Berchtesgaden is a quaint, quiet pocket of southeastern Germany, and it’s one of our favorite places in the world. With beautiful mountains, lakes, picturesque nearby towns, and beer gardens, what’s not to love?
A home base for the Nazi’s during World War II, Berchtesgaden balances the importance of keeping the memory of those atrocities alive while embracing the beauty and culture of the area.
If you are headed to Munich for Oktoberfest or Salzburg in Austria, adding a few days in Berchtesgaden to your itinerary is a must. Get out of the bustling cities and enjoy this peaceful mountain retreat with all the amenities of a big city.
- Getting to Berchtesgaden
- The Berchtesgaden Guest Card
- Take a Boat Ride & Hike Lake Kognigsee
- Take a Ride up Jenner Mountain
- Visit the Eagle’s Nest and Documentation Center
- Go on a World War II Historical Tour
- Shop and Dine in the City of Berchtesgaden
- Visit the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine
- Where to Eat in Berchtesgaden
- Top Things to Do Near Berchtesgaden
Getting to Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden is just a little over two hours from Munich and just 40 minutes from Salzburg, Austria. You can rent a car and drive, or hop on a train at Munich Central to Salzburg and then take a bus to Berchtesgaden.
If you’re starting in Salzburg, the Salzburg Card gives you free public transit including a bus ride into Germany. You can also take a train from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden.
You can see the main sites by public transport or through an organized tour. But to fully explore this area, you’ll want to have a car.
The Berchtesgaden Guest Card
Before you head anywhere in the area make sure you ask your hotel for the Berchtesgaden guest card. This is a tourist card that will get you discounts on parking and some entrance fees to parks, hiking sites, and museums. Make sure to hold onto the card because your hotel will put a deposit on it of about ten euros until you return it.
Take a Boat Ride & Hike Lake Kognigsee
Nestled in the Alps, this five-mile-long lake is advertised as the cleanest in Germany. Since 1909, only electric boats, rowboats, and paddle boats have been allowed on the lake.
There is plenty of parking at the entrance to the lake for a small fee. Walk past the shops down to the lake to the ticket booth to purchase tickets for the electric wooden boats. They only go 12 miles per hour, so expect a leisurely and fairly long ride to get across the lake.
But there are plenty of options to stop. If you only want to go to the beer garden (because of course there’s a beer garden), buy a roundtrip ticket from Konigsee to St. Bartholomew’s for 15 euros (about $16 USD).
For 19 euro, you can take the boat round-trip from Konigsee to Salet, where you can take a short hike to another small lake called Obersee.
If you purchase the round trip to Salet, just hop off at St. Bartholomew’s. A former monastery turned restaurant, this is the perfect place to sit and enjoy a sunny afternoon. Grab a table outside in the beer garden and enjoy a filling lunch of pork knuckle or schnitzel and then hop back on a boat to Salet.
When you get off the boat at Salet, you’ll find a large walking trail. Follow it to Lake Obersee where you will see a boathouse. Keep following the trail up and around the lake, up and down some steep terrain with few railings. We promise: It’s worth the hike for this view.
Once you’ve made it to the other side, stop at the small restaurant for a break on the beach and a view before making the hike back. If the weather is warm, bring some swimming gear to take a dip in the clear blue water.
There’s also another opportunity to stop for more beer and snacks before you get back on the boat. You will never go thirsty in Germany.
Make sure to check the time table before you leave so you know when the last boat leaves each stop to make sure you have enough time to hike back.
Thrifty Tip: For a great view overlooking Konigsee, head towards the right (towards the Eagles Nest that you can see up in the Mountains) when you get off the boat. Go behind the large boathouses and you’ll see a restaurant up the hill. You’ll hike for about five minutes to get to it and then enjoy the view!
Take a Ride up Jenner Mountain
If you’ve got a clear day and a few hours, this is a must-do.
The Jennerbahn cable car was just recently updated in 2019. And not only has the cable car been updated, but there are brand new stations with restaurants at the middle and the peak. They did a really great job with the updates.
There are plenty of hikes that you can take from the middle stop or the peak that will take you up over Lake Konigsee. If you don’t have a few hours or aren’t interested in a longer hike, the best thing to do is take the cable car to the top station and then hike to the peak for great views overlooking the valley and park of Lake Konigsee. This hike takes about 30 minutes roundtrip and is accessible for all ages.
Make sure to leave some time for a beer, craft cocktail, or some food in the brand new trendy restaurant.
For current prices and hours check here.
Visit the Eagle’s Nest and Documentation Center
Berchtesgaden was one of the main headquarters for the Nazi party during WWII. Hitler and other top Nazi commanders like Herman Goering and Joseph Goebbels had homes here.
While their homes were destroyed by the Allies, the Eagle’s Nest remains intact. Built by hundreds of conscripted workers at the top of a mountain, this retreat was given to Hitler for his 50th birthday.
Today, along with the Documentation Center of Obersaalzburg, it serves as a tourist site and a reminder to never forget the war and Holocaust. You cannot drive up to the Eagles Nest yourself, so park at the Scharitzkehl parking area and purchase your ticket here to get on a bus.
You will take the bus up the hill to the entrance of the Eagle’s Nest. Its large wooden doors once had handles in the shape of a lion. The Allies took them as souvenirs – President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s family still has one.
Walk down the long tunnel carved into the side of the mountain that leads to a brass plated elevator, lifting you the last 400 feet to the top.
The Eagle’s Nest was mainly used for entertaining. Today, there is a restaurant as well as a museum with photos and the history of the site. Examine the black marble fireplace – you can still read the names of French and American soldiers scratched into the surface. These soldiers liberated the area.
On a clear day, the view is tough to beat. Head outside and walk up to the highest points to take in all the mountains surrounding the Eagle’s Nest, as well as Konigsee below.
Thrifty Tip: If going to the Eagles Nest is on top of your list, make sure to note the open dates. It usually closes around October, reopening in mid-May.
Go on a World War II Historical Tour
The best way to learn all about the history in the area is to do one of the many full or half-day tours offered by a handful of companies in the area. Most start around 50 euro per person and include your ticket to the Eagle’s Nest and Documentation Center.
Choose one that starts in Berchtesgaden. The tour will take you up the hill to the Obersalzburg Documentation Center and along the way will point out many historical sites, such as where the Berghof (Hitler’s home) was located.
The Documentation Center houses the most WWII documents in all of Germany. It was originally designed to teach German schoolchildren about the war in hopes of preventing a repeat. But it’s turned into a popular site for tourists as well, so the center has recently been updated to allow for more visitors with added signs in English and audio guides in a wide variety of languages.
The main draw of the Center is the preserved bunkers. Towards the end of the war, the Nazis started building a complex underground system of bunkers. Meant to last hundreds of years, you can still walk down into a series of these tunnels.
End the tour with a guided visit to the Eagle’s Nest. It is a great place to visit on your own but having a guide with in-depth knowledge will add a lot to your experience.
Shop and Dine in the City of Berchtesgaden
After boat rides, hiking, and historical tours, take some time to wander around town. The city center has classic cobblestone walking streets with shops, restaurants, beer gardens, and upscale hotels with fun bars.
Check out the Edelweiss Hotel, which began its life in the middle ages as a tavern and was renovated and expanded in 2010. Just outside of town is one of our favorite hotels, The Kempinski. Like Edelweiss, it’s a great place for a cocktail – plus it has an amazing view.
Thrifty Tip: You can book these hotels with Chase Ultimate Rewards points!
Visit the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine
The salt mine is a very popular site for families to visit. Save this for a cloudy or rainy day. You can take a guided tour, go down the slide into the mine, learn about the history, and spend time in the restaurant and gift shop.
You will want to book your tickets and tour in advance.
Where to Eat in Berchtesgaden
There are a ton of great restaurants right in Berchtesgaden but there are also restaurants dotted all over the mountainsides. See an inviting beer garden with a beautiful view? Stop and give it a try. It’s hard to go wrong.
When you explore Konigsee, having lunch at the St. Bartholomew’s stop is a must. And if you plan to do some hiking or go for a scenic drive in the mountains above Konigsee in the area called Obersalzburg, there are plenty of guesthouses (B&Bs) that have great restaurants with cozy dining rooms and patios with beautiful views.
A few of our favorites were Gasthof Vorderbrand and Holzkäfer. Just a warning, the portions at Holzkäfer are incredibly generous and you may need a nap afterward.
At Gasthof Voderbrand the apple strudel is a must. My husband, Jared, still talks about it. And don’t forget to ask what their baked goods of the day are. The fresh plum cake was delicious.
Top Things to Do Near Berchtesgaden
There is so much to explore near Berchtesgaden. Beautiful views, great hikes, and big tourist sites can keep you busy for days. Here are just a few of our favorite things to do in the area.
Rent a Boat at Lake Hintersee
Perched above Konigsee, Lake Hintersee is much smaller. It’s time to enjoy the peace and quiet.
Drive up to the lake and park at one of the many parking spots along its shores. Rent a small paddle boat and spend some time on the lake. Or take to the hiking trails scattered along the lake.
Afterward, stop and get a beer and some food at a restaurant facing the lake and enjoy the view.
Take in the Views in Ramsau
Then head to the small town of Ramsau. This town is straight out of a postcard, built on the edge of a stream with mountains in the background. There isn’t much to do here besides a visit to the Church of St. Sabastian, the church that inspired the song Silent Night (Stille Nacht), but it’s worth it for the views alone.
Hike to the Wimbachlamm Gorge
This is an easy, family-friendly hike with incredible views of the Wimbachlamm Gorge. Not too far from Ramsau, you’ll find the parking for the gorge hike. Parking costs a few euros and there is a reduced price if you have a guest card.
From the parking lots, follow the signs for the gorge. You’ll have to walk up a road past houses to get to an unmanned pay station. Entrance to the gorge costs 2.5 euros (or 2 euros with the guest cart). When you pay you’ll get a token that will allow you to enter the turnstile to get to the path to the gorge.
The wooden path along the gorge is less than a mile long and you can only go in one direction. So take your time and stop to take a lot of photos. The views are stunning!
All-in-all it will take you about an hour to make the round trip from the parking lot.
Take a Day Trip to Salzburg
Salzburg is only a 30-minute drive from Berchtesgaden and if you’re not spending any time here on your trip, it’s definitely worth a day trip. There is plenty to see and do right in the heart of Salzburg like Mozart’s birthplace.
But one of our favorite stops was on the outside of the city. Schloss Hellbrunn looks like any other country villa but the real draw is the trick fountains. These trick fountains have been around since 1615. The tour of the fountains is incredibly entertaining and pretty unforgettable. Make sure to get your tickets ahead of time.
If you’re looking for a place for lunch or dinner, the Steigl Brewery is a great stop. Take some time to visit the museum as well. Your museum ticket comes with a fight of beer at the end in the restaurant.
Read More: 4 Days in Salzburg: An Itinerary for the Thrifty Traveler
Between the stunning mountains and lakes, beer gardens galore, and tons to do nearby, Berchtesgaden has so much to offer every traveler – history buff or not.
If you’re heading for Munich or Salzburg, tack a few days on to visit this beautiful area. You’ll end up planning your trip back while you’re there.
Great article on Berchtesgaden, Erica. My wife and I have been to Berchtesgaden many times, starting in the late 1970s when I was in the Army and stationed in Germany for 6 years. It’s really a beautiful town and area.