the adjunct church, now the parish church of Mondsee.

There are also some nice villas in the typical style of the Salzkammergut, with wooden balconies (since it is on the edge of the Salzkammergut, they are not as common as in other towns, though). Mondsee is a 15 minute car ride from where I grew up, so every time I get visitors from abroad, I take them there for a walk. Not so much for any particular attraction, but because it makes an easy daytrip with nice bits of everything you expect from a proper Salzkammergut city.

Mondsee: A Centre throughout the Ages

Historically, Mondsee is ancient: Some of the Neolithic finds that were discovered in the bay are displayed in the park by the promenade, others in the town museum (see below). The local community gave the name "Mondsee culture" to this school of Neolithic life in the Salzkammergut, showing the importance of the settlement. In the 6th century, Bavarians started to populate the region and through the spiritual centre of Salzburg, a monastery was founded 748 (making it the oldest of Austria until Salzburg lost its independence).

In 1506, Mondsee became part of the Habsburg′s growing portfolio of possessions. In case you wonder why on earth a small town (a village, really) needs such a big church as St Michael in Mondsee, here is the reason: Because it was part of one of Austria′s most significant monasteries. There is more on the history of the abbey in the separate article on the "Monasteries of Upper Austria".

The interiors of St Michael have featured in the wedding scenes of "The Sound of Music". A less-known, but more significant contribution to the history of art are the thirteen Baroque side-altars, of which seven were made by the famous Swiss artist Meinrad Guggenbichler who spent most of his career with the abbey′s church. The courts of the monastery are now used as a hotel and conference centre, but you are free to walk around a bit - there is also a Heimatmuseum (town museum) in the building, in which the most interesting pieces on display deal with the role of the local settlement in the Neolithic Salzkammergut.

Mondsee′s Minor Sights & day-trips

If you walk around the former monastery and up the little hill leading to the small church, you will come across an array of old agricultural houses. Most importantly, the "Rauchhaus" or "smoke-house" is used as a museum ("Freilichtmuseum") that shows life on the countryside some centuries (decades?) ago. Last time I have been there, the people who run it have been bloody unfriendly, just for the record.

Keep on walking to get to the small church, of which I don′t know anything, but which will provide you with stunning vistas over Lake Mondsee and the Alps. Otherwise, walk around the market area, enjoy what is considered to be a somewhat posh place and get ice-cream at the ice-cream-shop near the market. For specialist interests, there is a small museum of narrow-gauge railways ("Lokalbahnmuseum"), recalling the time when Viennese aristocrats streamed into the Salzkammergut every summer for their vacation in steam trains.

Back to: "Upper Austria Sightseeing Guide"
or "Salzkammergut Sightseeing Guide"

Sightseeing by Austrian Province

Bregenz and Vorarlberg - Innsbruck and Tyrol - Salzburg - Salzkammergut - Graz and Styria - Klagenfurt and Carinthia - Wachau and Lower Austria - Vienna - Burgenland

Further Reading

Official Website of Mondsee

Official website of the Local Tourism Council