Discover the most popular things to do in Mittenwald Germany, including top attractions and lesser known travel gems.
There are plenty of reasons why you should add Mittenwald as a destination to your bucket list. I introduce you to this stunning village in the German alps with this complete travel guide.
🧭 Where is Mittenwald?
Mittenwald is in Bavaria, Southern Germany, in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district.
Nestled in the Bavarian Alps, this historical area is known for its beautiful landscapes and its cultural similarities to Tyrol in Austria.
The village at the Isar river is bordering Austria, but Mittenwald is clearly in Germany, flanked by the Karwendel mountain range to the east and the Wetterstein mountain range to the west.
📕 What is Mittenwald known for?
Mittenwald is a special little town in the German alps. Its most prominent features are Mittenwald’s intricately painted picture book mural walls.
This local wall painting tradition is known as Lüftlmalerei, which is a trompe l’oeil painting technique. Traditionally, people from the region had their homes and other village buildings painted with a layered lime paint technique, creating these marvelous surreal details.
Lüftlmalerei buildings can be found in Bavaria, Germany, neighboring Tyrol in Austria, the Salzburg region of Austria and in the Swiss cantons nearby.
The most beautiful paintings in the region can be found in Mittenwald and Oberammergau, another village nearby.
Yet, Mittenwald also has a reputation for being a violin builder village. Its inhabitants are known for making outstanding violins.
Alone in the last centuries, many violin builders from Mittenwald, have been elevated into a star-like limelight for their handcrafting skills.
Due to its location, Mittenwald has been an important trading post along the European alps. Traders from Italian city states, such as Venice, came across South Tyrol (Italy) and the Austrian alps to stop in Mittenwald before they would head further north.
The violin building tradition and mural painting technique knowledge may have traveled over the old trading routes from the South to the historical borough of Mittenwald.
Many German-speaking visitors come to Mittenwald on a hiking tour. The Karwendel mountain range is a hikers dream come true in the summer months.
On the other hand, Mittenwald turns into a buzzing ski resort in winter, with its Kranzberg-Mittenwald ski resort.
Here you will find Germany’s longest ski routes in the large Karwendel ski resort. You can even ski over to the connected Austrian ski slopes.
🏠 Old Town
The one thing that you will want to do the moment you set foot in Mittenwald is to take a stroll to take in the picture-perfect town.
I can guarantee you that Mittenwald will be the most memorable old town that you will visit in the German alps. My wife visited the place for the first time in the 90s as a kid, and she remembered it all these years later.
Every house has a story to tell and is uniquely painted. Take your time to observe the houses and to absorb the rich details. You might discover the signature of the Lüftler art painters at the corner of a wall.
Especially the buildings in the Obermarkt (main street of the old town) will take your breath away.
Many are painted in devotional fashion, yet a lot are esthetical marvels in themselves. A few of the facade paintings tell the story of the towns and depict the rural lives of the inhabitants.
At the heart of the village, stands, unmissable, the red trompe l’oeil painted Catholic Church of St. Peter & Paul. Enter the church to take in the typical Bavarian baroque interiors and look up to not miss the dazzling fine art ceiling painting.
Small locally run boutiques add to the charm of the village, especially along the so called Wasserpromenade (water canal walk).
You will also notice small water canals in the town and plenty of fountains with drinking water.
🎻 Violin Builders
Working with wood has long been part of the regional craftsmanship in the area. For example, Oberammergau, a neighboring village, has established itself as the wood carving village of Germany.
Craftsmen were known for building wooden torture devices and wooden Krampus masks. Naturally, the art of building musical instruments was added to the skill tree.
The violin was invented in Northern Italy in the 15th century by the likes of Andrea Amati and Gasparo da Salò before it found its way to the humble mountain village of Mittenwald.
The renowned violin maker, Matthias Klotz taught the art of making violins to his brothers and soon enough the whole village got into this business.
Since that, Mittenwald has been celebrated as the village of a thousand violins.
Playing a violin, the queen of musical instruments, is a skill, yet building an acoustically perfected wooden violin requires the fineness and dexterity of a master violin builder.
The choice of wood, the construction of the neck and body all require a certain savoir faire, that the master violin builders of Mittenwald acquired in the 17th century.
You can learn about this tradition and its history in the violin making museum (aka Geigenbaumuseum), situated behind the church in Mittenwald.
The comprehensive and informative exhibition comes with a small workshop, and admission is just €5.50. The deep red painted house was a former violin maker workshop from the 17th century, and you really can’t miss it!
Besides, about a dozen traditional violin workshops can still be found in Mittenwald and there you can order a custom-built violin from Mittenwald. Look out for the violin makers, Anton Sprenger, Joachim Roy and Anton Maller.
If you are a violin builder yourself, head to Mittenwald to compete in the international violin building competition held every 4 years since 1989.
The last violin building competition was organized to be at the end of October/beginning November in 2022. Makers and instruments are celebrated with concerts, markets and typical local fair.
🚡 Karwendel Mountain Range
The mighty Karwendel mountain range is hardly invincible and one of the prime scenic landscape beautifiers and a reason to venture out and about.
Go to Germany’s second-highest cable car, the Karwendelbahn, which takes you to the 7300 feet (ca 2240 meters) high station.
On the way, take in the steep cliffs from your cabin and once you are at the top, enjoy the panoramic 360 degrees view of the Isar valley.
On a sunny clear day, you can see Mittenwald and other neighboring villages such as Krün, and of course, the Zugspitze from afar.
A walking tunnel can take you through the Bergwelt Karwendel to the other side of the mountain, which is pretty unique in the alps.
Various hiking trails lead away from the mountain restaurant. Pick a hiking trail of your difficulty level, or enjoy a beer with a view and local food specialties while you are there.
Dress for the weather warm in spring and autumn, and just take a hiking jacket with you in the summer months. The weather can change fast enough, and you will be all the more exposed to the elements at these heights. Snow is a possibility in June and September.
🥾 Gorge Hikes
If you are looking for outdoor activities I recommend a gorge hike, which is a popular summer activity.
Gorge hikes are always an adventure in themselves and shouldn’t be missed if you are in the area. Every gorge is different and offers stunning views and rushing mountain waters.
Here are some of the must-see gorges nearby
- Leutaschklamm Gorge (aka Geisterklamm) – Situated right across the Austrian border, 5 minutes from the old town. The Leutasch Gorge is an easy hike, but you need a head for heights.
- Partnach Gorge – A well-visited gorge near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, known for its tunnel walks and spectacular ice views in winter.
- Hüttlebach Gorge – In the neighboring village of Krün, this gorge is freely accessible (no fees) and easy enough for most ages.
One of the perks of being in the area are the wonderful lakes. Here are some of the lakes that I can recommend while in Mittenwald:
Lautersee – A little unknown gem in the German alps, this lake is just a view minute away from Mittenwald. You can go for a swim at the beach lake or hire a boat to take your family out into the lake, or how about you hire some e-bikes to cycle around?
Ferchensee – Another 6-minute drive from the Lautersee away is the Ferchensee, a mountain lake with crystal clear waters and mountains mirroring in the peaceful waters. This idyllic lake invites you on a hike or a swim in its ice-cold waters.
Eibsee – Known as one of the most beautiful lakes in Germany, this lake is at the base of mount Zugspitze near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I recommend getting there early morning to take the best pictures, and the hiking trail around the lake will lead you to spectacular views.
🚗 Getting There
You have several options to get to Mittenwald, but due to its locations in the German alps and the lack of a more frequent public infrastructure in the mountains, it has been easier to access Mittenwald via a private car.
Travel from Munich towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the national road 95 and merge onto the B2 towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Continue your journey on the B2 direction to Innsbruck, and just before the border is the village of Mittenwald. You will be driving for about 1 1/2 hours, and the distance is about 65 miles (ca. 105 kilometers).
If you are coming from Innsbruck in Austria, take the A12 Highway (toll road!) direction to Bregenz and get out at the Garmisch-Partenkirchen directional board. Continue your drive across the curvy alpine roads towards Seefeld and Scharnitz to get to Mittenwald.
By Public Transport
If you intend to travel from Munich to Mittenwald via public transportation, take the flixbus service to Garmisch and then a regular bus to Mittenwald. That’s the easiest way to get to Mittenwald via public transport from Munich and it takes more than 2 1/2 hours.
The easier option is to take a train from Innsbruck towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen and get out at Mittenwald. This trip takes about 1 hour at most.
🌨️ When to Visit
You can come and visit Mittenwald all year round. Every season has its pros and cons.
Winter – December, January, and February are known to be the coldest months. The village tends to be busy with winter sports tourism, so prices for accommodations are expensive during those months. You can expect to pay peak tourism season prices during the Christmas and New Years weeks.
Spring – The last layer of snow melts away in March and April and May are known for the most picture-perfect wild flower fields. Local hotels take a seasonal break for about 4 weeks soon after Easter, and not all attractions are open during this period.
Summer – Peak summer in July and August are a great time to visit a mountain village. Cooler temperatures, compared to Southern Europe, make Mittenwald a prime area to visit for hikers. Nonetheless, it gets busy with tourists and room prices are hiked up. June is a better alternative to escape all that.
Fall – The most beautiful season is hands down autumn. Fall foliage in the alps is a stunning play of colors, and the hazy cooler weather adds to the mystery of the region. September ushers in late summer temperatures with festivities such as the Almabtrieb, while October gets colder. November is the quietest time of the year with the least tourists, but keep in mind hotels close for the season for a month, so accommodations and attractions are closed in November.
Most hotels in the area are still owned and run by local families. A many built out their establishments over the decades from small breakfast inns into 4-star wellness resorts.
This includes the Hotel post in Mittenwald. This centrally located 4-star hotel used to be the former post office. Today, the Rademacher family is running the hotel with a broad wellness offering. Here you will get traditional Bavarian food and the full cultural experience.
Das Kranzbach, one of the two 5-star retreats near Mittenwald, is in a secluded area with a view to the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. Here you are surrounded by meadows and forests only, and the wellness offerings are grand as well.
The second 5-star luxury retreat, Schloss Elmau, a stone-throw away from Das Kranzbach hotel, is known for its spa offerings, peaceful location and exceptional service.
Or how about a chalet with a hot tub and sauna? The ZSAM Chalet offers just that. A 3-bedroom house all to yourself beneath the Karwendel mountains after a long day on the slopes is just what you need.
Tip: Get acquainted with the Sauna culture and etiquette in Germany.
✨ Day Trip
Make Mittenwald your base and plan a few day trips to these stunning locations:
- Oberammergau – The other famous village with mural paintings.
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen – Formerly two towns merged into one by Hitler for the Olympic winter games.
- Linderhof – One of the 3 dream palaces of the fairy tale king of Bavaria.
- Neuschwanstein castle and Hohenschwangau – The world-famous castle of the fairy tale king.
- Ettal Abbey – Situated near Linderhof and Oberammergau, this abbey is known for its liquor and beer.
- Eibsee Lake and the Zugspitze – A stunning lake and Germany’s highest mountain peak.
- Innsbruck – Not all too far away is the capital and medieval old town of the Tyrol region in Austria.
- Munich – The capital of Bavaria is known for its beer halls, Oktoberfest and Christmas market.
Is Mittenwald in Austria or Germany?
Mittenwald is in Bavaria, which belongs to Germany but the village is right next to the Austrian border.
Is Mittenwald worth visitin in winter?
Yes definitely! The town organizes a Christmas market in December and the setting is that of a fairy tale book. Winter sports are popular here as well and people come from all over the world for down-hill skiing, for country-cross-skiing and to see the yearly Kandahar Classic Garmisch downhill skiing competition or the Four Hills Ski Jumping Tournament.
What other towns are known for alpine mural paintings?
You will find mural paintings spread across the Garmisch-Partenkirchen district in other villages such as Oberammergau, Grainau, Wallgau, Krün and of course in Garmisch-Partenkirchen itself. Lüftlmalerei paintings are also common in Berchtesgaden, Kitzbühel, Innsbruck and Luzern. Besides all that, you will find excellent indoor mural and veiling paintings in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich.