Lake Königssee (or Königsee) lies just a couple of miles south of the town of Berchtesgaden and is Germany's deepest and cleanest lake.
This area has been used for outdoor recreation for centuries; Bavarian royalty and the local rulers of Berchtesgaden and Salzburg hunted here, Hitler went boating on the lake, and Eva Braun liked to sunbathe on the shore.
The Königssee is a wonderful example of a crystal-clear alpine lake. It's easy to get to from Berchtesgaden, just inside the Berchtesgaden National Park, and doesn't require any strenuous hiking. A short bus ride from town takes you to the parking lot; then it's a 10 minute walk to the lake and the boat dock.
Visitors can glide along the length of the lake in an quiet electric boat, right past vertical mountain walls to the much-photographed baroque church of Sankt Bartholomä, and further on to the dock at Salet at the southern end. Along the way, the boatman blows a blast on his trumpet and the echoes bounce back from the mountain walls.
There are only two stops: St. Bartholomä and Salet. The mountain walls are so sheer, there is no path around the lake, so the boat is the only way to explore the Königssee.
The lake is about 5 miles (8 km) long and rather narrow, like a fjord (it was carved by glaciers). About two-thirds of the way out, roughly 30 minutes, is the church of Sankt Bartholomä. You can get there off and explore, hike a bit along the edge of the lake (or climb 6 km up to the Ice Chapel), and eat at the restaurant in the former hunting lodge next to the church.
During the summer, they serve fresh and smoked trout and whitefish, pulled from right the lake. No other fishing is allowed on the water.
St. Bartholomä church was originally built in the 12th century, then remodeled in the 16th century using a domed style influenced by Ottoman architecture.
After stopping at the church, the boat continues for another 30 minutes to the southern end of the Königssee, at Salet. If you have time, I recommend you also ride out to Salet and do the 15 minute walk to a smaller lake, the Obersee, and enjoy gorgeous views of the mountains reflected in the mirror-like surface, and the tall Röthbach waterfall.
This is a very popular excursion, so expect crowds, especially during beautiful weather. My advice: go early and leave well before the last hour that the boats are running, so you don't stand in the long lines at St. Bartholomä waiting to get on the last boats back to town. Ditto for avoiding the long lines to get on the bus back to Berchtesgaden. But don't let the crowds discourage you! This place is so beautiful and peaceful, in spite the people; once you are out sailing and walking around, it doesn't feel crowded. And the silence is magical.
The boats run every day except December 24, unless the weather is bad (in storms, heavy fog, or when the lake is frozen). They only go out to Salet April through October.
Check for the current boating hours.
Prices: Roundtrip to St.Bartholomä: Euro 13.
Roundtrip to Salet: Euro 16. Children 6-14 are half-price.
Several buses stop at the Königssee: #'s 839, 841 and 843; they run hourly. You can catch it from the bus stop in front of the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, or in town at the stop on Maximillianstrasse near the Kurhaus.
By bus: Bus #840 (The Watzmann Express) leaves from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof and the Salzburg Rathaus, and takes you to the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, a 45 minute ride.
By train: Depart from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, change at Freilassing, and arrive at the main station in Berchtesgaden in about one hour and 15 minutes. Euro 8.80.
From the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, take bus #839, 841 or 843 to the Königssee parking lot.
A five minute walk from the Königssee parking lot brings you to the Jennerbahn, a small cable car that will take you to the top of Jenner mountain. In winter it's a ski run, but in summer there are wonderful views of the lake and mountains (as good as the one from the Eagle's Nest!)
Roundtrip to the top costs Euro 20.80. You can save a few Euros and get a combination ticket to ride both the Jennerbahn and the Königssee boats on the same day. For the energetic and fit, there are hiking paths down to the lake from the half-way station. See Jennerbahn.