Well hidden among the Alps of Austria and not as famous as Innsbruck or Hallstatt, there is Zell am See, a picturesque village with only 10,000 inhabitants and charming landscapes. A destination that you can visit together with Salzburg, located just an hour and a half away. Or even Vienna, in a road trip for a few days.
Although its size is rather small, Zell am See is an extremely complex place, suitable for both leisure travelers and those who want activities that involve a lot of adrenaline. I have to admit, I didn’t have high expectations before coming here, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. So pleasant that I now recommend it to anyone who has plans to travel to Austria. It is the kind of place where you perfectly understand the notion of a hidden gem.
How to get to Zell am See:
- by plane. The nearest airport is Salzburg
- by car. The village is just 1 hour and a half away from Salzburg, 4 hours from Vienna and 2 hours from Munich. I visited Zell am See in a 7-day road trip. I came from Slovenia, from Lake Bled, I stayed in Zell am See and continued with Hallstatt and Vienna. About these, I’m going to tell you in the next articles.
- by train. At every hour there are trains going from Zell am See to Salzburg, Kitzbühel or Innsbruck. Distances are less than two hours, and the ticket price varies between 12 and 32 euros.
What to do in Zell am See
Stay at a cottage overlooking the lake
The lake with the same name as the village, Zeller See, has an area of about 5 square kilometers and is surrounded by chic chalets and the high peaks of the Alps. The view is fabulous at all times, so it would be a shame not to enjoy it right from your room window. So, look for accommodation at the base of the lake or somewhere above. We stayed at a cabin for children’s camps basically, called Junges Hotel Zell am See, but despite this detail, we liked it greatly, especially as we had a view of the lake.
Explore the lake on a boat or water bike
5 km of water, swans, boats, colorful cabins, greenery and the snowy ridges of the mountains. That’s what the beautiful lake near the village of Zell am See, the one you can explore long and wide, both on the shore and on the water, looks like. There are also regular tours or even cruises on the lake. More details you find here.
Ride the Alpine Coaster
I was talking at the beginning of the article about adrenaline. Well, probably not even a serious ski session will give you the strong feelings you will feel when riding the roller coaster in Kaprun, the village neighboring Zell am See. In figures, it would translate to 730 meters to the top, 1300 meters back to the base and 40 km/h maximum speed. The good part is that the speed depends entirely on you, as you will have a lever to control it throughout the route. The price for a ticket is 11 euros/person. If you arrive in Zell am See, you shouldn’t miss the Alpine Coaster! I assure you that you will love it! Find out all the details here.
There are several walking and hiking tours, the most popular being Pinzgauer Spaziergang, 19 kilometers long. Starts in Zell am See and ends in Saalbach. However, there are several options, so it depends only on you from which angle you want to look at the lake and all the gorgeous surroundings. The nearest peak is Mount Schmittenhöhe and has 1965 meters altitude.
Winter sports remain the favorite activity in the Austrian Alps and Zell am See is clearly no exception to the rule. Approximately 138 kilometers of the runway awaits you. The most appreciated are Schmittenhöhe (1965m) and Kitzsteinhorn Glacier (3203m). The most convenient way to get there is to take the cityXpress gondola (18 euro adult, 9 euro children), which departs from the center of the village of Zell am See. Being a more hunted destination for winter sports, cold season prices can be 50% higher than in the hot season. So, if you are not a fan of these sports, I recommend you go here during spring or summer when temperatures and prices are more acceptable.
Explore the city
The city of Zell am See is so small that you won’t need transportation to explore it, but only a few hours at your disposal and maybe a bike. Stroll the narrow streets, admire the old St. Hippolyte, walk along the esplanade by the lake and test the cuisine at the restaurants in the city. In many of them, you will find Arabic dishes, due to the wave of tourists coming from that region, but you will also have other varied options and top restaurants to choose from.
Look at the light show on the lake
On the opposite side of our accommodation, residents and tourists of Zell am See enjoy the dance and colors offered by the fountain on the lake. It works a few times a week, and the show lasts for about 20 minutes. It is the ideal method of relaxing by the lake at the end of a full day in this beautiful mountain resort.
Admire the city from the height
There are many streets that climb to high heights so you can have a complete panorama of the city of Zell am See. In my case, I got the perfect view at the Pfefferbauer chalet, located somewhere in the Northwest of the lake, just 6 minutes drive from the downtown. I’ll leave the map with the route and the pictures speak for themselves.
I hope I convinced you that Zell am See is a destination not to be missed when you go on holiday in Austria 🙂