Berchtesgaden National Park is a small corner of Bavaria, in south-west Germany, nestled in the Alps. Berchtesgaden is a small alpine town. It is just on the border with Salzburg in Austria and can be easily missed if you don’t know where to find it! The main reason to recommend this area is how beautiful it is. The Königssee lake is stunning on a clear day and the sunsets can also turn the tops of the mountains red. If the clouds stay away at night… well we’ve never seen so many stars in the sky than we did that night. Plus there were shooting stars all over the sky – literally three at once, it was ridiculous.
We did some busking here, but the town of Berchtesgaden is also well worth a look around for a few hours. You also pick up some great information for the surrounding area from the tourist info. We also recommend dropping by Cafe Forstner for some cheesecake and hot chocolate if you’re hungry!
About ten minutes south of Berchtesgaden is the lake called Königssee that leads into the mountains. If you drive down, there is a large paid car park for €5 a day. There is also a small tourist orientated town on the lake shore. This can get VERY busy in the summer, especially on weekends. As a rule, we generally stay away from the tourist activities, but this time we actually thought it was worth the wait in the queue.
You can take a boat out from the shore up the lake. Either as a round trip or half way up the lake to St. Bartholomew’s church. This is what we did and it cost €14.80 per adult, for a return trip. Here is the price list for 2017 for all the different routes.
Leaving Schönau am Königssee, it takes about half an hour to get to the church. The captain also gives you a lot of information about the area in German as you go. Half way one of the men on the boat gets out a trumpet to play, to show how the mountains echo the sound back over the lake. Pretty cool!
The boats themselves are really unique. They suit the area and are made out of varnished wood. They are also powered by electric and move almost silently across the lake. It was a really cool experience just to go out on the lake on one. The only way to get from Königssee to the St. Bartholomew church in a day is by boat.
From the church you can do plenty of hiking trails and head off into the mountains for a few days. There is a map of different hikes with levels of difficulty. Unless you stay by the lake you will probably need hiking boots with you.
St. Bartholomew – Sankt Bartholomä
St. Bartholomew is a pilgrimage church in the Berchtesgaden National Park and has a very unique design. This makes it a very popular image on Instagram! The lakeshore itself is also really beautiful and on a sunny day, the water is so blue and clear. Still absolutely freezing even in the summer though! We wondered why no-one was in the water until we tried it.
The shores around the church are pretty busy with tourists, but further down the lake side you can find a quiet spot. The church is also free to go inside.
We also thoroughly recommend the doughnut pretzels.
Eagle’s Nest – Kehlsteinhaus
From the lake you can just about spot Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest building perched right up on top of the mountainside. It’s very visible from quite a few places. We didn’t end up going to see it ourselves, but we were tempted to. If you’re interested in World War II history it has to be worth a visit. We heard the views from the top alone were amazing. Although probably not so much if you have a fear of heights!
Where to Stay
We travelled here by camper van and stayed just out of town at Reisemobilstellplätze, a little way up the mountains. It has great views and the aire costs €10 a night with an extra €2 for electricity. There are also toilets and a small alpine bar with a good range of beers and wine, run by really friendly owners. The only negative is the slightly windy and narrow roads leading up to the site.
Where to eat
If you walk a small way west around the lakeside from the top of the Königssee you come to Gaststätte Echostüberl. It is a small restaurant/bar right on the lakeside. Here you can get a traditional German style meal or just a stein of beer/wine by the lakeside. The inside is decorated like a wooden chalet and has a definite cosy feeling on colder nights.
This was one of our favourite discoveries from our travels this summer. We only knew about the area from one image of the church online and it looked like a unique place to go and visit. If you are into natural landscapes and wild scenery, definitely go and see the Berchtesgaden/Königssee area. The lake is similar in style to the fjords in Norway. The boats are unique and you can tell the company that runs it are trying to think about the environment, as well as staying in keeping with what suits the area. Even though there is a lot of tourist influence in the area, you still get a sense of tradition and German/alpine culture.