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A Complete Travel Guide to Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Gateway to the Bavarian Alps

A Complete Travel Guide to Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Gateway to the Bavarian Alps

Everything you need to know including the 10 best things to do, when to visit, where to eat and where to stay
Alexander & VictoriaHi! We're Alex & Victoria - a digital nomad couple from Copenhagen escaping 9-5 to chase adventures in our beautiful world. Learn more about us here.
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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

Search for the best value accommodation in Garmisch-Partenkirchen here.

Geroldsee Alex & Victoria
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is alpine bliss.

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.

Loisach and Partnach rivers
Both the Loisach and Partnach rivers run through town.
The town centre of Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The town centre of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is for pedestrians only.
The Parish Church of St. Martin
The Parish Church of St. Martin.

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 spent most of our time in the “Garmisch” part of town and found it to be 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.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is easily walkable and how could you not love those mountain views in all directions?

Mountains near Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Whenever the weather is clear, mountains can be spotted from pretty much every street and window in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The mountains are super close to the town
The mountains are super close to the town.

Map

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).

Search for the best value accommodation in Garmisch-Partenkirchen here.



Booking.com

Luxury

Hyperion Hotel

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.

Check prices and availability at Hyperion Hotel.

The heated indoor pool at Hyperion Hotel
The heated indoor pool at Hyperion Hotel. ©Hyperion Hotel

Value for money

Hotel Zugspitze

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.

Check prices and availability at Hotel Zugspitze.

Our lovely room at Hotel Zugspitze
Our lovely room at Hotel Zugspitze.

Biohotel Garmischer Hof

Guests seem to agree that the 3-starred Biohotel Garmischer Hof feels more like a 4-star hotel.

The restaurant is one of the best options for fine vegan and vegetarian dining in town, and we imagine that 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.

Check prices and availability at Biohotel Garmischer Hof.

One of the airy rooms at Biohotel Garmischer Hof
One of the airy rooms at Biohotel Garmischer Hof. ©Biohotel Garmischer Hof

Budget

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.

Check prices and availability at Hotel Atlas Sport.

Hotel Atlas Sport
Check out Hotel Atlas Sport if you’re just looking for a simple double room in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. ©Hotel Atlas Sport

What 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 and tried to do as many activities as we could (when the weather allowed for it). Please do tell us what we missed in the comments as we would love to return and explore more!

Here are the 10 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 Alspitze
  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. Other activities in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The lovely nature of Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The lovely nature of Garmisch-Partenkirchen invites you to go and explore every trail.

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.

Learn all you need to know about visiting Zugspitze in our travel guide here.

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Zugspitze views
You can’t miss Zugspitze while in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Misty Eibsee
Zugspitze itself is best spotted from Lake Eibsee.
This is where the cable car ends on top
It only takes about 10 minutes to go from Lake Eibsee to Zugspitze with the modern cable car.

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. And the water colour is insane in its own right. 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.

Read more about Lake Eibsee and what to expect in our travel guide here.

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Water at Eibsee
Lake Eibsee is easy to fall in love with.
Eibsee in the early morning mist
Eibsee in the early morning mist.
Eibsee travel guide
Zugspitze looms high over the lake providing gorgeous views.

Get a new perspective from the top of Alpspitze

Alspitze 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.

Enjoying the view from Alpspitze
Enjoying the view from Alpspitze.
Alpspitze paragliders
This is a popular area for paragliders.
AlpspiX
The incredible viewing platform AlpspiX.
AlpspiX walkway
AlpspiX consists of two metal walkways reaching out over the mountain.
The views from Alpspitze
The views from Alpspitze are different than from Zugspitze but also very impressive.

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.

Read our travel guide here to learn more about visiting the Partnach Gorge.

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Waterfalls on the way
The waterfalls on the way make the whole experience of the Partnach Gorge magical.
Partnachklamm
The Partnach Gorge is called the Partnachklamm in German.

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.

Olympic Ski Jump, Garmisch-Partenkirchen
The Olympic Ski Jump near the Partnach Gorge.

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.

Neuschwanstein famous view
Even though we had seen Neuschwanstein in a thousand photos, we were still blown away when we saw it in real life.
Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle is as close as you can get to a real fairytale castle.
Theme park castle
It almost seems like a theme park but it really isn’t.
It’s not just the castle. The whole area is super photogenic with beautiful mountains and lakes.
Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle is located near Neuschwanstein in Füssen.

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.

Geroldsee famous view
Geroldsee has become Instagram famous and we get why. This view seems to encapsulate the feeling of the region.
Barmsee from above
Barmsee from above.

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.

Church of St. Johannes
The light always seems to hit the church of St. Johannes beautifully.

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.

Riesersee Lake
Remnants of an old bobsleigh track used for the 1936 Winter Olympics can be seen near Riesersee Lake. It’s a lovely place for a walk.

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. In winter, skiing is the big thing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

The Kurpark
The Kurpark is a peaceful park in the middle of the city.
Concert in GaPa
There’s always something cultural going on in GaPa.
Murals on the houses in town.
There are so many murals on the houses in town. See how many you can count.

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:

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Vegan ragout
There’s a lot of really great food for all tastes in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The vegan burger with sweet potato fries at Shaka Burgerhouse
Whether you like (vegan) burgers…
Açaí bowl at Pano
Or you’re more into açaí bowls.

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.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen centre
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is easily walkable when you stay near the centre.

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.
The main train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Garmisch-Partenkirchen Bahnhof)
The main train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Garmisch-Partenkirchen Bahnhof) with regular trains to Munich.

From outside Germany

The main international hubs and airports close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen are MunichInnsbruck (closest), Salzburg and Zürich.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen mountains drone photo
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is easily reached from the several nearby international travel hubs.

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.

The views from Zugspitze
We wore all of our warmest clothes at the top of Zugspitze.
Victoria at Eibsee
With a height difference of more than 2,000 metres, the weather can be very different down at Eibsee.

What to bring to Garmisch-Partenkirchen

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Snow at Alpspitze
We were surprised to see quite a bit of snow at Alpspitze in October already.

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.
GaPa mountain views
We all need to take better care of our natural environments.
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.

Eibsee's natural beauty
We were mesmerized by the natural beauty of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and all of its nearby attractions.

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