As summer temperatures begin to rise and pollution levels in major urban areas make city breaks feel less than appealing, you might want to plan a holiday that takes you far away from the crowds. Zell am See, situated at the foot of Austria’s Kitzbühel Alps and on the banks of Lake Zell, is the perfect getaway destination.
Famous for its high-octane winter sports and adventurous summer activities, Zell am See has plenty on offer for visitors in search of fresh air and a bit of gentle exercise. With its vast array of walking trails, you’ll be drawn right into the area’s beautiful landscape.
The Herbal Hiking Trail
One of my favourite ways to connect with a new holiday location is to immerse myself in the local cuisine. If you like sampling local food and produce, you’ll love the Sonnkogel Restaurant, situated high up on the mountainside of the Schmittenhöhe. The restaurant’s stunning location will take your dining experience to a whole new level – literally and figuratively!
Before you eat at Sonnkogel, you can take a herbal hiking trail through the countryside, where you’ll encounter the herbs and vegetation that have been used in the region’s cuisine and medicine for hundreds of years. The trail includes helpful notice boards, which draw attention to specific herbs and plants, and also provides details about their traditional medicinal properties.
Once you complete your hike, which ends at Sonnkogel, why not sample the local cuisine? Even better: the restaurant’s meals are prepared with the local flora that you encountered on your hike.
*Insider Tip: If the weather is good, make sure that you ask for a table on the terrace, from where you’ll be able to enjoy a stunning view.
Art on the Mountain
As if the beautiful scenery around the town and its closest mountain (Schmittenhöhe) isn’t already enough to lure you to Zell am See, it gets better: since 1995, leading artists from across Europe have been featuring their dramatic artworks and sculptures in the area.
Scattered along summer hiking trails, you’ll find beautiful pieces that are made with local materials, such as wood and stone. Over the years, many of these artworks have blended into their surroundings, almost becoming a natural part of the landscape. Today, this area is one of the largest outdoor art spaces in Europe, stretching over 18 hectares along the mountainside.
The 4 Lakes Art Hike
Starting at the Brunnermais reservoir at the valley station of the Schmittenhöhebahn, you’ll be able to participate in the 4 Lakes Art Hike. This remarkable hiking tour will allow you to discover all of the fascinating artworks that enhance and complement the beauty of the region’s natural landscape.
Once you’ve taken the lift up the mountain’s 2000 metres, the tour begins with a visit to the medieval Elisabeth Chapel. Subsequently, the hike encompasses three breathtaking reservoir lakes, some of which even display artwork in the water. You’ll finish off your natural excursion by taking a lift back down and walking to Lake Zell.
Highlights of the hike include:
- The wooden monoliths of Max M. Seibald and Adalbert Wazek’s Lieber Waldbesucher
- Helmut Machhammer’s Frei Sein, featuring a figure of a woman flying through the trees of a forest
- The dramatic wooden beams of Grazyna Jaskierska’s En Route
- Adalbert Wazek’s Windskulptur, a peaceful wind sculpture
- Max M. Seibald’s thought-provoking Artbox 2001
- The dramatic, geometric wooden needles of Michael Printschler’s Ka Luft Mehr
*Insider Tip: At the time of writing, tickets for the 4 Lakes Art Hike cost €27.50.
The hills truly are alive with the sound of music on the Schmittenhöhe Music Hike!
On this excursion, you’ll be led by a group of experienced musicians, who will stop at various points along the way and play some music while you marvel at the mesmerising view. You’ll stop for lunch at Sonnkogel Restaurant, where the musicians will again play while you enjoy the excellent local cuisine.
*Insider Tip: The Music Hike takes place every Sunday throughout the summer, starting at Schmitten Mountain.
Views Without Blisters
If you’re not an avid hiker, you’ll probably want to take in the region’s natural beauty and culture without walking too much. Thanks to the extensive network of summer lifts, this is entirely possible – You’ll be able to venture deep into the heart of the stunning Alpine landscape without lifting a finger (or foot).
You can travel very comfortably in the Porsche-designed gondolas, which take you up the Schmittenhöhe, and there is also a range of chair and cable cars around the mountains that will take you to renowned viewing stations and restaurants.
How to Get to Zell am See
Zell am See is served by three airports, including Salzburg (75 kilometres away), Innsbruck (150 kilometres away) and Munich (210 kilometres away). Despite the distance, Munich offers the greatest range of flights from the UK, so travelling to this airport is probably your best bet.
To reach your accommodation from any of these airports, I recommend organising a private or shared ride with Shuttle Direct before you depart. That way, you can avoid the frustrating challenge of finding a taxi or working out local public transport when you land.
Where to Stay
Berg- & Seeblick Pfefferbauer– Enjoy the independence of your own self-catering flat close to town at Berg- &SeeblickPfefferbauer. This stylish accommodation combines traditional Alpine charm with elegant, modern design, employing natural wood and stone in flats with stunning views of Lake Zell.
Grand Hotel Zell am See – Savour the lakeside splendour of the four-star Grand Hotel Zell am See, which is located on its own private peninsula on the lake. Opulent décor, truly breath-taking views, a private beach, sunbathing lawns and a rooftop spa all go towards making this an indulgent Austrian experience.
Hotel Seehof – Situated at the heart of the Austrian town, Hotel Seehof guarantees an elegant and comfortable stay. Located close to the waterfront, this stylish hotel is within walking distance of the old town and the lake, making it a perfect place to base yourself during your stay.
About Shuttle Direct
Take the strain out of airport transfers by booking a private vehicle and a driver to meet you when you land. With Shuttle Direct, the leading provider of private and shuttle transfers in Europe and North Africa, you’ll be able to travel from the airport to your hotel in comfort and style. Simply book your car online before you set off, and a friendly and experienced driver will be waiting for you upon your arrival.