Berchtesgaden National Park in Winter

One of the many highlights of our time in Bavaria was a walk in Berchtesgaden National Park in winter. We took a boat across misty Königssee lake to St. Bartholomew and hiked to the ice chapel or Eiskapelle.

Berchtesgaden National Park in Winter

Berchtesgaden Park (Nationalparkverwaltung Berchtesgaden) is the only alpine national park in Germany. Although it is not very high in elevation, the change in altitude from Königssee (King Lake) to the top of Watzmann Peak (2,110 meters/6,923 feet) is dramatic.

From Schönau (near the bus stop) took the ferry across Königsee, the gorgeous lake at the center of the park. Königsee is said to be the cleanest lake in Germany, thanks to the environmental protection afforded it by being in Nationalpark Berchtesgaden.

Tip: At the ferry dock, download the park audio guide and map, aptly named “Königsee.” The ferry tour is in German, but if you have ear buds you can listen to the same thing in English. You can also pick up a tour brochure in several languages and read as you go.

It was misty along the lake, so we couldn’t see much of the steep mountains that give this emerald lake a fjord-like feel. Along the way, the boatman blew his flugelhorn, a type of trumpet, toward the rock walls and we listened to the notes bounce back to us from Echo Canyon. Then he walked through the boat with his hat out, requesting tips.
tourist info berchtesgaden

After about 30 minutes, the much-photographed baroque church of St. Bartholomä appeared and it was time for us to disembark. In summer, the boat continues 30 minutes to another dock, Salet, where there are additional trails, including a short walk to a smaller lake, Obersee.much-photographed baroque church of St. Bartholomä , Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany

Hiking to the Ice Chapel (Eiskapelle)

From the ferry dock, we bypassed the church and restaurants and followed the signs to the Eiskapelle. It’s about a six kilometer walk (round trip), and starts off on an easy, wide path.berchtesgaden national park hiking trailsgood place for a family photo with mount watzmannSnow in Berchtesgaden National Park

Here was got amazing views of the gray and white striped Mount Watzmann and back at misty Königsee. Seeing this view is worth the ferry trip in itself. After the big meadow, the trail crosses a bridge, passes a small chapel (not the Ice Chapel) and starts to climb up the canyon.not the ice chapelBerchtesgaden hikes

This is where Finn started whining, but it was my birthday, so I left him with Henry and hiked ahead with Anders. Don’t worry, we stopped and let them catch up with us from time to time.

We popped out into a boulder field below the mountain and watched snow tumble down Watzmann in loud snowfalls. You should watch the video for this.

east face of mount watzmann berchtesgaden Hiking to Watzmann in Nationalpark berchtesgadenCan you hike in Nationalpark Berchtesgaden in winterAfter sliding across the snow-covered boulder field in our running shoes (oops!), we finally arrived at the Ice Chapel. And it was amazing.

In spring, snow from small avalanches piles up in the corner of the valley from the east face of Watzmann. Then some of the snow melts from the bottom, a small creek forms, and you have an ice cave. I don’t know why it’s called an Eiskapelle, but maybe someone thought it looked like a chapel. More about the Ice Chapel here.

Anders and I arrived first and walked through the cave. It was smooth and shiny in places, scalloped in others, and an otherworldly blue light shone through the ice. A small creek ran through the middle and water dripped in places. We couldn’t get enough, it was beautiful.Is the ice chapel safe to enterInside the ice chapel in national park bercthesgaden

After a standing picnic of bread and cheese, we walked back to St. Bartholomä. Everyone was in a good mood by then. Downhill walks tend to inspire happiness, or at least relief, in our youngest hiker.berchtesgaden national park hiking trails

Eating in St. Bartholomä

We stopped at the squat, wooden building with a small restaurant before boarding the ferry. There are two options for food: small smoked trout with bread, served on a wooden board or large smoked trout with bread served on a wooden board. In the summer, there is also a fresh trout option. The fish come from Königsee and no other fishing is allowed on the lake. We ordered beers and Sprite, but were too late for the fish, lest we miss the last ferry back. We loved the atmosphere in the this tiny place with communal seating, even if we didn’t get the traditional fish.

The restaurant in a former hunting lodge, Jadgschloss, is much larger. In summer, when the courtyard is open, it has 600 seats with views of the fantastic mountain panorama. In winter, you’ll have to sit inside. There you can order fish—trout and char, and local wild deer, among other dishes.restaurants at St Bartholomew Koinigsee

House of the Mountains (Haus der Berge)

This beautiful new visitor center is both an informational and educational resource. We stopped by after visiting the national park on a different day, since that’s how the timing worked out for us. It’s located in the town of Berchtesgaden, not the park, so if you are taking the bus or train, it is a separate trip.

Plan Your Own Trip

There is a large parking area near the end of Königssee.

From Berchtesgaden

Several buses stop at the Königssee: 839, 841, and 843; they run hourly. You can catch it from the bus stop in front of the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, or in town at the stop on Maximillianstrasse near the Kurhaus.

From Salzburg

By bus: 840 (The Watzmann Express) leaves from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof and the Salzburg Rathaus, and takes you to the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, a 45 minute ride.

By train: Depart from the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, change at Freilassing, and arrive at the main station in Berchtesgaden in about one hour and 15 minutes.

From the Berchtesgaden Hauptbahnhof, take bus 839, 841 or 843 to the Königssee parking lot.

Get the DB Navigator app to figure out bus and train schedules.

From the parking lot or bus stop, there is a short, cobblestone street lined with restaurants, sporting goods stores, coffee shops, and souvenir stands that leads directly to the ferry dock in Schönau.

How to but ferry tickets at KonigseeFerry Tickets

The boats run every day except December 24, unless the weather is bad (in storms, heavy fog, or when the lake is frozen). They only go out to Salet April through October.

Check ferry times and current prices here.

In summer, it’s best to get there early to avoid some of the crowds. Even in winter, we had to wait for one ferry in both directions.

Take a bus or train from Salzburg to berchtesgaden to get to the national parkBerchtesgaden Hotels

There are plenty of places to stay in the town of Berchtesgaden. Check (link below) to find one right for you. Or stay in Salzburg and make a long day trip of your visit.

Visiting Berchtesgaden National Park in winter: hiking to the Ice Chapel, how to get there, where to eat, and where to stay.

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26 thoughts on “Berchtesgaden National Park in Winter

    1. Mel Post author

      This are is so perfect for a winter getaway- thermal pools, skiing, winter hiking, sight seeing, Christmas Markets, and great food and beer.

  1. Christina

    I visited Berchtesgaden in the summer and can’t believe how different it looks in the winter. What a winter wonderland. I would love to go back and visit the ice cave.

  2. Ivy

    Berchtesgaden sounds like the perfect getaway for a family! Your photos are amazing- it totally looks like a winter wonderland. Loved your video too!

    1. Mel Post author

      We were blown away by how pretty it is. The whole time we were there we kept repeating “I can’t believe how gorgeous this place is!”

  3. Abigail

    What a stunning national park! For winter, ski resorts are the common choice for travelers. But exploring national parks as beautiful as this would be a great idea!

    PS – great job with your photos!!

  4. Ticker Eats The World

    One of my favorites posts by you Mel, absolutely loved it. The video is ace and the photography is breathtaking. Beautifully composed – video and photos – and it’s so amazing watching the family enjoy the adventure together. The scenery, the boat ride, the ice chapel, everything is amazing and so well documented. Thanks

    1. Mel Post author

      Thank you! It was such a beautiful and special place — I am glad that came across. My husband is responsible for the filmmaking and he always does a great job!

  5. Janine Good

    What a beautiful park! I love Germany but have only been in the warmer months. The scenery looks so beautiful with all the snow upon it. It also looks very family friendly.

  6. Only By Land

    The cleanest lake in Germany is an impressive title! I like to visit unique lakes and this title makes Königsee pretty unique! You got a pretty good reflection picture of the church, the clouds obviously lifted. The ice cave looks amazing, the kids must have appreciated it too.

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