Sunday, 27 November 2022
To find a place offering at least partially organic meals, snacks or coffee isn't a big deal in Salzburg, and places like the Bio-Burgermeister are frequent tourist destinations. But there's more than just healthy organic fast food –
from pleasantly modernized Austrian bars over cultured beer spots to slightly esoteric day cafes there's a broad range of places to choose from. What you shouldn't expect are authentic restaurants offering elaborated international cuisines, but that's probably not what you are here for anyway.
When you're hungry and don't know where to go head for the Bio-Burgermeister in the middle of busy Linzergasse pedestrian street. With its liberal opening hours (no closing day, open until 10 pm) and central location this no-frills burger grill is serving both, meat, vegetarian, and vegan versions, purely made with organic ingredients. The service is swift, the burgers and side-dishes fresh, crisp and tasty, and most of the soft drinks and the beer are organic, too (though you have to check the bottles for organic labelling). The hot varieties I would describe as spicy rather than hot, and they come up with interesting seasonal versions like the pumpkin burger with a pumpkin patty. For meat patties you can choose between medium-done and medium-rare. The place serves neither desserts nor coffee.
Unfortunately it has implemented bad habits of conventional fast-food places, too: It produces a lot of waste since the meals are served on cardboard one-way plates, and the staff is neither busy cleaning the tables nor refilling paper towels.
If the burgermeister is too crowded or you prefer to produce less waste a burger restaurant is just a few steps away: The Ludwig doesn't promise fully organic burgers, but organic patties made from organic beef, turkey or mushrooms, organic pulled pork and bacon.
In addition to burgers the place also serves salad bowls, desserts and breakfast (including organic eggs in a number of varieties). Among the drinks fruit juices and teas are organic.
Located in a pleasant backyard with a small fountain this cafe cum restaurant is also a much nicer place to spend time with friends or family – during the warm season on the spacious terrace, on rainy or cold days in the large urban-rustic dining room.
The Urbankeller is not just a perfect address for a rustic meal accompanied by local organic beer, wine, juice or lemonade in the restaurant or a civilised drink at the adjacent bar. It also houses a stage for live acts – predominantly rock, jazz or experimental theatre, and the occasional crime play reading. Although the place is certified by Bio Austria not everything is organic. Fully organic dishes however are clearly marked with a green logo on the menu, and a good deal of the un-marked meat-based dishes (including nose-to-tail ones using offal) are served with organic meat (check for the "bio" keyword). Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. If you consider one of the typical Austrian flour-based desserts ("Mehlspeisen") make sure to come with sufficient appetite.
Schallmooser Hauptstraße where the Urbankeller is located changes its name to Linzergasse (or Linzer Gasse, the naming is not consistent) when it runs over into a pedestrian area towards the river Salzach. Amid its touristic jumble you'll find the Stadtkrug, a family-owned hotel and restaurant of old, with roots in the 14th century. The family runs an organic highland cattle farm north of Salzburg and serves the beef at the restaurant specialising in typical Austrian dishes. The farm has its own slaughterhouse on premise which allows the cattle to die as stress-free as possible within their known habitat. The chicken served in the Stadtkrug is also organic as are some hard cheeses and the ice-cream and other products made from sheep's milk. The breakfast at the hotel unfortunately is not organic.
Directly located on Linzergasse, almost down by the river, but nevertheless not a place that tourists will recognise at a first glance, the Innergebirg restaurant serves traditional Austrian mountain cuisine with local ingredients from the Pongau, the Pinzgau and the Salzburger Land areas. All the meat comes from the Rostatt organic farm (which also is a farm stay).
Note that the restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Another beergarden down in the old town is associated with the local brewery Die Weisse
specializing in weiss beer. They also brew one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic organic variety (watch out for the bio label) which nicely go together with a hearty Austrian meal – the beef here is
organic and you may ask the waiter for likely other organic ingredients. Of course there's indoor seating, too.
On the other side of the Salzach river September 2018 saw the opening of a new fully organic, predominantly biodynamic restaurant and bar opposite the museum of modern art inside the Mönchsberg cliff, the Humboldt, a pleasantly modernized version of an Austrian "Gaststube", with geometric dark-wooden interior, a light-and-steam installation serving as a fire place surrogate, green cushions, table-clothes made from felt, and a green-lighted bar. For lunch on weekdays you can choose between two set menus consisting of a soup or salad (your choice), and a vegetarian or omnivore main dish which come at 9 or 11 euros, respectively. In the evening the kitchen emphasizes on Austrian signature dishes like the Viennese Schnitzel (a delicate, crisp, yet melting dream), boiled filet ("Tafelspitz"), and pancakes ("Palatschinken") as dessert (which were quite unexceptional).
The menu clearly marks organic, biodynamic, vegan and vegetarian items and also lists the sources of all ingredients which usually are Austrian farms and producers, often located in the vicinity. In all drink classes organic options are available, and often you have no choice but to drink organic. The bar keeps open until late each day, making it the perfect place for an evening out, and there's outdoor seating, too.
Back in town, just a few steps from the Stadtkrug vegetarian fusion food with roots in the Indian cuisines has been served for almost 20 years at Spicy Spices. This pleasant eatery may not be the place for the romantic dinner but is a nice location for a chat with friends, accompanied by a healthy lunch, a coffee, chai and/or cake, all organic. You can also shop for their home-made spice mixtures, chutneys and pickles which make tasty gifts.
The second surviving organic restaurant of old also draws its inspiration from the subcontinent and East-Western fusion. The Heart of Joy is a vegetarian (vegan friendly), predominantly organic cafe cum eatery run by followers of Sri Shinmoy. The latter is openly presented which may not be your idea of the perfect surroundings for a recreational sip of coffee or an Italian, Austrian, oriental or Indian inspired lunch in this otherwise pleasant location. Students are entitled a ten percent discount, and breakfast on weekends is being served all day.
For a simple lunch or a piece of home-made organic cake you may also try the A* bar in nearby Auerspergstraße.
While hotel (gastro) bars may not be for everybody the next opportunity is just around the corner: In 2022 a tiny delicatessen,
Klein und fein, opened opposite the inn Die Weisse. It's a one-man show run by a friendly guy from Munich, with Croatian roots. In a small one-table living room Milan offers home-made organic breakfast, lunch, dinner or a coffee (and cake) break and a chat where he knowledgeable promotes his carefully selected natural products predominantly of Austrian, Croatian and Italian origin. Not all of them are organically certified, but he knows the farmers and artisans behind and has a story about each of them. If you like wine or gin it may be difficult to leave without a bottle.
For a fully organic breakfast, lunch or snack in the neighbourhood of Maxglan, pay a visit to Rochushof, an organic supermarket with a light-flooded verandah restaurant overlooking the adjacent Stiegl brewery.
To enter the place walk to the back of the supermarket, and – for lunch – choose between a vegetarian soup, a vegetarian and an omnivore main dish. Contrary to many organic supermarket bistros you will be served here. The
kitchen closes on weekdays at 5pm, on Saturdays there's breakfast only.
If you are near the main train station on a weekday during daytime the bistro Leichtsinn ("carelessness") is worth a try. You'll find it if you leave the train station in western direction via Südtiroler Platz and walk in southern direction along Rainerstraße parallel to the tracks until you reach Elisabethstraße.
Tea, beer, and cheese are always organic here, and
the owners promise to prefer organic and regional ingredients, but admit that some ingredients such as avocados definitely won't be organic. Unfortunately I did not get an answer to whether the meat and other products of animalic origin are organic, so better ask about them.
The menu changes daily, and you always have the choice between
a soup, one vegan, one vegetarian and one meat- or fish-based dish in addition to salads (mix your own from the salad bar), home-made foccachia sandwiches, wraps, quiches, and empanadas (the owner-chief originates from Ecuador). The place is great for
breakfast, there are home-made cakes (also vegan), shortbreads and fair-trade coffee, and if you need provisions for your travel, simply order to take away.
Fine dining restaurants in the 2020ies can be reasonably expected to work together with small-scale organic gardeners, bakers and/or butchers, but they often do this in the closet. So I found the
Genussprojekt at Ursulinenplatz, with a view on the river Salzach, but I am disappointed to report
that the only classified organic ingredients on their menu are fruit juices and beef.
Beef-lovers may give it a try and ask about the veges, the flour, and whether there are
natural wines, too. So far no first-hand review from me yet.
Arguably the city's best pizza can be had when entering a non-descript entrance on Franz-Josef-Straße south of Paris-Lodron-Straße: Here you find a place boringly dubbed Organic Pizza Salzburg, and this is exactly what it is: A totally unpretentious venue serving glorious 100% organic pizza in vegetarian, vegan and omnivore varieties, all well worth their 9.80 to 16.80 EUR. Instead of the standard base made from wheat you may order one made with spelt. Choose your drinks from the fridge (most, but not all organic), and have a home-made organic and vegan cake with fairly traded ingredients and/or a locally produced ice-cream to end your meal. No frills, just love, and in contrast to other fast food places covered here you will be served on real plates instead of paper waste. Unfortunately the place is closed on Mondays and Sundays.
For Italian and decidedly vegan food (including pizza) you have to wait for the re-opening of
Vegitalian. This no-frills restaurant stepped in as the hotel restaurant of The Keep near Salzburg Hauptbahnhof train station between spring and autumn 2022 and is planning a re-opening in Nonntal. It's not 100% organic, but most ingredients come from regional and/or organic producers. No further review here (yet) since I haven't had the chance to visit.
Just a few steps from Organic Pizza Salzburg you'll find a novelty in the city: a crowd-founded vegan cafe. The
breakfast, sandwiches, soups and salads as well as smoothies and cakes, everything predominantly organic. Unfortunately it is closed most days of the week, so check below to avoid a bad surprise.
For a vegan or vegetarian, partially organic lunch, dinner or weekend brunch the neighbourhood of Gneis was a pleasant destination before the Covid-19 pandemics. Then chef Julia and her happily carnivore dog announced a refurbishment of the The Green Garden, and I am still waiting to see a re-opening. The place consisted of two locations, a daily (except Mondays) open restaurant, and a cafe cum wine bar annex. There was no general commitment to organic certification, but Julia promised to use predominantly fresh seasonal Austrian ingredients as far as possible produced without chemically synthesized fertilizers and preservatives. The tea (including iced tea), most wines, some beers, eggs and goat cheese were certified organic. On the menu you were to find bowls, soups, salads, vegan burgers as well as pasta and vegetable versions of Austrian signature dishes like the schnitzel, but the place was great for breakfast and healthy snacks, too. During the nice season The Green Garden sold vegan organic ice-cream to both, guests and passers-by.
Coffee and cakes
For the real coffee thing head for Röstzimmer 15 a few meters from "Spicy Spices". A cosy living room serving artisanal (though not necessarily organically certified) chocolates and pastries with Ethiopian organic coffee roasted in the room next door where you also can have a small lunch.
An Italian-style coffee drink prepared with organic milk can also be had at Fabis Frozen Bioyogurt.
Fancy an organic coffee drink on the go, made with organic milk or plant-based drink, on your way from the old town before crossing the Mozartsteg pedestrian bridge over the river Salzach? Take your coffee mug and stop by what's arguably the city's tiniest coffee house,
We love coffee.
Unfortunately they do not have any eathenware and will serve their Italian-style coffee or flat whites in a paper cup. What a waste – since I did not have a cup at hand I cannot say anything about the quality.
When you take a stroll or bicycle tour along the river Salzach in southern direction (towards castle and zoo Hellbrunn) stop by the farm cafe of the Bienenlieb beekeepers. You may simply step by for a coffee break or a home-made organic soup with honey bread, but if you are planning to have breakfast on Saturday (from March through December) make sure to call upfront for reservation.
Closed or no longer organic
[Salzburg, organic, lunch, dinner, takeaway, restaurant, cafe, eatery, coffee, ice-cream, fastfood, vegetarian, vegan, Austrian, Indian, burgers, pizza, supermarkets, grocery, wine, beergarden]
Friday, 25 November 2022
To buy organic products in Salzburg couldn't be easier: Even the random conventional supermarket has a sufficient selection of it, hence availability is not an issue as long as you are familiar with the EU and the Austrian organic logos (mainly the AMA organic seal, the Austria organic guarantee, and the Bio Austria certificate).
To shop for the arguably most famous Austrian organic brand head for busy Linzer Gasse pedestrian street: At Sonnentor you'll find teas, tisanes, dried herbs and spices, as well as a selection of sweets and natural body care – the contemporary version of a medieval chemist's shop, with an abundance of products based on herbs grown in Austria itself.
The flagship store of the second famous brand, fair-trade confectioner Zotter unfortunately closed in February 2019, but sweet teeth will find the hand-made chocolate bars all over the city, among others at the Weltladen, a dedicated fair trade shop just a stone's throw away. Step by this nice place to shop for all kind of gifts – both eatable, wearable, and decorative. There's a second "world shop" in the neighbourhood of Gneis with a focus on fairly traded natural and organic fashion.
If your in the mood for a coffee during your shopping spree in the Linzergasse area step by
Röstzimmer 15, a small scale coffee roaster's specialising in organic fairly traded traditionally grown
Ethiopian coffee dubbed
"Urkaffee". In addition they sell organic chocolates, tea, and honey from within the city boundaries. Careful with the bread: only a selection is organic. Unfortunately this cosy little shop is closed on Saturdays (and Sundays).
A short bicycle ride along the Salzach river (in southern direction towards castle and zoo Hellbrunn) gets you to the new (opened in 2019) farmshop of the organic Bienenlieb beekeeper's. Along with their own honey (in reusable glasses) and gin you can shop for other bee products, sustainable beekeeping and gardening equipment, bee-friendly seeds, plastic-free food containers, as well as Bioaustria certified local organic products like tea, herbs and more.
There's also a small cafe on the farm.
Shoes and fashion
Once home to a vibrant shoe industry there's not much left of artisanal shoemakery in today's Austria. If it wasn't for the "Waldviertler" – robust enduring footwear which you can buy at Gea alongside fashionable leather bags, sustainably made furniture with a sometimes anarchistic touch, bedding, eco fashion accessoiries, organic tea and tisanes, or gift items. The company is a major driving force within the Economy for the Common Good movement, and all products are made in sustainably driven, socially conscious workshops by artisans in Austria and its neighbouring countries.
For sustainably produced shoes of play- and colourful designs – light city wear in contrast to the down-to-earth design inspired by the farm lands of the Waldviertel – head to the Think! flagship store in the old town.
The founder of this brand also comes from an Austrian shoemaker family, and the company is headquartered in a small Upper Austrian village, Kopfing.
If you want more sustainable shoe brands or are looking for children's footwear, cross Mozartplatz and head for Vega Nova, another Think! affiliate which also offers, among other brands, two favourites of mine: French Arche and Spanish Braco shoes. They also have sustainable chairs, beds and other furniture.
While Gea provides you with socks, scarfs, gloves and other textile accessoiries it's not a clothes boutique. For eco fashion you may try Bella Boutique. Formerly located in Linzer Gasse (and further back in time in Wolf-Dietrich-Straße), one had to check labels carefully as the entrance area showed off tourist rip-off like cheap Chinese down jackets made from 100% plastic materials. The shop relocated to Alter Markt during the covid-19 pandemics, but during my last visit I did not have time to make sure it's still there.
If you love hemp and other re-discovered plant-based fibres head for Eberlin-Frenkenberger Naturmode in Dreifaltigkeitsgasse, a nice fashion boutique with a classical approach, and definitely alive and kicking.
Unfortunately it was night and a public holiday when I discovered a new and promising sustainable fashion store in Wolf-Dietrich-Straße opposite my favourite Indian restaurant in town. So there's no inside review of
Zerum here yet, a fair-trade Austrian fashion label with stores in all major Austrian cities, offering clothing, home textiles and utensils for the entire family.
[Salzburg, organic, fair, coffee, tea, gifts, spices, honey, fashion, shoes, shopping, confectioners]
Sunday, 20 November 2022
While buying organic requires little effort in Salzburg, minimising waste is an entirely different issue. If you wish to carry home your purchases in your own re-usable containers you depend on the cooperation of the shop, which even in organic supermarkets can be surprisingly little. The covid-19 pandemics was the beginning as well as the end of the (to my knowledge) only dedicated organic pay-by-weight grocery, GenussProGramm (a pun which can be translated as both, "pleasure by the gram" or "pleasure program") in the neighbourhood of Andräviertel.
So what's left? As in other cities farmers' markets are a good bet: The Medousa market booth at the Grünmarkt opposite Fabi's Frozen Bio Yogurt within Mozart's birthplace offers to fill Italian-style antipasti and other mediterranean and vegetarian delicatessen into your jars, provided you ask for it. Although the market at Grünmarkt is held daily, there are no organic boothes on Mondays and Thursdays; the Medousa booth is here on Saturdays only. On Thursday mornings you can find it at the Schrannenmarkt opposite Mirabell castle.
Offsite tourist tracks but on your way to Hellbrunn castle or zoo you'll find the only Salzburg branch of the organic supermarket chain Basic which allows you to shop most daily necessities without producing non-compostable waste.
To refill milk around the clock head for the milk vending machine at the Erentrudishof organic farm in Morzg, a pleasant bike ride from the city. There's also a farmshop, of course with more restricted opening hours, where you also can buy eggs, spelt, wheat and rye produced by the farm.
When buying bread, rolls, cake or snacks from organic bakeries you should by now no longer meet strange looks when presenting your bag or container. But organic bakeries in town seem to be afraid of advertising themselves as "bio", so it can be difficult to spot them.
The most stylish one of them is the Salzburg branch of
Joseph Brot vom Pheinsten with its open baker's workshop a few steps away from the Mönchsberg elevator. Apart from deliciously smelling bread, rolls, cakes and snacks there's a small selection of dairy products, jams and preserves. You can also order organic (coffee) drinks and sit down on a table to have a snack or enjoy their patisserie. The bakery keeps open on Sunday mornings and public holidays.
Elisabethen-based artisanal bakery Pföß has a shop next to the Sternbräu area in the old town.
Unfortunately only the bread is promised to be organic, the white rolls tasted bland as if they were made of conventional flour. On the other hand the Krapfen doughnuts were a real delight, crisp and still a little warm, filled with fruity apricot purree instead of oversweet jam. If you come here for a snack stay away from the conventional softdrinks, and you may wish to ask whether the sandwiches are made with organic toppings.
If you want to be sure to get 100 percent organic bakery products, visit the Grünmarkt at Universitätsplatz: Three days a week you'll find the booth of Bio-Bäckerei Itzinger on its Eastern side, near the Ritzerbogen hallway. The bakery also offers vegan bread and rolls and has a focus on wholemeal products. On Thursdays you can find it at the Schranne Biomarkt.
Zero waste starts with the food, but does not end there: In order to reduce the amount of plastics ending up as microplastic in our environment and finally in ourselves it's crucial to reduce the use of the (undoubtedly useful) polymers in general: Don't throw them all away at once (as the biggest part of the carbon footprint of goods is in their production), but replace your plastic household items or clothes with plastic-free alternatives as soon as they are about to degrade.
In Salzburg there's a store to help you with that:
Damn Plastic in Münzgasse (around the corner from the Joseph bakery) offers almost the entire range of plastic-free (or recycled) non-food, for inspiration
[Salzburg, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, bakeries, deli, market, breakfast, coffee, snacks, farms, fashion, bodycare, household]
Sunday, 13 November 2022
combined with responsible corporate culture: My favourite hotel is Bio Austria certified, family-driven, family-friendly Hotel & Villa Auersperg in the old town. Before covid-19 almost all items on their breakfast buffet were organic, but in 2022 it seems that this has decreased. It's still possible to have a fully certified organic breakfast though.
When it comes to the contents of the mini-bar and the complimentary selection of tea and herbal tea on the room I was delighted to discover that some sweet and savoury snacks still are organic (though not as many as about five years ago), the same applies to tea bags and refreshments. The organic shampoo and liquid soap are produced by a manufactury in town, the towels are washed with ecological detergents, and the complimentary good-night chocolate on the bed is organic and fairly traded.
The hotel also has a gastro bar cum cafe dubbed A* bar where you can have a hearty meal or cake, organic coffee and organic wines, teas and juices. Its small, yet carefully selected daily menu caters for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike, with generous servings, until around 22:30 pm. With the relaxed atmosphere of a mundane hotel bar the place is also worth a visit when you're not staying at the hotel. Their assortment of spirits for a relaxed drink at the bar includes organic
Gin Bien, a gin made by Salzburg-based organic bee keepers, and the O gin and vodka, both of Austrian origin.
Speaking of bee-keeping: The hotel has its own bee cubes located in its pleasant garden.
The hotel which consists of two spacious adjacent houses (the "hotel" and the "villa") is driven in accordance with the Economy for the Common Good principles. What could have been a pleasant park in the backyard of the villa is unfortunately an embarassing parking lot for the guests' obese cars. Much more pleasant: Next to the Tesla charging stations you may fetch a bicycle for a city ride. Unlike the parking fee bicycle rental is however not included in the (by now honestly quite hefty) price for the night.
If you are inclined to spend a luxury night in the old town, but cannot afford Auersperg prices you may check out
Hotel Stein: The hotel with its view on the river Salzach provides organic body care products, but since
its beautiful (but independent) Rosencafe breakfast restaurant gave up in May 2022, I don't know whether you may expect a 100 percent organic start of the day.
Smaller purses should have a look at the budget self-check in hotel
The Keep just a few steps from the main train station. It has colourful eco-conscious basic rooms, family rooms and appartments with upcycled furniture at very affordable prices. Their vending machine offers organic snacks, bamboo toothbrushes and vegan condoms, there's a community kitchen and a focus on reducing waste.
In 2022 they had a partially organic vegan Italian pop-up restaurant on their premises, the Vegitalian, but this is moving to another location. The hotel's website still promises a daily open restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, and dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Since it is announcing X-Mas opening hours, they probably found a new operator, but I cannot say who/what it is and whether it is organic.
About ten minutes away from the city centre, in the neighbourhood of Maxglan, you will find another family-driven Bio Austria certified retreat, the Green Hotels member Hotel Zur Post. It consists of three houses which are less luxuriously designed, but clean and comfortable, and the Villa Ceconi a little down the road. All rooms and apartments are equipped with organic cotton towels, organic soap from the local manufacturer mentioned above and organic tea bags. The hotel uses carbon neutral heating and produces its own photovoltaic electricity. You will be served fully organic breakfast, including yummy cakes and home-made vegan and vegetarian spreads (try the pumpkin seed oil one!).
Unfortunately the hotel does not have a bar, and although it is listed as a bicyle-friendly bett-und-bike hotel there's no bike shelter for guests.
In the Eastern neighbourhood of Parsch you may try the Heffterhof, another Salzburg hotel emphasizing on local, predominantly organic supplies in their kitchen. It has a focus as a conference hotel and offers fully organic breakfast. Let me know about your experience when you stay there.
If you prefer to spend your nights in the quiet of a natural park, far from the city's noise and yet only 20 minutes by bus from Salzburg's main train station, Stadthotel St. Virgil in the neighbourhood of Aigen is the place to stay. The hotel is part of a modern, sustainably driven conference and educational complex and as such serves Bio Austria certified organic breakfast and lunch, preferably with seasonal Austrian ingredients. Its Parkcafe also offers breakfast and lunch to passers-by, a nice and comparatively cheap option if you're out for a walk in the surroundings of the Salzburg hills. Unfortunately there's no lunch on Sundays, and on little frequented days the cafe may be closed.
If you plan a visit to Hellbrunn castle or the adjacent zoo, the Kaiserhof Anif is nearby. Their organic breakfast restaurant is open to the public, after pre-order by 8 pm the day before. Children up to five years won't be charged.
And for the sake of completeness: The Motel One design hotel chain runs two houses in Salzburg (one centrally located near the main train station, one on the way south to Hellbrunn castle) and promises at least partially organic breakfast and fairly traded coffee. They are not an option when travelling as a family.
Not or no longer organic
I felt in love with Salzburg during a stay at Altstadthotel Wolf Dietrich which once upon a time was Salzburg's first organic hotel with a lovely organic restaurant. Unfortunately they turned into a conventional hotel almost ten years ago. You will likely find a few organic items on their breakfast buffet, but I haven't questioned them for the past eight years.
If you read my post on eating out in Salzburg you might be wondering whether the Hotel Stadtkrug in Linzergasse was offering (partially) organic breakfast. Unfortunately this is not so.
[Salzburg, Hellbrunn, Anif, organic, hotel, accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, bar]
Sunday, 23 October 2022
Many years ago I noticed a sign post in Munich: This way to Venice on bike.
Since then the idea has been developing, and this summer I had almost sufficient time off to get on the road from
Munich to Venice.
Almost: To cross the Alps and the Dolomites comfortably, in style and on the same motorless bike used in daily city traffic five days
are not enough. In addition, the weather forecast for my first day off announced heavy rains on the way from Munich.
So we decided on a lazy start with a local train to Lengries in the afternoon. Starting off in perfect bicycle weather, we were soon caught by pouring rain. It turned out that
on the German side, the bridge over the Walchen river was the only shelter
on the route. The route itself followed a pattern common for all Bavarian bikeroutes I have taken so far: straight paved road for
cars, much up and down and lots of gravel on the bikeroute. The reward: Breathtaking
views over both, the Sylvensteinspeicher dam and the Walchen river.
After the Austrian border cyclists are taken better care of:
Most of the time the signposts guided us on separate or
low-traffic ways, all paved. No need for a map or a GPS so far, all the way
When we approached picturesque lake Achensee the rain had ceased but the sun already started to set. So there was no time to stop for an organic farmers' ice-cream ("Biobauernhofeis") at Seestraße, to the left of the gate to the public bathing beach at the Northern part of the lake and marvel its deserted beauty after the rain. So I'm really sorry I did not stop to map the ice-cream kiosk on OSM! A little further South I also noticed a shop advertising locally produced natural bodycare and organic herbs: Kräuterhüttl. Obviously, this is tourist land.
Instead we pedalled fast to reach a late urban train from Jenbach to
Innsbruck where we arrived late.
The twisting road downhill to Jenbach is steep – cyclists in Jenbach must be fit! In the dark and even though there was little car traffic at that time of the day it wasn't the fun it otherwise could have been. From Jenbach the urban trains S4 and S5 run by S-Bahn Tirol give cyclists a welcome and reliable shortcut all the way uphill to Innsbruck.
Brenner Pass and Puster Valley: Innsbruck–Terenten/Terento by train and bike
Given our tight time budget we decided to continue lazily the second day:
The urban train S3 from Innsbruck to Brenner/Brennero
is a comfortable shortcut for the tedious (and ugly) way uphill trusted by cyclists (not only lazy us). At the once nice border station between Austria and the Italian province of South Tyrol we waved good-bye to the ugly motorway E45 crowded with equally ugly cars.
From here: let loose and roll on, on the track bed of the old train
line over the Brenner Pass. Easy. Pedalling started around Sterzing. Lots of cyclists on the
way (including families), but there was not a minute without the constant noise of fossile-fuelled passively moved obese cars on the motorway, always within hearing range, often within eye-sight.
The bicycle route is
all paved and usually guarded with railings, and there are frequent
signposts. However, be careful and watch out for the red horizontal stripes on the pavement: They are marking serious bumps which can be dangerous at the good speed you may gain.
Unfortunately the route avoids habitated placed, so for food you have
to actively leave it as you certainly do not want to pick off the apples
or corn ears along the way: Almost all of them are treated with pesticides.
For the night my partner wanted to find a nice, eco-friendly hotel – and made the mistake to trust in Google. So we left the bike route at Niedervintl/Vandoies di Sotto in the Puster Valley for Terenten/Terento.
600 meters difference in altitude divided upon only six kilometres, a proper work-out for the evening.
Taking the twisting road uphill was not nice even though most car drivers behaved
properly. We met the public bus no. 421 from Vintl/Vandoies station via Terenten/Terento to Bruneck/Brunico operated at an interval of half an hour (two hours on Sundays) during the day: It was nearly empty in both
Arriving at the hotel it felt like becoming the talk of the town, other guests were looking at us in disbelief: Up here without an engine? When you see this nice village depending on car-driven
tourism the necessary change seems impossible. Depressing.
Puster Valley: Terenten/Terento–Cortina d'Ampezzo by bike
a quiet night with a beautifully starry sky we took the nicer road
down from Terenten to Kiens. Here we met a handful e-bikers on their way uphill
before we set out on our third leg to Cortina d'Ampezzo. This part of the route through
the Puster Valley is hilly (approximately one kilometre difference in altitude) and passes
through towns and villages.
Most of the route is separated from motorised
traffic but only partially paved. While the gravel parts after
Bruneck/Brunico and along Lake Olang would be doable on a Dutch bike, the entire
way from Toblach to Cortina with its breathtaking
views on the UNESCO World Heritage of the Dolomites is a nuisance:
gravel, gravel, deep gravel while the motorised traffic runs smoothly on the new-paved road
within hearing range.
Interestingly, this leg of the route was the only part where oncoming cyclists wouldn't nod (or say) a greeting, not even return our greeting. The vast majority of them used e-bikes, probably car drivers no longer used to this comradely tradition of the hills.
On the pass at the border between South Tyrol
and Belluno we decided to continue on the Strada Statale downhill
as we wanted to reach Cortina before sunset: Apart from the constant
danger of being steamrolled this road lives up to the standard other
Italian long-distance bicycle routes definitely have.
congestion into Cortina and no way around for cyclists.
Cadore Valley, Piave river and the home of Prosecco: Cortina d'Ampezzo–Conegliano by bike
The fourth leg of the tour
started nicely downhill on a paved separated bikeroute out of
Cortina. At Località Socol the route u-turns to the left into the
gravel nuisance of a hiking trail.
Only after leaving the municipality of Cortina d'Ampezzo the route changes to a bicycle route worth
The fun starts on the
former railway line to St. Vito di Cadore, and continues along the Cadore
Valley. Comfortable cycling with great views. The only point without a
route sign comes when you have to leave the former
rail line for the approximately one kilometre difference in altitude downhill to the
bottom of the valley.
This is where you start sharing the road with cars,
but no worries: The neverending stream of passive mobilists is now using
a new motorway (of which you don't hear much noise), and the old
Strada Statale di Alemagna 51, nicely paved, is only for you and your
downhill fun, occasionally shared with you by a local car. The contrary
wind helped to slow down downhill (and the oncoming pedalists uphill).
Hopefully the road will continue to be maintained for cyclists.
the fun stops when reaching the lowlands.
On the remaining route to Prosecco
land signs have been put up less frequently and only on short
stretches active mobility is separated from passive. The landscape
itself is interesting: the scarse flat shaped by the river Piave,
through industrial zones, along lakes. But don't be mistaken: it's
hilly, with only short flat stretches. Our day ended with
a gorgeous, partially organic dinner in Conegliano.
Through the Veneto: Conegliano–Venice by bike
The final leg of the München–Venezia bikeroute is flat, dry and hot (in August). The usual Veneto
bicycle route mix: leisurely alleys in the shade along the river, here and
there separated communal bikelanes of varying quality, shared traffic
on not too highly frequented roads. The route is marked but often with
small signs easy to be missed.
We did not follow the route strictly but
cut off here and there on local bikeroutes. Arriving in Venice by bike is a breathtaking experience: The railway and road bridge Ponte della Libertà ("Freedom Bridge") connecting Mestre on the mainland shore with the city of Venice itself has a dedicated bicycle lane, and you see Venezia St. Lucia approaching in front of you.
Bicycles in the waterborne city itself are naturally a nuisance, so we decided to stay on the Lido. Unfortunately there are no signs guiding cyclists from Piazzale Roma to the car ferry on the artificial island of Tronchetto. The ferry ride is an inexpensive pleasure – watch the city passing by from Giudecca Channel.
We did not take the bike back to Munich. Instead reliable
Austrian Railways ÖBB gave us and the bikes a lift (to be safe we had bought the tickets and reservations well in advance).
Accommodation on the route
The route's official webpage has a directory of bicycle-friendly accommodations, but since you cannot simply search for a place its use is limited. More, (sometime the same) places can be found on the reliable
Bett&Bike site run by Germany's bicycle association, the ADFC.
Unfortunately none of these directories allows to filter for environment- and climate-relevant measures like organic breakfast, use of renewable energies or environment-friendly cleaning agents.
These efforts towards sustainable tourism are taken into account by the EcoBNB platform.
Most other cyclists we met on the route had a tent with them, certainly the cheapest, but also the most uncomfortable way to spend the nights. We preferred to carry a minimum of luggage, and decided on a budget between 100 and 200 EUR for the night. Unfortunately this budget was too tight for the places I found where you probably could have a fully organic breakfast.
For the first and last stop, Innsbruck and Venice we booked accommodation upfront, but being unfamiliar with the route we decided on last-minute booking directly from the hotels.
The first night we spent at
Hostel Marmota in Innsbruck. It has a spacious bicycle storage room in the basement which is locked during the night. Arriving late was no issue; even though the reception did not answer the phone. The bar did not offer any organic refreshments, but there was one type of organic tea and organic oat drink at the breakfast buffet. Clean, basic, no-frills room.
For the second night in the Puster valley my partner learned a lesson: Do not rely on Google Maps (personally I don't use Google services unless forced to): Even a few kilometers can be very long when they turn out to be uphill after a day on the bike. Our last minute booking call
to Naturhotel Edelweiß in Terenten/Terento
resulted in a very friendly price for a spacious, very nice, wood-furnished room including four-course dinner (for guests only).
The kitchen at this family-run hotel uses local ingredients, but isn't suitable for vegetarians. Also here the only organic items on the breakfast buffet were one type of tea and a plant-based drink (soy in this case). There's no storage room for bikes, but we were allowed to park directly in front of the hotel and turned out to be an attraction for car-dependent hotel guests.
Famous for hosting the winter olympics of 1956 the 2022 version of Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Dolomites turned out to be a single expensive (though still quite elegant) pedestrian street in the middle of a car jam which even us on our bikes forced into a stop-and-go. The most expensive night of our tour we spent in
a basic room with plush furniture at Hotel Montana with a very nice view from the balcony and the air of past grandezza. In addition to the one variety of organic tea and organic soy drink (by now experienced as a sort of minimal standard) the breakfast buffet offered one variety of organic blueberry jam!
The hotel was listed as bike-friendly, and indeed, we could store the bikes in a crammed storage room dedicated to the purpose.
The last night on the way to Venice we spent in Conegliano, at
Relais Le Betulle which we found at at EcoBNB. Their hotel restaurant, Enrica Miron, serves organic meat and eggs, and we were very satisfied with our carte blanche
menu of the day. The breakfast buffet however did not offer more organic items than we by now found usual. There's no dedicated parking space for bikes; we were allowed to take the bikes on the (spacious) room (which had sufficient space on the balcony), but decided to use a car parking lot.
To find a bicycle-friendly accommodation at the final destination, Venice, is not so easy given the aquatic nature of the city. Riding a bike is possible on the Lido, and from a previous bike tour through the Veneto (via Chioggia) we knew that the friendly, family-run
Villa Casanova would allow us to park the bikes in its backyard. From that visit we also knew not to expect any organic items on the breakfast buffet (not even tea and milk), despite the fact that the hotel advertises partially organic breakfast. But the rooms are pleasant and the price is friendly compared with Venice standard.
- Hostel Marmota, Tummelplatzweg 2, Innsbruck
- Naturhotel Edelweiss, Unterdorfstr. 6, Terenten/Terento
- Hotel Montana, Corso Italia 94
, Cortina d'Ampezzo
- Relais le Betulle, Via Costa Alta, 56, Conegliano
- Villa Casanova, Via Orso Partecipazio, 9, Lido di Venezia
More to try
For the following hotels I found sufficient evidence for use of organic produce in the kitchen and/or a significant part of organic food and drinks at the breakfast buffet, but I cannot give an eyewitness account.
[The_Conscious_Traveller, MuenchenVenezia, Germany, Austria, Italy, Munich, Innsbruck, Terenten, Terento, Bruneck, Brunico, Cortina, Alps, Achensee, Pustertal, Puster_Valley, Dolomites, South_Tyrol, Alto_Adige, Suedtirol, Belluno, eco, trains, bikeroutes]