Austria may be best known for its hills, but its lakes are just as alive. The area around Salzburg is known as Austria’s Lake District, loved for its tranquil waterfront towns and mountain backdrops. Here’s a guide to our favourite lake resorts of the region.
Lake Wolfgang’s clear waters are edged by authentic market towns that whisper the legend of St Wolfgang. He threw an axe down from the nearby mountain and built his church where it landed on the waterfront – the town of St Wolfgang soon sprung up around it. Colourful frescoed houses and local shops fill the maze of gentle hills that make up the town centre, eventually giving way to a quiet lakefront promenade. For glorious views of the lake and surrounding peaks, there’s a traditional rack-and-pinion railway to the top of Schafberg Mountain, where the saint stood 800 years ago.
Looking across the water from St Wolfgang, you’re likely to spot the lake’s elegant paddle steamer, which gently ferries visitors to St Gilgen, the lake’s second famous resort. Like St Wolfgang, it’s a historical town with all the Austrian trimmings – flower-filled balconies, the classic onion-domed church and a gondola up to the local mountain. Public lake beaches, jetties and promenades give it an almost constant waterfront, so you can swim, splash, paddle or just sit beside the calming water and take in the scenery. St Gilgen’s also known for its links to Mozart, and is dotted with fountains and streets dedicated to the composer.
Fuschl am See
Ten minutes away by bus is the smallest resort of the area, Fuschl am See – a farming town set along a still lake of the bluest waters. Days here are sleepy and relaxed, spent taking the ferry to the nearby castle ruins and mill, or walking around the lake, passing pine trees, beaches and tiny villages along the way. Lake Fuschl is famous for its elderberries – known for their exquisite taste and reputed healing powers – and its quiet, peaceful waterfront.
Zell am See
Nestled between Lake Zell and the Hohe Tauern mountains, Zell am See is made up of narrow cobbled streets leading to bustling squares, decorated shops and street-side cafés. It hosts festivals and celebrations through the summer, traditional folk bands filling the air with music and cheer. Zell’s as much about the lush mountain surroundings as it is about the town itself – and the nearby Kaprun Dams are a must. At 2,040m, walk along the dam walls and up to the viewing point to look across the teal-blue reservoir, the surrounding glaciers and the Kaprun valley below.
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