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Berchtesgaden with view of the Watzmann
Berchtesgaden with view of the Watzmann
Coat of arms of Berchtesgaden
Coat of arms
Berchtesgaden is located in Germany
Country Germany
State Bavaria
Admin. region Oberbayern
District Berchtesgadener Land
 • Mayor Rudolf Schaupp (FW)
 • Total 34.78 km2 (13.43 sq mi)
Elevation 700 m (2,300 ft)
Population (2013-12-31)[1]
 • Total 7,783
 • Density 220/km2 (580/sq mi)
Time zone CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)
Postal codes 83471
Dialling codes +49 8652
Vehicle registration BGL

Berchtesgaden (German pronunciation: ) is a municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich. To the south of the city the Berchtesgaden National Park stretches along three parallel valleys.

Berchtesgaden is often associated with the Watzmann, at 2,713 m the third-highest mountain in Germany (after Zugspitze and Hochwanner), which is renowned in the rock climbing community for its Ostwand (East Face), and a deep glacial lake by the name of Königssee (5.2 km²). Another notable peak is the Kehlstein mountain (1,835 m) with its Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest), which offers spectacular views to its visitors.


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.


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 Mrs. (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]


First ever historical note dates back to 1102 and it 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. Salzburg was always interested in Berchtesgaden , and French troops occupied the area a short time. 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 today used 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" (literally painter's corner) on the shore of Königssee. The most famous author who lived in Berchtesgaden was Ludwig Ganghofer.

Nazis in Berchtesgaden

US soldiers toast the capture of Berchtesgaden (1945)

The area of David Lloyd George. The hotel was demolished in 2006. There is a museum on the spot now, called Haus der Berge.

The Obersalzberg

A number of other relics of the Nazi era can still be found in the area, although only a few of them are still well preserved. There is the Kehlsteinhaus (nicknamed "Eagle's Nest" by a French diplomat), which was built as a present for Hitler's 50th birthday in 1939. The remnants of homes of former Nazi leaders—such as Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring and Martin Bormann—were all demolished in the early postwar years.

The Platterhof was retained and served as a holiday and recreation retreat (Armed Forces Recreation Centers) for the American military. It was known as the General Walker Hotel. It was demolished in 2000. The only remaining fully intact buildings are the former SS HQ at Hotel Zum Türken, Albert Speer's house and the Kehlsteinhaus. A small part of the Platterhof is also still there. The information centre on the mountain is the former guesthouse Höher Göll. It has an entrance to the Obersalzberg bunker system.

Post war era

After the war, Obersalzberg became a military zone and most of its buildings were requisitioned by the US Army. Hotel Platterhof was rebuilt and renamed the General Walker Hotel[1] in 1952. It served as an integral part of the US Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) for the duration of the Cold War and beyond. The Berghof was demolished in 1953.

In 1995, 50 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 United States Congress and the Pentagon during the administration of US President Bill Clinton. The General Walker Hotel was demolished shortly thereafter. Its ruins, along with the remnants of the Berghof, were removed in 1996 to make room for a new bus station serving the bus line to the Kehlsteinhaus and for the new InterContinental Hotel Resort. The former guest house "Hoher Goell" now serves a new documentation centre. It is the first German museum of its kind to chronicle the entire span of World War II in one spot.

Berchtesgaden today

Aerial view of Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden in the morning
The former Royal Castle at Berchtesgaden

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, which gives alternative, nature-seeking tourists plenty of space to find peace and quiet in the park. Major tourist draws are the Königssee, the salt mine (with a sound and light show inaugurated in 2007), the Kehlsteinhaus and the new Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg.

Recreational and competitive sports have grown in importance. Although Berchtesgaden's 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.

Notable people



  1. ^ "Fortschreibung des Bevölkerungsstandes".  
  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.

External links

  • Municipal website (English)
  • Municipal website (German)
  • Regional tourism portal (English)
  • Alpine Pearls
  • Regional website for visitors and tourists (German) (English)
  • Berchtesgaden National Park pictures and information
  • PhotoGlobe – Berchtesgadener Land offers high quality photos of the area around Berchtesgaden together with GPS coordinates.
  • AFRC Timeline
  • "Third Reich in Ruins" (English) (historical and modern comparison photos)
  • Pictures from Berchtesgaden
  • Map of Bavaria in 1789
  • Pictures of Berchtesgaden taken in October 2006
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