Maybe you like hiking and can’t get enough of exploring the Alps. Perhaps you’re a fan of World War II history and want to visit a notable place. Maybe you’re fascinated by incredible engineering. Or hey, what if you just love German food with a view!
Those are all perfectly acceptable reasons to visit the Eagle’s Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus in German.
The Eagle’s Nest is famous for serving as Hitler’s Alpine retreat to entertain dignitaries, but today it makes a name for itself as a mountain restaurant with outstanding views of the Obersalzberg area.
And if you’re going to visit Kehlsteinhaus, the best way to do so in my opinion is to hike there.
What is the Eagle’s Nest?
The Eagle’s Nest was constructed in the late 1930s by the Nazi Party specifically for Adolf Hitler and especially for entertaining dignitaries. It was known as D-House, with the ‘D’ standing for ‘Diplomat.’ It is famously said that The Eagle’s Nest was a present to Hitler from the Nazi Party for his fiftieth birthday, however that claim is disputed.
The Eagle’s Nest should not be confused with the Berghof, which was Hitler’s main residence in the Obersalzberg region. The Berghof does not exist today.
Hitler did not actually spend much time here, having visited on less than 20 occasions, and supposedly he disliked the estate overall due to his fear of heights and distrust of the brass and mirror elevator that takes you into the building. You can still ride this elevator today.
The construction of the building is quite remarkable, if not unfortunate due to it’s purpose. An incredibly steep 6.5km road with 5 tunnels had to be created out of the Kehlstein mountainside that led to the 1834m summit. The road, tunnels, elevator, and residence were finished in a 13 month timeframe and at an exorbitant cost of approximately 130 million euros in present day rates.
Visiting the Eagle’s Nest today is much different than in the 1940s.
Since 1952 Kehlsteinhaus has been operating as a mountain restaurant with stunning natural scenery.
Kehlsteinhaus is one of the few Nazi era buildings in the region that is still intact. While the marble fireplace that was a gift from Mussolini is still there along with the ornate elevator, the rest of the building has been repurposed as a traditional German restaurant and beer garden.
Something important to mention here is that the German government has decided to leave the Eagle’s Nest here to tell one part of history. Not to venerate or admire, but to experience a place associated with the Nazi regime and understand.
The other half of the story can be experienced in the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg at the base of the mountain. More on that later in the post.
Hiking to the Eagle’s Nest
You know how I mentioned that really crazy long and steep road that leads to Kehlsteinhaus? Well it’s not open to the public. The two options for reaching the summit are hiking or taking the bus. And I vote for hiking.
(But if you really want to take the bus check out the ‘Know Before You Go’ section below)
With hiking you get even more of those nature views, a workout before eating at the restaurant at the top, and it’s free!
So where do you start a hike to the Eagle’s Nest? We chose to start simply from the Eagle’s Nest parking lot and bus stop. There are many hiking trails nearby, and you want to find the one with the sign pointing you to Kehlsteinhaus.
From that starting point it took us about 2 hours to make it to the 1,834m summit. Depending on where you start the times can vary, and suggestions for different hike starting points are listed here.
Be prepared for a steep climb! You want real hiking shoes for this one, and be sure to layer. You’ll work up a sweat hiking up, but it will probably be chilly and might still have snow on the ground at the top!
One of the best parts of the hike up was taking in the scenery of Berchtesgaden, including this peek of Lake Königsee above. Gorgeous, right?
When you near the summit you’ll pass through one of the tunnels constructed to enter the estate and next thing you know you’ll be drinking a radler and gazing at snow-capped peaks.
After enjoying your meal and the view you can either hike back down or buy a bus ticket right outside the tunnel to Kehlsteinhaus. As tough as we thought we were, we chose the bus for the way down!
What You Should Also Visit
I mentioned the Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Center) Obersalzberg earlier and I want to strongly encourage all visitors of the Eagle’s Nest to also consider visiting here. It is located right next to the parking lot and bus stop for the Eagle’s Nest.
The Documentation Center Obersalzberg is important.
It’s a place where the rise and effects of National Socialism in the Obersalzberg region are explained and detailed. It’s a place of “guided learning and remembrance.”
It provides the context with which you understand the Eagle’s Nest and other Nazi era sites that are in the region. From the Documentation Center you can explore the bunker complex that was to be used for running the war should Nazi officials be forced underground in bombing campaigns.
The information in the Documentation Center is presented in German, with some English pamphlets available. You can purchase an English audioguide or download it for free to your smartphone beforehand.
Know Before You Go
- If you’re not up for hiking you can take the bus up to Kehlsteinhaus. The road leading up to the Eagle’s Nest is restricted so you cannot drive there yourself.
- The Eagle’s Nest is only open for approximately 6 months of the year, from May to October, depending on road conditions.
- See the official Kehlsteinhaus website for exact dates.
- Tours of the Eagle’s Nest are offered through outside agencies.
- Check out the details with Eagle’s Nest Tours.
- For the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg:
I hope this helps you plan your trip to the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany. It’s an important historical site and I think hiking to the top and also visiting the Documentation Center is the best way to do it.
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