My German guests told me that Berchtesgaden and Lake Königssee are not only known in the area but are widely considered the most beautiful nature destination in all of Germany. Thinking about it, I can imagine. It’s at least up there with Neuschwanstein castle and other popular destinations.
But why are we talking about Tourist destinations in Germany? This is the Free Walking Tour Blog for Salzburg, Austria, isn’t it? Yes, this website is about Austria, but Salzburg is within walking distance from the German border, and Berchtesgaden and Königssee are an hour by bus.
In fact, the area of Berchtesgaden, where Königssee is located, could be my favorite day trip from Salzburg. That’s a hard thing to say since there are so many beautiful places to visit, but there is no doubt Königssee is among the best. In this article, you find out everything there is to know about Königssee and how to take a fantastic Königssee day trip from Salzburg.
How do you get to Königssee by Public Transport from Salzburg?
To get from Salzburg to Königssee, you either take bus 840 to Berchtesgaden, and from there bus 841 to Schönau am Königssee, or you take two trains via Freilassing and bus 841. The bus is faster, more scenic, requires fewer changes, and is less expensive and therefore preferred. The trip from Salzburg to Königssee by bus takes about 1,5 hours one way, requires changing buses once, and only costs around €11,- for a return ticket.
1. How do you get from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden?
On a day trip from Salzburg, the best way to get to Königssee is to take bus number 840 from the train station in Salzburg. It takes you 50 minutes to get to Berchtesgaden.
Be aware! Bus 840 doesn’t leave from the main terminal in front of the train station, but from an alternate bus stop opposite where taxis are parked, just a minute away from the regular bus stop.
Check this link to find out where exactly the bus stop is.
Alternatively, you can also take bus 840 from Mirabell square, where the bus passes 4 minutes after leaving the Salzburg train station.
To get a ticket for the bus, you ask the bus driver for a day ticket. The day ticket covers the bus to Berchtesgaden and the bus from Berchtesgaden to Kings Lake (Königssee).
2. How do you get from Berchtesgaden to Königssee?
It takes you 50 minutes from Salzburg to reach the Berchtesgaden train station, where you change to bus 841 to Schönau am Königssee. When you get off in Berchtesgaden, signs are indicating the various bus lines.
The train station where the bus stop is located is 5-10 minutes away from the center of the village of Berchtesgaden, which you should visit before or after Kingslake. I would recommend visiting Berchtesgaden after the Lake because the area can get crowded. The crowds matter less when visiting the village than the Lake.
Bus 841 only takes you another 10 to 15 minutes before you reach your destination, Schönbau am Königssee, from Berchtesgaden.
Summing-up the Journey
- Take bus 840 from the Salzburg train station to Berchtesgaden and bus 841 from Berchtesgaden to Lake Königssee.
- When boarding bus 840 get a day ticket from the bus driver. The day ticket costs €11,- and includes both buses, both ways.
- The only time when you want to take the journey by train is when you missed the last bus from back to Salzburg or when you own an Interrail pass.
How do you get to Königssee by Car from Salzburg?
While many of you won’t have a car and public transport is convenient, there are advantages to having a car at your disposal. By car, you don’t waste time changing buses in Berchtesgaden and might even be able to visit the Eagles Nest in addition to Lake Königssee.
If you are traveling by car, head past Berchtesgaden and straight to Schönau am Königssee in the morning. It’s about 30 kilometers from Salzburg. Therefore, the journey by car takes you about 40 minutes along the same scenic route the bus takes to Berchtesgaden.
Should you rent a Car to get from Salzburg to Lake Königssee?
Renting a car for the day trip from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden is not worth it due to the convenience of public transport for the journey. You would save time, but the parking fees alone can cost the same as the bus tickets. Especially in Salzburg, parking is expensive and inconvenient.
If you are renting a car anyway, which can be a good idea for day trips like Hallstatt or traveling in Austria in general (for example, along the romantic road from Salzburg to Vienna), use it!
There are countless paid parking spots for visitors of Königssee. Parking tickets are available for 1 hour, 3 hours, and the entire day. If you are taking the boat, which is highly recommended, and not just a stroll on the lakeside, get a ticket for the whole day. The parking ticket for the day is €8,- which is inexpensive compared to the prices of parking in Salzburg.
Despite the hundreds of parking spots, I have been there at times when it was hard to find a parking spot. The place is trendy and increasing its popularity every year. If you arrive too late and all the parking spots are taken, just wait for a moment until someone leaves.
Can you take a Taxi from Salzburg to Lake Königssee?
Of course, you can, but the obvious problem with taking a taxi is the price. For a taxi ride all the way from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden, you pay around €70,- one way. That becomes viable for groups of four people or more.
If you are more than 4 people, ask for a Großraumtaxi. Großraumtaxis are minivans for eight persons. They cost the same as a regular taxi which can reduce the price per person to less than €10,-. That’s still more than taking the day ticket for the bus because the day ticket also covers your return but as mentioned before there are obvious advantages of traveling by car.
During my time working at the yoho Hostel, I had many guests who missed the last bus from Königssee and Berchtesgaden back to Salzburg. If you miss the last bus, a taxi from Schönau am Königsee to Berchtesgaden and then a train or a taxi all the way to Salzburg are your only two options. Often there are other individual travelers in the same situation. In that case, asking around to share a taxi is a good idea.
How to visit Lake Königssee and the Eagles Nest on the same Day Trip?
While I personally wouldn’t recommend visiting the Eagles Nest and Kings Lake on the same day, by car, as opposed to by public transport, it’s possible. To see both the Eagles Nest and Kings Lake, you take the first boat to Sankt Bartholomä in the morning (not all the way to Obersee). Then you head back to drive to the visitors center, the Eagles Nest, where you take the shuttle bus to the Eagles Nest. Later more on the boat and on visiting the Eagles Nest and Königssee on the same day.
The Advantage of taking a Guided Tour from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden
That brings me to guided tours from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden. The biggest tour company in Salzburg is Panorama tours. While I am all for independent day trips for independent travelers, Panorama Tours enables you to not only visit Lake Königssee and the Eagles Nest on the same day but to even include the Berchtesgaden salt mines. Therefore, if you want to fit all of these activities into one day, without even a moment of planning, the Bavarian mountains super saver tour by Panorama tours is the way to go.
The Boat to Sankt Bartholomä and Obersee
The boat to Sankt Bartholomä and Obersee at Lake Königssee is the main activity. The reason for that is apparent. The Lake is huge, and because of the steep mountains that rise from the Lake, there is no way to walk to the end of the Lake, to the Pilgrimage Church of Sankt Bartholomä.
When arriving in Schönau am Königssee by bus 841 or by car, you get to the village of Schönau. Schönau feels like a dummy town for tourists. Every building is a souvenir shop, a hotel, or a restaurant. Walk down the main street (the only street) for 5 minutes, and you get to the docks.
Buying the Ticket for the Boat
The ticket counters are on your right when you get to the docks. There are two tickets available. One to the first stop in Sankt Bartholomä and another ticket to Obersee. If you have all day, arrive early, and are not trying to squeeze in other activities like the Eagles Nest, get the ticket to Obersee, the second stop. While Sankt Bartholomä is impressive and the main attraction at Kings Lake, the extent of the national park Berchtesgaden’s wilderness becomes apparent when you reach the second stop.
Before boarding the boat or even before buying your ticket, it’s recommended to use the restroom. There are restrooms on the other side of the Lake, but the ride takes an hour, if you take the boat all the way to Obersee and 35 minutes, if you get off at the first stop in Sankt Bartholomä and unless you specify otherwise, you will get the earliest availability assigned.
What to expect from the Boat Ride on Königssee?
Lake Königssee is the cleanest Lake with the best water quality in all of Germany. To preserve that water quality and the surrounding nature, many laws apply, including the prohibition of fuel-driven motorboats.
That makes for a pleasant ride since the boats are silent. But don’t expect the experience to be one of pristine nature only. You are still in one of the most touristy areas in all of Germany and the surroundings of Salzburg. There are about 20 of these boats on the Lake, which is nice because you get to take pictures of other boats during the ride. Each of the boats holds 80 passengers, and usually, they fill up.
During most of the ride, a member of the crew is there to entertain the passengers. They are dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes and are genuinely funny. I took the boat many times, and their jokes were always made everyone laugh. Everyone except for English speakers because most of it gets lost in translation. The highlight of the trip is when one of the crew members plays the trumpet to present the echo that reverberates from the mountains.
As I mentioned before, the ride to Sankt Bartholomä takes 35 minutes, while the ride all the way to the end, to Salet and Obersee, takes an hour from Schönau am Königssee.
What to do in Sankt Bartholomä and at Lake Obersee?
The first stop, Sankt Barholomä, used to be an important pilgrimage site and is the oldest mountain pilgrimage site in Europe. There is little more than the church and the old hunting lodge. The church is free to visit, and the hunting lodge is nowadays a restaurant. If you want to get off the beaten path in Sankt Bartholomä, I highly recommend the hike to Eiskapelle, Ice Chapel. It requires no skills and takes no more than 15 minutes. Otherwise, you can enjoy a beer or a meal at the lakeside while enjoying the scenery.
CORRECTION: Thanks to one of my readers for shedding light on details I misunderstood about the Ice Chapel in my original post. It appears I have confused an actual chapel along the trail with what is the Ice Chapel. Contrary to what was previously stated, the journey is not a 15-minute walk but a 75-minute hike. According to my reader, embarking on this trek will reward you with breathtaking vistas of towering mountain walls and a unique ice formation. Nestled in a narrow valley of glacial moraine, the Ice Chapel is a site that has been sculpted by nature’s own hands and is not an actual chapel. The sight of this glacial formation, a cavern carved by melting water, is worth the hike, according to my reader, and has been likened to a spectacular “Ice Cathedral.” For those like me, who may have missed it on their initial visit, a return trip might be in order. Thank you again to my reader for his contributions that help to enrich the travel experiences of all. Here is a picture he shared so you can get a better idea:
In case you take the boat all the way to the end, which I would highly recommend, you get off in Salet. In Salet, there is even less than in Sankt Bartholomä. Besides the dock, there is a ticket booth with a restroom, and three minutes walking, there is the Saletalm, which houses a canteen-style traditional Bavarian restaurant. The place is touristy of course, but the prices are correct, and the food is not bad.
If you are already hungry, you can eat there because there will be nothing available for a while now. When you are ready, just follow the path. It leads through the forest. After ten minutes, you reach the second Lake, Obersee. Right when you get there, you get to a hut, an iconic building in the area. On busy days, queues of people form there waiting to photograph the hut. But that’s all there is to do.
When you are done with that, continue your walk along the right side of the Lake. The terrain is hilly but easy to hike. It will take you half an hour to an hour to reach the other side of the Lake, where you find another hut. The so-called Fischunkelalm is what a traditional Austrian-Bavarian hut is actually like. There you get bread with topping, buttermilk, and beer.
From Fischunkelalm and the end of the Lake, you continue your walk up the hill and towards Germany’s largest waterfall, possibly along with cows and only a few other people. You can’t get all the way to the waterfall but close, and it’s absolutely worth walking all the way back.
Don’t expect to be alone on your way along Obersee and up to the waterfall. Most tourists will get off the boat in Sankt Bartholomä and never make it to Obersee, but since there is only one way to go, everyone is in the same places.
What if you don’t want to take the boat?
The boat is the only way to reach the other side of the Lake. The only reason not to take the boat is if you are on a budget, but I wouldn’t recommend skipping the ride. If you, however, decide not to take the boat, the next best thing is a short hike. To take it, you turn left once you are at the docks. The trail takes you along Malerwinkel (painter’s corner), where you get a great view of the Lake and all the way to Sankt Bartholomä.
That’s the minimum activity you have to engage in. While in Schönau you are at the Lake already, you can’t actually see all the splendor. Most of the Lake is around a corner and behind mountains. The hike is a circular trail and takes you back to the parking and the entrance of Schönau.
Can you Hike around Königssee Lake?
Since the mountains reach directly to the lakeshore, there is no way of hiking around Königssee. However, in the area and around Kings Lake, there are countless hiking trails. There is what’s called the Stoney sea (Steinernes Meer), a plateau above 2000 meters that takes you from Königssee in Germany to Saalfelden in Austria on a multi-day hike. There is also Watzmann, the third-highest mountain with an elevation of almost 3000 meters, which is a challenge even to skilled alpinists and Jenner, which can also be reached by cable car from Schönau am Königssee.
What about the Insta Famous “Infinity Pool” at Königsbach Waterfall?
If you have not seen or heard about the Königsbach waterfall, it’s an Instagram sensation and a danger to mindless influencers. In fact, the way to the waterfall was permanently closed to visitors in 2020 because visitors have put themselves in danger for a photo and had to be rescued.
Renting a Rowing Boat on Königssee
Renting a rowing boat on Königssee is possible and fun, but you won’t reach St Batholomä. The rental price for boats is inexpensive. It costs less than 20 euros for 4 hours, but in 4 hours you wouldn’t even get close to the other side of the Lake. I tried it many times in the past but will not try again. Rent a boat if you feel like rowing but don’t rent a boat for exploring the area.
Can Swim in Lake Königssee?
Swimming at King Lake is allowed, but the water is freezing cold. What’s not allowed is bringing your own boat, your air mattress, and swimming close to the electric boats (for your own safety).
What else is not allowed at Lake Königssee?
Kings Lake is part of the Berchtesgaden National Park. While other National Parks in Austria are not that strict about enforcing their rules, Berchtesgaden National park is. Wild camping is forbidden everywhere in Austria and Germany, but while you can get away with it in many places in Austria, you will get in trouble for pitching your tent at kings lake.
The same goes for flying drones. Just don’t! I know someone who paid a hefty fine of several thousand euros for violating these laws. And another warning. Don’t miss the last boat! There is no place to stay in Sankt Bartholomä, in Salet, or at Lake Obersee, and for the boat people to rescue you, you pay more than €500,-.
Can you Combine Königssee and the Eagles Nest?
The short answer is no. You simply don’t have enough time to do both. Not if you take the boat on Kingslake all the way to Obersee and walk to Salet and the waterfall. If you start early in the morning and make it to the Eagles Nest first, then you could still head to Königssee and have a look at the Lake from Malerwinkel, the short round walks, without taking the boat.
But I would instead recommend choosing either the Eagles Nest or Königssee. If you choose the Eagles Nest instead of the Lake, head over to this guide on how to visit the Eagles Nest on a Day trip, including the shuttle bus from the Documentation center, or this guide on how to hike the Eagles Nest for an off the beaten path budget day trip.
I once read someone on Twitter calling Lake Königssee the Bavarian Fjord. That’s what describes it the best. If you don’t know better, you might assume from it’s apparent that the place in Norway and not in Germany. A day trip to Lake Königssee is unlike anything else you could experience in the area.
If you have an entire day to spend, you can comfortably take bus 840 and 841 on a day ticket from Salzburg to Schönau am Königssee, where you take the boat to Obersee and go on an easy hike to the Fischunkelalm on the other side and discover the largest waterfall in Germany.