10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the busiest year-round holiday destinations in the Bavarian Alps. Nestled at the base of a number of tall mountains, it's well known as a winter sports resort and is famous for having hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics, along with the International Alpine Skiing Championships in 1978 and 2011. The town's history can be traced back to 15 AD, when Partanum was a major stopover on the Venice to Augsburg trade route. The wide valley of the Loisach is enclosed by mighty mountains: to the north, Kramer and the Wank; to the south, the towering Wetterstein group, with the Kreuzeck, the jagged Alpspitze, and the Dreitorspitze; and, rearing up behind the Grosser Waxenstein, the Zugspitze, at 2,962 meters Germany's highest mountain.
See also: Where to Stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
1 Zugspitze: Germany's Highest Peak
One of the biggest draws to this corner of Bavaria is the 2,962-meter-tall Zugspitze, Germany's tallest mountain. Popular year round, it's during the winter months that this impressive peak is busiest as skiers from across Europe arrive to sample its many challenging runs and to enjoy its dramatic scenery. In summer, the Zugspitze comes alive with the sound of tramping hiking boots as outdoor enthusiasts from far and wide visit the summit (also accessible by cable car), as well as the Zugspitzplatt, a plateaued area well known for its caves and glaciers.
2 Winter Sports: The Olympic Legacy
The 1936 Winter Olympics left a lasting legacy on Garmisch-Partenkirchen, earning the town its place as one of Europe's top winter sports destinations. Many of the community's colorful chalets and buildings were built especially for the event and remain in use to this day. The most notable examples include the Olympic Ski Stadium on the Gudiberg, easily identified by its ski-jumps and still used during the ski season for international and local contests. Skating enthusiasts can strut their stuff at the same Ice Stadium used for the 1936 Winter Olympics. Today, public skating and lessons take place here, whether in speed skating or traditional choreographed dance routines. The stadium, which is a popular venue for skating competitions and shows, also boasts a curling rink. In winter months, numerous lakes and outdoor rinks are also available for skaters to enjoy.
3 Partnachklamm: The Partnach Gorge
Just three kilometers southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the wild and romantic Partnachklamm, the Partnach Gorge. This dramatic and rocky gorge on the River Partnach is 702-meters long and reaches depths of more than 80 meters. While wonderful to explore at any time of year, winter brings with it additional beauty in the guise of massive ice formations that cling to the cliff faces. Another notable gorge is Höllentalklamm, just six kilometers southwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A variety of excellent trails lead to and around the summit (1,045 meters), including a track that can be followed through numerous tunnels and over bridges to the end of the gorge.
4 Garmisch - Michael Ende's Hometown
With its picturesque old houses - particularly in lovely Frühlingstrasse - Garmisch sits idyllically on the banks of the 114-kilometer-long River Loisach flowing from Austria. A pleasant stroll through this small community takes you to the Kongresshaus, the community center set in pretty Michael-Ende Kurpark, named in honor of Germany's most famous 20th-century storyteller and a former resident (Ende wrote The Neverending Story). Other tourist attractions are the New Parish Church, St. Martin's, built in 1733 and boasting a rich Baroque interior, and the 15th-century Old Parish Church (Alte Pfarrkirche) with its Gothic wall paintings.
Address: Richard-Strauss-Platz 1A, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
5 The King's House Hike
A three-hour hike away from Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the King's House in Schachen, the exquisite hunting lodge of King Ludwig II. Built between 1869 and 1872 on the Schachen Alp, this relatively small wooden palace was built to resemble a Swiss chalet and was a much-favored retreat. Highlights include its five lower-level living rooms with their exquisite wood paneling, while upstairs the main focal point is the fabulous Turkish Hall with its stained glass windows, rich embroideries, and fancy candelabra. Fun guided tours help make it worth the long hike.
Address: Ludwigstrasse 47, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
6 Historic Partenkirchen
Partenkirchen, the eastern part of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, lies between the river Partnach and the Wank mountains and is also fun to explore. Highlights include the handsome Town Hall (Rathaus) from 1935 and, just a 15-minute walk above the town, St. Anton Gardens and the pilgrimage church of St. Anton, dating from 1704, with superb ceiling paintings. It also offers splendid views of the surrounding alpine area, as does the Florianplatz with its panorama of the Zugspitze massif to the south.
Address: Ludwigstraße 47, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
7 Head for the Hills: Summit Gondolas
An excellent way to get the most out of your sightseeing and hiking high above Garmisch-Partenkirchen is to make use of the town's fantastic network of summit lifts and gondolas. In Garmisch, the Hausbergbahn Gondola travels 1,338 meters up the Hausberghöhe from where the Kreuzwanklbahn continues to the Kreuzwankln at 1,550 meters. Another popular route is via the Kreuzeckbahn, which travels from Garmisch up the Kreuzeck at 1,650 meters and has fine views, particularly of the nearby Alpspitze. From Partenkirchen, visitors are also well served by an excellent network of ski lifts heading into the surrounding mountains. The Wankbahn Cableway runs from Partenkirchen some 3,000 meters to an upper station on the Wank at 1,755 meters. From the summit at 1,780 meters, there's a magnificent view of the Garmisch basin. The Eckbauerbahn departs from the Olympic Ski Stadium up the Eckbauerhöhe at 1,236 meters and also has fine panoramic views, while the Graseckbahn travels from the entrance to the Partnachklamm with its superb gorges and raging rivers, southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, to the Alpenhotel Forsthaus Graseck at 903 meters.
8 Richard Strauss Villa and Festival
Another famous resident, Richard Strauss, spent 40 years of his life in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Today, his lovely 1908 Art Nouveau villa in Garmisch is a museum and memorial dedicated to the great conductor and composer who lived and died here. The pleasant two-story structure is itself quite interesting, particularly due to its picturesque oriel tower and pleasing stone and plaster facade. Locals also named the town's public square in Strauss's honor. If possible, try to time your visit to coincide with the annual Richard Strauss Festival held in early June. Events during this five day extravaganza include orchestral and chamber concerts, vocal and piano recitals, as well as lectures relating to the town's most famous resident.
Address: Zöppritzstrasse 42, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
9 The Village of Grainau
Southwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the village of Grainau lies in rolling park-like countryside at the foot of the Waxenstein. Higher up is the Eibsee, from which there's a good view of the Waxenstein and the Riffelwand on the Zugspitze, as well as a gondola all the way to the summit of Zugspitze, the area's tallest peak. It's a picture-perfect slice of Bavaria, a scene made all the more perfect due to its quaint alpine homes and lovely old church.
10 Werdenfels Regional Museum
This fascinating little museum on Ludwigstrasse was started in 1895 and is housed in a 17th-century former merchant's home. Among its collection are numerous local archaeological finds and artifacts, religious objects, carnival masks and folk art, as well as antique furnishings. The focus is very much on objects and exhibitions related to the region's history, including a fascinating look at its 700-year-long stint as an independent state until 1802.
Address: Ludwigstrasse 47, D-82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Where to Stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for Sightseeing
You'll find plenty of hotel choices in all price ranges in the compact center of town, where the train station (bahnhof) is located. A good local bus system connects to the base station for the train up Zugspitze and to other tourist attractions, such as Partnach Gorge and the bases of several mountain tramways. Here are some highly-rated hotels in Garmisch-Partenkirchen:
- Luxury Hotels: Beside the river and an easy walk from the center and from trails in the valley, the Bavarian-style Hotel Edelweiss has a pool, balconies with views of the Alps, and free breakfast with cooked-to-order dishes. Staudacherhof Hotel has an outdoor pool and spa with a sauna, in a quiet neighborhood a few minutes' walk from the old center of Garmisch and the base of the Zugspitze. In a beautiful Bavarian-style building in the center of town, with flower-bedecked balconies, Hotel Zugspitze has a pool, sauna, spa, free breakfast, and in-room machines with fresh-ground coffee.
- Mid-Range Hotels: BEST WESTERN Hotel Obermuehle has a wellness center and pool; free breakfast; complimentary battery-powered eBikes; and a free shuttle service to and from the bus station, ski lifts, and local attractions. With Alpine views from its balconies, Hotel Rheinischer Hof provides guests with a free bus pass and is within walking distance from the center of town. Near the train station and rich in old-world charm, the family-run Reindl's Partenkirchner Hof has a pool, sauna, free breakfast, and large rooms with views.
- Budget Hotels: Near restaurants and shops in the center of Garmisch, the chalet-style Hotel Almenrausch und Edelweiss has nicely decorated rooms with balconies and views, plus free breakfast. In the traffic-free center, Atlas Posthotel has rooms in the main building and apartments in an annex. With sweeping views of Zugspitze and other mountains, Mercure Hotel Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a five-minute walk from the village center.