Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a wonderful small town located in Bavaria, Germany, was our home base for one solid week. From Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we frequently day tripped to Austria, Liechtenstein, and other destinations in Bavaria.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a great place from which to explore southern Germany. It is located in the German Alps, just a few miles from the border with Austria, which we visited quite a bit. With these mountains comes rain, particularly in the summer. It rained every day, usually in the afternoon, so we quickly learned to get sightseeing done early in the day.
Day Trips and Things to Do in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Day Trip to Liechtenstein
The first thing we did was to visit Liechtenstein, one of the world’s smallest countries. Liechtenstein is very low on the excitement meter when it comes to traveling. We stopped for coffee and did a little souvenir shopping before continuing our journey west into Switzerland. Here we visited the small and unheard of town of Buchs, for a tour of the fortress and a stroll through the town’s shopping district. We knew Liechtenstein wasn’t going to be the most exciting destination on our agenda, but when else in our lives are we going to be able to visit this very tiny country?
Best Thing to do in Garmisch with Kids
Life got much more exciting when we found a toboggan near our apartment. Garmisch-Partenkirchen was the site of the 1936 Winter Olympics, and we were able to climb the ski jump for great views of Garmisch, and take several runs on the toboggan ride. Tyler and Kara have been asking to visit an amusement park and this will have to do for now.
A Visit to Neuschwanstein
The best day of the week came when we visited Neuschwanstein and Zugspitze. This was our first day with blue skies (until late afternoon) so we tried to get as much out of it as possible.
Neuschwanstein, one of Germany’s most beautiful palaces, is located one hour west of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This is best visited first thing in the morning as it slowly fills up during the day with day trippers from Munich and surrounding towns.
The castle was smaller than we were expecting, but it was still very impressive. It was built by King Ludwig in the late 1800’s, so it is relatively modern. We took the quick, informative tour through the castle (Tyler and Kara hate walking around with tour groups but they did not mind this one).
The inside of the palace is beautiful. There was an ornately decorated throne room, fanciful woodwork and paintings, and splendid views out of the windows. King Ludwig did a fabulous job designing this castle. Unfortunately for him, he only lived in the castle for 172 days , until he was declared mentally unfit to rule and was removed from power. A few days later he and his psychiatrist were found dead in a lake. Their cause of death still remains a mystery today.
The palace was immediately turned into a museum and now thousands of people like ourselves get to enjoy Ludwig’s vision and sense of style. Walt Disney liked Neuschwanstein so much that his design for Cinderella’s castle in Walt Disney World is based on this castle.
Best Views of Neuschwanstein
From the castle we walked to Mary’s Bridge for postcard views of the castle. It was a tight fit on a narrow bridge, with people from all over the world trying to take family photos with one of Germany’s most iconic sites in the background.
This view of Neuschwanstein is beautiful, but the view I wanted, the ones pictured on postcards, comes from another viewpoint. We climbed up the mountains overlooking Neuschwanstein, finding a wonderful picnic spot, and later enjoying awesome views of the scenery here. This trail took us too high over Neuschwanstein for the the view I wanted, which I later learned was only accessible with hot air balloon. So much for that idea!
Zugspitze, the Highest Peak in Germany
After getting our fill of Neuschwanstein, we drove 45 minutes into Austria for a cable car trip up Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. This mountain sits on the border between Austria and Germany, and can be accessed via cable car from both. Austria’s cable car costs less per person and it is less crowded than Germany’s cable car.
In ten minutes the cable car took us from the valley to the peak of Zugspitze. We stepped out of the cable car into very chilly air. The four of us wandered between the Austrian and German sides of Zugspitze, enjoying views stretching out over the Alps all the way to Switzerland. It was amazing.
On the German side the peak of Zugspitze can be climbed. People were climbing up the rocky peak, holding onto metal cables to prevent falling off the side of the mountain into the valley below. This looked like something we wanted to do!
We took turns, the boys going first, and then the girls. It took awhile since there was a line of people all making the somewhat dangerous ascent for photos on top of Zugspitze. We had no problems at all, and Tyler and Kara scrambled up the mountain like it was nothing. We took our photos and said good-bye to Zugspitze.
Day Trip to Innsbruck, Austria
During our very busy week we visited the town of Innsbruck, Austria. This was another short drive from Garmisch. We toured the old town, ate Japanese food for lunch, rode the funicular up the mountain for views over the city, and visited the Olympic Stadium. Innsbruck was the site of both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. We will see our third site soon when we travel to Munich.
Our time in Bavaria, Germany ended in Rothenburg, Germany. Rothenburg is the quintessential German town, a medieval walled town located along the Romantic Road. For the most part, it was saved from bombing during WWII, as Nazi’s surrendered it to Allied Forces rather than have it destroyed. Now tourists from all over the world flock to this city every year.
For us, it was a three hour drive north from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was well worth the drive, this quaint, beautiful, old German city which we fell in love with.
More Information for Your Trip to Germany
BAVARIA, GERMANY: Take an amazing 10 day road trip in Bavaria, visiting Munich, Neuschwanstein, Berchtesgaden, Salzburg, Innsbruck, and drive the Romantic Road in Germany.
SAXONY, GERMANY: In Saxony, visit the fairytale bridge called Rakotzbrücke and the amazing Bastei Bridge. Put both of these together, plus the town of Görlitz, into one big day trip from Berlin.
BERLIN: Start with our article Best Things to Do in Berlin for a big list of things to do in the city. Plan your visit with our 5 Day Berlin Itinerary and what to expect on a visit to Teufelsberg.
AUSTRIA: Learn how to spend one day in Hallstatt, one day in Salzburg, and get a list of the top 10 things to do in Vienna. We also have a guide to the best things to do in Innsbruck.
EUROPE ITINERARIES: Check out our article 10 Days in Europe: 10 Amazing Itineraries for 10 different ways to visit the best places in Europe. And if you have less time, check out our guide to 25 Ways to Spend One Week in Europe.
Read all of our articles about Germany in our Germany Travel Guide.
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Sad that you actually didn’t spend more time in Garmisch and the neighboring area. You missed the Partnach Gorge, Schloss Linderhof, Mittenwald and Lake Eibsee.
With our one week here, I think we did quite a bit. Since we were traveling around the world, we were also home schooling our kids every day, writing and maintaining this website, as well as booking hotels and travels for the later legs of our trip. On a return visit, we still have a lot of great places to see. Cheers, Julie
Great stuff! My family spent a week in Garmisch in 2015, so much fun. My kids were 16 and 17 and they loved it too. We hiked to Mittenwald and took the train home; hiked to the Schachen mountain house; a day at Zugspitze/Eibsee; hired a car/driver to take us to Oberammergau/Lindau/Ettal; we walked around Munich and visited Dachau on the way in. One of the best vacations ever, I’d like to go back. Our driver said its better to stay in Mittenwald, but we liked Garmisch (Hotel Rotor Hahn).
First, your blog is one of my favorite travel blogs! Yours and Full Suitcase are my very favorites. I have a question for the cable car ride to the top of Zugspitze. Are people prone to get altitude sickness there? I would love to view it, but for such a short time period, I’m not sure I want to take Diamox for it. Just wondering.
The peak of Zugspitze is just under 10,000 feet and altitude sickness is usually not an issue. I don’t think you need to take Diamox to visit Zugspitze. Cheers, Julie
We stayed in Hotel Edelweiss, a wonderful, very quaint hotel.
If you are currently in the military or retired military Edelweiss Lodge and Resort is another wonderful place to stay.
Actually Neuschwanstein is a palace. Not a castle. As you stated it was built in the late 1800s. It was completed in 1886. In german its schloss Neuschwanstein. The word castle or fortress is Burg. The word schloss means palace. This is one of Germany’s biggest pet peeves if you will. That it’s called a castle by the rest of the world instead of the more correct palace. It wasn’t used for any military fortifications and therefore is technically not a castle. King Ludwig built it to look historic to give him added credibility by playing with the emotions of the past. A way for people to remember the long history of Bayern. This is one of the quintessential structures architectures think of with the term historicism or revival styles.
The rest of the article was very good
My family is considering a week in Garmish. 4 grandkid -7/6/5/3 years. Any hints tips would be helpful. Possibly could do one more city as home base. For a few days. any suggestions.
Garmisch is a great home base. Take your grandkids on the toboggan…Tyler and Kara loved it!! As you can see from this article, we did a lot of day trips from here. Renting a car is the best way to get around. It gives you the most freedom and flexibility. Nearby, you could also spend a few days in Berchtesgaden and day trip to Salzburg and/or Hallstatt (or stay in Salzburg and day trip to Berchtesgaden). Munich is another good home base option, you will be closer to Rothenburg and could also see Nuremberg. Cheers, Julie
I lived in Garmisch for 4 years in the Army. I loved it, I was there from 1980-84.
I was stationed there TDY US Army AFRC on Ski Patrol 1978-79 ski season. Had a great time. Wife and I are taking my first trip back in August 2022. I was stationed at Sheridan Kasern. It has all changed with only one Armed forces hotel remaining being the Edelweiss which is where we will be staying and using as a base station.
I loved reliving my vacation there with my grown daughter through your pictures!
We adored the little city of Garmisch.
And thoroughly enjoyed a nature park with water falls and rushing waters, a few small caves and other trails that we did not explore at the time. And to top off the rain was a double rainbow as we waited for a bus. We loved the little restaurant and delightful desserts and accordian music at night.
and the quaint inn where we heard chickens during the day mostly.
Were you able to sled on the glacier? We did not climb the mountain but we did some sledding! So much fun. Thank you for your beautiful pictures. we got back from Rothenburg a couple of weeks ago. So lovely. We did climb the ladder for walking the wall around Rothenburg. I hope to go back for the Passionspiel in the summer 2020.
Yes, it is a wonderful place. Can’t wait to go back again someday too. Happy travels! Cheers, Julie
Sad that most of the things that you list to do while in Garmish are not actually IN Garmish.
Yes, we used Garmisch as a home base for lots of day trips. It’s a wonderful town and a great home base for exploring the area. And like the title says, it’s how we spent our one week here. Cheers, Julie
We will be visiting the area next August (between the 24th and 28th). Any suggestions regarding the apartment please? We are a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids – 5 &12).
Jonathan and Claudett
Hello. Unfortunately, the place we stayed is no longer available. I don’t have any specific recommendations, but we use Booking.com to find and book our hotels. Enjoy Garmisch-Partenkirchen! Cheers, Julie