Austria. The home of impeccable skiing, Apfelstrudel and classical music. But isn’t it a winter destination? After 4 full days in the picturesque region of Salzburg, we were convinced of the opposite; Austria is an all-year destination.
When you think about Austria as a culture, picturesque and nostalgic scenes suddenly start appearing in your imagination -and really, this is Austria in a nutshell! Idyllic mountain scenery, a rich history of craftsmanship and of course, a refined cultural and musical scene, which has been the epicenter of European upper class for many generations. Austria is for everyone, whether you love shopping, culture, music, food…or skiing. Yes, the country is home to some of the world’s best skiing, and one of the most celebrated destinations through the past decades is Zell Am See-Kaprun (1,5 hour’s drive from Salzburg Airport).
Today, Zell Am See is a cosy little town with less than 10.000 inhabitants. During winter, this number increases dramatically and tourists flock here from basically all over the world. In summer, you will in particular find many Arabian visitors, which is also why most restaurants and cafés offer menus translated into Arabian. The area offers some of Austria’s most breathtaking nature and personally, we would go here every year just for the clean, crisp air and the stunning mountain scenery! The destination has been a popular skiing destinations since the 1960’s, however, the history of Zell Am See stretches thousands of years back (fun fact: archeologists have found primitive melting furnaces here dating back from the early Bronze Age). The old part of the town nestles on a peninsula in the Zellersee (Lake Zell), which is a highly popular tourist attraction in both summer and winter. Together with the neighboring town of Kaprun, Zell Am See welcomes more than 2 million travelers every year.
Winter bucket list
To put it short: if you are a ski or snowboard enthusiast, go to Zell Am See-Kaprun in the winter season! This region offers some of the best skiing in Austria - something which is specifically clear on the famous glacier of Kitzsteinhorn, which is located 3.000 meters above sea level. Without further ado, here is what you simply cannot miss in winter:
As mentioned before, Kitzsteinhorn is the mountain to ski during winter in Austria! It is the highest ski region in Salzburgerland and you can get access to it from several gondolas running up the mountains. Do not forget to enjoy the unique view of the Alps on the way up! Skiers can get off at any station they want, but we strongly recommend heading up to the highest point of the area at 3029 meters. This is the Gipfelbahn, and according to some sources, this is actually the highest cable car in the world! Grossglockner is the highest mountain in Austria (3.798 meters above sea level). It was first climbed in juli 1800, and brave souls are still taking up the challenge from time to time. The area offers generous slopes for both beginners and advanced skiers and a decent amount of off-piste options.
If you want to explore Kitzsteinhorn, remember to stop by Gipfelwelt 3000 - a mountain station offering a restaurant, a gallery, a cinema and amazing panoramic platforms in 3.029 height! Whether you are a skier or not, Gipfelwelt is a must-see due to its breathtaking location and views of the mystical Kitzsteinhorn and the Hohe Tauern mountains. Step inside for a cup of hot chocolate and breathe in the clean, crispy air.
Hohe Tauern National Park
If you are going to Kitzsteinhorn and Gipfelwelt, you are automatically entering this beautiful national park, which is the biggest one in the Alps. Visitors will find 1.200 m2 of untouched nature and it is the perfect place to recharge your batteries in both summer and winter. The protected area can be reached with gondolas, from where it is also possible to see some of the lakes and mountain rivers. Excursions are offered in all seasons. Fun fact: more than half of Austria’s mammals, birds and reptiles can be found here.
Relax in the Tauern Spa
Does 20.000 m2 of wellness sound good to you? Then Tauern Spa (located close to Kitzsteinhorn) is for you! Skiing or not, this place is the perfect spot to unwind and relax, either for an entire holiday or in between daytime skiing. With 13 saunas and steam baths, 12 pools, a well-equipped fitness and relaxation area and several spa restaurants, Tauern is one of those places you simply do not want to leave. The place is always open, but in our opinion, it is more magical to stay here during winter! Apart from a giddy selection of spa and wellness treatments and experiences, Tauern Spa offers accommodation.
Ice skating at Lake Zell (or at the ice rink).
In winter, the Zellersee - or Lake Zell - freezes making it the perfect place for ice skating and ice hockey! We prefer the outdoor version, but if the lake is not fully frozen, it is possible to find ice rinks in both Zell Am See and Kaprun. Families might want to pay the leisure centre in Zell Am See a visit. Here, one will find 74-metre water slide, several diving platforms, a 25-metre swimming pool and Aqua Fit classes. The indoor ice rink is located in the same building as the leisure centre.
There are several hotels and guest houses in both Zell Am See and Kaprun. We stayed at the four star Kaprunerhof, which is a cosy, family-owned hotel located a stone’s throw from the village of Kaprun and skiing/hiking possibilities.
For more information about Zell Am See-Kaprun go to www.zellamsee-kaprun.com.