Hitler's Eagles Nest, Germany, still sits on a mountain peak high above Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps.
In one of history's weird turns, Martin Bormann's birthday present to Adolf Hitler is now a cosy restaurant with a spectacular 360 degree view of the Alps.
(Image thanks to ChrisO, CC-by-SA license.)
This historic survivor of the Third Reich can only be reached by taking a special bus (or a strenuous 3 hour walk) to an elevator shaft set deep in the mountain.
Once at the top, you can explore most of the rooms and have something to eat or drink in the same spot that Hitler, Eva Braun, Himmler and the rest had their banquets and entertained foreign diplomats. Outside, just past the beer garden terrace, a path leads up to a higher point well worth the short climb.
When the weather cooperates, the panorama is incredible. Right at eye level with the Alps, looking over both Germany and Austria, the jagged mountains march away in all directions. On a clear day, you can see Salzburg. Even when it's misty, the swirling clouds give it an pleasantly eerie feeling.
Hitler's fascination with the old Germanic legends is reflected in the style and location of the building.
The sturdy Kehlsteinhaus has a pseudo-medieval look inside, with its thick granite walls and heavy beamed ceilings: a modern day version of the mountain fortress where legendary Germanic heroes wait, like Barbarossa, sleeping under the Untersberg across the valley.
The Eagle's Nest wasn't damaged during the war, so it looks just like it did in April of 1945. Most of the furniture was removed by the occupying forces, but the red marble fireplace that Mussolini gave to Hitler is still there, minus some pieces chipped off by souvenir hunters.
The stone walls and beams in the ceilings are the original ones. Some of the light fixtures are original, others are copies of the originals - ditto for the wood paneling on the walls.
As you enter the Kehlsteinhaus, you come into a small, paneled dining area, now a restaurant with small tables serving a limited selection of food and drink. This was the room where Hitler had a long dining table for banquets.
It's been recently remodeled, unfortunately, in my eyes. A gemütlich, Bavarian style has been replaced with a rather generic, more modern design.
The light fixtures were the original ones (or replicas); you can see the same ones in the conference hall next door. Now they're rather bland; ditto for the chairs and tables.
Going through the dining room and down a few steps takes you into the large, stone-walled room that was used for conferences and occasional parties. It's currently set up for additional diners.
There are deep-set windows on three sides that look out over the Alps. Mussolini's fireplace is in here, along with some tacky souvenir racks.
This room was the setting for a party following the wedding of Eva Braun's sister, Gretl, and SS Officer Hermann Fegelein, on June 3, 1944. The Führer had Fegelein shot for desertion on April 29, 1945, the day before his own suicide in Berlin.
Left photo, above: Gretl Fegelein at counter, Hermann Fegelein and Eva Braun in background.
Right photo, above: SS officer Hermann Fegelein, in 1942.
Also in the building is the wood-paneled Scharitzkehl room, sometimes referred to as Eva Braun's tea room; the whole window slides down to open.
Eva often entertained her own friends and family at the Kehlsteinhaus. Unlike the Führer, who only made about 17 visits, Eva Braun spent quite a bit of time up there.
The other rooms include the kitchen, office (Hitler's study), a room for the guards, and a basement.
A sun porch runs from the main room out to the back terrace and now has an exhibit of historical photos (and great views). The beer garden/terrace in back was added after the war.
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You can get to the Eagle's nest on your own by taking two buses from Berchtesgaden (three buses from Salzburg), or you can take take a tour that will take you up there, along with some additional sights.
From Munich: this is a popular, all-day, guided bus tour from Munich, with a trip to the Eagle's Nest, and time to explore the bunkers at the Dokumentation Center on the Obersalzberg, plus a visit to the town of Berchtesgaden. When the Eagle's Nest is closed in winter, the tour includes a tour of the underground Salt Mine in Berchtesgaden. $61.28. See Munich to Eagle's Nest Tour for more info and booking.
From Salzburg: take a 4.5-hour tour from Salzburg, that includes a guided tour of the Eagle's Nest, and a stop to explore the alpine town of Berchtesgaden, before returning to Salzburg. $69.69. See Salzburg to Eagle's Nest Tour for more info and booking.
From Berchtesgaden: if you are in Berchtesgaden, and you want someone else to make the arrangements and take you up there, as well as filling you in on the history, I highly recommend David and Christine Harper's Eagles Nest Tour. They are extremely knowledgeable about the history of the area and the tour includes a drive-by of a number of WW2-era sights on the Obersalzberg, plus a visit to the Documentation Center and its bunkers.
The tours leave daily at 1:15 p.m. in front of the Berchtesgaden Tourist Office across from the train station. Reservations can be made online at eagles-nest-tours.com or in the Tourist Office. Limited to 25 people.
Price is 55 Euros, lasts 4 hours, and includes bus tickets, entry to the Eagles Nest and entry to the Documentation Center. I've been on this tour, and thought it was well worth it, especially for a first visit.
Getting to the Eagle's Nest from Berchtesgaden is a two-step process, unless you see it as part of a tour.
First: from Berchtesgaden up to the Obersalzberg (ten minutes).
Second: from the Obersalzberg to the Eagle's Nest, taking the special Eagle's Nest Bus up the mountain to the entrance of the elevator shaft.
The Eagle's Nest buses leave from the Documentation Center area on the Obersalzberg, above the town of Berchtesgaden.
From Berchtesgaden to the Obersalzberg:
By car, drive up to the Obersalzberg on B319 (about 10 minutes) to the Documentation Center parking lot, or
Take Bus #838 from in front of the Berchtesgaden train station up to the Documentation Center parking lot.
You can check the bus schedule online at the Deutsche Bahn site and fill in (from/von) "Berchtesgaden Hbf" and (to/nach) "Dokumentation Obersalzberg".
To check the bus times for the bus from the Obersalzberg up to the Eagle's Nest, use the same website and fill in (from) "Kehlstein Busabfahrt, Berchtesgaden" and (to) "Kehlsteinparkplatz, Berchtesgaden".
Also, you can get a bus schedule from the tourist office across the street from the Berchtesgaden main train station (Hauptbahnhof). Or, look at the bus schedules posted at the bus stop in front of the station.
Taxis are available 24 hours a day at the train station entrance as well.
From Obersalzberg to the Eagles Nest:
Once you're at the Documentation Center parking lot, next to the bus stop, go down the steps at the far right side to the Eagle's Nest bus ticket office (see map above). You can buy a ticket for the Eagle's Nest bus there (currently around 16 Euros). There is a discount for children up to 14 years.
The bus ticket includes entrance to the Eagle's Nest; once you are up there, you are free to explore the building and the grounds.
The buses run every 25 minutes between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The last bus coming down the mountain leaves at 4:50 p.m., but double check when you buy your ticket. In October, the buses start at 9:40 a.m. and the last return bus is at 4:00 p.m.
Other than a strenuous three-hour hike, these buses are the only way to get up to the Eagle's Nest. The steep road rises 2275 feet (700 meters) with only one switchback turn and is closed to all other traffic.
It is a one-way road except for one wide spot where the uphill and downhill buses pass. They're timed so the buses leave the top and bottom at exactly the right time to arrive at the passing area simultaneously (of course, it's Germany!).
Do you need a reservation for the Eagle's Nest bus? No, there are plenty of buses, even in the busy summer season.
Get a discount: if you get a Tages-Ticket (day ticket) for the local buses, it doesn't pay for the Eagle's Nest buses, but you can get a 10% discount on the ticket.
It's really easy to get there from Salzburg. Buses run from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden every hour or so. The ride is about 45 minutes.
Bus #840, the Watzmann Express, leaves from the main Salzburg train station, as well as from a number of other places in the town, and takes you to the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof (main train station).
From the Berchtesgaden train station, you take the #838 bus up to the Documentation Center stop on the Obersalzberg, where the special Eagle's Nest buses depart. See above for details on this part of the trip.
Good to know: if you get the Tages-Ticket (day ticket), it's good for the bus trip to Berchtesgaden and the bus up to the Obersalzberg, plus you get a discount on the Eagle's Nest bus.
See my tips on the different bus and ticket options to get to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg.
The bus takes you up to the tunnel entrance leading into Kehlstein mountain. There you have your ticket stamped with the time you want to go back down.
The long, dark tunnel is lined with rough marble and leads to an amazing, brass-lined elevator that takes you up to the 6,000 foot summit in 14 seconds.
The elevator is the same one used by Hitler and his visitors. The Führer was driven through the tunnel, but you have to walk!
It is possible to walk all the way up to the Eagle's Nest from the Obersalzberg below.
Hike #1. A few people choose to hike from the Documentation Center area on the Obersalzberg up to the area where the Eagle's Nest buses drop off the visitors. This is a strenuous hike of between 2.5 and 4 hours, one way.
There's a well-marked hiking trail that starts near the parking lot for the Documentation Center and leads up to the parking lot where the Eagle's Nest elevator is. This is a relatively new trail, created in 2015. But if you walk up, you have to walk down; you can't buy bus tickets up there.
From there, you can continue up the footpath to the Eagle's Nest, or take the elevator (they don't ask for tickets on the elevator).
Hike #2. Another fun option. There's a ski gondola that starts on the main highway below the town of Berchtesgaden and takes you up onto the Obersalzberg.
When you get off the gondola at the top, go left on the road a short distance, past the Sonneck Inn, to the marked trail that leads up to the Eagle's Nest.
This route is considered moderate (pretty level for a while, then switchbacks to the Eagle's Nest parking lot), and takes about 4-5 hours roundtrip.
An easier hike is to take the bus up, but skip the elevator, and take the trail from the upper bus parking lot up to the Eagle's Nest.
This is a relatively mild, though uphill, walk, with lots of switchbacks and incredible views. They say it's 20 minute up and 10 down; I would double that, unless you're very fit and in a hurry! There are amazing photo ops all the way up, and you may want to catch your breath here and there.
We took the elevator up and walked down. They really crammed people into the elevator! Maybe it's better to walk both ways;-)
From the top, the mountains of both Bavaria and Austria are all around you. You can see the Obersalzberg, where Hitler had his house (the Berghof), plus the beautiful alpine lake, Königssee, and even Salzburg in the distance.
The Eagle's Nest is only accessible from mid May through October because of snow. The buses start running in May when the road is clear and stop when the road becomes unsafe.
Before the service begins each season, loose rocks from the mountainside are removed. Fortunately, this bus service has a great safety record; not one accident since opening to the public in 1952.
This is a very popular attraction, so it can be super crowded during the summer months.