For the German town in Thuringia, see Königsee.

View from Malerwinkel
Location Schönau am Königssee, Bavaria, Germany
Coordinates 47°33′N 12°58′E / 47.550°N 12.967°E / 47.550; 12.967Coordinates: 47°33′N 12°58′E / 47.550°N 12.967°E / 47.550; 12.967
Primary inflows Schreinbach, Saletbach (from the Obersee), Kesselbach, Eisbach, Königsbach
Primary outflows Königsseer Ache to Salzach
Basin countries Germany
Max. length 7.7 km (4.8 mi)
Max. width 1.7 km (1.1 mi)
Surface area 5.218 km2 (2.015 sq mi)
Average depth 98.1 m (322 ft)
Max. depth 190 m (620 ft)
Water volume 511,785,000 m3 (414,911 acre·ft)
Surface elevation 603 m (1,978 ft)
Islands Christlieger
Settlements Schönau am Königssee Ortsteil Königssee

The Königssee is a natural lake in the extreme southeast Berchtesgadener Land district of the German state of Bavaria, near the Austrian border. Most of the lake is within the Berchtesgaden National Park.


Situated within the Berchtesgaden Alps in the municipality of Schönau am Königsee, just south of Berchtesgaden and the Austrian city of Salzburg, the Königssee is Germany's third deepest lake. Located at a Jurassic rift, it was formed by glaciers during the last ice age. It stretches about 7.7 km (4.8 mi) in the north-south direction and is about 1.7 km (1.1 mi) across at its widest point. Except at its outlet, the Königsseer Ache at the village of Königssee, the lake similar to a fjord is surrounded by steeply rising flanks of mountains up to 2,700 m (8,900 ft), including the Watzmann massif in the west. The railway Königsseebahn served the lake from 1909 until 1965. Its last tracks were dismantled during 1971, and the station in Berchtesgaden was demolished in 2012. The only remaining element of the railway is the Königsee station (now a restaurant). The track route is mostly used as a walking path.

The literal translation of the name, Königssee, appears to be "king's lake"; however while German: König does indeed mean "king", there had been no Bavarian kings since the days of Louis the German until Elector Maximilian I Joseph assumed the royal title in 1806. Therefore, the name more probably stems from the first name Kuno of local nobles, who appear in several historical sources referring to the donation of the Berchtesgaden Provostry in the twelfth century; the lake was formerly called Kunigsee.[1]

In 1944 a sub-camp of the Dachau concentration camp was located nearby where Heinrich Himmler had a residence built at Schönau for his mistress Hedwig Potthast.[2]

The lake is noted for its clear water and is advertised as the cleanest lake in Germany. For this reason, only electric-powered passenger ships,[3] rowing, and pedal boats have been permitted on the lake since 1909. Passenger services along the length of the lake are operated by the Bayerische Seenschifffahrt company[4] and call at: Seelände (Schönau), St. Bartholomä, Salet (mid-April to mid-October), and Kessel (on request). In ideal conditions, the longest tour takes two hours from Seelände to Salet.[5] Swimming is permitted except in the lock area at Seelände.

Due to its picturesque setting, the lake and surrounding parklands are very popular with tourists and hikers. In addition, the lake's position surrounded by sheer rock walls creates an echo known for its clarity. On boat tours, it has become traditional to stop and play a flugelhorn or trumpet to demonstrate the echo. Formerly demonstrated by shooting a cannon, it can be heard to reverberate up to seven times. The trumpeter plays along with the returning sounds so it sounds like as many as seven players.

St. Bartholomä, a famous pilgrimage church with an inn nearby, is located on a peninsula about halfway down the western lake shore. The small Christlieger island is located near its northern end. South of the Königssee, separated by the Salet moraine, is the smaller Obersee lake with the 470 m (1,540 ft) high Röthbach waterfall. As there is no lakeside path on the steep shore of the Königssee, St. Bartholomä and the southern edge can only be reached by boat or via hiking trails up the surrounding mountains—except for harsh winters, when the lake freezes over. Stepping on the ice, however, can be fatal, as it was for a motorist who, in winter 1964, drowned in his Beetle on the way back from St. Bartholomä. The car was found only in 1997 at a depth of about 100 m (330 ft)[6]

See also


  1. "Lake Königssee - FAQ's". Bayerische Seenschifffahrt. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  2. Höhne, Heinz (16 January 1967). "Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf" [The Order of the Death's Head]. Der Spiegel (in German) (4). Retrieved 2015-01-23.
  3. Schreiner, Kerstin; Binner, Andreas (31 January 2014). "Quiet Cruising on Königssee". Pictures of the Future. Siemens.
  4. "Home page". Bayerische Seenschifffahrt. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  5. "Lake Königssee - All details of departure time". Bayerische Seenschifffahrt. Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  6. "Käferschatz im Königsee" [Beetle Treasure in Konigssee] (in German). taunuskaefer.de. Retrieved 2015-01-23.

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