Jess, aged 15, writes: Last week, I was lucky enough to spend seven days with my grandpa in Zell am See, Austria. Zell am See is a popular skiing resort in the state of Salzburg, but in summer the snow is cleared, revealing a gorgeous lakeside town surrounded by lush green hills. I really enjoyed our holiday, and think that Zell is a perfect summer holiday destination for families. You can do as much or as little as you wish, and we split our days between walking in the mountains and relaxing by the lake.
Grandpa and I stayed in the Hotel Tirolerhof, and we couldn’t have wished for a better hotel. It ticked all the boxes: centrally located, spacious, beautifully decorated, clean, great food, and attentive service. We were truly lucky to find such a nice place to stay.
A particular highlight was the food. We ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel every day, and the choice was simply staggering. Unable to eat meat, some types of fish, and gelatine, we were always presented with a multitude of different options. We had a five course meal every night, and it was always delicious. A particular highlight was a dessert buffet on the first night. It seemed as though the whole room was filled with treats, and all were fantastic. My only complaint of the week was that the pool wasn’t very big, but it was filled with a multitude of water jets which made the experience lots of fun.
Where to go
Sigmund Thun Gorge
The Sigmund Thun Gorge is about a thirty minute bus ride from Zell, and it definitely was one of the highlights of the holiday. I had wanted to see a gorge ever since studying them in geography class, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The gorge is 320m long and up to 35m deep, and it was incredible to see the walls of rock towering above the fast-flowing waterfalls. Luckily I didn’t get too wet, and even got to see a rainbow. The walk through the gorge took about 25 minutes, and I honestly enjoyed every second. The only drawback of the entire experience was that the walk back to the entrance was steep and quite inaccessible but despite this, it was an experience which I would love to relive.
The Krimml Waterfalls
Another highlight of the holiday was visiting the Krimml Waterfalls. These are the highest waterfalls in Europe, and the fifth highest in the world. Grandpa and I took an easy stroll to the bottom of the falls, and the sheer amount of water displaced was overwhelming. It was a simply magnificent view, and had I not been with someone two generations older than me, we may have done some walking towards the top. We also took a trip to the Krimml Wonder World of Water, which was well done, though mainly in German. While I could translate quite a lot of this, it was difficult and time consuming.
The Kitzsteinhorn was probably the most impressive experience of our holiday. We took three gondola lifts up to a glacier, and the experience was simply incredible. Unlike the other gondolas on the holiday, these ones were small, so for some of our journeys it was just me and grandpa in the gondola.
The views were stunning – towering green hills interspersed with trees and waterfalls. We took walks on the first and second levels, and then took the Gipfelwelt to the top of the mountain. We were at 3029m – the top of Salzburg. The views were incredible, and combined with an exhibition about the national park, we had an excellent time.
We took an excursion to the Grossglockner – the highest mountain in Austria. The alpine road stretches all the way across the mountain, and the views were phenomenal. Unfortunately, on the ascent we mainly found ourselves driving through clouds, but descent was simply phenomenal. The combined views of the glacier and the valley below were amazing to look at, and we even got to see some marmots (cute large squirrels native to the Alps). We were accompanied by a ranger who was extremely helpful and told us some fascinating facts about the road; stopping to answer any questions we had. We stopped multiple times on the journey, and particular highlights were an exhibition on the flora and fauna of the mountain, and one on the building of the road.
The Schmittenhöhe is Zell’s local mountain. While not as tall as the other mountains we went up on the holiday, it was absolutely perfect for taking walks. The views were sublime, especially those of Zell and the lake below us. We had an excellent time walking around, and even watched people paragliding into the valley.
What to do
There was so much to do in Zell that we didn’t manage to experience it all. It only takes three hours to walk around the lake, but we didn’t attempt to tackle that. It is also possible to rent bikes, visit the town museum (which was closed for maintenance), and swim in one of the three lidos. There is a Wednesday night summer festival to visit, and grandpa and I enjoyed looking around the Church.
Zell is an excellent place to stay in the sense that it’s so convenient. There was a multitude of shops, a train station, and lots of different bus routes, which we frequently used.
There are panorama cruises of Lake Zell on the MS Schmittenhöhe, which take you all across the lake. It was lovely to experience Zell from the water, and there was also the option of sunbathing and buying food. Information about our surroundings was given, though this was difficult to hear in certain parts of the boat.
We took the ferry across the lake to Thumersbach, which is home to a gorgeous park, a lido, and restaurants. The ferry crossing was quick and easy, and Thumersbach was a great place to visit.
Magic Lake Show
Zell am See’s water light show takes place three times a week, and consists of fountains, lasers, and lights. We visited on Sunday night, meaning that the theme was “Classic” – classical music. The show lasted for about 20 minutes, and was really enjoyable. The lakefront was absolutely packed, and it was clear that everyone was having a really good time.
One thing which really improved our holiday was the Zell am See summer card. This gave us discounts on almost all of the attractions in the Zell am See area, which was useful as it left us with more money for ice creams! There was even a helpful app which gave us extra information, and allowed us to calculate how much money we had saved. By the end of the week, we had managed to save €165! You cannot buy the Summer Card; it comes free with participating hotels.
In conclusion, Zell am See is a really excellent place to go on holiday. The people were nice, the food was amazing, the views were magnificent, and there were so many great things to do. We could do as much or as little as we wanted, and had a really exciting and relaxing time. I would definitely recommend it for all types of families – whether you want to go for long hikes or just relax by the lake. I would happily go back again next year!
Jess and her grandpa went on a package holiday with Inghams, flying via Ryanair from Stansted Airport to Salzburg and then taking a coach to Zell. They were gifted two “summer cards” from the Zell am See tourism board, but the tourist board had no input into this blog post.