Let The Happiness In! Lass Die Freude Rein! – Tourism Slogan
Zell am See, Austria
Winter in Europe has actually become one of my favourite things. Why? SNOW. I used to be a hot-holiday only type of girl. If the destination wasn’t warmer than the UK, no thank you! Now, I love a winter destination and this has broadened my travel horizons to encompass pretty much every type of destination on the planet. If the old me sounds a little familiar, I urge you to try something different too. A snow holiday is fun-packed and allows you to connect with the outdoors in new and exciting ways. You don’t have to be into extreme sports, you can be the hot-chocolate-and-cosy-fire-type of winter traveller. There’s no denying that those white-blanketed photos are a magical addition to any traveller’s collection. For our first trip of the year, we travelled to Zell am See in Austria for a 7 night package holiday to get our winter fix.
We chose Zell am See because we fell in love with Austria last year when we visited its capital. Austrians show amazing hospitality to their visitors and are so in touch with their country’s true identity. In small towns like Zell am See, you are surrounded by traditional architecture, local food and even authentic dress. It’s becoming rarer for countries to hold on to and express their heritage so proudly and this makes for a more unique experience. From London, a 2 hour flight takes you to Salzburg, where I transferred for around 1.5 hours up the mountains to Zell am See by coach.
You can plan this type of trip independent of a tour company, however, we found that companies such as Neilson, who we booked this holiday with, offer extremely competitive rates. Despite our love of wandering off the beaten track and exploring at our own pace, for all our research and industry knowledge, we couldn’t beat Neilson independently for overall value for money. Not only are tour companies fantastically priced but they are also great when visiting a destination for the first time if you like the idea of having local knowledge at your fingertips in the form of a representative as soon as you land. Tour companies can also take some of the stress out of planning a trip because everything is done for you.
We stayed at Lebzelter, a family-run hotel with great history and very friendly staff. The location was fantastic for the slopes and the lake, both just a short walk away. The dining room was spacious yet homely. The bedrooms were cosy and well attended to. The reception was welcoming and all the walls were covered in family photographs, local history and traditional ornaments. It felt instantly Austrian, both inside and out, and we were sad to leave such a wonderful place after a week of kindness. We stayed on a half-board basis with an excellent breakfast selection and evening meals are accompanied by a fantastic salad buffet. The hotel went out of their way to cater for dietary requirements, without compromising too much on authentic Austrian cuisine but for vegetarians and vegans, you may desire a little more variety.
If you are planning a visit soon, check out your accommodation options in Zell am See.
Once you are settled and warm in the evening, there are 2 bars within this hotel, so there’s no need to get wrapped up and go back outside if you don’t want to. If you love your après, look no further than the après ski bars right outside Hotel Lebzelter. Whilst you are still well protected from the cold in your ski gear, make a stop for a Glühwein (mulled wine) or Flügel, before heading indoors for dinner.
For Non-Mountain Days
Zell am See is a great choice if you like a little culture alongside your ski holiday, or indeed if you don’t ski at all. There are great shops, a beautiful old church and a tranquil sleeping lake. Even if you like to be on the piste everyday, take one morning a little slower to enjoy your surroundings. Wrap up warm and head to the lake edge for some phenomenal winter photographs. Step into nature for a long or short walk around the perimeter, which feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the ski area above. Zell am See is a stunning small town that should be given a little time no matter how much you love the thrill of the mountain slopes.
On Mountain Days
The Zell am See ski area is set amongst beautiful alpine views that are best enjoyed in brilliant sunshine. Take the Schmittenhöhebahn gondola to the very top on a clear day for some breathtaking views and maybe a hot chocolate or two before you jump on your board/skiis. The gonadola will also take you back down again so this is a great spot for non-skiiers too. At the top of this gondola you will find Berghotel Schmittenhöhe, a fantastic option for lunch with a varied menu. We also highly recommend coming back up to this hotel for a bit of après in the mid-afternoon when the DJ comes out to play and the sun is hanging breathtakingly low in the sky.
Our unmissable moment for this destination is a lunchtime stop at Berghotel Blaickner’s Sonnalm. Again, if you can, pick a bright, beautiful day. Sit outside with a warm drink or meal and soak up the incredible Austrian atmosphere. This really is what Zell am See is all about. The right mix of flying down the mountain on your board, balanced with stunning views to be enjoyed at a more relaxed pace, before jumping back on the piste to do it all again.
You may also like Fairytales and Festivities.
The Wider Ski Area
If you purchase an all area pass you can also enjoy other ski areas during your week. Zell am See is fantastic for skiing and snowboarding, but if you like to crunch the miles, you will find yourself covering the same ground so this is a must for you. We jumped on a bus to Kaprun to ski the Kitzsteinhorn glaciers where we would recommend starting the day by heading to the very top of Salzburg. There is a great viewpoint at 3029m. As you would expect at this altitude, you really feel the cold, so pick a day with very little wind! On your way down, make a stop at the Ice Camp where you can purchase a drink in an ice glass and admire the incredible ice sculptures.
Your all area ski pass also includes Saalbach-Hinterglem ski circus. This is a much larger ski area that can be enjoyed to vary your week in Zell am See, or as a separate holiday all together.
As we always say, attempt at least a thank you in the local tongue. Austria is german speaking but a lot of bars and hotels, cafes and restaurants are happy to speak to you in English or help with translation of menus. It would be lazy not to try though! Danke is thank you. Bitte is please. Start the day with Guten Morgen and end it with Guten Nacht! Don’t feel silly, give it a go!
We couldn’t get enough of Zell am See. We highly recommend it for your next winter holiday because it is such a characterful area with so much to offer both on and off the slopes. Austrians are some of the greatest people we’ve met on our travels and we’re never ready to leave an Austrian destination. We flew with British Airways but many low cost carriers will connect you from London to Salzburg too. Check out the most competitive rates online and jet off for some fun in the snow. And if we really haven’t convinced you of the whole ‘cold holiday’ idea, check out photos of Zell am See in the summer! It’s definitely a destination we will look to return to for more outdoor excitement. For now Austria, and only for now, Tschüss!
If you enjoyed reading Alpine Views and Authenticity, please like and share it with others so they can enjoy reading it too.
If now you need more, check out my other Snow Destinations Travel Diaries.
We love getting to know local people and helping to promote their businesses. If we feel they are worth a mention and we would highly recommend them, we will include a link to their website here:
If you’re going to enjoy a winter holiday, you MUST have the right clothing and footwear.