The town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria’s deep south, is about 1.5 hours from Munich. Its unwieldy name was the result of two towns amalgamating so Germany could qualify as host of the 1936 Winter Olympics (the same year of the infamous Nazi propaganda exercise that was the Summer Olympics in Berlin). The resulting town remains an important winter sports center, as well as the gateway to Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.
Although it tops out at just under 9,842 feet (3,000 meters), the Zugspitze is far more accessible than many peaks of this size, with a cog railway running all the way from Garmisch station to a plateau 1,181 feet (360 meters) below the summit, and a cable car covering the rest.
Along the way, you pass the deep blue lake of Eibsee, dotted with tiny islands, before beginning the sharp climb – soon burrowing through the mountain to emerge at Zugspitzplatt. There, in the traditional wooden SonnAlpin restaurant, Bavarian cuisine and views of Germany’s only glacier await.
The kilometer-long cable car soars over that same glacier to bring you to the summit. The outlook from the top is extraordinary, with Austrian peaks just over the border and the view extending to Italy and Switzerland on a clear day. If you didn’t fill up at SonnAlpin, further high dining opportunities await at Gipfelalm, Germany’s highest restaurant.
For a change of scenery on the return journey, descend on a different cable car which takes you back to Eibsee, before rejoining the train back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. And if you want to extend your stay, an Igloo Village is open from around Christmas for overnight stays in carved ice huts, where you can warm up with fondue and hot tubs.