The Austrian mountain lake resort Zell am See is the perfect summer holiday destination for nature lovers. On the shore of crystal-clear Lake Zell, the town is on the edge of the Hohe Tauern National Park with its 30+ mountain peaks of over 3,000 metres. This post is packed with ideas of things to do in Zell am See in summer.
Zell am See is just under 100 km from Salzburg in the Austrian province of Salzburgerland. Together with the neighbouring village of Kaprun, it forms the Zell am See-Kaprun holiday region. Although it’s a year-round holiday destination with skiing a big winter attraction, there are many things to do in Zell am See in summer. We’ve visited the region three times and are always amazed at the new things to discover during each stay.
- Things to Do in Zell am See in Summer
- Stroll Through the Old Town
- Hike or Cycle Around Lake Zell
- Go Swimming
- Visit Kaprun
- Go Up a Mountain
- Take a Boat Ride
- Hike in the Sigmund Thun Gorge
- Day Trips from Zell am See in Summer
Things to Do in Zell am See in Summer
Stroll Through the Old Town
The old town of Zell am See on the western shore of Lake Zell is small enough to easily explore in half an hour (if you’re not tempted to go into too many souvenir shops 😊). There are many pretty buildings featuring colourful wall paintings and balcony flowers.
The St Hippolyte’s Church and the Grand Hotel deserve special mention. The 36-metre high church tower dominates the skyline on the market square while the hotel dominates the shoreline in front of the town.
Hike or Cycle Around Lake Zell
One of the best things to do in Zell am See in summer is to hike or cycle around the lake. The circular route is just over 11 km long and passes close to the lake in many parts. We’ve cycled around the lake from our campsite in neighbouring Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße twice by joining the Tauern Cycle Trail which connects to the lake trail.
While 11 km sounds long, the terrain is mostly flat. There are only one or two small hills on the eastern shore. Also, there are many opportunities to rest along the way. You can stop for a swim, a drink, or simply to enjoy the views.
Note: Parts of the eastern shore does not have a dedicated cycle track, which means you have to ride on the road for short stretches.
There are several opportunities for swimming during your Zell am See summer holidays. Around Lake Zell, the most popular swimming areas are called Lidos.
There are three Lidos, with the biggest one close to the Grand Hotel near the old town. It has heated pools, a dive tower, waterslide, showers, and toilet facilities. For this, you pay an entrance fee of €8.10 per adult per day.
Generally, there is no charge to take a dip in Lake Zell. There is a nice public swimming area near the Seecamp campsite on the northern shore. In summer, the water temperature is around 23 °C. As for the water quality, some locals insist it’s fit for drinking.
We have only dipped our toes in Lake Zell, but M had a great time with his cousins in the (warmer) swimming lake at Sportcamp Woferlgut. There is no entrance fee and enough sun loungers. The campsite is a 10-minute drive away in Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße.
For a small Alpine village, Kaprun has an amazing array of attractions to satisfy all tastes. The biggest of them all is no doubt the Kitzsteinhorn glacier in the shadow of the like-named summit. At 3,200 metres, it’s easily recognizable from Zell am See. While the mountains no doubt attract more hikers in summer, a few ski slopes remain open year-round.
Close to town, the Maiskogel alpine coaster is a family hit. On a rainy day, the Vötter’s Oldtimer-Museum is filled with a shiny collection of old cars to cheer up the boys in your company. We discovered it by chance on an afternoon drive to randomly find something to do on a cool temperature day. A stroll through Kaprun also led us to the pretty village church on the hill.
Go Up a Mountain
If you still don’t know what to do in Zell am See in summer, look at the surrounding mountains to find your answer. The town’s “hausberg” or house mountain is called Schmittenhöhe. A cable car will take you to the top in minutes. Among the attractions for an unforgettable mountain summer in Zell am See, are a mystical forest, adventure world, high altitude promenade, and e-motocross park.
In nearby Kaprun, the cable car network will take you to the summit station of the Kitzsteinhorn, Salzburgerland’s highest point at 3,029 metres above sea level. From here, you’ll enjoy amazing views over Alpine peaks from different viewing platforms. You can even play in the summer snow.
Take a Boat Ride
During summer in Zell am See, boats take visitors on different cruises on the lake. The MS Schmittenhöhe undertakes panorama cruises, while the MS Großglockner is responsible for lake crossings. In July and August, you can also experience a nostalgic boat ride on the Empress Elisabeth steamboat.
Hike in the Sigmund Thun Gorge
The highlight of our last summer in Zell am See was a hike through the spectacular Sigmund Thun Gorge outside Kaprun. The narrow gorge is only 320 metres long, which makes it great for families.
Once at the top of the gorge, continue on the circular route around the Klammsee (gorge lake). You can dip your feet in the clear water and have something to eat at the little restaurant while the kids are having fun in the playground.
The hike is short and easy, with the full excursion through the gorge and around the lake taking between two and three hours depending on how many times you stop.
Day Trips from Zell am See in Summer
Visit the Werfen Ice Caves
The world’s largest ice caves are only 60 km away from Zell am See. The Werfen Ice Caves or Eisriesenwelt are a natural wonder you shouldn’t miss when in the area.
Just getting to the mouth of the caves via two short hikes and Austria’s steepest cable car ride is an adventure. The temperature of zero degrees celsius inside the caves makes it one of the best things to do near Zell am See in summer.
See the Krimml Waterfalls
Another way to spend the day during summer in Zell am See, is to drive just under 60 km to Europe’s highest waterfalls. The Krimml Waterfalls has a total height of 380 metres which makes them the 5th highest falls in the world.
You don’t see the falls as one unit as they snake their way down the Krimml Ache (stream). You’ll see parts or everything depending on how fit you are. The hike from the bottom to the top waterfall is around 4 km long, with lots of places to rest along the way.
Take the Train to Salzburg
The city of Mozart (or The Sound of Music depending on which music you like best) is about 90 km from Zell am See. You can drive there or take the train and avoid the hassle of finding parking. The train passes amazing natural scenery and takes just over 1,5 hours.
Drive the Großglockner High Alpine Road
Possibly the most scenic road in Austria, the Großglockner High Alpine Road takes you straight through the High Tauern National Park. The Großglockner is Austria’s highest mountain and you’ll get quite close to it on the 48 km long drive. The start of the mountain pass is about 40 km from Zell am See, making it easy to put this drive on your list of things to do.
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