Most pictures of fjord-like Königssee near Berchtesgaden have one common feature: the landmark and most photographed building in the region, St. Bartholomew's Church. It is located on Hirschau peninsula at the lake's west bank, and can only be accessed by boat.
Kings Were in Love with the Peninsula
With its baroque shape, including red dome roof and two different bulbous spires, it makes for a nice dash of colour against the turquoise lake water and the imposing east face of the Watzmann. Bavarian 19th century kings, too, appreciated this, and made St. Bartholomew their favourite place to stay. Right next to the church you can find a former hunting lodge, nowadays used as a restaurant.
Services, Weddings, and Concerts at the Church
Within the shipping's operating hours, the church is accessible free of charge all year round. However, fees apply to the boat ride (see fees). In contrast to its stately exterior, the pilgrimage church's interior is relatively plain. Throughout the year, numerous weddings as well as readings and concerts add to the regular services and masses.
„Heilige Nacht“ (lit. Holy Night) is a special highlight during Christmas season. At this event, the Christmas story after Ludwig Thomas is presented at the church, along with traditional local music. The evening comes to an end with a three course meal at the neighbouring restaurant. Also in winter, you can watch wildlife feeding of Berchtesgaden National Park, taking place on the peninsula.
The Oldest Alpine Mountain Pilgrimage
Every year there is a pilgrimage to St. Bartholomew's Church. It takes place the first Saturday after Bartholomew Day on 24 August and is known as „Almer Wallfahrt“. The excursion from Austrian Maria Alm over the Steinernes Meer (lit. rocky sea) is said to be the oldest high mountain pilgrimage in the world.
Hiking to „Eiskapelle“
Another possibility is to take the church as a starting point to go hiking. A popular path is the easy tour to „Eiskapelle“, at the foot of Watzmann's east face (two hours there and back). The way to Eiskapelle is mostly well constructed, only the passing of a boulder field at the end of the way requires some surefootedness. Eiskapelle is an icy cave at the foot of the lowest perennial snowfield in the German Alps. Caution: do not enter Eiskapelle, as it is permanently liable to collapse!
The church's oldest parts go back to the 12th century. It was not before 1522 that it was dedicated to St. Bartholomew, patron saint of alpine farmers, herdsmen, and shepherds. In late 17th century, the striking baroque towers were added. The church is structurally connected to the hunting lodge since the 18th century.
- St. Bartholomew's Church on Lake Königssee is among the 15 best rated Tourist Attractions in Germany.
How to get there
Pilgrimage church St. Bartholomew can only be accessed by boat or via alpine paths (only for hiking experts). Ships start at Seelände in Schönau am Königssee and take around 35 minutes one way to St Bartholomew. While shipping starts at 8.00 am during the summer, operating hours start somewhat later the rest of the year.
The easiest way to get to lake Königssee by car is via motorway A8 (München-Salzburg). Exit at Bad Reichenhall and follow B20 towards Berchtesgaden and on to Königssee.
The lake is easily accessible on public transport as well. Simply take an ICE or regional train to Berchtesgaden and then go on to Königssee by RVO bus.