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Berchtesgaden - a beautiful resort area in the German Bavarian Alps

Tops of the city of Berchtesgaden, Germany with Alp Watzmann behind.

Tops of the city of Berchtesgaden, Germany with Alp Watzmann behind.

Map of Berchtesgaden, Germany and area.

Map of Berchtesgaden, Germany and area.

Berchtesgaden, Germany

High in the German Bavarian Alps lies Berchtesgaden, a quaint, charming and picturesque village of 9,000 people in a land region of spectacular natural beauty, majestic mountains, crystal clear lakes and an unspoiled natural preserve of an Alpine National Park.

It follows the Bavarian traditions of parades, beer fests, folklore events, charming villages and where alpine customs and sports are kept alive today. It even includes a royal castle for the Bavarian kings of old, and the Bavarian royal family today, specifically Franz, Duke of Bavaria.

Berchtesgaden is a summer retreat for hikers offering leisurely strolls around to exhilerating, majestic mountain climbs and hikes. During the winter it offers the winter sports of cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, sledding and ice-skating.

Berchtesgaden is located in the southern district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria near the border of Austria, 30km south of Salzburg, Austria and 180 km southeast of Munich, Germany's capital city. South of the village is the Berchtesgaden (Alpine) National Park.

High above the village is the towering Alp, Watzmann, 2,713 m high and the third largest mountain in the German alps after the Zugspitz and Hochwanner. Watzmann is renowned for its rock climbing community on its Ostwand (East Face) and for a deep glacial lake, Konigssee.

Berchtesgaden is best-known, however, for Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest), originally a tea house for Adolf Hitler. The 1920s through WWII was a dark time in the history of Berchtesgaden as Hitler had a home, tea house, Nazi administration buildings, soldier barracks, and an underground bunker here.

Fortunately, Berchtesgaden overcame its dark blot in German history and today is a thriving recreation area for Germans and tourists alike. Also, nearby is the lovely glacier lake of Konigssee and it boasts neighboring towns and villages of Bischofswiesen, Marktschellenberg, Ramu, and Shonau am Konigssee.

The village of Berchtesgaden dates back to 1102 AD when the first historical document mentions the rich salt deposits here. The first salt mine was established in 1517. Today, salt mines still are being mined and much of Berchtesgaden's wealth comes from its existing salt mine.

Over the years. Berchtesgaden changed political hands several times and was ruled by Germany, Austria and France at different times throughout history.

By 1810, Berchtesgaden came under Bavarian rule and has remained so to present day. From the 1800's to present, tourism became popular here .

In the years following WWII and until 1995, Berchtesgarden was a huge sports resort for the American armed forces stationed in Europe. Any of the American soldiers could come here and take part in any of the winter sports. Fortunately, American teachers teaching the children of the American soldiers could also take advantage of this Armed Forces Recreation Center.(AFRC)

While I was teaching in Germany, I took advantage of this and did spend a weekend skiing in Berchtesgaden. It was beautiful with ski slopes for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers. The most fun part was skiing down the alp from Germany right into Austria, with my passport in my back pocket, of course. Today, the AFRC is gone and Berchtesgarden has been fully returned to Germany to run as a sports resort.

Historical town center of Berchtesgaden

Historical town center of Berchtesgaden

Adolf Hitler reviews a SA (Sturmabteilung) unit in Berchtesgaden in July 1932.

Adolf Hitler reviews a SA (Sturmabteilung) unit in Berchtesgaden in July 1932.

Members of the SA gather at the fountain in the Berchtesgaden main square in the 1930s

Members of the SA gather at the fountain in the Berchtesgaden main square in the 1930s

The 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army reaches downtown Berchtesgaden and liberates it.

The 3rd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army reaches downtown Berchtesgaden and liberates it.

American soldiers toast their liberation of Berchtesgaden.

American soldiers toast their liberation of Berchtesgaden.

Berchtesgaden and Adolf Hitler

Unfortunately and sadly the German Nazi's of WWII also found Berchtesgaden to be a beautiful spot to relax. The area of Obersalzberg was purchased by the Nazis in the 1920s for senior leaders to vacation and enjoy the many sports available here. Hitler's mountain residence, the Berghof, was located here also.

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Hitler first came here in 1925 upon his release from Landsberg prison. This is when Obersalzberg became a huge private Nazi retreat and complex of Nazi buildings which was closed to the public. The mastermind of all this was German Nazi Martin Bormann.

Berchtesgaden and the environs around it were fitted to serve as an outpost of the German Reichskanze's office. (Imperial Chancellery). The Third Reich built a railway station, post office next door, and the Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel where famous Nazi visitors stayed: Eva Braun, Erwin Rommel, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler.

Many of the appeasers and sympathizers of the Nazis also stayed here: Neville Chamberlain, David Lloyd Gearger and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. (Edward Windsor and Wallis Simpson)

The Kehlsteinhaus was built as a 50th birthday present to Hitler in 1939 and given to him by Martin Bormann. Today it is known as the Eagle's Nest, a name given to it by the American military of WWII. This was Bormann's most lavish accomplishment and built on a mountain spur almost 3,000 feet higher than the Obersalzberg.

It could only be reached by a road with only one hair-pin curve which was an engineering feat of the day.

Bormann also had built administration buildings, SS guard barracks, a green house which grew vegetables, (Hitler was a vegetarian), an experimental farm, hotel, and housing complexes for the worker's needed to serve the Fuhrer and his generals.

Here at the summit of the Alp were the homes of former Nazi leaders: Hitler, Herman Goring and Martin Bormann.

At the end of WWII, the Royal Air Force bombed the Obersalzberg complex on April 25, 1945 as the Allies feared Hitler would leave Berlin and set up his official headquarters here. The Allies were not aware that Hitler had a fear of heights and rarely came here during the war.

Most of the buildings and bunkers of the Bergdorf (Hitler's residence) were destroyed by the Allies at the end of WWII. After the war, Obersalzberg became a military zone and most of its buildings not destroyed were requisitioned by the U.S. Army.

One of the conditions of the return of Obersalzberg to German control in 1952 was the destruction of the remaining ruins. The homes of the former Nazi leaders - Hitler, Herman Goring, and Martin Bormann - were demolished in the early postwar years.

The U.S. Army appropriated some of the less damaged buildings for use as a soldier recreation facility and these were maintained until 1995 by the Armed Forces Recreation Center. (AFRC) The Platterhof was retained and was renamed the General Walker Hotel and served as a holiday and recreation retreat for the American military.

This served as an integral part of the U.S. Armed Forces Recreation Center for the duration of the Cold War and beyond. In 1995, fifty years after the end of WWII and five years after German reunification, the AFRC at Berchtesgaden was turned over to the Bavarian state and authorities to facilitate the U.S. military spending reductions. These were mandated by the Base Realignment and Closure program by the U.S.Congress and the Pentagon during Bill Clinton's presidency.

The General Walker Hotel was demolished and by 1996 the ruins, along with remnants of the Berghof, were removed.

The Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest) was retained and turned into a restaurant. A new bus line and bus station were installed to reach the new InterContinental Hotel Resort as no cars are permitted at the top. The InterContinental is quite the luxury stay as rooms go for a pricey 2500 euros per night.

The Germans built a new documentation center and museum and it is the first German museum of its kind to chronicle the entire span of WWII all in one spot.

Kehlsteinhaus, (Eagle's Nest) at the summit of the Obersalzberg.

Kehlsteinhaus, (Eagle's Nest) at the summit of the Obersalzberg.

The beautifu and serene Konigssee.

The beautifu and serene Konigssee.

Kehlsteinstrasse where the bus takes tourists up to Eagle's Nest.

Kehlsteinstrasse where the bus takes tourists up to Eagle's Nest.

Boat ride on the Konigssee and Kloster St. Bartoloma.

Boat ride on the Konigssee and Kloster St. Bartoloma.

Berchtesgaden today

Berchtesgaden has overcome its nasty Nazi history, and since 1995 has been in the hands of its rightful owners the federal state of Bavaria in Germany.

There is much to see and do at Berchtesgaden today, from hiking the Alps during the summer to winter sports in the Alpine snow, to viewing the spectacular views from the summit of the Eagle's Nest.

  • First and foremost is the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest) which is a restaurant today. It is located 1,834 m altitude above Berchtesgaden. While eating, tourists can see the majestic views over the eastern Alps high above the clouds. It can be reached by foot or by bus but it is not accessible by car. It is only open from May through October because of the heavy snows that come during the winter months. Also to see is the WWII documentation center and museum and Hitler's bunker below.
  • Konigssee is the beautiful glacier lake three miles south of the village of Berchtesgaden. It is the deepest lake in the Alps and is nestled below a steep Alp that raises up to 2000 m above lake level. There are boat trips that can be taken around the lake and to the other side of the lake to visit the world famous Kloster St. Bartoloma, an Augustine monastery. Konigssee also offers bobsleigh, luge and a skeleton track for tourists to enjoy.
  • Obersee is a smaller lake to see and visit and tourists can enjoy the wildlife of the Alpine National Park. Hiking here is very popular during the summer months.
  • Berchtesgaden (Alpine) National Park is the only park in the German Alps. Its altitude is 2,300 m stretching from the Konigssee bed to Watzmann peak. It covers almost all vegetation zones and has all the typical animal and plant species. It is located in southeast Germany in Bavaria and adjoins with the Austrian federal state of Salzberg. It was founded in 1978 and is 210 square kilometres and is now owned by the federal state of Bavaria. It's mission statement is, "Leaving nature to its own devices." Areas without human intervention is where wilderness begins and its objectives are protecting natural processes of nature and conserving biodiversity.
  • Jenner Alp is on the east side of Konigssee and is accessible by cable car. It boasts the most beautiful view over the Berchtesgaden valley.
  • Berchtesgaden salt mine is one of two salt mines in the Salzberg area with the other one being on the Austrian side.
  • Rossfelt Alp is three miles from Berchtesgaden and 1600 m high above the village. It is a beautiful spot for walks and skiing above the clouds and also greast for downhill skiing. It can be reach by toll road or by bus.
  • Obersalzbergbahn is the second, smaller cable car in Berchtesgaden and brings tourists onto the Obersalzberg where bob sledding can be enjoyed during winter and summer.
  • Bobbahn at Konigssee has a bobsleigh run and is a popular venue for world cup races. The gastbobs are runs for tourists and there is an eishalle, an ice arena for ice skating. There is also the Watzmanntherme which is a giant action whirlpool, hydro massage facilities, saltwater pools with a 80m slide. Ski slopes are at Obersalzberg ,Gotschen, Rossfield and Jenner Alp. There are also several runs for cross-country skiing and touring in the Berchtesgaden Alps
  • German Olympic champion Georg Hackl, multiple Olympic medal winner and famous sports personality makes his home at Berchtesgaden. He was the first to win five consecutive medals - three gold medals and two silver medals - in men's single luge event. He is usually out and about for tourists to meet and watch him hurtling down the luge.
  • Hotel InterContinental Resort was built by the Germans after they took over Berchtesgaden in 1995. It is located on the Obersalzberg and is a beautiful spa and resort, although it is pricey.
  • German food is delicious and below are some of the best places to eat around the Berchtesgaden area.
View of the village of Berchtsgaden with Watzmann in background.

View of the village of Berchtsgaden with Watzmann in background.

Berchtesgaden and Konigssee

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Suzette Walker


Zahid Malik from Pakistan on October 21, 2019:

i am from Pakistan one year ago my brother visited Germany on his return he told 2 things about Germany one people are very beautiful and 2nd their railways system is very modern but after viewing these beautiful places i want to told my brother about 3rd thing that maybe he missed to view because of his busy schedule that like beautiful people Germany have many beautiful places for visitors to visit

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on August 31, 2016:

So glad this article was helpful. Have a great trip and enjoy. .Germany is one of my favorite destinations.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on August 26, 2016:

Superb article!

I watch this often telecast program on this German guy and his dog Cleo, who are hiking across Germany showing us off the beaten path attractions. I am planning to visit Germany along the same plan - mostly hiking.

Your article has added a good destination to my itinerary.

Thank you for sharing.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on August 25, 2016:

Glad you enjoyed this hub. Berchtesgaden is such a beautiful place and worth the visit. Sounds like your trip was a great one!

Ced Yong from Asia on August 18, 2016:

Great hub! Reading it brought back memories of my visit in 2012. I behaved like a kid on that slide in the mines.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on March 19, 2015:

Suhail: Thank you so much for reading this and I am glad you found this article. Germany is a beautiful place and I am happy to share that with you.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on March 19, 2015:

lady: I lived in Germany and came to love the people and the country. It is so pristine and pretty. I am so glad you enjoyed reading this.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on March 08, 2015:

I was on this hub thanks to ladyguitarpicker, who shared it.

I enjoyed reading about a supremely beautiful place on earth. As a nature loving person I tend to read lots of hubs about travel. This one stands out in terms of writing skills and the beauty of the place captured.

Voted up!

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on March 07, 2015:

I really enjoyed the videos and this beautiful hub. Germany is one special place. I have read so much about Germany, and will continue to do so. I would love to go there if I am able. Thanks for bring this to life. Stella

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on December 23, 2014:

MHiggins: Berchtesgaden is beautiful and in Bavaria . You would love it. So glad you enjoyed reading this.

Michael Higgins from Michigan on December 11, 2014:

Thanks for sharing the great info. Bavaria sounds like a very beautiful place. Voted up.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 24, 2014:

Violette: Hello and thank you for visiting my hub. I am so glad you enjoyed reading and viewing this. The German Alps are just beautiful and it is hard to find a photo that is not beautiful. I appreciate your visit and your comments.

VioletteRose from Atlanta on October 23, 2014:

What a beautiful place to visit. Looks so lovely. Thanks so much for sharing the photographs :)

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 21, 2014:

Paula: This place is breathtaking and the views of the Alps are beautiful. I love it here and I love Germany. I lived there back int he 80's and I miss it from time to time. Wintertime and winter sports are so fun in Germany and skiing the Alps was a dream come true. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. Most appreciated.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on October 21, 2014:

Gorgeous. I can't imagine living right next to those mountains.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 18, 2014:

Thank you bdegiulio. I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. Yes, the area is so quaint, picturesque and with spectacular views. The winter sports are wonderful. Thanks so much for your visit.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on October 17, 2014:

What a beautiful area. I'm have always wanted to visit not only because of the natural scenery but also due to the historical significance of the Eagle's Nest. A wonderful hub.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 17, 2014:

Hi Jo: I am glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, this area of Germany is stunning in its beauty. I am glad your husband was able to ski there while in Germany. It is great skiing country.

Jo Alexis-Hagues from Lincolnshire, U.K on October 17, 2014:

Like most people, I knew about the Eagle's Nest, but the area is stunningly beautiful, such a pity it was marred by Adolf and his henchmen, but I guess it's all history now. My husband used to ski out there when he was posted to Germany. I didn't realized the place was so picturesque. Awesome hub.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 17, 2014:

Hi Kim: Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Since my talents as a poetry writer leave a lot to be desired, I love writing these types of articles, especially about Germany. I love sharing my experiences and the lovely places I was fortunate to visit. To highlight these German places brings back wonderful memories for me. Thank you so much for your visit - it always brightens my day, Kim. Hugs, Suzette.

ocfireflies from North Carolina on October 17, 2014:


I run out of adjectives to describe your spectacular hubs. This hub is no different. Not only do you take us on a tour of the most beautiful scenery, you provide the historical relevance as well. How lucky you are to have had the opportunity to visit a place of such grandeur. As always, V+/Share.



Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 17, 2014:

Hi Jackie: I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. Yes, it is a spectacular and beautiful area of Germany and the Alps are just beautiful. Thank you for your comments and visit. Most appreciated.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on October 16, 2014:

Such a gorgeous and informative article. Excellent work! Never been their but my dad has and had an aunt from there. Thanks so much for showing it off!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

Sunshine: Yes, we do learn so much about each other here on HP. I never realized you had Sue, your imaginary friend. Thanks so much for reading and I am so glad you enjoyed this. Hi to Sue!

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

Chitrangada: Thank you so much for your visit and your kind comments. I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. Will I have seen the Alps but not the Himalayans which I would love to see and experience some day. There is so much to see and enjoy in all parts of this great big world. Thanks for stopping by.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

Hi fpher: I was there in 1981-82. I loved living in Germany and I am so fortunate to have experienced places like Berchtesgaden and others in Germany and all over Europe. I am sure you had wonderful times and how fortunate you were to be able to spend extended times with your sister and brother-in-law. I went to the Oktoberfest and have great stories about that! Everyone should experience Oktoberfest at one time or another. And, Paris - well, just the most beautiful city in the world. I have great stories about Paris too. I was fortunate to have so many wonderful stories and memories of my times in Europe. Thanks so much for reading this and I am so glad you enjoyed it and it brought back such pleasant memories for you.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

Hi Mike: Yes, I am very fortunate to have worked as a teacher for the DOD. This was just a spectacular place for the Armed forces in Europe and many took advantage of this. The Germans were resentful that this was taken over and run by the Armed Forces so I thought it was fitting that it went back to the Germans in 1995. Believe me, there is much resentment by the Germans that our Armed forces still have bases etc. in Germany and the rest of Europe. Being a teacher there, I was discriminated many times because I am an American. There were German only restaurants, beer and wine gardens, and nightclubs where Americans were not permitted. Having our troops in Europe is a double edged sword. But, I enjoyed myself immensely anyway, and traveled all over Europe when I was living there. Thanks so much for visiting and reading this.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

Thanks, Eric and I am glad you enjoyed reading this.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

vocalcoach: Thank you an d I am so glad you enjoyed reading this. It is breathtakingly beautiful and I am fortunate to have seen and experienced it. Thanks so much for your interest and visit.

Suzette Walker (author) from Taos, NM on October 16, 2014:

Bill: It is a spectacular place and the views are breathtaking. I was very fortunate to teach for the DOD and live in Germany. That is how I saw it all. I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. Thanks for your visit.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on October 16, 2014:

Not only did I learn about the German Alps, I also learned that Paula was quite the adventurer. Eagles Nest looks beautiful...I want to go, since I never will, thanks for the journey! :)

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 16, 2014:

What a wonderful and beautiful place and such a well presented hub!

I have read about German Alps and your description makes me want to visit this place soon.

Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub! Voted up!

Suzie from Carson City on October 15, 2014:

Suzette......How exciting! I was there is 1966....long long time ago . Stood right in the room at Eagles Nest that was allegedly the bedroom of Adolph and Eva Braun. Have been to Germany several times....for months at a time. My sister & husband were stationed there.

What a wonderful opportunity that was for me with memories I'll treasure forever......also to Baden Baden.....and the OktoberFest....and we went to Paris as well.

Wonderful hub!! Up++++

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on October 15, 2014:

Hello suzette. So you have skied the Alps, what a nice line in the resume of your history. The photos are great. It sounds like a great place to visit. So after all the trouble of beating the Nazi's we ended up giving the place back - 'geniuos' I say.

Good to see you writing again. There seemed to have been a short 'vacation'

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 15, 2014:

After we visited my sister returned to live there for a bit over a year. What a wonderful place and you did it proud with a great hub. "sledding" the salt mines is a real kick.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on October 15, 2014:

The german alps are stunning! Would love to go there. Thanks for this amazing, historical adventure. Voted up and across and sharing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 15, 2014:

Well that's pretty spectacular! My goodness, there is a big world out there, and I've seen so little of it. I need to hit the bestseller list soon while I'm still able to travel. :) Thanks for a great tour.

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