Berchtesgaden is a small town nestling in the Bavarian Alps and is surrounded by mountains and lakes that offer visitors a variety of activities whatever the season, here is the best of summer...
If you want to get away from it all but still have plenty to occupy your time, then Berchtesgaden could be for you. It is a small town in the National Park of the Berchtesgadenerland, with shops, cafes and restaurants and a wealth of sporting activities. It is probably most famous for being the location of Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” but there is much more to this beautiful area, here are my favourites.
This is Germany’s cleanest lake, known for its emerald green water and is located just a few kilometres from Berchtesgaden at Schönau and accessible either by car or local bus. Take a boat trip and see the dramatic landscapes that fringe the lake, the sharp rocks of the mountains and the ever-changing colours of the trees – vibrant greens in summer, reds and golds of autumn and the bright white of the snow in winter. The boats are electric powered to preserve the lakes’ cleanliness. As you set off you will first stop to heat the “Echo’, this is when the boatman sounds the horn and you can hear it echo all around the mountains – very popular with families. The boat then continues to St Bartholomä and its ancient church. Here you can get off and look round the tiny church or have something to eat in the café. There are numerous walks from here, including a return to Schönau or to the ice caves in the mountains. In summer the boats then continue to the far end of the lake where you can take a 15-minute walk to Salet and Lake Obersee. The views and scenery here are breathtaking. The return trip to St Bartholomä is about 1 hour 15 minutes and to Salet about 2 hours without any sightseeing, but that would be a waste!
Tickets are €15.80 for adults, €7.90 for children (over 6) or you can buy a family ticket (2 adults, 3 children) for €39.50.
• Pick up a leaflet when you buy your ticket that shows you the points of interest along the way.
• If going on a hike and returning by boat check the time of the last boat!
The Best Views
The mountains offer some of the best views you can get, along the valley and towards Salzburg.
One of the best is from the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagles Nest), although I have to confess I have never made it yet, as every time I have been in the summer months the road has been closed, much to my regret! The Eagles Nest is only possible from end of May until mid September, after that the weather is cold and the road is not possible when icy.
Another good view is from the top of the Jenner at Schönau. Here you take the cable car in 2 stages to the top. As you progress up the mountain you can look back down at the small town of Schönau below. When you reach the top there is a café (indoor and outdoor), a gift shop and on sunny days there will be deckchairs set outside. From here you can look down at Königssee to one side and towards Salzburg on the other.
An alternative to the return journey on the cable car, if you are feeling fit, is to take one of the many hiking routes, of varying difficulty, that take you back down to the bottom see www.jennerbahn.de This is a good way to really appreciate the scenery around you.
Prices for the cable car are €20.80 for adults, €11.30 for children over 6 and a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) €56.60, this is for a return journey, a single journey is less.
A great favourite with locals and with families, when the sun is out, is one of the outdoor pools.
One of the most picturesque is the Naturbad Aschauerweiher. Here the spring water pools sit among the trees and the chairs are sat on wooden decked areas along the edge. The pools feature pirate islands and slides for children, table tennis and beach volleyball courts. There is a café for refreshments. As well as being a good place for families it is also a relaxing way for adults to spend the day.
Closer to the centre of town is the Watzmann Therme, with indoor and outdoor pools. If you have ever been to Centreparcs then this may be familiar, pools, spas, huge water slides as well as a sun terrace. When you have a snack here on the terrace you will sit and enjoy some of the best views of the surrounding Alps.
There are many miles of hiking trails in the area, with varying degrees of difficulty, from the expert to the novice and family trails. There is no better way to appreciate the nature of the area than to get out and about and experience it for yourself. The trees, the green meadows and pastures, the rock faces and the spectacular views! Now, I am no expert hiker, but these are my 2 favourites and they would be suitable for families.
The first one is on the Obersalzberg. Take the cable car from town for the full journey to Sonneck. Join the trail for a short way and you will come to Alpenhof Hochlenzer, here you can have a drink or something to eat before you begin the rest of your descent. For children there is a Sommerrodelbahn (summer sledging) down a special track. From here the track then twists and turns its way through the trees and down the mountainside for about 5 kilometres back to Berchtesgaden. It is a gentle slope and you will get great views along the way. In winter the track is used for sledging.
Another favourite, just a few kilometres away, is from Maria Gern to the top of the Kneifelspitze, which will take about 1 and a half hours each way. Have a little look at the beautiful church of Maria Gern before you begin, then follow the trail up the mountain, wandering through pastures past ancient farm buildings. Remember to keep stopping and taking in the views along the way. Warning – it does get quite steep towards the end! Once you reach the summit there is a mountain inn at the top for you to rest and have something to eat and drink. On a clear day (which I haven’t had the couple of times I have done this but it was Spring) you can see Salzburg. There is a signpost that tells you what is in each direction and points out an alternative route back to Berchtesgaden.
• Time your trip so that you can enjoy a rest and lunch at the top. We had the most delicious home made soup.
Hiking route maps are available at the tourist office in Berchtesgaden. Other activities available (but I haven’t tried them) are cycling, paragliding as well as the salt mines and museums, so there is plenty to do.
Where to Eat
There are many places to eat and drink in the town, and all that I have tried have been good. The two that I particularly like are the Hubertus Stüben, which is part of Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten on Maximilianstrasse. This cosy restaurant has been family run for many years and serves typical Bavarian fare; soups €4, fish from Königssee from €15, Wiener Schnitzel €14 and steaks from €16. Another favourite is the Goldener Bar in the centre of the pedestrian area, also family run for generations. This restaurant is very popular with locals, which is always a good sign, the staff are friendly and when busy there is also a room upstairs. Here you can get delicious spicy goulash soup €5, fish from Königssee €9 – 13, Goulash with noodles €10 and steak from €14.50, with daily specials at €9.90. A beer will set you back €3 and a bottle of wine €15.
Where to Stay
If you want a touch of luxury then stay at the 5 star Intercontinental Resort Berchtesgaden, set high up on the Obersalzberg. This modern luxury hotel has commanding views over the valley and you can lie in bed and watch the clouds drift past your window. The outdoor heated pool is open all year round and also overlooks the valley. I had a great swim here one morning in December when the snow was falling and I was as warm as toast in the pool! There is a spa and fitness available. Prices start from around €220 per night, and it is about a €15 taxi ride into Berchtesgaden. Alternatively, in the centre of town is the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, a small cosy hotel with a double room starting at €89 including breakfast and you can go half board for another €19.50 per night. The rooms are clean and well maintained, and there is also a small pool and sauna.
Berchtesgaden has been described as “a jewel of nature”, I agree and I am sure you will too!