In just over an hour from Garmisch-Patenkirchen you can reach the state capital of Munich, home of the original Oktoberfest and cultural hub of Bavaria. While a day is not enough to see it all, it certainly suffices to cover the essentials: pass along Marienplatz and the grand town hall, follow the trails through the English Garden and watch surfers take on the artificial Eisbach wave, wow at the collection of 19th-century fine art at the Neue Pinakothek gallery and have a beer at the Hofbräuhaus.
A twenty-minute drive takes you to Mittenwald, a picture-perfect village. Known for an idyllic townscape composed of pastel-coloured Bavarian houses decorated with wooden shutters, fresh flowers and murals, Mittenwald is the perfect destination for a relaxed stroll. The adorable town is also known for violin making – the violin Mozart used in concert was crafted here – and a small museum boasts a stunning collection of instruments.
Southern Bavaria is studded with dreamy castles, imposing palaces and lavishly-decorated churches, some of which are in close proximity to Garmisch-Patenkirchen and can be visited on a single road trip full of magical sights, including Neuschwanstein, probably the most famous castle of all. Head to the Wieskirche near Steingaden first – a Rococo masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site – followed by Hohenschwangau Palace and finally, Neuschwanstein Castle which looks like something straight out of a Disney film.
Since you’re right at the border with Austria, why not pop across and see what Innsbruck has to offer? The drive down takes around an hour, depending on traffic, and is rewarded with a full day of sightseeing. Stroll around the old town and visit the Imperial Palace and the Court Church, marvel at the facade of Helbling Haus and see the city’s most significant landmark: the Golden Roof, known as Goldenes Dachl to the locals.
High up on the list of natural wonders of the region is the Partnachklamm gorge, which is just 15 minutes south from Garmisch-Patenkirchen. Here, 85-metre (279-foot) tall, rugged walls of shell limestone, which were deposited 240 million years ago when the area was still covered by an ocean, dominate over the beautiful canyon. In the warmer months, glacier water trickles down the walls and runs through the gorge, while in winter everything becomes frozen solid, creating a magical winter wonderland.
Halfway between Garmisch-Patenkirchen and Munich, you find one of Germany’s most beautiful lakes. Set against the Alpine peaks in the background, the stunning lake is not only a mecca for windsurfers, but also offers boat rental and cruises, vast grassy meadows, walking trails and beer gardens along the way.
A dream of building opulent and dreamy castles earned King Ludwig II his nickname ‘Fairy Tale King’. One of those built is situated about half an hour away – the rooms of Linderhof Palace are ornate with murals, paintings, tapestries and beaten gold, though the most famous element is the ‘wishing table’ in the dining hall. Like in the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, the table could be lowered into the kitchen and up again set with a three-course meal at any time. The trip is best combined with a detour via the Benedictine Ettal monastery, where monks still run the hotel, on-site brewery and publishing house – don’t miss out on a visit to the abbey church. Thanks to a Baroque makeover, the church shines in a lavish splendour of colourful frescoes, stucco ornaments and filigree gold decor.