How to Visit Zugspitze from Germany and Austria

Julie Austria, Germany 17 Comments

Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak (2962 meters), is located in southern Germany on its border with Austria. Visiting Zugspitze is a fantastic half day excursion which can easily be accomplished from both Austria and Germany.

How to Visit Zugspitze

Austria or Germany?

Since Zugspitze sits on the border between Austria and Germany, it can be accessed from both of these countries. So how do you decide which one is the best starting point?

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.

If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

To get to the peak of Zugspitze, there are three cable cars and five hiking paths/mountaineering routes to the top.

Cable Car from Germany:  The Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car takes visitors from Eibsee, the lake at the foot of Zugspitze, to the peak, in 10 minutes. Get the location on Google Maps: search for “Eibsee Cable Car, Am Eibsee 6, 82491 Grainau, Germany.”

Zahnradbahn: From the train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, board the train for a journey through Grainau and Eibsee, then ascend Zugspitze by cogwheel power. This route takes you through a tunnel and then on to the Zugspitze Glacier Plateau, also called Zugspitzplatt. From here, board the Glacier Cable Car to the peak. Travel time is one hour from Garmisch and 35 minutes from Eibsee.

Cool Fact:  This is the highest railway in Germany and the third highest in Europe.

An alternative way to make the trip from Garmisch-Partenkirchen is to take the cogwheel train to Eibsee and then ascend to the top of Zugspitze by cable car.

One example of how to do the round trip journey from Germany would be to take the cable car up from Eibsee, visit the top, and descend by cogwheel train back to Eibsee to enjoy all of the different views. For more information on tickets and prices, click here.

From Austria: The Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, located in Obermoos, Austria, whisks riders to the top in ten minutes. Visit their website for update prices and timetables. Get the location on Google Maps: search for “Tiroler Zugspitzbahn Talstation, Obermoos 1, 6632 Ehrwald, Austria” or just “Tiroler Zugspitzbahn Talstation”

Hiking Trails to the Summit of Zugspitze:  There are five hiking trails to the top of Zugspitze, each varying in difficulty levels, but most taking eight to ten hours (one way) to complete. Most trips are split over two days, with an overnight stay in an alpine hut before attempting the final, steep push to the summit.

Zugspitze Mountain

What Did We Do?

Austrian Cable CarEven though we were staying in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which would have made the German ascent more convenient for us, we chose the Austrian cable car. The prices are cheaper and the Austrian cable car is consistently less crowded than the German cable car. In fact, there were only several other people in our car, whereas the German cable car was packed with riders. With less of a crowd, we were able to enjoy the views more and we had an easier time taking photos. Plus, we did not have to wait in any queues.

The ride to the top is stunning, with views of the Alps, scattered through Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

Cable Car to Zugspitze

At The Top

Once on top of Zugspitze, you are straddling the border between Austria and Germany. Each country has a terrace, complete with museums and restaurants, connected by a narrow walkway. Whether you ascend from Germany or Austria, once on top you can easily access all areas of the summit.

Enjoy panoramic views over the Alps, feast on German food and beer, and look out over the Zugspitzplatt Glacier. In the wintertime, skiing is a popular activity here, complete with chair lifts. We were here in July and there was a small luge track for children.

Achtung

On top Zugspitze

German Cable Car Zugspitze

Top of Zugspitze

Climbing to the Summit

The German peak is marked by a golden cross. For those looking for a little more adventure, it is a short climb to the official peak of Zugspitze. Chains and ladders assist climbers to the top, and during peak season, there can be a traffic jam of people awaiting their turn to make it to the top.

Climbing Zugspitze

Zugspitze Climb

There are multiple signs warning visitors of the dangers of this ascent. Even with the chains and ladders there is an element of danger…there is that small chance of slipping off of the rock face and plunging down the side of Zugspitze. Tim and I pondered the wisdom of allowing Tyler and Kara to make the ascent but we decided to let them do it. They scrambled to the top like it was nothing and they officially got to stand on top of Germany’s highest peak.

Tim and Tyler Zugspitze

Julie and Kara Zugspitze

What To Bring

Even mid-summer, temperatures atop Zugspitze can be very chilly, so at the least, make sure you bring a jacket. We were here in July, and in a jacket and shorts we were all still feeling the chill.

Of course, don’t forget your camera!

When To Go

Make sure you go on a clear day. With rain and clouds you will miss those views of the Alps, the main reason for coming up here.

During the summer months the temperatures are comfortable and the climb to the peak is an option. During the wintertime, the Alps will be blanketed with snow, an awesome sight, I am sure, and you will have the option to go skiing.

Things To Do Around Zugspitze

In Bavaria, Germany

Neuschwanstein, one of Germany’s most spectacular castles: 47 km, one hour drive

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, home of the 1936 Winter Olympics, and excellent home base for exploring Bavaria and Austria.

Munich, home of Octoberfest, 117 km, two hour drive

In Austria

Innsbruck, charming town in the Alps, home of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics, 87 km, a one hour and thirty minute drive.

Combining Zugspitze with Neuschwanstein

We gave ourselves a very busy day by visiting Neuschwanstein in the morning and Zugspitze in the afternoon. In order to do this, arrive at Neuschwanstein a half an hour before opening time, in order to catch the first tour of the castle. By midday we were driving to Zugspitze for part 2 of our jam-packed, awesome day in this little corner of the world.

Neuschwanstein Day Trip


Comments 17

  1. Hi! Great information ! I tried to go to the Austrian cable car ( tiroler). It is now 46.5 Euros and not 13 euros. I skipped going to the German cable car as per your guidance above so not sure what the charges were there but we ended up at ehrwalder ahm cable car as that was closest to the Austrian cable car and cost was 17 euros but not worth going here at all! Let me know if the tiroler was not the right cable car to take in Austria and I misunderstood something.

    Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author
  2. Thank you for the information. We are going to Munich this September and would like to visit Zugspitze. We don’t plan to have a car so can we take public transportation to Ehrwald, go up on the Austrian side, come down on the German side, and take the train back to Munich? Thanks.

    1. Post
      Author

      Sounds great! To get back to Garmisch, you can either take the cable car or the cogwheel train to Eibsee and then a train back to Garmisch. Cheers, Julie

  3. Julie
    Thanks for providing this inspirational blog. One thing which is not clear to me is how you got to the Austrian entrance to zugspitze and to Neuschwanstein in Germany on the same day. Can you drive around? We are thinking of coming from Innsbruck to zugspitze and would like to visit Neuschwanstein or linderhof if possible. Regards Adrienne

    1. Post
      Author

      We went to Neuschwanstein and then to Zugspitze. From Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we drove to Neuschwanstein, getting here just before opening time. In the afternoon, we drove into Austria to the Austrian cable car station (via 179 and 187). It’s a 45 minute drive from the cable car to Neuschwanstein.

      From Innsbruck, you can drive to Zugspitze in Austria via 171 to 189 through Ehrwald. If you plan to visit Neuschwanstein in the afternoon, just be prepared to deal with a lot of crowds. Read this post for more info about visiting Neuschwanstein.

      Cheers, Julie

  4. Such thorough information – thank you! I visited their website for ticketing information and it appears I am unable to make a reservation for the train out of Garmisch that then catches the cable car to the top. Is that correct? No advance reservations are possible based on your experience? I will also be coming from Neuschwanstein in the morning.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Allison. I just tried and wasn’t able to do it, either. I did find this page where you can reserve tickets online, but I think it is for skiing. They don’t make it easy, do they? We just had the same problem in Lucerne, Switzerland…so hard to figure out things ahead of time online on their website, but once there in person buying tickets, everything makes perfect sense. You just may have to buy your tickets when you get there. Cheers, Julie

  5. I spent hours reading your stories and love them all… I have roughly 20 days in this Fall (Sep – Oct), exact departure time depends on airfare 🙂 I would like to combine your 2 recommended itineraries: 10 days Bavaria + 10 days Central Europe: Budapest, Vienna, Prague. I most likely travel solo and on student budget. Where would you suggest I should start, factor in the weather/climate? how to connect (air or train) between 2 itineraries? what should I change (skip or add on) or consider when travel solo? Much thanks

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello! Oktoberfest takes place between September 22 and October 7 and Munich is the place to be. I think this would be a very cool thing to do and your timing couldn’t be better.

      You could fly into Munich, visit Munich for a few days, and then go down to Garmisch and hit all of the day trips from there, go to Berchtesgaden, and then travel back to Munich (this might be the easiest place to catch a train to your next destination…and you would do our itinerary in reverse order). The trick then is getting to the towns on our Central Europe Itinerary. On a map, Prague looks like it is the closest to Munich. You could take a train to Prague, train to Vienna, train to Budapest, and end in Budapest. If you want to get to Cesky Krumlov, either rent a car from Prague for one day or take a tour. You’d have to work out the costs for both to see what is cheapest.

      In Europe, we are big fans of the trains. They are usually fast, economical, and convenient. There are a lot of cheap flight options, too, but the places you are visiting are relatively close together so the train may be the way to go.

      Have fun!! Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author
  6. Great post. I just found your blog. How long did this take you from arriving at the tyroler zugspitzbahn? I don’t know how long to allot for a ride up and hike to the summit. Thanks. I’m going to check out your guide shortly as I like your description better than the 3 library guide books I am looking through!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hello Rebecca. I would budget around 3 hours for a visit here. The cable car is quick but I would give yourself extra time just in case you have to wait in line. At the top, you can enjoy the view and make the short climb to the summit in about an hour. You may be able to do the entire visit in two hours, but I always like to add in a little extra contingency time. Cheers, Julie

  7. I am really glad to see this post Julie! I was there in ’93 and your photos are so much better than mine. We were there in June and there were snow flurries at the top that day with t-shirt weather at the bottom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *