Zell am See & Lake Zeller See
If there is one town in Austria that gives you the most general overview on the country′s attractions in a single spot, it might well be Zell am See. The small town in the heart of the mountains of the Salzburg province it a traditional holiday resort famous for its "fin de siecle" atmosphere, the scenic setting by Lake Zeller See and the direct access to the mountains and the nearby glacier of the Kitzsteinhorn.
Impressions from Zell am See. Don't know what the Arabic means, but I guess "Zell am See".
Speaking of the glacier: The main reason for winter tourism is clearly skiing - the regions of Zell am See and Kaprun are well connected to some of Salzburg′s premier skiing regions, such as the Skiwelt Amade, but also smaller areas. Since the Kitzsteinhorn bears a glacier, Zell offers skiing opportunities all year round. The Schmittenhöhe near Zell is similarly easy to access, but offers more demanding slopes.
For those who don′t fancy skiing, the lake offers opportunities to skate and the well-developed tourism industry tries to entertain winter tourists with all sorts of folk festivals, saunas, ice skating and other events during the main season. Summer-wise, the city invites its visitors to explore the cobble-stoned alleys, the lakeside promenade and the nearby mountains - or dive into water sports such as windsurfing, sailing or swimming.
Zell′s mix of Scenery & Sightseeing
In terms of sightseeing, try to stay within the old town and the region of the lake promenade. It is approximately 10 kilometres long, although the more scenic part is centred along the city-region. The remaining parts are best explored by bike. Enjoy the mountains and the scenic views - for the Zell-hardcore-experience go on a short cruise on one of the ships offering trips across or around the lake. If you prefer to swim, walk to the "Strandbad" north of the city centre (just follow the promenade) - the public lido operated by the city.
In the town itself you can stroll around in the pedestrianized area ("Fußgängerzone") in the centre; this is where my grandmother spent a few years for her apprenticeship some time just before WWII. A more significant claim to fame comes from the parish church that contains a beautifully crafted late-Gothic organ. Just east of the church you will find the "Vogtturm" tower, an ancient monument documenting the history of Zell: It was first founded by the Romans, however, became a proper town only after it was re-cycled by settlers from the missionary centre of Salzburg (itself founded on the ruins of a Roman city).
Zell became one of the first settlements of the Bavarians in the Alps and due to its prominent location in the valley it quickly rose to an important trade-centre on the North-South axis. It became a market town in 1358. To learn more about the history of the place, you should go to the "Heimatmuseum" or town museum inside the Vogtturm Tower. This is also a good place to learn about the remaining pagan traditions of the mountainous regions here in Salzburg, such as the Perchten and Krampusse - wooden masks carved from wood that are used in ancient fertility rites in the days of the winter solstice.
Surrounding Skiing & Hiking Areas
Walking back to the lake, you will find the "Grand Hotel", a classic example of late-19th century style. Here you can still breathe the atmosphere of imperial Austro-Hungarian "Sommerfrische" (summer vacation), for which Zell am See became famous after the train connection made it accessible in 1875. Today, Zell is more popular with German and Italian day-trip visitors as well as wealthy Arabs and other exotic folk rather than Viennese nobility and aristocracy.
To explore the surroundings, take a boat to Thumersbach, the pretty town (or village) that faces Zell from the other side of the lake. Or go up the mountains with one of the three cable-cars that depart from Zell: The "Zeller Bergbahn" up to the Mount Hirschkogel; the "Schmittenhöhebahn" for particularly stunning vistas from the mountain of the same name; or the "Sonnenalmbahn".
For hiking recommendations I would advise you to talk to people in Zell′s tourist information centre and get a decent hiking guidebook. If you use Zell as a base for excursions to other parts of the Salzburg province (which is a good idea), you might want to go to Kaprun with its lake, power plant and the impressive Mount Kitzsteinhorn; or the National Park Hohe Tauern with the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße.
Back to: "Salzburg Sightseeing Guide"