9 Fantastic Things to Do in Zell am See, Austria

Last Updated on 26/04/2024 by kami

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Austria is Zell am See, a lovely town located not too far from Salzburg. It was popular already in the 19th century when the wealthy European families and aristocracy liked spending their holidays there.

Still today, the town welcomes numerous visitors from around the world, and it’s no wonder there are so many great things to do in Zell am See. Everyone can find something to enjoy. It’s a perfect location all year long as every season offers different Zell am See attractions, and there are always plenty of them to choose from.

things to do in zell am see austria

I’ve been hoping to visit Zell am See for some twenty years. I remember watching a travel show about Europe; one episode was about Austria. When the host was approaching Zell am See by train, and I saw the view of the blue lake surrounded by magnificent mountains, I knew I had to go there.

Finally, after all that time, this dream came true, and I put Zell am See in my Austria itinerary during one of my trips. I was not disappointed; the town and its surroundings were as beautiful as I had expected.

things to do in zell am see austria

If you plan a trip to this beautiful corner of Austria, I put together this guide with the best things to do in Zell am See, as well as some practical information to make your time there smoother. Read on and enjoy Zell am See!

Where is Zell am See

Zell am See, a town of around ten thousand inhabitants, is located in the Salzburg Region of Austria, in the central part of the country. Vienna, the capital, is 375 km from Zell am See, and Salzburg is around 90 km away.

things to do in zell am see austria

How to get to Zell am See

The easiest way to reach Zell am See is by train. There are direct connections from Salzburg, Innsbruck, Graz, Vienna, Zurich, and Munich, as well as numerous local destinations. If the direct train doesn’t work for you, you can use the connection with the change in Salzburg. There are trains from the capital of the region to Zell am See every hour throughout the day.

How to get around

Most of the Zell am See attractions are located within walking distance, but if you need to go to destinations a bit further from town, you can use a good network of buses. They run frequently, are affordable (in some cases even free of charge), and can take you to some of the best places in the area, such as Kaprun or Krimml.

If you need to get to another location around the lake, you can use the boat service (that is also good for sightseeing; more about this later in this article).

things to do in zell am see austria

How many days for visiting Zell am See

You can visit Zell am See as one of the day trips from Salzburg and see many of its highlights, but I recommend staying at least a few days in the area to enjoy all it has to offer. You can have both active and relaxing holidays here, with some stunning views around.

Where to stay in Zell am See

Since Zell am See is a popular destination, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Fortunately, the town is relatively compact, so no matter what you decide, you should be pretty close to all the best attractions.

Here are a few of the recommended places to stay in in Zell am See:

things to do in zell am see austria

Things to do in Zell am See

And finally, here are the best things to do in Zell am See.

Wander along the lake

One of the best ways to enjoy Zell am See, and its stunning surroundings is a simple walk along the lake. There is a lovely promenade that goes next to the water, with some fantastic views over the area.

You can start in Elisabethpark, near the train station, and continue your walk past the impressive Grand Hotel. Along the way, you will find numerous benches where you can sit down, relax, and enjoy the views of Zeller Lake; there are some cafes and restaurants as well as green areas. This part of the town and the pedestrian Esplanade are pleasant; for me, it was one of the biggest Zell am See highlights.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

When wandering around, you will stumble across the magnificent Grand Hotel, one of the symbols of Zell am See.

Originally built in 1876, the place got its current name twenty years later, and very quickly, it became the place to be in the town. With its perfect location right at the lakeside and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, the Grand Hotel has been the most prestigious accommodation in Zell am See, a temporary home for numerous famous people from all over the world visiting the area.

Still today, this is one of the best places to stay in Zell am See, where everyone can spend the night (although it can be a bit expensive). Click here if you would like to book a room in the Grand Hotel in Zell am See.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

While most people wander along the lake only in the central part of the town, more ambitious visitors can do the whole loop around Zeller Lake, either on foot or by bike.

The entire route is around 11km, and it’s an easy one since there are no significant elevation changes, yet you will be rewarded with some fantastic views of the area, with majestic mountains surrounding Zeller Lake. On a sunny day, you can stop along the way to swim in the lake or relax on the beach.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

See the fountain show

If you visit Zell am See between mid-May and mid-October, you can enjoy a beautiful fountain show right on the lake. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday in the evening, there is a beautiful spectacle of music, light, and water. The entrance is free of charge, and each day of the week is a different show that lasts around 20 minutes.

The best place to watch it is Elisabethpark. The show starts at 9:00 pm, but it’s better to be there a bit earlier to secure a good spot. Besides the evening show, there are daily music and water performances in the same place, every hour between 1 pm and 6 pm.

Go on a boat tour on the lake

One of the best things to do in Zell am See is take a boat tour of the lake to admire the stunning views of the surroundings.

There are panorama tours that can take you around the lake on a pleasant cruise, relaxing, sunbathing on the deck, and enjoying food and drinks while admiring the amazing views of majestic mountains. The panorama tour takes around 45 minutes, with a few departures per day and prices starting at €19.

A good alternative is a regular lake crossing service. The boats are smaller, operating on different routes, so you can plan a hop-on-hop-off trip and see some places around Zeller Lake while also enjoying the views from the water’s perspective.

Both panorama tours and lake crossing service depart from the Esplanade, near the Grand Hotel.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Visit the Old Town

While the biggest attraction of Zell am See is nature, with the lake and mountains being the highlight of the area, the Old Town is a nice place to visit, too. It’s rather compact, so you don’t need much time to see all of it, but there are some real gems there.

The most important place is the Church of St. Hippolyt, which dominates the area of the Old Town. This is the oldest building in the town (and the whole region), as some parts of it date back to the 10th century! The three-aisled basilica is a mix of architectural styles, mostly Romanesque and Gothic. If you visit the church inside, take a look at the 14th-century frescoes that were uncovered during the renovations in the 1970s.

things to do in zell am see austria

The main square, where St. Hippolyt’s Church is located, is the nicest part of the Old Town. Besides the basilica, you can also see there a lovely fountain, a few buildings of the public use as well as the Vogtturm Museum, where you can learn more about the region, its culture, history and traditions.

When wandering around the area, you can also find a few beautiful houses built in the traditional style of the region; there is also an umbrella lane, perfect for Instagram pictures.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

In the afternoons and evenings, the Old Town becomes a vibrant place where locals and tourists mingle, enjoying good food and drinks. If you have a restaurant in mind where you would like to have lunch or dinner, it’s better to make a reservation beforehand, as places can get packed.

Visiting Zell am See can be an excellent opportunity to try local food, which can be a bit heavy but very filling and tasty. Since there are many visitors from the Middle East, you can expect some restaurants to serve dishes from this region, too.

things to do in zell am see austria

Take the cable car to the mountains

To escape the busy town and to get closer to nature, take the cable car up to the mountains. There are a few different ones to choose from, each offering great views from the top and some cool attractions.

The one that can take you the highest, up to 2000 meters above sea level, is Schmittenhöhebahn. From the top, you can admire the vista of over thirty peaks with an altitude of 3000 meters and more; there are also panorama platforms, photo points, and more.

Another attraction here is paragliding, which can be an adventurous and exciting way to see the surrounding area. You can book paragliding flight from the Schmittenhöhe here.

Another option is to use the cityXpress cable car, which would take you to an altitude of 1400 meters. From the upper station, it’s a short walk to Plettsaukopf Reservoir, also known as Mirror Lake, where the surrounding Alpine peaks are reflected in the water. If the weather is nice, you can also swim here.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Try watersports

Since the main attraction of Zell am See is its lake, you can be sure to find some cool water activities here.

In the summertime, the water in the lake is a pleasant 23°C degrees, which is perfect for swimming, especially on hot days. There are three designated places – lidos – around the lake where you can swim.

You can also try numerous watersports here, such as kayaking, SUP, pedal boating, sailing, and more. You will find rental places along the lake to get all the necessary equipment.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Go hiking

If you enjoy hiking, you are in for a treat. Since Zell am See is located between two mountain ranges – Pinzgau Ridgeway with its green rolling slopes and rugged majestic Hohe Tauern – you can choose from numerous diverse hiking trails with various levels of difficulty so everyone can find something suitable.

In the Zell am See – Kaprun region, you can choose from over 400 km of marked hiking trails, offering some breathtaking views along the way. There are many huts and alpine pastures on the trails where you can break your journey and relax a bit.

Some of the best hiking trails near Zell am See are

  • The Höhenpromenade – the High-Altitude Promenade – an easy trail for everyone; you can get to it by taking a cable car to Schmittenhöhe
  • Various hikes starting from Schmittenhöhe where you can get by cable car
  • Hohe Tauern Panorama Trail – the whole trail is 275 km long, divided into 17 stages, two of which are starting/end in Zell am See
  • Hike to Mitterberg on the other side of the lake from Zell am See, with one of the most spectacular views of the area from the top

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Go skiing

If you visit Zell am See in winter, you can spend your days skiing. In the mountains above the town, you can use 77 km of piste (with the longest one being 6 km), but in the skiing region Zell am See – Kaprun – Saalbach Hinterglemm, there are over 400 km of skiing opportunities! The infrastructure in the area is very good too, with many cable cars taking skiers up to the slopes, so you don’t have to wait too long in the lines.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Explore the area

While there are so many great things to do in Zell am See itself, you can also use the base to explore the area. And there are some amazing places to visit nearby, too!

The biggest surprise of my trip was Sigmund Thun Gorge in Kaprun. I had no idea about this place before my trip. I found it randomly on Google Maps when browsing the area, and as soon as I saw pictures, I knew I had to visit it.

Fortunately, getting there from Zell am See is really easy. A frequent bus, no 660, departs from Postplatz (with a stop on the opposite side of the road from the train station in Zell am See) that goes all the way to Sigmund Thun Gorge. Visiting the gorge takes around 30 minutes – you will walk on the wooden boardwalks and bridges in the narrow passageway between rocks, with the tumbling river below.

This is a real wonder of nature; I was wandering around in awe. The place reminded me of Vintgar Gorge near Lake Bled in Slovenia, although the one in Kaprun is narrower, which made it even more breathtaking.

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Other places worth visiting not too far from Kaprun include Krimml Waterfalls, Top of Salzburg panorama platform near Kaprun, Mooserboden reservoir, and Bad Gastein (one of my favorite places to visit in Austria). Unfortunately, you can reach some of these places only by car.

If you are driving around, don’t miss Grossglockner High Alpine Road, probably the most scenic road in Austria, reaching an altitude of 2504 meters above sea level. The views along the way are mindblowing as the highest mountains in Austria surround you!

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

things to do in zell am see austria

Where to go next

From Zell am See, you can continue your trip to one of the fantastic destinations in Austria, such as Salzburg, Innsbruck, or Graz. If you are not tired of the mountains but would like to visit another charming yet less popular town, head to Bad Gastein – I was enchanted with this place and can’t recommend it enough!

Austria is such a beautiful country with a long history, interesting historical places, and stunning landscapes. No matter where you go, you will most likely find some amazing sights.

Further reading

I published many articles about Austria that you might find useful when planning your trip there. Here are some of them:

If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations). You can also join my Facebook group about traveling in Central Europe and ask your questions there.

Travel Resources

You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in Zell am See

Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for Austria here.

I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.

Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.

For the end I left a few announcements that might interest you:

  • Sign up to my newsletter or follow me on Bloglovin to get updates about the new posts
  • Join my Facebook group about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former USSR and connect with fellow travellers and enthusiasts of these regions – just click here!
  • I’ve included a few handy links of services and products I personally like and use so you can plan your own trip to Austria too. They are often affiliate links. This means I will get a small commission if you book/purchase anything through my links, at no extra costs for you. Thank you!


things to do in zell am see austria

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  • Reply
    Denise Maciag
    16/05/2024 at 23:52

    Thank you for posting and sharing your trips. We will be visiting Austria this December and your tips are appreciated.

    • Reply
      20/05/2024 at 12:05

      I’m glad you found them useful. Have a wonderful trip!

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