I seriously cannot believe it has taken me so long to write about one of our favorite places in the world – Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany. It’s pretty hard to top the clean air, miles of hiking trails, and expansive views of the majestic Bavarian Alps! We’ve been to Berchtesgaden National Park several times now in both the summer and winter. We wanted to put together this post, complete with photos from over the years, to help you plan your visit to this little slice of heaven in Bavaria.
Things to Do in Berchtesgaden National Park
Berchtesgaden National Park has plenty of opportunities for exploring its 81 square miles (210 sq km). From alpine hiking to cable car rides and guided boat trips, we’ll share with you the many ways in which you can take in the beauty of Germany’s only alpine national park.
Jennerbahn Cable Car
One of the best ways to experience Berchtesgaden National Park is to take a ride on the Jennerbahn cable car. The cable cars have actually received a facelift since our last visit. As of June 2019, 10-person gondolas now take visitors to the top of Jenner Mountain. Back when we visited, the cozy little cars only held 2 people. So, the ride is now more spacious, but the views are just as spectacular as they’ve always been.
You can check ticket prices and purchase single tickets online. No need to pick a particular date, as your one-time-use ticket is good for an entire year. Family and groups tickets must be purchased in person at the ticket counter. We recommend you ride the cable car all the way to the summit. Jenner Mountain’s peak sits at 6,148 feet (1,874 meters) and the views from the top are unrivaled! Enjoy a snack in the panoramic restaurant near the peak, then take a short walk for absolutely breathtaking views over Lake Königssee.
After exploring at the peak, we decided to hike halfway down Jenner Mountain. Since we were going downhill the entire way, it was a little rough on our knees. However, I’m not sure we would’ve survived the hike up… it’s pretty steep! Again, I can’t say enough about the views. Relatively clear skies provided stunning 360-degree views of Berchtesgaden National Park. At middle station (Mittelstation), we caught the cable car for the remainder of the journey down the mountain.
Restaurants in Berchtesgaden National Park
Besides the restaurant atop Jenner Mountain, there are several places to stop and enjoy a bite and beer on your hike down (or up). Besides enjoying some warm beverages at the peak, we waited until we got back down the mountain to grab a bite to eat. Jennerkaser is a rustic restaurant at the foot of the mountain serving up traditional Bavarian cuisine. Sit outside to enjoy entertainment from the goats frolicking in the side yard.
There are several other restaurants in Berchtesgaden National Park. You’ll see a few options on the walk from the Jennerbahn cable cars to Bayerische Seenschifffahrt, where you catch the boat for a ride on Lake Königssee (our next recommendation)!
Boat Ride on Lake Königssee
Another wonderful way to experience the beauty of Berchtesgaden National Park is to take a ride on Lake Königssee. Germany’s cleanest and deepest lake also happens to be one of the most picturesque lakes in all of Europe. It’s not hard to see why this is one of our favorite places on the planet! You can rent a row boat and explore the lake on your own. Or hop on an electric boat to get a duck’s eye view of the lake and its surrounding beauty! The narration on the guided boat tour is in German, so we had no idea what they were saying.
However, there was a moment during the ride where everyone onboard understood a universal language – music. The boat stopped, a trumpet came out, a melody was played, and the beautiful sound echoed in the mountains. The experience was absolutely breathtaking!
Hike to Obersee
There are two (actually 3) stops on the lake where you can exit the boat and explore. The third lesser known stop is Kessel, which provides access to a long steep hiking trail leading to Gotzenalm, the national park’s largest mountain pasture. We did not get off at this stop, so unfortunately I cannot provide much further information. I do know that if you want to get off here, you will need to notify the boat captain in advance, otherwise they will not stop.
We took the boat all the way to Salet at the far end of the lake. This stop is only available from May to October. Here you can access a wonderful (short) hiking trail that takes you to gorgeous Lake Obersee. It’s only about a mile from the boat dock to the lake and back. You can easily do the walk in less than an hour. There is also a restaurant and little souvenir shop at this stop.
The scenery here is spectacular and it’s honestly where we fell in love Berchtesgaden on our very first trip. So, may we suggest going all the way to Salet… you won’t be disappointed. There are longer hikes at this stop, so if you do take off on an extended adventure, be aware of what time the last boat leaves the dock!
St. Bartholomä Church
Probably the most popular stop on the lake is St. Bartholomä Church. The chapel was first built in 1134 and later redesigned in 1697 in the style you see today, with 2 onion domes and a red domed roof. You can peak inside the church, though the interior is quite simple. Next to the church is a lovely restaurant and beer garden in an old hunting lodge. And if you’re feeling up for a little hike, you can take an easy stroll along the shore, through the forest, and back to the boat dock.
For more information about the guided boat tour on Lake Königssee, visit the Schifffahrt Königssee website for timetables, ticket prices, and more!
Tips for Visiting Berchtesgaden National Park
So, now that we’ve enticed you to visit. Let’s talk about the practicalities of getting to the park and making the most of out of your visit!
Transportation to Berchtesgaden National Park
Getting to Berchtesgaden National Park will be easiest with your own vehicle. Please note, that you have to pay to park within the national park. You can purchase a 1-hour, 3-hour, or day ticket. However, if you’re relying on public transportation, the town of Berchtesgaden has a central bus and train station that easily connects to the national park via the RVO bus (839, 841 or 843).
We’re going to provide you with some basic information about getting to Berchtesgaden from Munich and Salzburg. If you need even more information about getting to the town of Berchtesgaden, check out this very helpful detailed write-up from Big Boy Travel.
Getting from Munich to Berchtesgaden
Train to Berchtesgaden to Munich
To get from Munich to Berchtesgaden by train, take the Meridian or RB from Munch’s Hauptbahnhof (Central) Station to Freilassing and change lines to the Berchtesgadener Land Bahn (BLB). This train goes to Bad Reichenhall then onto Berchtesgaden. You can check the timetable and ticket prices HERE.
Bus to Berchtesgaden from Munich
FlixBus is a low-budget bus company that provides direct (3-hour) bus service from Munich to Berchtesgaden. You seriously can’t beat the price, however the service is not offered daily. Check the FlixBus schedule to see if bus service from Munich to Berchtesgaden is provided on the day you need to travel.
Getting from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden
Train to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg
Getting from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden by train is a little pricier and slower than the bus, but its still an option nonetheless. The train from Salzburg to Berchtesgaden, like from Munich, involves a change in Freilassing. The train is a great option if you’ve got lots of luggage. Another advantage of the train is that the last train back to Salzburg is just after 10 pm, whereas the last bus departs Berchtesgaden in the 6 o’clock hour.
Bus to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg
Your quickest option for getting to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg, however, is to take the bus, provided you don’t have a ton of luggage. Bus 840 departs just across the street from McDonald’s near Salzburg’s main bus station. Buses to Berchtesgaden from Salzburg depart about once an hour and the journey will take just under an hour with no transfers.
**IMPORTANT: Remember, whether you arrive to Berchtesgaden central station via train or bus, you’ll then need to catch the RVO bus (839, 841 or 843) to get to the national park.
Other Activities in Berchtesgaden National Park
Berchestgaden National Park is a year-round destination with plenty of activities to keep you busy, no matter the season!
Swim in Lake Königssee
During the warm summer months, take a dip in the lake… if you dare. Yes, you can go swimming in Lake Königssee. But keep in mind, the water temp never gets above 68 degrees (20C). Even on the hottest day, the water will be refreshingly chilly! You can access the lake directly underneath the bobsleigh run at Seelände in Schönau. Another entry point is a Malerwinkel, on the lake’s northeast side, which can be reached by a moderate walk from where the electric boats dock.
We’ve only mentioned a few hikes in this post. However, Berchtesgaden National Park has over 140 miles of hiking trails that drastically vary in length and difficulty. Most trails are only open May-October. Though, some higher elevation hikes are only accessible during the summer months due to abundant snowfall throughout the rest of the year. Check out this brochure for some of the most popular hiking trails in Berchtesgaden National Park.
Berchtesgaden National Park in Winter
Berchtesgaden National Park is almost fully accessible May-October. But come October, when the snow starts to really come down, parts of the park become inaccessible to visitors. As mentioned, some of the hiking trails become impassible during the winter in Berchtesgaden. You can still access some of the trails at lower elevations. These include the circular path near St. Bartholomä Church and the trail toward Malerwinkel and Jennerbahn on the lake’s northeast side. Mind your step, as they may be slippery from ice.
The guided boat tour on Lake Königssee also stops service to the furthest stop (Salet) November-April. But, while some sections of the park close down in winter, other parts transform into a winter wonderland! Jenner Mountain becomes a skiers paradise with 6 lifts and 7 miles (11 km) of groomed slopes.
Berchtesgaden Christmas Market
If you time your winter trip to Berchtesgaden right, you’ll be able to partake in the annual Berchtesgaden Advent. The town’s annual Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt) starts at the end of November and runs through the end of December. Dates for the 2019 Berchtesgaden Christmas Market are November 28-December 31.
Festive booths line the streets of Berchtesgaden’s historic town center, located just minutes from the national park. Devour scrumptious seasonal treats while you shop for Christmas trinkets and other crafts. And stay warm by drinking some delicious Glühwein (mulled wine)… Mmmmm!
Planning to be in Bavaria in September/October?
Check out our guide to the world famous Oktoberfest in Munich!
Even if you don’t make it to Berchtesgaden during Christkindlmarkt, you’ll definitely want to check out the historic town center of Berchtesgaden. It’s absolutely charming any time of year! The town center is located less than a 10 minute drive from the national park. Walk along cobblestone streets past cafes, shops, restaurants and historical buildings. Some of the buildings in Berchtesgaden’s Old Town are adorned with the oldest non-religious murals in the Bavarian Alps.
During our first visit to Berchtesgaden, we stayed in a quaint 8-room guest house minutes from the national park in Schönau am Königssee. Pension Hochödlehen offers single and double rooms, in addition to 3 studio-style apartments, complete with a separate bedroom and living room area. WiFi is available throughout the house and a wonderful breakfast is included in the room rate. Check rates and availability for Pension Hochödlehen -> HERE. And for more places to stay near Berchtesgaden National Park, check out this list.
More Things to Do in Berchtesdaden
Besides the national park and the old town center, there are plenty of things to do in Berchtesgaden to fill a few days. Probably the two most popular attractions in Berchtesgaden are Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus) and the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine. At an elevation of over 6,000 feet, Hitler’s former summer home (Eagle’s Nest) offers some of the best views in the area, in addition to a detailed look at Nazi and WWII history in this region. Eagle’s Nest can only be accessed via a bus from the Nazi Documentation Center. (Eagle’s Nest is closed November-April each year.)
The Berchtesgaden Salt Mine opened in 1517, though salt mining has actually been taking place in Berchtesgaden since 1194. You can tour this historic mine via salt train and wooden miner slides. Learn about salt mining, visit an underground lake, and slide down the old miner slides (120-feet). It’s one of few salt mines in the area that is open year-round.
Finally, while in town, don’t miss a visit to Bräustüberl, Berchtesgaden’s beer hall which dates back to 1645. Enjoy a hearty meal and a literstein of a delicious brew! It’s the perfect way to end your day(s) of exploring beautiful Berchtesgaden!