10 Best Things to Do in Garmisch, Germany

Golden morning light
Dennis Fischer Photography / Getty Images

Since two separate Bavarian towns joined to become one shortly before the 1936 Winter Olympics, Garmisch-Partenkirchen has become one of Europe's top winter sports destinations. Located on the border of Germany and Austria, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the quintessential Bavarian town. Yodelling, slap dancing, and Lederhosen are all featured in this German town to end all German towns. Garmisch (in the west) is trendy and urban, where Partenkirchen (in the east) retains old-school Bavarian charm. Despite the town's reputation for world-class skiing, it also features spectacular hiking in the summer months and a whole host of other things to do.

01 of 10

Take a Dip in the Waters of Eibsee

Kayaks on Lake Eibsee
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Eibsee, 82491 Grainau, Germany

Eibsee has been called one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Germany, and it's easy to see why. The turquoise water looks like a mirror, gorgeously reflecting the surrounding mountains off its crystalline surface. Hiking around the lake is a popular activity throughout the year, but summer is the best time for enjoying the water. You can kayak, paddleboard, or swim in Eibsee, although the alpine lake is very cold even in the middle of summer. But after hiking around in the hot sun, nothing is more refreshing than a quick dip in the lake.

Eibsee is only about a 10-minute drive from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and there are buses that leave from the town's train station. There is also a cable car that leaves from Eibsee to the summit of Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak.

02 of 10

Hike to a Royal Villa

King's House on Schachen, Wetterstein range, Upper Bavaria, Germany
Dreet Production / Getty Images
Unnamed Road 82467, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Phone +49 8822 92030

The remote King's House on Schachen is a small royal chalet that can only be reached by hiking about 7 miles from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was constructed by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century and, while it isn't elaborate as his other palaces like Neuschwanstein, the scenic hike and unbeatable views make it a worthwhile excursion (you're also unlikely to encounter many other tourists). Attached to the home is an alpine botanical garden that features plants and flowers from mountain ranges around the world, and a quaint mountaintop cafe serves snacks and drinks to enjoy while taking in the views.

03 of 10

Explore Germany's Highest Peak

Cable Car At The Zugspitze, German Alps

Andre Kruger / EyeEm / Getty Images

82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

While Garmisch-Partenkirchen is full of lovely things in its own right, it is also a popular base to explore Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak. It is a favorite for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer. Visitors can access its 2,962-meter (9,718 ft) summit by cogwheel train or cable car. The cogwheel train stops at Zugspitzplatt, a plateau with glaciers and caves, before continuing to the top on the Gletscherbahn aerial cable car. Note that it can be quite crowded in peak seasons.

Once you reach the top, you can admire a 360-degree panorama of 400 mountain peaks that span four different countries (on a clear day). Recharge with a bite and beer at one of the mountain-top restaurants and no matter the time of year, bring a warm jacket.

04 of 10

Yodel Through the Old Town

Old Town Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Jon Boyes / Getty Images

Old town Garmisch-Partenkirchen fulfills all your German fantasies. Picturesque half-timbered houses display murals typical of the area, particularly along Frühlingstrasse. Look for the Biedermeier frescoes on Gashof Husar and Polznkasparhaus, some of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the town. Enjoy the Gemütlichkeit (cozy, friendly atmosphere) and embrace the need to yodel as you walk along the banks of the River Loisach.

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05 of 10

Walk Amongst the Waterfalls

Dennis K. Johnson / Getty Images
Partnach Gorge, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Leave the Alpine cityscape for some eye-popping nature that goes down, not up. The Partnach Gorge is a narrow, half-mile long ravine with walls rising over 250 feet. It was designated a natural monument in 1912. Waterfalls cascade around you, except in wintertime when they freeze in place like a scene from Game of Thrones. Visitors can walk the path on their own, or take a guided hike. It is open all year with extended hours in summer and excluding a short period in spring when melting snow makes the route impassable.

06 of 10

Enjoy the Snow Like an Olympian

Skier, Zugspitze, Germany, Europe
Ted Levine / Getty Images
82475 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Garmisch-Partenkirchen has been a favorite of ski champions from the 1936 Olympic Games to International Alpine Ski Championships, but that doesn't prevent ordinary folk from enjoying it, too. Runs on Zugspitze are open from October through May, which includes more than 35 miles of downhill ski runs, 40 ski lifts, and over 100 miles of cross-country ski trails. If you are more of a spectator, visit during the week of races every January. And the winter fun isn't just for those on ski or snowboard: There are also two toboggan runs to delight every age group.

07 of 10

Immerse Yourself in Alpine History

Werdenfels Museum in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Werdenfels Museum
Ludwigstraße 47, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Phone +49 8821 751710

Visit the Werdenfels Museum, one of the most renowned cultural sites in all of Bavaria, for the story behind this region. Held within a merchant's house, it is full of impressive private collections. Started in 1895, the museum has a whole exhibition of unique local items, including peasant folk art by Alpine farmers, early archaeological findings, and a Carnival mask room.

08 of 10

Honor the Writer of The Neverending Story


City of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

82467, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

The Michael-Ende Kurpark pays tribute to one of Germany's most famous 20th-century storytellers, Michael Ende. Ende wrote the timeless classic of "The Neverending Story," and Garmisch-Partenkirchen was his hometown. Located in the middle of town, this park is a restful respite from all the more challenging activities. Walk through the flowers, find your way through the maze, or relax in the shade of ancient trees. For a bit of entertainment, watch the calendar for live concerts. Step back inside to discover the Kurhaus, or spa house, where there is a permanent display on Michael Ende as well as changing exhibits.

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09 of 10

Make a Pilgrimage to a Mountain Church

Garmisch-Partenkirchen during winter with church of Sankt Martin, Bavaria, Germany

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Marienpl. 6, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Phone +49 8821 9439140

Being so high up in the mountains can feel like being in a holy place. These three churches will confirm that feeling. The New Parish Church, also known as St. Martin's, rises from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to touch the sky. Built in 1733, it has an intricate Baroque interior.  Alte Pfarrkirche translates to "Old Parish Church," as it should with an origin in the 15th-century. Go inside and admire the Gothic wall paintings. Meanwhile, St. Anton, a pilgrimage church, offers the best of mountain landscapes outside and heavenly ceiling paintings inside. On the building itself, impressive pastel frescoes are featured. It dates back to 1704.

10 of 10

Practice Your Ski Jump

Olympic Ski Jump Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Alexander Hassenstein / GettyImages

Karl-und Martin-Neuner-Platz, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Phone +49 8821 180700

The Olympiaschanze, or Olympic ski jumping hill, is a landmark for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was built in 1923 and has undergone multiple renovations that keep it operational and inspirational. This spectacular setting is ideal to enjoy the winter landscape, standing above the snow-clad valley like Olympians before you. The site was used for the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies in 1936 and still runs a New Year's ski jump every year.

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10 Best Things to Do in Garmisch, Germany