Arguably the most beautiful Alpine lake in Germany, Lake Königssee (Kings Lake) is indeed pretty near perfect. Glittering emerald water, crisp mountain air and a picturesque Baroque church perched on the water's edge add to its magnetic charm. It's also surrounded by breathtaking snow-capped mountains including the distinctive Mount Watzmann, the third highest peak in Germany.
The eight-kilometre-long Lake Königssee is located in Berchtesgaden National Park in the Bavarian Alps, just an hour's drive from Salzburg and right outside the town of Berchtesgaden. The narrow, fjord-like lake was formed by glaciers during the last Ice Age, and it's been a favourite secret spot for travellers pretty much since then.
This part of Germany is famous for being the site of Eagle's Nest, the summer lodge where Hitler did much of his military planning during World War II. History buffs can visit the site, which has since been turned into a restaurant, as well as a handful of museums in Berchtesgaden to learn more about the town's dark past. But when you need a break from all that, Lake Königssee offers the perfect peaceful respite.
It's often billed as the cleanest lake in Germany, and consequently only electric boats have been allowed on the lake since 1909. That being said, boat tours are definitely the best and most romantic way to see it. Passenger cruises depart from either side of the lake several times a day, stopping at St. Bartholomä (the aforementioned Baroque church) and Salet (the dock at the south end of the lake). You'll definitely want to debark at St. Bartholomä and marvel at the chapel's distinctive red domed roof.
If you're a fan of hiking or a nature buff, get off at Salet and walk onwards to Obersee, another lake that's smaller but possibly even more serene than Königssee. From there, continue along the path about three kilometres to Rothbachfall, the tallest waterfall in Germany, with a dizzying vertical drop of over 1,540 feet. The walk is not too strenuous or busy (you're more likely to encounter some friendly cows than lots of tourists!) and it'll all be worth it once you see the jaw-dropping views of the waterfall.
Tickets to the boat tour on Lake Königssee cost about €15 round trip.
Travel tip: Keep in mind that boats unfortunately don't run to Salet during the winter months.
Train from Munich: The train from Munich to Salzburg is a three-hour journey. From Salzburg, take the bus or train to Berchtesgaden and then the bus to Lake Königssee.
Train from Salzburg: The train from Salzburg Rathaus to Berchtesgaden takes just over an hour, with a change at Freilassing. Then you'll need to take a short bus ride from Berchtesgaden to the lake.
Bus from Salzburg: The #840 leaves from Salzburg at least once an hour and the journey takes about 45 minutes.
Bus from Berchtesgaden: The bus leaves from town right in front of the train station, and it's about a 15-minute ride to the parking lot. From there, it's a ten-minute walk to the lake.
Throughout the Year
Round Trip Boat Tour
Schönau am Königssee
Schönau am Königssee