Top Places To Visit In Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the most popular year-round holiday destinations in the Bavarian Alps. The ski resort is well known as a winter sports resort, having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1936 and the International Alpine Skiing Championships in 1978 and 2011, and a giant Ski Jumping competition during New Years’.
It is also where I have lived for the past three years. I had visited the area numerous times over the past 20 years or so. I knew my lack of German would not be a problem since there is a small American military base here. I also knew that I could do two of my favorite winter activities, curling, and skiing here. Plus it was close enough to Munich that I could also easily travel to anywhere I wanted to go in Europe.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s was originally known as Partanum. Partanum’s history goes back to AD 15, when it served as a major stopover on the route that connected Venice with Augsburg. The valley of the Loisach is surrounded by mighty mountains on all four sides: 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 famous Zugspitze, at 2,962 meters Germany’s highest mountain.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen was actually two separate towns up until the 1936 Olympics when the towns were joined together for the Olympics. To this day locals often refer to them as two separate towns though and really don’t cross over too much to the other one from where you live.
The active traveler to the area will always find plenty to do and see in the Alpine region, whether it’s hiking, biking, skiing, or riding cable cars.
Here are some of the spot sites to see in Garmisch-Partenkirchen as well as a YouTube video I found that I really like because it shows some of my favorite restaurants and places to visit in the area.
1. Zugspitze: Germany’s Highest Mountain Peak
The 2,962-meter-tall Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain, is one of the biggest draws to this corner of Bavaria. Winter is the peak’s busiest season, as skiers from across Europe converge to enjoy the mountain’s challenging runs and dramatic scenery.
The Zugspitze comes to life with hiking boots during the summer, as outdoor enthusiasts visit the summit and the Zugspitzplatt, a plateau known for its caves and glaciers. A cog railway ascends the mountain, and the Zugspitze-Round-Trip ticket includes rides on the Gletscherbahn cable car and the Cable car Zugspitze for a complete mountain experience. You can board the cog railway near the Garmisch main train station in a new terminal building or at various stops along the route.
Official site: https://zugspitze.de/en
2. Winter Games: Legacy of the Olympic Games
In addition to earning Garmisch-Partenkirchen its place as one of Europe’s premier winter sports destinations, the 1936 Winter Olympics left a lasting impression on the town. Many of the colorful chalets and buildings in the community were built for the event and remain standing to this day. A notable example is the Olympic Ski Stadium on Gudiberg, easily distinguished by the ski-jump and used for both international and local contests.
Ice skating enthusiasts can showcase their skills at the same venue as the 1936 Winter Olympics. The ice rink is open today for curling, hockey, public skating, and for dance lessons as well, whether speed skating or conventional choreography. Sadly, the dedicated curling rink is no more due to not having enough members in the club, which is sad since a Garmisch team led by my friend Andrea Schöpp won an Olympic Gold Medal and two world championships.
Visitors can also take advantage of several outdoor rinks and frozen lakes during the winter as well as a variation of curling called Eisstock.
A network of ski lifts and pistes extends from the valley floor to the Zugspitze and other peaks, providing downhill and Nordic skiing opportunities for all levels. The Olympiaschanze, the ski jump used in the 1936 Winter Olympics, is another historic landmark. At a small museum, you can find out more about the sport and tour the jump; you might even see an event or practice session taking place there.
3. Partnachklamm: The Partnach Gorge
The wild and romantic Partnachklamm, the Partnach Gorge, is located three kilometers southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen near the Olympic ski jumps. Located on the River Partnach, this dramatic gorge is 702 meters long and reaches a depth of more than 80 meters. Winter brings additional beauty in the guise of massive ice formations that cling to the cliff faces.
Pro-Tip: Save on admission if you arrive before 8:00 AM
Höllentalklamm, just six kilometers southwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is another noteworthy gorge. There are a number of excellent trails that lead to and around the summit (1,045 meters), including one that can be followed through numerous tunnels and over bridges to the end of the gorge.
AlpspiX became one of Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s most popular attractions very soon after it opened.
The AlpspiX features two steel beams that cross each other in an X formation, which cantilevers from the edge of a cliff about 1,000 meters above the ground. It’s a panorama of peaks all around, including the Zugspitze, Waxensteine, and the Alpspitze north face. The broad Höllental Valley and Garmisch-Partenkirchen can be seen below.
The platform is free, but you have to pay to ride the Alpspitzebahn to the top station, where the AlpspiX is located. There are several walking trails here, including one that leads along the Genuss-Erlebnisweg between the top of the Alpspitzebahn lifts and the top of the Kreuzeckbahn lifts.
In the summer I often go up the AlpspiX as the gondola is about 10 minutes away from my house via bike. I generally only go up the Zugspitze when I have visitors from out of town.
5. The King’s House Hike
From Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you can hike three hours each way to the King’s House in Schachen, the exquisite hunting lodge of King Ludwig II (the king opposed hunting, but that was the accepted name for country retreats like this). A relatively small wooden palace, Schachen Alp was built between 1869 and 1872 and was the favorite birthday place of the king.
Among its highlights are its five lower-level living rooms with their exquisite wood paneling, and the magnificent Turkish Hall, with its stained glass windows, rich hardwood floors and antique furnishings. Embroideries and candelabras. The views, the incongruity of the opulent Turkish Hall amid such remote surroundings and the informative guided tours make it worth the long hike.
6. Mountain Gondolas
The best way to maximize your sightseeing and hiking high above Garmisch-Partenkirchen is to use of the town’s fantastic network of Gondolas and summit lifts. Garmisch’s Hausbergbahn Gondola ascends 1,338 meters up the Hausberghöhe, 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.
Additionally, visitors to Partenkirchen have access to an excellent ski lift network. The Wankbahn Cableway runs from Partenkirchen some 3,000 meters to an upper station on the Wank at 1,755 meters. Views of the Garmisch basin can be had from the summit, which rises to 1,780 meters. The Eckbauerbahn gondola rises from the Olympic Ski Stadium up the Eckbauerhöhe at 1,236 meters and also has fine panoramic views. It is somewhat sad that they modernized this gondola two years ago. The other one was just a 2 passenger one that was probably built in the 1950s, it was quite interesting to ride in it. The Graseckbahn leads from the entrance to the Partnachklamm, which consists of gorges and rivers, to the Alpenhotel Forsthaus Graseck at 903 meters.
7. Ludwigstrasse and Historic Partenkirchen
Located between the river Partnach and the Wank mountains, Partenkirchen is the easternmost borough of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. There are traditional houses lining Ludwigstrasse with geranium-filled window boxes and beautifully painted facades. Although the house fronts are only one-dimensional, trompe l’oeil paintings give the illusion of carved scrolls around the windows and doors.
While taking a stroll here, you can admire the balconies made from carved wood and the elaborate brass and gold signage on the buildings, shops, and gasthofs. The town’s small flower-filled squares are punctuated with fountains, and for those dining outside, you might hear a local band playing Bavarian music. The steps leading to lovely views are at the end of the street leading to nice views.
8. Grainau and the Eibsee
A rolling park-like landscape surrounds Grainau, a village southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The biggest attraction in Grainau is the picturesque church and graveyard. There’s also the Eibsee, from which you can see the Waxenstein and Riffelwand on the Zugspitze. In the clear waters of the Eibsee, you can watch fish swim far below the surface. Around the lake, there are benches and picturesque picnic spots to enjoy a stroll. Ice skating is popular on the lake in the winter. Any time of year, it’s one of the prettiest scenes you’ll ever see in Bavaria, enhanced even further by its alpine homes and lovely old church with mountain backdrops.
9. Michael-Ende Kurpark
As Garmisch is located on the banks of the Loisach, a 114-kilometer river flowing from Austria, it is picturesque with its old houses, especially in the Frühlingstrasse. The stroll through this small community leads you to the Kongresshaus, the community center set in the Michael-Ende Kurpark, named for Germany’s most famous storyteller of the 20th century (Ende wrote The Neverending Story). I was never much of a park person but I do enjoy grabbing a ice cream cone in a local shop and sitting in the park to enjoy it. There is one spot in the park with a small water wheel which if you are seeking some solitude and meditation time makes for a great spot.
There are many places in the park for visitors to become one with nature, including soft mossy paths and smooth stone pathways. Children love climbing on the whimsical turf and stone turtle and tackling the turf maze. There are flower beds, pools, and many places to sit and enjoy the surroundings here. There is also a display of models of old buildings in the town with their ages and a description of what they were. You can then seek out these buildings as you walk around the town.
10. Franziskanerkloster St. Anton
You can recognize the onion-domed pilgrimage church St. Anton from a short walk above Partenkirchen. Inside the dome is a beautiful fresco by Johann Evangelist Holzer, and the late Baroque/Rococo church also contains wall paintings and carved wooden pews. Several memorials stand outside the church for the local men killed in the two World Wars, mostly in the Russian campaigns of World War II. A couple of other churches worth visiting are the New Parish Church, St. Martin’s, built in 1733 with a rich Baroque interior, as well as the Gothic wall paintings of the Alte Pfarrkirche (Old Parish Church).
11. Richard Strauss Villa and Festival
Richard Strauss also lived and worked in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for 40 years. Dedicated today to the composer and conductor who lived and died in Garmisch, his lovely 1908 villa is a museum and memorial. Due to its picturesque oriel tower and two-story structure, the two-story building is quite charming in its own right and has a pleasing stone and plaster facade. Strauss’s name was also given to the town’s public square.
You may want to time your visit to coincide with the annual Richard Strauss Festival in early June. The five-day extravaganza includes orchestral and chamber concerts, vocal, and piano recitals, as well as lectures pertaining to the town’s most famous resident.
12. Werdenfels Regional Museum
A 17th-century former merchant’s house houses this fascinating little museum on Ludwigstrasse in Partenkirchen opened in 1895. The museum’s holdings include local archaeological finds (Garmisch-Partenkirchen lies along an ancient trade route) and artifacts, religious artifacts, carnival masks, and folk art, as well as antique furnishings. Some excellent bauernmalerei paintings can also be found there, the traditional folk art paintings on furniture. On display are many exhibits related to the region’s history, such as the 700-year-long period when it was an independent state until 1802. Request an English brochure.
Where to Stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for Sightseeing
In the center of town, around the train station (bahnhof), you’ll discover a wide variety of hotel options for all budgets from hostels to five-star hotels. It is easy to get to all popular tourist attractions, including the train station for the Zugspitze and the summit of several mountain tramways, using the local bus system.
Here are some highly rated hotels in Garmisch-Partenkirchen:
- Luxury Hotels: The Bavarian-style Hotel Edelweiss offers free breakfasts with cooked-to-order dishes, a swimming pool, a balcony overlooking the Alps, and a central location near the center and mountain trails. Do not confuse this with the Edelweiss lodge which is where military personnel and their families can enjoy some R and R.
- Staudacherhof Hotel offers an outdoor pool and spa with a sauna, a few minutes’ walk from Garmisch’s old town and around the corner from my house.
- A beautiful Bavarian-style building in the center of town with flower-decked balconies, Hotel Zugspitze has a pool, sauna, spa, free breakfast, and in-room machines with fresh-ground coffee.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Obermuehle 4*S Boutique Resort offers a wellness center, a pool, free breakfast, battery-powered e-bikes, 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 offers free bus passes and is a short walk from the center of town.
- A family-run hotel with a rich history and old-world charm, Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof has a pool, sauna, free breakfast, and large rooms with views.
- Budget Hotels: Located in Garmisch’s center, the chalet-style Hotel Almenrausch und Edelweiss offers free breakfast as well as beautifully decorated rooms.
- In the pedestrian zone, 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 although it is a little uphill.
Dining and Drinking in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
One thing Garmisch-Partenkirchen is not short of is great places to eat and drink. The list below barely touches the surface of the places.
Hobi`s Backstube is a great place if you want a really light breakfast so that you can partake in a larger lunch later in the day. Hobi’s has an amazing selection of bread, tasty coffee and is famous for its fresh coconuts. Located on Zugspitzstrasse.
Pano: Pano is one of my favorite places for a healthy breakfast or brunch made with fresh ingredients. They also have some incredible coffee. Personally, I love the Acai bowls and the bread with different flavored cream cheeses. It is also one of the only places in town to get a traditional American-style iced coffee. In Germany, if you order iced coffee you normally get coffee with ice cream in it. Located at the Mohrenplatz in the pedestrian area.
If going up the mountain on any of the lifts or the Zugspitze dining at any of the mountain top lodges is highly recommended. I really don’t have a favorite one.
But for other choices in town:
Berggasthof Almhuette: Simply known as the Almhette.The Almhutte as a nice beer garden with great views and great desserts. The Windbeutel (Giant Cream Puff) is picture-postcard perfect.
Maria’s Grillstube: In Partenkirchen. If you want fancy and nice this isn’t it. This is just downright good chicken and fries at an affordable price.
Bungalow 7: Pub-style food with a nice patio. Bungalow 7 is also one of my favorite places to hit up for drinks in the evening. English is no problem here and the food and friendly staff make it a hidden gem.
Ristorante da Enzo: Why am I recommending Enzo’s, an Italian restaurant in Germany? Well, Garmisch has some outstanding Italian restaurants. While Pizzeria Peperoncino is more affordable (and good), and La Baita is many of the locals’ favorites I really love Enzo’s. It is an intimate restaurant that still isn’t too expensive but great for a romantic dinner.
Zum Wildschuetz: No restaurant list in Garmisch-Partenkirchen could be complete without listing Zum Wildschuetz. It is a quintessential Bavarian restaurant that features wild game on the menu. Reservations are highly recommended.
Schützenhaus: Schützenhaus is also a traditional Bavarian restaurant located in Partenkirchen. It is a little larger than Zum Wildschutz so may be easier to get into. There is a slight uphill walk to get there or you can take the bus or a taxi if uphill walks aren’t in the cards for you.
While Garmisch-Partenkirchen may be a small town we also have some nice little bars to go to at night.
Bei Vera: Formerly Vera und Josef’s but was sold after Josef passed away. Nothing fancy, just a good small old-fashioned locals bar.
Pub 33: Pub 33 is a local pub with an old-school vibe offering cocktails, German beers, sandwiches & darts. Many young Americans who work at the American base Edelweiss Lodge hang out here. We don’t have Taco Bell’s or Jack in the Box here so if you want a late bar type snack this is THE place to go.
The Irish Pub: Another good Expat bar located in Partenkirchen. The Irish Pub actually show American football games here. No food, just-drinks. I generally hit it later at night as it is opened later than many other bars.
The Local Cure: Another Irish bar but this one in Garmisch. The Local Cure has decent burgers and one of the only places you can get an IPA at.
Peaches: Everyone who visits Garmisch and is out at night seems to go to Peaches. Not my favorite place to drink at (just personal preference) but they do have a good burger deal on Wednesdays, and an outdoor party-building set up for when the Skiing World Cup races are in town for a festive Apres-Ski party vibe. Peaches made the news last year during the early stages of the Corona Virus when an American girl working in Garmisch became a super spreader when she went to Peaches (and other Garmisch bars) and spread the virus around to over 30 people.
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