A Guide to Exploring Oberammergau, Germany

What to see and do in Oberammergau, a charming and historic Bavarian town.

The quaint town of Oberammergau, Germany is best known for three things: a world-famous Passion Play, a centuries-long tradition of woodcarving, and its elaborately painted buildings.

Oberammergau is situated in a scenic valley and is surrounded by the forested mountains of the Ammergau Alps, meaning that it’s also a paradise for nature-lovers.

It’s a community where time sometimes feels frozen, and where modern life meets the traditional. As a result, you’re likely to spot some residents dressed in colorful folk costumes when a local holiday rolls around. (Think Lederhosen, feather-adorned hats, and Dirndls.)

For more than seven years, my parents have called Oberammergau home. As a result, Shawn and I have spent many months getting to know Oberammergau, or “O’gau” as we call it. Along the way, we’ve soaked up some of the town’s history, done a bit of hiking, and gone on the hunt to find Oberammergau’s prettiest painted buildings.

Whether you’re coming to Oberammergau for the Passion Play, or simply to appreciate the ambience of this traditional Bavarian town, I’ve created this Oberammergau guide for you.

It highlights Oberammergau’s main attractions, as well as popular outdoor activities. It also includes general information that will help you with everything from finding a hotel to shopping for souvenirs. Finally, if you decide to base yourself in Oberammergau, I’ve also shared a few day-trip ideas for you to consider.

This is an in-depth post, but you can easily navigate it by using the Table of Contents.

Also, please note that some of the sites which I reference are actually in German. Unfortunately, there isn’t a wealth of English-language information available on the internet about the area. The German-only websites can easily be translated using Google Translate, though.

Table of Contents

General

 Attractions

Outdoor Activities

Day Trips from Oberammergau

Two cyclists ride past a castle-like home and a river in Oberammergau, Germany. There is a mountain overhead.
Bicyclists pedal past the Ammer River, underneath Mount Kofel — the town’s signature mountain.

An adult, wearing a traditional Bavarian costume (of leather shorts and a feather-adorned cap), coaches student dancers at a German festival. The children are also in costume.

Oberammergau’s History

Not much is known about Oberammergau’s earliest history. However, the area is believed to have once been inhabited by the Celts. The Celts might even have given Oberammergau, as well as its river, the Ammer, their names. (It’s thought that both names are derived from the Celtic name “Ambrigo” as well as the Celtic word for river — “Ambara” or “Ampra.”)

In the 1330s, Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian ruled over the region. He founded the nearby Ettal Monastery, and he gave Oberammergau residents special privileges — such as the right to transport goods along the lucrative trade route linking Venice with the southern German city of Augsburg.

Thanks to its forested surroundings and plentiful supply of wood, many Oberammergau residents took to woodcarving. Oberammergau’s special trading privileges allowed the village’s woodcarvers to market their wares around Europe.

In the early 1630s, the plague ravaged much of the region. While Oberammergau initially escaped the worst of this wave of the “Black Death” epidemic, the disease eventually made its way into the village. More than 80 villagers died.

In 1633, Oberammergau’s residents are said to have made a promise to regularly stage a Passion Play if the village was spared from the plague. According to tradition, no one else became sick, and in 1634, locals acted in Oberammergau’s first Passion Play. Over time, the village came to be known worldwide for this theatrical production.

Since the 19th century, Oberammergau has had ties with Ludwig II of Bavaria, the so-called “fairy tale king” or “mad king.” He attended the Passion Play in Oberammergau, and spent time in the nearby Linderhof Palace. Even today, Oberammergau locals still celebrate the eve of Ludwig’s birthday with an annual bonfire event.

These days, Oberammergau is part of Bavaria, Germany’s largest state. Oberammergau is even the subject of a tongue twister, which has been incorporated into a folk song and popular music.

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Two light-brown horses graze in a green meadow in Oberammergau, Germany. A wooden shed is in the background and the trees behind the animals are just starting to turn to autumn colors.

Painted Buildings With Lüftlmalerei Frescoes

Many of Oberammergau’s buildings are decorated with ornate frescoes called Lüftlmalerei. This painting style isn’t unique to Oberammergau. In fact, buildings in many villages of Upper Bavaria (Oberbayern) are adorned with this traditional style of painting.

The Lüftlmalerei painting technique gained popularity in the 18th century. Many homeowners wanted to demonstrate their wealth by having an elaborately decorated home. Even today, it’s still rather costly to hire an artist to paint your home with Lüftlmalerei.

Historians aren’t sure where the name “Lüftlmalerei” originated. It’s thought that it possibly developed from the way in which frescoes must be painted quickly before the air (Luft) dries the wet plaster.

Another theory is that the term Lüftlmalerei is somehow connected to Franz Seraph Zwinck, one of Oberammergau’s most famous Lüftlmalerei painters. (In the 18th century, Zwinck lived in a home named Zum Lüftl. It’s possible then, that locals referred to him as Lüftlmaler — literally the “Lüft painter.”)

As you stroll through Oberammergau’s streets, you’ll notice that religious scenes seem to be the most common designs on homes. However, you might find some walls decorated with pretty floral motifs — even scenes from popular fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel.

Here are the addresses of some of Oberammergau’s most famous painted buildings:

A close-up of a traditional Bavarian home: The wall is painted yellow, there are 6 green shutters, and murals of angels.

Close-up of a green-shuttered window in the German town of Oberammergau. A religious scene, complete with a crucifix, is also painted on the front of the building.
Detail of the Hotel Alte Post.
A mountain peak towers over a white, chalet-style home in Oberammergau, Germany.
Mount Kofel towers above a fresco-adorned home on Ettalerstrasse.

Detail of a home in Oberammergau, Germany: Red and pink flowers fill a flowerbox, alongside a religious mural.

Detail of a mural in Oberammergau, Germany: Horses pull a cart, alongside a merchant carrying wooden objects on his back for sale. A mountain and Bavarian-style home are visible in the background.
The western façade of the Hotel Alte Post. The writing above the scene mentions the Rottstrasse, a trade route that once linked Augsburg to Venice.
An Oberammergau, Germany building is painted with the likeness of a flying cow.
A whimsical take on a Bavarian cow adorns an Oberammergau jewelry shop.

Hansel and Gretel House (Hänsel und Gretel Heim)

Address: Ettalerstrasse 41

Pass by the Hansel and Gretel House at almost any time of day and you’re likely to see tourists snapping pictures of this much-beloved Oberammergau building. Like the fairy tale upon which it’s based, the building’s scenes have some unpleasant elements. You’ll spot children kept in cages, and Gretel triumphantly shoving the evil witch into an oven. Thankfully, there are also more cheery scenes, such as the children being reunited with their parents.

A few captions are written on the walls in old-fashioned script called Gebrochene Schrift. The building is finished off with green shutters, as well as flower boxes overflowing with colorful blooms — or snow — depending upon when you visit.

Oberammergau’s wood-carving school was originally housed in the Hansel and Gretel House’s two interconnected structures. However, in 1926, an orphanage was established here. You’ll also see this building referred to as the Marie-Mattfeld-Haus. That’s because a German-American opera singer named Marie Mattfeld raised the funds needed to establish child-welfare programs here. Today, the Marie-Mattfeld complex is no longer an orphanage, but it still provides youth-welfare services. Several of the neighboring buildings are part of this social program.

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A building in Oberammergau, Germany is white, with green shutters, and elaborate murals telling the story of Hansel and Gretel.
Densely packed flower boxes and murals decorate the exterior of the Hansel and Gretel House.
Oberammergau's
You can spot Hansel, Gretel, and the evil witch in this section of the mural. The center of the shield reads: “Marie Mattfeld Hänsl u. Gretl Heim,” or Marie Mattfeld Hansel and Gretel Home.

Little Red Riding Hood House (Rotkäppchen Haus)

Address: Ettalerstrasse 48

The Little Red Riding Hood House is just across the street from the Hansel and Gretel House. Like its neighbor, the building is adorned with fairy tale scenes. Nestled between the building’s gable, balcony, and windows are Little Red Riding Hood, her grandmother, the ravenous wolf, the heroic woodcutter, and Little Red Riding Hood’s mother. Both Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel were written by the Brothers Grimm.

Oberammergau’s famous peak, the Kofel, towers over the building, making for a charming photograph. However, because of the building’s orientation (it’s east-facing), the lighting isn’t ideal for afternoon photography. Try to arrive in the morning, if possible.

A snow-capped mountain towers over Oberammergau's

A close-up of the mural from Oberammergau's
A caption above the wolf-disguised-as-Grandmother scene says, “Grossmutter, was ist heut mit dir los? Warum sind deine Augen under der Mund so gross?” (Grandmother, what’s happened to you? Why are your eyes and mouth so big?)
On the exterior of Oberammergau's
The wolf and Little Red Riding Hood come face to face.

Saint Peter and Paul Church (Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul)

Address: Frühmessergasse 1

Oberammergau’s earliest Catholic church was a wooden structure, however, it was eventually damaged beyond repair. The Rococo-style building you see today was built in the 18th century.

According to some accounts, locals made their 1633 Passion Play vow by one of the crosses housed inside the Saint Peter and Paul Church. You can see the cross in the center of the altar that’s on the right side of the church.

On the church grounds there is an atmospheric cemetery that’s worth walking through. Many of the grave markers are elaborate and carved out of wood. Some headstones even include a weathered black and white image of the person buried there.

On the church’s southwest side is a war memorial. It lists the names of Oberammergau residents killed during several wars, including World War I.

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A pale yellow church, with a copper dome resembling an onion, in the German town of Oberammergau.
The church features a Bavarian-style bell tower with an onion dome.
The ornate interior of Oberammergau's church is pictured: You can see old wooden pews, which are heavily carved. There is also a crystal chandelier, ceilings painted in a pale pink, and saints' statues, and many gold accents.
The ornate interior of the Saint Peter and Paul Church.
The altar of the Saint Peter and Paul Church in Oberammergau is decorated with 2 Christmas trees, silver candelabras, and poinsettia plants.
A close-up of the altar at Christmastime.
The gated entrance to Oberammergau's cemetery is covered in snow.
The church cemetery on a winter day.
Two different headstones from the Oberammergau Cemetery are pictured. One features a white angel on a grey headstone. The other grave marker features Jesus on a crucifix.
The church’s cemetery has grave markers made out of stone, metal, and wood.
A close-up of Oberammergau's war memorial. It is grey, and the names of soldiers are engraved in red.
The names of soldiers killed during 19th and 20th century wars are listed on this war memorial.

Passion Play Theater and Museum (Passionstheater)

Address: Theaterstrasse 16

Every ten years, Oberammergau stages a Passion Play. This production depicts the life of Jesus and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world. Some attendees are religious pilgrims, while others are merely curious visitors interested in the play’s long and storied history.

The inhabitants of Oberammergau are said to have put on a Passion Play (Passionsspiele) since 1634. One year earlier, the residents made the pledge to do so regularly, if God spared them from the devastating Bubonic Plague that was ravaging the area.

What makes Oberammergau’s Passion Play remarkable is that almost half of the city’s 5,000-strong population participates in the production. From actors and musicians to directors and vocalists, Oberammergau residents fill all the roles. In the year or so leading up to the play, male actors are required to grow out their hair and their beards; as a result, you can speculate about who is and isn’t participating in the play based upon how cleanly shaven they are.

In order to qualify for the Passion Play, you have to have lived in Oberammergau for at least 20 years. If you marry a local, that time requirement is halved. In the past, women couldn’t participate if they were over the age of 35, or if they were married. That restriction was successfully challenged by several women who took the case to the Bavarian Constitutional Court.

Throughout the centuries, many famous and infamous personalities have attended Oberammergau’s Passion Play, including King Ludwig II, Dwight Eisenhower, Henry Ford, Adolf Hitler, and royals from Greece and Thailand.

The 2020 Passion Play will be its 42nd since 1634. In total, about 102 performances will take place throughout the year.

Oberammergau built a special building for the play, and it is said to be one of the world’s largest open-air theaters. The Passion Plays weren’t always held in this theater, though. In fact, back in 1634, the first performance took place in the graveyard next to Oberammergau’s Catholic church. In 1830, the production was moved to the north side of Oberammergau.

The Passion Play is held in years ending in zero. During off-years, operas and other theatrical performances take place.

It’s also possible to tour the Passion Play Theater.

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Passion-Play-Theater-Oberammergau-Passionstheater-Germany
The Passion Play Theater.
Oberammergau-Passion-Play
The caption of this engraving, dated to around 1860 says, “The village Oberammergau in Bavaria with the stage for the Passion Play, colored woodcut by C. E. Doepler.” Engraving in the public domain, PD-1923.

Oberammergau’s Woodcarving Tradition

For centuries, Oberammergau has been celebrated for its woodcarvers (Herrgottschnitzer) and their fine creations. Even today, there are more than 60 woodcarvers in town — meaning that you have many opportunities to bring home a wooden souvenir from Oberammergau.

Oberammergau was once on a lucrative trade route that linked the southern German city of Augsburg with Venice. Back then, wandering merchants called Kraxenträger donned backpack-like contraptions on which they carried wooden objects for sale. You’ll see depictions of these merchants throughout Oberammergau. Some are in sculpture form, while other Kraxenträger are featured in murals painted on buildings. (One of the finest paintings is on the western side of the Hotel Alte Post.)

Just outside of Oberammergau’s city center is the Vocational School of Wood Sculptors (Schnitzschule, or Staatliche Berufsfachschule für Holzbildhauer und Schnitzer). This learning center has been around for almost 140 years. The school sometimes puts on exhibitions, which are open to the public. Its address is: Ludwig-Lang Strasse 3.

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Woodcarvings on display in Oberammergau. One features an angel or cherub with its hand outstretched. It is unpainted. The other is on display outside a woodcarver's shop. It is painted and depicts a traveling merchant from centuries ago. He has wooden items for sale in a rack that he is wearing on his back. He is wearing traditional clothes and is carrying an umbrella.
A woodcarving of a cherub (left), and a carved likeness of a Kraxenträger (traveling merchant with wooden wares in his “back-rack”).
Oberammergau's Woodcarving School is pictured on a sunny day. The sky is blue. The building is white, and has a green roof.
Oberammergau’s Woodcarving School.
Baroque woodcarvings depicting saints on display inside Oberammergau's Woodcarving School.
Every spring, Oberammergau’s Woodcarving School presents an exhibition of its students’ work. From wooden sculptures and clay figures to photographs and engravings, a great variety of work is on display.

Döttenbichl Hill Battle Site

Address: Döttenbichl Hill

Around 15 BCE, a legion of Roman soldiers and the Räter, an alpine tribe, fought a massive battle in what is now Oberammergau. These groups clashed on or near the Döttenbichl, a hill to Oberammergau’s south. With their sophisticated equipment, the 19th Legion swiftly defeated the Räters.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that archaeologists unearthed hundreds of metal artifacts from this battle on the Döttenbichl. They found Celtic brooches, as well as iron tools. They also discovered Roman coins, daggers, shoe nails, and arrowheads. Historians think that the Döttenbichl was a sacred place for the Räter before and even after the battle in 15 BCE. They also believe that those Räter who survived the battle assembled metal objects on the Döttenbichl, and burned them in a ritual fashion to make an offering to their gods.

Some of the artifacts from this battle — including shoe nails, arrowheads, and a replica of the dagger — are on display in the Oberammergau Museum.

A crushed gravel path leads up a forested hill, past a tree stump that has been carved to look like an ancient Roman dagger.
This trail leads to the top of the Döttenbichl Hill. It’s believed that a massive battle took place nearby, between a Roman legion and the Räter, an Alpine tribe. Archaeologists think that the Döttenbichl Hill was a sacred place for the Räter, and that they burned weapons and other war objects on this hill after they were defeated by the Romans. The wooden sculpture depicts an ancient Roman dagger that was found near Oberammergau.
Roman-dagger-Dottenbichl-Oberammergau-Germany
Shawn soaks up the intricate detail of dagger replicas, inside Oberammergau’s town museum. The ornate silver officer’s dagger (on the left) was discovered near the Döttenbichl in 1901.
Roman arrowheads on display at Oberammergau, Germany's city museum.
Roman arrowheads from the battle on the Döttenbichl, also in Oberammergau’s museum.

House of Pontius Pilate (Pilatushaus)

Address: Ludwig-Thoma-Strasse 10

The Pilatushaus was built in the 1770s. It boasts impressive trompe-l’œil frescoes that give the impression that you are looking at a three-dimensional scene. These paintings were originally created by Franz Seraph Zwinck, one of Oberammergau’s most famous painters.

The Pilatushaus also showcases local arts and crafts. Inside, on the building’s ground floor, you can watch regional artisans as they practice their crafts. These exhibitions are called the Lebenden Werkstatt (or living workshop). Exhibits vary, but in the past, reverse glass painters, woodcarvers, coppersmiths, pottery makers, and jumping-jack makers have exhibited here.

When the Lebenden Werkstatt is taking place, it’s possible to chat with the artisans and purchase their handmade work. There is no fee to enter the Lebenden Werkstatt exhibition, and you can enter via the garden on the south side of the Pilatushaus.

Upstairs is the Welten Hinter Glas exhibition (World Behind Glass). It features one of Europe’s largest collections of reverse-glass paintings. This artform was especially popular from the 16th to 19th centuries.

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One wall of Oberammergau's Pilatushaus building has paintings depicting a religious scene.
Lüftlmalerei paintings adorn the exterior of the Pilatushaus.
A woman, with a braid in her hair, works with gold embroidery thread while displaying her traditional crafts in th
An artisan working with delicate gold threads showcases her skills inside the Pilatushaus. These “living workshops,” or Lebenden Werkstatt, take place for part of the year.
A man with a bear carves an angel out of a block of wood. He is working in front of a window, inside a workshop in Oberammergau, Germany.
A woodcarver sculpts an angel at the Lebenden Werkstatt event.
Reverse glass paintings depicting a saint and butterflies for sale at the Pilatushaus workshop in Oberammergau, Germany.
As its name implies, a reverse glass painter approaches a painting backwards. The background is only added at the end of the project. These framed butterflies are for sale inside the Pilatushaus.

Oberammergau Museum

Address: Dorfstrasse 8

The Oberammergau Museum is home to a diverse collection, including nativity scenes, hand-carved toys, and ancient Roman artifacts.

One section of the museum is devoted to several nativity scenes. The most famous nativity scene took more than a century to complete. Piece by piece, Oberammergau woodcarvers progressively contributed figures to the scene. Eventually, there were about 200 figures.

Elsewhere you’ll find a large collection of wooden toys, including doll heads, jumping jacks (Hampelmänner), and figurines of animals and soldiers.

You’ll also see Roman artifacts unearthed from Oberammergau’s Döttenbichl Hill in the 1990s. Nearby, around 15 BCE, a massive battle was fought between the Räter (a local tribe) and the 19th Legion. A Roman dagger, arrowheads, and nails from Roman sandals are all on display.

A reproduction of a vintage living room, coupled with crucifixes and more woodcarvings, rounds out the museum’s collection.

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A couple sits in front of the entrance of Oberammergau's town museum.
Shawn and me, in front of Oberammergau’s museum. Having just traveled to Munich for the Oktoberfest, I’m wearing a Dirndl.
Antique doll heads of all sizes are on display on top of a glass shelf in the Oberammergau Museum in Germany.
Dolls on display inside the Oberammergau Museum.
Model toy wagons and soldiers are on display on a green background inside the Oberammergau Museum.
Toy soldiers and wagons.
Antique nativity scenes and cribs on display inside the Oberammergau Museum.
Antique nativity scenes and cribs fill one wing of the museum.
Items on display inside the Oberammergau Museum: on the left, a wooden, handcarved model of the Kofel Mountain. It sits inside a display case. On the right, a wooden
A wooden carving of the Kofel (left), and an example of the wooden rack that a Kraxenträger would have worn when on the road (right). These wandering merchants traveled on regional trade routes selling woodcarvings made by Oberammergau woodcarvers.

Crucifixion Monument (Kreuzigungsgruppe)

Address: König-Ludwig Strasse 44

The Crucifixion Monument (Kreuzigungsgruppe) is a marble statue that was donated to Oberammergau by King Ludwig II. The king gave the statue to express his thanks for a private Passion Play performance that Oberammergau held in his honor in 1871.

The statue was unveiled in 1875. At the time, it was the largest statue of its kind, weighing 58 tons.

Oberammergau’s Crucifixion Monument is located on the Osterbichl Hill.

There are two photos. In the image on the left, a church belltower is visible, as is a stone monument with a cross. On the right is a close-up of this Crucifixion Monument in Oberammergau, Germany. The stone is white, and several human figures are visible.
On the Osterbichl Hill (just to the right of the church steeple) is the marble Crucifixion Monument (Kreuziggungsgruppe).
An inscription on a monument in Oberammergau, Germany reads:
An inscription on the statue reads, “From King Ludwig II, in memory of the Passion Play.” The Bavarian monarch attended a special performance of the play in 1871.
A woman holding a white dog stands outside in nature. The village of Oberammergau is visible behind her, as are forested mountain slopes.
View of Oberammergau, taken from the Crucifixion Monument.

Outdoor Activities

Thanks to its idyllic natural surroundings, Oberammergau offers a wide range of outdoor activities. There’s everything from hiking and biking to cross-country skiing and paragliding possibilities. Keep scrolling for more details.

A paraglider with an orange and white parachute flies over the town of Oberammergau, Germany. A steep green hillside carpeted in grass and flowers frames one side. On the other side, you can see the Aufacker Mountain.
A paraglider takes off from the slopes of the Laber Mountain. Oberammergau is visible below.

Alpine Coaster (Rodelbahn)

Address: Kreislainenweg (on the Kolbensattel)

If you’re in the mood for a bit of exhilaration, look no further than Oberammergau’s alpine coaster. This summertime “toboggan run” is 2.6 km (1.6 miles) long and is located on the slopes of the Kolbensattel.

The track features more than 70 curves, plus a few jumps. By the time you get to the end, you will have descended about 400 meters (1,312 feet). If you’re like me, you will have screamed a bit, too.

Speeds are maxed out at 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour), and you can control the brakes yourself. Shawn and I rode down together, as did my parents. As brake-master, Shawn loved teasing me by going as fast as we could for much of the race down into the valley.

To get to the starting line of the alpine coaster’s track, you have two options. You can hike up yourself. Or, you can hop onto the Kolbensattel chair lift, which will take you on a scenic ride high above evergreen trees, wildflowers, and ferns. As you get higher up the mountain, you’ll also see Oberammergau’s red rooftops and the forested mountains cradling the village. We opted for the chair lift, but if you have the time, I think it’d be a beautiful hike.

It’s worth spending a bit of time up on the Kolbensattel before jumping onto the alpine coaster. The views up there are extraordinary, and there’s a playground. A restaurant housed in a rustic lodge serves up everything from coffee and beer to soup and sausages. This is also a good launching point for summertime hiking and biking adventures. In the winter, the mountain’s slopes attract skiers.

This Kolbensattel webcam offers a live glimpse what what it’s like up on the mountain.

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Two people sitting on orange coasters ride on a metal track down a green hillside in Oberammergau, Germany. There is a sign to advertise this alpine coaster.
The alpine coaster’s circuit takes you on a thrilling, 2.6-km (1.6 mile) ride.

Biking

With dedicated biking trails, and lesser-traveled secondary roads, Oberammergau is a paradise for cyclists.

German trains make it easy to bring your own bike with you. Some hotels and holiday apartments even offer complimentary bikes.

Finally, you can rent bikes in Oberammergau, too.

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Two cyclists, dressed in black, ride up a gravel road on the Laber Mountain in Oberammergau, Germany. Each side of the road is framed with evergreen trees.
Bikers power themselves up a road on the east side of Mount Laber.

Cross-Country Skiing (Longlauf)

With an abundance of snow and stunning winter surroundings, Oberammergau is a popular destination for cross-country skiers. Every winter, Oberammergau plays host to the König Ludwig Lauf, one of Germany’s most important cross-country skiing events. In keeping with its namesake (the race is dedicated to King Ludwig), the participants race through the grounds of Ludwig’s Linderhof Palace before reaching the finish line in Oberammergau.

You needn’t be a world-class athlete to enjoy the area’s 180 kilometers (112 miles) of well-groomed trails, some of which received a four-star rating, as there are many accessible routes available.

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A cross country skier, dressed in blue and black, pushes through the snow. Barren trees are visible. The landscape is white.
A cross-country skier glides alongside the Ammer River.

Hiking and Walking

Cradled by the foothills of the Alps, Oberammergau offers a variety of scenic walks and hikes. The paths on the valley floor don’t have much of an incline, making for a more leisurely stroll. Ascents to local mountains like the Kofel, Laber, or Aufacker, on the other hand, will have you making your way uphill for a few hours.

The trails in the Oberammergau area are generally well-signed. And since there are guesthouses on many of the routes, you can even stop and enjoy a drink or meal to celebrate your physical accomplishment.

Here are a few of Oberammergau’s great walks and hikes:

hiking-Oberammergau-Germany
Oberammergau’s hiking routes are well-signed. They usually display distances, as well as the approximate time to reach your destination.

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'Twas the golden hour in Oberammergau. Shawn and I set out with my parents' pup, Gigi, for an evening walk through a small patch of forest, then onward to a gorgeous open field that was bathed in golden light. Gigi, a bit tired from the exertion so far, happily plopped down into the field of wildflowers as Shawn and I soaked up the moment, then captured it with our cameras. Off in the distance, we could see the silhouette of Oberammergau's St. Peter & Paul Church and the outlines of chalet-style homes. Towering over it all was Oberammergau's signature mountain peak, the Kofel. Our soundtrack consisted of a light breeze and swaying wildflowers, plus the hum of a tractor's engine, as a farmer cut grass off in the distance. #travel #oberammergau #bavaria #germany #countryside #countrysidelife #maltese #malteseofinstagram #malteselovers #kofel #mountain #mountains #landscape_lovers #landscape #instatravel #sunset #goldenhour

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Altherrenweg / Romanshöhe

If you’re looking for a gentle climb coupled with superb views of Oberammergau, then this is the walk for you.

The WellenBerg Pool is a good starting point for this walk. As you gain a bit of elevation, you’ll be rewarded with extraordinary views of Oberammergau’s “skyline,” as well as the mountains that tower over the town. On one section the path, you’ll pass a series of rustic and poignant wooden sculptures. From the sculpture of an infant to one of an older man with a cane, the woodcarvings depict the passage of time.

On the path you’ll find the Berggaststätte Romanshöhe, a small guesthouse. This chalet-style restaurant serves up hearty Bavarian dishes and splendid views from its terrace.

The town of Oberammergau, Germany is visible from a neighboring hill. You can see Oberammergau's
View from the Altherrenweg toward Oberammergau. The Kofel is visible in the foreground and the Notkarspitze is behind it, to the left.
Close-up of a Bavarian restaurant. There are a pair of antlers, red and purple flowers, and a sign that says
Ubiquitous Bavarian antlers adorn the outside of the restaurant on the Romanshöhe.

Stroll Along the Grosse Laine and the Ammer River

If you’re looking for a pleasant stroll near — but not in — the town center, you’ll want to check out the paths along the Grosse Laine and Ammer River.

The Grosse Laine path is open to pedestrians and offers calming views of the hills. Since the path parallels the tiny Laine River, you’ll be able to hear the soothing sound of water as it rushes down from the hills. Cyclists are not supposed to ride here.

The crushed rock path along the Ammer River, on the other hand, is open to pedestrians and cyclists. You’re likely to also spot horseback riders along the path. From here, you’ll take in great views of Mount Kofel and of the surrounding hillsides.

Both the Grosse Laine and the Ammer River walks are dog-friendly. There are even “dog toilets” along these two paths. These green garbage bins also dispense plastic bags for picking up dog droppings.

Two chalet-style houses (with wooden balconies) overlook a green meadow. They are framed by a tree trunk and hilly terrain.
Views from a stroll along the Grosse Laine.
A man walks a white dog along a stream in Oberammergau, Germany. The trees shading the sidewalk are full of green foliage. There is a small pedestrian bridge crossing this small river in Oberammergau, Germany.
Shawn walks my parents’ dog, Gigi, along the Grosse Laine River.
The Kofel, a cone-shaped mountain towers over a river and wooden barn. Green trees are visible.
On each side of the Ammer River there are gravel paths. They’re popular with walkers, cyclists, and horseback riders.

Kofel Mountain

Thanks to its distinctive shape, the Kofel is arguably Oberammergau’s most beloved mountain. You’ll see the Kofel’s likeness painted on several of the town’s murals, and it’s even worked into some business names.

Every August, the Kofel is the epicenter of bonfire celebrations held to commemorate the birthday of Bavaria’s King Ludwig. Oberammergau men carry timber to the Kofel’s summit days before this event. Then, on the eve of Ludwig’s birth, they set the wooden crown on fire — much to the delight of people watching from below.

The first time I saw the Kofel’s sheer-looking front, I wondered how casual hikers could possibly make it to the top without special equipment. It turned out that it’s relatively straightforward to climb — it’s just at the top where things feel a bit precarious if you’re not fond of heights. Here, you’ll need to hold on to a metal cable.

Once you reach the summit (1342 meters or 4402 feet), you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of neighboring peaks and Oberammergau in miniature.

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A pointed mountain towers over a yellow and green meadow in Oberammergau, Germany. You can see a small barn off in the distance.

Snow covers evergreen trees growing on Mount Kofel in Oberammergau, Germany. The sky is blue.

People pose under the Kofel Mountain in Oberammergau, Germany.
My parents, Shawn, and me prepare to ascend the Laber (left). Crossing the Kälberplatte Meadow (right).
These are two photos taken while climbing the Kofel Mountain in Oberammergau, Germany. On the left is the summit of the Kofel. There is a wooden cross marking the summit, and a sheer rock face is visible. On the right, a man climbs up the mountain, holding on to a metal cable with his left hand.
The Kofel’s summit (left) and a hiker negotiating the rocky summit (right).
The village of Oberammergau is visible from the top of the Kofel Mountain in Germany. You can see red rooftops, the Ammer River, and green mountain slopes below.
View of Oberammergau from the summit. It’s easy to spot the snaking Ammer River bisecting the town in half, too.

Laber Mountain

Cable Car Address: Ludwig-Lang Strasse 59

At 1684 meters (5525 feet), the Laber is one of Oberammergau’s highest mountains. From the summit, the panoramic views are exceptional — especially on a blue-sky day. Owing to its incredible natural beauty, the Laber is popular with hikers, paragliders, skiers, and even diners.

To get to the top of the Laber you have two options: climb up, or ascend by cable car.

The easiest way, of course, is taking the cable car (Laber-Bergbahn). It is possible to purchase round-trip or one-way tickets. Buying a one-way ticket gives you the option to either walk up — or back down. Once you’ve made it to the top, you can enjoy a beverage (coffee, soft drinks, beer or wine), snacks, or a full Bavarian meal.

Near the cable car station at the Laber’s summit, informational boards highlight what peaks you’re seeing off in the distance. If the skies are clear, you’ll be able to see the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak.

Watching the paragliders take off from the top of the Laber is a popular activity. Standing on the steep slopes of the Laber, these adrenaline-seekers ready their fabric wings, run off the steep slopes, and then soar over the valley.

If you prefer to hike to the top of the Laber, there are a few trail possibilities. The trail on the north of the mountain is known to be steep. We instead hiked up via a road and a more-gradual trail that starts near the NATO School. This route took us underneath forested canopies to meadows full of grazing cows. As we worked our way to the top, we also trekked below the Ettaler Manndl and past the Soilasee, an alpine lake. Though this body of water dries up when the weather becomes warmer, it’s still impressive when filled with a carpet of green flora.

Aside from its natural appeal, the Laber also offers something for history buffs. During World War II, a top-secret research facility and an aircraft factory with the code name of “Cerusit” were housed inside the Laber. Nazi officials had part of the mountain’s base tunneled in order to obscure this project from the Allies. Hundreds of engineers were stationed in Oberammergau during this time.

The entrances to the complex have since been filled in with concrete. However, it’s still possible to walk by select sections and see evidence of this dark chapter of Oberammergau’s history.

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A forested mountain towers over a Bavarian house and wooden barn in the village of Oberammergau, Germany.
The Laber. If you locate the wooden barn at ground level, then follow your eye straight up, you can see the steep slopes from which paragliders take off. The restaurant and cable car station are near this spot.
Cows grazing in the meadows on the path up to the Laber. Signs warn against approaching the animals. When we encountered a group, Shawn tried to keep his distance. Nevertheless, a cow started to charge him, leaving him feel as though he were a matador in a Spanish bullring.
An aerial view of Oberammergau, Germany. The rooftops of buildings are visible, as are evergreen trees and mountain slopes. The sky is blue, and two cable car wires are visible, as the photo was taken from inside the gondola.
View from the Laber cable car.

Two pictures taken from the top of the Laber Mountain in Oberammergau, Germany. On the left is a close-up of the Laber Cable Car. It is blue and several passengers are visible inside. In the photo on the right, the silhouette of a paraglider using a yellow chute is visible. He is flying over the rooftops of Oberammergau, Germany. The town's church is visible below.

paragliding-Laber-Mountain-Oberammergau-Germany
When weather conditions are favorable, paragliders often take off from the summit of the Laber. The restaurant is just a few footsteps away.
Sitting at tables on an outside terrace of the Laber Mountain's restaurant, people look out at the panoramic views. The sky is blue, and the corner of an orange umbrella is visible.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Ettal, and the Zugspitze (Germany’s highest mountain) are visible looking toward the south.
Inside a forest on the Laber Mountain slopes, the ground is covered with ferns. To the right, one section of a naturally-occurring rock wall is filled in with concrete. This was once an entrance to a secret Nazi, World War 2 era aircraft research and development center and factory.
During World War II, the Nazis had a secret aircraft research and development facility constructed inside the base of the Laber. Later, the complex was used as a factory. The former entrances, such as this one, have since been filled in with concrete.

Aufacker Mountain

While the Laber and the Kofel mountains often get all the glory, the Aufacker also offers a pleasant hiking experience.

Much of the Aufacker’s trail is shaded, and it’s likely you’ll pass a herd of cows — perhaps even some mountain goats. The higher you climb, you’ll be rewarded with exceptional views of Oberammergau and the Kofel. At 1,542 meters (5,059 feet), the Aufacker is higher than the Kofel, too.

The Aufacker, a forested mountain peak, rises above a canopy of evergreen trees near Oberammergau, Germany. The sky is blue.
The Aufacker isn’t as high as the Laber, and it doesn’t have a distinctive shape like the Kofel. Nevertheless, it’s still a lovely mountain to hike in Oberammergau.
A man sits on top of a mountain slope, overlooking the village of Oberammergau, Germany below.
Shawn, taking a break once we’d reached the summit.
Two pictures taken from the summit of Oberammergau, Germany's Aufacker Mountain. On the left, a woman signs a book while seated on a bench. On the right, you can see an overhead view of a village, framed by mountains.
Signing the Aufacker’s Gipfelbuch, or peak book.

Swimming (WellenBerg Pool)

Address: Himmelreich 52

The WellenBerg swimming complex is located on the outskirts of Oberammergau, next to the Laine, a small river. Since the WellenBerg has indoor and outdoor pools, it’s possible to swim here year-round.

The facility’s outdoor pools have beautiful views of Oberammergau’s untouched hillsides. When it’s sunny, you can even sunbathe on the lawn.

Inside, there are several pools, two waterslides, and a sauna. There’s also an on-site restaurant, where you can feast upon everything from burgers and salads to sausages and snacks.

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Oberammergau's WellenBerg swimming pools are visible from the top of the Laber. Surrounding them you can see orange rooftops, and green fields.
A bird’s-eye view of the Wellenberg, taken from the summit of the Laber.

Wild-Deer Feeding (Wildtierfütterung)

Aside from skiing, are you wondering what to do in Oberammergau in the winter? If you’re an animal lover, be sure to check out a wild-animal feeding, which takes place in the nearby Graswang Valley.

During the winter months, Bavarian authorities help care for the deer inhabiting the forested mountains by offering them food. They do this to help the deer survive the winter, but also so they don’t devour too much forest foliage. Previously, the deer would have come into the valley to forage independently, but because some of their habitat has been developed by humans, the Wildtierfütterung is a necessary intervention.

When we attended a deer feeding a few years ago, about 50 deer came to the feeding stations! It was bitter cold — so be sure to dress appropriately if you go. All in all, it was a fun experience and worth the semi-frozen extremities.

Generally, the feedings are open to the public December through March. 

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Approximately 25 deer eat food that has been distributed on the snowy ground. A forest is visible in the background, and it is a cloudy day. There are several wooden shelters visible at this event, held near Oberammergau, Germany.
Approximately 25 deer feast. They emerged from the forested background.

Passion Play 2020

Oberammergau stages the Passion Play every ten years — in years ending in zero. The next Passion Play will take place 16 May – 4 October, 2020.

If you’d like to attend the Passion Play in 2020, you have several options. You can buy tickets for the Passion Play, and then make accommodation arrangements yourself. Or, you can purchase a package deal that includes accommodation, Passion Play tickets, and a few meals. Here are more helpful links:

Events and Festivals

Two boys and an adult male perform a traditional dance in Oberammergau, Germany in the picture on the left. They are wearing green hats with a white feather. They appear to be slapping their feet, while lifting their knees. On the right, a close-up of a man wearing a Bavarian black hat, with grey tassels and a red flower.
Locals dance the Schuhplattler at an annual garden festival (left). A festival attendee sports traditional garb (right).

Three men play brass instruments, including French horns, at a festival in Oberammergau, Germany. The men are wearing green Bavarian hats, and traditional vests.

Two different pictures taken at an outdoor summer festival in Oberammergau, Germany. On the left, a man wearing embroidered suspenders holds a glass mug of a yellow beer. On the right, you can see the hand of a person holding a sandwich with Bratwurst, and dots of yellow mustard.
Quintessential Bavarian fest food: a 1-liter mug of beer (left) and a Bratwurst (right). If you look closely at the man’s suspenders, you’ll also notice an embroidered version of the Kofel Mountain.
The Kofel, a mountain peak in Oberammergau, Germany, is illuminated with flares and flames. A symbol of a cross and royal crown are on fire. It is nighttime and the sky is dark. The event is an annual bonfire celebrating the eve of the birthday of the Bavarian King Ludwig II.
The Kofel is the staging ground for flares and flames for the annual King Ludwig Bonfire, held every August.
A donkey, girls dressed as angels, and an adult dressed in a red robe of Saint Nicholas stand inside a wooden shed in Oberammergau, Germany. Straw and snow are visible on the ground.
A Christmas display. Beware the nibbling donkeys! This fellow mistook my fingers for a carrot. :)

Hotels and Accommodation

Since it is a beloved tourist destination, you’ll find a wide range of accommodation options in Oberammergau. There are tiny hotels, holiday apartments (Ferienwohnungen), and even properties that cater to animal companions. Below, I’ve rounded up a few distinctive accommodation options. Please note that some affiliate links follow.

Historic Accommodation:

  • Zum Kirchenbauer – Located just a stone’s throw from Oberammergau’s main church, the Kirchenbauer boasts a beautifully frescoed façade. The owners serve a hearty breakfast that’s made using fresh honey, dairy, and bread produced in the region. There is also a traditional tavern and wine shop on-site.
  • Dedlerhaus – Just across the street from Oberammergau’s historic church, this 18th-century property features a beautifully frescoed façade. Much of the interior is decorated with traditional Bavarian furniture. There’s also a terrace and on-site parking, and Oberammergau’s center is just a few minutes away on foot.
  • Hotel Alte Post – Dating back to the early 17th century, this famous hotel is widely believed to be one of Oberammergau’s oldest. The building’s façade features traditional frescoed painting, and there is also a popular Bavarian restaurant on-site.
  • Hotel Turmwirt – This three-star hotel has been run by the same family since 1934. The offerings include a gym, sauna, and breakfast buffet. Some of Turmwirt’s  guestrooms even have mountain views.

Luxurious Properties:

  • Hotel Maximilian – This design hotel marries spacious rooms, spa treatments, and the Maxbräu — a gourmet restaurant. The Maxbräu whips up Bavarian cuisine and even brews its own beer in handsome copper vats.
  • Ferienwohnung in den Bergen – The interiors of these apartments are streamlined, with modern Bavarian touches. Units feature state-of-the-art kitchens. They also offer either a balcony or a terrace — perfect for savoring the property’s mountain views.

Cozy Apartments:

  • Apartment Villa Asih – With an exterior resembling a gingerbread house, the Villa Asih is both charming and cozy. Several garden houses dot the flower-filled property, and there is also a fish pond. Oberammergau’s distinctive mountain, the Kofel, is visible from the Villa Asih gardens. The Hansel and Gretel House and Little Red Riding Hood House are just footsteps away.
  • BergZeit – This two-bedroom home offers a terrace, sauna, the use of free bikes, and views of the Kofel.
  • Ferienhaus Alpinissimo – With an outdoor pool, fitness center, sauna, and non-smoking rooms, the Alpinissimo is a haven for health-focused travelers. The property is located in a tranquil neighborhood and offers superb mountain views.
  • Ferienwohnung Schauberger – Located near the Laber Cable Car station and the WellenBerg Pool, this apartment is south-facing and features mountain views. The owners also provide guests with the Königscard, which gives visitors free admission to various local attractions.

Pet-friendly:

  • Hotel Wolf – If you spend any time in Germany, you’ll quickly notice the German affinity for pets. To say that the Hotel Wolf is dog-friendly is an understatement, though! This property has indoor sports areas for dog training; a dog pool is even nearby. Rooms are outfitted with dog beds and pet bowls. Dog-training workshops are held here regularly and physical therapy sessions are available. There are even on-site dog showers to ensure your furry friend is properly bathed following a dip in the dog pool or the Ammer River. For humans (and the lucky pups who catch the table scraps), the Hotel Wolf features an on-site restaurant, too.
  • Hotel Garni Otto Huber – Ski storage and a sauna make this hotel attractive to visitors coming to Oberammergau for winter sports. The hotel is family-owned and also offers free parking on-site.
  • Hotel Wittelsbach Oberammergau – In addition to welcoming four-legged friends, the Hotel Wittelsbach also offers a breakfast buffet. It’s conveniently located in the heart of the town center, not far from Oberammergau’s museum and shops.

Spas:

  • Parkhotel Sonnenhof – Overlooked by Mount Kofel, the Sonnenhof features a spa and indoor swimming pool. It’s also just footsteps away from the Ammer River — a scenic spot for strolling.
  • Ferienhaus Fux – Boasting a spa and wellness center as well as a children’s play room, the Ferienhaus Fux also offers ski storage.
  • Auszeit – Auszeit features a wellness area with a hot tub and sauna. There is also a sun terrace and garden, and guests can use the property’s bikes free of charge.
  • Hotel Arnika – With free parking and an on-site restaurant, the Arnika offers convenience. The hotel features a spa and wellness center and a sun terrace with extraordinary views of the Kofel and Laber mountains.

Family-Owned Properties:

  • Gasthof Zur Rose – Run by the same family for more than 70 years, the Gasthof Rose has 19 rooms and an on-site restaurant.
  • Mammhofer Suite & Breakfast – Family-run for four generations, the Mammhofer offers an attractive garden. There are single and double rooms, as well as larger suites. The building’s exterior features traditional Bavarian architecture, but the accommodation’s interior has recently been restored.
  • Haus Hannah – Owned by an English family that has made Oberammergau their home, the Haus Hannah offers a fully-equipped, self-contained apartment, as well as a family bedroom that is ideal for two adults and two children. The home is situated near a tranquil meadow, meaning that you’re likely to hear the meditative sound of cowbells during your stay.
  • Gasthaus Richter – Conveniently situated near the train station, grocery stores, and Oberammergau’s center, the Gasthaus Richter features nine guest-rooms. The family serves some locally-sourced pastries, meat, and dairy products at breakfast.
  • Hotel Antonia – This family-owned property features a Finnish sauna. The Hotel Antonia is also within convenient reach of the train station and the Passion Play Theater.
People at cafe tables sit in front of the Hotel Alte Post in Oberammergau, Germany on a sunny day. The sky is blue, and the building is painted with religious murals. The walls are white and the shutters are green.
The Hotel Alte Post is one of Oberammergau’s oldest hotels. The building features beautiful murals and there is also a popular restaurant inside.

Cafés and Restaurants

Spots for Coffee, Ice Cream, or Drinks

  • Theatercafé: Serves great coffee and some of the tastiest gluten-free pastries I’ve ever had. My favorite is the raspberry buckwheat cake with cream (photo of the mouthwatering cake below). Address: Othmar-Weis-Strasse 3.
  • Ammergauer Maxbräu: With attractive indoor and outdoor seating options, the Maxbräu is a cozy year-round spot to grab a coffee, a glass of wine, or a mug of beer. Address: Ettalerstrasse 5.
  • Alte Post: Situated on Oberammergau’s main intersection, the terrace of the Alte Post is a great place to savor a coffee and watch the world go by. Address: Dorfstrasse 19.
  • Eiscafé Paradiso: Oberammergau only rarely experiences sizzling-hot temperatures, but when the sun’s out, this ice cream parlor is sure to be packed. The staff can let you know which ice cream varieties are gluten free. Address: Dorfstrasse 4.

Restaurants

German cuisine:


Other cuisines:

  • El Puente (Mexican) Address: Daisenberger Strasse 3.
  • Piccola Toscana (Italian): Address: Eugen-Papst Strasse 3a.
  • Ming’s Wok (Asian): Address: Dorfstrasse 45.
A fork cuts through a slice of layered cake. The flour is golden brown, the jelly-like frosting is red, and there is a dollop of piped-on whipped cream.
A gluten-free slice of cake at the Theater Café, just across the street from the Passion Play Theater. The cake is made with buckwheat flour, raspberry filling, and luscious cream. The café makes cakes fresh, but because their offerings change occasionally, be sure to confirm which recipes are gluten-free.

Supermarkets and Special Dietary Needs

Despite being a small town, Oberammergau has several supermarkets. I have pinned them on the Oberammergau Map below. Look for the blue food symbol.

The following stores are conveniently clustered together, and are near the train stop (Bahnhof):

  • Lidl: Germany’s ubiquitous discount outlet offers fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, dry goods, frozen foods, and baked goods. Gluten-free bread and pasta, as well as alternative milk (soy, lactose-free) are also usually available. Address: Zur Lok 6.
  • Netto: Another popular discount supermarket. Sells fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, frozen food items, and dry goods. Gluten-free bread and alternative milk sources (almond, rice, oatmeal) are sometimes available. Address: Zur Lok 3.
  • Edeka: A more upscale supermarket featuring fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, frozen foods, and baked goods. Offers some international food items too, such as Asian noodles, etc. There are also gluten-free and organic food options here. Address: Rottenbucher Strasse. 9.
  • Müller: Sells cosmetics, household products, and some organic, non-perishable food items. In addition, you’ll find a small selection of gluten-free bread, lactose-free milk, and diabetic-friendly foods. Müller also has a machine for printing out digital photos. Address: Zur Lok 5.

Other stand-alone shops include:

  • V-Markt: A supermarket and household goods shopping center. Sells fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, dry goods, frozen foods, and baked goods. Address: Moosgasse 11.
  • Bioladen Heidi: A tiny shop specializing in organic food and products catering to special dietary needs. Heidi also has natural cosmetics for sale. Address: Dorfstrasse 32.

Souvenirs

Carved, wooden objects are Oberammergau’s ubiquitous souvenir. Often, the subject matter is religious, but you can also find wooden toys, as well as traditional designs that don’t have religious motifs. Not all of the wooden souvenirs that you’ll see in Oberammergau’s shops are made locally, though.

If you would like to support local artists, the Ammergauer Alps Tourist Office suggests buying items with the Ammergauer Alpen KunstHandwerk designation. In order for products to carry this mark, they must meet several criteria. For example, a product might need to have been handmade in the Ammergauer Alps, using raw materials from the region. Or, the artisan must demonstrate that the item has not been mass-produced. From woodcarvers to goldsmiths, here is the contact information of Oberammergau artists and craftspeople with this seal of approval.

Other traditional German souvenirs include:

  • Cuckoo clocks
  • Beer Steins (mugs)
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Nutcrackers
  • Traditional Bavarian apparel such as Lederhosen or Dirndls (collectively called Trachtenmode)

The Weltladen, a fair-trade shop, doesn’t stock traditional Bavarian merchandise, but it’s an alternative if you’re looking to buy a gift with international flair. The shop sells everything from coffee and chocolate to hand-woven clothing and accessories from around the world.

If you’d like to purchase a consumable souvenir from the region, first be sure that you’ll be able to get it through your country’s customs checkpoint. If not, perhaps enjoy the  item on a picnic while you’re still in Germany.

Here are a few consumable, local food products:

Wooden souvenirs for sale at an Oberammergau, Germany souvenir shop.
Wooden umbrella holders and utensils for sale, in front of an Oberammergau shop.
Eight stoneware beer mugs sit on shelves, for sale in an Oberammergau, Germany souvenir shop. Green leather shorts, pretzels, and a Bavarian hat are
From mass-produced beer mugs (or Steins) to handmade goods, Oberammergau’s shops sell a variety of souvenirs.
A variety of woodcarvings depicting people and religious saints are visible, viewed through a shopkeeper's window in Oberammergau, Germany.
A snowbank is reflected in the window of a woodcarver’s shop. Woodcarvings are a popular souvenir from the area. Since they are handmade, don’t expect to find the same prices you would for mass-produced items.

Transportation

Oberammergau is located about 95 km (60 miles) southwest of Munich. You can drive yourself to Oberammergau, of course. However, thanks to the area’s well-developed mass transit, it’s easy to get around without a rental car.

Oberammergau has a railway stop (Bahnhof), but it doesn’t have a staffed train station or dedicated building. Near the railway stop there are several railway kiosks / ticket machines. You can buy and print train tickets there.

Regional bus lines service the railway station, as well as a few other bus stops in town. If you’re an overnight guest in Oberammergau, you might even be able to use the regional bus or train network free of charge. This Tourism Office page explains what documents you need in order to qualify for free bus and train rides in the Ammergauer Alps area.

You can also make arrangements for an Oberammergau taxi to pick you up from the train stop.

Here are a few helpful transportation links:

  • Deutsche Bahn (DE), Germany’s Train Network – You can find timetables and ticket prices here. Tickets can be purchased online, and then either printed, or displayed on your mobile phone. You can also buy tickets from kiosks located at railway stations. They also have an app for your mobile device.
  • Oberbayern Bus Network – Timetables and ticket prices are included on the site. You can also buy tickets directly from the bus driver.
  • Flixbus also offers some connections from several German cities to Oberammergau.

A red German train sits at the train stop in Oberammergau, Germany. The letters

Tourist Information Office

Address: Eugen-Papst-Strasse 9a

Oberammergau’s tourist office has informational brochures and staff who can answer your questions about the area. In addition, they sell a handful of souvenir items, including this 0-euro souvenir money, featuring Oberammergau’s famous Pilatushaus.

Here are the opening hours for Oberammergau’s tourist office.

A carriage, pulled by two light-brown horses, drives in front of Oberammergau's Tourist Office and the Ammergauer Haus.
A horse-drawn carriage goes by the Ammergauer Haus community center. The Tourist Office is located on the left side of this complex.

Money and Tipping

Germany uses the euro (€) as its currency.

Many Oberammergau merchants, to include hotels and souvenir stores, now accept international credit cards. However, some businesses only accept EC (EuroCheque) cards, which have 4-digit pins.

Be forewarned that it’s still common to find businesses that only accept cash. We’ve encountered this at restaurants and in smaller shops. If you don’t have cash on hand, be sure to ask staff for clarification before you’ve committed to a meal.

Oberammergau has a few ATM machines (Geldautomaten):

  • Sparkasse, address: Dorfstrasse 23
  • VR Bank, address: Bahnhofstrasse 24

As for tipping, service costs are usually built into German restaurant prices. This means that tips aren’t generally expected. However, it’s still customary to round up. For example, if the bill was €8.20, you can hand the server a €10 bill, and say, “€9, please.” The server will then return €1 to you.

If you are especially pleased with the service, you can tip 10% — or whatever feels right. Note that if you’re paying with a credit card and you want to give something extra, it’s often best to pay the tip in cash.

Euro currency is pictured: There are two 10-euro banknotes, as well as a variety of euro coins and cents.

Language Basics

Bavarians speak a dialect called Bairisch. The accent varies dramatically from what you’ll hear in other parts of Germany. Many Bavarian greetings and common words are even different from their standard German counterparts.

Even after living in Heidelberg for many years (a city that’s a few hours to the north), I still have a difficult time with the Bavarian dialect. Never fear, though, as you can still impress the locals if you learn a few Bairisch basics:

  • Hello (formal) = Grüß Gott
  • Hello (less formal) = Grüß dich
  • Hello / Goodbye (casual) = Servus
  • Cheers = Prost or Prosit

Finally, don’t get stumped by Germany’s “ß” letter, called the Eszett. You’ll frequently see it on street signs, as it’s another way of writing “ss.” For example, the German word for street is Strasse or Straße.

Pharmacies

The German word for pharmacy is Apotheke. Oberammergau has a couple of pharmacies, which I’ve pinned on the Oberammergau Map below. Look for the red pharmacy symbol.

Here are the pharmacies’ names and addresses:

  • Kofel Apotheke, address: Ettalerstrasse 12
  • Stern Apotheke, address: Dorfstrasse 5

Post Offices

Oberammergau doesn’t have a dedicated post office, but it does have Deutsche Post outlets inside private shops where you can mail letters and packages. I have pinned them on the map below using a green envelope symbol.

Here are the locations offering postal services:

  • Ammergauer Getränkemarkt (offers Deutsche Post) services, address: Rottenbucher Strasse 13
  • Sporthaus Mühlstrasser (offers Deutsche Post services), address: Theaterstrasse 2

The cost to mail a letter can vary significantly if the dimensions of your envelope exceed certain limits. Reference these German Post domestic letter & postcard prices in advance to make sure you’re within the limits.

If you’ll be mailing something to an international destination, take a peek at the German Post overseas letter and parcel costs here.

Day Trips from Oberammergau:

After you’ve gotten your fix of woodcarving and hiking, consider venturing out beyond Oberammergau. From palaces and castles to scenic gorges and more mountain towns, there’s a lot to explore in the region. And since it’s only about 95 kilometers (60 miles) from Oberammergau, Munich is never far away.

An overhead view of Linderhof Palace's terraced gardens and fountains. The hills surrounding the castle are covered in green trees.
The Linderhof Palace is just one of the worthwhile attractions within easy reach of Oberammergau.

Ettal Monastery (Kloster Ettal)

The Ettal Monastery has long been a place of spiritual pilgrimage, but today, many people flock there for gastronomical reasons, too.

The monastery was commissioned by Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in the 14th century. However, much of it had to be reconstructed following an 18th-century fire. The structure you see today is largely Baroque. Given the area’s humble architecture, the monastery feels grandiose in comparison.

Beer has been brewed in Ettal for more than 400 years. The monks also distill their own straw-yellow liqueur (Klosterlikör). You can sample both in Ettal.

What’s more, there’s a dairy cooperative just steps away from the monastery. Inside, you can watch cheese being made from locally-sourced milk. (When you encounter cows grazing during your Ammergau Alps hikes, be sure to thank them!) The cooperative also sells yogurt and butter. Products are said to be free of GMOs, and cheese varieties range from a “Fire Cheese” infused with garlic and paprika to “Beer Cheese.”

Ettal is about 5 km (3 miles) from Oberammergau, so it’s accessible on foot, and by bike, car, or bus.

Getting There:

Bus 9606 travels between Oberammergau and Ettal. The Oberbayernbus website displays current timetables. Navigate to the Oberbayernbus website and input “9606” in the search bar. You can download a pdf of the schedule on the Oberbayern website.

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A close-up of the Ettal Monastery's architecture. On the left, a window with yellow trim, and a window with a sun's reflection. On the right, the dome and tower of the white monastery.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen is beloved for its dramatic mountain vistas and its active sports opportunities. Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, overlooks this idyllic town, which is studded with chalet-style buildings and lots of Lüftlmalerei. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is only 20 km (12 miles) from Oberammergau.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen (or GaP as it’s abbreviated locally) began life as two separate towns: Garmisch and Partenkirchen. In the 1930s, the two towns merged.

In 1936, Garmisch-Partenkirchen hosted the Winter Olympics. You can still visit the Olympic Stadium (Olympia Skistadion) today. If there is a sporting event taking place, you might even see adrenaline-seekers negotiating the nearby ski jump (Skisprungschanze).

The Partnachklamm Gorge — one of Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s well-known natural attractions — is not far from the Olympic Stadium. This gorge is 699 meters (2,293 feet) long, with walls that tower as high as 80 meters (262 feet) above the canyon floor. You can traverse the gorge throughout the year, unless harsh weather causes officials to close it for safety reasons.

Foresters used to transport logs through the Partnach Gorge, via the mighty Partnach River. When the logs got stuck, loggers had to be lowered into the gorge to dislodge them. In the 1880s, officials created a rugged path alongside the river. Eventually tunnels were channeled out of the rock, making the passage safer.  In 1912, the gorge was opened to tourists.

During the spring months, the river rushes through the gorge. If you visit during the winter, you’ll probably spot stalactite-like formations of ice clinging to the rocks.

You can access the Partnachklamm via the Olympic Ski Stadium parking lot. The local bus even stops here, making it easy to explore Garmisch-Partenkirchen without a car. From the Olympic Ski Stadium, the walk to the Partnachklamm is about 30 minutes. Horse-drawn carriages will also transport you to the Partnachklamm entrance, for a fee.

Getting There:

Bus 9606 travels between Oberammergau and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The Oberbayernbus website displays current timetables. Navigate to the Oberbayern website and input “9606” in the search bar. You can download a pdf of the schedule on the Oberbayern website.

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The Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympic Ski Jump, on a summer day, surrounded by green trees and grass.
The ski jump (left) is located next to the 1936 Winter Olympics Ski Stadium. A silly display (right) even allows you to trick your friends into thinking you courageously made the jump.
A raging river cuts through the Partnachklamm Gorge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Mist from a waterfall falls from overhead.
Waterfalls, a raging river, and towering canyon walls at the Partnachklamm Gorge.

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Running errands in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a resort town in the German Alps, my mother and father alerted me to this timeless scene of a man pulling a young girl on a sled. Nearby, but not visible here, is the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. . I first visited Garmisch as an elementary-school student on a family vacation. One of my most vivid memories from that trip was successfully navigating a slalom course on a Garmisch ski slope. My dad and uncle playfully told me that I'd actually conquered the mighty Zugspitze, and for many years I thought that was really the case. :-) . Garmisch-Partenkirchen hosted the Olympics in 1936. Today, the town is celebrated for its trekking and skiing opportunities. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is also characterized by its chalet-style homes, which are adorned with elaborately-painted scenes and wooden, stained balconies. ❄️

A post shared by Tricia A. Mitchell (@triciaamitchell) on

Linderhof Palace (Schloss Linderhof)

Of all the palaces King Ludwig II had constructed, Schloss Linderhof is the only one that was actually completed before his untimely and mysterious death.

Ludwig’s father, Maximilian II, originally had a hunting lodge here. Ludwig, however, was not fond of hunting, so he had his father’s lodge moved to another spot on the grounds. In the 1870s, Ludwig had the elegant Linderhof castle constructed.

Linderhof might be the smallest castle built by Ludwig, but there’s much more to appreciate here. The well-manicured grounds feature fountains, as well as imaginative outbuildings like the Moorish Kiosk and the Venus Grotto. The grotto is actually an artificial cave, outfitted with a lake, stalactites, and stalagmites. It is based on Wagner’s 1845 opera, Tannhäuser. Unfortunately, the grotto has been closed for renovation for several years.

If Linderhof’s French-style gardens and gilded interior have you thinking of Versailles, you’re on the right track, because Ludwig drew inspiration from Versailles and France’s “Sun King,” Louis XIV.

Linderhof Palace is not far from the Ettal Monastery. It’s about 14 km (9 miles) from Oberammergau.

Getting There:

Bus 9622 travels between Oberammergau and Linderhof. The Oberbayernbus website displays current timetables. Navigate to the Oberbayern website and input “9622” in the search bar. You can download a pdf of the schedule on the Oberbayernbus website.

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The Linderhof Palace Gardens on a sunny day: The bushes and trees are green, and there is a fountain in front of the white palace building.

Mittenwald

Not far from the Austrian border is the delightful town of Mittenwald. Like other communities in the region, Mittenwald is characterized by painted buildings and mountainous surroundings. What differentiates Mittenwald from the others, however, is its long tradition of violin-making.

Matthias Klotz introduced the art of crafting violins to Mittenwald in the 17th century. Today, you can learn more about this history at the city’s Violin-Making Museum (Geigenbaumuseum). Since several violin-making workshops still exist in Mittenwald, you can even step into a master’s workshop.

Afterwards, stroll past Mittenwald’s dollhouse-like homes, all the while watching your footing so as not to step into one of the town’s canals.

Mittenwald is 36 km (22 miles) from Oberammergau.

Getting There:

There are no direct buses from Oberammergau to Mittenwald, but getting there is easy. First, take bus 9606 from Oberammergau to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Once you’ve arrived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, take bus 9608 to Mittenwald.

The Oberbayernbus website displays current timetables. Navigate to the Oberbayernbus website and input “9606” and then “9608” in the search bar. You can download a pdf of both schedules on the Oberbayern website.

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A Mittenwald, Germany street scene has painted, traditional buildings, a canal, and a church bell tower painted with frescoes.

Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein)

The world-famous Neuschwanstein Castle is located in Füssen, about 50 km (32 miles) west of Oberammergau. Like Linderhof Palace, this royal abode was commissioned by King Ludwig II. He actually grew up in the nearby Hohenschwangau Castle, which you can also tour.

Dubbed the “Sleeping Beauty” castle, Neuschwanstein is said to have been the inspiration for the Disney film of the same name. Construction for the romantic structure started in the late 1860s, but it was never officially finished. The name Neuschwanstein actually translates to “new swan stone.”

The Marienbrücke, an iron bridge built in 1866, is the place to go to capture postcard-worthy images of Neuschwanstein. It takes about 15 minutes to walk there from Neuschwanstein itself.

Getting There:

Bus 9606 travels between Oberammergau and Füssen. The Oberbayernbus website displays current timetables. Navigate to the Oberbayern website and input “9606” in the search bar. You can download a pdf of the schedule on the Oberbayernbus website.

More –

Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle, surrounded by red, green, and yellow foliage, on a sunny day.

Oberammergau might be a tiny town, but as you can see, there are lots of things to keep you busy in the area.

If you have any questions as you plan your trip, feel free to let me know. Here’s wishing you a pleasant stay!

A paved road surrounding by mountains and agricultural fields in the German town of Oberammergau.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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14 thoughts on “A Guide to Exploring Oberammergau, Germany

    1. Hi Aiva, Ericeira, and Valters,

      Glad you enjoyed this peek at Oberammergau. Indeed, those fairy tale houses with the Brothers Grimm scenes are some of Oberammergau’s most beloved. I think it’s fitting that they’re being used for youth programs today.

      Thank you — *Paldies — for reading, and here’s hoping you’ll make it to Bavaria someday soon!

      (* It’s been a few years since I’ve been in Latvia, but my parents and I thought Riga and its Art Nouveau architecture was fabulous.)

  1. Hi Tricia,
    We really enjoyed reading your guide on exploring O’Gau. We’d love to visit there sometime. It’s just such a beautiful place.
    Are you still there with your parents?
    I hope you and Shawn are doing well. I loved his video also. Always great to hear from you and see your work.

    Hope you have a wonderful Holiday season this year wherever your travels take you. 🍷❤️

    Be well,
    Fran and Dave
    ________________________________

    1. Fran and Dave,

      It’s wonderful to hear from you! Shawn and I hope you’ll be headed back to Europe soon and that our paths will cross. We’d love to hear about your adventures in Portugal’s Douro Valley.

      I know you two like outdoor activities, so I can imagine you hiking in Oberammergau and Upper Bavaria. Oberammergau’s scenery is photogenic year-round, but I like it best when it’s warm and we can hit the trails.

      As for us, we’re now in Georgia (the country). Hugs to you!

  2. Hi Tricia, it’s so wonderful to see you here again with this grand post about O’gau, It makes my heard throbbing seeing all those images, as you know I’m originally a Bavarian. Many places I have seen and love, yet I learned a lot about things I didn’t know about O’gau. The Kofel, I would see from it’s other side from my aunts house, when I used to visit her years ago. I truly enjoyed everything in your post and thank you for taking me on a memory lane.

    1. Hi Cornelia,

      It’s wonderful to be in touch with you again and to imagine the O’gau that you came to know when you were a child. Also, I hope I haven’t made you homesick for Bavaria! Do you have plans to head back for a visit?

      Shawn and I went to the Partnachklamm earlier this year, and as we walked by the Olympic Stadium, I thought of you. As I recall, your parents met at the Olympics there, didn’t they?

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      1. Hi Tricia, OMG you have a good memory, about my parents meeting in the train to the Olympics in 1936, I was touched that you were thinking of me, thank you so much for your kindness. No worries, a little homesickness is okay with me. No plans at the moment to visit Germany in the near future, but never know, what the future has in it’s magic bag for me. So great to hear from you , thank you. Enjoy your time where ever you are right now.

      2. It sounds like there’s an incredible story behind their meeting, Cornelia. Did they every write the details in a journal? I wonder how far apart they lived from one another at the time, and how long it took for them to reunite? It sounds romantic.

        I do hope that the “future’s magic bag” offers us a chance to meet up someday soon. We’re in Georgia (the country) right now, but perhaps our paths will intersect in Germany in the near future. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and greetings to Moshu!

      3. Thank you dear Tricia for your kind respond. Well it’s all documented by stories and B/W pictures, which I have kept after my mom passed. My mother is from Koenigsberg, Prussia than, and my father born in Nuernberg, it took them many years to finally reunite, long story there.
        I hope so too, that at some point our paths will cross somewhere on the globe. Thank you so much for greetings to Moshu, wow, you have really a great memory, to remember my cats name. Wishing you a great time in Georgia. It’s really wonderful to stay in touch with you. Thank you my friend

    1. Thank you, Carol. Life has a funny way of leading you back to places, so perhaps you will end up in Upper Bavaria again. I actually visited Oberammergau twice — and then my parents ended up moving there.

      What did you visit when you were in the region?

  3. Hi Tricia,
    Your post has perfect timing for me! We are taking a group to Germany next year that includes the Passion Play.
    We are planning additional touring on our own prior to the tour group and do have some questions especially coming from Austria. Since the tour includes Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein I’d like to plan a day in the area coming from Innsbruck and stopping in Mittenwald and maybe Linderhof and anything else you recommend as we make our way over to Strasbourg. meetyouinthemorning@aol.com

    1. Merrill, I’m glad to hear that this guide to Oberammergau arrived at the perfect time for you.

      If, by any chance, you’ll be using mass transit in Austria and Germany, do look into some of the special regional tickets (day passes, and so on), which each country offers. Sometimes the offer even extends into a sliver of the neighboring country, making for some good deals. Here are Germany’s regional day tickets for the railway: https://www.bahn.com/en/view/offers/regional/regional-day-tickets.shtml

      As for trips between Oberammergau and Strasbourg, the pretty university town of Heidelberg is about 1.5 hours out of your way, but I think it’s a worthwhile stop. I lived there for 10 years, so I’m certainly biased. :) Here’s a post I created for Heidelberg, which gives you a feel for the city: https://triciaannemitchell.com/2015/06/21/things-to-do-heidelberg-germany/

      Along your route is Baden-Baden, an elegant spa town (we have yet to do a spa day there). Further afield, the Alsace wine route has some beautiful villages — especially if you’re there as the leaves are turning and the harvest is taking place. Germany’s Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is also a pleasant area. So much to see, hope you have a fantastic time!

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