Iconic setting, summer and winter
An iconic setting with a beautiful lake and well preserved traffic-free town centre, Zell am See attracts the ski crowd and plenty of summer visitors. The ski area itself is not huge, but has a great variety of terrain and and plenty on offer in the area including Kaprun, the Kitzsteinhorn glacier – often open til July – and the Saalbach linked resorts. A lift connection to the huge Saalbach ski area is in place, only requiring a short connecting bus ride at Viehofen, this vastly expands the skiing possibilities on your doorstep. Even with comprehensive snowmaking, conditions lower down can sometimes be less favourable for skiing, however there is a reasonable range of slopes above 1400m.
Property in Zell am See
Zell am See has a thriving property market with owners and investors from all parts of Europe, Eastern Europe and further afield who recognise its unrivalled appeal as a dual-season resort, with first class skiing, bordered by a beautiful lake and scenery, with easy access by train, road and international airports.
Property close to and in the town centre tends to be apartments, those within walking distance to the CityXpress lift command a premium, some wonderful chalets can be found overlooking and along the lake. New developments have been launched just above the centre of Zell am See with full service rental management, in general they have sold well and occasionally come up for resale.
With over 2m overnight stays annually in the region (including Zell am See), the property rental market is a solid proposition for property owners. However, there has been somewhat of a backlash to the rapid growth of the apart-hotel model (that is buy-to-rent out and personal-use) which is in direct competition with the hotels, they are not suitable for the locals to live in and may be too expensive. Since early 2023, the rules have been tightened in certain regions and enforcement has been much stricter. Property values have been stable and rising gently for many years in and around the town, supply is always quite tight as there is a lack of new developable land close to the centre due to the topography - prices range from €6-10,000 and are sensitive to not only the location but also whether the property has a permit for touristic-use (with rental obligation) or second home status. Apartments and chalets with second home status are rarer and sell quickly.
Check out our blog: Insights on the property market in Zell am See
A guide to Zell am See
The town of Zell am See, one of Austria’s best-loved ski resorts, is a charming lakeside town and year-round destination that has a different feel to it with the picturesque lake in front and the mountains behind. The old car-free medieval centre has narrow streets, ancient, traditionally-painted buildings and a splendid Romanesque church. Zell am See is unique, it is often as busy in summer as in winter. Kaprun is around 8km away from Zell am See and has its own ski linked directly to the Kitzsteinhorn glacier ski area. Accommodation is ample in Zell am See mainly in the central part of the town or by the lake, on the road up to the cable cars, or at the base of the lifts. Many hotels, pensions and apartments to rent are available.
There is plenty here for the non-skier, such as a good leisure centre with pools, saunas, steam room and indoor ice rink. Walking down by the lake is as pleasurable in winter as it is in the summer.
Getting to Zell am See is easy, just 80 km from Salzburg and Munich is 3 hours by road.
Zell am See ski area
The immediate ski area on the Schmittenhöhe mountain is made up of wide, scenic pistes, which start out open at the top and are lined with trees lower down into the valley. Most people staying in central Zell will take the CityXpress gondola right in the centre. The Schmittenhöhe ski area has something to interest all standards and is ideal for intermediates. Just up the road is Kaprun, with its snowsure glacier, the Kitzsteinhorn, behind it, providing prime snow from autumn to early summer. If staying in Kaprun, the Maiskogelbahn is now fully connected to the Kitzsteinhorn ski area. On most parts of the mountain you get glorious mountain views over the lake
Sonnenalm is an intermediate’s paradise. And in poorer weather, there’s always great visibility on the long, wide, tree-lined runs. Advanced skiers have several long medium-steep blacks descending through the forest to enjoy. In good snow there is some nice off piste on the ski routes at various sections of the mountain or tackle the steep Black Mamba piste on Kitzsteinhorn and the several ski routes down to Langwied. The new gondola on the back of Schmittenhöhe, which links the resort with a short bus ride, to the 270km Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang-Fieberbrunn ski area in the next valley. To access all these slopes the Ski Alpin Card allows access to the vast 408 kilometres of pistes and 121 lifts of the Skicircus domain and is remarkably good value.
Cross country skiers have up to 200km to explore with a good choice in nearby Kaprun.
Also, check out our blog - The Uniqueness of Skiing : Downhill race pistes you can ski..
Après ski in Zell am See
Zell am See is justifiably renowned for its lively après-ski and numerous bars. Villa Crazy Daisy has a relaxed terraced for après on the terrace from 3pm, with live bands and DJs. O’Flannigan’s is the main sports bar. Dorfschenke’s known for its Austrian pop music, dancing on tables and steins of beer. Schnapps Hans Ice bar outside the Berghotel DJ has dancing on tables and on the bar, and a terrace with fabulous views. At Ginhouse pick your favourite from over 450 different gins. The Heitzmann rooftop terrace of the Hotel Heitzmann is popular. Later, cheer on EK Zeller Eisbären, the competitive local ice-hockey team at the rink in the leisure centre of Zell am See where you will find an indoor pool, skating and curling in the same complex.
Eating out in Zell am See
On the mountain even on the local Schmittenhöhe mountain there are 24 huts for a lunch stop. Eder Hütte on the Schmittenhöhe mountain serves a true Pinzgau lunch on the slopes, or try the Areit Alm, which sources its produce from local farms. Ebenbergalm is a homely wooden hut full of the aromas of freshly cooked food. With a big outside terrace Breiteckalm is a self-service set in an old hut, the interior is charming old-style alpine. Berghotel at Schmittenhohe is good but quite expensive for a meal but excellent for après ski.
For the evening the Burger Factory is by the lake with good views from some tables. Villa Crazy Daisy serves good burgers, pizza and other less formal dishes. SeeWirt restaurant is a simple stone and wood chalet featuring traditional Austrian dishes. Giuseppe’s is popular for Italian meals. Kupferkessel is said to have the best pizzas in the whole of Zell am See. Traubenstuberl offers wholesome regional dishes. The casino in the Grand Hotel is another idea but could be an expensive one. After an early meal, how about floodlit tobogganing until 10pm?
Summer in Zell am See
The combination of the glacier, the mountains and a lake make the Zell am See-Kaprun region in the Salzburger Land absolutely unique. The activities are numerous: hiking, cycling or mountain bike, water sports, electric boats, swimming in the crystal clear lake, beach parties, classical concerts, festivals and theatre performances at the castle, golf. Skiing on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier is usually possible from end of September to mid-July.
Close to the Hohe Tauern National Park and the magnificent Grossglockner mountain region. Hiking on the Kitzsteinhorn, the Schmittenhöhe or the Maiskogel. Schmittenhöhe has family-friendly routes, a themed hike of several hours or a challenging high-alpine trail. On this mountain, the Sisi Trail is an easy place to start. The High-Altitude Promenade in Zell am See combines pristine nature with stunning views. In total 132 hikes and 14 long-distance hikes are waiting to be explored. The top of the Kitzsteinhorn is one of the best vantage points in Austria.
For mountain bikers the shared trail network with Kaprun gives access to the brilliant downhill runs on the Maiskogel and a large range of XC terrain. Try the three superb freeride trails from the top of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier. The Bachler trail is a perfect run at the start of the day to warm up. Wuestlau is a 7.7km thrill ride with amazing views down the valley and Gleißstein is a twisty, rocky, exposed run right at the top of the mountain.
For golfers the the Zell am See-Kaprun Golf Club consists of two equally good 18-hole courses on flat terrain but with features such as ponds surrounded by reeds and fairways full of variety in park-like grounds. All in the shadow of the beautiful mountains.
For more details on Mountain Biking in Zell am See, check out our blog: Where to go Mountain Biking in the Alps,
Other Destinations in the Austrian Alps: