Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
The Bavarian Alps
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Outdoors in the Bavarian Alps
Updated by Courtney Tenz
Fir-clad mountains, rocky peaks, lederhosen, and geranium-covered houses: the Bavarian Alps come closest to what many of us envision as “Germany.” Quaint towns full of frescoed half-timber houses covered in snow pop up among the mountain peaks and shimmering hidden lakes, as do the creations of King Ludwig II, one of the last kings of Bavaria. The entire area has plenty of sporting opportunities year-round.
Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern) stretches south and east from Munich to the Austrian border. Leaving the city, you’ll soon find yourself on a gently rolling plain leading to lakes surrounded by ancient forests. The plain merges into foothills, which suddenly give way to jagged Alpine peaks, and in Berchtesgadener Land, snowcapped mountains rise straight up from the gemlike lakes.
Continuing south, you’ll encounter cheerful villages with richly painted houses, churches, and monasteries filled with the especially sensuous Bavarian baroque and rococo styles, and several salt deposits in the area have created a spa culture where you can relax as you “take the waters.” Some of the best sport in Germany can be enjoyed here: downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and ice-skating in winter; tennis, swimming, sailing, golf, and, above all (sometimes literally), hiking, paragliding, and ballooning in summer.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Herrenchiemsee: Take the old steam-driven ferry to the island in Chiemsee to visit the last and most glorious castle of Bavaria’s King Ludwig II.
Great nature: From the crystalline waters of the Königssee to the grandiose Karwendel Mountains and the powdery snow atop the Zugspitze, it’s everything a nature lover needs.
Meditating in Ettal monastery: Baroque ornamentation, a riot of frescoes, the fluid sound of the ancient organ that puts you in a deep, relaxing trance. A great brewery and distillery round out a deeply religious experience.
Rejuvenation in Reichenhall: A salt mine beneath the city feeds into the Rupertus Therme, a modern spa in Bad Reichenhall where you can soak in saltwater baths year-round.
Berchtesgaden: A national park attracts hikers and bikers; history buffs can explore the darkest chapter of German history at Obersalzberg, Hitler’s mountain retreat.
Ask a Bavarian about the “Bavarian Alps” and he’ll probably shake his head in confusion. To Bavarians “the Alps” consist of several adjoining mountain ranges spanning the Ammergau, Wetterstein, and Karwendel Alps in the west to the Chiemgauer and Berchtesgadener Alpen in the east. Each region has its die-hard fans. The constants, however, are the incredible scenery, clean air, and a sense of Bavarian Gemütlichkeit (coziness) omnipresent in every Hütte (cottage), Gasthof (guesthouse), and beer garden. The area is an outdoor recreation paradise, and almost completely lacks the high-culture institutions that dominate German urban life.
Werdenfelser Land and Wetterstein Mountains. Like villages lost in time, Mittenwald and Oberammergau are both famous for their half-timber houses covered in Lüftlmalerei frescoes. The entire region sits serenely in the shadow of Germany’s highest point: the Zugspitze. The Wetterstein Mountains offer fantastic skiing and hiking.
Upper Bavarian Lake District. Bavaria’s Lake District is almost undiscovered by foreign tourists but has long been a secret destination for Germans. Several fine, hidden lakes dot the area. The Chiemsee dominates the Chiemgau, with one of the most impressive German palaces and great water sports. Residents, or Chiemgauer, often wear traditional Trachten, elaborate lederhosen and dirndl dresses, as an expression of their proud cultural heritage.
Berchtesgadener Land. Home to the second-highest mountain peak in the country, Berchtesgaden is one of the most ruggedly beautiful regions. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails with serene Alpine cottages and the odd cow make the area a hiking and mountaineering paradise. Berchtesgaden and Bad Reichenhall are famous for the salt trade, and the salt mines provide the visitor with a unique and entertaining insight into the history and wealth of the region. The Königssee is the most photographed place in the country, and for good reason.
WHEN TO GO
This mountainous region is a year-round holiday destination. Snow is promised by most resorts from December through March, although there’s year-round skiing on the glacier slopes at the top of the Zugspitze. Spring and autumn are ideal times for leisurely hikes on the many mountain trails. November is a between-seasons time, when many hotels and restaurants close down or attend to renovations. Note, too, that many locals take a vacation after January 6, and in smaller towns, businesses may be closed for anywhere up to a month. The lakes are extremely popular with European visitors, who flood the Alps in July and August.
Munich, 95 km (59 miles) northwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is the gateway to the Bavarian Alps. If you’re staying in Berchtesgaden, consider the closer airport in Salzburg, Austria—it has fewer international flights, but it is a budget-airline and charter hub.
Salzburg Airport (SZG). | Innsbrucker Bundesstr. | Salzburg | 0662/85800 | www.salzburg-airport.com.
The Bavarian Alps are well connected to Munich by train, and an extensive network of buses links even the most remote villages. Since bus schedules can be unreliable and are timed for commuters, those in a hurry may want to visit the area by car. Three autobahns reach into the Bavarian Alps: A-7 comes in from the northwest (Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Ulm) and ends near Füssen in the western Bavarian Alps; A-95 runs from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen; take A-8 from Munich for Tegernsee, Chiemsee, and Berchtesgaden. TIP The A-8 is statistically the most dangerous autobahn in the country, partially due to it simultaneously being the most heavily traveled highway and the road most in need of repair. The driving style is fast, and tailgating is common, although illegal. The recommended speed on the A-8 is 110 kph (68 mph); if an accident occurs at higher speeds, your insurance may not cover it. It is a good idea to pick a town like Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bad Tölz, or Berchtesgaden as a base and explore the area from there.
Most Alpine resorts are connected with Munich by regular express and slower service trains. Due to the rugged terrain, train travel in the region can be challenging, but with some careful planning—see www.bahn.de for schedules and to buy tickets—you can visit this region without a car. The Bavarian Alps are furnished with cable cars, steam trains, and cog railroads that whisk you to the tops of Alpine peaks, allowing you to see the spectacular views without hours of mountain climbing.
Restaurants in Bavaria run the gamut from the casual and gemütlich (cozy) Gasthof to formal gourmet offerings. More upscale establishments try to maintain a feeling of casual familiarity, but you will probably feel more comfortable at the truly upscale restaurants if you dress up a bit. Note that many restaurants take a break between 2:30 and 6 pm. If you want to eat during these hours, look for the magic words Durchgehend warme Küche, indicating warm food is served throughout the day, possibly snacks during the off-hours. Most restaurants in the region don’t accept credit cards.
With few exceptions, a hotel or Gasthof in the Bavarian Alps and lower Alpine regions has high standards and is traditional in style, with balconies, pine woodwork, and gently angled roofs on which the snow sits and insulates. Many in the larger resort towns offer special packages, including spa or “wellness” packages online. Private homes all through the region offer Germany’s own version of bed-and-breakfasts, indicated by signs reading “Zimmer frei” (“Rooms available”). Their rates may be less than €25 per person for renting a room with a shared bathroom. As a general rule, the farther from the popular and sophisticated Alpine resorts you go, the lower the rates. Note, too, that many places offer a small discount if you stay more than one night. By the same token, some places frown on staying only one night, especially during the high seasons, in summer, at Christmas, and on winter weekends. In spas and many mountain resorts a “spa tax,” or Kurtaxe, is added to the hotel bill. It amounts to no more than €3 per person per day and allows free use of spa facilities, entry to local attractions and concerts, and use of local transportation at times.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
The Alps are spread along Germany’s southern border, but are fairly compact and easy to explore. A central base like Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Berchtesgaden, the largest towns, will have the most convenient transportation connections.
Although the Alps are a popular tourist destination, the smaller communities like Mittenwald and Ettal are quieter and make for pleasant overnight stays. For an unforgettable experience, try spending the night in an Alpine hut, feasting on a simple but hearty meal and sleeping in the cool night air.
DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
One of the best deals in the area is the German Railroad’s Bayern Ticket, which allows between one and five people to travel on any regional train and almost all buses in the Alps. Prices range between €23 for a single traveler to €43 for five people. Ticket holders also receive discounts on a large number of attractions in the area, including the Zugspitzbahn, a cog railroad and cable car that takes you up to the top of the Zugspitze. The city of Grainau’s ZugspitzCard (three days €53) offers discounts in almost every city near the Zugspitze. Visitors to spas or spa towns receive a Kurkarte, an ID that proves payment of the spa tax, either upon check-in (the nominal fee is already included in your bill) or by dropping in at the tourist office. The document allows discounts and often free access to sights in the town or area. If you’ve paid the tax, be sure to show the card everywhere you go.
Tourismusverband München Oberbayern. | Radolfzeller Str. 15 | Munich | 089/829-2180 | www.oberbayern-tourismus.de.
OUTDOORS IN THE BAVARIAN ALPS
Bursting up from the lowlands of southern Germany, the Bavarian Alps form both an awe-inspiring border with Austria and a superb natural playground for outdoors enthusiasts.
Visible from Munich on a clear day, the northern front of the Alps stretches over 300 km (186 miles) from Lake Constance in the west to Berchtesgaden in the east, and acts as a threshold to the towering mountain ranges that lie farther south. Lower in altitude than their Austrian, Swiss, and French cousins, the Bavarian Alps have the advantage of shorter distances between their summits and the valleys below, forming an ideal environment for casual hikers and serious mountaineers alike.
In spring and summer cowbells tinkle and wild flowers blanket meadows beside trails that course up and down the mountainsides. In winter, snow engulfs the region, turning trails into paths for cross-country skiers and the mountainsides into pistes for snowboarders and downhill skiers to carve their way down.
Along with sausages and enormous mugs of frothy beer, lederhosen form the holy trinity of what many foreigners believe to be stereotypically “German.” The reality, however, is that the embroidered leather breeches are traditionally worn only in Bavaria, particularly the southern Alpine areas, where the durability and protection of leather are advantageous for those working as carpenters or farmers in the region. Handmade, tailored versions are worn on Sundays and on special occasions.
BEST WAYS TO EXPLORE
It’s not without good reason that wanderlust is a German word. The desire to travel and explore has been strong for hundreds of years in Germany, especially in places like the Alps where strenuous strolls are rewarded with breathtaking vistas. There are more than 7,000 km (4,350 miles) of walking trails in the Allgäu region alone to wander, conveniently divided into valley walks, mid-altitude trails, and summit hikes reflecting the varying altitude and difficulty. Hikes can be undertaken as day trips or as weeks-long endeavors, and there are campsites, mountain huts, farmhouses, and hotels to overnight in along the way, as well as a decent infrastructure of buses, trains, and cable cars to get you to your starting point. The Bavaria Tourism Office (www.bavaria.by) has more information on hiking trails.
You don’t need to venture onto their slopes to appreciate the Alps’ beauty; cycling through the foothills at their base affords stunning views of the mountains combined with the luxury of refreshing stop-offs in beer gardens and dips in beautiful lakes like the Tegernsee. There’s plenty of accommodation tailored to cyclists throughout the region and local trains are normally equipped with a bicycle carriage or two to transport you to more remote locations. The Alps also have thousands of miles of mountain-bike-friendly trails and a number of special bike parks serviced by cable cars.
Neither as high nor famous as their neighbors, the Bavarian Alps are frequently overlooked as a winter-sports destination. Resorts on the German side of the border may have shorter seasons than places like Zermatt and Chamonix, but they’re also generally less expensive in terms of food and accommodations, and many, including Zugspitze, are easily accessed from Munich for day trips.
BEST PHOTO OPS
No matter where you are around the Alps you’ll be inundated with sights worth snapping. Here are a few:
✵Neuschwanstein Castle sits theatrically on the side of a mountain, its grand towers set against a background of tree- and snow-covered peaks.
✵The panoramic view from close to 10,000 feet at the peak of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, takes in 400 peaks in four countries.
✵Reputedly the cleanest lake in Germany, Königssee is also endowed with steep rock formations that soar thousands of meters up above the lake, beautifully framing its crystalline waters.
✵From Tegernsee’s lovely Benedictine monastery, you can wander down to the lake for spectacular vistas of its glittering surface and the Alps beyond.
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Garmisch-Partenkirchen | Ettal | Schloss Linderhof | Oberammergau | Mittenwald
With Germany’s highest peak and picture-perfect Bavarian villages, the Werdenfelser Land offers a splendid mix of natural beauty combined with Bavarian art and culture. The region spreads out around the base of the Zugspitze, where the views from the top reach from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the frescoed houses of Oberammergau, and to the serene Cloister Ettal.
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90 km (56 miles) southwest of Munich.
More commonly known by American travelers as Garmisch, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is comprised of two separate communities that were fused together in 1936 to accommodate the Winter Olympics. Since then, it’s grown into a bustling, year-round resort and spa town. Today, with a population of 28,000, the area is the center of the Werdenfelser Land and large enough to offer every facility expected from a major Alpine resort. Garmisch is more urban, with a pedestrian zone, wide car-friendly streets, and hordes of tourists. The narrow streets and quaint architecture of smaller Partenkirchen look more charming and make it a slightly better choice if you’re looking for a quiet, rural stay. In both parts of town pastel frescoes of biblical and bucolic scenes decorate facades.
Winter sports rank high on the agenda here. There are more than 60 km (37 miles) of downhill ski runs, 40 ski lifts and cable cars, and 180 km (112 miles) of Loipen (cross-country ski trails). One of the principal stops on the international winter-sports circuit, the area hosts a week of races every January. You can usually count on good skiing from December through April (and into May on the Zugspitze).
Getting Here and Around
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the cultural and transportation hub of the Werdenfelser Land. The autobahn A-95 links Garmisch directly to Munich. Regional German Rail trains head directly to Munich (90 minutes), Innsbruck (80 minutes), and Mittenwald (20 minutes). German Rail operates buses that connect Garmisch with Oberammergau, Ettal, and the Wieskirche. Garmisch is a walkable city; you probably won’t need to use its frequent city-bus services.
Partenkirchen was founded by the Romans, and you can still follow the Via Claudia they built between Partenkirchen and neighboring Mittenwald, which was part of a major route between Rome and Germany well into the 17th century.
Bus tours can be coordinated by the local tourist office with one of the local agencies; regular trips are available to King Ludwig II’s castles at Neuschwanstein and Linderhof and to the Ettal Monastery, near Oberammergau, as well as into the neighboring Austrian Tyrol.
The Garmisch mountain railway company, the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, offers special excursions to the top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, by cog rail and cable car.
Weiss-Blau-Reisen. | Promenadestr. 5 | 08821/6230 | www.weiss-blau-reisen.de.
Bayerische Zugspitzbahn. | Olympiastr. 27 | 08821/7970 | www.zugspitze.de.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen. | Richard-Strauss-Pl. 1a | 08821/180-700 | www.gapa.de.
Richard Strauss Institut.
On the eastern edge of Garmisch, at the end of Zöppritzstrasse, stands the home of composer Richard Strauss, who lived there until his death in 1949. It’s not open to visitors, but this institute, across town, has an exhibition about Strauss. It’s also the center of activity during the Richard-Strauss-Tage, an annual music festival held in mid-June that features concerts and lectures on the town’s most famous son. Other concerts are given year-round. | Schnitzschulstr. 19 | www.richard-strauss-institut.de | €3.50 for exhibit | Weekdays 10-4.
St. Martin Church.
Beautiful examples of Upper Bavarian houses line Frühlingstrasse, and a pedestrian zone begins at Richard-Strauss-Platz. Off Marienplatz, at one end of the car-free zone, is this unassuming18th-century parish church which contains some significant stuccowork by the Wessobrunn artist Jospeh Schmutzer and rococo work by Matthäus Günther that was recently restored to its original vibrancy. | Marienplatz | www.erzbistum-muenchen.de/Pfarrei/Page007033.aspx | Free | May-Sept., daily 8-7; Oct.-Apr., daily 8-6 (except during Mass).
St. Martin Church (Die Alte Kirche).
Across the Loisach River stands the original St. Martin church (also known as “Die Alte Kirche” or the Old Church), whose original foundation was laid in the 11th century. Its current building dates to 1280 and showcases Gothic wall paintings from throughout the centuries, including a 7-meter-high (21-foot-high), larger-than-life-size figure of St. Christopher from 1330 and a Passion of the Christ fresco dating to the 1400s. | Pfarrerhausweg 4 | www.erzbistum-muenchen.de/Pfarrei/Page007033.aspx | Free | May-Sept., daily 8-7; Oct.-Apr., daily 8-6 (except during Mass).
What to Eat in the Bavarian Alps
Bavarian cooking originally fed a farming people, who spent their days out of doors doing heavy manual labor. Semmelknödel (dumplings of old bread), pork dishes, sauerkraut, bread, and hearty soups were felt necessary to sustain a person facing the elements. The natural surroundings provided further sustenance, in the form of fresh trout from brooks, Renke (pike-perch) from the lakes, venison, and mushrooms. This substantial fare was often washed down with beer, which was nourishment in itself, especially during the Lenten season, when the dark and powerful “Doppelbock” was on the market. Today this regimen will suit sporty types who have spent a day hiking in the mountains, skiing in the bracing air, or swimming or windsurfing in chilly lakes.
Bavaria is not immune to eclectic culinary trends, but the most recent trend is a return to the basics. Regional cuisine comprised of locally grown ingredients seems to be on every menu nowadays, although you may find minimalist Asian daubs here, a touch of French sophistication and Italian elegance there. Menus often include large sections devoted to salads, and there are tasty vegetarian dishes even in the most traditional regions. Yes, Bavarian cooking—hearty, homey, and down-to-earth—is actually becoming lighter.
One area remains an exception: desserts. The selection of sinfully creamy cakes in the Konditorei (cake shop), often enjoyed with whipped-cream-topped hot chocolate, continues to grow. These are irresistible, of course, especially when homemade. A heavenly experience might be a large portion of warm Apfelstrudel (apple-and-nut-filled pastry) fresh from the oven in some remote mountain refuge.
Schnapps, which customarily ends a meal, has gone from being a step above moonshine to a true delicacy extracted from local fruit by virtuoso distillers.
Objects and exhibitions on the region’s history can be found in this excellent museum, which is itself housed in a building dating back to around 1200. The museum is spread over 19 rooms and five floors, and explores every aspect of life in the Werdenfelser region, which was an independent state for more than 700 years, until 1802. | Ludwigstr. 47 | 08821/751-710 | www.werdenfels-museum.de | €2.50 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Zugspitze.
The highest mountain (9,717 feet) in Germany, this is the number one attraction in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area. There are two ways up the mountain: a leisurely 75-minute ride on a cog railroad from Olympiastrasse 27, in the town center, combined with a cable-car ride up the last stretch; or a 10-minute hoist by cable car, which begins its giddy ascent from the Eibsee, 10 km (6 miles) outside town on the road to Austria. There are two restaurants with sunny terraces at the summit and another at the top of the cog railroad. A round-trip combination ticket allows you to mix your modes of travel up and down the mountain. Prices are lower in winter than in summer, even though winter rates include use of all the ski lifts on the mountain. You can rent skis at the top. Ascending the Zugspitze from the Austrian side is cheaper and more scenic. The Tiroler Zugspitzbahn departs three times per hour from near the village of Ehrwald. The round-trip ticket costs €37.50 and buses connect the gondolas to the Ehrwald train station. There are also a number of other peaks in the area with gondolas, but the views from the Zugspitze are the best. A four-seat cable car goes to the top of one of the lesser peaks: the 5,840-foot Wank. From there, you can tackle both mountains on foot, provided you’re properly shod and physically fit. Or stop over at the Alpspitze, from where you can hike as well. | Garmisch-Partenkirchen | 08821/7970 | www.zugspitze.de | Funicular or cable car €50 round-trip; €43.50 round-trip in winter | Daily 8:15-4:30 (subject to weather conditions and seasonal variation).
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | Though its name refers to a brewery, and drinking does take place, this small restaurant has a more intimate atmosphere than a traditional beer hall. Its exterior is adorned in frescoes and inside, the fare is standard Bavarian pub food, with a few offerings like potato pancakes for kids. | Average main: €11 | Fürstenstr. 23 | 08821/2312 | www.braeustueberl-garmisch.de | No credit cards.
Gasthaus zur Schranne.
$$ | GERMAN | In picturesque Partenkirchen, this small guesthouse in a historical building dating back to 1610 has an interior typical of southern Bavaria with exposed timber beams and a menu standard for the area. Fish and a variety of schnitzel are on the menu alongside vegetarian options like the eggy fried-dough specialty, Spätzle; most of the dishes contain regionally sourced seasonal ingredients. In summer, you can sit on a terrace with tables overlooking the Zuspitze. | Average main: €16 | Griessstr. 4 | 08821/909-8030 | www.zurschranne.de | No credit cards.
$$ | GERMAN | A hidden gem in a tourist-heavy district, this restaurant does standard Bavarian fare like pork knuckle in a gourmet version that keeps locals coming back repeatedly. Reservations are highly recommended. | Average main: €16 | Bankg. 9 | 08821/3290 | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
For information about accommodation packages with ski passes, call the Zugspitze or get in touch with the tourist office in Garmisch (08821/180-700 | www.zugspitze.de).
$$ | B&B/INN | Like its namesake, the “nobly white” Alpine flower of The Sound of Music fame, this small downtown hotel has plenty of mountain charm. Inlaid with warm pinewood, it has Bavarian furnishings and many antiques in individually decorated rooms that give it an intimate air. Pros: comfortable; homey. Cons: small hotel. | Rooms from: €112 | Martinswinkelstr. 15-17 | 08821/2454 | www.hoteledelweiss.de | 31 rooms | Breakfast.
$ | B&B/INN | You can ride to dreamland in this beautiful old Bavarian Gasthof in the center of Partenkirchen—some of the bed frames are carved like antique automobiles and sleighs. Next to the local church directly on Ludwigstrasse, the hotel’s colorfully painted facade is adorned with geraniums most of the year. The tavern-restaurant, its walls covered with pictures and other ephemera, presents “Bavarian evenings” of folk entertainment every evening except Tuesday. Quieter than any hotel in Garmisch, there are also exquisite views of the nearby mountains. Pros: free Wi-Fi; great location and dining experience. Cons: noise a problem for the rooms in the back of hotel. | Rooms from: €86 | Ludwigstr. 24 | 08821/9270 | www.gasthof-fraundorfer.de | 20 rooms, 7 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel-Gasthof Drei Mohren.
$ | HOTEL | All the simple, homey comforts you’d expect can be found in this 150-year-old Bavarian inn tucked into Partenkirchen village. All rooms have mountain views, and most are furnished with farmhouse-style painted beds and cupboards. A free bus to Garmisch and the cable-car stations will pick you up right outside the house. The restaurant serves solid fare, including a series of Pfanderl, large portions of meat and potatoes, or delicacies like venison in juniper sauce, served in the pan. Pros: perfect setting in a quaint corner of the town center. Cons: restaurant noise on the first floor; some double rooms are too small. | Rooms from: €90 | Ludwigstr. 65 | 08821/9130 | www.dreimohren.de | 29 rooms; 1 apartment | Breakfast.
$$ | RESORT | It’s worth the 7-km (4½-mile) drive eastward to Grainau just to spend a night or a few at the delightful Waxenstein, where most rooms are a generous size and bathrooms are luxurious. Furnishings combine Bavarian rustic with flights of fancy. The restaurant provides a breathtaking view of the Zugspitze, but the excellent food will keep you occupied, from the crispy-crust bread to dishes such as gnocchi in ginger-pumpkin sauce, or veal fillet with foie gras. Pros: great service; beautiful views of the Zugspitze from the north-facing rooms. Cons: only accessible by car; some rooms somewhat small. | Rooms from: €130 | Höhenrainweg 3 | 08821/9840 | www.waxenstein.de | 35 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast.
Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof.
$$$ | HOTEL | Karl Reindl ranked among the world’s top hoteliers, and his daughter Marianne Holzinger has maintained high standards since taking over this hotel. The kitchen cooks up excellent Bavarian and international dishes, from roasted suckling pig to coq au vin. The light-filled bistro annex serves meals, coffee, and cake in an atmosphere that contrasts sharply with the heavier wood-and-velvet main building. Each guest room has pinewood furniture and a balcony or patio. Some of the double rooms are huge. An infrared sauna and whirlpools soothe tired muscles. If you’re planning to stay for several days, ask about specials. Pros: ample-size rooms; great views. Cons: front rooms are on a busy street. | Rooms from: €200 | Bahnhofstr. 15 | 08821/943-870 | www.reindls.de | Closed Nov. | 35 rooms, 17 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Staudacherhof Hotel.
$$$$ | HOTEL | A luxury spa hotel designed in Bavarian style, the Staudacherhof has wellness packages for those in search of relaxation. Pros: renovated, comfortable rooms; wooden touches reminiscent of surrounding area; extensive dining options. Cons: not ideal for kids. | Rooms from: €270 | Höllentalstr. 48 | 08821/9290 | www.staudacherhof.de | 41 rooms | Some meals.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
In season there’s a busy après-ski scene. Many hotels have dance floors, and some have basement discos that pound away until the early hours. Bavarian folk dancing and zither music are regular nightlife features.
In summer there’s entertainment, such as traditional Bavarian singing and dancing, every Saturday evening at the Bayernhalle. | Brauhausstr. 19 | 08821/4877 | www.vtv-garmisch.de/bayernhalle.
Wednesday through Monday the cozy tavern-restaurant Gasthof Fraundorfer hosts yodeling and folk dancing. | Ludwigstr. 24 | 08821/9270 | www.gasthof-fraundorfer.de.
The casino is open Sunday through Thursday 3 pm-2 am and Friday and Saturday 3 pm-3 am, with more than 150 slot machines and roulette, blackjack, and poker tables. | Am Kurpark 10 | 08821/95990 | www.spielbanken-bayern.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Hiking and Climbing
There are innumerable spectacular walks on 300 km (186 miles) of marked trails through the lower slopes’ pinewoods and upland meadows. If you have the time and good walking shoes, try one of the two trails that lead to striking gorges (called Klammen). More expert hikers and climbers will find plenty of opportunities to explore, from the Herrgottschrofen and Gelbe Wände for all levels to the Jubiliäumsgrat, which will test even the best climbers’ limits. Before heading out, it’s best to check with the Alpine Association for passable routes and avalanche conditions; they can also assist with finding free mountain huts for multiple-day hikes and climbs.
Deutscher Alpenverein (German Alpine Association).
The country’s leading climbing and mountaineering organization, based in Munich, has all the details on hiking and on staying in the mountain huts and keeps updates on mountain conditions for climbers as well. | Von-Kahr-Str. 2-4 | Munich | 089/140-030 | www.alpenverein.de.
This route starts in the town and ends at the Zugspitze mountaintop (you’ll want to turn back before reaching the summit unless you have mountaineering experience). You can park in the villages of Hammersbach or Grainau to start your tour. | Olympia Str. 27 | Zugspitze Mountain railroad terminal | 08821/8895 | www.hoellentalklamm-info.de | May-Oct. (depending on weather).
The Partnachklamm route is quite challenging, and takes you through a spectacular, tunneled water gorge (entrance fee), past a pretty little mountain lake, and far up the Zugspitze; to do all of it, you’ll have to stay overnight in one of the huts along the way. Ride part of the way up in the Eckbauer cable car, which sets out from the Skistadion off Mittenwalderstrasse. The older, more scenic Graseckbahn takes you right over the dramatic gorges. Tickets for the country’s oldest cable car cost €6.50 one way (or less, depending on how far you want to ride and time of year). There’s a handy inn at the top, where you can gather strength for the hour-long walk back down to the Graseckbahn station.
Horse-drawn carriages (€16 for up to four passengers, €4 per additional person) also cover the first section of the route in summer; in winter you can skim along it in a sleigh. The carriages wait near the Skistadion. Or you can call the local coaching society, the Lohnkutschevereinigung (0172/860-4105; | www.kutschenfahrten-garmisch.de), for information | Garmisch-Partenkirchen | www.eckbauerbahn.de.
Zugspitze Mountain Railroad Terminal.
From the Zugspitze terminal, you can access a number of hiking trails or take one of the gondolas up the mountain and hike or ski your way down. Besides the Zuspitze itself, one of the most popular routes includes Wank, which at a height of 5,740 feet is a day-long challenge. | Olympiastr. 27 | www.zugspitze.de.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Garmisch-Partenkirchen was the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics, and remains Germany’s premier winter-sports resort. The upper slopes of the Zugspitze and surrounding mountains challenge the best ski buffs and snowboarders, and there are also plenty of runs for intermediate skiers and families. The area is divided into two basic regions. The Riffelriss with the Zugspitzplatt is Germany’s highest skiing area, with snow pretty much guaranteed from December to May. Access is via the Zugspitzbahn funicular. Cost for a day pass is €52; a two-peak pass combining it with the Garmisch-Classic is €62. A three-day pass costs €88. The Garmisch-Classic has numerous lifts in the Alpspitz, Kreuzeck, and Hausberg regions. Day passes cost €26. The town has a number of ski schools and tour organizers, and information about all of them is available from the local tourist office. The Deutsche Alpenverein is another good contact for mountain conditions.
The best local resource for information for all your snow sports needs is the Alpine office at the Garmisch tourist information office. | Richard-Strauss-Pl. 2 | Garmisch | 08821/180-700 | www.gapa.de | Mid-Oct.-mid-Dec. and mid-Mar.-mid-May, weekdays 9-5, Sat. 9-3; mid-Dec.-mid-Mar. and mid-May-mid Oct., Mon.-Sat. 9-6, Sun. 10-noon.
Erste Skilanglaufschule Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Cross-country skiers should check on conditions or book a course here. | Olympia-Skistadion, Osteingang, Erster Stock | 08821/1516 | www.ski-langlauf-schule.de.
Skiers looking for instruction can try the Skischule Alpin, which meets at the Hausbergbahn cable car station. | Reintalstr. 8 | Garmisch | 08821/945-676 | www.alpin-skischule.de.
16 km (10 miles) north of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 85 km (53 miles) south of Munich.
The village of Ettal is presided over by the massive bulk of Kloster Ettal, a great monastery and centuries-old distillery.
Getting Here and Around
Ettal is easily reached by bus and car from Garmisch and Oberammergau. Consider staying in Oberammergau and renting a bike. The 4-km (2½-mile) ride along the river is clearly marked, relatively easy, and a great way to meet locals.
Tourist Information Ettal. | Ammergauer Str. 8 | 08822/923-634 | www.ammergauer-alpen.de/ettal.
Fodor’s Choice | Kloster Ettal.
The great monastery was founded in 1330 by Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian for a group of knights and a community of Benedictine monks. This is the largest Benedictine monastery in Germany; approximately 55 monks live here. The abbey was replaced with new buildings in the 18th century and now serves as a school. The original 10-sided church was brilliantly redecorated in 1744-53, becoming one of the foremost examples of Bavarian rococo. The church’s chief treasure is its enormous dome fresco (83 feet wide), painted by Jacob Zeiller circa 1751-52. The mass of swirling clouds and the pink-and-blue vision of heaven are typical of the rococo fondness for elaborate ceiling painting.
Today, the Kloster owns most of the surrounding land and directly operates the Hotel Ludwig der Bayer, the Kloster-Laden, and the Kloster-markt. All of the Kloster’s activities, from beer production to running the hotel serve one singular purpose: to fund the famous college-prep and boarding schools which are tuition-free.
Ettaler liqueurs, made from a centuries-old recipe, are still distilled at the monastery. The monks make seven different liqueurs, some with more than 70 mountain herbs. Originally the liqueurs were made as medicines, and they have legendary health-giving properties. The ad tells it best: “Two monks know how it’s made, 2 million Germans know how it tastes.” You can visit the distillery right next to the church and buy bottles of the libation from the gift shop and bookstore. The honey-saffron schnapps is the best.
It’s possible to tour the distillery and the brewery. For a distillery tour, call in advance; brewery tours are on Tuesday and Thursday at 1:30, and you need to register before 11 on the day of the tour. | Kaiser-Ludwig-Pl. 1 | 08822/746-228 distillery, 08822/746-450 brewery | www.abtei.kloster-ettal.de | Free; distillery and brewery tour €6 | Daily 8-6 (to 7:45 in summer).
Besides its beer and spirits, Ettal has made another local industry into an attraction, namely cheese, yogurt, butter, and other milk derivatives. You can see them in the making at this public cheese-making plant. There is even a little buffet for a cheesy break. Tours are offered daily at 11 as long as there’s a minimum five people to take part. | Mandlweg 1 | 08822/923-926 | www.milch-und-kas.de | €1.50 for tour, or €3.50 with interpreter | June-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-May, Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | GERMAN | This friendly café and restaurant next to the monastery is an ideal spot for a light lunch or coffee and homemade cakes. | Average main: €9 | Kaiser-Ludwig-Pl. 3 | 08822/92920 | www.restaurant-edelweiss-ettal.de | No credit cards.
Hotel Ludwig der Bayer.
$$ | RESORT | Backed by mountains, this fine old hotel is run by the Benedictine order, but there’s little monastic about it, except for the exquisite religious carvings and motifs that adorn the walls. Most come from the monastery’s carpentry shop, which also made much of the solid furniture in the comfortable bedrooms. The hotel has two excellent restaurants with rustic, Bavarian atmosphere and a vaulted tavern that serves sturdy fare and beer brewed at the monastery. The extensive wellness area includes a Finnish sauna, herbal steam bath, pool, solarium, beauty section, and massage. Pros: good value; close to Kloster; indoor pool and spa. Cons: can fill up quickly with tour groups. | Rooms from: €104 | Kaiser-Ludwig-Pl. 10 | 08822/9150 | www.ludwig-der-bayer.de | 70 rooms, 30 apartments | Breakfast.
Hotel zur Post.
$$ | HOTEL | Families are warmly welcomed at this traditional hotel in the center of town. There’s a playground in the shady garden, and a hearty breakfast buffet is included in the price. Pros: quiet and relaxing; near Kloster. Cons: some weekends require three-night minimum; no restaurant. | Rooms from: €150 | Kaiser-Ludwig-Pl. 18 | 08822/3596 | www.posthotel-ettal.de | Closed late-Oct.-mid-Dec. | 21 rooms, 4 apartments | Breakfast.
Schloss Linderhof. The only one of King Ludwig’s three castles to have reached completion before his death, this gilded hunting lodge lies secluded in the mountains, surrounded by well-manicured gardens. Though less visited than his other castles, Schloss Linderhof tells a fantastic story about the life of a king famous for his eccentricities.
Fodor’s Choice | Schloss Linderhof.
Built between 1870 and 1879 on the spectacular grounds of his father’s hunting lodge, the Linderhof Palace was the only one of Ludwig II’s royal residences to have been completed during the monarch’s short life. It was the smallest of this ill-fated king’s castles, but his favorite country retreat among the various palaces at his disposal. If you plan on visiting more of Ludwig’s castles, purchase the Kombiticket Königsschlösser. The ticket costs €24 and allows the holder to visit Neuschwanstein, Linderhof, and Herrenchiemsee, one time each, within six months. Set in sylvan seclusion, between a reflecting pool and the green slopes of a gentle mountain, the charming, French-style, rococo confection is said to have been inspired by the Petit Trianon at Versailles. From an architectural standpoint it’s a whimsical combination of conflicting styles, lavish on the outside, somewhat overly decorated on the inside. But the main inspiration came from the Sun King of France, Louis XIV, who is referred to in numerous bas-reliefs, mosaics, paintings, and stucco pieces. Ludwig’s bedroom is filled with brilliantly colored and gilded ornaments, the Hall of Mirrors is a shimmering dream world, and the dining room has a clever piece of 19th-century engineering—a table that rises from and descends to the kitchens below.
The formal gardens contain still more whimsical touches. There’s a Moorish pavilion—bought wholesale from the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition—and a huge artificial grotto in which Ludwig had scenes from Wagner operas performed, with full lighting effects. It took the BASF chemical company much research to develop the proper glass for the blue lighting Ludwig desired. The gilded Neptune in front of the castle spouts a 100-foot water jet. According to hearsay, while staying at Linderhof the eccentric king would dress up as the legendary knight Lohengrin to be rowed in a swan boat on the grotto pond; in winter he took off on midnight sleigh rides behind six plumed horses and a platoon of outriders holding flaring torches. In winter be prepared for an approach road as snowbound as in Ludwig’s day—drive carefully. The palace is only accessible with a guided tour. | Linderhof 12 | Linderhof | 08822/92030 | www.schlosslinderhof.de | €8.50 (€7.50 Oct.-Mar.); €5 for grounds only in summer | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-4; pavilion and grotto closed in winter.
20 km (12 miles) northwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 4 km (2½ miles) northwest of Ettal, 90 km (56 miles) south of Munich.
Its location alone, in an Alpine valley beneath a sentinel-like peak, makes this small town a major attraction. Its main streets are lined with painted houses (such as the 1784 Pilatushaus on Ludwig-Thoma-Strasse), and in summer the village bursts with color. Many of these lovely houses are occupied by families whose men are highly skilled in the art of wood carving, a craft that has flourished here since the early 12th century. Oberammergau is completely overrun by tourists during the day, but at night you’ll feel like you have a charming Bavarian village all to yourself.
Getting Here and Around
The B-23 links Oberammergau to Garmsich-Partenkirchen (allow a half hour for the drive) and to the A-23 to Munich. Frequent bus services connect to Garmisch, Ettal, the Wieskirche, and Füssen. No long-distance trains serve Oberammergau, but a short ride on the Regional-Bahn to Murnau will connect you to the long-distance train network.
Tourist Information Oberammergau. | Eugen-Papst-Str. 9a | 08822/922-740 | www.oberammergau.de.
Here you’ll find historic examples of the wood craftsman’s art and an outstanding collection of Christmas crèches, which date from the mid-18th century. Numerous exhibits also document the wax and wax-embossing art, which also flourishes in Oberammergau. A notable piece is that of a German soldier carved by Georg Korntheuer on the Eastern Front in 1943: the artist was killed in 1944. | Dorfstr. 8 | 08822/94136 | www.oberammergaumuseum.de | €6, includes Pilatushaus and Passionsspielhaus | Mar. 28-Nov. 8 and Nov. 28-Jan. 6, Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
This immense theater is where the Passion Play is performed. Visitors are given a glimpse of the costumes, the sceneries, the stage, and even the auditorium. | Passionswiese, Theaterstr. 16 | 08822/94136 | www.oberammergaumuseum.de; www.passionstheater.de | €6, includes Oberammergau Museum and Pilatushaus | Mar. 23-Nov. 3 and Dec. 23-Jan. 6, Tues.-Sun. 10-5; Nov. 30-Dec. 23, Tues.-Sun. 10-1.
You’ll find many wood carvers at work in town, and shop windows are crammed with their creations. Here, a workshop is open to the public, and working potters and painters can also be seen. Pilatushaus was completed in 1775, and the frescoes—considered among the most beautiful in town—were done by Franz Seraph Zwinck, one of the greatest Lüftlmalerei painters. The house is named for the fresco over the front door depicting Christ before Pilate. A collection of reverse glass paintings depicting religious and secular scenes has been moved here from the Heimatmuseum. Contact the tourist office to sign up for a weeklong course in wood carving (classes are in German), which costs from about €450 to €600, depending on whether you stay in a Gasthof or a hotel. | Ludwig-Thoma-Str. 10 | 08822/949-511 tourist office | www.oberammergaumuseum.de | €6, includes Oberammergau Museum and Passionsspielhaus | Mid-May-Oct., Tues.-Sat. 1-5; weekend before Easter 11-6.
St. Peter and St. Paul Church.
The 18th-century church is regarded as the finest work of rococo architect Josef Schmutzer, and it has striking frescoes by Matthäus Günther and Franz Seraph Zwinck (in the organ loft). Schmutzer’s son, Franz Xaver Schmutzer, also did a lot of the stuccowork. | Pfarrpl. 1 | Daily 8-dusk.
WHERE TO EAT
Gasthaus zum Stern.
$ | GERMAN | This is a traditional place (around 500 years old), with coffered ceilings, thick walls, smiling waitresses in dirndls, and an old Kachelofen (enclosed, tiled, wood-burning stove) that heats the dining room beyond endurance on cold winter days. The food is hearty, traditional Bavarian. For a quieter dinner or lunch, reserve a space in the Bäckerstube (Baker’s Parlor). | Average main: €13 | Dorfstr. 33 | 08822/867 | www.gasthaus-stern-oberammergau.de | Closed Wed.
Hotel Alte Post.
$ | GERMAN | You can enjoy carefully prepared local cuisine, including several venison and boar dishes, at the original pine tables in this 350-year-old inn. There’s a special children’s menu, and, in summer, meals are also served in the beer garden. The front terrace of this delightful old building is a great place to watch traffic, both pedestrian and automotive. | Average main: €12 | Dorfstr. 19 | 08822/9100 | www.altepost.com | Closed Nov.-mid-Dec. No dinner.
$ | GERMAN | Small and unremarkable from the outside, this is one of the best restaurants in Oberammergau for Bavarian dishes, like steak or trout sourced directly from the region, served with a daily menu reflecting the seasonal specialties. | Average main: €14 | Bahnhofstr. 12 | 08822/949-7565 | www.restaurant-mundart.de | Closed Mon. and Tues. | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
Gasthof zur Rose.
$$ | B&B/INN | Everything is pretty rustic in this spacious remodeled barn, but the welcome and hospitality are genuine and gracious, even by Bavarian standards. The 19 rooms are quite basic. The family-run restaurant (closed on Monday) serves some of the best Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) in Germany. Pros: quiet; affordable; right off the city center; friendly service. Cons: rustic and worn; few amenities. | Rooms from: €100 | Dedlerstr. 9 | 08822/4706 | www.rose-oberammergau.de | No credit cards | 19 rooms | Breakfast.
$$$$ | HOTEL | Modernized and luxurious, this spa retreat has won awards for both its hospitality and its gourmet restaurant, Ammergauer Maxbräu. Pros: nice views from front rooms; great in-house restaurant. Cons: pricey for the area. | Rooms from: €229 | Ettalerstr. 5 | 08822/948-740 | www.maximilian-oberammergau.de | 17 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | Rich wood paneling reaches from floor to ceiling in this transformed 18th-century inn, set in the shadow of Oberammergau’s mountain, the Kofel. The hotel’s own band presents regular folk evenings in the sizeable breakfast room. The Ammergauer Pfanne, a combination of meats and sauces, will take care of even industrial-size hunger. Rooms have corner lounge areas, and most come with balconies and sweeping mountain views. Prices are based on length of stay, so you’ll pay less per night if you stay longer. Pros: great for families. Cons: service can be brusque; nearby church bells ring every 15 minutes. | Rooms from: €99 | Ettalerstr. 2 | 08822/92600 | www.turmwirt.de | Closed 1 wk in early Dec. | 22 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
Though the Passion Play theater was traditionally not used for anything other than the Passion Play (next performance: 2020), Oberammergauers decided that using it for opera or other theatrical events during the 10-year pause between the religious performances might be a good idea. The first performances of Verdi’s “Nabucco” and Mozart’s “Magic Flute” in 2002 established a new tradition. Other passion plays are also performed here. Ticket prices range between €19 and €50. | Theaterstr. 16 | 008822/045-8888 | www.passionstheater.de.
Oberammergau is best known for its Passion Play, first presented in 1634 as an offering of thanks after the Black Death stopped just short of the village. In faithful accordance with a solemn vow, it will next be performed in the year 2020, as it has every 10 years since 1680. Its 16 acts, which take 5½ hours, depict the final days of Christ, from the Last Supper through the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It’s presented daily on a partly open-air stage against a mountain backdrop from late May to late September. The entire village is swept up in the production, with some 1,500 residents directly involved in its preparation and presentation. Men grow beards in the hope of capturing a key role; young women have been known to put off their weddings—the role of Mary went only to unmarried girls until 1990, when, amid much local controversy, a 31-year-old mother of two was given the part. | Passionstheater, Theaterstr. 16 | www.passionstheater.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
It’s easy to bike to Schloss Linderhof (14 km [9 miles]) and to Ettal (4 km [2½ miles]) on the scenic paths along the river, where there are several good places to go swimming and have a picnic. The trail to Ettal branches off in the direction of Linderhof (marked as Graswang) where it becomes part of an old forestry road. Take the branch of the Ettal path that goes via the Ettaler-Mühle (Ettal Mill); it’s quieter, the river is filled with trout, and the people you meet along the way give a friendly Grüss Gott! (Greet God!). The path opens up at a local-heavy restaurant with fantastic views of the Kloster.
You can rent bikes here for €12 per day or e-bikes for €22. They are located across the street from the train station, directly at the trailhead to Ettal and Linderhof. | Bahnhofstr. 6a | 08822/4178 | www.sportzentrale-papistock.de | Closed Sun.
20 km (12 miles) southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 105 km (65 miles) south of Munich.
Many regard Mittenwald as the most beautiful town in the Bavarian Alps. It has somehow avoided the architectural sins found in other Alpine villages by maintaining a balance between conservation and the needs of tourism. Its medieval prosperity is reflected on its main street, Obermarkt, which has splendid houses with ornately carved gables and brilliantly painted facades. Goethe called it “a picture book come alive,” and it still is. The town has even re-created the stream that once flowed through the market square. In the Middle Ages, Mittenwald was the staging point for goods shipped from the wealthy city-state of Venice by way of the Brenner Pass and Innsbruck. From Mittenwald, goods were transferred to rafts, which carried them down the Isar River to Munich. By the mid-17th century the international trade routes shifted to a different pass, and the fortunes of Mittenwald evaporated.
In 1684 Matthias Klotz, a farmer’s son turned master violin maker, returned from a 20-year stay in Cremona, Italy. There, along with Antonio Stradivari, he studied under Nicolo Amati, who developed the modern violin. Klotz taught the art of violin making to his brothers and friends and before long, half the men in the village were crafting the instruments, using woods from neighboring forests. Mittenwald became known as the Village of a Thousand Violins and the locally crafted instruments are still treasured around the world. In the right weather—sunny, dry—you may even catch the odd sight of laundry lines hung with new violins out to receive their natural dark hue. The violin has made Mittenwald a small cultural oasis in the middle of the Alps. Not only is there an annual violin- (and viola-, cello-, and bow-) building contest each year in June, with concerts and lectures, but also an organ festival in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul held from the end of July to the end of September. The town also has a violin-making school.
Getting Here and Around
The B-11 connects Mittenwald with Garmisch. Mittenwald is the last stop on the Munich-Garmisch train line.
Tourist Information Mittenwald. | Dammkarstr. 3 | 08823/33981 | www.alpenwelt-karwendel.de/en/mittenwald.
The violin-building and local museum describes in fascinating detail the history of violin making in Mittenwald. Ask the museum curator to direct you to the nearest of several violin makers—they’ll be happy to demonstrate the skills handed down to them. | Ballenhausg. 3 | 08823/2511 | www.geigenbaumuseum-mittenwald.de | €4.50 | Early Feb.-mid-Mar., mid-May-mid-Oct., and early Dec.-early Jan., Tues.-Sun. 10-5; early Jan.-end Jan., mid-Mar.-mid-May, and mid-Oct.-early Nov., Tues.-Sun. 11-4.
St. Peter and St. Paul Church.
On the back of the altar in this 18th-century church (as in Oberammergau, built by Josef Schmutzer and decorated by Matthäus Günther), you’ll find Matthias Klotz’s name, carved there by the violin maker himself. Note that on some of the ceiling frescoes, the angels are playing violins, violas da gamba, and lutes. In front of the church, Klotz is memorialized as an artist at work in vivid bronze sculpted by Ferdinand von Miller (1813-79), creator of the mighty Bavaria Monument in Munich. The church, with its elaborate and joyful stuccowork coiling and curling its way around the interior, is one of the most important rococo structures in Bavaria. The Gothic choir loft was added in the 18th century. The bold frescoes on its exterior are characteristic of Lüftlmalerei, where images, usually religious motifs, were painted on the wet stucco exteriors of houses and churches. On nearby streets you can see other fine examples on the facades of three famous houses: the Goethehaus, the Pilgerhaus, and the Pichlerhaus. Among the artists working here was the great Franz Seraph Zwinck. | Ballenhausg. | www.st-peter-und-paul-mittenwald.de.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | This white house with brilliant blue shutters is right in the middle of Mittenwald. The painted furniture is not antique, but is reminiscent of old peasant Bavaria. Locals meet in the dining room for loud conversation and meat-heavy dinners; the beer garden with small playground is a pleasant, familial place to while away the hours with a Bauernschmaus, a plate of sausage with sauerkraut and homemade liver dumplings. As a Gasthof, the restaurant also has five rooms for overnight stays, with price deals for multiple nights. | Average main: €12 | Fritz-Plössl-Pl. 2 | 08823/8358 | www.stern-mittenwald.de | Closed Mon. | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | HOTEL | Once part of a monastery and later given one of the town’s most beautiful painted baroque facades, the Alpenrose is one of the area’s most handsome hotels. The typical Bavarian bedrooms and public rooms have lots of wood paneling, farmhouse cupboards, and finely woven fabrics. The restaurant is famous for featuring venison dishes the entire month of October. A zither player strums away most evenings in the Josefi wine cellar. Pros: great German-style interiors; friendly staff. Cons: some rooms are cramped; accommodations can get warm in summer. | Rooms from: €76 | Obermarkt 1 | 08823/92700 | www.hotel-alpenrose-mittenwald.de | 16 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | Carved oak furniture gives the rooms of this Alpine-style hotel a solid German feel. A breakfast buffet is served until 11 am and will keep the most energetic hiker going all day. Although the restaurant serves only breakfast, there’s no shortage of taverns in the area. Most guest rooms have mountain views. Pros: amazing views; well-kept spa area. Cons: disorganized reservation system. | Rooms from: €94 | Adolf-Baader-Str. 5 | 08823/9190 | www.bichlerhof-mittenwald.de | 30 rooms | Breakfast.
$$$ | HOTEL | This “English Castle,” on 13 hectares (32 acres) surrounded by the Karwendel mountains, was commissioned in 1913 by an English aristocrat, Mary Portman. Pros: spa amenities; beautiful, quiet surroundings. Cons: rooms in the garden wing are more contemporary and lose the old-fashioned touch; no children under 10 allowed. | Rooms from: €197 | Kranzbach 1 | Krün | 8823/928-000 | www.daskranzbach.de | 129 rooms | Some meals.
$$ | HOTEL | The hotel retains much of its historic charm—stagecoaches carrying travelers and mail across the Alps stopped here as far back as the 17th century—though the elegant rooms come in various styles, from modern to art nouveau to Bavarian rustic. The indoor swimming pool has views of the Karwendel peaks, and a small rose garden is an inviting spot for coffee and cake. Excellent Bavarian fare such as roasts and great Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) is served in the wine tavern or at the low-beam Postklause. Pros: art nouveau rooms in the back. Cons: no elevator; street noise in the evening. | Rooms from: €115 | Obermarkt 9 | 08823/938-2333 | www.posthotel-mittenwald.de | 74 rooms, 7 suites | Breakfast.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Mittenwald lies literally in the shadow of the mighty Karwendel Alpine range, which rises to a height of nearly 8,000 feet. There are a number of small lakes in the hills surrounding Mittenwald. You can either walk to the closer ones or rent bikes and venture farther afield. The information center across the street from the train station has maps, and they can help you select a route.
The Dammkar run is nearly 8 km (5 miles) long and offers some of the best freeride skiing, telemarking, and snowboarding in the German Alps.
Erste Skischule Mittenwald.
Skiers—cross-country and downhill—and snowboarders can find all they need, including equipment and instruction, at the Erste Skischule Mittenwald. | Bahnhofspl. 14 | 08823/3582 | www.skischule-mittenwald.de.
Karwendelbahn cable car.
Hikers and skiers are carried to an altitude of 7,180 feet for the beginning of numerous trails down, or farther up into the Karwendel range. | Alpenkorpsstr. 1 | 08823/937-6760 | www.karwendelbahn.de | €16.50 one way, €26.50 round-trip | May-Oct., daily 8:30-5; Nov.-Apr., daily 9-3:45.
It’s not the kind of gift every visitor wants to take home, but if you’d like a violin, a cello, or even a double bass, the Alpine resort of Mittenwald can oblige. There are more than 30 craftspeople whose work is coveted by musicians throughout the world.
If you’re buying or even just feeling curious, call on Anton Maller. He’s been making violins and other stringed instruments for more than 25 years. | Obermarkt 2 | 08823/5865 | www.violin-maller.de.
Gabriele Schneider’s SchokoLaden.
Find out where all the milk from the local cows goes with a visit to Gabriele Schneider’s SchokoLaden, an artisan chocolate shop. | Obermarkt 42 | 08823/938-939 | www.schokoladen-mittenwald.de.
For traditional Bavarian costumes—dirndls, embroidered shirts and blouses, and lederhosen—try Trachten Werner. | Obermarkt 39 | 08823/8282 | www.trachten-werner.de | Closed Sun.
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Bad Tölz | Tegernsee | Chiemsee
With its rolling hills and serene lakes in the shadow of the Alpine peaks, this region is a natural paradise and a good transition to the Alps. The main attraction is, without a doubt, the Chiemsee with the amazing palace on the Herreninsel, the biggest of the islands on the lake. The area is dotted with clear blue lakes and, although tourism is fairly well established, you may feel that you have much of the area all to yourself.
14 km (8 miles) north of Sylvenstein Lake, 48 km (30 miles) south of Munich.
Bad Tölz’s new town, dating from the mid-19th century, sprang up with the discovery of iodine-laden springs, which allowed the locals to call their town Bad (bath or spa) Tölz. You can take the waters, either by drinking a cupful from the local springs or going all the way with a full course of health treatments at a specially equipped hotel. TIP If you can, visit on a Friday morning, when a farmers’ market stretches along the main street to the Isar River and on the Jungmayr-Fritzplatz.
This town clings to its ancient customs more tightly than any other Bavarian community. It is not uncommon to see people wearing traditional clothing as their daily dress. If you’re in Bad Tölz on November 6, you’ll witness one of the most colorful traditions of the Bavarian Alpine area: the Leonhardiritt equestrian procession, which marks the anniversary of the death in 559 of St. Leonhard of Noblac, the patron saint of animals, specifically horses. The procession ends north of town at an 18th-century chapel on the Kalvarienberg, above the Isar River.
Getting Here and Around
Bad Tölz is on the B-472, which connects to the A-8 to Munich, and there are hourly trains from Munich. Once you’re in Bad Tölz, it is easily walkable and has frequent city-bus services.
Bad Tölz Tourist-Information. | Max-Höfler-Pl. 1 | 08041/78670 | www.bad-toelz.de.
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Bad Tölz’s very attractive spa complex pumps spa water into its pools, one of which is disguised as a South Sea beach complete with surf. Its five waterslides include a 1,082-foot-long adventure run. Another—the Alpa-Canyon—has 90-degree drops, and only the hardiest swimmers are advised to try it. A nightmarish dark tunnel is aptly named the Thriller. There is a complex price structure, depending on time spent in the spa and other wellness activities for the various individual attractions, or combo tickets for more than one. | Ludwigstr. 14 | 08041/509-999 | www.alpamare.de | 4-hr ticket €29; €27 9:30-11 am; €23 after 5 pm | Daily 9:30 am-10 pm.
Housed in the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), the museum has a newly renovated permanent exhibition containing many fine examples of Bauernmöbel (farmhouse furniture), as well as fascinating information on the history of the town and its environs. | Marktstr. 48 | 08041/793-5156 | €4 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | HOTEL | Near the Old Town and surrounded by a quiet garden with old trees, this hotel offers comfortable rooms, each carefully done in a particular style such as baroque or Biedermeier. The grand restaurant, in fin de siècle style, offers a wide range of gourmet dishes, from sashimi of yellowfin tuna, to veal boiled with grape leaves. The wine list will take you around the world. Pros: large clean rooms; staff is great with children. Cons: often fully booked. | Rooms from: €98 | Fröhlichg. 5 | 08041/78920 | www.hotel-kolbergarten.de | 12 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
With a rather wide range of themes, this bar features live music in the terrific setting of an old brewery, with barrel vaults and painted brick walls. | Wachterstr. 19 | 08041/799-3699 | www.kult-toelz.de.
Tölzer Knabenchor Boys’ Choir (Knabenchor).
Bad Tölz is world renowned for its outstanding boys’ choir. When not on tour, the choir gives regular concerts in the Kurhaus. Check with the Bad Tölz tourist information office for dates and ticket details. | Kurhaus Bad Tölz, Ludwigstr. 25 | www.bad-toelz.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Bad Tölz’s local mountain, the Blomberg, 3 km (2 miles) west of town, has moderately difficult ski runs and can also be tackled on a toboggan in winter and on a luge in summer. The winter run of 5 km (3 miles) is the longest in Bavaria. The concrete summer luge run snakes 3,938 feet down the mountain and is great fun; you’ll want the three-ride ticket. A ski-lift ride to the start of the run and toboggan or roller luge are included in the price. | Bad Tölz | 08041/3726 | www.blombergbahn.de | €17 all-day ticket (winter); summer luge €14 for three rides | Check website for ski times; chairlift operates from around Nov., daily 9-4 (weather permitting). Toboggan run: summer, daily 11-6; chairlift operates 9-6.
Bad Tölz is famous for its painted farmhouse furniture (Bauernmöbel), particularly cupboards and chests, and several local shops specialize in hand-carved pine pieces. They will usually handle export formalities. Ask at your hotel or tourist-information center for a recommendation on where to shop.
For traditional Bauernmöbel furniture, try Antiquitäten Schwarzwälder. | Badstr. 2 | 08041/41222 | www.antiquitaeten-schwarzwaelder.de | Weekdays 9-1 and 2-6; Sat. 10-4.
16 km (10 miles) east of Bad Tölz, 50 km (31 miles) south of Munich.
The beautiful shores of the Tegernsee are among the most expensive property in all of Germany. The interest in the region shown by King Maximilian I of Bavaria at the beginning of the 19th century attracted VIPs and artists, which led to a boom that has never really faded. Most accommodations and restaurants, however, still have reasonable prices, and there are plenty of activities for everyone. Tegernsee’s wooded shores, rising gently to scalable mountain peaks of no more than 6,300 feet, invite hikers, walkers, and picnicking families. The lake itself draws swimmers and yachters. In fall the russet-clad trees provide a colorful contrast to the snowcapped mountains. Beer lovers are drawn to Tegernsee by one of the best breweries in Europe. There are three main towns on the lake: Tegernsee, Rottach-Egern, and Bad Wiessee. Though not directly on the lakeshore, the town of Gmund, at the lake’s northern end, also has a number of attractions and is easily accessible by train.
Getting Here and Around
The best way to reach all three towns is to take the BOB train from Munich to Tegernsee (hourly) and then take a boat ride on one of the eight boats that circle the lake year-round. The boats dock near the Tegernsee train station and make frequent stops, including the Benedictine monastery in Tegernsee, Rottach-Egern, Gmund, and Bad Wiessee. The monastery is a pleasant half-mile walk from the train station. Buses connect Tegernsee to Bad Tölz.
Rottach-Egern/Tegernsee Tourist Information. | Hauptstr. 2 | 08022/927-380 | www.tegernsee.com.
On the eastern shore of the lake, the laid-back town of Tegernsee is home to this large Benedictine monastery. Founded in the 8th century, this was one of the most productive cultural centers in southern Germany; one of the Minnesänger (wandering lyrical poets), Walther von der Vogelweide (1170-1230), was a welcome guest. Not so welcome were Magyar invaders, who laid waste to the monastery in the 10th century. During the Middle Ages the monastery made a lively business producing stained-glass windows, thanks to a nearby quartz quarry, and in the 16th century it became a major center of printing. The late-Gothic church was refurbished in Italian baroque style in the 18th century and was where heirs to the Wittelsbach dynasty were married. The frescoes inside are by Hans Georg Asam, whose work also graces the Benediktbeuren monastery in Bavaria. Secularization sealed the monastery’s fate at the beginning of the 19th century: almost half the buildings were torn down. Maximilian I bought the surviving ones and had Leo von Klenze redo them for use as a summer retreat, which is still used by members of the Wittelsbach family and therefore closed to the public.
Today there is a high school on the property, and students write their exams beneath inspiring baroque frescoes in what was the monastery. The church and the Herzogliches Bräustüberl, a brewery and beer hall, are the only parts of the monastery open to the public. Try a Mass (a liter-size mug) of their legendary Tergernseer Helles or Spezial beer. | Schlosspl.
Grosses Paraplui Hiking Path.
Maximilian showed off this corner of his kingdom to Czar Alexander I of Russia and Emperor Franz I of Austria during their journey to the Congress of Verona in October 1821. You can follow their steps on a well-marked 2½-km (1½-mile) path, starting just opposite Schlossplatz in Tegernsee, through the woods to the Grosses Paraplui, one of the loveliest lookout points in Bavaria. A plaque marks the spot where they admired the open expanse of the Tegernsee and the mountains beyond. | Schlosspl.
The Olaf Gulbransson Museum.
This museum is devoted to the Norwegian painter Olaf Gulbrannson, who went to Munich in 1902 and worked as a caricaturist for the satirical magazine Simplicissimus. His poignant caricatures and numerous works of satire depict noisy politicians and snooty social upper-crusters as well as other subjects. The museum is housed in a discreet modern building set back from the main lakeside road. | Im Kurgarten 5 | 08022/3338 | www.olaf-gulbransson-museum.de | €6 | Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
WHERE TO EAT
Boutique Hotel Relais-Chalet Wilhelmy.
$$ | GERMAN | Although everything is modern, this inn in Bad Wiessee takes you back to a less frantic era. Classical music accompanies unpretentious yet tasty meals. Try the fish specialties or the light guinea fowl with herb rice and enjoy tea and cake in the little garden. | Average main: €16 | Freihausstr. 15 | Bad Wiessee | 08022/98680 | www.relais-chalet.com.
$$$$ | EUROPEAN | Proprietor Josef Brenner has brought a taste of nouvelle cuisine to the Tegernsee. His attractive restaurant commands fine views from high above Bad Wiessee. Try any of his suggested dishes, ranging from roast pheasant in wine sauce to fresh lake fish. There are flexible portion sizes for smaller appetites. | Average main: €30 | Freihaus 4 | Bad Wiessee | 08022/86560 | www.freihaus-brenner.de | Closed Tues.
$$ | GERMAN | A series of farm buildings dating back to the 19th century on the lake’s northern shore have been renovated and expanded into a self-sustaining restaurant with beer garden and several dining halls. With a focus on regional delicacies created from local—preferably homegrown—ingredients, the menu here changes with the seasons but includes Tegernsee trout, greens grown in the front garden, and steaks from their own cattle. A large terrace and walls of windows provide some of the best views of the lake in town and a kid-friendly beer garden with playground keeps young visitors happy until dusk. | Average main: €22 | Kaltenbrunn 1 | Gmund | 08022/187-0700 | www.kaefer-gut-kaltenbrunn.de.
$ | GERMAN | Once part of Tegernsee’s Benedictine monastery, then a royal retreat, the Bräustüberl is now an immensely popular beer hall and brewery with tasty Bavarian snacks (sausages, pretzels, all the way up to steak tartare), all for under €10. In summer, quaff your beer beneath the huge chestnut trees and admire the delightful view of the lake and mountains. | Average main: €10 | Schlosspl. 1 | 08022/4141 | www.braustuberl.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon.
WHERE TO STAY
Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt.
$$$$ | RESORT | Directly on the lakeshore, this trendy spa hotel has a Michelin-recognized chef helming one of three restaurants, and draws scenesters from around the world for “wellness” weekends. Pros: luxurious amenities; modern, updated rooms. Cons: often full. | Rooms from: €320 | Überfahrtstr. 10 | Rottach-Egern | 08022/6690 | www.seehotel-ueberfahrt.com/de | 122 rooms, 53 suites | Some meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Bachmair Weissach.
$$$ | HOTEL | New owners converted this old-fashioned hotel into a design resort with all the amenities imaginable—sushi bar, traditional Bavarian restaurant, swimming pool, child care, and yoga classes are all on offer. Pros: spacious rooms with balconies; friendly staff; great for families. Cons: no lake views; at a busy intersection. | Rooms from: €189 | Wiesseerstr. 1 | Rottach-Egern | 08022/2780 | www.bachmair-weissach.com | 69 rooms, 77 suites | Some meals.
Das Tegernsee Hotel & Spa.
$$ | HOTEL | The elegant, turreted hotel and its two spacious annexes sit high above the Tegernsee, backed by the wooded slopes of Neureuth Mountain. Rooms overlooking the lake are in demand despite their relatively high cost, so book early. All guests can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and mountains from the extensive terrace fronting the main building. You can dine in the hotel’s stylish little restaurant or the cozy tavern. The extensive spa includes a heavenly musical tub and a colored-light and aroma solarium. Pros: historical elegance accents updated rooms; Czar Nicholas I was a frequent guest; great views. Cons: a little away from the hub of the town. | Rooms from: €159 | Neureuthstr. 23 | 08022/1820 | www.dastegernsee.de | 63 rooms, 10 suites | Breakfast.
Seehotel Zur Post.
$ | HOTEL | A central location, winter garden, terrace, and a little beer garden make up for the lack of lake views in some rooms. The restaurant, with a panoramic view of the mountains and the lake, serves fresh fish and seasonal dishes; the “venison weeks” draw diners from far and wide. Pros: great views from most rooms; friendly service; excellent breakfast. Cons: the property could do with an update. | Rooms from: €69 | Seestr. 3 | 08022/66550 | www.seehotel-zur-post.de | 43 rooms | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Every resort has its spa orchestra—in summer they play daily in the music-box-style bandstands that dot the lakeside promenades. A strong Tegernsee tradition is the summer-long program of festivals, some set deep in the forest. Tegernsee’s lake festival in August, when sailing clubs deck their boats with garlands and lanterns, is an unforgettable experience.
Casino (Spielbank Bad Wiessee).
Bad Wiessee’s casino is near the entrance of town coming from Gmund. The main playing rooms are open daily from 3 pm, and it is the biggest and liveliest venue in town for the after-dark scene. | Winner 1 | Bad Wiessee | 08022/98350 | www.spielbanken-bayern.de/wDeutsch/wiessee/.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Tourist Information Tegernsee.
Contact the tourist office for hiking maps. | Hauptstr. 2 | 08022/180-140 | www.tegernsee.com.
For the best vista in the area, climb the Wallberg, the 5,700-foot mountain at the south end of the Tegernsee. It’s a hard four-hour hike or a short 15-minute cable-car ride up (€10 one way, €19 round-trip). At the summit are a restaurant and sun terrace and several trailheads; in winter the skiing is excellent. | Wallbergstr. 28 | Rottach-Egern | www.wallbergbahn.de.
Tegernseer Golfclub e.V.
Besides swimming, hiking, and skiing, the Tegernsee area has become a fine place for golfing. The Tegernseer Golfclub e.V. has an 18-hole course in the valley of Bad Wiessee overlooking the lake and with a view to the mountains. With three tee possibilities, the course is surrounded by old forests and has a number of hazards to challenge even the most advanced golfer. | Rohbognerhof | Bad Wiessee | 08022/271-130 | www.tegernseer-golf-club.de | €45 weekdays, €55 weekends for 9 holes; €80 weekdays, €100 weekends for 18 holes | 18 holes, 5500 yards, par 70.
80 km (50 miles) southeast of Munich, 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Chiemsee is north of the Deutsche Alpenstrasse, but it demands a detour, if only to visit King Ludwig’s huge palace on one of its idyllic islands. It’s the largest Bavarian lake, and although it’s surrounded by reedy flatlands, the nearby mountains provide a majestic backdrop. The town of Prien is the lake’s principal resort. TIP The tourist offices of Prien and Aschau offer a €26 transportation package covering a boat trip, a round-trip rail ticket between the two resorts, and a round-trip ride by cable car to the top of Kampen Mountain, above Aschau.
Getting Here and Around
Prien is the best jumping-off point for exploring the Chiemsee. Frequent trains connect Prien with Munich and Salzburg. The regional trains are met by a narrow-gauge steam train for the short trip to Prien-Stock, the boat dock. The only way to reach the Herreninsel and the Fraueninsel is by boat.
Chiemsee Infocenter. | Felden 10 | Bernau am Chiemsee | 08051/965-550 | www.chiemsee-alpenland.de.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Amerang.
This town northwest of Chiemsee is home to two lovely museums—the Bauernhausmuseum (farmhouse museum; €4; Mar.-Nov., Tues.-Sun. 9-6), which explores life in Upper Bavaria since 1525, and the Museum für Deutsche Automobilgeschichte (Museum of German Automobile History; €9; Tues.-Sun. 10-6), home to 220 unique automobiles. The local castle, Schloss Amerang (www.schlossamerang.de; €8; Apr.-Oct., Fri.-Sun. 11-5), has been converted for multiple uses in recent years, housing a hotel, a museum dedicated to Bavarian furnishings, and a venue for concerts several times a year. | Wasserburger Str. 11 | Amerang | www.amerang.de.
Boats going between Stock and Herrenchiemsee Island also call at this small retreat known as Ladies’ Island. The Benedictine convent there, founded 1,200 years ago, now serves as a school. One of its earliest abbesses, Irmengard, daughter of King Ludwig der Deutsche, died here in the 9th century. Her grave in the convent chapel was discovered in 1961, the same year that early frescoes there were brought to light. The chapel is open daily from dawn to dusk. Otherwise, the island has just a few private houses, a couple of shops, and a guesthouse where visitors wishing to take part in the nuns’ quiet lives can overnight. The Benedictine Sisters make delicious fruit liqueurs and marzipan. | Fraueninsel | www.frauenwoerth.de.
One of three castles constructed by King Ludwig II during his reign, this palace on an island is worth the brief steamboat trip if only to see the elaborate rooms designed with French royalty in mind.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Luitpold am See.
$$ | HOTEL | Boats to the Chiemsee islands tie up right outside your window at this handsome old Prien hotel, which organizes shipboard disco evenings as part of its entertainment program. Rooms have either traditional pinewood furniture, including carved cupboards and bedsteads, or are modern and sleek (in the new annex). Fish from the lake is served at the pleasant restaurant. Pros: directly on the lake (though the sister property is 328 feet away); limousine service offers pick-up from Munich airport for €100; has wheelchair-accessible rooms. Cons: near a busy boat dock. | Rooms from: €114 | Seestr. 110 | Prien am Chiemsee | 08051/609-100 | www.luitpold-am-see.de | 77 rooms | Breakfast.
Inselhotel zur Linde.
$$ | HOTEL | Catch a boat to this enchanting inn on the car-free Fraueninsel for dinner: but remember, if you miss the last connection to the mainland (at 9 pm), you’ll have to stay the night. The island is by and large a credit-card-free zone, so be sure to bring cash. Rooms are simply furnished and decorated with brightly colored fabrics. The Linde is one of Bavaria’s oldest hotels, founded in 1396 as a refuge for pilgrims. Artists have favored the inn for years, and one of the tables in the small Fischerstüberl dining room is reserved for them. This is the best place to try fish from the lake. Pros: set in lush gardens; nice beer garden. Cons: Fraueninsel can feel isolated. | Rooms from: €129 | Fraueninsel im Chiemsee | 08054/90366 | www.linde-frauenchiemsee.de | Closed mid-Jan.-mid-Mar. | 14 rooms | Breakfast.
Neuer am See.
$$ | B&B/INN | Just 500 feet from the Chiemsee, this hotel benefits from its central location and some rooms have a lake view. Pros: great lake views from rooms with balconies; convenient location. Cons: strict cancellation policy; must arrive by 8 pm; modern furnishings lend a stale feel to the interiors. | Rooms from: €114 | Seestr. 104 | Prien am Chiemsee | 08051/609-960 | www.neuer-am-see.de | 27 rooms, 4 suites | Some meals.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Chiemsee Golf-Club Prien e.V.
The gentle hills of the region are ideal for golf and this parkland course makes good use of the undulating terrain, along with well-placed water hazards, to provide a moderate to difficult challenge. Fairways and greens have distant views of the mountains. | Bauernberg 5 | Prien am Chiemsee | 08051/62215 | www.cgc-prien.de/ | €55 weekdays, €80 weekends | 18 holes, 6300 yards, par 72.
Equipment can be provided for any kind of sport imaginable, from skiing to kayaking, climbing to curling, and it organizes tours. | Hauptstr. 3 | Schleching | 08649/243 | www.sportlukas.de.
For those wanting to learn windsurfing or to extend their skills, the Surfschule Chiemsee provides lessons for adults and kids and offers a package deal. You can also rent bikes or kayaks or take a lesson in stand-up paddleboarding. | Rasthausstr. 11 | Bernau am Chiemsee | 08051/970-244 | www.surfschule-chiemsee.de.
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Bad Reichenhall | Berchtesgaden | Berchtesgaden National Park
Berchtesgadener Land is the Alps at their most dramatic and most notorious. Although some points are higher, the steep cliffs, hidden mountain lakes, and protected biospheres make the area uniquely beautiful. The salt trade brought medieval Berchtesgaden and Bad Reichenhall incredible wealth, which is still apparent in the large collection of antique houses and quaint streets. Berchtesgaden’s image is a bit tarnished by its most infamous historical resident, Adolf Hitler. Berchtesgaden National Park, however, is a hiker’s dream, and the resounding echo of the trumpet on the Königssee shouldn’t be missed.
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60 km (37 miles) east of Prien, 20 km (12 miles) west of Salzburg.
Bad Reichenhall is remarkably well located, near the mountains for hiking and skiing, and near Salzburg in Austria for a lively cultural scene. The town shares a remote corner of Bavaria with another prominent resort, Berchtesgaden. Although the latter is more famous, Bad Reichenhall is older, with saline springs that made the town rich. Salt is so much a part of the town that you can practically taste it in the air. Europe’s largest source of brine was first tapped here in pre-Christian times; salt mining during the Middle Ages supported the economies of cities as far away as Munich and Passau. The town prospered from a spa in the early 20th century. Lately, it has successfully recycled itself from a somewhat sleepy and stodgy “cure town” to a modern, attractive center of wellness.
Getting Here and Around
Bad Reichenhall is well connected to Berchtesgaden and Salzburg Hauptbahnhof by hourly trains; from Munich, a change in Freilassing is required. To reach the Bürgerbräu and the Predigtstuhl cable car, take Bus No. 180 and Bus No. 841 to Königssee.
Tourist-Info Bad Reichenhall. | Wittelsbacherstr. 15 | 08651/6060 | www.bad-reichenhall.de.
Alte Saline und Quellenhaus.
In the early 19th century King Ludwig I built this elaborate saltworks and spa house, in vaulted, pseudomedieval style. The pump installations, which still run, are astonishing examples of 19th-century engineering. A “saline” chapel is part of the spa’s facilities, and was built in exotic Byzantine style. An interesting museum in the same complex looks at the history of the salt trade. As the salt deposits beneath the building are no longer top quality, parts of the building have been converted to office spaces and a trendy restaurant, but you can tour the underground infrastructure. | Alte Saline 9 | 08651/700-2146 | www.alte-saline.de | €8; €19 combined ticket with Berchtesgaden’s salt mine | May-Oct., daily 10-4; Nov.-Apr., Tues.-Sat. and 1st Sun. in the month 11-3.
The pride and joy of the Reichenhallers is the steep, craggy mountain appropriately named the Preacher’s Pulpit, which stands at 5,164 feet, southeast of town, and has been noted as one of the top 10 cable-car rides in the world for its stunning views. You can hike or just enjoy a bite to eat and drink at the Almütte Schlegemuldel, 15 minutes from the cable-car station. | Südtiroler Pl. 1 | 08651/96850 | www.predigtstuhl-bahn.de | €22 round-trip | Upward trips Mar.-Nov., daily 9-4 as needed; Dec.-Feb., daily 9-3 as needed. Last downward trip is when everyone is off the mountain.
Part of Bad Reichenhall’s revival included building this new spa facility in 2009. Indoor and outdoor pools in the Therme section are fed by the saline deposits beneath the city; families with children will appreciate the salt-free kids’ pool and slide. Saunas and steam rooms are rounded off with a host of special applications using salt, essential oils, mud packs, and massages. The Therme can be popular, especially in winter, so online reservations for any spa services are a good idea | Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 21 | 08651/76220 reservation hotline | www.rupertustherme.de | Therme: full day €22, 4 hrs €18.50; family area: full day €15.50, 3 hrs €12.50 | Daily 9 am-10 pm.
This ancient church is dedicated to the patron saint of those imperiled by floods and the dangers of the deep, an ironic note in a town that flourishes on the riches of its underground springs. This 12th-century basilica, the largest in Bavaria, was remodeled in the 16th and 17th centuries, but some of the original Romanesque cloisters remain. | Salzburger Str. 30 | No phone | www.kath-stadtkirche-badreichenhall.de | Free | Sun. and holidays 11-noon, or for services.
Hotels here base spa treatments on the health-giving properties of the saline springs and the black mud from the area’s waterlogged moors. The elegant, pillared pavilion of the attractive spa gardens is really a sight to behold, with its unusual misting character, said to extract salt from the water. All you need to do is walk along the 540-foot Gradierhaus, a massive wood-and-concrete construction that produces a fine salty mist by trickling brine down a 40-foot wall of dense blackthorn bundles (breathing salt-laden air is a remedy for various lung conditions). | Königlichen Kurgarten | 08651/6060 tourist office | Free | Nov.-May.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | Each dining area in this old brewery inn reflects the social class that once met here: politicos, peasants, burghers, and salt miners. Reichenhallers from all walks of life still meet here to enjoy good conversation, hearty local beer, and excellent food prepared in traditional Bavarian style. Rooms at the inn are simple, but airy and modern, and centrally located. | Average main: €11 | Waagg. 1-2 | 08651/6089 | www.brauereigasthof-buergerbraeu.de.
$ | GERMAN | Tucked away off the main road leading from Bad Reichenhall to the autobahn, this 16th-century mill has an intimate rural feel that draws locals in from the surrounding areas. Fish is the specialty here, though meats (the game in season is noteworthy) are also on the menu. The terrace is an inviting place for a few helpings of excellent homemade pastries. | Average main: €12 | Tumpenstr. 11 | 08651/2193 | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and Tues.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | If you fancy spoiling yourself in a typical German fin de siècle spa hotel, consider staying at this fine porticoed and pillared building, where an imposing pastel-pink facade promises luxury within. Rooms are large, furnished in deep-cushioned, dark-wood comfort, most with flower-filled balconies or loggias. The elegant restaurant serves international and traditional Bavarian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood (scallops or tuna steak, for example), and a pine-paneled tavern, Die Holzstubn’n, pours excellent local brew. Pros: quiet; centrally located; great spa services on offer. Cons: slightly old-fashioned for some tastes; some unrenovated rooms feel stuffy. | Rooms from: €124 | Ludwigstr. 33 | 08651/6040 | www.parkhotel.de | 70 rooms, 8 suites | Breakfast.
$ | B&B/INN | This delightfully traditional family-run lodging stands on the shore of the tiny Thumsee, 5 km (3 miles) from the town center. The Hubertus’s private grounds lead down to the lake, where guests can swim (the water is bracingly cool) or go boating. Rooms, some with balconies overlooking the lake, are furnished with hand-carved beds and cupboards. Excellent meals or coffee can be taken at the neighboring rustic Madlbauer. Pros: incredible views; private guests-only sunbathing area. Cons: far from city center; no elevator. | Rooms from: €70 | Thumsee 5 | 08651/2252 | www.hubertus-thumsee.de | 18 rooms | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Bad Reichenhall is proud of its long musical tradition and of its orchestra, founded more than a century ago. It performs on numerous occasions throughout the year in the chandelier-hung Kurgastzentrum Theater or, when weather permits, in the open-air pavilion, and at a special Mozart Week in March. Call the Orchesterbüro for program details. | Salzburger Str. 7 | 08651/762-8080 Orchesterbüro | www.bad-reichenhaller-philharmonie.de.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Though Berchtesgaden definitely has the pull for skiers, Bad Reichenhall is proud of its Predigtstuhl, which towers over the town to the south. Besides fresh air and great views, it offers snowshoeing, lots of hiking, biking, and even rock climbing. The tourist information office on Wittelsbacherstrasse, a couple of hundred yards from the train station, has all the necessary information regarding the numerous sporting activities possible in Bad Reichenhall and its surrounding area.
Josef Mack Company.
Using flowers and herbs grown in the Bavarian Alps, the Josef Mack Company has made medicinal herbal preparations since 1856. | Ludwigstr. 36 | 08651/78280 | www.macknatur.de.
Your sweet tooth will be fully satisfied at the confection emporium of Paul Reber, makers of the famous chocolate, nougat, and marzipan Mozartkugel and many other caloric depth-charges. | Ludwigstr. 10-12 | 08651/60030 | www.reber-spezialitaeten.de/home.html | Closed Sun.
18 km (11 miles) south of Bad Reichenhall, 20 km (12 miles) south of Salzburg.
Berchtesgaden is a gorgeous mountain town right on the border with Austria. From its location in a 2,300-foot-high valley, you can see Germany’s second-highest mountain, the Watzmann, and embark on daylong or multiday hikes through the Alps. The nature and diversity of the forests surrounding it are unparalleled in Germany, as are its snowy winters; the small town becomes a hive of activity in high winter and high summer as tourists descend in search of sporting adventure, whether it be hiking or biking, skiing or bobsledding. Perhaps historically it’s best known for its brief association as the second home of Adolf Hitler, who dreamed of his “1,000-year Reich” from the mountaintop where millions of tourists before and after him drank in only the superb beauty of the Alpine panorama, but there is much more to the town than its dark past. The historic old market town and mountain resort has great charm. An ornate palace and working salt mine make up some of the diversions in this heavenly setting.
Salt was once the basis of Berchtesgaden’s wealth. In the 12th century Emperor Barbarossa gave mining rights to a Benedictine abbey that had been founded here a century earlier. The abbey was secularized early in the 19th century, when it was taken over by the Wittelsbach rulers. Salt is still important today because of all the local wellness centers. The entire area has been declared a Kurgebiet (“health resort region”), and was put on the UNESCO biosphere list.
Getting Here and Around
The easiest way to reach Berchtesgaden is with the hourly train connection, or by bus from Salzburg Hauptbanhof. To get to Berchtesgaden from Munich requires a change in Freilassing or Salzburg. From Salzburg’s renovated main train station there are regular connections to Berchtesgaden (choose the train without a Freilassing change). Once there, frequent local bus service makes it easy to explore the town and to reach Berchtesgaden National Park and the Königssee. Local bus services, except that from Documentation center to the Eagle’s Nest, are included when you pay the Kurtax. The Schwaiger bus company runs tours of the area and across the Austrian border as far as Salzburg. An American couple runs Eagle’s Nest Historical Tours out of the local tourist office, opposite the train station.
Schwaiger. | Berchtesgaden | 08652/2525 | www.bus-schwaiger.de/en.
Visitor and Tour Information
Berchtesgaden Land Tourismus. | Bahnhofpl. 4 | 08652/656-5050 | www.berchtesgadener-land.com.
Eagle’s Nest Historical Tours. | Königsseer Str. 2 | 08652/64971 | www.eagles-nest-tours.com.
The Legend of Edelweiss
Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is the flower most commonly associated with the Alps, thanks to that memorable song from The Sound of Music. It usually grows in the inaccessible regions of the Alps and is a protected species (don’t pick it). The unique beauty of the white flower is a symbol of purity in Bavaria and a plant shrouded in myth.
As the story goes, high in the Alps lived a hauntingly beautiful queen with a heart of pure ice. The queen’s melodious singing lured many forlorn shepherds to her cave. Since her frozen heart was unable to love, she soon tired of them and ordered her loyal gnome slaves to throw the hapless men to their deaths. One day an ordinary shepherd found his way to her cave and the queen fell in love with him. The jealous gnomes, fearing their mistress would marry this mortal and abandon them, threw him into a valley where his heart was crushed. When she learned of the tragedy, her heart melted enough for her to shed one tear. That tear became an Edelweiss.
This center documents the notorious history of the Third Reich, with a special focus on Obersalzberg, and some surprisingly rare archive material presented in a very well-considered manner. | Salzbergstr. 41 | 08652/947-960 | www.obersalzberg.de | €3 | Apr.-Oct., daily 9-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-3.
Haus der Berge.
Opened in 2015, this interactive museum brings the surrounding national park to life for children and adults alike with a rotating exhibition focusing on the wildlife and diverse nature to be found in the area. | Hanielstr. 7 | 08652/979-0600 | www.haus-der-berge.bayern.de | €4 | Daily 9-5.
This museum in the Schloss Adelsheim displays examples of wood carving and other local crafts. Wood carving in Berchtesgaden dates to long before Oberammergau established itself as the premier wood-carving center of the Alps. | Schroffenbergallee 6 | 08652/4410 | www.heimatmuseum-berchtesgaden.de | €2.50 | Dec.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
The site of Hitler’s luxurious mountain retreat is part of the north slope of the Hoher Goll, high above the timber line overlooking Berchtesgaden. It was a remote mountain community of farmers and foresters before Hitler’s deputy, Martin Bormann, selected the site for a complex of Alpine homes for top Nazi leaders. Hitler’s chalet, the Berghof, and all the others were destroyed in 1945, with the exception of a hotel that had been taken over by the Nazis, the Hotel zum Türken.
To get there, you need to take a round-trip from Berchtesgaden’s post office by bus and elevator (€16.10 per person). The bus runs mid-May through September, daily from 9 to 4:50. By car you can travel only as far as the Obersalzberg bus station. The full round-trip takes one hour. To get the most out of your visit to the Kehlsteinhaus, consider taking a tour.
Beyond Obersalzberg, the hairpin bends of Germany’s highest road come to the base of the 6,000-foot peak on which sits the Kehlsteinhaus, also known as the Adlerhorst (Eagle’s Nest), Hitler’s personal retreat and his official guesthouse. It was Martin Bormann’s gift to the führer on Hitler’s 50th birthday. The road leading to it, built in 1937-39, climbs more than 2,000 dizzying feet in less than 6 km (4 miles). A tunnel in the mountain will bring you to an elevator that whisks you up to what appears to be the top of the world (you can walk up in about half an hour), and refreshments are available. | Königsseer Str. 2 | www.kehlsteinhaus.de.
This salt mine is one of the chief attractions of the region. In the days when the mine was owned by Berchtesgaden’s princely rulers, only select guests were allowed to see how the source of the city’s wealth was extracted from the earth. Today, during a 90-minute tour, you can sit astride a miniature train that transports you nearly 1 km (½ mile) into the mountain to an enormous chamber where the salt is mined. Included in the tour are rides down the wooden chutes used by miners to get from one level to another and a boat ride on an underground saline lake the size of a football field. Although the tours take about an hour, plan an extra 45-60 minutes for purchasing the tickets and changing into and out of miners’ clothing. You may wish to partake in the special four-hour brine dinners down in the mines (€90). These are very popular, so be sure to book early. | Bergwerkstr. 83 | 08652/600-220 | www.salzzeitreise.de | €15.50; €18.50 combined ticket with Bad Reichenhall’s saline museum | May-Oct., daily 9-5; Nov.-Apr., Mon.-Sat. 11-3.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Schellenberger Eishöhle.
Germany’s largest ice caves lie 10 km (6 miles) north of Berchtesgaden. By car take B-305 to the village of Marktschellenberg, or take Bus No. 2940 (to the Eishöhle stop; €4) from the Berchtesgaden train station or Salzburg Hbf. From there you can reach the caves on foot by walking 2½ hours along the clearly marked route. A guided tour of the caves takes one hour. On the way to Marktschellenberg watch for the Almbachklamm, a narrow valley that is good for hikes. At its entrance is an old (1683) mill for making and polishing marbles. | Berchtesgaden | 08652/944-5300 | www.eishoehle.net | €5 | June-Oct., daily 10-4.
The last royal resident of the Berchtesgaden abbey, Crown Prince Rupprecht (who died here in 1955), furnished it with rare family treasures that now form the basis of this permanent collection. Fine Renaissance rooms exhibit the prince’s sacred art, which is particularly rich in wood sculptures by such great late-Gothic artists as Tilman Riemenschneider and Veit Stoss. There are two weaponry rooms exhibiting hunting tools, including rifles from the 19th century, and a beautiful rose garden out back. You can also visit the abbey’s original, cavernous 13th-century dormitory and cool cloisters. Just be sure to check in advance as the Wittelsbach heir still occasionally stops by for a visit, at which times the castle is closed to visitors. | Schlosspl. 2 | 08652/947-980 | www.schloss-berchtesgaden.de | €9.50, including tour | Mid-May-mid-Oct., Sun.-Fri. 10-noon and 2-4; mid-Oct.-mid-May, Sun.-Fri. 11-2.
Here you’ll find fragrant steam rooms, saunas with infrared cabins for sore muscles, an elegant pool, whirlpools, and a special pool for children. | Bergwerkstr. 54 | 08652/94640 | www.watzmann-therme.de | 2 hrs €10.90; 4 hrs €14.30; day pass, including sauna €16.50 | Sun.-Wed. 10-10; Fri. and Sat. 10 am-11 pm.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | HOTEL | The house was built in 1981 in Alpine style, with lots of wood paneling, heavy beams, and wide balconies with cascades of geraniums in summer. Skiers enjoy the fact that the slopes are about 200 yards away. The restaurant has a large fireplace to warm up winter evenings. The menu is regional (the usual schnitzels and roasts) with a few items from the French repertoire (a fine steak in pepper sauce, for example). The restaurant is closed Tuesday evening. The room rate includes a breakfast buffet and use of the wellness facilities. Pros: heated pool with views of the Alps; great hotel for kids. Cons: narrow and steep access road is difficult to find. | Rooms from: €76 | Am Priesterstein 7, Oberau | 08652/97890 | www.denninglehen.de | 23 rooms | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Berghotel Rehlegg.
$$ | HOTEL | In the heart of Ramsau, just outside of Berchtesgaden, this family-run Best Western hotel has a spa and pool and a special focus on sustainability. Pros: quiet location; evening buffet offers something for everyone; friendly staff. Cons: perhaps too quiet for children. | Rooms from: €172 | Holzeng. 16 | Ramsau | 08657/98840 | www.rehlegg.de | 79 rooms, 8 suites | Some meals.
$ | HOTEL | Only a few strides from the train station in the town center, the Grünberger overlooks the River Ache—it even has a private terrace beside the river where you can relax. The cozy rooms have farmhouse-style furnishings and some antiques. The wellness area has in-house acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine treatments. The hotel restaurant focuses on German fare, with some international dishes to lighten the load. Those who need to check email will need to head to the Internet café nearby. Pros: quaintly situated on the river; close to the train station. Cons: quite far from skiing and outdoor activities; no Wi-Fi. | Rooms from: €90 | Hansererweg 1 | 08652/976-590 | www.hotel-gruenberger.de | Closed Nov.-mid-Dec. | 65 rooms | Breakfast.
Kempinski Bavarian Alps.
$$$$ | RESORT | Nestled in the hills outside of Berchtesgaden and surrounded by quiet woods, this five-star spa hotel, dripping with luxury, has a quiet, relaxed feel. Pros: stunning views; well-appointed modern furnishings; quiet location. Cons: can get busy with conferences. | Rooms from: €260 | Hintereck 1 | 08652/97550 | www.kempinski.com | 126 rooms, 12 suites | Breakfast.
Stoll’s Hotel Alpina.
$ | HOTEL | Set above the Königsee in the delightful little village of Schönau, the Alpina offers rural solitude and easy access to Berchtesgaden. Families are catered to with apartments, a resident doctor, and a playroom. The hotel also has an annex about a half mile away, the Sporthotel, where rooms are somewhat cheaper. Pros: bedrooms are large and comfortable; good for families with children; great view of the Adlershorst. Cons: service can be brusque. | Rooms from: €90 | Ulmenweg 14 | Schönau | 08652/65090 | www.stolls-hotel-alpina.de | Closed early Nov.-mid-Dec. | 52 rooms, 8 apartments | Breakfast.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Buried as it is in the Alps, Berchtesgaden is a place for the active. The Rossfeld ski area is one of the favorites, thanks to almost guaranteed natural snow. The piste down to Oberau is nearly 6 km (4 miles) long (with bus service at the end to take you back to Berchtesgaden). There is a separate snowboarding piste as well. Berchtesgaden also has many cross-country trails and telemark opportunities. The other popular area is on the slopes of the Götschenkopf, which is used for World Cup races. Snow is usually artificial, but the floodlit slopes at night and a lively après-ski scene make up for the lesser quality.
In summer, hikers, power-walkers, and paragliders take over the region. The Obersalzberg even has a summer luge track. Avid hikers should ask for a map featuring the refuges (Berghütten) in the mountains, where one can spend the night either in a separate room or a bunk. Simple, solid meals are offered. In some of the smaller refuges you will have to bring your own food. For more information, check out www.berchtesgaden.de. And though the Königsee is beautiful to look at, only cold-water swimmers will appreciate its frigid waters.
Consider walking along the pleasant mountain path from the Eagle’s Nest back to Berchtesgaden.
Professional mountaineers and rock climbers in this organization can help you find the right way up any of the surrounding mountains, including the Watzmann. | Berchtesgadenerstr. 21 | Bischofswiesen | 08652/978-9690 | www.berchtesgadener-bergfuehrer.de.
Berchtesgaden Golf Club.
Germany’s highest course, the Berchtesgaden Golf Club, is on a 3,300-foot plateau of the Obersalzberg. Ten Berchtesgaden hotels offer their guests a 30% reduction on the green fee—contact the tourist office or the club for details. | Salzbergstr. 33 | 08652/2100 | www.golfclub-berchtesgaden.de/ | €40 weekdays, €50 weekends | 18 holes, 5680 yards, par 70.
Erste Bergschule Berchtesgadenerland.
Whatever your mountain-related needs, whether it’s climbing and hiking in summer or cross-country tours in winter, you’ll find it at the Erste Bergschule Berchtesgadenerland, but you’ll need a good grasp of the German language or a translator to communicate. | Silbergstr. 25 | Bischofswiesen | 08652/5371 | www.berchtesgaden-bergschule.de.
Handicrafts here—such as wooden boxes, woven tablecloths, wood carvings, and Christmas-tree decorations—come from Berchtesgaden, the surrounding region, and other parts of Bavaria. | Schlosspl. 1½ | 08652/979-790 | www.berchtesgadener-handwerkskunst.de.
BERCHTESGADEN NATIONAL PARK
5 km (3 miles) south of Berchtesgaden.
The park covers 210 square km (81 square miles) and around two-thirds of its border is shared with Austria. Characterized by mountain vistas and the beautiful Königsee, the park has over 1.2 million visitors each year, which is a true testament to the area’s popularity.
Getting Here and Around
Berchtesgaden National Park is around 150 kilometers (93 miles) southeast of Munich by car. Many people find the train connection, with a change at Freilassing, and a 30-minute bus journey (total time is around two hours 50 minutes), a more rewarding, if adventurous journey.
Berchtesgaden National Park.
The deep, mysterious, and fabled Königssee is the most photographed panorama in Germany. Together with its much smaller sister, the Obersee, it’s nestled within the Berchtesgaden National Park, 210 square km (81 square miles) of wild mountain country where flora and fauna have been left to develop as nature intended. No roads penetrate the area, and even the mountain paths are difficult to follow. The park administration organizes guided tours of the area from June through September. | Nationalparkhaus, Franziskanerpl. 7 | Berchtesgaden | 08652/64343 | www.nationalpark-berchtesgaden.de.
One less strenuous way into the Berchtesgaden National Park is by boat. A fleet of 21 excursion boats, electrically driven to avoid pollution and so that no noise disturbs the peace, operates on the Königssee (King’s Lake). Only the skipper of the boat is allowed to shatter the silence—his trumpet fanfare demonstrates a remarkable echo as notes reverberate between the almost vertical cliffs that plunge into the dark green water. A cross on a rocky promontory marks the spot where a boatload of pilgrims hit the cliffs and sank more than 100 years ago. The voyagers were on their way to the tiny, twin-tower baroque chapel of St. Bartholomä, built in the 17th century on a peninsula where an early-Gothic church once stood. The princely rulers of Berchtesgaden built a hunting lodge at the side of the chapel; a tavern and restaurant now occupy its rooms.
Smaller than the Königssee but equally beautiful, the Obersee can be reached by a 15-minute walk from the second stop (Salet) on the boat tour. The lake’s backdrop of jagged mountains and precipitous cliffs is broken by a waterfall, the Rothbachfall, which plunges more than 1,000 feet to the valley floor.
Boat service on the Königssee runs year-round, except when the lake freezes. A round-trip to St. Bartholomä and Salet, the landing stage for the Obersee, lasts almost two hours, without stops, and costs €16.90. A round-trip to St. Bartholomä lasts a little over an hour and costs €13.90. In summer the Berchtesgaden tourist office organizes evening cruises on the Königssee, which include a concert in St. Bartholomä Church and a four-course dinner in the neighboring hunting lodge. | Boat service, Seestr. 29 | Schönau | 08652/96360 | www.bayerische-seenschifffahrt.de.