Berchtesgaden (German pronunciation: [ˈbɛʁçtəsˌɡaːdn̩]; Central Bavarian: Berchtsgoan) is a municipality in the Bavarian Alps in southeastern Germany, near the border with Austria, 30 km (19 mi) south of Salzburg and 180 km (110 mi) southeast of Munich. To the south, Berchtesgaden National Park stretches along three parallel valleys.

Berchtesgaden and the Watzmann in August 2010

Coat of arms
Location of Berchtesgaden within Berchtesgadener Land district
Coordinates: 47°37′53″N 13°0′15″E
Admin. regionOberbayern
DistrictBerchtesgadener Land
  MayorRudolf Schaupp (FW)
  Total34.78 km2 (13.43 sq mi)
700 m (2,300 ft)
  Density220/km2 (580/sq mi)
Time zoneCET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes
Dialling codes+49 8652
Vehicle registrationBGL

Watzmann, at 2,713 m (8,901 ft) the third-highest mountain in Germany, is renowned in the rock climbing community for its Ostwand (East Face), and a deep glacial lake, Königssee (5.2 km2 (2.0 sq mi)). Another notable peak is the Kehlstein mountain (1,835 m (6,020 ft)), with its Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest).


Berchtesgaden, Upper Bavaria (Achental), earlier Perchterscadmen, Perhtersgadem, Berchirchsgadem, Berchtoldesgadem; the word underwent a Latin distortion of Old High German parach, Romance bareca 'hay shed'. After the basic meaning was forgotten, they added a variant word of Old High German gadem ‘room, one-room hut’, implying the same meaning: ‘hay shed’. Cf. Old High German muosgadem ‘spice room’.

There was a folk etymology that supported a derivation based on the legendary figure of Frau Perchta (Berchta), a woman (Holle < Holda ‘well disposed, dear’) with good and bad changing features, who was venerated on Perchtertag (= Three Kings Day) and at Shrovetide was sworn to during the Perchta procession.[2]


The first ever historical note dates back to 1102 and mentions the area because of its rich salt deposits. Much of Berchtesgaden's wealth has been derived from its salt mines, the first of which started operations in 1517.[3] The town served as independent Fürstpropstei until the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss in 1803. During the Napoleonic wars, Berchtesgaden changed hands a few times, such as in 1805 under the Treaty of Pressburg, when the area was ceded to Austria.

Berchtesgaden came under Bavarian rule in 1810 and became instantly popular with the Bavarian royal family, the House of Wittelsbach, who often visited Königssee and maintained a royal hunting residence in the former Augustine monastery (still used today by Franz, Duke of Bavaria). Nascent tourism started to evolve and a number of artists came to the area, which reportedly gave rise to Malereck ("painters' corner") on the shore of Königssee in nearby Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden. The most famous author who lived in Berchtesgaden was Ludwig Ganghofer.

Nazi era

Adolf Hitler had been vacationing in the Berchtesgaden area since the 1920s. He purchased a home in the Obersalzberg above the town on the flank of the Hoher Goll and began extensive renovations on his Berghof in the following years. As other top Third Reich figures, such as Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, and Albert Speer, began to frequent the area the Party began to purchase and requisition land in the Obersalzberg.[4]

In order to serve as an outpost of the German Reichskanzlei (Imperial Chancellery), Berchtesgaden and its environs (Stanggass) saw substantial expansion of offices, security, and support services, mainly on the Obersalzberg. Included in the town were a new railway station, with a reception area for Hitler and his guests, and an adjacent post office. The Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel, where famous visitors such as Neville Chamberlain and David Lloyd George stayed, was substantially upgraded.

Even though a feared "national redoubt" last stand of the Nazi Regime in the Alps failed to materialize late in World War II, the Allies launched a devastating air raid on the Berchtesgaden area in the spring of 1945. Concentrated on the Obersalzberg, the April 25 bombing did little damage to the town. On May 4, forward elements of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division arrived[5] and received the town's surrender.[6]

Post–World War II

After the war, Obersalzberg became a military zone and most of its buildings were requisitioned by the U.S. Army. Hotel Platterhof was rebuilt and renamed the General Walker Hotel in 1952.[7] It served as an integral part of the U.S. Armed Forces Recreation Centers for the duration of the Cold War and beyond.[8] The remnants of homes of former Nazi leaders were all demolished in the early postwar years, though traces of some remained. In 1995, fifty years after the end of World War II and five years after German reunification, the AFRC Berchtesgaden was turned over to Bavarian authorities to facilitate military spending reductions mandated within the Base Realignment and Closure program by the Congress and the Pentagon during the administration of President Bill Clinton.[8] The General Walker Hotel was demolished in 2000–2001.

In 1986, Berchtesgaden was a first round candidate city to host the XVI Olympic Winter Games to be held in 1992. The vote eventually went to Albertville, France, in October of that year.[9]

Berchtesgaden today

The Hotel Türken, which was near the Nazi buildings and was often used by the SS and then by the Generalmajor of the Police, was badly damaged in 1945. It was rebuilt in 1950 and reopened as a hotel before Christmas.[10] Visitors can still explore the historic underground hallways and tunnels that had been used by the Nazis.[11][12][13]

In 1972, local government reform united the then independent municipalities of Salzberg, Maria Gern and Au (consisting of Oberau and Unterau) under the administration of the town of Berchtesgaden. Another suggested reform uniting all remaining five municipalities in the Berchtesgaden valley (Bischofswiesen, Ramsau, Marktschellenberg and Schönau) failed to gain enough popular support; it passed in Berchtesgaden but failed everywhere else.

The Berchtesgaden National Park was established in 1978 and has gradually become one of Berchtesgaden's largest draws. Mass tourism is confined to a few popular spots, leaving the rest to nature-seekers. Other tourist draws are the Königssee, the salt mine, the Kehlsteinhaus, open seasonally as a restaurant and the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg museum about the area's history, operated by the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte since 1999.[14][15][16]

Recreational and competitive sports have grown in importance. The town's ski slope is popular. The Königssee bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track has hosted ski-running and a number of international events and competitions. Berchtesgaden's most famous sports personality is Georg Hackl, a multiple Olympic medal winner. The city is home to the International Luge Federation (FIL).

Unlike the northern part of Berchtesgadener Land and the Salzburg area, Berchtesgaden has virtually no manufacturing industry.

Berchtesgaden Central Station is connected by the Salzburg–Berchtesgaden railway to the Rosenheim–Salzburg railway at Freilassing.

The Bavarian state government facilitated the erection of a hotel, which opened in 2005 and is operated by the InterContinental Hotels Group.[15] Since May 2015, the hotel has been the Kempinski Berchtesgaden.[17][18]


Berchtesgaden's neighbouring towns are Bischofswiesen, Marktschellenberg, Ramsau, and Schönau am Königssee.

The municipality counts the following villages which are (Ortsteil): Am Etzerschlößl, Anzenbach, Hintergern, Metzenleiten, Mitterbach, Oberau, Obergern, Obersalzberg, Resten, Unterau, Untersalzberg I, Untersalzberg II, and Vordergern.

Notable people


  1. "Fortschreibung des Bevölkerungsstandes". Bayerisches Landesamt für Statistik und Datenverarbeitung (in German). July 2019.
  2. Translated by Carl Masthay, St. Louis, 2012, from Wilhelm Sturmfels and Heinz Bischof: Unsere Ortsnamen im ABC erklärt nach Herkunft und Bedeutung, Bonn, 1961, Ferdinand Dümmlers Verlag.
  3. The Mysterious World of Salt – Salzbergwerk Museum tourist information leaflet.
  4. "History of the Obersalzberg, Hitler's Mountain".
  5. World War II: Race to Seize Berchtesgaden HistoryNet 12 June 2006
  6. UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, Special Studies, CHRONOLOGY 1941–1945. "In U.S. Seventh Army's XV Corps area, 7th Inf of 3d Div, crossing into Austria, advances through Salzburg to Berchtesgaden without opposition".
  7. Walden, Geoffrey R. "Platterhof". Third Reich in Ruins. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  8. "U.S. to give back Hitler's resort". Eugene Register-Guard. Oregon. Los Angeles Times. 5 February 1995. p. 16A.
  9. "Past Results". Archived from the original on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  10. "Hotel zum Turken - UPDATED 2018 Prices, Reviews & Photos (Berchtesgaden, Germany) - TripAdvisor". Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  11. "Visit Hotel Zum Turken WWII Bunkers on your trip to Berchtesgaden".
  12. Wilson, James (13 January 2014). "Hitler's Alpine Headquarters". Pen and Sword via Google Books.
  13. "Hotel zum Türken, Obersalzberg -".
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 June 2017. Retrieved 27 November 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Ryback, Timothy W. (1 April 2005). "The Hitler Shrine".
  16. "THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Berchtesgaden 2018 - Must See Attractions in Berchtesgaden, Germany | TripAdvisor". 28 November 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  17. "Luxury 5 Star Hotel In The Bavarian Alps - Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden".
  18. "Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden - Reviews, Photos & Rates". 23 August 2018. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
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