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Zell am See

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Zell am See is an alpine city in the Zell Valley in Salzburg, Austria, and the capital of its own administrative district. Its name refers to the 68 m deep lake (See in German) with which it shares the valley. Zell am See is an important tourist hub owing to its airport, and makes up the majority of the Zell am See-Kaprun ski area.



The Zell Valley area around the lake was continuously populated since Roman times. In 740 AD, monks founded a village called "Cella" in the Pinzgau region, then called "Bisonzio". The name cella refers to the private quarters of a monk (a cell) in the context of a monastery. When Zell received the rights of a market town in 1357, it started growing quickly. It was involved in the German Peasants Wars in 1526, and heavy fighting occurred in and around the city against troops of the Swabian League.

From the early 19th century, Zell was occupied by invading French forces during the Napoleonic Wars. The city finally joined the Austrian Empire by resolution of the Vienna Congress of 1816. When neighboring town Saalfelden became the capital of the Pinzgau administrative region in 1850, the Zell's mayor successfully managed to relocate the seat of the council to Zell, increasing its political importance in the region.

Zell quickly transformed from a town with agricultural focus into one with a tourism emphasis after the Salzburg-Tyrol railway opened in 1875 and made the town more accessible. It first focused on a summer tourist season, but after it received city rights in 1928 it quickly expanded and evolved into a ski resort in the second half of the 20th century.


As a corridor through the Kitzbühel Alps, the Zell Valley connects the Saalfelden Basin of the Saalach river to the north of Zell am See with the Salzach in the south. It is ca. 19 km north of the Grossglockner, with 3,798 m the highest mountain in Austria, in the Hohe Tauern.


Like many alpine towns in valleys east of the Brenner Pass, Zell am See has cold winters with a lot of precipitation which usually falls as snow from November until February. Rain can be expected year round, although summer months are dryer than winter months.

Get in

By train

By far the easiest way to get into Zell am See is by train. The 1 Zell am See Bahnhof brings travelers right into the historic centre of the city, and is well connected by ÖBB trains to Salzburg to the east, and to Innsbruck (via St. Johann in Tirol, Wörgl and Schwaz) to the north. The hourly train to Salzburg takes about 90 minutes.

By plane

The 2 Zell am See Airport is ca. 3.5 km south of the city, and on a walking distance from the 3 Bruckberg im Pinzgau railway station.

By car

Zell am See can be reached over the road, but it is not recommendable because parking space is scarce and expensive in and around the city. If you prefer road transport over trains, a better option might be a taxi from Salzburg Airport, which are relatively price-competitive. Several companies have vehicles with 8 seats and will charge €120-€150 each way regardless of how many people there are, making it a cheaper alternative than the train when traveling in groups.


If you choose to rent your on vehicle and drive yourself, pay attention when you are parking your car. The park zones are for free only during night (after 18:00 till 08:00) in the city centre, however during the day you have to pay or use the short time zone. This means, that you display a paper with time of your arrival and you can stay there next 30 minutes. You can also use parking zones by the cable cars, during the day they are free of cost. However, after skiing you have to leave the parking zone. You cannot stay there during night.

Get around

If you are skiing, the Postbus service is free with your lift pass. This links the town with the ski station and other areas, such as Kaprun. Routes start at the Postplatz bus station in the centre of town. Popular routes are:

  • 71 1 Postplatz to 2 Schmittenhohe ski centre
  • 660 Postplatz to Kaprun and 3 Kitzsteinhorn ski area


  • St. Hippolyte's Church


Zell am See is at the foot of some fine ski slopes. During the summer, the lake offers some activities too, in addition to mountain walks.




  • A bit of Irish Bitte, Sebastian Horl Strasse. One of Zell am See's 2 Irish bars- not huge in size but makes up for it in atmosphere, with some events eg quiz arranged most nights of the week. If you don't like smokey bars, it's also the only smoke-free joint in the town. 


Most hotels are of a high standard in this town.

5 star hotels, Zell am See

  • 1 Hotel Salzburgerhof Zell am See *****, Auerspergstrasse 11, A-5700 Zell am See, ☏ +43 6542 765, ✉ 5sterne@salzburgerhof.at. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Located right next to the towncenter close to the lake and the skilifts. starting from € 130,00 half board per person per day. 

Ski-In & Ski-Out hotels, Zell am See

  • 2 Hotel Berner Zell am See ****, Nikolaus - Gassner - Promenade 1, 5700 Zell am See, ☏ +43 6542 779. Check-in: 16.00, check-out: 11.00. Located right next to the ski slope in Zell am See. New Spa with heated outdoor pool. Close to the center. starting from € 78,00 half board per person per day. 
  • 3 Sporthotel Alpin Zell am See ****, Gartenstrasse 11, 5700 Zell am See, ☏ +43 6542 769, ✉ welcome@sporthotelalpin.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Located right next to the ski slope in Zell am See. Close to the center. starting from € 75,00 half board per person per day. 

4 star superior hotels, Zell am See

  • 4 Hotel Tirolerhof, Auerspergstraße 5, ☏ +43 6542772. 

4 star hotels, Zell am See

  • 5 Hotel Waldhof, Schmittenstraße 47. Very nice high standard hotel, split across road going up to ski centre. Has outdoor swimming pool (open in winter too), sauna, steam room and spa bath. Restaurant has excellent food. (updated Oct 2018)
  • 6 Hotel Stadt Wien, Schmittenstrasse 41 5700 Zell am See, ☏ +43 6542- 762. High standard hotel, very close to Waldhof. Wireless internet throughout costs €20 per week. Swimming pool/spa area. Avoid rooms on first floor. The hotel is popular with families. Has its own bus stop in front of the hotel. 
  • 7 Hotel Latini, Kitzsteinhornstraße 4, ☏ +43 6542 54 25. 
  • 8 Hotel Grüner Baum Zell am See, Seegasse 1, ☏ +43 6542 7710, ✉ hotel@gruener-baum.at. 
  • 9 Boutique Hotel Steinerwirt 1493, Dreifaltigkeitsgasse 2, ☏ +43 654272502. Eu 49-69 B&B. 
  • 10 Haus Tipperary, Turmgasse 1, ☏ +43 353 62 71006, ✉ haustipperary@gmail.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 10:00. Irish owned Self-catering apartments in the centre of the town. Prices vary depending on time of year, 1 bed apartment that sleeps 4 can be got for €600 p.w. during the 2012 peak season. 


Tourism office opening hours: Monday – Friday 08:00-18:00, Saturday 09:00-18:00, Sunday 09:00-13:00

Go next

  • As per 'Get In'. There's also 3 or 4 direct buses (no. 260) to the airport and onto Salzburg city Centre a day.
  • Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer
  • The Kaprun ski resort is a short bus ride away.
  • Hohe Tauern National Park with the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.
  • Heiligenblut
  • Bad Gastein
  • St. Johann im Pongau

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