Gmunden is a small lakeside town that sits at the northern edge of the 12 kilometre long Traunsee (Traun Lake) in the Salzkammergut area of Upper Austria. It is mostly known to Austrians as a summer health resort town and for its wide variety of brine and salt spa treatments that are available in that specific area of the country. Gmunden has existed in some form since the 1100’s and its surroundings are a feast for the eyes. Dwarfed by tall mountains, an abundance of lakeside restaurants, a lake that is crystal clear and a picturesque town square; what more could you ask for?
With approximate population of around 13,000 people, Gmunden is the perfect town to get your relaxation on. During the peak of the day, you will find day trippers walking around the town square, sitting on restaurant patios if the weather is nice and people out on the water in boats, kayaks, or in the summer months, stand up paddle boarding. When night falls, only locals are to be found and the town turns quiet and serene.
Although small in size, Gmunden offers a ton of outdoor activities for the avid hiker, kayak enthusiast and mountain biker. If you aren’t into outdoorsy stuff, the town has a slew of cafés to perch yourself in and have a snack and an espresso as well. Regardless of what type of traveller you are, Gmunden has lots to offer and I’m sure you won’t be bored.
If you find yourself at this stunning lakeside town, here is a list of things to ignite your inner outdoorsy self.
The crystal clear Traunsee is Gmunden’s shining gem. This large lake has a length of 12 kilometres and a depth of a staggering 627 feet. Traunsee is also surrounded by small towns, mountains and hiking trails. In the summer months, the water is teeming with swimmers and boaters enjoying the sunshine. Go for a relaxing walk along the Traunsee Promenade, which provides great views of the surrounding mountains and is lined with snack shacks, restaurants, benches and small marinas that provide lake cruises throughout the day. A walk along the Promenade during sunset was my favourite time to enjoy cotton candy pink skies.
Ride The Grünberg Cable Car
For some of the best views of Gmunden and the surrounding area, take the Grünberg Seilbahn (cable car) to the top of Grünberg Mountain. Two large bright neon green cable cars, holding a capacity of approximately 60 people, whisk you up 1,004 metres high above Gmunden in a matter of minutes. Sprawling green valleys, beautiful Traunsee and colourful autumn trees are in full view as you get higher and higher into the sky. The Grünberg Seilbahn is open daily from the end of March to about mid November with special Christmas hours available. Some other activities located at the top of Grünberg are a tree top walk along Baumwipfelpfad, a summer toboggan ride on the Grünberg-Flitzer, or to get your adrenaline pumping, try some Paragliding & Hang-Gliding.
Hike To Laudachsee
The hike to Laudachsee, which is a pretty lake on the mountain, is the most popular hiking excursion once people reach the top of Grünberg via the cable car. The hike is considered easy and takes about an hour to complete. Ok, maybe over an hour if you’re like me and stop to take a zillion photos on the way there. The one hour hike to Laudachsee takes you through open flat trails, thick forested areas and even some rocky and slightly steep terrain on some parts. The hike can be done by children, seniors and every age in between. Even though the hike is short, make sure to bring a snack and a water bottle with you to stay hydrated. There is even a water filling station in the woods with perfectly cold and refreshing water to refill your bottles. The trails are well maintained and marked very well and because it is the most popular hike, there are always people around you, so even as a solo traveller/hiker, I never felt uneasy or unsafe. The amazing view of the mountain Traunstein comes into full view during the hike and it makes for some very impressive scenery. Photos can’t do the beauty of Traunstein justice, it’s just so majestic as it stands tall above the trees. Once you reach Laudachsee, you’ll see the mountain Katzenstein acting as a perfect backdrop to lake and there is a snack shop called Ramsaualm, which provides some authentic Austrian food to fuel you for your hike back to the cable car.
Schloss Ort is an Austrian castle situated in the middle of Traunsee and is accessible via a long wooden foot bridge. The castle was founded around 1080 by Hartnidus of Ort and improvements and modifications continued to be made well into the 13th-century. Sitting pretty, just off the shores of Traunsee, Schloss Ort is definitely the main attraction of Gmunden. Its onion-like top dome is just one of the quirky features of this small and unique castle. The present day castle holds a museum, beautiful courtyard, restaurant and a summer school inside. An early morning walk along Scharnsteiner Straße and along the beautiful tree lined Johann Orth-Allee on the way to visit Schloss Ort, is a must while in Gmunden.
The town hall of Gmunden is a unique building that sits in the centre of Rathausplatz. The exterior of the building has a light green and white striped facade and also has intricate stucco work. The central bell tower displays emblems of Austria and Gmunden and the attractive main entrance looks as if it is straight off a dollhouse. My favourite feature of the Gmunden Rathaus, is its tiny ceramic bells that play a little tune every hour throughout the day. Apparently there is even a lullaby at the end of the day to prepare people for bed! Neat!
Gmunden’s Marktplatz is filled with cozy cafés, traditional restaurants, local mom & pop bakeries and some great shops selling clothing and shoes. The cheery Crayola coloured buildings and tiny cobblestone streets make the Marktplatz an area that looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The Pfarrkirche in Gmunden is a bright yellow Gothic styled church, which is situated in Marktplatz. Even on the gloomiest morning, the Pfarrkirche’s canary yellow colour shines brightly, making the Marktplatz an inviting place for window shoppers to stroll around in. Don’t forget to bring your camera while meandering around these picture perfect streets because there is literally a photo-op around every corner.
If you’re visiting Austria and are looking to be wowed by stunning mountain scenery, shimmering lakes filled with swans gliding along the water, fresh clean alpine air and an abundance of great hikes and picturesque town streets, then Gmunden is definitely a place for you to see. Spending time within this captivating lakeside town was relaxing, refreshing and the perfect place to introduce the Salzkammergut region to me.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been to any of Austria’s famous lakeside towns or villages! xo
I stayed at the fantastic and beautiful Seehotel Schwan, which is located right in the heart of Rathausplatz with gorgeous views of Traunsee.