It’s hard not to feel small, standing on top of Zugspitze; mountains surround you in every direction, encasing you in awe and wonderment. A pristine glacier rests in the bowl below. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders play in a winter wonderland, while in the summer, hikers explore the wild terrain. Zugspitze Mountain, Germany’s highest peak, is an exhilarating day trip from Munich for the adventurous outdoor lover or anyone looking to experience views unlike anywhere else in the world! Just check out my photos and tell me if that isn’t one of the best views you’ve seen! Zugspitze from Munich is one for the bucket list and one of my favorite things to recommend to all my visiting friends and family. This post was updated Sept 2019 with all the latest details and tips!
Getting From Munich to Zugspitze, Germany’s Highest Peak
Taking the day to go from Munich to Zugspitze is the perfect way to see the Alps in all their glory, especially if you’re not a big skier or hiker. The day starts in Munich with a train ride to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there, you hop aboard a classic cogwheel train and climb nearly 3,000 meters to the highest peak in Germany. Spend your day exploring the glacier and taking in the stunning views. Take a break to grab Germany’s highest wurst and beer. You can even cross the border between Austria and Germany, as many times as you want! This trip isn’t the easiest to do, and I suggest independent travel for more confident travelers. I recently made the journey to Zugspitze for the second time in Sept 2019, and all together we took 12 types of transportation, so be prepared for a long day with lots of logistics. For those that aren’t independent travelers, I recommend some tours for you to book that will get you there and back while relaxing.
As I mentioned above, there is a lot of logistics involved in traveling from Munich to Zugspitze, and there are several companies involved. If you want to save money, you can buy the Deutsch Bahn Zugspitze Summer or Winter Combo ticket. However, this can only be done from the main central train station, DB ticketing booths, or on the train for a 10% surcharge. That’s right, you can not buy this ticket online, and to be honest buying it from the ticketing booth is complicated, which makes it a bit tricky. The easiest way to obtain this money-saving combination ticket is from the DB Travel Center (Reisezentrum) in the Hauptbahnhof; however, it can take a while, so it is best to get to the station early or buy your tickets in advance.
Now that I have thoroughly scared you, I’ll hold your hand and walk you through the process, so don’t worry. If you plan on buying the tickets in person from the Deutsch Bahn Reisezentrum, I suggest you arrive more than an hour before your train or stop by the train station on a day when you have extra time. It seems like it should be a quick process, but sometimes the attendants don’t speak much English, and it takes them a while to book and print the tickets. Also, there can be a serious line in front of you, which means you will be waiting for a while.
While you’re waiting, think of the beauty that waits for you!
The Deutsch Bahn Reisezentrum is commonly mistaken for their info booth, which is in the center of the station. Behind the info booth and to the left, if you are facing away from the train tracks, is a fancy DB travel service center (you can also follow the signs for the DB Reisezentrum). Here you can buy tickets, reschedule trips, or deal with train delays, etc. This center operates like a giant DMV. You enter, get a number and then wait for your number to be called. On a Tuesday morning in the summer with minimal people in the area, we waited for about 20 minutes.
Local Tip: If you are in a major hurry – let reception know, they might squeeze you in ahead of other people.
Once your number is called you can ask the attendant for the DB Zugspitze Combo Ticket. Depending on if it is the summer or winter season your price will vary. The summer price is 69 Euro a person, and the winter price is a wee bit cheaper.
Check in at reception to get your number
Wait until your number is called
Three pieces of paper will print, and the agent will hand them to you in a nice little envelope. DO NOT LOSE ANY OF THESE FOR THE ENTIRE DAY! The first, is the round trip ticket that only gets you from Munich to Garmish on a DB train. The second is a voucher you will need to turn in later for your Zugspitze pass. The third is a receipt. These tickets will cover you entirely for round trip train, gondola transportation, and cogwheel train, from Munich to the peak of Zugspitze and back again.
Please Note: Buying an individual pass for the Seilbahn (which is the large gondola that goes from Eibsee to the peak of Zugspitze) is around 40 Euro per person. If you are not efficient in buying the DB Combo Tickets or the Zugspitze Ticket and do everything separetly as you go, you might be spending a lot of money.
What is the Garmisch Classic Ticket?
There is also a thrid option called the Garmisch Classic Ticket. This option, DOES NOT TAKE YOU TO ZUGSPITZE, rather it allows you to ride Alpspitzbahn to a lower peak. There is a hut for dining and plenty of summer hiking trails and winter views. This option is great for those with limited mobility, those who don’t deal well with higher altitude. Generally it is a more accessible option.
The Train from Munich to Garmisch/Zugspitze
With tickets in hand, it is now it is time to board your train if you are departing from Munich. Your first leg of the journey will take you from Munich to Garmisch Partenkirchen Hbf. The train leaves from Munich Hbf every hour at 32 past. I always like catching the 7:32, 8:32, or 9:32 train. In my opinion, if you catch it much later than that, you will be rushed for time. The earlier you take the train, the more time you have to explore, not stress about catching the last train back, and relaxing while drinking Germany’s highest beer at the top of the mountain. Trust me when I say that getting to Garmisch is the easiest and fastest part of your journey, from there you change trains 2x and take two gondolas, that may only run every 30 min to an hour. Bottom line, earlier is better.
What your train should look like
Your final stop
These trains to Garmisch typically leave from platform 27, or 28, but always double-check the time table. You will look for a train that says Reutte in Tirol, via Garmisch. There is always a friendly DB staff member waiting outside the trains who can double-check your tickets. Find a seat and sit back and relax. You will reach Garmisch in about an hour and 15 min, and the train will stop for a while in Garmisch as it splits.
Zugspitzebahn and Zugspitze Tickets
Leave the train and head down the stairs. You will enter a tunnel and follow the signs for Zugspitzebahn. You will emerge from the other side of the tunnel and see a yellow building that says Zugspitze. Queue in line and get our your voucher ticket. You will exchange this for a little card, that looks like a ski pass. This will be your golden ticket for the entire trip up and back down the mountain and you will use it four times. If you did not buy the combo pass with the DB train, you can purchase your Zugspitze Ticket or Garmisch Glassic Ticket from the booth attendant.
Follow the tunnel under the platform
To the yellow Zugspitze building
Exchange your DB voucher for a Zugspitze voucher
Once you arrive on the platform board the blue and white historic Zugspitzebahn cogwheel train or wait for it to arrive, it leaves every 15-30 minutes depending on the season. This leg of the journey is one of my favorite. You chug along past sprawling green pastures, grazing cattle, charming houses and churches with mountains as the backdrop – unless of course, it is winter, then you’ll be passing snowy white fields and skiers. The train stops at Grainau, where you upgrade to a newer Zugspitzebahn that should be on the other side of the platform. Continue on the cogwheel train to Eibsee – where you will have a choice to make!
Option 1: Continue on the train to Zugspitzeplatz and the Zugspitze glacier (this is not the peak, but the valley below). Here you can play on the glacier, go sledding, visiting Germany’s highest church, hike around, grab a drink, and enjoy the view. You can then take a small gondola (Gletscherbahn) to the peak. Once you’ve explored the peak, you can take the large gondola back (Seilbahn Zugspitze) to Eibsee, board the Zugspitzebahn and return to Garmisch.
Pros – the gondolas run more frequently than the trains, if you stay on the train the whole time and don’t rely on it to get down, you are less likely to have longer waiting periods.
Cons – you will board the train at Eibsee on your way back halfway during its descent, meaning you might not get a seat.
Option 2: Exit the train at Eibsee. Visit the lake (5 min walk) if you want before boarding the massive gondola and riding it to the peak. Explore the summit, crosing the border and eating the highest wurst, before heading down on the small gondola to the glacier. When ready, you will board the Zugspitzbahn cogwheel train and continue down – changing at Grainau until you reach the Garmisch train station.
Pros – You will feel more comfortable stopping at the Eibsee lake timewise. You get straight to the top and can perhaps budget your time a bit better.
Cons – You may have to wait 30 minutes or so for the cogwheel train, but while you wait, you can explore the glacier and the surrounding area.
Overall: Your tickets cover you for complete round trip transportation including the gondola one way and the train the other. So, it doesn’t matter what option you chose. Both routes are designed to make sense and work. You can play it by ear, if not many people get off at Eibsee, maybe you should get off to have more space in the large gondola, but you really can’t go wrong. I’ve done both and had no significant issues either way. Though if I HAD to pick an option, I would suggest riding the gondola up and taking the train down.
Whether you are riding it up or down, the Seilbahn is impressive. This gondola is brand new! When I took it a few years ago, it was small and dated, but in 2019, I was blown away. This gondola is breaking world records. It has the largest pylon, the longest cablecar span and the greatest height difference between valley and mountain station — basically, it’s all-around crazy cool. Once you load up, you’ll be treated with panorama views of the green Eibsee lake, endless mountains, and cute villages. If you are brave enough, stand in the middle on top of the glass bottom. To be honest, I was a bit sad when the journey ended, but you have lots to look forward to!
Things to See and Do at the Peak of Zugspitze
Where do I start? There are so many things to do and see at the peak of Zugspitze. I suggest first, taking a look around outside at the stunning views of the mountains. It is a bit hard to see over the railing on the lower deck, so head to the very top and take all the photos! Grab a coffee if you are a bit chilled, eat lunch at the cafeteria, or head over to the older side of the platform. The Münchner Haus was built in 1897 and was originally a haven for mountaineers making the dangerous journey to the peak. Enjoy the charming Bayerische atmosphere and order beer and German food – or you can save yourself for the highest Brauwurst in Germany!
Drink Germany’s highest beer
Eat Germany’s highest Bratwurst
If you’re not hungry you can continue down to the Bavarian/German and Austrian/Tirol border. You can cross as many times as you want. The views from the Austrian side are different with more towns and less mountains, but it is often much less crowded. Don’t miss the snowflake exhibit on this side as well.
I’m in Germany!
Now I’m in Austria!
A bit lower than the peak of the mountain is the glacier. In the winter, this area is mostly full of skiers and a lot of snow, making it challenging to explore too much. However, you can have a snowball fight, watch skiers, visit the igloo village, or try their mini sledding hill. In the summer, you can hike around visit the highest church in Germany, grab a beer, and there is still enough snow left for a mini sledding experience. If you are descending, keep an eye on the train time table.
Zugspitze Glacier in Summer
Germany’s highest church
Skiing at Zugspitze Glacier. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo
Looking down at the Zugspitze Glacier
Winter vs Summer
If you live in Munich or nearby I highly recommend visiting in both summer and winter. However, if you are visiting just once in your life they both offer amazing experiences.
In the summer, you have more room to hike or walk around, but the glacier is quite small, and the snow cover minimal. Personally, I think the mountains are most lovely with a dusting of snow, but the summer alps have a rugged charm. The temperatures in the winter are well below freezing, and in the summer you can get away with a T-shirt most days. Prices for the combo tickets are also different.
What to Pack
If you are visiting in the winter, pack hat, gloves, scarf, winter jacket, and boots. Summer, you will need a light jacket if windy or rain jacket, if raining and other than that you can get away with summer clothing. Bring water, good walking shoes, a reliable watch or battery packs for your phones, a book for the train, and some layers.
Book an Organized Tour to Zugspitze from Munich
Getting yourself to Zugspitze and back is a bit complicated. It involves several transportation options that only run at certain times of the day, requiring you to keep an eye on the time, so you don’t miss the last trains back into Munich. While I highly recommend the self-guided route for independent and confident travelers, it isn’t for everyone. So, if you don’t like the idea of keeping an eye on train schedules and figuring out how to get from the train to the cogwheel to the gondola and back consider booking a guided tour package to Zugspitze. Here are two of the best options:
The first option, Full Day Tour to Germany’s Highest Peak: Zugspitze, includes a motorcoach transfer to and from Munich, and the Zugspitze Ticket covering the cogwheel train, the gondola ticket and ride and sledding adventure in the Alps. Lunch is not included. This is the best bang for your buck and there are no additional hidden fees, so you can just sit back and relax.
I hope you enjoyed checking Zugspitze off your bucket list! This view really has no comparison and no trip to Germany is complete until you’ve experienced this day trip from Munich to Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak!