Zell am See, Austria
Zell am See is just one out of many picturesque villages in the Alps of Austria. It is beautifully located in between the mountains and just next to the lake Zeller See. It’s one of the most popular tourist towns because it’s easy accessible, great for winter and summer sports and perfect for advanced adventurers as well as families. A perfect destination for an active vacation all year round.
When I planned my trip to Austria I was looking for a town not too far away from Salzburg and Bratislava with beautiful hikes. And after some decision anxiety I finally ended up going to Zell am See. I went here straight from Salzburg, which took about 1,5 hour with the train. I was here in September and my plan was to go hiking and enjoy the alps. The weather was really nice, the sun was shining and the temperature just perfect for hiking.
The old town
The town of Zell am See was founded around year 740 and is one of the oldest in Bavaria. This means that the old town has some buildings from the medieval times. On Stadtplatz in the middle of the town some of the most historical buildings are located. It’s the Bezirkshauptmannschaft (the District Council office), från the 1500s (to the left on the photo below) with the town fountain in front of it.
The oldest building in town is Vogtturm, which is the tower, also located on Stadtplatz, on the right photo below. This is now a museum with local history and information about the evolution of the lake area. It was once an escape tower for soldiers and the citizens of the town more than 1000 years ago.
In the town there are also some restaurants with Austrian and Italian food. You can also find some shops, but mostly for hiking and winter gear.
The building below was once the Rosenberg castle which was built in 1583. Over the years it has been a private residence, a college and a beer brewery. Since 1970 it has been the town hall with the mayor and city council.
The best place in town must be down by the lake though. It has a long promenade with a view over the beautiful lake and mountains. Here are some benches to sit down and relax and also some cafés. It is possible to walk or run all around the lake too, it’s about 11 km.
The Grand Hotel Zell am See has the best location in town on a small headland. It is a luxury hotel that was built in the late 1800s. From here you have a panoramic view over the lake and I would guess you get very well treated here as well…
Hiking on Schmittenhöhe
Schmittenhöhe is the mountain by Zell am See that offers great views over the lake, town and mountains. It’s very easy to get to. You just take the bus from the town of Zell am See to the Schmittenhöhe lift station. And after a short ride you are on top of Schmittenhöhe with a fantastic view! Here are restaurants and some hiking paths to walk.
Schmittenhöhe is really nice to visit when you are here. You can hike on top of the mountain and have a bite in one of the restaurants and take the lift back down again. Or you can take one of the hiking paths that leads down to town again. On the map below I have pinned some places for reference. Number 1 is the top that the lift takes you to. One hike is from the starting point (1), passing 7 and 8. From here you can walk down or take the lift if it’s open.
I decided to take the 4 lakes hike down the mountain. From 1, passing over the points 2, 3, 4, 5 and to 6. Parts of it you had a really nice view of the mountains and down to the lake. The photos do not do it justice though. I don’t remember how long the hike down took, but I really felt sore on the backside of my thighs at the end of it. More information about the hikes here.
On the photo below you can see the lakes on the right side and then the town down by the lake. This is the hike I took.
So are you looking for a nice picturesque village I can really recommend Zell am See for hiking. It’s easy to get here and here are hikes for beginners and for more advanced hikers. And it’s really so beautiful! I especially like the combination of mountains and the lake. It’s easy to travel between the nearby cities with either train or bus. But there are almost too many hikes in the area to choose from. I did two smaller trips from Zell am See to the surrounding area, posts about those activities coming up later.