This lovely lakeside town got its name from the monks' cells of a monastery founded here in about 790. It has excellent skiing and is busy throughout the winter. But it is now also one of Austria's most popular summer destinations, with an idyllic setting that’s hard to beat, and the town can get very crowded in the peak season of July and August. If you want to stay in the town center, booking well ahead of time is strongly advised.
Zell am See is one of Europe's top vacation destinations for Middle Eastern tourists. In 2014, the town faced controversy after the city authorities issued a booklet offering "cultural advice" to visitors—it pointed out that Austrian shopkeepers don't expect customers to haggle over prices, and that eating on the floor in hotel rooms is very much a no-no. Visitors were advised not to wear burqas and to "adopt the Austrian mentality." Press, media, and some local businesses criticized the booklet, saying it unfairly stigmatized Arab visitors, and the tourist office swiftly withdrew the booklet within a few months. When Austria imposed a ban on full face coverings in 2017, local establishments worried it would negatively affect tourism from this region, but in fact, it lead to criticism by police after it mainly resulted in the issuing of warnings against people wearing ski gear and costumes. In general many local officials turn a blind eye to veiled visitors.