Königssee in Berchtesgaden National Park

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Picturesquely nestled between the steep rock faces of the Berchtesgaden Alps lies the approximately 8km long, fjord-like Königssee. With its emerald green and crystal clear water, it is not only one of the most beautiful but also one of the cleanest lakes in Germany and is even said to be of drinking water quality.

Today, when you visit, you may long for the old days, when this beautiful piece of paradise still lay untouched, quiet and lonely at the foot of the Watzmann. The Königssee was already a popular excursion destination in the past and the small peninsula of St. Bartholomä was used for hunting and fishing, but at that time the beauty of the lake was primarily reserved for the kings and more important people of the country and their guests.

The Seelande on the north bank

The quiet times are long gone. The Königssee is now the most popular excursion destination in Berchtesgaden and is certainly on every “bucket list” of many tourists who travel to Berchtesgaden. At Königssee you only have a few options to get directly to the shore and a walk around the lake, as is often the case, is not possible here. The north bank is the only easily accessible access to the lake, the rest can only be reached by boat, but more on that later.

All around the so-called Seelände, the promenade on the north bank of Lake Königssee, and right up to the parking lot there are shops, inns, cafés and hotels, ice cream parlors, souvenir shops and souvenir vending machines with offers for every taste. Even if the view of the Königssee from here seems breathtaking to most people, you can only see a small part of the lake and the small island of Christlieger, about 250 meters from the Seelände. On a hill on the island stands a 1,80 meter high statue of Saint John of Nepomuk, the patron saint of boatmen and raftsmen.

Malerwinkel circular path and Rabenwand

You have a much more beautiful view of Lake Königssee from the viewing platform at Malerwinkel. This can be reached in about 15 minutes on foot along the lake from the boat dock. From there, together with many other nature lovers and photographers, you can catch a glimpse of the famous pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomew for the first time.

While the mountain forests at this altitude are usually pure spruce monocultures, here you are surrounded by a healthy, natural mixed mountain forest with a diverse range of plants.

If you are looking for an even better view over the lake, you can find it from the higher Rabenwand. If you follow the Malerwinkel circular path after the first viewing point at Malerwinkel, the path branches off after about 1,5 km towards Rabenwand and ends after another 10 minutes at a viewing point high above Lake Königssee with an unobstructed view.

From a high vantage point through the trees you can see almost the entire lake lying beneath you, often undisturbed.

Boat trip across the Königssee

Prices for shipping 2024

Königssee to St. Bartholomä (there and back): 22,50 euros
Königssee to St. Bartholomä or back (one way): 11,30 euros
Königssee to Salet (round trip): 27,50 euros
Königssee to Salet or back (one way): 14,50 euros
Königssee to Kessel or back (one way): 8 euros

Children up to 5 years free on all scheduled trips.

Children aged 6 to 17 receive a 50% discount (rounded up to the full 10 cents) on the adult price.

Dogs are transported for a fee of 4 euros.
Attention: Mandatory muzzle for all dogs, regardless of breed and size. No transport of fighting dogs!

You can find detailed prices and online tickets here official website of Königssee Shipping

Shipping timetable for 2024

From June 25.06th – 12.09. (High season) the ships leave approximately every 8 minutes from 00:18 a.m. to 35:30 p.m.
Last trip from Salet towards Seelände at 17:40 p.m.

From May 21.05st – June 24.06th and 13.09. – 03.10. (mid-season) the ships depart from 8:30 to 18:35 p.m. approximately every 30 minutes.
Last trip from Salet towards Seelände at 17:40 p.m.

From April 23.04rd – 20.05. and 04.10. – 16.10. (early and late season) the ships leave approximately every 9 minutes from 00:18 a.m. to 05:30 p.m.
Last trip from Salet towards Seelände at 17:10 p.m.

The detailed one Königssee shipping timetable can be found here on the official website.

Now let's come to the highlight and why most tourists come to Berchtesgaden - the boat trip across the Königssee. During the boat trip you can admire the Königssee in all its size and beauty and the magnificent mountain scenery that surrounds it comes to light.

Since 1909, the excursion ships have been environmentally friendly electric ships that glide quietly over Lake Königssee without noise, exhaust fumes or stench. The ships generally sail all year round. Only in very cold winters, when the lake freezes over, does shipping at Königssee take a break and you can sometimes walk across the lake. Even in heavy fog or storms, short-term interruptions must be expected.

The boat sets sail almost silently from the Seelände and first passes the small island of Christlieger. You can see the statue of John Nepomuk between the trees. It was erected as a thank you and in memory of four shipwrecked people who were able to escape to the island during a storm in 1711. The provosts and canons of the Berchtesgaden monastery used to occasionally dock at the island on their hunting trips in order to shoot wild ducks from here.
Today you can only get to the island by rowing boat. Or you can swim there from the shore, although the low water temperature thwarts most people's plans. Even in midsummer, the Königssee is only around 16 degrees.

When the boat has turned around the rocky corner of the Falkensteinerwand, the view of the entire lake finally opens up. The Malerwinkel is in the small bay on the left. The mountains tower picturesquely all around. At the southern end of the lake, the striking pyramid of the Schönfeldspitze rises above the Steinernes Meer massif. You can also clearly see the small peninsula with the pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomä from here.

On the Falkensteinerwand on the right bank of the lake, a memorial plaque commemorates an accident in 1688, in which pilgrims from Maria Alm capsized their boat during a thunderstorm and 70 people drowned. On the left side, the Königsbach cascades down from an approximately 200 m high wall - an impressive natural spectacle when the snow melts or after previous rainfall.
At about this point the trumpet player comes into play. The echo wall reflects the trumpet melody clearly and clearly. In the past, loud firecrackers were used instead of the trumpet.

Then he slowly comes into the picture, the Watzmann with its massive east face, the highest rock face in the Eastern Alps. The photographers and probably everyone else have already pulled out their cameras, because you are getting closer and closer to the postcard motif par excellence and every visitor to Berchtesgadener Land must of course also capture their own copy for the books. However, you should only press the shutter button when the wall has actually moved behind the church and both church towers are next to each other in the picture.

St. Bartholomew

The peninsula on which the idyllic baroque church sits is made of boulders and rubble that the Eisbach washed down on its way into the valley. Thanks to complex regulation and construction of the Eisbach, at least the buildings of St. Bartholomä are now safe from future gravel masses from the stream.

The pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomä is called Basilica Chunigessee in an old document - more about this in the History of Königssee section.

The little church has stood here since 1134. The church was only dedicated to Bartholomew, the patron saint of alpine farmers, dairymen and shepherds, around the year 1500. The original church was a rectangular, single-nave building with a tower. Towards the end of the 17th century the building was expanded and given a Baroque style. As a result, today's building with the original onion domes was built.

The former hunting lodge is attached directly to the church. This building only acquired its current form in the first half of the 18th century. While it used to be the Berchtesgaden provosts and canons who came here to hunt, from 1811 onwards the Bavarian kings came with their entourage and discovered the quiet and picturesque place as an ideal hunting ground. Due to the constantly growing tourism and influx of visitors, major renovations were necessary. In 1919 the former hunting lodge was converted into a restaurant.

The inn remained cozy despite the huge crowds of tourists. Beautiful tiled stoves and subtle Bavarian rustic furnishings can be found in all rooms. The upper floor is a reminder of earlier hunting successes and fishing pleasures. In the anteroom, a whole gallery of mighty deer heads (hunting trophies of the Bavarian kings) looks down on you.

Next to the pilgrimage church of St. Bartholomew and the hunting lodge, the old fisherman's house still stands. Although the St. Bartholomä peninsula is one of the most popular and most visited destinations in Berchtesgaden, it remains absolutely idyllic. The commercialization of the Königssee is therefore only limited to the north bank, otherwise there is peace, quiet and untouched nature.

Salet and Obersee

In summer (around May to October) the ships also call at the Salet pier at the southern end of Lake Königssee. On the way there, with a stopover in St. Bartholomä, you will see the 2361 m high Devil's Horns at the end of the valley, in front of which the Röthbach waterfall falls.

From Salet you should definitely take the great walk to Obersee. From the jetty it takes around five minutes to the managed Saletalm. The Obersee is approx. 11 m higher than the Königssee. Both lakes are connected to each other by a watercourse. The connecting path between the two lakes leads very comfortably, slightly uphill over the former glacial moraine, which - together with the rock masses of large rock falls from the Kaunerwand - forms a natural dam that made the Obersee possible in the first place.

The large stone blocks that lie all around are mostly Ice Age relics.
In about 15 minutes you can reach the Obersee from the Salet pier. On the right bank of Lake Obersee, a path leads to the Fischunkelalm (walking time approx. 1 hour). The path is steep and narrow in places, but secured with a wire rope in many places.

The path is not suitable for a stroller!

If you are still looking for the right hiking equipment for your vacation, we have written an article here that contains everything you need for a successful hiking vacation! 

The Fischunkenalm, a cozy, rustic hut with simple wooden tables and benches outside, tempts you with typical alpine dishes such as milk, bacon and cheese. The grazing cattle, which are usually driven to the alpine pasture in spring, are first brought to the alpine pasture by boat across the Königssee and then along the banks of the Obersee. In autumn (usually at the end of September or beginning of October) there is no cattle drive in the usual sense, but the cows return to their home stables by water. This unusual type of cattle drive from the Fischunkelalm has now become a popular tourist attraction.

From the Fischunkelalm you can now see the Röthbachfall in all its glory. At the end of the valley it falls 470 m deep over the Röthwand. If you still have the strength, you can hike closer to the Röthbachfall and see Germany's highest waterfall up close.

However, you should always keep an eye on the time throughout the whole process and know when the last ship is heading back to Seelände. There is no place to sleep back there and being picked up by the water rescue service is a very expensive experience.

As you can see, it would be a shame to just take a boat tour across the Königssee. It's worth getting out at both stops and exploring the romantic spots that Königssee has to offer. Whether the weather is good or bad, Lake Königssee is a wonderful and unforgettable experience and should – rightly – be at the top of your list!

History

Towards the end of the last Ice Age, when the ice masses in the foothills of the Alps had long since melted, a glacier was still pushing through the Königssee Valley, a deep basin running from south to north. The glacier received supplies from the Watzmannkar and from the plateaus of the Steinernes Meer and covered the area of ​​today's Obersee and Königssee (603 m). On its way towards the foothills of the Alps, it cut through the rock, widened and deepened the valley basin and deposited rubble and stones at the valley exit, today's Königssee district.

After the retreat or melting of the glacier around 10000-12000 years ago, today's Königssee remained as a deeply sanded, water-filled, fjord-like trough valley. The further retreat of the glacier came to a temporary standstill south of the Königssee in the area of ​​today's Saletalm, so that a dam made of moraine rubble gradually built up there, which was further enlarged by rock falls and separated the valley. After the glacier finally melted, the water that remained in the basin behind the scree wall eventually formed the Upper Lake.

In the past, Königssee and St. Bartholomä were primarily known for the hunting trips of the Bavarian kings. Until the 18th century, their hunting trips included not only red deer and chamois, but also bears, wolves, lynxes, golden eagles and other birds of prey. The provost's office had its own ships available to navigate the lake. Other visitors e.g. B. the pilgrims who regularly made the pilgrimage to St. Bartholomew's Day had to make do with simpler boats. After Berchtesgaden became part of Bavaria in 1810, St. Bartholomä became a favorite place of the Bavarian rulers. The hunts for deer and chamois held here were famous.

Together with the surrounding Berchtesgaden Alpine region, Königssee gradually developed into a popular holiday and excursion destination. Many artists, well-known painters and writers also came to the idyllic mountain region. They were fascinated by the mountains and the beauty and contributed to the fame of the region through their pictures and descriptions of the landscape. They probably played a significant role in the increasing popularity of Berchtesgadener Land.

Frequently asked questions

Are water sports allowed?


SUP, sailing, surfing, diving or other water sports are prohibited at Königssee. But you can rent a rowing boat on the Seelände (at the boathouses) and discover the Königssee on your own.

Can you swim in Königssee?


Yes you can. Although there is no official swimming area, there are many small bays on the banks of Lake Königssee where you can make yourself comfortable. If the maximum temperature of 18 degrees in midsummer doesn't bother you, you can do laps in the crystal clear water of the lake.

How deep is the Königssee?


The Königssee is around 190 meters deep at its deepest point.

How long does the journey across Königssee take?

The entire journey to Salet and back takes about 2 hours. It takes about 1 hour to St. Bartholomä and back.

Where does the Königssee get its name?

The body of water (which was previously also called Bartholomaesee) actually owes its illustrious name to Königssee due to a mistake. At the time the Berchtesgaden provost was founded and with it the beginning of settlement in the region in the 12th century, the lake was called Chuni Lake after the then sovereign and co-founder of the monastery, Chuno von Horburg. The little church on the Bartholomä peninsula is referred to as Chunigessee Basilica in the deed of consecration from 1134. Königssee then emerged from Kuno or Kunigessee - an unintentional, but certainly fitting name for this king among the Bavarian lakes.

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