Seeing the Bavarian Alps has always been a dream of ours. Bavaria has a magical lure. The countryside is decorated with mountainside castles and quaint villages, making it one of the most picturesque places in the world. Therefore, we decided to visit 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 bucket list adventure.
The Village of Garmisch-Partenkirchen
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, a centrally located hotel in Partenkirchen. At about 160$ per night, it provides a delicious breakfast, stunning entryway and lobby, an extremely friendly and helpful staff, alpine views, and paneled, rustic rooms.
The Atlas Grand sits amidst cobblestone streets, painted buildings, and an old-school Christmas market. The market provided us with nightly, live Christmas tunes, delicious food stands, flaming gluehwein and a local favorite, zirb’n schnaps, made from high-elevation pine sap! Hence, 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. There we found 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 because of its weinersnitchel, which was decadent.
Zugspitze, the Highest Peak in the German Alps
Perhaps Garmisch-Partinkirshen’s most extraordinary attraction was Zugspitze, an alpine glacier ski resort accessed only by a tunneling cogwheel train direct from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, or two, panoramic glacier cable cars at the mountain base. The cable car was an experience in and of itself. It would make even the bravest of adventurers week in the knees. Hence, even if you don’t ski, the cable car is an experience not to miss!
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 the Alps in 4 different countries, skiing could not have been more aesthetically stunning.
Füssen and Neuschwanstein Castle
After a day of skiing, we decided to visit Neuschwanstein, Germany’s most iconic fairytale castle in the Alps. It lies about an hour from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which makes it an easy trip as you passed through stunning alpine villages burrowed between immense, unrivaled mountain peaks.
Towering over the ancient town of Füssen is Neuschwanstein, also know as New Swan Stone castle. Because of its altitude, transportation is provide via horse and carriage. If you are feeling active, however, it is a 30 minute uphill 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 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.
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