On holidays in Zell am See, it’s kind of difficult to miss the massive body of water on which this little town sits. That’s Lake Zell, a small freshwater lake wedged within the Austrian Alps. It’s centre of attention come summertime and even in the evenings when the water lights up for a night-time show.
Along the banks of the lake you’ll find a large sloping green, dotted with umbrellas and sunbathers when the sun comes out. There’s even a waterfront pool. Further down is a pint-sized beach and light watersports. Only pleasure boats are allowed on the lake – nothing with a combustion engine, so the water is nice and clean and ready for swimming.
On the other side of Zell am See sits the Schmittenhohe, a massive mountain that just scrapes under 2,000 metres in height. If you’re not up for scaling its pine-covered sides, don’t worry – there’s a cable car that’ll take you up.
Once you’ve reached the top there’s a vast network of hiking trails to explore, plus outdoor art installations. You’ll also find a number of little reservoirs hidden up in the mountains, not to mention a few opportunities for sport. Including an e-motocross park and paragliding adventures.
Drinking up the scenery
Zell am See is one of those places that’s breathtakingly beautiful, and the locals know it. That’s why there are so many different ways to see your surroundings. The Pinzgauer Lokalbahn in a scenic railway that connects Zell am See to Salzburg, coasting through the Pinzgau Mountains along the way. It’s a great way to see all the amazing sights at a nice, slow pace.
There’s also a gondola lift up to the top of Kitzsteinhorn Glacier which even in the summer, is still delightfully frosty and best visited from the viewing platform known as Gipfelwelt 3000. But if you’d rather get a bird’s eye view of Zell am See, that’s possible too – helicopter rides will get you high in the sky, peeping down at the green and white landscape below.
For a little mountain town, there’s a wide array of dining options. Admittedly, much of this is Austrian fare, but we’re not complaining. Schnitzel, venison, steak and endless portions of strudel are right up our street, especially when you add in pints of golden beer.
A number of dining spots out here take advantage of their lakeside beauty, so prime views are on the menu as well. But further afield are international delicacies like Thai, Italian and classic burgers to keep your options open.
Rest and relaxation
Zell am See is a destination that invites adventure, keeping you paddling in the lake or hiking up in the mountain. But when it’s time to wind down, there are spas and wellness centres on hand to make sure your Austria holiday is one of rest and relaxation too.
Zell am See is waiting to pamper you, featuring trendy Finnish saunas, steam baths, plus private pools, healthy bistros and wellness treatments. And then, of course, there are hotel spas. Stay here and all you’ll have to do is walk downstairs for that much needed R&R to begin.