For many, the Bavarian Alps represents the picturebook Germany of yore – mountain villages, glittering lakes and spectacular castles. While hikers and skiers are in their element, there’s as much to be said for idling in a biergarten with lederhosen-clad locals.
The Berchtesgadener Land is perhaps the most
beautiful corner of Germany – famed for its jagged mountains, fir-lined
valleys, onion-domed churches and the Königssee lake. Take the bus from
Berchtesgaden to the Kehlsteinhaus, for some of the best views on your way to
the site of Hitler’s infamous Eagle’s Nest residence.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria ordered the construction of Schloss Neuschwanstein in the late 19th
century in homage to composer Richard Wagner. The spirit of operatic excess
also extends to the lavish interiors (£10).
The ski resort of Garmisch- Partenkirchen is also the gateway
to many of the best walking trails. Wander the Alpspitze slopes or stroll the
narrow Partnachklamm gorge. The local tourist office has information on routes.
The mountain-fringed Chiemsee
is the biggest of the many lakes across the region. In summer, people flock
here to swim from the beaches. Don’t miss another of Ludwig’s flamboyant
palaces on Herrenchiemsee island (fares from £4).
In 1634, the folk of Oberammergau swore they would
stage a passion play every 10 years if they were spared from the bubonic
plague. They were saved, and while the next performance isn’t due until 2020, a
and museum trace the history of this tradition (£5).
A 300-year-old Bavarian pub, Braüstüberl in Garmisch- Partenkirchen
certainly looks the part, with a painted façade, waitresses wearing dirndls
(traditional Alpine dresses) and an enormous enamel coal-burning stove. Choose
from a formidable selection of beers (Fürstenstrasse 23; pints of beer from
Isi’s Goldener Engel is an abiding
favourite with the residents – the hunting lodge décor mixes and matches
frescoes, stag heads and a gilded stucco ceiling. The operation focuses on such
hearty local fare as roast pork, dumplings, schnitzel and spätzle (Bankgasse 5;
mains from £8).
Gasthaus zum Hirschberg in Kreuth gives
home cooking the gourmet treatment – antlers bear down on diners feasting on
local venison, trout and veal (Nördliche Hauptstrasse 89; mains from £9). Mühlberger
Restaurant is the shooting star of Chiemsee, with traditional dishes
deftly blended with international influences (Bernauerstrasse 40; mains from
Moar Alm is an emphatically Francophile restaurant outside the town
of Bad Tölz. The repertoire swings between Med brio and heart-warming dishes
from northern France, including foie gras, duck confit and crème brûlée (Holzkirchner
Strasse 14; mains from £20).
Owned by the same family for 100 years, Hotel Bavaria in Berchtesgaden offers
traditionally decorated rooms, some fitted with beamed ceilings and sturdy
four-poster beds. It’s worth paying a bit more for a balcony that looks out to
the mountains (Sunklergässchen 11; from £50).
Murnau’s Am Eichholz Galerie & Art-Hotel takes
its cue from the artists who made this small town famous – notably Wassily
Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter – with splashes of colour and original artwork
throughout. There’s also an expansive garden that accommodates sculptures and
installations (Am Eichholz 21; from £90).
Inselhotel zur Linde is a 600-year-old
hotel on the island of Fraueninsel in the Chiemsee. Its comfortable rooms have
views of the lake, while its great restaurant serves fresh fish. Also, bear in
mind that you’ll need to catch the ferry from Gstadt to get there (Fraueninsel
im Chiemsee; from £100).
Reindl’s Partenkirchner Hof is an institution in
Garmisch Partenkirchen, with flowerboxes adorning the balconies and an acclaimed
restaurant that’s popular with après skiers. Well-appointed rooms are a study
in folk-themed elegance and some enjoy gobsmacking mountain views (Bahnhofstrasse
15; from £105).
Feng shui meets Bavarian rusticity at Romantik
Hotel Landhaus Wilhelmy, an eco-friendly hotel on the shores of the
Tegernsee. The green ethos extends from organic meals to green cleaning
products (Freihausstrasse 15; from £120).
Garmisch-Partenkirchen hosts its Richard Strauss festival in June, while the
town of Bad
Tölz hosts the Leonhardifahrt horseback procession in November.
The area is best explored by car, with car hire available at Munich airport (from £60
per day). Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgaden and Bad Tölz all have train
stations – the Bayern Ticket allows unlimited travel in
The Bavarian Alps are best accessed from Munich – Lufthansa operates flights from Heathrow
to Munich airport (from £160) while easyJet flies from Edinburgh (from £80).
From Munich Hauptbahnhof, trains run south to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
in 90 minutes (from £15).
The article 'Mini guide to the Bavarian Alps, Germany' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.