When asked to think about Germany, what are the first few things that come to your mind?
Beer? Oktoberfest? Castles? The Autobahn? Wurst or schnitzel? (All great things – might I add).
But did skiing make the cut?
Just under a year ago, I wouldn’t have linked Germany and skiing together. When I thought about skiing in Europe, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria would immediately pop into my head – not Germany. But did you know that there’s a small ski town in southeastern Bavaria that hosted the 1936 Winter Olympics? In the present century, countless World Cup ski races are held there too. It’s also worth noting that the area actually offers roughly 60 km of ski runs! If you haven’t yet heard of the place, let me have the honour of introducing you to Garmisch-Partenkirchen!
Garmisch and Partenkirchen were originally the names of two adjacent towns standing at the base of a series of mountains, including Hausberg, Kreuzeck, Alpspitze, and Zugspitze. Both towns and all mountains still stand, but Garmisch and Partenkirchen are now considered one town: Garmisch-Partenkirchen. All four mountains are part of the Eastern Alps. Zugspitze is the tallest mountain of the four, and its peak is the highest point in all of Germany. Awesome!
When I decided to visit Munich last February, I knew that I had to pay the Alps a visit. I have a bit of crazy obsession with mountains (hence Snow to Seas), and compared to my town of residence in Sweden, the Alps were just an arm’s length away from Munich. It would have been almost unforgivable not to visit them. Since my dad taught me all about tackling those wintry slopes from the tender age of 4, I decided to toss a day of skiing into my Alpine Adventure. With the highest point in Germany less than two hours away, I realized that it as time to go big or go home. Out of all the mountains in Germany, I was going to ski Zugspitze!
And I did.
And finally, it’s time to tell you all about it.
If you also have your heart set on some Alpine winter fun, here’s your guide to planning the perfect trip to Zugspitze – Germany’s tallest mountain!
Visiting the #Alps in Germany? Here's my ultimate #Zugspitze trip planning guide: Click To Tweet
If you’ve read some of my other posts, such as my posts about Lucerne or Lake Como, you’re probably aware that I’m a budget traveller. As an avid skier, hitting some Alpine slopes was a “bucket list” activity for me. But winter sports in the Alps aren’t usually budget-friendly activities. Skiing Zugspitze could be considered my splurge of the year. Nevertheless, I didn’t spend as much as expected! So read on to discover an abundance of budget travel tips to help you cut down the cost of a trip to the highest peak in Germany!
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Getting to the Top of Zugspitze
How to Get to Garmisch-Partenkirchen
In order to ascend Zugspitze, you need to get to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Overall, it’s super easy to reach Garmisch-Partenkirchen from both Munich, Germany and Innsbruck, Austria. Planning ahead and choosing your mode of transportation to Garmisch-Partenkirchen wisely is also one way to cut down the costs of a trip to Zugspitze.
You can reach Garmisch-Partenkirchen from Munich by car, train, or bus. The German ski town is about a 1 hour and 30 minute drive away from the Bavarian capital. Taking the train takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes, and a bus ride takes 1 hour and 10 minutes. To check out train schedules, you can visit Deutsche Bahn’s website, bahn.com. To check out bus schedules, you can visit flixbus.com.
- Approximate cost of a one-way train ticket when booked in advance: €20
- Approximate cost of a one-way bus ticket when booked in advance: just under €10
If all of the other destinations on your travel itinerary are south of the German border, you can also reach Garmisch-Partenkirchen from Innsbruck. Driving to the German town from Innsbruck takes less than 1 hour and 30 minutes, taking the train takes just under 1 hour, and taking the bus takes just over 1 hour. To check out train schedules between Innsbruck and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you can visit oebb.at/en. To check out bus schedules, visit flixbus.com.
- Approximate cost of a one-way train ticket when booked in advance: €14
- Approximate cost of a one-way bus ticket when booked in advance: just over €5
Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Zugspitze
In order to get to the top of Zugspitze, you need to catch the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn from Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s train station. The Zugspitzbahn is a cogwheel train that takes you from the heart of the German ski town up to Zugspitzplatt (a plateau just beneath Zugspitze’s summit). The train journey isn’t the fastest; it takes roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes to ascend. But keep in mind that during this time, you’re changing your elevation by over 1,500 metres! A significant portion of the journey also takes place in a mountain tunnel, so taking the Zugspitzbahn is a pretty unique experience. Once you reach Zugspitzplatt, you can take the Zugspitze Glacier Cable Car to reach the summit.
Just a little excited about starting the ski day aboard the Zugspitzbahn.
The Eibsee-Seilbahn Cable Car used to be an alternative way of reaching Zugspitze. The cable car would take you from Eibsee, one of the last stops before the intense ascension, up to Zugspitze’s summit. However, the old cable car is currently being replaced with a new one. Construction should be completed by the end of 2017!
Where Can I Hit the Slopes?
When embarking on a ski or snowboard adventure from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you have two main ski areas to choose from:
Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort
The Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort is located up on Zugspitzplatt. When asked to picture skiing in the Alps, this ski area will fit your picture to a “T”. You’ll be over 2000 metres above sea level with Germany’s highest mountain peaks around you. The Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort also has a whole mix of ski runs ranging from slopes that are suitable for beginners and advanced skiers.
The main lodge up on Zugspitzplatt.
Skiing with these views seriously blew my mind.
As mentioned earlier, you need to take the Zugspitzbahn up in order to reach Zugspitzplatt.
Less than a 20-minute walk away from the heart of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you’ll be able to access the Garmisch-Classic Ski area. Unlike the Zugspitze Glacier Resort, the Garmisch-Classic ski area is not located up around Germany’s tallest mountain peaks. However, this ski area offers double the length of runs compared Zugspitze, and it’s still incredibly scenic since you’ll be surrounded by the lushest evergreen trees. The Garmisch-Classic ski area is also more suitable for beginner skiers. As well, this ski area is where ski championships and races take place!
Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort
A full day of skiing up on Zugspitzplatt costs €45 for adults. For this price, you also get access to the Zugspitzbahn and the Zugspitze Glacier Cable Car if you would like to visit the summit. Please keep in mind that the ski area is on Zugspitzplatt and there are no ski runs down from the summit to the plateau.
Even if you’re not a skier, it costs €45 to visit Zugspitze. Nevertheless, there are still a handful of activities for non-skiers to take part in up on Zugspitzplatt. You can check them out further on in this post!
Please note: it’s actually cheaper for skiers and non-skiers to visit Zugspitze in the winter rather than in the summer.
To check out other ticket options, such as youth discounts and 2-day ticket prices, visit Zugspitze’s information site by clicking here. You can buy your tickets to Zugspitze before entering the Zugspitzbahn train platform.
Some simply perfect Alpine slopes.
A day of skiing at Garmisch-Classic costs €43. However, unlike the Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort, you can take advantage of half-day prices at Garmisch-Classic. Hitting the slopes until 1:00 PM or after 12:00 PM costs €34. (You can further reduce the price to €31 if you start skiing after 1:00 PM).
To check out other ticket options, you can visit Zugspitze’s website by clicking here.
So Where Should I Ski?
If you’ve only got 1 day to hit the slopes, you’ll have to choose between Garmisch-Classic and the Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort. To help you make your decision, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What kinds of views do I want to experience? (Zugspitze has those wild mountain peak views).
- How well do I tolerate super winter weather? (It’s always colder up on Zugspitzplatt).
- How much experience do I have skiing or snowboarding? (Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort has fewer beginner slopes compared to the Garmisch-Classic ski area).
I was after those mountain peak views and up for a challenge. I chose to ski at Zugspitze’s Glacier Ski Resort.Check out what you need to know to plan the perfect winter trip to #Zugspitze, #Germany: Click To Tweet
How to Prepare for Skiing Zugsptize
When I checked the weather forecast for my trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, I got ridiculously excited. It was going to be rather warm for the start of March, and I truly enjoy skiing a great deal more when my limbs don’t feel numb from the cold. This was a rookie mistake. I really should have searched the Zugspitze weather forecast. Since Zugspitzplatt and Zugspitze are over 2000 m above sea level, it’s significantly colder and can be windier up there compared to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From my own observations, the weather can change quite rapidly too from sunshine to dense clouds to snow and back to sunshine. So here’s how you can prepare for a ski trip up on Zugspitze:
- Dress warm by layering. This will help you be prepared for the colder temperatures, but will also give chance to cool down if it gets warmer or you feel warmer. Whenever I ski, I always wear base layers and thermals with sweaters overtop.
- Have goggles. Protect your eyes and your ability to see whether it’s windy, sunny, or if there’s a blizzard going on. I wear contacts, and I find that wind really irritates them. I have to ski with goggles.
- Wear a helmet. I’m not going to lie: when I was super, super little, I thought helmets were super, super lame, and I couldn’t wait for the day when I could tell them “good bye.” Fast forward 20 years and countless klutzy ski hill misadventures, and I couldn’t be happier to have a helmet on my head. This is especially true when skiing on unfamiliar slopes.
- Pack a couple hand warmer packs. If it’s cold, my fingers and toes freeze first – they become UNcomfortably numb. Having these disposable heat pouches can help you stay out for longer.
Can you guess why my hands eventually went numb?
BUDGET TIP: pack your own snacks and water. Buying food up on Zugspitzplatt can be expensive. Cut down trip costs by bringing your own.
If you’re travelling a budget, chances are that you’re not going to be too excited about paying special luggage fees in order to transport any ski gear you may already own. Fortunately, there are countless rental shops in Garmisch-Partenkirchen that you can rent your gear from. Popular rental shops include:
- Skischule Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is located right by the Hausberg Cable Car in the Garmisch-Classic Ski area. Renting basic skis, poles, and boots for 1 day costs €31.
- Skiverleih Garmish-Zugspitze. One of their shops is located right by the Zugspitzbahn station on Zugspitzplatt. Renting basic skis, poles, and boots for 1 day costs €30.
BUDGET TIP: the two rental shops listed above are conveniently located in or right by the ski areas. Some shops in town (ones that aren’t right by the ski areas), such as AlpenSport Total, rent basic skis, poles, and boots for only €24 a day. You can also get 10%-15% off at various locations for booking your equipment online. (I recommend pre-booking online anyway so that you can make sure the equipment you need in your size is available on your designated ski day).
What Can I do if I’m not a Skier or a Boarder?
Even though Garmish-Partenkirchen is a famous ski town, you don’t have to be a skier or a boarder to enjoy many of the sights and attractions the area has to offer.
Take the Zugspitzbahn to Zugspitzplatt
A trip up to Zugspitzplatt doesn’t mean that you have to hit the slopes once you get there! Even without plans to ski or board, seize the opportunity to experience the highest train in Germany.
As mentioned earlier, regardless of your ski or no-ski plans, reaching Zugspitzplatt costs €45 during the winter season.
Once you reach Zugspitzplatt, you can:
Visit Zugspitze’s Summit
The highest point in Germany is only a short ride away from Zugspitzplatt. Just jump on board the Zugspitze Glacier Cable Car!
Go Tobogganing on Zugspitzplatt
Even if you’re not a skier or a boarder, you can still hit some of the slopes at the Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort with a toboggan! There are a couple of runs specifically designated for sleds. You can rent a toboggan and helmet from the rental area in Zugspitzplatt’s main lodge for €10.
Click here for more information about sledding on Zugspitzplatt and to see a map of the epic toboggan runs!
These are the kinds of slopes you get to toboggan down. Possibly a bucket list activity for skiers and non-skiers alike?
Take a couple of hours to wander around the downtown streets of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, such as Promenadestraße! The traditional Bavarian and painted buildings found downtown will have you reaching for your camera in no time.
Just your typical building along Promenadestraße.
A sunny afternoon in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Check the bahn.com train schedules and hop on a train to Mittenwald. In just over 20 minutes, you’ll reach what some people claim to be the most gorgeous down in the German Alps. Make sure to include a stroll down Obermarkt on your Mittenwald itinerary! Those traditional, frescoed buildings are nothing short of stunning!
Wandering down Obermarkt.
Just look at those mountains right by Mittenwald!
Enjoy Traditional German Cuisine
If you’re a fan of German cuisine, you’re in luck. There’s no shortage of traditional restaurants to choose from in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. My favourite restaurant in town was Zum Wildschutz. I can never say no to a good schnitzel. The restaurant had an undeniably cozy atmosphere, and the portions were HUGE! (A.K.A. enough leftovers for a whole other dinner).
To discover other restaurants in the area, you can check out the Lonely Planet’s list of top restaurants in Garmisch-Partenkirchen by clicking here.
Planning on exploring more of Bavaria, Germany?
- Check out 4 sites and and attractions in Munich, Germany that you don’t want to miss!
- Find out how to make the most out of your visit to Neuschwanstein Castle!
Where to Stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
After a long day on the slopes, it’s great to have the opportunity to unwind and relax. That’s why during our time in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, my friend and I treated ourselves to a stay at H+ Hotel Alpina Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The hotel is less than a 15-minute walk away from the main train station and only around a 5-minute walk away from the heart of Garmisch. The hotel offers a whole assortment of awesome services and amenities, such as a delicious buffet breakfast, sauna, relaxation room, and indoor pool.
Buffet brekkie at the hotel.
Even though H+ Hotel Alpina sounds like it would be an ultra pricey place to stay, Booking.com frequently offers discounts when booking a stay at this hotel. Just a couple of days ago, you could get 60% off your stay in December. This means that a room for two was less than €90 per night.
Nevertheless, there are many guesthouses (gasthof) in the area that have single rooms for €40 a night or double rooms for €70.
Search here to discover more accommodation options in Garmisch-Partenkirchen:
Just the usual pose I strike when being photographed in Bavaria.
When planning my trip to Zugspitze, I spent countless hours intensely sorting through a whole bunch of websites in order to figure out trip logistics. I quickly found out that the information I needed wasn’t exactly all in one place. So in order to simplify your Zugspitze trip planning process, I decided to put all my knowledge and experiences together into this one post!
Before I wrap this post up, I want to leave you with two more bits of information:
- If you’re passionate about Alpine peak views and/or Alpine sports, a trip up to Zugspitze will be a memorable one and worth the investment. The Zugspitzbahn and cable car journeys are still quite a bit cheaper than many Alpine cable car rides in Switzerland, such as the Matterhorn and Mt. Pilatus.
- A FINAL BUDGET BREAKDOWN covering how to reduce trip costs to Zugspitze:
- To/From Garmisch-Partenkirchen (roundtrip with Flixbus): €16
- Zugspitze (cogwheel train, cable car, and ski pass): €45
- Renting Equipment (10% online booking discount applied): €21.6
- Food (there are many supermarkets in the area, such as Lidl right by the train station): €25
- 1 night of accommodation: €40
- Save a few more Euros by visiting Zugspitze with a travel buddy.
Have you visited Zugspitze? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!