A Lakeside Summer Holiday in Zell am See, Austria

posted in: Blog, Europe | 22

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.

Lake Zell
We loved spending our time by Lake Zell, which shimmered in the sun

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.

Hotel Tirolerhof
Our hotel was brilliant!

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

Sigmund Thun Gorge
The Sigmund Thun Gorge was absolutely stunning

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

Krimml Waterfalls
We visited the Krimml Waterfalls and the Visitor Centre

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

The Kitzsteinhorn glacier
At the top of Salzburg!

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.

Kitzsteinhorn Gondola
The gondola lift up the mountain was incredible!

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.


The views at the Grossglockner were magnificent.

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.


Up the Schmittenhöhe
When we went up the Schmittenhöhe, we could see down onto lake Zell and Zell am See!

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.

MS Schmittenhöhe

MS Schmittenhöhe
We took a scenic cruise around Lake Zell on the MS Schimmtenhöhe

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.

Lake Crossing

Ferry across Lake Zell
We took a ferry across Lake Zell to Thumersbach

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

Light Show
We loved Zell’s magnificent light and laser 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.

Travel Notes & Beyond

22 Responses

  1. victoria

    It seems you had a great week with grandpa, Jess. Thank you for the detailed tips on what to see and do in See.

  2. Jono

    This is a lovely post. Place looks amazing. Glad to see taking this trip with your Grandpa too

  3. Kara

    Oh my goodness, I went skiing there as a teen at school (a very long time ago) – it looks very different but just as appealing in the summer

  4. Mahesh Yadav

    This had to be a lovely summer holiday travelling with your grandpa, the views are scenic.Liked the waterfall.
    Keep posting
    Cheers 🙂

  5. Trish

    What a brilliant post, Jess. It’s brought back lovely memories of a summer holiday in Austria in 2012 when we stayed in Ossiacher See. We loved the gondola trips and waterfalls too. I’ve often wondered about driving up the Grossglockner road – an excursion seems a great idea as you can look at the view instead of concentrating on the road!

  6. Charles McCool

    Such a sweet multi-generation travel post. I love it. The water attractions looks magnificent. The gondola to the top of Salzburg must have been exciting. Great stuff.

  7. Megan Jerrard

    I’ve been to Salzbug, but didn’t get the chance to visit Zell am See – how fantastic to use the trip as an opportunity to spend time with your grandfather – I’m sure he was so excited to spend time with you! It really does look like the perfect summer holiday destination for families. Hotel Tirolerhof sounds like a great place to stay, and I would be all over the waterfalls!

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the Kitzsteinhorn – a gondola ride is always fun, and what a beautiful view! So much to do – I’ll definitely be getting the Zell am See summer card as per your recommendation. Thanks for sharing your experience from your trip!

  8. BonBon

    I am so jealous, it’s the other side of the world that I have been wanting to go, even though I can’t even pronounce the names:) hahaha So beautiful.

  9. knycx.journeying

    A lot to see and I appreciate the dramatic landscape of changing from lake to iceberg in one cable car ride! Thanks for the post and photos and I am looking forward to visiting there myself 🙂 @ knycx.journeying

  10. Anisa

    I am so not a snow person, so I have done the ski resorts in the summer and it’s great. Zell am see looks so beautiful. I would love to do some hiking there. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  11. Nancy @ NY Foodie Family

    What an amazing trip to take with your grandpa! I hope my children get to travel solo with their grandparents soon. It seems like such a memorable experience and you visited such a beautiful place! All of those mountain views are amazing!

  12. Anda

    I’ll be in Austria next spring and Zell am See is on the list of my places to see there. Thank you for giving me a heads up about this beautiful place. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  13. Mapping The Map

    This region is amazing. We were there three years ago and visited Grossglockner and Krimml waterfalls, among others. There is a lot to see there! Thanks for sharing in #TheWeeklyPostcard

  14. Michelle | michwanderlust

    What a pretty place! I’ve only been to Vienna and Salzburg but looks like the Austrian countryside is far more my cup of tea. So glad you got to go with your grandpa as well. Time spent with grandparents is never wasted. I wish I had travelled with mine!

  15. Stelian Mirghes

    Hi Jess. Austria and its mountains are a must see if you are a mountain lover. I can see your adventures from Zell am See that bring me very nice memories from few years ago when we’ve also been there. Such an amazing place with memorable views. And there are so many things to do and see around. The views over the lake are simply magnificent. I highly recommend this destination to anyone either in summer or winter. We can help all travellers to get to Zell am See and other places in Austria because our holiday range is wide. Good luck Jess with your future posts. Thanks for sharing with us your experience.

    Stelian at World Lifetime Journeys https://www.worldlifetimejourneys.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *