Music, mountains and some of the most staggeringly beautiful alpine scenery define the Salzkammergut area, which is known as Austria’s Lake District. This is the land of lakes, heaven for gentle walks following the shoreline, heading inland to the mountain foothills or exploring the wonderful woodland trails in the forests.
Perched at the water’s edge, small villages dot the landscape where traditional farmhouses and wooden chalets lie in green hills and pastures, with the church tower as the tallest building piercing the sky. All this against the backdrop of snow capped mountains, blue skies and clear lakes.
The villages of St. Gilgen, Fuschl am See and St. Wolfgang could epitomise chocolate box perfection. No wonder the scenery was such a star in The Sound of Music, filmed here and celebrated its 50th anniversary in style during 2015. If you’re a fan of this iconic film, be sure to take a Sound of Music tour while visiting.
St. Wolfgang with its lovely medieval centre, hosts open-air classical concerts, operetta and brass band concerts. From here you can take the iconic cog railway to the top of the Schafberg (1768m) the area’s highest mountain. Or you could take a scenic horse and carriage ride through meadows and local villages with an essential stop at a welcoming almshouse.
In Austria’s lake district, boat trips, terraces with sun loungers, and lakeside cafes create a relaxed and peaceful way of life. Many hotels have private lidos with free boat hire. No motorboats are allowed on Lake Fuschl creating a serene atmosphere all around.
Boating is a common form of transport with ferries, paddle steamers and rowing boats cruising across the lake. There’s a regular 20 minute ferry between St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang and a 10 minute bus ride from St. Gilgen to Fushchl am See.
In this uncrowded paradise, time seems to slow down. Watching the end of the day as the sun starts to set, from on the lake or the shore, is a memorable sight as the burning blaze of the sun gradually fades to a palette of pastel hues as it dips slowly behind the distant mountains. Make sure your camera is on hand to capture this magnificent view.
The Salzkammergut area enjoys a mild spring and autumn and warm summers. The summer months of June, July and August are generally dry and you can expect an average daytime temperature of 22° C and above in July and August and up to 16 hours of daylight. Nights can be cooler so pack some layers for evenings outside under the stars.
With crystal clear waters said to be the cleanest in Austria, this tiny, peaceful village has a real ‘holiday’ feel and enjoys a stunning lakeside setting and magnificent sunsets at the foot of the Schober mountain. Guests staying in Fuschl can enjoy free use of the lakeside lido with heated outdoor pool and lakeside bathing area.More information
An impossibly picturesque village of painted houses and winding lanes on the shores of Lake Wolfgang. Famous for its association with Mozart, historic St. Gilgen is full of Baroque and Rococo character with colourful streets lined with cafés, shops and old frescoed houses that lead to the onion-domed church.More information
An iconic village dating back to the 11th century, St. Wolfgang is famous for its operetta and lakeside setting, with a pretty medieval centre and excursions on the historic cog railway and lake steamers. All guests receive a FREE all-day ferry boat ticket for Lake Wolfgang.More information
There are plenty of opportunities for various activities from swimming to cycling, golf and hundreds of kilometres of hiking. There are gentle cycle paths along the lake and E bikes are in plentiful supply or there is more energetic cycling to be enjoyed into the hills beyond.
This region is a walker’s paradise. It’s ideal for short scenic strolls or taking advantage of the vast marked trails and Nordic walking paths. There’s a 12km circular walk around Lake Fuschl through forest and farmland or various lake walks interspersed with stops at working farms, mills and hamlets. More challenging walks take you towards the stunning views up the Schober or Schafberg mountains.
Visit the protected village of Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once an ancient salt mine. Salt had been mined here for over 7000 years and is why the region is called the Salzkammergut, “Estate of the Salt Chamber”. Salt brought wealth to the region. It is also where the “Man in Salt” was found in 1734. Inghams offer an interesting tour that explores both the history and the highlights of this area. A must do tour for anyone intrigued by this historic landmark village.
Another popular tour from the Salzkammergut region is to travel across the border to Germany and explore the Bavaria town of Berchtesgaden. You’ll enjoy spectacular views and visit Eagles Nest, once Hitler’s hilltop retreat. Optional visits to salt mines can also be included.
There are several thermal spas in the area, the best known being Bad Ischl. Salt treatments and salt baths believed to have healing properties are common in this region.
One of the best-designed spas is the Hotel Hollweger with an outdoor pool in a lovely garden setting overlooking Lake Wolfgang. There’s a steam room, aromatic saunas, steam grotto, relaxation room, gym and menu of beauty and massage treatments.
The lakes of the Salzkammergut are a rich source of protein. Local whitefish, pike, perch and native char are in plentiful supply. Some specialities of the region include gnocchi, dumplings and of course schnitzel. Goulash, potato dumplings, risotto, lamb and pork are widely available. Fresh fruit and vegetables are easy to find in the weekly local markets. It’s easy to eat well, healthily and find a good choice of restaurants as well.
Many of the hotels have terraces overlooking the lake and there are pizzerias and coffee shops, which usually serve sandwiches and pasta. Afternoon tea and cake is popular in many of the 18th century tea rooms, served in delicate china tea sets. There is no more romantic setting than tea dancing to classical music on the terrace of the Hotel Hollweger in St. Gilgen with its magnificent views across the lake to Schafberg and the surrounding peaks.
St. Gilgen momentarily turns from a sleepy village to a musical centre during the Dorf Festival in June. This annual village festival of concerts and live entertainment is the largest festival of the year with food stalls, music and beer tents. At other times in the summer there are classical, folklore and brass band concerts in the open-air village music pavilion.
Fuschl am See’s Dorf festival is in July but there are regular brass band concerts throughout the summer. St. Wolfgang hosts a series of operettas at the lakeside and regular classical and folklore concerts take place all summer.
Austria has given us some of the world’s top composers, Schubert, Strauss and Haydn, as well as Mozart who was born and lived in Salzburg. Musical ties are strong in the Salzkammergut, which is only a short distance from Salzburg. Mozart’s grandfather worked in St. Gilgen, and his mother was born there. It would be easy to see how this land could have inspired the great musician. As boats glide silently across the water, framed by mountains and forest that seem to almost dip into the lake, it is hard to imagine a more romantic setting.
Salzburg itself is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The old town is a feast of centuries with palaces, a cathedral and monuments from the baroque, rococo and neo-classical periods. The formal Mirabell Gardens with its Hedge Theatre and the quirky water gardens at Hellbrunn Palace couldn’t be more different. It is a musical city with frequent concerts and musicians often performing as part of its street life. Sunset in Salzburg, looking over the river Salzach towards the majestic Hohensalzburg Fortress and the mountains beyond, is a magical sight.
If you choose to visit Salzburg on a city break, perhaps as part of a multi-centre holiday, we encourage you to take full advantage of our Salzburg resort card, which provides entry to the city’s attractions, and use of public transport. It is also possible to visit Salzburg for a day trip from the Salzkammergut resorts with a full day excursion and an optional Sound of Music walking tour.
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There are plenty of marked footpaths in and around St Wolfgang, St Gilgen and Fuschl. Walking in the Salzkammergut is a wonderful way to discover cultural and natural landscape step by step. Mountains, lakes, and forests ensure varied and relaxing time walking. Steam boat rides provide access to many starting points. Around the lake, there are numerous gentle walking routes, or you can take the cable car to drop you off just below Zwolferhorn summit at 1521m.