Zell am See is one of the most scenic and well-loved 'lakes and mountains' resorts in Austria. Beautifully located, directly on the shores of Zeller Lake (Lake Zell), it has the added advantage of being close to the Hohe Tauern Mountains and the magnificent Grossglockner Mountains. It is believed that the area was inhabited before Roman times, though very little is known of the town before about 740 AD. It was at about this time that 'Cell' residences were built for the region's monks, and it was from these lakeside dwellings that the town takes its name.
Zell was given the status of a market town in 1358 and today the town still has much of its medieval charm, along with a clutch of tight, cobbled streets, the 16th century town hall, and the Stadtpfarr Church. Most of the medieval centre, with its wealth of shops and attractive pavement cafés, is a traffic-free area. With the coming of the railway in the 19th century, Zell am See's potential as a gateway to the spectacular scenery surrounding it was finally realised, and tourists began to flock here. In particular, the town developed as a key ski resort.