The Bavarian Alps may not look as spectacular as the Swiss Alps or the Italian Dolomites, yet they are home to charming alpine villages that seem to have leapt straight from the pages of a children’s book.
The murals, known as Lüftlmalerei, which adorn the facades of the houses, significantly contribute to the charm of these villages. Taking a simple walk through these streets is already an experience unlike any other. What’s the best village to have this experience? Mittenwald.
Nestled at the at the base of the Karwendel mountain range, Mittenwald is picturesque alpine village worth visiting for several reasons. Its streets are filled with Lüftlmalerei, and the alpine scenery is simply breathtaking. The village also offers a variety of outdoor activities that visitors can enjoy.
In addition, Mittenwald boasts a unique heritage and hosts cultural events that add to its charm. And of course, we can’t overlook the natural attractions in the vicinity of Mittenwald. Places like Hummock Meadows, Ski Route Dammkar, and Leutasch Gorge enhance the experience of visiting Mittenwald.
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To give you an idea of how beautiful Mittenwald is, here are some photos. They provide a summary of what you can see in this breathtaking village.
If you’re considering a visit to Mittenwald, here’s where you can find the best hotel deals. Additionally, you can check my 7-day or 10-day Bavarian Alps Itinerary to get an idea of how you can spend your time in Mittenwald and other destinations in the Bavarian Alps. Don’t forget to also check out my list of the 20 best things to do in the Bavarian Alps where you can find awesome attractions like Mittenwald.
1. Visit the Violin Making Museum in Mittenwald
One of the first things that you must know is that Mittenwald is famous not only for its Lüftlmalerei and stunning natural scenery, but also for violins.
For over 300 years, Mittenwald has been at the top of Germany’s violin-making industry. This violin-making tradition was started by the Klotz family, who were known for their exceptional craftsmanship. Over time, Mittenwald’s violins have gained worldwide fame for their superior quality and exquisite sound.
Some people even call Mittenwald the “Village of a Thousand Violins!”
If you’re curious about this fascinating history and want to learn more about the art of violin-making, the Violin Making Museum in Mittenwald is a must-visit. Located in one of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the village, the museum was established in 1930. It offers a unique insight into the craft of violin-making and its evolution over the centuries.
Inside the museum, you’ll find an extensive collection of high-quality instruments, with a special focus on Mittenwald violins from the Baroque period. You can even watch a real violin maker at work. The museum also features historical films and audio samples, providing a multi-sensory experience.
Nestled in the charming medieval center of Mittenwald, you’ll find the Violin Making Museum. It’s conveniently located along Ballenhausgasse — the same street where the Church of Saint Peter and Paul stands.
For more information about the Violin Making Museum, you can visit its official website. The site provides all the necessary details for your visit, including visiting information and a virtual tour.
2. See the Lüftlmalerei in Mittenwald’s Old Village Center
Every time I lay my eyes on Altstadt Mittenwald, I’m transported back to my childhood. I’m reminded of a storybook I once cherished. It was a book about King Midas and his Golden Touch, filled with images that resembled hand-painted murals, much like Mittenwald’s Lüftlmalerei.
I wish I could show you the book, but it found a new home with another child 20 years ago. Thinking about it now makes me feel a bit old!
But here’s the thing, when you’re in Mittenwald’s old town, you’ll find yourself walking along lanes adorned with these murals. If you’re someone like me, who has spent most of their life in a city of concrete and steel, a visit to Mittenwald’s old town will make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a different world!
When exploring Mittenwald, there are three specific parts of the village that you wouldn’t want to miss, especially if you’re interested in seeing the best murals: Ballenhausgasse, Obermarkt, and Prof.-Schreyögg-Platz, which is located near the Geigenstatue.
If you’re coming from the train station and heading to the center of the village via Bahnhofstrasse, you’ll likely arrive first at Hochstrasse which is also a colorful street in Mittenwald. Then, the town’s main square, where the 14th-century church of Mittenwald stands. From there, you can visit the three places I mentioned:
- Ballenhausgasse is the street to the north of the church
- Obermarkt is the village’s main street located south of the church
- Prof.-Schreyögg-Platz is the square west of the church.
On the main street of Mittenwald Old Town, or Obermarkt, you’ll see most of the Lüftlmalerei, some dating back 250 years. Typically, the images portrayed in the murals in Mittenwald are the favorite saints of the house owner, their profession, and their daily lives in Mittenwald back in the day.
Before checking out the streets, you might also want to marvel for a quick moment at the murals of the church of Saint Peter and Paul. I like their illusionist style! Come inside and you’ll find a Baroque interior with its beautiful dome painting as the highlight.
3. Try the Karwendelbahn lift from Mittenwald
Visiting Mittenwald offers the unique opportunity to head straight to the mountains from the village. This is made easy and convenient with the use of the Karwendelbahn cable car, which ranks as the second highest in Germany.
The Karwendelbahn is situated just to the east of the village. If you’re traveling by train, you’ll find that the cable car station is a mere 15-minute walk from the train station.
Upon reaching the station, you can instantly board a cable car for an awe-inspiring trip to the Karwendel mountain range. In just a few minutes, you’ll ascend from the valley floor to a height of 2000 meters, offering some of the most stunning views in Mittenwald.
At the upper station, a mountain restaurant and an information center await. Here, you can satisfy both your hunger and curiosity with the wonders of the mountain. The restaurant serves local specialties. I recommend trying the wheat beer or the Kaiserschmarrn, a type of thick, chopped pancake.
For an even more enjoyable meal or snack, take your food to the restaurant’s “sun terrace”. Here, you can dine while taking in the magnificent mountain views.
Do heights make you nervous, yet you don’t want to miss the stunning views of the Karwendels? No need to worry! The Karwendelbanh Information Center has you covered.
The “Bergwelt Karwendel,” or Karwendelbanh Information Center, is a structure designed like a giant telescope that allows you to gaze at the breathtaking Isar Valley from 1,300 meters above. Its massive glass window offers an unobstructed view of the entire valley, without the fear of falling.
Also, did you know that Karwendelbanh is the largest nature reserve in the Eastern Alps? The Karwendelbanh Information Center is ready to share more about this expansive nature park during your visit. Discover fascinating facts about the local flora and fauna. The Information Center is open during the operating hours of the Karwendel cable car, and admission is free!
For additional details about Karwendelbahn, please visit its official website. This resource provides updates on the cable car’s status, a live view from the upper station, information on hiking trails, and other essential details for planning your visit to Karwendel.
4. Conquer Karwendel from Mittenwald
The upper station of the Karwendel cable car serves as the starting point for various Mittenwald-Karwendel hiking trails. These routes cater to all skill levels, ensuring that whether you’re a novice or an experienced thrill-seeker, you’ll find the mountain adventure you’re looking for.
Before heading to the upper station, pick up a map and route information from the Karwendel ticket office in the valley. If you require guidance for your hike, consider booking a tour through the Alpenwelt-Karwendel website.
If you’ve never hiked or climbed a mountain before, now is the time to start! While it may seem challenging and exhausting, the rewards are well worth it. In my opinion, there’s no greater sense of accomplishment in travel than reaching a mountain peak. The feeling of being on top of the world and the indescribable beauty of the view are experiences you’ll want to relive again and again once you’ve had a taste. It’s a life-changing experience.
There are several hiking trails available in Karwendel which starts at Karwendelbahn top station.
|Dammkarsteig to the valley||4-5||Moderately easy|
If you’re planning a day trip, consider exploring the Passamani Panoramaweg. True to its name, this panoramic path begins directly above the upper station and takes you around the Karwendel basin, where even more stunning views await.
Every Tuesday, there’s a free guided tour of the Passamani Panoramaweg. The tour lasts an hour and begins at 10:45 a.m. (or 11:45 a.m. during winter) on the sun terrace next to the restaurant at the upper station.
5. Ski or Snowboard on Dammkar Ski Route
From Karwendelbahn top station, you can access a 400-meter pedestrian tunnel that leads to one of the most notable attractions in Mittenwald: Dammkar Ski Route.
The Dammkar Ski Route in Mittenwald is a paradise for winter sports enthusiasts. Known as Germany’s longest ski run, it’s a magnet for experienced skiers and freeriders, offering wide and steep deep snow slopes. But be warned, this route is not for the faint-hearted. It demands excellent ski technique, physical fitness, and the ability to adapt to changing snow conditions.
It may be hard to believe, but the Dammkar Ski route extends for 7 kilometers. It covers an elevation loss of 1,300 meters, leading all the way down to Mittenwald. Some enthusiasts even regard the Dammkar Ski Route as one of the top five most impressive slopes in the Alps.
When summer arrives, the area transforms into a hiker’s dream. You can explore the stunning alpine scenery on foot, tackle rock climbing routes, or test your nerves on a via ferrata.
For the rules, tips, and safety, please read the guidelines linked in the official website of Karwendelbahn.
6. Discover Bliss from Mittenwald’s Huts
One of the things I really appreciate about mountain visits is the sense of peace and tranquility they give. The mountains have a unique ability to clear your mind and help you forget life’s worries.
In Mittenwald, mountain offers more than that! Here, you get a blend of serene mountain atmosphere, delicious food, and comfortable accommodations. It is a unique holiday that many of us crave, right?
Where can you have that experience? In Mittenwald’s mountain huts. If you’re coming from the Karwendelbahn top station, there are three huts within an hour’s hike that you can visit immediately: Mittenwalder Hütte, Dammkarhütte (accessible via Dammkar), and Brunnsteinhütte (accessible via Heinrich-Noe-Steig)
It’s important to note that each of these huts can be reached via several hiking trails. For instance, the Mittenwalder Hutte can be accessed from a hiking trail that starts at the Karwendel cable car base station.
The Mittenwalder Hutte, perched like an eagle’s nest in the cliffs of the Karwendel massif, offers breathtaking views of the Alpenwelt Karwendel region. Located at an elevation of 1500 meters, it’s an ideal spot to observe Mittenwald, which lies just below the hut.
Facing west, the Mittenwalder Hutte is also a prime location for watching sunsets. As the sky turns red and loses its glow, the town below begins to sparkle. It’s a wonderful way to end a day in the mountains.
The Mittenwalder Hutte offers homemade cakes and delicious meals, perfect for replenishing your energy for the next hike. You can enjoy your meal on the hut’s large sun terrace while taking in the stunning scenery.
The hut is open every day, but the optimal time to visit is from May to mid-October. If you’re planning to visit or stay at the Mittenwalder Hutte, it’s recommended to make an inquiry first. Contact details can be found on their official website.
For those interested in a mountain tour to the Mittenwald Hutte, information is available on the Alpenwelt-Karwendel website.
As the name implies, Dammkarhutte is a mountain hut located in Dammkar, at an altitude of 1,667 meters. Despite being surrounded by a towering wall of rocks, the valley below can still be viewed from its location.
Dammkarhutte is unique among the huts in Mittenwald due to its strong connection to alpinism. It was originally built to provide refuge for the first alpinists in the Karwendel mountains.
Dammkarhutte serves Bavarian delicacies along with refreshing beverages. Like Mittenwalder Hutte, you can take your meal to the hut’s sunny terrace and enjoy the view while you eat. It also offers a lovely view of the sunset.
Another mountain hut accessible from the Karwendelbahn top station is Brunnsteinhütte. This location is a popular destination for families with children. It features a playground populated with alpine animals that children are sure to enjoy.
7. Explore Leutasch Gorge Near Mittenwald
In my opinion, a visit to Mittenwald wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the stunning Leutasch Gorge, the longest accessible gorge in the Eastern Limestone Alps. You can reach the Leutasch Gorge on foot from Mittenwald. Expect a walk of 15 to 30 minutes from the town.
Here are four compelling reasons to visit LeutaschGorge:
- It’s a spectacle that’s been millions of years in the making. As you hike between 70+ meter walls of eroded rocks, you’ll gain a profound appreciation for the power and creativity of nature.
- The gorge features 970-meter-long meshed steel walkways where you can stroll safely. Along these paths, you’ll find informative panels that explain the ecology of the gorge. There are also myth stories and games for children.
- The walkways are installed more than 20 meters above the floor of the gorge. Looking down at the ground and the river below is sure to give you a thrill! If you’re afraid of heights, a visit to Leutaschklamm Gorge could be a great way to face your fear.
- You can explore some parts of the gorge without any charge! However, there is a few euros fee to access the path leading to a 23-meter tall waterfall.
Leutaschklamm Gorge is divided into three sections. The following table provides a summary of what you can expect when visiting the gorge:
|Part||Highlights||Length (meters)||Duration (minutes)|
|Klammgeistweg||The most spectacular part. The gorge’s myths, geology, and ecology are learned from panel boards.||3000||90|
|Koboldpfad||Higher and more thrilling paths. Learn about myths of the ‘Kobolden‘ (Kobolds)||1900||60|
|Wasserfallsteig||23-meter high waterfall||400||20|
A highlight of the Leutaschklamm Gorge is its panoramic bridge. From this vantage point, you can clearly see how the gorge meanders, carving its way through the landscape. The view also includes the stunning backdrop of ice-capped mountains.
You can find the latest visiting information to Leutasch Gorge from their official website.
8. Hike Mittenwald’s Hummock Meadows
In a place like Mittenwald, the views are always stunning. From the deep ravines to the towering mountains, there’s always a picturesque scene to capture. The meadows of Mittenwald, sometimes referred to as the Buckelwiesen Alpine Meadow, are also worth a visit.
So, what makes the Buckelwiesen Alpine Meadow unique? Unlike typical meadows in the Alps, this area is characterized by its hummocky landscape, dotted with countless lumps. These bumps give the terrain an almost otherworldly appearance, making the meadows an intriguing place to visit.
While beautiful meadows are common in the Alpine world, the Buckelwiesen Alpine Meadows of Mittenwald hold a special status. They have received several awards, including a diploma for conservation from the European Heritage Europa Nostra Awards. This recognition is a testament to the local farmers who have diligently cultivated and preserved this unique landscape.
Hummock Meadows can be found throughout Mittenwald. You might spot one along the Isar River or near the Leutasch Gorge, but a prime example is located near Kapelle Maria Konigin, north of Lake Lauter (Lautersee). Here, the meadows beautifully complement the chapel and the mountains in the background. It’s an idyllic scene that you’re sure to remember, especially on clear, sunny days.
The experience is further enhanced when you encounter a goatherder leading hundreds of goats into the meadows to graze. The area fills with the sound of chimes from the bells attached to each goat’s leather strap, creating a soothing countryside ambiance.
While you can drive to visit different hummock meadows in Mittenwald, I recommend hiking or renting a bike. This allows you to fully immerse yourself in nature and appreciate its rejuvenating touch while exploring the meadows.
The ideal time to visit the Hummock Meadows in Mittenwald is during the spring. During this season, the lumpy fields bloom with different flowers such as crocus, birds-eye primrose, gentian, and other alpine plants. It’s a feast for the eyes — you’ll undoubtedly want to capture it in photographs!
9. Relax in Lautersee Near Mittenwald
After your adventures in the mountains and gorges, and your strolls through the town and meadows, you might be ready for some relaxation by the lakes.
Mittenwald is home to eight lakes that you can find on a map. These are, from west to east: Ferchensee, Lautersee, Wildensee, Luttensee, Schmalsee, and the Soiernseen, which is a group of three lakes or pools in the Karwendel Mountains within Mittenwald.
Among these, Lautersee is an ideal spot for relaxation and fun. Here, you can enjoy a leisurely afternoon drinking beers and eating sausages at the beer garden located right along the lakeshore.
For those seeking a bit of adventure, there are watersports available. You can rent a kayak and glide over the lake’s sparkling, crystal-clear water.
You can also opt for accommodation by the lake, allowing you to savor the serene lake views with the spectacular mountains as a backdrop. For more information and reservations, you can visit the website of Hotel Lautersee.
Lautersee is easily accessible by car from Mittenwald, with a travel time of about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can reach the lake from the town with a 40-minute hike.
10. Attend Mittenwald’s Cultural Events
One lesson I’ve truly taken to heart from my past travels is that local events and festivals are always enjoyable, or at least intriguing, to experience. You can find the schedule for events in Mittenwald on the Alpenwelt-Karwendel website.
However, there are two events in Mittenwald that you should not miss, particularly if your visit coincides with their dates. The first one is Mittenwalder Musiksommer. The second event is the Bringing in of the Sheep, Goats, and Cattle.
From July to October, Mittenwald comes alive with music, presenting a series of concerts that span all genres. Whether you’re a classical aficionado or a jazz enthusiast, there’s something for everyone.
The venues for these concerts are as nice as the performances themselves. Imagine listening to beautiful music in the baroque parish church, the Evangelical Trinity Church, or the atmospheric Violin Making Museum.
Bringing in of the Sheep, Goats, and Cattle
Known as the “Bringing in of the Sheep, Goats, and Cattle,” this event is part of the Almabtrieb tradition common in alpine regions. This event is a celebration of a successful season in the mountains and a nod to the community’s rich agricultural heritage.
Imagine this: after a summer spent grazing in the lush mountain pastures, the sheep, goats, and cattle make their grand return to the town. The streets of Mittenwald come alive as these animals, adorned with bells and decorative headgear, parade down Partenkirchner Street or gather at Dekan Karl Platz.
But it’s not just about the animals. The town buzzes with festivities, food, and music, turning the event into a grand celebration. At the Sheep Drive, for instance, the procession ends at the Gröblalm, where the party continues. There’s even a prize for the most beautiful sheep!
Learn more about this amazing event here.
When to Visit Mittenwald
Mittenwald is a destination worth visiting all year round, given the variety of attractions and activities it offers. However, to fully experience what Mittenwald has to offer, it is recommended to visit during the warmer months or summer season.
During this period, you can fully enjoy Mittenwald’s top outdoor attractions such as Karwendel, Leutasch Gorge, and Lautersee. This is also the time when the village and its surroundings are at their most stunning. There is typically less cloud cover in Mittenwald during this time of the year, allowing the sun to illuminate the village’s murals, making them appear vibrantly colorful.
If you enjoy wandering and hiking, you will appreciate the views from the hummock meadows, particularly during spring. The hiking trails leading to the mountain huts of Mittenwald are also a highlight, especially during autumn.
How Many Days in Mittenwald
The length of your stay in Mittenwald can depend on various factors such as the number of attractions you wish to visit, the level of relaxation you seek, and other tourist spots in the Bavarian Alps you plan to explore. It’s important to avoid repetitive experiences.
If you aim to experience all that Mittenwald has to offer, a three-day visit should suffice. This can include an overnight hike and a stay in one of Mittenwald’s mountain huts. Here’s a suggested itinerary:
- Day 1: Explore the village, learn about violins at the Violin Making Museum, unwind by Lautersee, and stroll around the Hummock Meadows to watch the sunset.
- Day 2: In the morning, visit Leutasch Gorge and admire the rock formations. In the afternoon, head to Karwendel and start your hike to the mountain huts.
- Day 3: Hike back to the village in the morning and treat yourself to delicious Bavarian cuisine at one of the local restaurants.
If you’re visiting during winter, a two-day visit should be sufficient.
- Day 1: Spend the day exploring the village and the Violin Making Museum, and take in the stunning views at Karwendel.
- Day 2: Spend the entire day at Dammkar Ski Route, testing your skiing skills and enjoying the snow.
Lastly, if you’re also visiting other destinations in the Bavarian Alps, a one-day visit to Mittenwald might be enough, as other attractions may offer similar experiences. For instance, for impressive lake and mountain views, you might prefer Eibsee and Zugspitze in Garmish-Partenkirchen over Lautersee and Karwendel in Mittenwald.
If you’re still looking for accommodation in Mittenwald, this is where you can find the top hotel deals.
Mittenwald vs Garmisch-Partenkirchen
Suppose you have a limited time to explore the Bavarian Alps and you’re interested in the central part of this stunning region. Among the towns in the Bavarian Alps, Garmisch-Partenkirchen serves as an excellent alternative to Mittenwald.
These two places are not only neighboring towns, but they’re also just a short train ride away from each other. Considering their similarities can help you make the most of your trip to the Bavarian Alps.
Here is a table providing a quick comparison between Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
|Town Center/Old Town||Lüftlmalerei, smaller, has a countryside vibe||See Lüftlmalerei, larger, bustling, with more restaurants, and shops|
|Famous For||Violins||Winter Olympics|
|Proximity to the mountains||Accessible from the town||It will require a train ride to reach. Here you can find Zugspitze – the highest mountain in Germany.|
|Gorge (size)||Lautasch Gorge – the longest accessible gorge in the Eastern Limestone Alps||Partnachklamm|
|Lakes||Lautersee – has beer gardens and a small hotel, picturesque with Karwendel mountains in the backdrop||Eibsee – has a large hotel nearby, has islets, picturesque with the view of Zugspitze|
|Access||1 train ride away from Munich||1 train ride away from Munich|
For more information about Garmisch-Partenkirchen, refer to my article titled, 10 Reasons to Visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen (and Things to Do).
How to Get to Mittenwald
Mittenwald, nestled next to the German-Austrian border in the heart of the Bavarian Alps, can be reached from Munich or Innsbruck in Austria.
- From Munich, Mittenwald is a mere 1.5-hour drive away. Alternatively, you can take a 2-hour bus ride with FlixBus, which departs from the city every 2 hours.
- On the other hand, Mittenwald is a 40-minute drive from Innsbruck. If you prefer public transportation, it’s a 45-minute bus ride with FlixBus from Innsbruck Südbahnstraße.
Once you’re in the area, getting around is easy. Mittenwald and the Bavarian Alps have a fantastic public transportation system, and many of the sights are just a short walk or bike ride away. But if you’re the adventurous type and want to explore the more remote areas, renting a car might be a good idea.
It gives you the freedom to roam and discover the region at your own pace. Just remember, if your travels take you into Austria, you’ll need a vignette for motorway travel.
What’s Next After Mittenwald
Similar to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald holds a strategic position in the Bavarian Alps. It’s nestled at the gateway between Germany and Austria. From Mittenwald, you can head north to explore more attractions in Germany, or venture south to discover Innsbruck and the unique Tyrolean region.
Before you cross the border to explore Tyrol, it’s worth considering a visit to other attractions in southern Germany, where Mittenwald is located. Southern Germany is made up of the beautiful states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, both of which are home to historical cities, charming villages, and stunning destinations.
For a well-rounded trip to southern Germany beyond the Bavarian Alps, consider visiting the Black Forest, its beautiful villages, and Stuttgart in Baden-Wurttemberg. In Bavaria and Franconia, Munich, Nuremberg, Wurzburg, Bamberg, and certainly Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber are worth a visit. Personally, I find the architecture of these towns appealing, and they’re sure to satisfy anyone’s desire to explore and experience different periods of history.
Lastly, for more must-see attractions in the Bavarian Alps, consider visiting Neuschwanstein Castle, the ultimate fairytale destination in Germany, Oberammergau, a village known for its centuries-old passion play tradition, and Berchtesgaden, which offers a variety of stunning natural scenery.
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