Munich Day Trips: Nature Edition

Alpine Peaks and Lakes Just Outside Munich

There is so much to love within Munich, it can be hard to remember the wonders that lie just beyond its borders. Alpine peaks and pristine lakes are within easy reach of the city center. These 9 alpine peaks and pristine lakes offer the best in Munich day trips for summer, winter, fall or spring.

  • 01 of 09
    Starnberg Lake Munich
    ••• Creative Commons: Allie Caulfield

    Only a 30 minute ride (or drive) from Munich, Lake Starnberg is the second largest lake in Bavaria. Once the playgound of royalty, it is now a favorite of the people.

    Take a swim, visit the 18th-century St.-Josef-Kirche, or just stroll the promenade. Those who want a better view of lakefront living can cruise the waters. There are tours of the lake that stop in Berg and Leoni among other small towns. Leoni is the home of Schloss Possenhofen, where beloved Princess Sissi grew up.

    Transportation: 30 minutes; By public transport - Frequent departures by the S-6 towards Tutzing; By car - A-95 Southwest
    Best Season: This destination is at its finest on a warm summer day.

  • 02 of 09
    Thumsee at Bad Reichenhall
    ••• Thumsee. R. Halfpaap

    Germans love a spa town and Bad Reichenhall is an elegant example. This alpine location at the base of the Alps has been famed for its salt mines the 12th century. Soothe any ailment of body or mind with the 24% saline content of the spas - the highest percentage in Europe.

    If you are in need of some excitement, go to Kurgarten where there is a Casino and bierhall in the park. Learn more about the town's history at the Alte Saline. Take a tour of the caves followed by an unusual exhibition on glass-blowing.

    Transportation: Just over 2 hours; By train - Regular service with a change required on some routes at Freilassing. Some trains split en route so confirm you are in the car heading for the destination of Berchtesgaden; By car - A-8 Southeast
    Best Season: Explore the spas and hiking in the warmer months and snow in winter.

  • 03 of 09
    Lindau in Bavaria
    ••• pululante

    An ideal German island destination, Lindau sits on lovely Lake Constance (known as Bodensee in Germany). Sunshine, sailing and swimming are the cornerstones of a Lindau vacation. Admire the Mangturm (13th century lighthouse) and Bavarian Lion that sit facing each other in the harbor.

    Transportation: 2-3 hours; By train - Almost hourly departures with local and faster EC trains; By car - A-96 Southwest. It is recommended to park on the mainland and cross onto the island by bridge.
    Best Season: Visit Lindau when the sun is shining and prepare for crowds on holidays and weekends.

  • 04 of 09
    Hitler's Eagle's Nest
    ••• Joao Maximo/Creative Commons

    Hitler's Kehlsteinhaus (or Eagle's Nest to English-speakers) absorbs most of the attention in Berchtesgarden, but it is far from the only thing to see. Along with epic mountain vistas, there is a postcard-worthy Schlossplatz (castle square) and charming Königssee. The Königliches Schloß Berchtesgaden was originally a monastery, once a summer home for the Wittelsbachs, and now open to tours by the public.

    Transportation: 3 hours; By train - Almost hourly departures with a change required on some routes at Freilassing. Some trains split en route so confirm you are in the car heading for Berchtesgaden; By car - A-8 Southeast to Bad Reichenhall exit, then take B-20.
    Best Season: This destination is worth visiting year-round. Bring a sweater even in warm weather as there can be a chill high in the mountains.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09
    Chiemsee Bavaria
    ••• Anna at

    Bavaria's largest lake is just north of the Alps. A fanciful steam train takes visitors from the train station to the Stock-Hafen Pier.

    There are two islands to explore which have a nunnery and a monastery (rightfully known as Frauenchiemsee and Herreninsel) plus an uninhabited Krautinsel. Most visitors choose "Men's Island" for the spectacular Herrenchiemsee. The dream castle of King Ludwig II, this lavish complex emulates Versailles.

    Transportation: One hour; By train - Regular train service to nearby Prien; By car - A-8, Bernau exit, follow signs to Prien
    Best Season: Visit Chiemsee from late May to September when all the attractions and transport are open.

  • 06 of 09
    Skiing in garmisch
    ••• GNTB/Geiger, Daniel

    The most famous ski slopes in Germany are located here. Used in the 1936 Winter Olympics, the two resorts feature over 45 miles of downhill runs and 7 miles of cross-country skiing. The town itself sits in the valley below the Zugspitze, Germany's highest point at nearly ten thousand feet.

    For less-saturated slopes, read about Skiing in Germany.

    Transportation: 90 minutes; By public transport - Almost hourly departures to Garmisch-Partenkirchen; By car - A-95 South
    Best Season: Ski the legendary slopes in winter or hike the trails during the summer months. Wait for clear skies anytime of year to make the ascent to the Zugspitze.

  • 07 of 09
    Mittenwald, Bavaria, Germany
    ••• Getty Images / Jon Boyes

    Located along the Austrian border, this is the home of forests, mountains and music. Matthias Klotz brought glory to his hometown by studying the art of violin making under the masters and bringing it back in 1684. Read about this history at the Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald.

    Walk the fairytale-like streets straight out of a Brothers Grimm story or make your way up the Karwendel Mountain by foot, by bike or by Karwendelbahn (cable car). Though the peaks aren't quite as impressive as its more famous counterpart at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the crowds are also much lighter.

    Transportation: Under 2 hours; By train - Almost hourly departures; By car - A-95 toward Garmisch-Partenkirchen, continue of the B-2
    Best Season: Enjoy the warm weather in summer and snow in winter.

  • 08 of 09
    Ammersee in Bavaria

    Much quieter than Lake Starnberg, Ammersee offers many of the same attractions. Some Germans choose to stay in quieter Ammersee versus bustling Munich, but most foreigners don't know to go here at all.

    Besides water sports and cruises, travelers can visit Archäologischen Parks or hike the woodlands to the monastery, Kloster Andech. Hikers are rewarded with a panoramic view.

    Transportation: 45 minutes; By public transport - Frequent departures by the S-5 to the last stop of Herrsching; By car - A-96 towards Landsberg, Oberpfaffenhofen exit, then follow signs to Herrsching.
    Best Season: This destination is at its finest on a warm summer day.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09
    Bavarian Forest
    ••• GNTB/DZT/Raab

    Climb 6,000 feet into the Bavarian Alps to visit Wendelstein. Müncheners have been making this trip since 1912 when the first alpine rail scaled its icy peaks.

    Transportation: 90 minutes; By train - several times every morning to Bayrischzell; By car - A-8 Southeast, Irschenberg exit, follow signs to Bayrischzell.
    Best Season: This destination can be visited year-round, but is best dressed in winter snows.