I went to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, like many people, because of the Zugspitze—the highest peak in the Bavarian Alps in Germany. It’s a huge draw to this area, popular for visiting in both the summer and the winter.
Garmisch-Partnekirchen itself is a beautiful Bavarian town and worth seeing as there are a lot of things to do there, in addition to visiting the Zugspitze. Here is why you will want to go.
You might not be able to get it out of your head, even years later!
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History of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the 1936 Winter Olympics
Garmisch and Partenkirchen were separate towns, dating back thousands of years. Partenkirchen is in the west and Garmisch in the east. Partenkirchen was original the Roman town of Partanum and was established over 2,000 years ago.
Its location was on a trade route and the main street of Ludwigsstrasse actually follows the original Roman Road. Garmisch is believed to have been established around 800 years later.
In 1936, Garmisch-Partenkirchen was chosen as the site of the Winter Olympic Games. Prior to the games, the towns were united into one by Hitler. This was the first Olympic Games that featured alpine skiing.
The Olympics may have put Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the map, but there’s a lot to keep it there. The town is a breathtakingly beautiful Bavarian village, and there are many fun cultural, historical, and natural draws to the area. Here are some of the reasons to visit.
Quaint Town Center of Historic Partenkirchen
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, sometimes referred to as GaPa, GAP, or simply, GP, is such a quaint and beautiful small Bavarian town. There is something so tranquil and peaceful about this Bavarian town.
Wander the streets for hours taking in the beautiful of the traditional Bavarian architecture with the backdrop of the jagged mountain peaks in the background. It’s truly spectacular.
As you might expect with a heavily touristed town, there is also a lot of shopping. Stores range from high-end exclusive places to small local shops and everything in between. It’s a great place to buy interesting souvenirs and to enjoy some incredible and hearty Bavarian food.
In the eastern area in Partenkirchen, you can walk the main street of Ludwigstrasse. It’s lined with traditional Bavarian homes with window boxes full of geraniums and traditional houses with intricately-painted facades. It’s such a picturesque place for a leisurely stroll.
Partnatch Gorge (Partnachklamm)
The Partnatch Gorge is a dramatic rocky gorge with gushing waterfalls, rapids, and calm basins. It’s a breathtaking place to visit all year round. The summer has great temperatures for exploring and the winter shines with massive ice formations clinging to the rocks of the gorge.
The gorge is over 2,300 feet (800 meters) long and 263 feet (80 meters) high. There’s a pathway across the gorge so visitors can safely enjoy it.
Some of the most popular and scenic hikes in all of Bavaria start in this area as well, including the Reintal Valley leading to the Zugspitze, Ferchenbachtal Valley, Echbauer, and others.
The Partnatch Gorge is located on Wildenauer Street, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Highest Peak of the Bavarian Alps: Zugspitze
One of the top draws to visiting Garmisch-Partenkirchen attractions is seeing the Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany.
It towers over the country at over 9,700 feet high (nearly 3,000 meters). You can take either the Zugspitze cable car or a cogwheel train to the top, and it’s easy to get to by train from GaPa.
You May Also Like Visiting the Zugspitze
From the top, you can see a vista with over 400 peaks in the Bavarian Alps in the distance in four different countries. It’s a popular place to visit in the summer and the winter aline.
In the summer, hiking and paragliding are very popular and in the winter, it’s a top skiing and tobogganing destination. You can also visit the peak year-round for the captivating views.
This peak marks the border between Germany and Austria, and you can actually go to the platforms on both sides as they are connected. There’s a great museum, restaurants, and a Biergarten as well.
Winter Sports and Alpine Skiing
The Zugspitze is, of course, not the only mountain in the area worth visiting. Aline skiing is hugely popular in the area and there’s a lot of it!
Many of the nearby mountains offer skiing, creating a network of downhill and Nordic skiing for all levels. Garmisch skiing is very popular in the winter.
For ice skaters, you can visit the Ice Stadium used for the 1936 Winter Olympics for lessons and public skates. All sorts of classes are offered for figure skating, speed skating, and even choreographed dance routines.
A great way to see the beauty of this area is from above in the many Zugspitze cable cars. There is a cable car that you can take to the peak of the Zugspitze and there are others.
- Hausbergbahn Gondola in Garmisch goes up the Hausberghöhe almost 4,400 feet (1,338 meters). From here, the Kreuzwanklbahn goes to the Kreuzwanklin at 5,500 feet (1,550 meters)
- the Kruezeckbahn goes from Garmisch up the Krezeck 5,400 feet (1,650 meters) with stunning views of the Alpspitze.
- Wankbahn Cableway in Partenkirchen runs close to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) to a station on the Wank. At the summit, you can see amazing views of the Garmisch basin.
- Eckbauerbahn leaves from the Olympic Ski Stadium and travels up the Eckbauerhöhe offering gorgeous panoramic views.
- Graseckbahn leaves from the entrance of Parnatch Gorge, offering incredible views of the gorge.
Many of these cable cars lead to ski resorts. However, they can also be ridden to enjoy the views all year round.
If the Zugspitze doesn’t offer enough of an incredible view for you, then no worries, as you have options. Another opportunity for incredible views is at AlpSpiX. It is two crossed steel beams jutting out of the edge of a cliff in the shape of an X.
AlpSpiX is over 3,000 feet high (1,000 meters). It’s located above the top station of the Alpspitzbahn ski lifts and offers some incredible views of the nearby mountains.
It’s free to visit. However, you do need to pay to ride the Alpspitzbahn cable car to get there for €27 ($31.80 USD).
Olympic Ski Jump (Olympiaschanze)
The Winter Olympics in 1936 left a lasting legacy on Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The town is now known as one of Europe’s top skiing and winter sports destinations. Olympiaschanze is the iconic ski-jump hill in the 1936 Winter Olympics.
You can tour the ski jumps and a museum to learn more or take a ride to the top for some incredible views of the area. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see a training session.
The Olympic Ski Jump is located on Karl-und Martin-Neuner-Platz, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Getting to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an easy train ride from Munich. Catch the train from Munich to Garmisch at the Munich central station (Hauptbahnhof). Most of the trains are direct to GP.
However, some do have transfers. The direct trains take as little as 70 minutes and it’s a beautiful ride! Trains run very frequently.
Tickets start at €18.30 ($21.81 USD) one-way for a Standard Class ticket booked in advance. If you book the day of, you will pay closer to €25.50 ($30 USD).
Where to Stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
I chose to stay in an Airbnb apartment when I visited. It was convenient and only a five-minute walk to the train station. The apartment was small but nicely decorated with mountain views. (Note: it’s listed as a one-bedroom. However, it’s really one big room). It’s very conveniently located and comfortable.
The host, Mario, was wonderful! He was very responsive and he gave me some great recommendations. He was actually in Garmisch when I was there and graciously offered to drive me to Munich for my next stop. Driving on the Autobahn (even as a passenger) is a thrill!
There are a lot of hotels in GP as it’s such a popular tourist town.
Staudacherhof—If you’re looking for a cozy splurge oozing in Bavarian charm, this is the place for you and it has the luxuries you would expect. There is a spa with both indoor and outdoor pools. The restaurant offers both local and international cuisine with a full buffet breakfast. It’s located near the center of Garmish, and the room decor is in Alpine style. It’s one of the top Garmisch hotels in the area.
Hotel & Gasthof Fraundorfer—Since GP is a popular tourist area, it does cost a bit more to stay here. However, some reasonably-priced places can be found! This hotel is both at a great location and it’s reasonably priced. Rooms are lovingly decorated in a rustic Bavarian style and the staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. You’ll find typical Bavarian music and entertainment in the restaurant. This place is located on the historic Ludwigstrasse Street.
Where to Eat in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
As a tourist destination, Garmisch-Partenkirchen has a lot of great restaurants. I generally like to try the local cuisine when I travel as I can get American food at any time at home!
Sometimes when you’re traveling for a while you may need a fix of home but I still prefer the local places. Here are some of the recommended Bavarian restaurants:
Zum Wildschutz—This is a highly-rated restaurant in GP and I absolutely loved it. I read that they recommend reservations and learned from experience that it’s a good idea to get them (I didn’t). However, they will sit you at the bar if you don’t have one, and it was a great spot for viewing the room (and getting the local scoop from the bartender)!
I got sausages with a big heap of sauerkraut—you can’t get more German than that! Along with some Gruner Veltliner local wine and a meal worth remembering! I even had leftovers and was quite sad I didn’t have room for some apple strudel!
Wolpertinger—Another top-rated restaurant known for traditional German and Bavarian fare. Recommended dishes include their schnitzel and kaese spaetzle (the German equivalent of mac’ and cheese). Service is wonderful and you may meet the owner for a schnaps.
Hofbräustüberl—Located in a traditional Bavarian building, this restaurant oozes Bavarian charm. It’s a popular place with plenty of traditional local fare and many great local beers. I don’t see a website, but here is a map with its location.
When to Visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen
GaPa is a tourist destination all year round, offering incredible views and sports for both summer and winter. When you’ll visit will likely be determined by the Garmisch weather and the activities you want to do when you’re there.
Summers are comfortable and rainy and winters are cold, snowy, and freezing. Temperatures range throughout the year, rarely going below 9°F (-12.78°C) or above 83°F (28.33°C).
The warmest temperatures are from June to mid-September, where highs range from 64°F to 72°F (17.77 to 22.22°C) and lows range from 45°F to 52°F (7.22 to 11.11°C). In the winter, the coldest months are from mid-November to early March. Highs range from 34°F to 42°F (1.11 to 5.55°C) and lows range from 21°F to 25°F (-6.11 to -3.89°F).
The best time to visit for warm-weather activities is from July to mid-August when temperatures are the best and the crowds have thinned. It frequently rains during the summer. However, this time window offers the best chance for sunny skies. If you’re looking to ski, January and February offer the best chances for fresh powder.
If you’re looking for an incredible place filled with lots of different outdoor activities, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a great place to visit. It’s easy to get to Munich and is a great representation of the best of Bavaria.
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