Salzkammergut Discoveries: St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen on the Wolfgangsee Lake
On an initially cloudy May 6, 2013, we started our excursion of the Austrian Salzkammergut lake district. From Bad Ischl we drove to St. Wolfgang, a pretty little village on the Wolfgangsee lake. It became really well-known in the 1950s when several popular movies were made in this picturesque village.
The downtown area of St. Wolfgang is full of historic hotels such as the “Weisses Roessl” (Little White Horse, often also called the “White Horse Inn”) and several others that have been the setting of various movies. You can rent pedal boats from the town pier, take a boat excursion around the lake or go shopping in one of the many souvenir shops.
We also stopped in at the Gothic parish church of St. Wolfgang. Built from 1414 AD, this medieval church features a magnificent double-winged altar by the renowned Gothic painter and wood carver Michael Pacher. The church’s walls have several openings that provide breath-taking views of the Wolfgangsee Lake.
The main street of St. Wolfgang features a variety of historic merchants’ houses, many of which were built in the 16th and 17th centuries and feature beautifully painted facades. We sat down in one of the local cafes and enjoyed a nice strong morning coffee.
Then we hiked up to the Kalvarienberg, a hill above the town of St. Wolfgang, which offers an absolutely phenomenal view over the lake and the surrounding mountains. The entire Salzkammergut area is an absolute playground for nature lovers – there are a myriad of hiking trails, biking paths and a number of ski resorts dotting through the entire region.
Back in town we had a last look at the parish church of St. Wolfgang before driving around the lake to the next village: St. Gilgen.
Here are some landscapes from the drive between St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen. The road only runs on one side of the lake because there is a very steep cliff on the other side of the Wolfgangsee with no road access.
We made our next stop on our tour of Austria’s Salzkammergut region in St. Gilgen, a historic town at the north end of Lake Wolfgang. We parked our car on the outskirts of town and started walking towards the lake.
St. Gilgen is a small town with about 4000 people. Some historic artifacts were found here that date back to the first century before Christ and the first Christian church was built in the middle of the 8th century AD. Tourism really started to take off after the local Salzkammergut train was built here in 1893.
The cemetery of St. Gilgen is very fascinating and has some unique archways and porticos. Even today, every single grave is still carefully looked after and fresh flowers adorn all the tombs. This cemetery is over 400 years old and more than 16,000 local residents are interred here.
There are various important sights in St. Gilgen, including the Mozarthaus, where the mother of Johann Amadeus Mozart was born. Mozart’s gifted sister, Nannerl, also lived in St. Gilgen and there are several local places making reference to these famous connections. We had enjoyed our brief walk through St. Gilgen and were ready to continue on our tour of the Salzkammergut. Next on our plan was a drive towards the Attersee Lake.