The most royal of all German lakes and also a surprisingly silent one – if you get lucky.
Könnigssee is one of the many beautiful lakes located amidst the mountains of the Berchtesgaden National park in Germany. It is certainly the most royal one, as the Germans have a funny habit of writing all their words smashed together and hoping they will make sense, so the name Könnigssee actually means the King’s lake. It is quite large and boasts a lovely emerald green colour, which is pretty much the defining characteristic of all Alpine lakes, such as lake Hallstatt or Bohinj, and always makes for a beautiful sight.
Könnigssee is a popular vacation spot, particularly during the summer, so there’s a huge parking spot at Schönau am Könnigssee, the town from which you can access the lake. However, as soon as you leave the parking lot and navigate past the myriad of souvenir stalls and random tourists, you’ll discover the most attractive thing about Könnigssee – the silence.
Because it is surrounded by steep, impenetrable mountains, Könnigssee can only be accessed through Schönau and there are no roads or large trails around the lake, which means no road traffic and only as much noise as you make it. They even have silent electric boats cruising the lake to preserve the silent charm and you can hear the boatman’s trumpet echo through the mountains even if you are not on the boat.
To be fair, a crowd of tourist during the high season probably makes a lot of noise, but when I visited in the beginning of May 2019 with my boyfriend, the weather was still a bit too chilly for most people and the forecast was rain, so that helped even more. In fact, we were visiting Salzburg and the forecast was buckets of rain for the whole day, so we were looking for an alternative location to escape to. Although Salzburg is a very interesting place with tons of great museums to explore on a rainy day, I was suffering from an acute baroque overload at the time and I really wanted to go somewhere out in nature instead. We chose Könnigssee for a quick afternoon trip and our choice paid off, as it only started to rain when we were already heading back to the car.
Impressions of Könnigssee
Even though Könnigssee is technically in Germany , it is not very far from the northern Austrian border, as it is located in that weirdly shaped part of Germany that is kind of sticking into Austria.
See what I mean? Anyways, the Berchtesgaden area is quite famous for its beautiful scenery and hiking trails, as well as the Eagle’s nest, Hitler’s emergency bunker at the top of the mountain, which was still closed for winter at the time of our visit.
From Könnigssee you can hike up 2713 m to Mt. Watzmann, hailed as the most beautiful mountain in the world by the Berchtesgaden tourist board – I’m not sure if I agree, but it is certainly impressive, and no, we were not near crazy enough to hike it. You can also take a cable car up Mt. Jenner, where you can supposedly see wild marmots, but it was too cold and rainy for them to be out, so we didn’t do that either.
There’s a good reason for all those electric cruise boats: St. Bartholomew’s church on the other shore of the lake, which is not easily accessible by foot, unless you’re planning to do some serious hiking. The also boats stop at Salet, from which you can hike up to Obersee, a small glacier lake above Könnigssee. You can take a cruise to either of the stops and back and no, we did not do that either, because it was actually quite expensive and we weren’t planning to waste half our time there on a boat.
Instead we chose to simply enjoy the lake views, walk around the accessible area as much as we could without going too far up the mountain trails and have a picnic on the shore.
We found a sign pointing towards Malerwinkel, the Painter’s corner, which is one of the few easily walkable points around the lake. As we followed the trail we came across another sign, this time for the Cafe Malerwinkel, but since we had our own food with us, we decided to ignore it and took a smaller forest path to the left of the Cafe. We emerged directly on the lake shore, next to a small island with some kind of ruins on it and it turned out to be the perfect picnic spot.
Judging by some leftover trash we were not the first people who thought the spot was perfect for a picnic, but at least there was not a lot of it and we took some of it back with us and tossed it in the bins. While we were eating, we also made some new friends: a couple of adventurous ducks, who came super close to us after a while, until we accidentally startled them and they flew off.
After eating we walked up the remaining distance to Malerwinkel, which is actually a perfectly located viewpoint, from which you can see the church of St. Bartholomew if you squint really hard (the view from the cover photo). My phone was much better at zooming into the church than me, so we actually got to see what it looked like after I took a few photos, so if you have a fancy camera bring a tripod and go for it – most people there did. It was starting to drizzle a bit by then, so we quickly left Malerwinkel and speed-walked to the car park.
Bonus travel tip: the parking fee was surprisingly not very expensive, as you can buy a one day ticket for 5 €, 1 hour for 1 € or 3 hour for 4 € (as of April 2019).