The Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is accustomed to rendering visitors speechless with its extraordinary beauty. It is best known for the highest peak in Germany, the Zugspitze, which towers over the rooftops. It is a much-loved ski resort that is also a paradise for summer sports fans and has all kinds of day trips on offer. Here is Culture Trip’s list of the best sights and activities in the region for a perfect holiday in Garmish-Partenkirchen.
The highest peak in Germany (and a fascinating glacier) is reason enough in itself to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A cogwheel train and a cable car take you on an unforgettable scenic journey to the summit, where you look out over 400 snow-clad peaks spread across four countries. A popular winter and summer sports destination, the Zugspitze has excellent conditions for skiing, tobogganing, snow and summer hiking, as well as paragliding and other sports.
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Partnachklamm: The Partnach Gorge
With its spraying waterfalls, rapids and calm basins, the Partnach Gorge is a jaw-dropping wonder of nature, being 703m (2,305ft) long and 80m (263ft) high. By using a safe pathway across the gorge, you can fully take in this magnificent Alpine gorge – the starting point for the most scenic hikes in Bavaria. Among the most popular are Ferchenbachtal Valley, the Reintal Valley leading to Mount Zugspitze, as well as Mounts Eckbauer, Hausberg and Kreuzeck.
Gondola (aka cable-car) rides over Garmisch-Partenkirchen are the best way to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty, and you’re spoilt for choice in this regard. Take the Hausbergbahn Gondola up the Hausberghöhe at 1,338m (4,390ft), from where the Kreuzwanklbahn whisks you to the Kreuzwankln at 1,550m (5,085ft). Or pick the Kreuzeckbahn, for the picturesque journey from Garmisch up the Kreuzeck at 1,650m (5,413ft). The Wankbahn Cableway runs from Partenkirchen to the Wank at 1,755m (5,758ft). The Eckbauerbahn departs from the Olympic Ski Stadium and whisks travellers to the Eckbauerhöhe at 1,236m (4,055ft).
Olympiaschanze is one of the ski-jump hills that hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics, and, as such, it has proper historical relevance as an emblem of the region. These days, it’s popular for the New Year’s ski-jumping, part of the Four Hills Tournament, which is held annually between Christmas and Epiphany. A tour of the jumps and museum will give you more insights – not to mention terrific views from the top of the run. If you’re lucky, you might catch a training session or special programme.
Michael Ende Kurpark
Michael Ende Kurpark (spa gardens) is devoted to the life and work of Michael Ende, the German author of children’s fiction. It is a tranquil space in the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and you can immerse yourself in nature, walking barefoot on soft moss and smooth pebbles in a blissful environment of plants, flower beds and lily ponds full of goldfish. Kids will love climbing onto the turtle from The Neverending Story and finding their way out of the turf maze. In summer, concerts are held regularly on the grounds of the park.
The Wetterstein range is shared by Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald in Bavaria, as well as Seefeld and Ehrwald further south in Tyrol. The Zugspitze is the most famous peak among the line-up, but the mountains are all heavenly for climbers, trekkers and hikers. Even if you don’t consider yourself the sporty kind, a trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen is worth it for the views of the magnificent towering flanks and summits from down below as you laze on a rug with a picnic.
Riessersee is a superbly photogenic Alpine lake that became known to the world when it hosted the skating and ice hockey events during the 1936 Winter Olympics. It’s a small body of water flanked by the majestic Alps and dense vegetation. If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful spot to have a picnic or a stroll in the midst of fabulous nature, this is it. A cafe on the bank of the lake takes care of hunger pangs, and, if you want to stay longer, there’s the popular Riessersee Hotel.
Eibsee lies as still and as reflective as a mirror in the tranquil Alpine foothills of the Zugspitze. It is one of the most striking sights in the region; in fact, Germans agree unanimously that it is one of the most sensational lakes in Germany. Privately owned, Eibsee draws peace-seeking tourists with its crystal-clear, emerald-green water. It is an extremely popular spot for boating and picturesque hikes in the summer, as well as skiing and snowboarding when winter turns everything white.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is all about jaw-dropping views that nobody can ever get enough of. And this viewing platform is head-spinningly dramatic, both in design and outlook: step out onto AlpspiX, and you’ll be amazed at the wonderful natural panorama of landscapes plunging away. The structure consists of two inter-crossed steel beams that seem to be balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff, at a height of around 1,000m (3,281ft), just above the top station of the Alpspitzbahn lifts.
Berchtesgaden National Park
Welcome to the Alps like you’ve never seen them before: a vast, 21,000ha (51,892-acre) swathe of rugged limestone peaks, looming over a gem-blue glacial lake. The best part? You’ll have it (mostly) to yourself. With the exception of the architectural glass box that is the National Park Centre, or the onsite rangers who take visitors on tours, you’re pretty much guaranteed to enjoy the jaw-dropping fairytale views of sparkling lakes, cloud-scraping peaks and a patchwork of Alpine pastures without another soul in sight. Keep your eyes peeled for golden eagles, horned ibex and many species of butterfly, which pollinate wild orchids.
Skiing’s not the only way to get down the side of a mountain at speed. You can also take this hair-raising, self-controlled ride, which can reach speeds of up to 40kph (25mph) and looks like a cross between a rollercoaster and a toboggan. A 2.6km (1.6mi) track winds down the side of the Kolbensattel mountain on which two-seater carts sit ready for you to clamber aboard. Whizzing through patches of Alpine forest while taking in the magnificent views of the valley is an adrenaline ride you’ll want to do all over again as soon as you reach the bottom.
Formed of three formidable mountains – Hausberg, Kreuzeck and Alpspitze – this snow-loaded ski resort is a stunner. What’s more, it’s suitable for all levels of skiers. Families and those with less experience can get to grips with their technique on the mostly easy-to-moderate runs on the Hausberg. Meanwhile, more advanced skiers can pit themselves against the challenging red and black runs. Either way, you’ll be ready for a slope-side break come lunchtime, so slide into the ski hut Drehmöser 9, which has a superb à-la-carte restaurant; or, if you’d rather do informal, there’s the rustic Garmischer Haus next door.
Contained in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, this is one of the most beautiful lakes in Germany. In wintertime, the trees that surround the shores are frosted white with snow; in autumn, everything is ablaze with red, gold and burnt-orange hues; but, arguably, the best time to visit the waters is between mid and late spring, when the water temperatures are picking up and blossoms are everywhere, including the little islands that dot the middle of the lake like living barges.
Built between 1863 and 1886, near the village of Ettal, this royal Schloss (castle) is a magical place to spend an afternoon wandering about. Like a mini Versailles, the property is a riot of rococo frills, gold, gilt and show-stopping fountains. It’s surrounded by formal gardens, divided into five sections and decorated with sculptures symbolic of the continents, seasons and elements. One of the most impressive installations is the Venus Grotto – a man-made cave that was designed to mimic the Blue Grotto of Capri – into which King Ludwig liked to sail his golden swan boat.
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