Bavaria’s Hidden Gem: 12 Best Things to Do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

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Zugspitze, Germany

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, is one of those places that people become absolutely obsessed with once they know it exists. However, you’ve likely never heard of it.

Many people overlook Garmisch-Partenkirchen as an outdoor recreational epicenter, instead favoring its Austrian neighbor Innsbruck. However, the twin towns are filled to the brim with unique and interesting things to do.

Part of what makes Garmisch-Partenkirchen so unique is its combined American-German influence. With a United States military installation in the center of Garmisch, it’s an incredibly accessible recreational area for English speakers.

Don’t think Americans’ presence diminishes this hidden gem’s authenticity. It’s quite the opposite.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen has a truly international culture while still brimming with traditional Bavarian culture. It seems contradictory, I know. But it’s part of what makes it so special.

This article will break down the very best things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. By the end of your experience in Garmisch-Partenkirche, you’ll have fallen deeply in love and be itching to return for years to come.

Oh! Don’t forget to secure your travel insurance before heading out on your adventure to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Insurance is especially important if you’re planning on any winter sports.

TL;DR

Things to Do Description
Visit Zugspitze Germany’s highest peak offering hiking, skiing, and panoramic views.
Explore Partnach Gorge Scenic gorge with hiking trails and a waterfall.
Walk around Eibsee Beautiful lake located at the base of Zugspitze.
Skiing at Garmisch-Classic Popular ski resort with various slopes and a scenic view.
Visit Bavarian Alps Mountain range offering hiking, climbing, and nature observation opportunities.

Top Things to Do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

River in Garmisch-Partenkirche, Germany
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

Ready? Let’s explore the top things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. These activities will immerse you in a special blend of traditional Bavarian charm and vibrant outdoor mountain life!

1. Ride the Zugspitze Cable Car

Zugspitze Ski Area Ski Lift
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

Address: Am Eibsee 6, 82491 Grainau, Germany

If you only have time for one activity on your trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a cable car ride up to Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, is a must. The 1,000-meter-long, 10-minute ride on the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG will treat you to amazing views of the Wetterstein Mountains.

There is plenty of parking in the Zugspitze lot, and you can purchase a ticket for the cable cars inside via a kiosk. However, only go up the cable car if it is a clear day. As the Zugspitze sits at 9,718 feet, a cloudy day will overtake the viewing deck, making it impossible to see the surrounding mountains.

Of course, if it is cloudy, you can still enjoy a visit to Germany’s highest church, the Mariä Himmelfahrt Chapel. The structure has gained a reputation as a pilgrimage church for Roman Catholics.

In addition to a mountain viewing deck, gift shop, and restaurant, visitors can find hiking trails and winter sports opportunities. During the colder months, families find endless winter activities like renting sleds to take their children down groomed sledding trails.

Instead of taking the cable car back down, visitors can ride the historic cogwheel train back to the parking lot–or take it all the way into town! The same ticket you used on the cable car works for the cogwheel train–no need to purchase another.

2. Ski at Both Premiere Winter Sports Destinations

Beverage in Zugspitze
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a ski season paradise. The two main ski areas are the Zugspitze Ski Area and Garmisch Classic.

The Zugspitze ski area offers over 12 miles of alpine skiing opportunities, while the Garmisch Classic offers nearly 25 miles of ski terrain. A highlight of the Garmisch Classic is the Alpspitz, which the Alpspitzbahn cable car takes you to.

The ski runs atop the Alpspitz and offers top-tier mountain views of the nearby Austrian border. Plus, there’s a traditional cafe where you can refuel with a Helles or cappuccino.

Of course, you don’t have ski culture without ski apres culture. After a day on the slopes, experience the best Garmisch-Partenkirchen has to offer with a Garmisch Historical Pub Crawl.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern Germany

3. Hike the Bavarian Alps

Hikers in Bavarian Alps
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

The Bavarian Alps in Germany are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. With over 83 hiking trails in the Garmisch–Partenkirchen area alone, hikers have seemingly endless options

The Partnach Gorge has been all over social media with its impressive, narrow gorge walls. The Partnach Gorge is a 4.4-mile out-and-back trail rated as moderately challenging.

If you’re looking for a bigger challenge than the Partnach Gorge, the Höllental Gorge offers similar views along a 10.7-mile loop. Of course, there are 81 other trails to choose from that offer jaw-dropping views of beautiful lakes, Germany’s highest mountain, and other top attractions.

4. Relax at Lake Eibsee

Sunrise in Eibsee Lake, Bavaria, Germany
Andrew Mayovskyy / Adobe Stock

Address: 82491 Grainau, Germany

Lake Eibsee is a recreational area beloved by locals and visitors alike. It’s even walking distance from the cable car leading up the mountain to the Zugspitze.

Those visiting can enjoy a 4.6-mile loop trail around the Alpine lake. Or, enjoy exploring the eight islands scattered around the lake by renting a boat or stand-up paddle board during the summer months. Swimming is also allowed in the lake. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll be surrounded by stunning views of the German Alps.

See Related: Best Lakes in Germany to Visit

5. Watch an Olympic Ski Jump

Great Olympic Hill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

Address: Karl-und Martin-Neuner-Platz, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

The Great Olympic Hill (Große Olympiaschanze) was originally constructed for the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany. Today, the ski jump is used for professional events like the New Year’s ski jumping celebration and the Ski Jumping World Cup.

If you happen to be in town during one of these events, book a ticket to watch from the Olympic ski stadium. It’s well worth the price!

Even if you can’t catch an event, you can still visit the complex and climb to the top of the ski jump tower for amazing views of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the surrounding mountains. Visitors can also participate in a bobsled ride down the Olympic bobsleigh track in the summer months.

6. Take a Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

Address: Neuschwansteinstraße 20, 87645 Schwangau, Germany

One of the most popular day trips from Garmisch-Partenkirchen and all of Germany is about an hour’s drive to Neuschwanstein Castle. The Neuschwanstein Castle is the real-life fairytale castle that the Walt Disney logo was partially inspired by.

Today, visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour of the real fairytale castle built by King Ludwig II. Be sure to make reservations–these timed-entry slots fill up days in advance.

7. Visit the Richard Strauss Institute

Exhibit inside Richard Strauss Institut
Richard Strauss Institut / Facebook

Address: F4V5+63 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

If you’re a lover of all things music, a trip to the Richard Strauss Institute is a must-visit. This institute is dedicated to the famous German composer who lived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for over 40 years.

Visitors can explore the history of Strauss and his works through various exhibits and interactive displays. The institute also hosts concerts and events throughout the year, showcasing local musicians and talent from all across Germany.

Looking for a traditional place to rest your head nearby in the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen? Check out this sunny studio.

8. Explore the Old Town Streets of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Old Town Garmisch and Skyline
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

When you visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s essentially two towns united. Each of the towns has its own unique charm and character, making them both worth getting lost in.

Take a stroll through the old town streets of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and admire the traditional Bavarian-style architecture. Stop by local shops and boutiques for souvenirs or try some authentic German cuisine at one of the many mountain restaurants.

The Garmisch-Partenkirchen town center and surrounding areas were considered so beautiful that the United States Army constructed one of their recreational lodges for military families here. The Edelweiss Lodge and Resort is one of the most recognizable landmarks.

If you’re a Department of Defense I.D. holder, stop by and check out this fun American-German fusion in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Our favorite place to stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a traditional inn called Hotel Rheinischer Hof.

If you want to dive even further into the history of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, book a Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Private Guided Walking Tour. Check out the city’s tourism resources for even more unique and adventurous things to do around Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

9. Enjoy a Day Trip to Oberammergau

Oberammergau and skyline in Germany
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

One of the most popular day trips from Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the quick trip to Oberammergau. In addition to its scenic views, endless hiking trails, and traditional architecture, the town has been home to the world-famous Passion Play since 1634.

Visitors can still experience the town’s rich history in non-Passion Play years by visiting its various museums and historical sites. One of our favorite stops is visiting the Käthe Wohlfahrt store to pick up a new hard-carved ornament for the Christmas tree.

For those looking for a bit of adventure, my favorite mountain hike is the Kofel Spitze. While a steep climb, you’re rewarded with epic views (like the one above) of Oberammergau and the surrounding area.

10. Relax at the Michael-Ende-Kurpark

Statue at Michael-Ende-Kurpark in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Pixelteufel / Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Address: 82467, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

The Michael-Ende-Kurpak is a small but scenic park in the center of Garmisch. Named after the famous German author, this park features beautiful gardens, a small lake, and numerous benches to sit and take in the peaceful surroundings.

One unique feature of this park is the “Story Circle,” where visitors can sit and listen to audio recordings of Michael Ende’s famous stories, such as The Neverending Story and Momo. In addition to the Story Circle, several walking paths are throughout the park, making it a nice spot for a casual stroll or a picnic.

See Related: Best National & City Parks in Germany to Visit

11. Eat Dinner & See Bavarian Dancing at the Werdenfelser Hof

Interior of Werdenfelser Hof in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
Werdenfelser Hof / Booking.com

For an authentic Bavarian experience, dining at Werdenfelser Hof is a must-try. Not only do they serve delicious entrees, but they also showcase traditional Bavarian slap dances throughout the meal.

The atmosphere is upbeat and offers an unbeatable deep dive into Bavarian culture. Try their schnitzel – it’s to die for! For those looking for a central location to rest their head, the Werdenfelser Hof is also a boutique inn.

12. Après-Ski at Hexenkesselschneeba

Bombardino in Garmisch Classic Ski Area
Cait Kontalis / ViaTravelers

Address: Kreuzeck, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

If you’re visiting during ski season, a trip to the Hexenkesselschneebar for scenic views and drinks is worth a cable car ticket. The Hexenkesselschneebar is located off the Kreuzeckbahn cable car, so you don’t need to go skiing to visit.

It’s our favorite place to refuel between runs, enjoy some bumpin’ energy, and enjoy a Bombardino. If you want Après without the ski, the Hexenkesselschneebar is a great place to hang out and enjoy the sights.

Quick Tips for Visiting Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Downtown Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany
Sina Ettmer / Adobe Stock

Before you embark on your journey to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s essential to keep in mind a few critical travel tips to ensure you’re set up for success on your dream trip:

  1. Best Time to Visit: The ideal time to visit depends on your preferred activities. For skiing, visit during the winter months. If you enjoy hiking, the summer offers beautiful trails.
  2. Language: While many locals speak English, learning a few basic phrases in German is always appreciated.
  3. Currency: Germany uses the Euro as its currency. Make sure to have some cash on hand for smaller establishments that may not accept credit cards. On the ski slopes, many establishments only accept cash.
  4. Transport: The town is pedestrian-friendly. However, you can also make use of the local bus or train service to get around.
  5. Local Cuisine: Be sure to try local delicacies like Weisswurst, Pretzels, and Apfelstrudel. Most vendors only accept cash.
  6. Weather: Garmisch-Partenkirchen experiences cold winters and mild summers. Make sure to bring layers.

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Cait Kontalis
WRITTEN BY

Cait Kontalis

Cait is a Chicago-based Greek-American but spends most of her year floating around the globe. She holds a B.A. in Communications and a M.A. in Nonprofit Management. Her favorite destinations include visiting her homeland in Greece, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and wherever her partner is stationed abroad. Cait is also a powderhound, taking to ski slopes in the Rocky Mountains and throughout the country.

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