My everlasting love for Garmisch-Partenkirchen and its surrounding areas continues to grow immensely. My husband and I make it a point to visit at least once a month or so to get our Garmisch "fix" and boy, does it give us a rush! We're about 3 hours away from the sweet ol' town but that doesn't stop us from enjoying a blissful weekend in our favorite spot in Germany. This place has got it all, for us at least; high snow-capped mountains, lots of outdoor activities, things to do when the weather isn't so great, and the true Bavarian culture comes out whenever we are on our little getaways.
I want to share with everyone some of my favorite things to do in each season while in or around Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It's very simple to distinguish the best times of the year just by checking out the colored asterisk next to each point. Blue is Winter (*), yellow is Spring (*), green is Summer (*), and orange is Fall (*). Some things are often great all year round but some outdo each other depending on the season. Let's begin with my number one favorite thing to do in Garmisch:
1. Snowboarding and Skiing in the Alps *
This is quite the obvious because Garmisch-Partenkirchen is in the Alpine region of Germany which creates great days to snowboard or ski. Although, I'm terrible at it, I love to go skiing and always can't wait for more snow to come down for some fresh powder.
You can take your pick in this town and either snowboard/ski at Garmisch Classic or head up to the highest mountain in Germany - Zugspitze. Both are great but my husband and I prefer Garmisch Classic of the two. Before heading up the cable car, I would recommend checking out the conditions on the Zugspitze website where you can see panoramic views in real time.
Tickets for both locations can be purchased the day of at the ticket counter. The later you start, the cheaper the ticket will be and once you're done for the day, be sure to turn in your ticket to receive a deposit back for the card (about 2 Euro).
Rental equipment and both ski and snowboard lessons are offered at both Garmisch Classic and Zugspitze. I prefer to buy tickets and rental equipment at Hausberg Sport Lodge at Garmisch Classic because you will pay in USD. If you purchase a lift ticket from Hausberg and return it, you will receive $5 back for each ticket. You must have a valid Military ID to be able to use this facility.
If you're a non-skier/non-snowboarder, don't give up on the mountains! There's always sledding and it's especially fun with the whole family!
2. Torch Hiking and Snowshoeing *
Who said you couldn't go hiking all year round? Torch hiking in Winter is offered in Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the Partnachklamm which can be organized by contacting the Tourist Office in Garmisch-Partenkirchen as they will send you a list of agencies to join a tour or you can ask your hotel front desk and they might be able to assist you. The Partnachklamm is one of the easier hikes around the area. Since the Partnachklamm can close often during Winter due to safety conditions of the ice and icicles, you could also consider another torch hike that meets at the Kurhaus in Grainau. You can get more information at the Tourist Office in Grainau by sending them an email or giving them a call. The hike will either take place at the Neuneralm or Badersee and usually last about 45 minutes.
I briefly mentioned snowshoeing in one of my recent posts 13 Things to do in Germany During Winter and really enjoyed this winter activity! What I thought would be a leisurely walk in the forest was more of an exercise but was well worth getting out especially when I hadn't seen the sun in over a week. You can surely go snowshoeing in the Garmisch area either independently or on a guided tour.
3. Check out the Igloo Village on top of a Mountain *
If you're already up on the Zugspitze for either snowboarding, or you are just enjoying the views up top, be sure to check out the Igloo village behind the chapel. Iglu-Dorf Zugspitze is usually ready each year just after Christmas or the New Year and will last for most of the snow season. I was told that this year it will last just until after Easter around April 8, 2018.
You can sleep in the igloos as they will provide you with warm sleeping bags but it can come with a hefty price if you're traveling as a couple or family. The starting price is 119 Euro per person, per night which includes the sleeping bag, a welcome drink, fondue for dinner, hot tea throughout your stay, use of the jacuzzi and sauna, night walk tour, and free breakfast nearby. The prices does not include the lift ticket so this offer is better when you're already using a lift ticket for snowboarding or skiing.
Just keep in mind that if you go with the Standard Rooms, you might be in a room with other strangers. The Standard room fits up to 6 people so unless you have 5 other friends or family members to sleep next to, you'll likely be sleeping with other folks. If that's not a problem, just be mindful that the rate is per person per night. For the families wanting to stay at the Iglu-Dorf in Zugspitze, there is a Family room starting at 428 Euro per night where up to 6 family members with at least one child can stay in the room.
If you want the experience of sleeping in an igloo atop the Zugspitze, it just might be worth looking over their packages but if you just want to check out the Igloo village and Igloo bar, you can pop in for a short tour and have a drink at the bar. Be sure to have cash on hand!
4. Hike up the Zugspitze *
From what I've read and what I plan to do hopefully this year, hiking up the Zugspitze can be a 2 day hike depending on the route you take and your pace. The best time to do this hike, especially for someone such as myself who is an amateur, is during the summer but of course there are more experienced hikers who will risk going in colder climates. There are a few huts along the paths you might take where you can rest up for the next part of your journey.
I found this link and this one as well that explains the 5 different hiking routes to reach the summit at Zugspitze and their level of difficulty but they're in German. I also found a link from someone who described the 5 routes in English and it's super helpful if Google Translate doesn't do the job.
5. Reach the Summit at the Highest Point in Germany * * *
Now, you can either reach this summit from hiking/climbing that I just mentioned or you can pay for the cable car to reach the top of Zugspitze in which you'll then have to do some [super] light climbing to reach the summit. If you purchase a lift ticket from Edelweiss Lodge and Resort (must have a valid Military ID) the cost is about $58 (subjected to change each season) but if you return your ticket, you'll get $5 back. You can also purchase lift tickets from Eibsee or in Ehrwald, Austria (so don't forget your passport)!
There is a ladder and then a rope but there is no harness provided so if you do not have sturdy shoes or boots and don't have the equipment, just keep in mind that you are at your own risk. On bright and sunny days, the summit is flooded with tourists and hikers wanting their photo taken which is an incredibly awesome but scary photo! Check me out holding onto my precious life:
6. Give the Chisel a Try at a Woodcarving Workshop * * * *
Oberammergau is located about 20 minutes from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and one of the many things this town is known for is its traditional handicrafts. From stained glass makers to drum makers, this postcard village is also famous for its timeless tradition of woodcarving. Holzschnitzerei Klucker in Oberammergau presents a tour through a wood carving workshop where you can experience first hand the work of a wood carver. The cost of the tour is 6 Euro per person but they can only take 5-10 participants for each guided tour which last about 40 minutes (the workshop is quite small). They have a minimum attendance rate of 5 people but since it was just my husband and I, we paid 30 Euro in total to meet their minimum rate.
The website mentions that the tour is 40 minutes long but we were having such a good time, the presentation and workshop lasted almost two hours! Give Herr Pfaffenzeller a call or shoot the couple an email to arrange tour groups.
7. Watch the Schuhplattler Dance * * * *
Schuhplattler, meaning the shoe [slapping] dance, is a traditional folk dance (Bayrischer Volkstanz) in Southern Bavaria and also popular in parts of Austria. You can witness this dance in the summer during Festwoche (festival week) in Garmisch as the men court the women on stage during their ceremony.
It's really neat to see this at the fest but you'll also get to see this dance almost all year round at the restaurant of Gasthof Fraundorfer where two young boys do a dance off. Reservations are recommended as seating can be filled quickly for dinner or they might be on holiday vacation. We ended up getting to the restaurant late in the evening and were able to catch an open table for two just in time to watch the performance and hear some yodeling. By the way, the food is delicious, the menu is at a decently priced and the restaurant is super traditional! It gave me all the Southern Bavarian feels!
8. Repel, Absail, and Cliff Jump in a Canyon *
This all sounds pretty crazy if you haven't tried Canyoning (or otherwise known as Mountaineering) before but it has been by far the most fun I've had while being here in Germany! There are several companies that you'll see that offer the canyoning tours and also the white water rafting tours. For some reason, I'm unsure why, I decided I would use a tour company in Austria called Outdoor Planet. They were a great team, so I suppose that's why I picked them but this can be done closer to Garmisch as well. I had a group of about 10 friends and we made the trip down to Tyrol where we met our tour guide. He gave us instructions, some expectations, our wet suited clothing, and off we headed up the mountain to start canyoning down.
First, we repelled off of a bridge and following were some waterfalls, some slides, and them jumping into the deep water! Canyoning is one of those activities that you just have to do to see how fun it really is. Set your fear of heights and rushing water aside and please take one summer to go Canyoning with your friends!
9. Ride Down the Rodelbahn * * *
Have you ever seen those videos circulating around Facebook with the bobsled looking roller coaster near the Swiss Alps? Well Switzerland isn't the only spot to go down the rodelbahn. On the Partenkirchen side, you'll find the Sommerrodelbahn right next to the famous Olympic Ski Jump.
On your way to Oberammergau from Garmisch (which I sure do hope you check out), there is another alpine coaster which, in my opinion, is longer and has some great views! Once you ride the rodelbahn once, you'll want to go back and do it all over again! This is something kids and adults alike could all spend an afternoon doing. Here are the times they are open this year. The address is Kreislainenweg, 82487 Oberammergau.
10. Show off Your Dirndl/Lederhosen During Festwoche*
What better time and place to break out this traditional attire (Trachten) than in Garmisch-Partenkirchen during Festwoche? This fest week takes place in Garmisch but there is another fest the following week in Partenkirchen. You can start the celebration in Garmisch during July 29 - August 5 and continue the party at the Partenkircher Fest the week after!
Remember ladies, tie your bow to right if you're married or taken. The bow tied on the left means that you're single and may be open to flirting.
11. Become Certified in Beer Knowledge * * * *
I only just recently took the Griesbräu tour and really enjoyed this brewery even if our tour guide did have too much to drink! This tour was unique from other brewery tours I've been on because this one will truly test your beer knowledge. You'll want to pay close attention and actually learn about the brewing process and the different beers at the Griesbrau brewery in Murnau.
If you're lucky, depending on what time of the year you join the tour, you may be able to try some of their seasonal beer which was quite the tasting! We had a warm whisky beer with whip cream in a tiny beer mug shot glass. You can only imagine how this drink is supposed to be drank!
Once the tour guide informed us on all the key points we needed to know for the test (there were some winks and overemphasized points that were made), it was time for a traditional Bavarian feast. You'll be able to choose your pick at the buffet bar and enjoy more beer if you'd like.
You can contact the brewery to join in on their popular beer workshop which is offered every second Tuesday from March through September or you can join Edelweiss Lodge and Resort on their trip to the brewery as they also provide transportation.
12. Get a Birds Eye View of Bavaria While in the Sky *
Nope, I'm not talking about using a drone to capture this - I really mean Tandem Paragliding. Although I've yet to try this, paragliding in the Alps is definitely on my list to do before we leave this beautiful country! I wish I could suggest the perfect time of year to do this but I can only imagine that the Summer time would feel the most comfortable. Now, for some people, temperature is not a big deal as I saw during Christmas break there were some folks paragliding just near the Zugspitze flying around!
13. Witness the Cows Return Home From the Mountains *
This may seem odd at first because who wants to watch cows just slowly maneuvering through the town? Well, of course anyone who's actually done a quick Google search and noticed how beautiful this event truly is! Each year, in some cities in Bavaria, Switzerland, and even France will hold an event dedicated to the cattle coming down from their season in the mountains. The tradition states that the cows will be "adorned" with decorative flowers only if they had a great Alpine summer without any deaths on the pastures which is not always the case. In 2017, the cows were dressed beautifully with large bells and vibrant flowers!
Just about 25 km from Garmisch is a quaint little town called Mittenwald where they dress up the cows and hang cow bells creating this parade like walk throughout the town and village showcasing the beautiful animals. There is no fee for this event but please be sure to arrive at least an hour ahead because if you wait too late, you'll likely be stuck behind the cows on your way into town... This happened to us, so I would advise that you get there early, grab some coffee or your choice of a warm drink, and enjoy the show. Once the cows pass through, the crowd usually follows the cows into the Alpine festival to celebrate some more.
This year, the Mittenwald Almabtreib will be held on Sunday, 16 September 2018 in the historic town center starting at 11am. But remember, get there early to find parking and get a nice view of the cows coming through.
14. Go SUPing on a Lake Surrounded by Mountains * * *
Located at the beautiful Lake Eibsee in Grainau, you can rent stand up paddleboards (SUP) and discover the lake by water starting at 15 Euro an hour and 10 Euro for every hour extra. If stand up paddle boarding isn't your thing, you can also rent row boats and peddle boats at a decent price listed here. What also seemed like loads of fun would be renting the boat with the slide and go swimming in the warmer months at Lake Eibsee. Their rental equipment can be rented from late April to early October each year.
15. Mountain Biking and Hiking * * * *
I am not the one to mountain bike but I could definitely go for a hike on any given day. If you fancy mountain biking, there are several spots in Garmisch where you can rent bikes for the day. If you already have a bike to ride, you can download the GaPa Tour Planner app on your mobile device to view various types of routes. From mountain biking to snowshoeing, there are over hundreds of different routes you can take in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area.
My two favorite hikes would be the Partnachklamm and Höllentalklamm. I had mentioned earlier about torch hiking at the Partnach Gorge (Partnachklamm) but you can also hike throughout the year at this spot as well. It's a fairly easy hike that the whole family can join on and is open almost all year as long as the conditions are safe. The entrance fee for adults is 5 Euro and the fee for children from 6-16 years old is 2 Euro. You'll arrive at the Olympic Ski Stadium in Partenkirchen and you must pay for parking. The entrance to the Partnachklamm is 25 minutes from the ski stadium and can take about 2 hours to complete more or less depending on your pace and the time of year you go. Don't forget to bring cash!
Höllentalklamm is a bit more difficult than Partnachklamm but well worth the 4-5 hour hike! This hike is not open all year round but is usually open from May to October. To get there, you'll likely park at the Wanderparkplatz in Hammersbach (if you get there too late when the weather is really nice, the parking will be full and you will have to park even further making the hike longer) and then hike about an hour to the entrance of the Höllentalklamm. You will see signs pointing you in the direction to the gorge. Keep in mind that the path of Höllentalklamm is also a route to get to the Zugspitze where people are climbing and paragliding so the parking can get full quickly especially in the summer. I would strongly suggest you dress for the part during this hike so wear sturdy boots, if you can wear waterproof hiking boots, that is even better. Wear water resistant or waterproof clothing as there will be water leaking and flowing throughout the hike from the gorge. And as always, don't forget to bring cash! Right by the entrance of the gorge, there is a hut where you can grab something to eat or have a beer.
16. Become a Chocolate Expert * * * *
Although I have not gone to any of the various chocolate seminars at this local chocolatier, I can attest that the chocolate is divine! My favorites being the Whiskey Truffles and Better Than Sex chocolates! There are two locations for Chocolaterie Amelie in Garmisch-Partenkirchen offering some of the most delicious chocolates in town from pralines to chocolate spreads and even chocolate gifts! If you are a hardcore chocolate fanatic and have a large group to enjoy learning and eating chocolate with, I would encourage you to request a date for their chocolate seminars where you'll be able to create and package your own chocolate while all becoming experts in the world of chocolate!
17. Stand Over the Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge * * * *
Test your fear of heights and walk across the longest tibet-style footbridge in world just 30 minutes from Garmisch-Partenkirchen! Highline 179 in Reutte, Austria is open 365 days a year, even on Christmas day when everything else in closed, you can get outdoors and hike to the bridge, walk across, and also check out some neat ruins at Ehrenberg. You can purchase tickets at the ticket machine on the bridge but it can only accept cash. If I remember correctly, both times I've been, I purchased the tickets at the souvenir shop. Adult tickets are 8 Euro and children from 4-14 would cost only 5 Euro.
18. Castle and Palace Hopping * * * *
I saved the best for last because, well, who doesn't enjoy checking out some gorgeous Bavarian Castles? Near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you can visit King Ludwig II's fairy tale castles in Schwangau and in Ettal. The most famous of them all would be the Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau which is about 45 minutes away from Garmisch. Personally, I absolutely adored Linderhof Palace in Ettal and would recommend to see all three castles in a day. You can purchase the Bavarian Castle pass with combination option of entering all three castles. It's highly suggested to book ahead of time, especially because the Neuschwanstein Castle will have visitors from all around the world to see this spectacular castle! I would probably even go as far as saying this castle is the most popular and most crowded in all of Europe so if you're expecting to have the castle for yourself, thing again! I've been about 4 times and each time (different times of the year, even on Christmas day), there were loads of busses dropping off large groups of tourists. At the end of the day, the castles are still very beautiful, even Hohenschwangau where most people forget about.
I surely hope this seasonal guide can help you plan your next trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and if you've done anything here as listed, shoot me a message and let me know what you thought about it! If there's something I forgot to mention, I would love to try it out on my next trip to Garmisch!