Located in Southern Germany, Berchtesgaden perfectly combines natural splendor with local experience and adds a dash of historical wonder.
Minerals from the mountains turn lakes and rivers into the most beautiful shade of aqua blue, and the nearby salt mines let you delve deeper into the mountains.
The German Alps offer amazing views of the surrounding valleys and keep watch as the remnants of a bygone regime are reclaimed for happier purposes. There is so much to do in Berchtesgaden, Germany!
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Why Visit Berchtesgaden?
History and nature reign supreme in this quaint mountain area tucked away in southern Germany. More than just the town itself, the area has a lot to offer.
The town of Berchtesgaden is the hub for the area. Enjoy wood timbered homes and hotels as well as the roundabout over the confluence of two rivers! Check out Schloss Berchtesgaden (who doesn’t like a good castle?), and the Haus der Berge (House of the Mountains) is the perfect intro to this national park region.
Berchtesgaden National Park protects over 81 square miles of pristine alpine forests and meadows and the incredibly gorgeous Konigssee (King’s Lake). Get up close and personal with that beautiful aqua blue lake as you ferry across to the isolated Kirche St Bartholoma (St Bartholomew’s Church).
For another perspective of the mountains, take a salt mine tour! Kids especially love this tour of where salt comes from because of the slides inside the mine.
For the history buff, visit the Documentation Center in Obersalzburg to learn how Nazism took hold here. Discover the remains of underground bunkers and tunnels that once connected the infamous Berghoff and other buildings and marvel at Kehlsteinhaus (the Eagle’s Nest): Hitler’s chateau atop the mountain.
How Do I Get to Berchtesgaden?
Munich, Germany or Salzburg, Austria are the closest major cities to Berchtesgaden.
The easiest way to reach Berchtesgaden is from Salzburg via a reasonable 45min bus ride.
From Munich, it’s fastest to drive yourself at just under 2 hours. Taking public transport will put you on a train to Salzburg where you catch the bus back west to Berchtesgaden. This is not recommended as it adds another hour to transit time from Munich for a whopping 3 hours, one way.
Berchtesgaden does have its own train station but this is only available at certain times. Check if this source works for you, but it’s typically not the fastest or cheapest option. Depends on your timetable.
Weekends and holidays affect hours of operation. If you are traveling on a weekend or holiday, double check the transportation schedule ahead of time and verify museum hours.
Day Trip or Overnight Stay?
Day tripping to Berchtesgaden is easy and totally worthwhile if you’re already in Salzburg. You can see all the major sights thanks to the reliable bus system.
Catch the earliest Bus 840 that you can from Salzburg. If you catch the 8:15AM you’ll be in Berchtesgaden by 9:05AM. Last bus back to Salzburg leaves at 6:15PM. That’s a good almost 9 hours!
Pro Tip: Catch the bus at the route origin at Salzburg’s main train station (Hauptbahnhof) if you want to guarantee a seat. We caught the bus only one stop away at Mirabellplatz but most seats were already taken.
Nine hours is (usually) plenty of time to:
- Visit the Documentation Center and Eagle’s Nest,
- Get in some hiking and lunch while on top of the mountain,
- Spend the afternoon at the Konigssee (lake)
- Ferry out to St Bartholomew’s Church,
before returning to town and catching the bus back to Salzburg.
Or get a jump on the tourist crowds by staying overnight in Berchtesgaden! Staying in town lets you take your time and enjoy all this quaint mountain village has to offer while supporting the local community.
- Spend an entire day at the Konigssee.
- Hike around Berchtesgaden National Park and chase some waterfalls.
- Tour an old salt mine
- See a castle on a hill
Enjoy the quiet of the area before and after the crowds have left for the day.
What to See and Do in Berchtesgaden
Whether you prefer nature or history, here are the most popular sights to see in the Berchtesgaden area.
Even if you’re staying in Berchtesgaden, take Bus 838 (15min) up to Obersalzburg. There is parking, but it fills up fast in busy months. Visit the Documentation Center to learn about the area’s Nazi past. The museum is matter-of-fact and has various tours and English pamphlets available.
Each of the Documentation Centers found throughout Germany has a different perspective, and this one in Obersalzburg focuses on the propaganda aspect. Hitler would bring influential persons to be impressed by his mountaintop chateau, but otherwise he didn’t spend a lot of time up there since he didn’t like heights.
Admission includes a self-guided tour of the underground bunker system, complete with graffiti from French soldiers who liberated the area. It is eerie to see empty air raid shelters, staircases guarded by machine gun nests, and a giant open shaft that once would have housed elevators and staircases.
The Eagle’s Nest (Kehlsteinhaus)
Next, purchase a Bus 849 ticket to the Eagle’s Nest. This bus ticket is not included in your pass as it is a timed ticket. It’s free to visit the chateau, but the road is winding and narrow and not open to the public. You can either hike up the mountain for free or buy a bus ticket.
The bus drops off just outside the tunnel entrance to Hitler’s private elevator, which deposits you directly inside the chateau.
The chateau itself is now a restaurant (eat lunch outside!) but you’ll find historical plaques on the sun terrace. The fireplace, inside what is now the group dining room, was a gift from Italian dictator Mussolini.
The mountain views outside are amazing, and a few short hikes along the ridge give you unparalleled views of the surrounding valleys.
Elect to hike down to the bus pickup, rather than take the elevator back down. Perfect way to get the full German Alps experience without too much exertion.
House of the Mountains (Haus der Berge)
This visitor center is a good starting point for nature lovers who want to learn more about Berchtesgaden National Park and the surrounding mountains.
The building itself is fascinating as the light changes throughout the day. The Vertical Wilderness exhibit changes with the seasons to match its outdoor counterparts.
Berchtesgaden Castle (Schloss Berchtesgaden)
The castle started out as a monastery, slowly adding wings through the centuries, until it fell under the ownership of the Wittelsbachs, the ruling family of the Kingdom of Bavaria (roughly, southeast Germany).
It served as a full time Wittelsbach residence in the early 1900’s, acquiring much of the art seen today. The present day Wittelsbachs still use the residence in the summers.
King’s Lake (Königssee)
This gorgeous aqua teal blue lake is part of the protected Berchtesgaden National Park and only a 10min drive or ride on Bus 841 from central Berchtesgaden. Spend some time by the water or in the beer garden, or browse the shops near the lakefront if you’re in the market for a traditional dirndl or lederhosen.
The lake gets its aqua/teal blue color from natural minerals in runoff from the surrounding mountains. Hike to some fantastic viewpoints around the lake to appreciate the true size of these towering peaks. Adventure seekers: don’t miss the mountainside waterfall with a natural infinity pool!
Electric-powered ferries shuttle visitors to Kirche St Bartholomä (St Bartholomew’s Church) and take about 35min from dock to dock. The domes on this famous pilgrimage church are best admired from the lake, so have your camera ready!
Pro Tip: The lines for the ferry back get incredibly long in the late afternoon. Leave yourself plenty of time to wait for a ferry if you have to catch the last bus back to Salzburg.
Berchtesgaden Salt Mine
Learn more about the area’s living through a tour of a salt mine! Trust me, this is more fun than it may sound and not claustrophobic like some cave tours.
A good option on rainy days, kids especially will love this tour as there are 2 slides inside the mine!
Have you been to Berchtesgaden? What was your favorite thing to do?