Garmisch - Partenkirchen
Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Ga-Pa) is a beautiful little mountain resort town nestled in the south of Germany, in the middle of the German Alps, a little under two hours in train from Munich. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is actually two different towns - Garmisch and Partenkirchen on either side of the railway station, which were merged by Adolf Hitler in 1936 to bring the Winter Olympics to Germany. The town also provides for the perfect gateway to the tallest peak in Germany - Zugspitze.
Beside the scenic location, what makes this town enchanting are the numerous Bavarian styled homes, exteriors of which are beautifully painted with religious or historic paintings. Just walking around the town is a real treat. Nice meadows with cattle grazing, thatched roofs with artistic paintings, Bavarian culture, German Imperial history, fine dining - Ga-Pa epitomises the quintessential European experience. And that's why this little town is our first recommendation for you!
As mentioned earlier, Garmisch-Partenkirchen are actually two towns on either side of the Bahnhof (Railway station). While they may be talked of in the same breath, both these towns retain their distinct identities. The town centre of Garmisch runs along the road - Am Kurpark and that for Partenkirchen runs across the historic Ludwigstrasse. The town centres are largely pedestrianised streets with plenty of cafes, pizzerias, beer shops etc. Getting around the town is also easy. As one stays overnight, the apartment owner / hotel shall give each patron a "Ga-Pa Card" which allows the traveler unlimited use of the "Green buses" that run through the town. In case this is not included in your package, it costs Euro 2 per person per day. If one wishes to stay in the happening part of the town then finding a hotel / apartment near the town centre will be an excellent experience.
GaPa provides accommodation which suits all budgets, pockets and orientations. One can find reasonably priced home accommodations as easily as one may find luxurious resorts. And plenty in the in between category. Budget apartment rentals are available starting usually Euro 50 per night for a one bedroom, drawing room with kitchen and attached balcony accommodation which usually sleeps 2 adults and a child. As one wants more space, one will have to spend more, but in all probability one should not have much trouble in finding good, comfortable apartment rentals averaging Euro 30-40 per person per night. One can find Ferienwohnung (self serviced apartments) for all budgets on www.gapa.de
While there is no shortage of self-serviced apartments in Ga-Pa, we would like to recommend Landhaus Wagner in Partenkirchen. We stayed here for three nights during our stay. The apartment is about 500 metres from the GaPa Bahnhof on Triftstrasse. They have two types of fully equipped apartments - one with two bed rooms, a drawing room with kitchen and the other with a single bed room. Access to bus stops, railway station, restaurants is within about 300 metres. The Landlady - Ms. Christina Hoffman was very hospitable and we would be happy to recommend this apartment. For further information, please visit www.landhaus-wagner.com
For a budget conscious traveler one can consider Hostel 2962 where one can share a dorm with 4 others at Euro 20 per night per person or rent a private room for 2 at approximately Euro 60 per room. Hotels are generally more expensive but Quality Hotel Koenigshof (www.kh-gap.de/en) and Hotel Vier Jahrezeiten could be good options. (www.vierjahreszeiten.cc). Both these hotels are very close to the main train station and has a bus stop within steps and hence getting into Partenkirchen or into Garmisch is never much trouble.
If one wishes to stick with a tried and tested brand, Hotel Mercure in Partenkirchen could prove to be a good and safe options.
An Ideal Itinerary -Good for 3-4 days
Munich --> Ga-Pa--> Innsbruck -->Salzburg (9-10 days)
Day 1: Relax and enjoy the town
Arrive from Munich or Innsbruck and relax. Take a walk around the town - appreciate the beautiful Upper Bavarian styled homes beautifully adorned with paintings and bustling with beautiful flowers. Take a break at the nearest cafe - have coffee and pastries and get on your way again. If one is in a self-catering apartment, visit the nearest supermarket - Rewe or Spar and buy your groceries. Just relax.
Day 2: Head up to the tallest peak in Germany - Zugspitze
A must do is a trip to Zugspitze - the highest peak in Germany at 2962 metres. To give you some perspective, Jungfrau - the highest peak in Europe has a height of close to 3400 metres. If you haven't been to Titlis or Jungfrau in Switzerland, this is a must-do. A round trip would set you back by Euro 50 for adult (Euro 29 for children below the age of 15; for children below the age of 6 its free). Family ticket - two adults and one child costs Euro 109. On a clear sunny day, views from the top are breathtaking.
How to do this: Take the cogwheel train (Zugspitzebahn) up to Eibsee from Ga-Pa. This train passes towns Hammescbach, Grainau and finally gets to Eibsee. From here get into the cable car which heads directly up to Zugspitze peak (Eibsee Seilbahn). As one goes up, he can see the Lake Eibsee. The views from the cable car are amazing. I bet you would have your cameras out and would be clicking away to glory.
Once at the peak, spend time here. Enjoy the mountain ranges. Have a snack or a drink. For vegetarians - options at the top are thin so one may be well advised to carry some food themselves.
On the way down, there are two options. Either come down the same way as one went up. Or what we recommend is take the cable car to Zugspitze Glacier (2600 metres) (Gletscherbahn). Views from here are even better than that from Zugspitze. Time would just fly.
Then one can take the cogwheel back to Ga-Pa. This passes through the Zugspitze tunnel back to the town centre.
Day 3: Visit King Ludwig's enchanting castles at Schwangau
Fuessen is a picturesque town at a distance of approximately 60 kms from Ga-Pa. While the town is worth a visit in itself, it claim to fame is that it is the gateway to to King Ludwig's castles. King Ludwig was the King of Bavaria in the 1860-1880s. While he was regarded as crazy, he was blessed with a fantastic sense of aesthetics which he expressed by building amazing castles.
About 5 kms before Fuessen is Schwangau, which houses two castles - Hohenschwangau (where he was brought up) and Neuschwanstein (the dream caslte which he built). Both castles are fantastic. Neuschwanstein - modeled as a fairy tale castle, it took more than 20 years to build it and still remained incomplete. Post his death in 1882, the project saw a premature end but what remained was a piece of art which remains unparalleled. In fact Walt Disney drew inspiration for his Cindrella Castle in Disneyland from Neuschwanstein. A visit to Ga-Pa and a miss to Schwangau may be a tad unfair!!
How to get here: Take Bus Linie 9606 from Ga-Pa Bahnhof (train station) which heads to Fuessen. About 5 kms from Fuessen - get down at Schwangau. Use the same bus on your way back to Ga-Pa. Use the following link to get a perfect idea of the bus schedule - http://www.rvo-bus.de/file/3192064/data/9606.pdf
Once here what to do: In case one wishes to do only one castle, then do Neuschwanstein. We recommend you do both. Individually tickets to each castle costs Euro 12. However if one wishes to do both, thenbuy the King's Ticket which will cost Euro 23 per adult. We recommend you start with Hohenschwangau. Its an easy climb of about 7-8 minutes. Once in Hohenschwangau castle, wait for your tour to begin. Till then you can take pictures or just sit and absorb the atmosphere. The tour shall last 15-20 minutes and the tour guides are extremely competant. To put them in a spot, you may ask them if King Ludwig committed suicide or he was murdered. Each one has his own theory!! For further details visit www.hohenschwangau.de
To get to Neuschwanstein from Hohenschwangau is easy. Directions are given. However, Neuschwanstein is a difficult climb. So three options are available - horse carriage (about Euro 4-5 per person but a great experience), a bus (Euro 2 per person) or just climb up in case you wish to test your fitness levels. For a normal adult it should take between 20-30 minutes. For further details visit www.neuschwanstein.de
Repeat the same drill at Neuschwanstein. This is an outstanding castle. Attention to detail can but the best of home designers to shame. You wont regret getting here.
Day 4: Take a tour around GaPa or cycle around the town
Garmisch-Partenkirchen itself has plenty to see. Take a 4 km ride to Partnach and check out the Partnachklamm (Partnach Gorge), a deep gorge incised by a mountain stream. This is marked as a National Monument in Germany. Ga-Pa hosted the Winter Olympics in 1936. If is into sports, he / she may visit the ski stadium in Garmisch and the ice stadium in Partenkirchen.
If you are still not done with the mountains, head to Wank in case you want to hike. If looking for a bit of fun, one can fly in the mountains - do paragliding. For paagliding, head up in the Wank Cable car to a height of 1780 metres. From there get the most amazing views of the mountains, valley, Ga-Pa and all the other little towns encircling Ga-Pa.
If you are not so much into sight seeing or you would want something lighter on time, then just head to Mike's bike rental, hire a bike for half a day or a full day. Wont set you back by much - only about Euro 8 for half a day and Euro 10 for the whole day. But bike lanes are well etched out and one can ride away without a care in the world (as long as one follows the basic traffic rules!!). The centre of Garmisch is beautiful. One can just park his bike to the side or tie it to a pole, visit the local church, eat a dessert at a road side cafe, take a walk - if one is lucky he / she can catch the local band in action. Shop your heart's full at Adler, Schuhof and enjoy a gigantic pizza at Mama Mia. And enjoy the place like a local.
Day 5: Head to Mittenwald for a day trip; else move on for your onward journey
If one has more time to spare, he can consider a day trip to Mittenwald (another beautiful quaint Bavarian Village) or in case not covered, can even do a day trip to Munich. One can even plan a few hours at Lake Riersersee just a few minutes from Ga-Pa where one can even see the reflection of the snow clad mountains in the still water. Else, take the train to Munich or head into Innsbruck for your onward journey.
To plan a perfect trip in Ga-Pa, one may consider getting in touch with Jake Doherty at www.allthingsgarmisch.com. He has great reviews from tripadvisor.
Bicycle around the town. You can place your cycles anywhere. Courtesy: Sergey
The Living room of Landhaus Wagner - top class
Head to The Taj Mahal Restaurant for an excellent culinary experience. We ate here twice, found it reasonable and the food tasted yum!
The historic Ludwigstrasse - town centre of Partenkirchen has plenty of traditional Bavarian houses, apartments and roadside cafes. Also available are plenty of local breweries serving many beer!! Courtesy: Jake Doherty
Hohenschwangau - Where King Ludwig was born and spent childhood.
The kitchen in Ferienwohnung Landhaus Wagner - fully equipped
Homes beautifully adorned with flowers and paintings, GaPa is the quintessential Bavarian town. Courtesy: Sergey
Just taking a walk down the lanes of Ga-Pa can be romantic! The snow capped mountains in the backdrop provide the perfect setting!
Men and women in their traditional Bavarian dress - men in Lederhosen and women in Dirndl sipping a huge glass of Bavarian beer!
Critics say that the Linderhof Castle of King Ludwig was the smallest but the best. Even better then Neuschwanstein. Only a short hop from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Courtesy: Jake Doherty
A typical Bavarian house. Courtesy: Sergey
The Neuschwansein Castle built by King Ludwig but remained unbuild till the time of his death in 1870. The castle forms the inspiration behind Walt Disney's Cindrella Castle
Nestled perfectly between Munich and Innsbruck, GaPa is the perfect gateway to the German Alps
On a clear sunny day the views from atop Zugspitze are excellent!
Spend some time at the shore of Lake Riersersee and see the reflection of the snow clad mountains in the perfectly still water
Courtesy: Markt Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Why: Its incredibly beautiful. Let the pictures speak for themselves.
Orientation: Natural beauty, mountains, culture, history, shopping
How many days: We recommend 3 days at a minimum but 4 days could be ideal
How to reach:
By train - If you are in Germany, the perfect gateway to Ga-Pa is Munich (or Muenchen as the locals say). Trains leave each hour from Platform 27-36 on Muenchen Hbf and the journey generally lasts approximately 90 minutes in Regional Bahn (Regional Train) and close to 60 minutes in the express train. One can purchase the Bayern Takt (The Bavaria Pass) for Euro 22 per person (add Euro 4 for each additional person upto 5 people). So for instance if three people are traveling, the total cost would be Euro 30. This Pass allows unlimited use of all RB trains (Regional Bahn), buses, metros, trams - any public mode of transport in Bavaria for one whole day. From a value for money perspective - the Bavaria Pass is unmatched and there cannot be a cheaper way to get here. The train from Munich passes by umpteen number of quaint small towns and villages and just staring outside the window would lead you to involuntarily bring out your cameras. For detailed access to railway schedules check www.bahn.com.
If coming from Austria, then you need to get to Innsbruck. The train from Innsbruck to GaPa takes about an hour and twenty minutes and costs about Euro 16 per person. For detailed access to timetables please refer to www.oebb.at/en
By Car - About 90 kms south from Munich. While this does not involve driving on the famous "Autobahns", its a great drive nevertheless. Some places may be winding at points through the mountains but the drive is beautiful!
One of the major deterrent for Indian travelers to step into into the world of self-planned travel is food. Common myths include inability to get enough vegetarian food or Indian food. Ga-Pa serves up no such hiccups. Ga-Pa has several restaurants provide all experiences - the roadside cafe experience as well as the fine dining experience. Its a haven for non-vegetarian food but serves even vegetarian and even Indian food at at relatively reasonable prices. We stumbled upon the Taj Mahal restaurant(www.tajmahal-garmisch.com), about a mile from the Ga-Pa Bahnhof (railway station) in the town of Partenkirchen and could even have a delicious, sumptuous Indian punjabi vegetarian lunch for less than Euro 15 for two people. What one may note here is that lunch menus are significantly cheaper than dinner ones. So a similar meal served during dinner may cost maybe 20-30% more.
Pizzeria joints are available in plenty serving enough vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian spread. Large pizzas are cheap as well - averaging to Euro 8-12 which can happily feed two people! We would in particular wish to recommend Renzo's in Partenkirchen and Mama Mia in Garmisch for the best pizza experience in Ga-Pa. The ambience at Renzo's is particular is excellent and the Italian waiters are very very cheerful. Both these places serve large portions at a reasonable cost (Meal for two could be as low as Euro 15-20)