Zell Am See- Austria

Located in Salzburgerland, Zell Am See is a small town surrounded with a pretty alpine lake. retaining its Austrian charm of stately buildings  This destination could be the perfect mix of pleasure, activity and relaxation. You’re simply surrounded by breathtaking views of Zell Lake, glaciers, snow covered Alps, fresh air and crystal clear water. This little hidden gem in Austria is a piece of heaven.

WHERE TO STAY
Since this is a small town, don’t expect famous hotel chains or fancy properties but be prepared for quaint boutique hotels with jaw dropping views and surroundings. The big decision here would be to choose between Zell Am See or Kaprun. The former is a town centre which has quaint cafes, a beautiful lake, a church and is surrounded by alps. The latter, on the other hand is hillside area which is quite relaxing and is famous for it’s spa hotel. Since I’m not a big fan of changing hotels, I preferred to stay in the main town and took a day trip to Kaprun. But if you have extra days in hand I would recommend spending two nights in each spot.

The main town has a lot of great apartments and a handful luxury hotels. For me it’s very important to get a room with a view. Hence, I opted for Seevilla Freiberg and it was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made. Located on the shore of Lake Zell, the rooms in this boutique hotel offered breath-taking views of the lake and surrounding mountains and Alps. It was a beautiful property and extremely close to the train station (10min walk). The best part was that it was literally on the lake so the views were unobstructed. The staff was extremely warm and welcoming and they helped us with booking tickets and planning activities around Kaprun. The highlight of the hotel was their restaurant with its lakeside terrace, which was unreal. Our morning breakfast was in between the foggy lake and evening coffee with the misty winds, blue sky and the calm waters.

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As for the room, we opted for the Superior Double Room with a Lake View. It’s much better and bigger than their standard room and it also has a private balcony with a lake and mountain view. Waking up to that view was absolute bliss (see the pics). We spent our nights chatting and soaking in the the view from our room balcony, watching the ducks in the lake and the moon shining bright. The hotel was in the heart of Zell am see, 10 mins walk from the train station and the main town. This is one place I would really recommend, especially for a couple!

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The other great options were Grand Hotel Zell Am See, Hotel Salzburgerhof, Hotel Tirolerhof. If you planning to stay in Kaprun I highly recommend to spend a few nights at the amazing Tauern Spa Hotel & Therme. This stunning property is located at the base of the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier making it the perfect location. Below are the links of the hotels:
www.seevilla-freiberg.at
www.tauernspakaprun.com

EXPLORE
If you just want to relax and disconnect, Zell am See is an ideal spot. Since it’s a very small town you could just walk and explore or hire a cycle. Out of the four days we spent we hired a cycle for two days. Here are a few things you could do:
-Take a boat ride on Lake Zell. The view is amazing and you can carry your own wine and beer while you sail. They also have the lake cruise but that’s seemed boring, it’s more fun to hire your own.

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Cycle around town and explore the churches, quaint cafes and beautiful narrow lanes with stunning houses.

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-Visit Kaprun. Here are the details:
So Kaprun is the hilly area and Kitzsteinhorn is the glacier. A trip here is a MUST!!!
To reach Kaprun we cycled to the Zell Am See main bus stop where we parked our bikes and boarded a bus, which several stops later, took us to Kaprun. Once you reach Kaprun, you have to buy a cable car ticket and go to Kitzsteinhorn, the glacier. If you plan to ski you can carry your equipment or rent it there. You almost have to change your cable car four times to reach the top but at every step we halted, played in the snow, attempted to ski and then moved on.

You definitely should not miss the last cable car ride. It takes you to Gipfelwelt 3000, The Kitzsteinhorn summit station which is situated 3029m above sea level. It is the highest point and a real shining star among the countless alpine options. It allows you to savour the entire fascination, energy and grandeur of high alpine nature. Don’t forget to stop by the Gipfel restaurant, the highest in the land of Salzburg. There is some joy in sipping on wine and admiring the beautiful glaciers at that height.

One thing that you must keep in mind here are the timings (8.30am to 4.00pm). So no matter what, they will push you out of the restaurant at 4pm as the cable car stops operating after that and by the time you reach Kaprun its almost 4.50pm. From there you could either wait for a bus or hire a private taxi. I would recommend a taxi as its much faster.

It’s a whole day trip and I suggest the earlier you start the better it is. You could also opt to stay at Kaprun as there a lot of things to do in Kitzsteinhorn, like a skiing resort, a glacier, national park, theatre, hiking, mountain biking. http://www.kitzsteinhorn.at/en

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-There are also several hiking tours and guided mountaineering tours, cycling and mountain biking.

– Close by are the rivers Salzach and Saalach, which are great for rafting depending on how much you want to get shaken up.

-The Maisiflitzer Alpine track is must try!

-If you visit the place in summer you could go quad biking at Glemmy’s offroad park.

-From golfing, skydiving, skiing to paragliding and rafting, this place is filled with activities.

WHERE & WHAT TO EAT
The best thing about this town is the diversity when it comes to food. You get all kinds of cuisines-  Austrian, Indian, Lebanese, Italian, name it and they have it.
I would recommend the following:
-A classic Austrian meal at Hotel Zell am See Grüner Baum. Their Apple Strudel is incredible.

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A meal at the Gipfel restuarnt in Kitzsteinhorn

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Hot Nutella crepes sold at the local stalls

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-Don’t be surprised if you spot a lot of Lebanese food and sheesha joints as a lot of tourist come from the Gulf. There’s an amazing sheesha joint by the main train station.
-Antonio’s Basmati if you’re craving good old Indian food (Their biryani is a great takeaway option for some latenight hunger pangs).
-There also a supermarket in the main town where you can buy your alcohol and munching items from.
-You can also try the different Italian joints in the town centre.

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NIGHTLIFE
Since it’s a small town don’t expect clubs or pubs. It’s a relaxing destination where the town goes quiet by 10pm. Since we are night birds we used to usually pack some food and head to our hotel by 10pm. There were chairs by the lake where we relaxed with a glass of wine and relished our meal under the moonlight.

SHOPPING
The only shopping you can do in this small town is from the local stores selling souvenirs, winter wear and accessories.

TRANSPORTATION
The Town is connected by road and railway from main cities like Salzburg, Vienna etc. Internally, you can hire cycles or you can walk. Taxis are available from the main railway station and there are local buses too. If you want to hire a car then you will have to hire it from Salzburg and drive down to Zell am See. There are no car rentals in this town.

WHAT TO PACK:
Since I travelled in the month of October, the temperature was quite low, around 10 degrees. Firstly pack the most comfortable boots/sneakers for you to walk and cycle or play in the snow. If travelling in the winter, carry warm jackets, thermals, scarves, caps and gloves. You can carry your ski clothes or hire them from Kitzsteinhorn. If you want great pictures in the snow try using a GoPro.

DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT
A Visit to Kitzsteinhorn
– Trying an Apple Strudel
-Dining in a traditional Austrian restaurant
– A boat ride in the Lake
-Sipping on wine at the Gipfel restaurant

FLY
You can take a direct flight to Salzburg from your base and then a 1.5 hour train journey from there. The nearest airport for Zell Am See is Salzburg

MY ITINERARY
-Day 1: Took the morning train from Salzburg, reached Zell am See by 12noon + walked around the town and ate lunch at an Italian restaurant + Boat ride in the lake + walked and explored the town and ate dinner at an Italian restaurant
-Day 2: Breakfast in the hotel+ Hired a cycle+ cycled all around the town + Dinner at a local Austrian joint+ sheesha near the station + relaxed near the lake in our hotel.
-Day 3: Woke up early for breakfast+ cycled to the bus station and caught a bus for Kaprun+ Kitzsteinhorn cable car+ Ski and snow park+ Gipfelt restaurant+ cycled around the town and ate an Austrian meal.
-Day 4: Relaxed by the lake and caught a train at 1pm and left for Budapest.

NOTE
-You can combine your trip with other cities like Salzburg, Innsbruck, Wattens or change countries and visit Budapest or Prague. I took a train to Budapest from here.
www.thetrainline-europe.com You can use this website for train bookings or you can go to the station directly to book it.

Click the gallery below for more pictures

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