Seeing the German Alps has always been a dream of ours. We therefore decided to stay in the Bavarian village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a rustic ski town on the border of Austria. We rented a car and drove to the destination via the autobahn – a harrowing experience to say the least, but a must-do.
Garmisch- Partenkirchen is about 90 minutes south of Munich. The architecture alone made this alpine town unique, boasting a mix of gothic, timber-framed buildings and Bavarian-styled homes, with beautifully painted exteriors. The Bavarians were extremely friendly, and they loved their outdoor market gatherings, music, specialty drinks and athletics. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is known for hosting the 1936 winter olympics, and it continues to be a hub for winter sports today.
We stayed at the ATLAS Grand (http://www.atlas-grandhotel.com/), which was centrally located. At about 160$ per night, it provided a delicious breakfast, stunning entryway and lobby, extremely friendly and helpful staff, alpine views, and paneled rooms that were rustic and comfortable. It was also centrally located and very near the bustling Christmas market.
The ATLAS Grand was on the main drag, lined with cobblestones, painted buildings, and in the center of an old-school Christmas market which provided live Christmas tunes, delicious food stands, flaming gluehwein and a local favorite, zirb’n schnaps, made from high-elevation pine sap! This was our 6pm destination every night. After a day of site-seeing, we would leave our room and walk out the door into the Christmas Market, where dozens of locals gathered every night with their friends and children to listen to music, drink festive libations, and eat the savory food-stand fare.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen was originally two separate cities. The ATLAS Grand is in Partenkirchen, the “Old Town”. The hotel provided a free bus pass, which allowed us to travel to the newer, more posh section of Garmisch, where there were designer shops, an ice rink in the market center, and high end (but still totally affordable) restaurants. The food was better in Garmisch, so we would suggest bringing your appetites across town. We ate at Alpenhof – which we both agreed was one of the best meals we’ve ever had. Earle had the weinersnitchel, which was decadent.
Perhaps Garmisch-Partinkirshen’s most extraordinary attraction was Zugspitze, an alpine ski resort accessed only by a tunneling cogwheel train direct from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, or two, panoramic glacier cable cars at the alpine base. The cable car was an experience in and of itself – it would make even the bravest of adventurers week in the knees.
Zugspitze is Germany’s highest peak in the Alps, with a near 10,000 ft summit that offers snow 6 months of the year. Its panoramic views, treeless peaks, and versatile terrain left us wonderstruck.
Zugspitze has a 5698 ft vertical drop with over 12 miles of natural snow pistes, while its’ connecting mountain, the Garmisch Classic, offers skiers 25 more miles of terrain. With views spanning 4 different countries, skiing could not have been more aesthetically stunning.
After a day of skiing, we decided to visit Neuschwanstein, Germany’s most iconic fairytale castle. It lies about an hour from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and the travel was enjoyable as we passed through stunning alpine villages burrowed between immense, unrivaled mountain peaks.
Towering over the ancient town of Füssen, Neuschwanstein, or New Swan Stone castle, is accessible by either horse and carriage or a 30 minute hike. The carriage ride was about 6$ per person, and on a cold day was well worth it! Nestled well over 3,000 feet in the in the northern alps, the views are so beautiful, they even inspired Tchaikovsky’s music for the ballet swan lake. Make sure to book a tour ahead of time, since they sell out early almost every day.
There are some places that you leave, but they say with you. Bavaria was one of them.