A Complete Travel Guide to Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Gateway to the Bavarian AlpsEverything you need to know including the 12 best things to do, when to visit, where to eat and where to stay
A mountain lovers paradise
There’s no way around the fact that Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the best place in Germany if you like mountains.
In this medium-sized Bavarian town, you’re literally surrounded by them.
If you don’t intend on hiking up by your own two feet to catch the gorgeous views offered by the peaks, you’re in luck as more than a handful of lifts operate to provide the views without you having to break a sweat.
For the sporty and adventurous, there are plenty of activities on offer with a huge trail network surrounding Garmisch-Partenkirchen and an active community of outdoor lovers all year round.
Hiking is the name of the game when the sun is out and in winter the town is considered one of the best places to ski in the country.
We loved Garmisch-Partenkirchen. And we think you will, too.
Where to stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Budget: Hotel Atlas Sport.
- Value for money: Hotel Zugspitze or Biohotel Garmischer Hof.
- Luxury: Hyperion Hotel.
Table of contents
- Why visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Where to stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- The best things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Where to eat in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- How to get around Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- How to get to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- When to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- What to bring to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Minimise your impact
Why visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Some of the best attractions in or near Garmisch-Partenkirchen can rather easily be visited as day-trips from nearby Munich. So why stay in town?
The answer is quite simple.
There’s so much to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
You could never do everything in a day. We’re unsure if even a weekend could do it, but that’s, of course, totally up to your preferences!
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the perfect base for adventures in the region.
Even if you’re not too keen on scaling mountains (whether by foot or cable car), there are still lots of lakes, castles and other awesome attractions to explore.
Tourism is naturally huge here, but the town is big enough in its own right to feel like a real place.
People actually live here all year and not only for seasonal mountaineering or skiing. That’s great as it means shops and restaurants have to survive on longterm quality and not only on short-lived tourist influxes.
The town itself
As the name implies, Garmisch-Partenkirchen was originally two towns: Garmisch in the west and Partenkirchen in the east.
Today they have melted together into one, but the differences between them are still observable to the keen eye.
We have spent most of our time in the “Garmisch” part of town and think it’s really cosy. Many old buildings are still intact and there’s a distinct small-town feel to it despite being the home to more than 25,000 people. Partenkirchen is also very nice.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is easily walkable and how could you not love those mountain views in all directions?
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located about 700 metres above sea level in the very south of Germany ~90 kilometres southwest of Munich, the capital and most populous city of Bavaria.
Where to stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The hotel options in Garmisch-Partenkirchen are really good. It’s not the cheapest place to stay, but it makes sense that there’s a price to pay for being in what is probably the most beautiful part of Germany.
Our best tip is to stay somewhere that is central enough for you to be in walking distance to most of the restaurants.
If you’re staying a little outside of town, it’s of course possible to drive in, but parking is limited, especially in the high season.
Staying in walking distance to the town centre will probably save you time and money enough to make up for the higher price (except if you plan to cook all of your meals in your accommodation).
Being the only true 5-star hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Hyperion Hotel is where you’ll want to stay for the most luxurious time in town. The rooms at Hyperion Hotel are modern and bright.
There’s a heated indoor pool and spa facilities such as a Finnish sauna and a Roman steam room to heat up after cold days.
The Kaminzimmer Restaurant offers typically Bavarian cuisine. In winter the fireplace is blazing and in summer it’s possible to enjoy the sun outside on the terrace.
Value for money
We stayed at Hotel Zugspitze for some of the time we were in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and really enjoyed our spacious room, the spa, the fitness room and the perfect location.
Parking is free on the street just opposite the hotel and there’s also a big (paid) garage so you’ll always be able to park your car closeby.
Biohotel Garmischer Hof
We really loved our stay at Biohotel Garmischer Hof the second time we visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The restaurant is one of the best options for fine vegan and vegetarian dining in town, and the organic breakfast buffet is full of delicious, healthy options.
There’s a spa and wellness centre offering plenty of options for relaxation after long days of exploring the surrounding area. Also, the location in the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is just great.
Hotel Atlas Sport
Hotel Atlas Sport is one of the cheapest options for double rooms in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
It’s located in the eastern part of town just 10 minutes of walking from the Olympic Ski Jump.
The rooms come with ensuite bathrooms, free wifi and free parking.
The best things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
As we’ve pointed towards earlier in this travel guide, there are a lot of amazing things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
We spent about a week in town in October 2020 and tried to do as many activities as we could (when the weather allowed for it). When we revisited in June 2021, we tried a few extra cool things that made it to the following list as well.
Please do tell us what we missed in the comments as we would love to return again and explore more!
Here are the 12 best things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen:
- 1. Visit Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain
- 2. Walk around Lake Eibsee and take in the magical views
- 3. Get a new perspective from the top of Alpspitze
- 4. Hike the stunning Partnach Gorge
- 5. See the Olympic Ski Jump
- 6. Take a daytrip to Neuschwanstein Castle
- 7. Check out the iconic views at Geroldsee and Barmsee
- 8. Visit Grainau and the beautiful church
- 9. Stroll around Riesersee Lake
- 10. Go on a canyoning tour
- 11. Experience the epic Höllentalklamm Gorge
- 12. Other activities in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
1. Visit Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain
Who doesn’t want to be able to say they’ve been to the highest point in Germany?
If it isn’t cloudy (which it invariably is sometimes) Zugspitze is easily spotted from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and, indeed, even from Munich on clear days.
What makes Zugspitze so special is that you have a clear view in all directions – including towards Austria where the mountainous landscapes continue as far as the eye can see.
Getting up there is easy with the modern cable car. There’s skiing in winter at the top.
2. Walk around Lake Eibsee and take in the magical views
Lake Eibsee has to be the most beautiful lake in Bavaria, if not in the whole of Germany.
It’s definitely one of the prettiest ones we’ve ever seen!
When the water is still the reflections from Zugspitze and the mountains next to it are incredible. The water colour is insane. And then there are islands in the lake? And then you add the autumn foliage… Perfection!
Lake Eibsee is easy to visit before or after taking the Zugspitze cable car. It’s also very much worth a visit in its own right.
3. Get a new perspective from the top of Alpspitze
Alpspitze is one of the other mountains you can take a cable car to in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
We bought a “Garmisch-Classic” ticket which is a combined ticket that grants access to Zugspitze as well as Alpspitze.
The view from up here is quite different than from Zugspitze. You don’t get to see over the other mountain ranges, but catching a glimpse of the town below and the mountains surrounding the valley is great. Visiting the AlpspiX skywalk is also super cool.
4. Hike the stunning Partnach Gorge
Visiting the Partnach Gorge is one of the most popular activities in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It’s exciting and hiking here feels like a true adventure.
Partnach Gorge is a gorge (duh) that has been created by a stream cutting through the mountain. It’s crazy to think that water can cut through solid rock like that. It takes a while, but the result speaks for itself!
The gorge is 702 metres long and up to 80 metres deep.
We were amazed by the continually changing views and couldn’t take our eyes off the azure blue colour of the water.
5. See the Olympic Ski Jump
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is home to the famous Olympic Ski Jump.
This is the venue of the New Year’s jumping you’re likely watching on January 1st each year.
Visiting the arena is free. We saw the Olympic Ski Jump as we walked from the parking lot to the entrance of the Partnach Gorge.
If you’re interested in learning more about flying more than a hundred metres through the air with nothing but skis strapped to your feet, guided tours are available.
6. Take a daytrip to Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle is a palace from the 19th-century built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
The flashy exterior design is iconic (to say the least) and it has been used in several films and inspired, among others, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Visiting Neuschwanstein is supremely popular with about 1.5 million visitors per year. If you wish to enter the castle, booking a tour well in advance is highly recommended.
Without tickets, you can still walk up to the main entrance and see the castle up close.
Neuschwanstein Castle is located about an hour of driving west of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and therefore pretty easy to reach on a daytrip.
7. Check out the amazing alpine views at Geroldsee and Barmsee
Geroldsee is a small lake east of Garmisch-Partenkirchen known for its dreamy Alpine views.
Barmsee is located right next to it and hiking between and around the lakes is a lovely non-strenous activity.
In winter, nordic skiing is popular here.
8. Visit Grainau and the beautiful church
Grainau is a small town located a few kilometres west of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Walking around here (perhaps on the way to or from Eibsee and Zugspitze) is a nice thing to do. The streets are quiet and it’s all very idyllic.
Grainau is especially famous for the church of St. Johannes with commanding views of the mountains behind it.
9. Stroll around Riesersee Lake
We visited Riesersee Lake on a cloudy day. No matter the weather, hiking around the area is relaxing.
When it’s clear, it’s possible to see the mountains reflect in the lake which is surely a sight for sore eyes.
It’s possible to go here directly from town by crossing the train tracks and following a trail up to the lake.
10. Go on a canyoning tour
On our second visit to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we went on a canyoning tour with Canyoningtour.de.
In short, canyoning is all about descending steep mountain rivers by rappelling, jumping and sliding.
We won’t lie: Canyoning is not for the faint of heart. You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie… But it will certainly help!
Of course, canyoning isn’t dangerous when you’re in the hands of professionals.
We felt completely safe and had a lot of fun on the tour.
11. Experience the epic Höllentalklamm Gorge
You have probably heard about the Partnachklamm Gorge. But have you heard about the Höllentalklamm Gorge?
Located just a few kilometres west of Partnachklamm, Höllentalklamm sees fewer visitors but provides a similarly epic experience.
Hiking to the start of the Höllentalklamm Gorge is a bit steeper, taking about an hour from the parking spot with 250 metres of gained altitude. The walk itself is beautiful as you walk besides the river on a nice forest trail.
The gorge itself is, of course, the main attraction. Just like at Partnachklamm, you walk on a narrow path cut into the mountain, sometimes in tunnels and sometimes over bridges.
Beside you and underneath you, the clear river cuts deep into the rock and roars ferociously.
The walk through Höllentalklamm Gorge takes about 30 minutes. When you’re finished, you can either turn around and experience it all from the opposite direction or continue on and go on a long hike over Hupfleitenjoch to Kreuzeck.
Höllentalklamm is only open while it’s snow free – usually meaning it’s open from May to the end of October. The price is 5 EUR for adults and 2 EUR for children aged 7-17 while free for those who are younger.
12. Other activities in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
It’s difficult to end the list here!
There are lots of cable cars apart from the ones mentioned above taking you to new views of the town and the surrounding mountains. Check out the Hausbergbahn, the Eckbauerbahn and the Wankbahn.
You also can’t miss the centre of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Visit the Kurpark, chill out at the cafés and see how many houses you can spot that have been adorned with murals (Lüftlmalerei).
In summer, there’s no shortage of hikes you could go on. Really. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is hiking heaven.
In winter, skiing is the big thing. Skiing down Zugspitze must be such a cool experience! There are also lots of opportunities for ski touring.
Where to eat in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
To our delight, there were plenty of great restaurants and cafés offering healthy and delicious plant-based dishes in Garmisch-Partenkirchen – and even a fully vegan one.
We wrote a full eating guide that you can check out here: Vegan Eating Guide to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany: The Best Restaurants & Cafés.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a vegan, vegetarian or even flexitarian, we still think you’ll love these places.
Here’s an overview of the cafés and restaurants we recommend visiting:
- Fräulein Grün – 100% vegan
- Garmischer Hof – Veggie-friendly brewery
- Berge – Vegan breakfast options
- Pano – Vegan-friendly café
- Shaka Burgerhouse – Vegan burger
- La Baita – Italian pizza & pasta
- Der Laden – Mostly vegetarian café
- Thang Long – Asian restaurant
- San Marco Da Claudio – Italian restaurant
- Vegan-friendly supermarkets in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Bonus: Wildkaffee Café
How to get around Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Getting around Garmisch-Partenkirchen on foot is easy.
The city centre (Am Kurpark) is totally car-free, and the rest of the streets have sidewalks.
Parking in the very centre isn’t all that easy which is why we recommend staying in walking distance to the cafés and restaurants.
Public transport is easy to use in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
How to get to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
From inside Germany
The 95 autobahn directly connects Munich with Garmisch-Partenkirchen making the drive quick and effortless.
- Driving yourself should take about 1 hour.
- Taking the bus takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- It’s also possible to take the train directly from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen with the ride taking about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
From outside Germany
The main international hubs and airports close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen are Munich, Innsbruck (closest), Salzburg and Zürich.
When to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen
There’s no bad time to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but as with most other popular destinations, avoiding the main holiday seasons makes sense if you want to avoid crowds and enjoy cheaper accommodation.
Spring is a beautiful time to visit with warming weather, rushing water and blooming flowers.
Summer is naturally the warmest season. The summer holidays in Germany are spread out between the middle of June and the middle of September.
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit. We visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen in October and loved seeing the changing colours of the leaves. We didn’t enjoy particularly warm weather (it was downright freezing at Zugspitze) but the colours and lack of tourists more than made up for it.
Winter is a popular time to visit for winter sports. The snow season generally runs from the start of December to the end of April/beginning of May.
What to bring to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- Travel insurance. Never travel without it!
- A good camera – here’s a guide to the gear we use.
- Sunscreen. The sun can be strong even in winter.
- Hiking shoes.
- Swimwear and a towel if you plan to swim in the lakes or at one of the hotels with a spa area.
- Water and snacks.
Minimise your impact
To minimise your impact during your visit, follow these guidelines:
- Bring your own drinking water in a refillable bottle.
- Avoid single-use plastics, including straws.
- Dispose of waste properly. While putting your trash in a nearby trashcan is convenient, wrappers and other small items are prone to get taken by the wind and end up in the lake.
- Check your sunscreen if you intend to swim. Many brands contain oxybenzone and other chemicals that are harmful.
- Take only photos, leave only footprints. Let everything stay in its natural place. No stone-throwing.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
- Respect wildlife.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for getting all the way to the end!
We hope this travel guide to Garmisch-Partenkirchen has been useful.
What do you think about GaPa?
If you’ve been to the Gateway to the Bavarian Alps, it would be awesome to hear your best tips in the comments.
If you haven’t been yet, please don’t hesitate to ask us anything. We’re glad to help.