Visit one of Bavaria's must-see destinations - Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany
Germany

First Timers to Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Top Things to Do

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a great place to explore southern Germany. Located on the border of Germany and Austria, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the quintessential Bavarian town. If you love the mountains, then this is the best place to be! Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze, towers over this alpine town. Expect this area to be a popular spot for sports enthusiasts all-year round with world-class skiing in the winter and spectacular hiking and biking in the summer.

With a rich history, culture, and natural setting, along with many great day trip options, here are the top things to do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. 

About Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The Ultimate Driving Route through the German Alps takes you through the most picturesque views

Grüß Gott, or God Greets you, is the common greeting you will hear in this region. Garmisch and Partenkirchen were once two separate towns. They joined to become one shortly before the 1936 Winter Olympics. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, known as Ga-Pa for short, has two distinct feels still to this day. Garmisch, in the west, is trendy and urban. While Partenkirchen, in the east, retains its old world Bavarian charm.

Local Bavarians are very proud of their culture and traditions. Expect the majority to wear lederhosen (for men) and dirndl (for women). If you find yourself on the trails in the mountains you likely to hear the echo of alphorns being played and yodeling in the local beer hall. It’s all part of the quintessential alpine experience.  

Top Things to Do

Zugspitze

Visit Germany's highest peak, Zugspitze in Garmisch-Partnerkirchen.

An absolute must is to visit Germany’s highest peak – Zugspitze at 2,962 metres. Popular all year-round with skiers in the winter followed by hikers in the summer – this is one of the biggest draws of this area.

If you are looking to just take in the dramatic scenery at the summit, there are two ways you can do that. Take the Bayerischen Zugspitzbahn, a cog railway or the Gletscherbahn cable car. Or, you may choose to purchase the Zugspitze Round Trip which combines both for the total mountain experience. At the top, the Zugspitzplatt, there is a plateaued area for viewing, for exploring the glaciers and a few restaurants.  Is it worth the high cost of admission? Absolutely! On a clear day you can see up to 250 kilometres away. So, be sure to plan around the weather forecast. 

Lake Eibsee

Lake Eibsee with Zugspitze mountains in southern Germany

Walk around Lake Eibsee, one of Germany’s most beautiful lakes, and take in the magical views. The deep emerald green colour is incredible. Lake Eibsee is easy to visit either before or after taking the Zugspitze cable car. 

The Partnach Gorge

The river in Partnach Gorge of mountains in Bavaria, Germany The river in Partnach Gorge of mountains in Bavaria, Germany . partnach gorge stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Only three kilometres southeast of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is Partnachklamm, the Partnach Gorge. This dramatic and rocky gorge on the Partnach river is 702 metres long and reaches depths of more than 80 metres.

Just six kilometres southwest of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is another notable gorge, Höllentalklamm. Trails lead to and around the summit of 1,045 metres, including a track that can be followed through numerous tunnels and over bridges to the end of the gorge.

AlpspiX

Viewing platform at the mountain station Alpspitze Viewing platform at the mountain station Alpspitze, Garmische-Partenkirchen, Germany alpspix stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

AlpspiX consists of two crossed steel beams that cantilever in an X formation from the edge of a cliff. It allows you to stand in the mid-air, atop a vertical drop of about 1,000 metres. Here you will have panoramic views of Alpine peaks: the Zugspitze, Waxensteine, and the impressive Alpspitze north face. Plan your visit and combine it with visiting Zugspitze as it is in close proximity.

Old Town of Partenkirchen

The typical Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria Germany

The old town of Ga-Pa, found on Ludwigstrasse, has picturesque half-timbered houses. Most of the houses feature murals which are typical of the area, particularly along Frühlingstrasse. Look out for the Biedermeier frescoes on Gashof Husar and Polznkasparhaus, these are some of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the town. Leisurely stroll the unique shops and cafés and enjoy the Gemütlichkeit – which is a German saying for cozy, friendly atmosphere.

Historic Churches

The pilgrimage church in Garmisch-Partnerkirchen, Germany

Is there anything better than seeing a church steeple set up high in the mountains or deep in a valley surrounded by the Alps? These three churches are the most charming you’ll want to seek out. The New Parish Church, also known as St. Martin’s, rises from Ga-Pa 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.

Biking in the Alps

Visit one of Bavaria's must-see destinations - Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany

Venture out and explore the Zugspitze region on bike. Yes, that’s right! Rent an electronic bike and you can travel long distances, even up steep mountains almost effortlessly, leaving you free to enjoy the sights and scenery along the way. Pedal through the picture-perfect countryside and discover the uniqueness of the local culture and nature that make the Bavarian Alps so popular. E-bikes are available for rent at many places throughout the region. 

Day Trip Options

Mittenwald

old town of mittenwald mittenwald, germany - april 10: people in the famous old town of mittenwald, bavaria/germany on april 10, 2018 mittenwald stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

This quintessential Alpine town is only 15 minutes from Ga-Pa.  The entire area surrounding is known for its incredible hiking and trekking trails. Here you will find cute painted houses with flower boxes, fields of wildflowers, mirror lakes and even some waterfalls. Take a stroll through this tiny town and rest at one of the delicious cafés.  

Oberammergau

Visit Oberammergau Germany a picturesque alpine town in the area of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

This fairy-tale town is only 25 minutes from Ga-PaSince 1520, Oberammergau has celebrated the art of wood carving. Spread throughout the small town you will see evidence of this amazing handicraft. Another prominent feature of this town is the sight of the frescoes in the Parish Church St. Peter and Paul, as well as the Lüftlmalerei the mural paintings adorning the town’s buildings.

Nauschwanstein

Nauschwanstein castle in Germany

This iconic castle is one hour from Ga-Pa. Set on a rock cliff against the backdrop of the Bavarian Alps stands the fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle. Construction of the castle for Bavarian King Ludwig II begun in 1868, but it was never fully completed. Built and furnished in medieval styles but equipped with the latest technology of the day, it is the most famous castle in the world.

Munich

Visit Munich, Germany's 3rd largest city.

Germany’s third largest city, is only an hour away. This city is brimming with attractions that could keep you busy for weeks. If you are there for a day, try and catch the city’s highlights, including the historic square of Marienplatz, Frauenkirche, Residenz, and the English Garden. 

Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck Austria, a alpine town full of year-round activities.

Yes, only an hour away is Innsbruck! All around, towering over you, are the mountains. The jagged rock spires of the Nordkette range are incredibly majestic and are your backdrop for this beautiful alpine town. Being surrounded by ski slopes during the winter and mountainous hiking trails during the summer makes this a must-see destination for any adventurous traveller. Visitors to Innsbruck will be treated to a fairy tale old town chock-full of 13th to 14th century Baroque and Gothic architecture. This magical place makes for the perfect day trip. 

As a holidaymaker…

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the perfect base to experience everything this area has to offer. This is not simply a day trip destination, plan to spend at least a weekend at minimum to all that the region has to offer.  

Visit the alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany
Visit the alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany

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47 Comments

  • Eric Gamble

    So we spent a ton of time in Innsbruck & Munich because really wanted to do some mountain adventures in the Stubai Alps of Tyrol. But I have no idea how we missed Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Heck we even spent a day exploring neuschwanstein castle. Ugh, I hate when I realize I missed out on an amazing location. Those mountains all around Ga-Pa as you put it look amazing! I think I would really want to return this this part of Bavaria during the Summer months to see more green and to really explore the lakes. Such a beautiful part of the world.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Oh no! How did you miss it! It’s such a beautiful area! Definitely worth revisiting for! We spent 5 days here, it made for a great home base to explore the entire area.

  • Chloe Beaver

    Wow, so amazing that all these sites are so close to each other! I’d love to visit here, especially to see Zugspitze. Stunning views and natural landscapes.

  • Jane

    This is exactly how I see Bavaria in my mind’s eye! Just looks so characterful. I would love to ski Zugspitze, although I do not normally associate Germany with skiing. I’m with you on the electronic bikes by the way: just makes cycling so much more enjoyable in a hilly area and is a cycling is such a wonderful way to explore a landscape.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Hopefully one day you get to go and experience the best of what Germany has to offer!

  • Alice L. Ford

    What an absolutly stunning place. Partnach Gorge would be a must for me. I haven’t been to Germany since I was a teenager, and remember well visiting Neushweinstein and Innsbruck but sadly didn’t get out into the mountains.

  • Jeff Albom

    The area is very picturesque and sounds like a scene from The Sound of Music. WHile I like the charm of the old Bavarian side of the town, I would definitely head over to the AlpspiX for a look.

  • Linda (LD Holland)

    We have not yet made it to Germany. But Garmisch-Partenkirchen looks like a spot we might want to visit. The mountains and crystal clear mountain lakes like Lake Eibsee would certainly be a draw. Since we have no fear of heights, we would be right at the front of AlpspiX for those stunning views. With so many interesting day trips it would be worth staying for a few days. So cool that we could visit Munich and Innsbruk as day trips from there. A great option to staying in the city.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It sounds like this is trip is right up your alley! You won’t regret it! So much to see and do. We stayed 5 days and it was just enough time.

  • Riana Ang-Canning

    What a beautiful part of Europe! We drove through some of these spots when we were heading from Salzburg to Munich. I think we tried to see Lake Eibsee but got lost! But definitely reason to go back – especially to see the view from Germany’s highest peak!

  • Saurabh

    This is such a beautiful place. Its landscapes remind me of Kashmir and the housing reminds me of Amsterdam. The best of both worlds. Would love to explore the place. It has that peaceful vibe to it.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I’m glad it brought back some memories for you and hopefully you get a chance to explore it one day soon.

  • Shireen

    This place looks exactly like a scene from The Sound of Music and I’m all for it! I’ve never heard of Lake Eibsee but it looks beautiful and now I really want to visit and I’d combine it with a trip to see Neuschwanstein Castle too, because wow!!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Well, I hope you get to visit, because as you said… it’s a Wow kinda destination!

  • Barry

    As you say, this is a perfect base to vist the surrounding area. The streets/buildings in the old part of town look idylic. The moutains must be a huge pull for tourists as I can see they would rival similar views to those in Switzerland and Austria. Germany is one country I have visited only a little – Berlin and Postdam for 3 days several years ago – so it might be time for me to travel further south on my next visit there. The mountains would be a definite reason to go to this area for me.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Hopefully you are able to return one day and make this one of your destinations to explore.

  • Emma

    Gorgeous looking location. This seems like the perfect place for anyone who loves the outdoors, and cute little towns. I’m not sure you’d get me on that AlpspiX though. Love the idea of an e bike rental though.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Definitely I got he affects of the altitude sickness when I went to Zugspitze but it was worth it for the views! Renting e-bikes was my favourite thing to do, we rode all the way through the trails in Germany and Austria with the Alps always in our view.

  • Umiko

    Everything about this area is fantastic! But I really like the Partnach Gorge and it’s only 3 km from town. I would also like to rent an electric bike and explore the country side. Very beautiful!

  • Raksha

    My very good friend from college lives in Germany and she has been inviting me for long. I will ensure I go to Garmisch-Partenkirchen when I visit her as I would love to go to Zugspitze. I love those views of the mountains. It is so stunning. The landscapes remind me of Switzerland for sure. The lush greenery is something I am always in for.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Yes, you’ll have to plan a visit with your friend. Lots to see and do and great spot to make lasting memories.

  • Subhashish Roy

    Seeing this post I repent why while in Austria couple of summers back we didn’t plan for Germany too visiting the Bavarian region. Experiencing Zugspitze, would have been such a great thing to do. Garmisch-Partenkirchen would certainly feature in our German plans whenever we can travel again. Love the landscapes there and the feel of the mountains. With so many day trips also closeby it should be a fascinating experience. Oberammergau & Nauschwanstein both look very appealing.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It definitely makes a great home base for several days to explore the surrounding area.

  • Bhushavali N

    Absolutely gorgeous. Looks totally like my kinda place to visit. From here in Brussels, Garmisch could be a good weekend trip option. Majority of people still wear their traditional clothing? Wow. That’s awesome. Hearing the sounds of echo of alphorns and yodeling? I’m just more and more attracted to experience this. Being the highest peak, I’d definitely plan a trip on a clear day in summer so I can see the views afar. AlpspiX sounds super cool. I’ll experience the call of the void there.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      It definitely sounds like this would be a destination worth going to as it checks all your boxes. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Agnes

    This summer we plan to visit Germany in our van. So, I add Garmisch-Partenkirchen to my list as a great place to explore southern Germany. I enjoy your tips. We love mountains, and we hike a lot, so it seems to be a perfect idea for a trip. I would love to see Germany’s highest peak – Zugspitze, as it impressive 2,962 meters. Walk around Lake Eibsee seems a great idea with lots of photo opportunities. The Partnach Gorge is fabulous too. I hope to go there soon.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      How exciting Agnes! You won’t regret it, it’s a fantastic area! The scenery is incredible, and there is so much to see and do! Enjoy your trip!

  • JoJo Hall

    This area looks so beautiful! You’d never think an area can be this beautiful and hold so many treasures. The next time I’m in Germany I have to explore the area!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      You’ll definitely have to! And it’s only an hour from Munich which means you can visit Hofbrauhaus again!

  • Mike

    That’s so fascinating the Olympics brought these towns together–and yet they still remain so distinct. i can see why they hosted the games there–those mountains are incredible! I’ve briefly been to Bavaria and this certianly makes me want to go back.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      The mountains are incredible! It’s one of the most scenic destinations I’ve been to, especially if you are a mountain lover!

  • Alma

    I would love to go back to Bavaria! This looks like a beautiful place to explore. I have been to Munich a few times and enjoy it there too. Great suggestions.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks for stopping by! Next time you visit Munich you will have to add this to your list.

  • Laureen Lund

    Oh gosh it’s been thirty years since I was here and I really want to go again. Great photos bring back great memories for me. Such a beautiful part of the world, cant wait to get out there and travel again soon!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I’m happy to know it brought back some great memories! Hopefully you’ll be able to return soon!

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