This family vacation has been two years overdue. You see, we were originally going to take this trip in May 2020. But we all know what kind of year that was. The Passion Play 2020 became the Passion Play 2022 (more here). I built this trip around attending the opening day of the Oberammergau play on May 14. We rented a house and used it as our base of operations. This makes me feel like a local since my Mom was from this beautiful little town in Bavaria. Come along and see how we discovered Oberammergau, Fussen, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and more!
If you want video content and to travel along with me, be sure to check out my IG Stories ‘Germany‘ and ‘Germany 2‘. This will show you much more than the pictures below. I mean, is there anything better than listening to church bells? And be sure to check out this Instagram post with my German family picture. I know my Mom and Dad were smiling down from heaven watching this gathering!
We flew American Airlines and routed Dallas to Charlotte to Munich and all of our flights were on time with excellent crews. In fact, our travel was seamless round-trip! In Munich, we rented a BMW x7 from Sixt to give 5 adults with luggage enough room. It’s a short 1-1/2 hour drive to Oberammergau. While I am usually a huge advocate for staying awake on your arrival day, the flight from Charlotte arrives in Munich at 7 AM. We were in our house in Oberammergau and settled by noon. A quick trip to the backerei (bakery) and grocery store for provisions didn’t take long. So we all took a quick cat nap and then I gave a walking tour of Oberammergau. I lived here with Mom and Dad in the 70’s and attended 2nd to 5th grade at the Oberammergau “ground” school (elementary school). And yes, I am bilingual!
While the trip dates were organized around attending the 2022 Passion Play, we had time for lots of day trips and excursions. I’ve organized the pictures below by the town and attractions we visited. This part of Bavaria will always have a piece of my heart!
Oberammergau, a small town of only 5,000 people, is best known as the home of the Passion Play. It’s performed every 10 years to honor the vow the townspeople made in 1633. The town was spared from the Black Plague and they vowed to God to play out the journey of his son Jesus Christ (Passion of Jesus). It involves over 2000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all residents of the village. I’ve seen the play in 1990, 2000 and now again in 2022. This was our kids first time to see it. Magical!
Because we attended the opening day of the 2022 Passion Play, we were also able to attend the 11 AM Ecumenical Opening Service in the Passion Play Theater. It was truly spectacular with music, singing, blessings and dignitaries. The play itself is done in two acts. Act 1 is 2:30 – 5:00 PM. Then you get a long dinner break and time to shop. Act two is 8 PM – 10:30 PM. The crucifixion scene and ending are done at nighttime and its truly spectacular! The Passion Play Theater is an amphitheater with the actors and singers being on an open stage. If you are looking to attend, click HERE. The play runs through October 2 and there are still tickets available. The amphitheater seats 5,000 patrons per play and it’s played five times each week with Monday and Wednesday being off. Most people book a 2 or 3 day tour package which includes accommodations and your theater tickets. Click HERE for details. I highly recommend it and we will absolutely be back in 2030! TIP: The Passion Play is performed in German. Ask for an English translation book.
The tourist town of Oberammergau is also known for its woodcarving. The streets of central Oberammergau are home to dozens of woodcarver shops, with pieces ranging from religious subjects, to toys, to humorous pieces. It’s also known for ‘luftlmalerei’ frescoes of traditional Bavarian themes, fairy tales, religious scenes or architectural drawings found on many homes and buildings.This technique was used by painter Franz Seraph Zwinck (1748–1792). Several of the famous painted houses that you can see are the Pilatushaus, Judas House, Hansel and Gretel House and the Little Red Riding Hood House. The NATO school is also in Oberammergau which a lot of people don’t know.
While staying in Oberammergau we enjoyed eating out daily, getting fresh baked goods from the local bakery (Backerie Brandmeier) each morning, taking the chairlift up the Kolbensattel and riding the Alpine Coaster down (super fun), hiking the Kofel mountain, taking the gondola up the Laber mountain (tallest mountain in Oberammergau), shopping, going to the Oberammergau Museum, hiking and bike riding. It’s a walking town with everything easily accessible. We just loved staying in this house and feeling like locals. It also gave everyone the freedom to come and go as they wished.
Some of our favorite restaurants were Hotel Alte Post (our favorite spot for delicious schnitzel), Piccola Toscana (operated by a lovely couple from Tuscany), Dekos (Greek food), Zur Tini, Bems’l (bar and food), Pizzeria Wanniger and daily ice cream at Paradiso Ice Cafe. There are lots of great hotels in Oberammergau so if you are looking to book I suggest you check out Hotel Bold, Hotel Wolf (dog friendly), Hotel Alte Post, Hotel Wittelsbach and Hotel Maximilian. If you are looking for a fantastic Bed & Breakfast, check out my post from 2015 by clicking HERE.
Schloss Linderhof and Ettal
We loved our outing to Schloss Linderhof and the to the Ettal Monastery. These are a short drive from Oberammergau. Schloss Linderof is the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and the only one which he lived to see completed. He was King of Bavaria from 1864 until his death in 1886 and many called him the fantasy king because he withdrew from day-to-day affairs of state in favor of extravagant artistic and architectural projects. Schloss Linderhof is opulent and modeled after Versailles, although much smaller. The grounds are spectacular and offer a Grotto (currently being refurbished) where he would be entertained by composers. It is said that he often entertained composer Richard Wagner here. Click HERE to see pictures of the stylish interior. King Ludwig II also built Schloss Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee (neither were completed during his lifetime).
The Ettal Monastery is just a short drive from Schloss Linderhof and worth the visit. The church is stunning! Did you know that the monastery still operates its beer brewery and liquor distillery? It was founded in 1330 and still has monks. It’s also the site of a secondary school. We had lunch across the street and enjoyed their Ettal beer. Prost!
Both of these outings are only a 15-20 minute drive from Oberammergau and will only take about half a day combined, including lunch. This is a great way to start exploring.
Fussen and Schloss Neuschwanstein
Not to be missed is Schloss Neuschwanstein. After all, it’s what Walt Disney modeled Cinderella’s castle after once he saw it. It’s about a on hour drive from Oberammergau to Hohenschwangau. I booked a 10:50 AM tour with an English speaking guide. You can do this ahead of time online by clicking HERE. Be sure to have your tickets with you. The hike up to the castle is a solid 40 minute walk at a brisk pace and you must have your tickets to enter the castle. It’s a timed entrance and summer is their busiest season. NOTE: As of the time of this writing, face masks were required inside castles. The guided tour lasts about 30 minutes. Building the castle was begun in 1868 but never fully completed. King Ludwig II saw his castle as a monument to the culture and concept of monarchy prevailing in the Middle Ages, which he greatly admired and wanted to recreate. Built and furnished in medieval styles but equipped with the latest technology of the day, he even made his service staff dress in medieval clothing.
Once we completed our tour, we hopped in the car for a short 10 minute drive to Fussen, a town of about 15,000 people. I worked with Anke at Fussen Tourism to arrange a walking tour of this beautiful town. Our guides Erih and Anke met us at Hotel Hirsch for lunch and an overview about this part of Bavaria. I love learning from locals so I always reach out to local tourism offices for guidance when building my trip itineraries. After lunch, we set out on our 1-1/2 hour walking tour with Erih.
While you will find ample things to do outside in all of Bavaria (it’s known for its hiking trails and mountain climbing), there is lots of rich history in this area too. Fussen is the end of the Romantic Road which is the beautiful stretch between Wurtzburg and Fussen. While I’ve never traveled this path, I have heard it’s glorious with lots of historic towns along the way.
Füssen’s roots go back to the Roman era, when a settlement developed on the roman road Via Claudia Augusta. In the 8th century the Swiss monk Magnus laid the foundation for the Benedictine Abbey St. Mang. The baroque monastery you can visit today, was built from 1697 to 1727.
It’s historic town center offers several baroque churches and gothic houses as well as medieval town walls. During the 18th century, Fussen was know at the lute and violin center. It had over 80 violin makers whose instruments were sought after all over Europe. It was in Fussen that we got to see amazing painted buildings that were done in 3D during the 1500’s. The painted window above is one of them. If you look at it closely, you will see how the 3D makes it appear that the window surround is protruding out. In fact, it’s an illusion.
Fussen is surrounded by rolling hills and green meadows with the alps in view. There are great hotels and restaurants available should you want to stay in Fussen. Be sure to pop in to the cute little shops too.
Schloss Neuschwanstein and exploring Fussen was a full day excursion including drive time and lunch.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a charming town of about 26,000 people. It’s a 30 minute drive from Oberammergau. We learned on our guided tour from Gunther that Garmisch and Partenkirchen became one in 1935. Many know it by its nickname Ga-Pa. It is the home of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. This charming town is full of hand painted houses, beautiful streets, churches, stores and lovely places to eat. It’s an Alpine ski town which also has plenty of great hiking paths during the summer months. It’s also the site of the 1936 Olympic Games. From Garmisch-Partenkirchen you can see the Austrian Alps which are only a short distance away.
The town is first mentioned in 15 A.D. as it was the Roman trading route from Venice to Augsburg. Its main street, Ludwigsstrasse, follows the original Roman road. We enjoyed a 3 hour walking tour with our guide Gunther from GaPa Tourism and then sat outside for lunch at Fischer’s am Mohrenplatz. There we enjoyed traditional Bavarian food as it is a biergarten. Prost!
Both towns are absolutely charming laid with cobblestone roads and rich in history. As with each town we visited, there are beautiful churches and museums. Be sure to stop by Grasegger traditional tracht clothing. They have the most beautiful traditional Bavarian clothing and even Elizabeth Taylor bought 10 dresses from this store when she was staying in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1965. If I were to purchase a dirndlkleid, I would get it here.
For the most decadent chocolate, be sure to shop at Chocolaterie Amelie. Not only is their chocolate delicious, it’s beautiful! Chocolaterie Amelie has won the distinction of being the best chocolate in all German speaking countries. Bravo!
Normally, we would have visited the Zugspitze but it was closed for Cable Car and Cogwheel Train maintenance work (it has since reopened). The Zugspitze is Germany’s highest mountain at 9,718 feet and has a gorgeous view of the alps. The mountain has a glacier and you can walk on it. Be sure to have lunch at the top where you can see 4 countries and a panoramic view of 400 summits. On cloudy days, you will be above the clouds when you are at the top of the mountain. This is a ski mountain and provides excellent hiking opportunities in the summer. Click HERE to get tickets.
Instead, we chose to go up the Wank Mountain which was also spectacular. It’s 5,840 feet and provides beautiful views at the top. It’s considered the ‘sun balcony’ of the region. We took pictures at the top after going up in the cable car and then enjoyed and afternoon of refreshments. Tickets for the cable car can be purchased at the bottom of the mountain.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen was a full day excursion for us including lunch and drive time.
WHEW! That was a lot! Other than what is written above, we lived and felt like locals. Spending time with my German relatives was truly special. This family trip will give us memories of a lifetime!
xoxo – Tanya
P.S. A huge thanks to Fritzi Luca at Travel Germany for all of the guidance and help.
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Tags: Bavaria, Germany, Oberammergau, Passion Play, travel essentials