Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a fairy tale town backed by mountains so impressive you may find yourself involuntarily singing "The Hills are Alive" from The Sound of Music. Thanks to hostels, you can visit this fantastic place even on a budget.
If you stay here, you actually get two towns for the price of one. Garmisch and Partenkirchen have grown together now, but they have two separate centers, two town halls, and two separate pasts. They do, however, share a train and bus station.
The center of Garmisch has a long, beautiful pedestrian shopping area, but Partenkirchen's historic area is also very pretty; both parts showcase buildings with painted facades, romantic pastel murals and clever trompe l'oeil borders around the windows. Balconies and windows overflow with lush flower boxes of red and pink flowers. Many benches are shaped and decorated like figures in local costume. The total effect is almost too cute to be real.
And behind it all rise the massive Alps. Even at this small edge of the famous mountain range, many peaks soar nearly vertically in rocky, treeless grandeur above their green forested skirts. You can't always see where they end and the sky begins, as clouds catch on the peaks and won't let go. On a clear day, it's enough to make you really understand the vastness of the world and your own small part in it.
Though you can explore a few little churches and museums or go shopping for German art, handicrafts or other souvenirs in town, the city’s real draw is nature. Don't go to Garmisch-Partenkirchen without doing at least a little hiking. Trails abound.
One highlight is the stroll through the impressive Partnachklamm, a narrow gorge with high walls and water crashing right alongside the trail, where man-made cavy tunnels and bridges help you appreciate the beauty and power of water. Be prepared to get wet (and battle crowds). It's within easy walking distance of the Ski Stadium, which is a stop on the local bus system.
An even more impressive and somewhat less crowded gorge is Hoellentalklamm. It's a longer hike, about 6 kilometers one way from the Kreuzeck cable car station, another stop on the local bus system. There's a lot of elevation gain, but it's more than worth it. You can continue from the top of the gorge to various other destinations. If you hike from there across to Kreuzeck and then down to where you started, it's around 16 kilometers in distance, 1,500 meters of descent, and continously stunning views.
Another top destination is Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany. The cable car ride up to the top is pricey and will probably require a long wait, but if you have the budget and a clear day, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views. There's a fair amount to explore at the top, so plan to stay a while. The Eibsee, a colorful lake at the base of the cable car, is also a great place to walk, bike, or relax. You can get there by bus.
Staying in a hostel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen will help stretch your budget, since it's not exactly a cheap location. A hostel is all you will need with the the gorgeous, alpine views and fun-filled itinerary. Once you've checked in to your hostel, be sure to ask for the tourist card that gives you free rides on the local bus system for the entirety of your stay. You will not regret your visit to this magical place, especially if you love nature.
Hi, I'm Melinda Brasher,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Garmisch-Partenkirchen hostels. Welcome.