Things to do and see in Berchtesgaden and the surrounding area.
Sail on the Königssee, hike the alpine meadows, tour the salt mine and visit the local hofbrauhaus.
The town lies in an area known as the Berchtesgadener Land, a little peninsula of Germany inserted into the Austrian alps near Salzburg. This remote southeastern tip of Germany has been a separate country for most of its history, ruled by a church-provost and later a prince, and was added to the kingdom of Bavaria in the 19th century.
The town of Berchtesgaden sits in one of the most spectacular natural settings in the world. The narrow, winding streets are lined with pastel houses in the alpine style, and locals entertain the visitors with Bavarian music and dance. If you can only visit one German alpine town, pick this one! Don't miss the Salt Mine Tour.
There are lots of hotels, pensions and B&B's to choose from; this has been a tourist town since the medieval pilgrims came this way. Here are a few hotels that I recommend.
My favorite is the Hotel zum Turken, a wartime survivor with a charmingly old-fashioned atmosphere and a fascinating history.
For an enchanting alpine lake experience, go sailing on the magnificent Königssee, Germany's deepest and cleanest lake, in the Berchtesgaden National Park, just 5 miles south of the town.
Hitler's mountaintop tea house is now a restaurant sitting above the clouds, with incredible views of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.
Explore the former southern headquarters of the Third Reich, up on the Obersalzberg, a hill just above the town. The Dokumentation Center is an interesting museum about the National Socialist period and you can climb around in two of the WW2 bunkers open to the public- pretty spooky. The ruins of Hitler's Berghof are next door to the Hotel zum Turken, one of the few original buildings remaining. Read about the history of the Obersalzberg.
Hiking: this is a superb area for walking; the Germans love to wander in the out-of-doors, so there are well-marked trails for every level of fitness and duration, and the alpine scenery can't be beat. Check in with the Tourist Office across from the Hauptbahnhof for trail maps.
David Harper's Guide to Berchtesgaden has a great selection of recommend hikes with maps (you can order one from him at Eagle's Nest Historical Tours or stop in at their office in the Tourist Center)
Suggested hike: take bus #846 to Ramsau, famous for it's pretty and much-photographed Baroque church. Walk from Ramsau to the Hintersee, a small alpine lake with a level path all the way around it. Absolutely gorgeous! Takes three hours and the way is well-marked; follow the river that goes by the church. For a shorter, easier version, take the bus all the way to the Hintersee and walk around it. It's level and takes about an hour.
Skiing: the surrounding mountains have a number of popular ski areas. I haven't been here in the winter, but it should be just as charming, and much less crowded (75% of the tourists come in July and August). Some information on Berchtesgaden ski areas.
Swimming: There is a huge swimming complex just down the main road from the town called Watzmann Therme, open to the public. Warm pools, salt pools, water slides, etc., on Highway B305 (Bahnhofstrasse).
Sledding: There are toboggan runs (where you can rent sleds) in winter and metal chutes with rolling sleds to ride on in summer. I haven't tried it, but it looks like fun. More info at: Obersalzberg sledding.
I highly recommend Eagle's Nest Historical tours to anyone who has an interest in the World War 2 history of this area. I went on this tour a few years ago and was very impressed with the knowledge that David Harper has about this period. If you want an articulate expert to show you the sites associated with the Third Reich, as well take you up to the Eagle's Nest, contact David and his wife Christine at Eagle's Nest Historical Tours.
There are various tour companies, including David and Christine Harper's above, that run tours to Salzburg, Austria, which is only 12 miles from Berchtesgaden. If you haven't been to Salzburg, I strongly suggest fitting it in, since it's so convenient to get to from here. You can get there yourself easily on the bus without a tour, also. The Watzmann Express, #840, leaves about hourly from the Hauptbahnhof.
If you're one of those who can't get enough of the Sound of Music, there are tours that take you around to most of the locations where the scenes were filmed, while filling you in on the history of the making of the film and some juicy, behind-the-scenes gossip.
German Train & Bus Schedules: