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Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

Zugspizte from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

ABOVE: A peak through the clouds.

Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, is also one of its most accessible. A cogwheel railroad and three different cable cars provide an effortless route to the top, where you can enjoy views of four countries before sitting down to a pleasant meal or quaffing a drink on a terrace overlooking a glacier.

You might even find yourself witnessing a press event for the latest model BMW, observing a TV commercial shoot, or waving at a bride and groom as they emerge from Germany's highest-altitude chapel.

Need to check your e-mail without mobile-phone roaming fees? Log onto the Internet at one of the Zugspitze's public terminals. Having a family reunion? Book a conference room with a projector for Uncle Phil's digital slide show.

Okay, the Zugspitze isn't Mount Everest, and Hillary wouldn't have needed Tenzing's help to reach the top. But don't let the restaurants, scientific observatories, or communications antennas fool you into thinking that you're in the Munich suburbs--even if the German Alpine Club hut does have a sign that reads "Münchner Haus."

The Zugspitze is very much a mountain, and its scenery is nothing short of spectacular. No visit to Garmisch-Partenkirchen is complete without an ascent to the highest point in Germany. As attractions go, the Zugspitze ranks a solid zehn on a scale of ten.

Getting up and down the Zugspitze

Bayerische Zugspitzbahn cogwheel train

ABOVE: A cogwheel train of the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn stops at the Eibsee station on its way back to Garmisch.

From Germany:

Eibsee-Seilbahn. The fully-accessible Cable Car Zubspitze aerial tram departs from a station near the Eibsee (a lake at the foot of the Zugpitze) and rises 1950 meters or 6,397 feet to the mountain's summit ridge. It's a spectacular ride that includes the world's longest unsupported cablecar span (3,213 meters or 10,541 feet).

Zahnradbahn. The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn, a meter-gauge rack railway, starts its journey alongside the DB railroad station in Garmisch. It travels along the valley to Grainau and on to Eibsee before ascending the Zugspitze under cogwheel power.

At the Zugspitzplatt or Zugspitze Glacier Plateau, 2600 meters up the 2964m mountain, you switch to the Gletscherbahn aerial cablecar for a quick ascent to the summit ridge. Total travel time is 75 minutes from Garmisch, 60 minutes from Grainau, or 35 minutes from Eibsee.


  • Ascend the Zugspitze in the morning and have lunch in one of the mountain restaurants.

  • The last train or cable car down the mountain is in late afternoon. Arrive early enough to avoid feeling rushed!

  • A roundtrip ticket costs the same no matter how you travel, so take the Zahnradbahn and Gletscherbahn in one direction and the Eibsee-Seilbahn in the other.

  • If you're driving, you can park at Eibsee and skip the Garmisch-Grainau-Eibsee section of the train ride. Normally, I'd recommend taking the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car up the mountain and coming down by the Zahnradbahn; this way, you'll be sure of finding seats with your companions on the cogwheel train. However, if you have a heart condition or are sensitive to altitude, it's best to ascend the mountain more slowly by cogwheel train.

  • If you're without a car, you can buy a roundtrip ticket from Garmisch. Take the Zahnradbahn to Eibsee and switch to the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car. For the return trip, descend via the Gletscherbahn cable car to the cogwheel railroad's mountain station at Zugspitzplatt, where you'll board the train for Garmisch.

  • During the winter season, you can buy ski passes for the Zugspitze train, cable cars, and 35 other lifts in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen/Grainau region.

For more information on Zugspitze transportation (including wheelchair access), visit

From Austria:

The Tiroler Zugspitzbahn, an aerial cablecar with a capacity of 100 passengers, climbs 1,725 meters from Ehrwald, Tyrol to the Zugspitz summit ridge in just 10 minutes.

Zugspitze Hotels

MŁnchner Haus alpine hut, Zugspitze, Germisch-Partenkirchen

ABOVE: The Münchner Haus was built in 1897 by the Munich section of the Deutsche Alpenverein or German Alpine Club.

There aren't any hotels with private rooms on the slopes of the Zugspitze, but the village of Grainau has a good selection of hotels and guesthouses. (See's Grainau hotel listings.)

Most visitors stay in nearby Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is Germany's most popular mountain resort.

If you're willing to share a dormitory with hikers and mountaineers, try the Münchner Haus from early May through the beginning of October. This Hütte of the Deutsche Alpenverein was built in 1897 and is near the summit of the Zugspitze.

The Campingplatz Zugspitze in Untergrainau is a convenient place to stay if you're traveling with a tent or camper van.


Sonnalpin Restaurant, Zugspitze

ABOVE: The Sonnalpin restaurant is open year-round for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The Sonnalpin (see photo) is the largest restaurant on the Zugspitze, with 350 seats at indoor tables and room for another 800 guests on the sun terrace. Its self-service restaurant dishes up generous portions of tasty food at reasonable prices. (We can recommend the Wienerschnitzel with pommes frites, and the berry crumb cake is delightful.)

The Sonnalpin is located at the edge of a glacier on the Zugspitzplatt or Zugspitze Plateau, where it adjoins the mountain station of the cogwheel railway.

Two cablecars lead to the summit ridge: The Seilbahn-Eibsee from Eibsee, in the valley; and the Gletscherbahn from the Zugspitzplatt station of the cogwheel railway.

When you reach the top, you'll find the Panorama 2962 restaurant, which opened in 2018. It offers a choice of "simple self-service" or table service, with a capacity of 450 diners indoors and 850 outside.

Finally, the German Alpine Club's Münchner Haus serves drinks and meals in a cozy 19th Century mountain hut on the summit ridge. In good weather, you can eat outdoors.

Winter sports

Lawn chairs on the Zugspitze

ABOVE: When you get tired of skiing or snowboarding, you can chill out on the snow.

You can ski or snowboard from October until May on the Zugspitze, where the permanent ice of Germany's only glacier helps to keep snow frozen at both ends of the ski season.

The cogwheel-railway station at the Zugspitzplatt offers easy access to nine T-bars and a chair lift at elevations of more than 2600 meters. There's also a 140m halfpipe and a "Funpark" for snowboarders. Equipment is available for rent at Zugspitzplatt.

The Garmisch-Partenkirchen region has many other ski areas, with a total of about 40 lifts and more than 70 km of marked trails in five Skigebiete.

You can buy ski passes that are valid for lifts through the region (including the Zugspitze's cogwheel train and cablecars).

For more information, select a language at and go to the "Winter" pages via the navigation menu.

Summer sports

Mariš Himmelfahrt Chapel, Zugspitze

ABOVE: You can hike from the Zugspitzplatt cogwheel-train station to the Mariš Himmelfahrt Chapel, which is the highest church in Germany. (This photo was taken after a snowstorm in late September.)

Don't plan on taking the cablecar to the Zugspitze's summit ridge and walking down--the upper slopes of the mountain are too steep for hiking.

The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn suggests two easy (and extremely short) hiking excursions atop the mountain:

  • Zugspitze summit crossFollow the trail to the cross on the mountain's summit (assuming that you aren't bothered by heights). You'll be standing at 2964 meters or 9,724 feet, with a superb view of the mountain and the surrounding region.

  • Walk past the Münchner Haus and through the enclosed bridge to the Tyrolean side of the summit ridge, which offers impressive views of the Austrian Alps.

A few hundred meters down on the glacier, next to the Sonn Alpin restaurant and the cogwheel train's station, you can walk across to the viewing platform at the WindlŲche ("howling wind hole") in about 30 minutes.

The Bayerische Zugspitzbahn has other suggestions for hikers who are willing to spend six to eight hours walking downhill from the glacier area: one to the Olympic Stadium in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and another to the Austrian village of Ehrwald (where you can catch a train back to Germany).

For details, pick up a brochure at any Bayerische Zugspitze ticket office or e-mail:

Mountaineering is another option, although several of the other mountains around Garmisch-Partenkirchen are of greater interest to climbers.

The best climbing months are July through September, but the weather can be unpredictable--as you can tell from the photos of snow-covered scenery in this article, which were taken on September 28.

For more information, go to and choose the "Summer" pages.

More about Garmisch-Partenkirchen:
Partnach Gorge - Partnachklamm
Photo Gallery