9 Top Things to Do in Mittenwald, Germany

Mittenwald, Bavaria, Germany

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Located along the Austrian border, Mittenwald is the home to charming cobbled streets, mountain landscapes, and the art of crafting classical instruments. Visitors may feel like they are on the set of "The Sound of Music," walking its storybook lanes with houses straight out of a fairy tale, all in view of the Alps. 

Though the peaks aren't quite as impressive as the Olympic-famous Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the crowds (and prices) are much easier to handle and the feeling of Gemütlichkeit is palpable. This idyllic mountain hideaway is just under two hours from Munich and easily accessible by road or train.

01 of 09

Traverse the Leutaschklamm

Woman hiking in Leutasch Gorge

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6105, Austria

Whichever direction you walk from Mittenwald, photo-worthy scenery is just around the corner. If you head south about 2 miles, you'll reach the Leutaschklamm, or Leutasch Gorge. This massive ravine straddles the border between Austria and Germany, so you'll pass through the two countries as you navigate the wooden pathways built into the rock walls with the Leutascher Ache river flowing underneath you. It's one of the steepest ravines in the Alps and offers something different every season of the year, so there's no bad time to visit Leutaschklamm. If you get hungry, stop at the restaurant Ederkanzel inside the park—the dining room and bathrooms are in Germany, but the open-air terrace is technically on Austrian soil.

02 of 09

Explore the Historic Mountain Altstadt

Germany, Bavaria, Mittenwald, Pedestrian area
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Obermarkt 24, 82481 Mittenwald, Germany
Phone +49 8823 937990

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had a way with words and called this village, popular since the Middle Ages, "a picture book come alive." What to do in Mittenwald need not be more complicated than just going for a stroll.

Once a wealthy town as a stopping point for goods going to Venice, the town was mostly frozen in time. Walk through the charming Altstadt (old town) where a babbling brook still runs through the center. On its main street, Obermarkt, beautifully painted façades known as Lüftlmalerei decorate the houses. Some date back 250 years and these painted illusions add architectural elements to the otherwise plain buildings. They also tell the story of the town with scenes showing the profession of the house owner, festivals, and religious vignettes.

03 of 09

Step Into the City's Holiest Building

Interior of Mittenwald Church

Gina Pricope / Getty Images

Matthias-Klotz-Straße 2, 82481 Mittenwald, Germany
Phone +49 8823 92290

In the main square of the town center is the iconic 14th century St. Peter und Paul Church. Because of its high-reaching belltower and intricately painted frescoes, the church is one of the most important landmarks in Mittenwald—not to mention how old it is. The original structure was built in 1315 with the current design from Josef Schmuzer dating from the mid-1700s. It serves almost 6,000 parishioners as well as the numerous tourists who step inside to admire the golden baroque decor. Listen for the bells which ring throughout the town on the hour.

04 of 09

Conquer the Karwendel

Hiker enjoying view, Karwendel region
Manuel Sulzer / Getty Images
82481 Mittenwald, Germany

Visitors to Mittenwald can't miss the impressive Karwendel Alps. This is the most extensive mountain range of the Northern Limestone Alps, and Mittenwald is a great base from which to explore.

Hikers will rejoice in the mountain paths that lead up to the peaks, but for the rest of us, there is the Karwendelbahn (cable car). Taking just 10 minutes, it carries 25 people from 913 to 2,244 meters where they can find Germany’s highest nature information center. Bergwelt Karwendel offers an exhibit on the area with nature films and information on the local environment, as well as a comically oversized telescope with views reaching much further than the eye can see, like that of the Isartal river valley about 1,300 meters below.

An easy circular hour walk (even fit for children) leaves from the center and allows people to put one foot in Germany, one in Austria. Panoramic views stretch to the horizon on a good day, and this is the perfect place to watch the sunset.

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05 of 09

Ski the Alps

Germany, Bavaria, Senior woman doing cross-country skiing with Karwendal mountains in background
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82481 Mittenwald, Germany

The popular summer hiking trails turn into some of the best ski slopes in Bavaria once the first winter snow falls. There are downhill runs for skiing and snowboarding as well as miles of trails for cross-country skiing. The biggest ski resort in the area is Kranzberg with eight lifts and nearly 10 miles of runs. You can even ski into Austria through an intricate network of trails that connect the area with the Seefeld ski resort across the border. This is one of Germany's longest ski routes and offers challenges for the advanced ski or snowboarder.

06 of 09

Listen to the Music in the Village of a Thousand Violins

Geigenbaumuseum (Violin Making Museum) in Mittenwald
Ballenhausgasse 3, 82481 Mittenwald, Germany
Phone +49 8823 2511

Mittenwald offers more than just oom-pah music. It is known as the "Village of a Thousand Violins" for its famed son, Matthias Klotz, who brought the art of making divine instruments back to Mittenwald. After studying under the masters in Italy, he returned to the village in 1684 and carried on the tradition by mentoring violin makers. He stared with his brothers, but soon half of the men in the village were at work crafting violins. The location was ideal for good-quality wood and Mittenwald became a cultural hot spot.

The Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald (Violin Making Museum) was founded in 1930. The displays highlight the craft of violin making and its development as it ties into the village of Mittenwald. Here visitors will find samples of violins throughout the ages, and tempt their senses by hearing, seeing, and even smelling the instruments. This is the perfect rainy day activity.

To celebrate the town's cultural contribution, there is an annual violin building contest each June with concerts and lectures. 

07 of 09

Watch the Cows Come Home

Cow dressed for Almabtrieb festival in Germany
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The alpine tradition of the cows' coming home after a summer in the highlands is a highlight in many Bavarian towns, including Mittenwald. Known as Almabtrieb in this region, it is indeed a spectacle to watch hundreds of cows clang through the narrow village streets (just don't try tipping them!).

Arrive early to catch the Kranzkuh, an elaborately decorated lead cow with a wreath of alpine flowers, cross, and a mirror. The following cows wear their bells to ward off evil spirits. Also included in the parade are traditional alpine horn blowers, Goaslschnalzer (whip dancers) and Schuhplattler (shoe slappers). The event usually takes place in mid-September, although it is subject to weather conditions.

08 of 09

Say "Prost" at Mittenwald Brewery

Beer garden in Bavaria
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Innsbrucker Str. 13, 82481 Mittenwald, Germany
Phone +49 8823 1007

Food and beer are an essential part of visiting any German town, and Mittenwald is no exception. Take advantage of the many traditional restaurants in Mittenwald, but don't miss the local Mittenwalder Brewery. They are proud of their distinction as Germany’s highest brewery with impressive views to prove it. Their 10 types of beer follow the traditional purity law known as Reinheitsgebot and the same family has run the brewery since 1864.

Visit the hilltop brewery for a drink or join one of the tours to find out more about beer making in Bavaria, which needless to say includes a tasting at the end. Tours primarily take place in the tourist season of May to October.

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09 of 09

Take a Day Trip to Germany's Most Famous Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle
Jan Starcke / EyeEm / Getty Images
Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany
Phone +49 8362 930830

One of the most famous castles in the world and one of the top attractions in all of Germany is an easy day trip excursion from Mittenwald. The dreamy Neuschwanstein Castle is just about an hour and a half away by car and a must-see stop if you're in the area. The castle isn't as old as other palaces in the country—it was constructed in 1869—but the quintessential fairytale design is so magical that it served as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland.

The route to the castle passes through the mountains, so be sure to drive carefully since the roads are often icy.

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9 Top Things to Do in Mittenwald, Germany