Things to do and see in Berchtesgaden and the surrounding area, Berchtesgadener Land.
Sail on the Königssee, hike the alpine meadows, tour the salt mine and visit the local hofbräuhaus.
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 Berchtesgaden hotels that I recommend.
My favorite is the Hotel zum Türken, 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.
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 from in front of the Berchtesgaden train station 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 stream that goes by the church.
For a shorter, easier version, take the bus to Ramsau, stop and see the church, then catch the same bus to the Hintersee and walk around it. The path around the lake is 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 summer sledding, or winter toboggan run.
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.
Salzburg, Austria, 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.
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In Salzburg, there's a 2-hour walking tour of the old city, hitting some hot spots like Mozart's birthplace and the do-re-mi stairs from the Sound of Music, as well as the Salzburg cathedral. $22.38. See Salzburg Historical Tour for more info and booking.
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.
The locations are scattered around Salzburg and the surrounding countryside, so it's not really practical to track them down yourself and figure out how to get there. I went on one of these Sound of Music tours years ago and it was great fun!
Most of the tours start in Salzburg, but it's easy to get to from Berchtesgaden (Bus #840 leaves for Salzburg every hour from the main train station in Berchtesgaden).
From Salzburg: this highly-rated, four-hour, private tour picks you up in Salzburg and takes you to many of the settings used in the movie. You also have the option to add on an Apfel Strudel cooking class - yum. $58.50. See Sound of Music Tour for more info and booking.
Also from Salzburg: a combination Salzburg and Sound of Music Tour Do both: a walking tour of Salzburg, in the footsteps of Mozart and more, and visit the Sound of Music film locations. $73.04. See Salzburg & Sound of Music Tour for more info and booking.
From Berchtesgaden: you can also book a Sound of Music via Eagle's Nest Tours in Berchtesgaden (this is a private tour with group rates).