Kitzsteinhorn is advertised as the top of Salzburg. While it is not the highest mountain in the province of Salzburg, it’s close to it, and it’s the highest mountain you can reach by cable car. But how to reach Kitzsteinhorn from Salzburg?
That’s what I will answer in this article. I will tell you how to reach the summit of Kitzsteinhorn mountain and answer all the questions you might have about the journey and the Cable Car. If not in this article, then in the comments below or in person.
When should you consider a trip to Kaprun and Kitzsteinhorn?
Kitzsteinhorn is not only the highest cable car in Salzburg but also the most expensive one. But that’s the thing with cable cars in Austria. The higher the mountain, the more expensive the cable car.
And the difference between Kitzsteinhorn and, for example, the Untersberg cable car which is only 30 minutes from Salzburg and costs less than half the price is the next level mountain top station. More on that later on.
Now thanks to climate change, you can forget about skiing in summer. Kitzsteinhorn was the first glacier skiing area in Austria in 1965, but in summer turns more and more into a tourist attraction. The last time I visited was in late autumn. There was snow but only on the very top, and there was a disproportionately large number of groups of Dutch skiers crowding the tiny slope.
Kitzsteinhorn also takes a whole day, but the journey is astonishing because you travel from Salzburg, from the foot of the alps, right into the mountains. I would recommend the Kitzsteinhorn cable car if that’s what you want. If you can spare a day and the money and want seriously high mountains.
How to get to Kitzsteinhorn?
When researching Kitzsteinhorn, even for me as a local, it was very confusing. There are many cable cars in that area. Even the official website of the Gipfelwelt 3000 is complicated because of the different offers and features of the mountain top station.
In reality, however, there is only one way to get there, and I will show you how.
Train from Salzburg to Zell am See
To reach Kitzsteinhorn, provided you don’t have a car, you first take a train from Salzburg to Zell am See. The train takes between 1,5 and 2 hours, and you buy the ticket at the station. In terms of tickets you have two options:
- The “Einfach Raus Ticket” is a group day-ticket for the regional trains in all of Austria. The ticket is €35- for two persons and valid for the whole day. The Einfach Raus ticket, however, is only valid from 9 am which makes it impossible to start very early.
- The single ticket would be €16- (in 2020), therefore you pay a few Euros less and are flexible to leave earlier than 9 am if you travel alone. In case you are two or more travelers, its significantly cheaper to get the Einfach Raus ticket. With each additional person, the ticket gets a few euros more expensive. The maximum is €47,- (in 2020) for five people while individual return tickets for 5 people would be €160,- (in 2020).
The tickets you buy either way from the machine at the train station. Consider that you will reach the cable car around noon when leaving just after 9 am. However, that’s not a problem. You will have three to four hours on top of the mountain, and the trains from Zell am See run until late.
As of writing this in 2020, the combination tickets for train and cable car don’t exist anymore but they anyway didn’t reduce the price of either of them.
The Shuttle Bus from Zell am See to the Valley Station of the Cable Car
Because the trains from Zell am See to Salzburg run until late in the evening, it’s advisable to take a look at Zell am See after coming back from the mountain. Especially in spring and summer, you will have enough hours of sunlight left when coming back.
Zell am See itself is not especially exciting or pretty. Their tourist information is the most fancy I have ever seen but their parking the most expensive. For many years they had lots of Russian visitors until they changed their marketing and got flooded by visitors from Saudi Arabia. Everything there is caters to that tourism. The reason to go to Zell am See is the surrounding nature.
To get from Zell am See to the cable car you take a bus. Here it depends if it’s summer or winter.
In winter, there are shuttle buses for skiers. These shuttle buses are included in the price for the Gletscherjet cable car. Therefore it would be cheaper to get your so-called Gipfelwelt 3000 ticket to reach the Top of Salzburg on the Kitzsteinhorn website beforehand to save a few bucks on the shuttle bus.
In summer these shuttle buses are not operating, and you will have to take bus number 660 from the Zell am See railway station. That’s a regular public bus. On these kinds of buses you pay the bus driver in cash and having the cable car ticket wouldn’t be of use.
Taking the Gletscherjet Cable Car to the Top of Salzburg
The alternative would be to get off the bus in Kaprun and take what they call the K-Connection via Maiskogel. Still, the goal here is to reach the top, and the top is best achieved with the Gletscherjet. It’s very straight forward. You get off bus 660 at the Kaprun Kitzsteinhorn Bergbahn stop.
That’s where you buy your ticket for the Gletscherjet and board the first cable car. Depending on the season, there are lots of skiers. To reach the top, you have to change cable cars twice. Every time you can get off and enjoy the view, but the other two stops are not nearly as impressive as the top of Kitzsteinhorn.
What to do at Kitzsteinhorn?
On top of the mountain after three cable cars, you find yourself inside a high-tech mountain top station with several floors and several things to do. The main things are:
- The Top of Salzburg Viewing Platform on the 2nd Floor
- The Restaurant on the First Floor
- The National Park Gallery in the Basement
If you didn’t know it yet. When we in Austria count floors, the ground floor counts as a separate floor, and the first Floor is upstairs. Always. Same here. The ground floor is where the cable car goes to, and one floor up is the restaurant.
Top of Salzburg Photopoint
The viewing platform on the upper-level points towards the skiing slopes and the cable cars you took to reach the top. There the altitude is displayed. You are at 3029 meters. The peak of Kitzsteinhorn is at 3203 meters but the last ascent is only possible for experienced alpine hikers with special equipment.
The Top of Salzburg Viewing Platform is also a photo point. That’s one of my favorite parts. During my last visit, we were lucky enough to get there when it was not busy. Therefore we managed to push the button so many times. The way it works is that you simply stand there with the 3029-meter sign and the mountains in the background. You push the button, wait for a few seconds, and find your picture on this website.
National Park Gallery Viewing Platform
The mountain station of Kitzsteinhorn is just as confusing as the website. After we visited the Top of Salzburg platform, we first assumed we were done. Little did we know that the best was yet to come. The best was at the end of a 300-meter-long tunnel in the basement.
What’s called the National Park Gallery is a viewing platform from which you overlook the Hohe Tauern National Park. That’s the National Park where Großglockner, the highest mountain in Austria, is located. When you step out onto the viewing platform it is right in front of you. As far as I am concerned I was blown away when we discovered it. Don’t miss it, it’s not 100% obvious.
Germknödel at the Kitzsteinhorn Restaurant
The Gipfelrestaurant (summit restaurant) is a canteen-style restaurant. The prices are reasonable, especially considering the location, but on a busy day, it can get crowded. For more comfort, there is also a waiter served restaurant with a different menu that’s a little quieter but also more expensive.
I would recommend the self-service restaurant and a dish called Germknödel (yeast dumplings). Germknödel is something I used to eat as a kid, but I seldom prepare Austrian food, and most restaurants don’t serve these dumplings. They are filled with jam and topped with poppy seeds and sugar, and there is an all you can eat vanilla sauce fountain.
More things to do on Kitzsteinhorn
They are the main things to do on the mountain. There are a few other attractions like a Cinema, an outdoor sled area in the summer month, and occasional free guided tours. If you manage to join one of those, I am sure they are great. I never did. The cinema might be interesting for kids.
How much is the ticket for the Cable Car?
The price for the Kitzsteinhorn cable car in 2020 is €47,- per adult, €35,- for approximately 16-18 year-olds, and €23,50 for children younger than that. It is an expensive cable car, but you get what you pay for. If you are also planning to visit Zell am See you might want to consider the Combined ticket with the Panorama Boat on the Zell am See lake. That way, you would save money on the boat.
How is the View from Kitzsteinhorn?
The view on Kitzsteinhorn is one of the most stunning views you can find around Salzburg. On the Top of the Salzburg viewing platform at 3023 meters above sea level, you overlook the Alps. On the other side at the National Park Gallery, you are on eye level with Großglockner, the highest mountain in Austria.
Can you hike on Kitzsteinhorn?
There are countless options for hiking in the area but not at the top of the mountain. On top of Kitzsteinhorn, you can walk on the Ice Arena in the summer. That’s more or less what’s used for skiing in winter. You can’t reach the top of Kitzsteinhorn if you are not a professional alpinist and very well-equipped.
To hike in the area you should get off after the second or first cable car. Look at the map on this page of the Kitzsteinhorn website to understand what exactly I mean.
Can you go skiing on Kitzsteinhorn?
You most certainly can go skiing on Kitzsteinhorn. It’s known as a skiing area. If you don’t have your own equipment, there is a shop after the first cable car, where you can rent or buy anything. In theory, skiing should also be possible in summer, but in practice, climate change interferes with that. In the month of autumn and spring, you can go skiing on Kitzsteinhorn, when in other places you couldn’t anymore. Keep in mind, however, that for this reason, there might be a vast crowd skiing in a small space.
Should you visit Großglockner or Kitzsteinhorn?
Even if it’s the same area, Großglockner and Kitzsteinhorn are entirely different experiences. To reach the top of Großglockner, you take the alpine road while to reach Kitzsteinhorn you take cable cars.
Kitzsteinhorn is about the impressive summit while Großglockner, even if it’s the highest mountain in Austria, Großglockner, is about the winding alpine roads. On the high alpine road to Großglockner, you drive along with beautiful scenery but you are not overlooking the Alps.
You can’t reach the summit of Großglockner either without an entire expedition. When you arrive at the end of the alpine road on Großglockner, you stand in front of the glacier. You can see the summit, and you could walk down into the glacier, but the view to the Großglockner summit is just as good from the National Park Gallery on Kitzsteinhorn.
Therefore it’s not one or the other. If you want my personal recommendation. I would go for Großglockner if I was traveling by car and to Kitzsteinhorn if public transport was my only option. Driving up to Großglockner is excellent because you are flexible in your own vehicle, plus it’s less expensive the more people because you only pay the €37,- toll per car.
That being said, neither Kitzsteinhorn nor Großglockner are a must. There are so many other places around Salzburg that are cheaper, easier to get to, and just as exciting or beautiful. Kitzsteinhorn is a day trip you want to embark on if you would like to see the highest mountain in Austria, ride the highest cable car and overlook the alps from the top of Salzburg.
If you decide to travel to Kitzsteinhorn, I wish you a happy journey and hope this article helps. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via phone, email or WhatsApp!