Zell am See is the administrative capital of the Zell am See District in the Austrian state of Salzburg. The town is an important tourist destination known as Zell am See-Kaprun and is a transportation hub for the region.
The Zell Valley is a corridor in the Kitzbühel Alps, connecting the Saalfelden Basin of the Saalach River in the north and the Salzach in the south. Zell am See is located approximately 100 km (62 mi) east of Innsbruck and 30 km (19 mi) north of Mt. Grossglockner. The Old Town (Altstadt) centre of Zell am See is located on the western shore of 68-metre (223 ft) deep Lake Zell, with the villages of Thumersbach to the east, Erlberg to the southeast, and Schüttdorf directly to the south.
The area of Zell am See was continuously populated at least since Roman times. About 740 AD, by order of Bishop Johannes (John) I of Salzburg, monks founded the village within the stem duchy of Bavaria, which was mentioned as Cella in Bisonzio in a 743 deed. The denotation Cella or German: Zelle refers to a monk's cell in the sense of a monastery, Bisonzio is the name of the Pinzgau region. Zell received the rights of a market town in 1357. During the German Peasants' War in 1526, the area was site of heavy fighting against the troops of Swabian League. The Zell am See citizens had not participated in the uprising, nevertheless 200 years later, numeorus Protestant inhabitants were expelled from Salzburg by order of Prince-Archbishop Count Leopold Anton von Firmian.
From 1800, the town was occupied by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars. After the secularisation of the Salzburg Archbishopric, "Zell am See" finally passed to the Austrian Empire by resolution of the Vienna Congress in 1816. When in 1850 neighbouring Saalfelden became the capital of the Pinzgau district, the town's mayor successfully strived for relocating the administrative seat to Zell. The town's development was decisively promoted by the opnening of the Salzburg-Tyrol Railway line (Giselabahn) on 30 July 1875, starting the annual summer tourism season. Zell am See received city rights on 24 January 24, 1928.