Zugspitze, the Highest Mountain in Germany

After breakfast at the Le Méridien, we took the train to the Eibsee, via Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where we ascended to Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, by aerial tram. We enjoyed the magnificent view and walked across the shared summit to Austria where we had lunch. We then walked back to Germany and took a different aerial tram down a bit to the Zugspitzplatt, a mountain ski area on the German side of the border. After, we returned to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen where we had dinner nearby before returning to Munich.


After waking up at the Le Méridien, we had breakfast before heading out to the Hauptbahnhof across the street. The Deutsche Bahn strike ended yesterday and the weather forecast looked pretty good, at least for the morning, so we decided to visit Zugspitze.

We caught a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the largest town near Zugspitze that has a direct connection to Munich.

From there, we changed to a different train. After awhile, we realized that we weren’t going where we thought we were going! We were north of the Eibsee and headed west. It turns out that when we put in Zugspitze into the DB Navigator app, two options are presented. One is for the Eibsee, the other for Ehrwald. By the time we figured out our mistake, we were a few minutes away from the next stop, Ehrwald, in Austria!

It is actually possible to visit Zugspitze from Ehrwald as there is an aerial tram on the Austrian side. However, we already had tickets for the German side and getting to the aerial tram station requires a bus ride. We ended up taking the next train back which luckily arrived in a few minutes.

This was our first time in Austria! It lasted a whole 15 minutes or so!

After returning to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we found the correct place to board the next train. It is actually at a separate nearby station, requiring a few minutes of walking. Boarding the train was a bit of a mess as there was a train already on the platform but only a few people were allowed to take it. We weren’t sure why. That train eventually departed and we were allowed onto the platform to wait for the next train.

The train that we boarded only went as far as Grainau where we needed to transfer to a smaller and older train. We took it to Eibsee where we disembarked. The train actually continues up to Zugspitzplatt, below the summit of Zugspitze in an alpine bowl. The ride takes an additional 40 minutes or so as well as an additional short aerial tram ride to make it to the summit. Most of the route is in a tunnel in the mountains so there is nothing to see. We already did a similar trip when visiting Jungfraujoch so decided to take the aerial tram from Eibsee instead.

The train station at Eibsee is near the aerial tram station. We could clearly see the route up to the summit. This tram route has the longest unsupported span in the world, 10,541 feet, from the lower tower to the summit station. That same section also has the longest difference in elevation for a single span at 6,381 feet. And, the lower tower, the only one on the route, is the tallest at 416 feet1.

We walked down to the Zugspitze aerial tram station as it is located slightly below the train station.

We picked up a map of Zugspitze, Garmisch-Classic, and Wank, the three mountain areas here served by various forms of cable transport and train.

We could see the Eibsee on the far end of the parking lot from the aerial tram station. We had to wait a few minutes for the tram to arrive. The tram ended up being very busy. Our detour into Austria meant that we were almost two hours behind our intended schedule.

Soon, we arrived at the Zugspitze aerial tram station!

The station building is built into the side of the mountain and has multiple floors. We headed right to the top. The actual summit is just to the east of the tram station and is marked by a cross. The area below, to the south, is occupied by a ski area. The Germans seem to refer to this as the Skigebiet Zugspitze while the Austrians call it the Zugspitzplatt. Zugspitzplatt seems more descriptive so that is the term we will use when referring to this bowl area below the summit.

It is possible to go to the summit cross. The route seems to involve at least one ladder, fixed ropes, and some snow.

Looking to the north, we could see the next tram on its way up. The Eibsee looked quite beautiful with alpine lake colors in its shallow regions. We should be high enough that Munich is visible, not far beyond the large lake near the horizon on the right. The weather was certainly better than the haze that we saw in Munich yesterday! We were also lucky as the weather turned out to be substantially better than forecast!

The view from here looking to the south. The rooftop space here is pretty huge! And it was incredibly windy which made it feel much colder than it actually was!

We walked to the west side of the building where we had the same view that we did when we arrived, except from a bit higher up. The building on the left is at the Austrian part of the summit. Most of the land below is Austria as well, though the Eibsee and beyond is in Germany,

We were here for long enough for the other tram to arrive.

We walked over to the opposite side of the building, facing south and above the aerial tram that heads down to the Zugspitzplatt. The entire bowl here is available for skiing!

Looking to the right, we could see more of the summit buildings. The border between Austria and Germany runs along the ridgeline above the bowl. Everything we can see here covered in snow is Germany. The land beyond is Austria.

The same applies here to the left. The border runs along the ridge on the far side of the bowl.

We started walking to the west to visit Austria. Looking back, we could see the aerial tram terminal that we were just standing atop.

The south facing side seemed to be busier.

We walked as far to the west as we could. Looking to the north, the building on the right is in Austria. Ehrwald, the town that we accidentally visited in Austria earlier, is below.

This cross for the Tiroler Zugspitzbahnen stands atop the Austrian building which contains the upper terminal for the aerial tram.

The same view without the cross.

There is a wooden goat here on the Austrian side. Is this an Austrian Blue Goat?

The view here is pretty similar to the view from the German side.

We saw one of the Austrian aerial tram cars arrive below us.

The view looking down at Austria in the valley below.

It was a bit past noon now and we were getting hungry. There are restaurants on both the Austrian and German sides of Zugspitze. We decided to eat here in Austria! The restaurant is one floor below and can be seen here on the left.

The restaurant is cafeteria style with various stations. We decided to get Wienerschnitzel, after all, we were in Austria. Wein is Vienna in German, the capital of Austria, though it is at the opposite end of the country from where we were. Interestingly, there is an American fast food chain out west named Wienerschnitzel. However, they don’t actually serve Wienerschnitzel!

We also had some soup, which came with bread, as well as a slice of pistachio and raspberry cake. The food was decent, though nothing particularly special.

After lunch, we walked upstairs to The Snow Crystal. This small room has windows all around and a few exhibits about snow crystals.

We then visited the gift shop where we got a postcard and an Austrian stamp to mail it home with! There was a postbox at restaurant level. The text is a warning to use Austrian stamps!

Time to head back to Germany. We left Austria through this door, the same one that we entered earlier.

We’re back in Bavaria, Germany!

We walked over to take the Gletscherbahn down to the Zugspitzplatt.

The aerial tram was packed! We just made it in time to board and ended up by the window.

We recorded a video of the entire trip down from Zugspitze to the Zugspitzplatt. The aerial tram’s glass windows weren’t exactly clean but the end result was still pretty decent!

The view after exiting the aerial tram and walking outside. The building on the side of the mountain is the Schneefernerhaus, a former hotel that currently serves as an environmental research station. A T-Bar lift for the ski area is below.

We started walking to the west, away from the Zugspitzplatt buildings. The train, which we took to the Eibsee earlier, has its upper station here as well.

The view to the east. The ski area here is completely contained within this alpine bowl and only accessible via aerial tram or train.

We continued walking a short distance to reach the Iglu-Dorf. This is an igloo hotel, though part of the facility is apparently in a shipping container.

There is an outdoor hot tub for guests.

We sat on the chairs outside of the Iglu-Dorf for awhile and enjoyed the view and the sun. It felt a bit like being in the Colorado mountains!

After enjoying the weather for a bit, we backtracked to check out the Kapelle Maria Heimsuchung (Chapel of the Visitation of Mary).

The chapel is pretty small but apparently does have weekly Sunday services.

There is a little viewing platform below the chapel, though it doesn’t really provide any advantage to being on snow next to it.

We returned to the Zugspitzplatt building, walking around to its east side to check out the view below.

Time to return!

We walked by a window that looks into the machinery room for the aerial tram.

Soon, we were back at the Zugspitze summit building. The tram was completely packed as many of the skiers and snowboarders were ending their day. There was a small exhibit about the transport up to Zugspitze by the bathrooms.

We ended up buying another postcard and sending it via the Deutsche Post box.

We were able to stand by the windows for the trip down.

The view looking up about two minutes after departing.

About five minutes later, we were back at the treeline.

The trip down takes less than 10 minutes. Here, we see the other tram arriving with a full load of passengers.

We got a hot drink and sat on a bench to drink. We watched as the tram departed, nearly empty.

The benches in front of the station are, unfortunately, on a slope.

The view from the tram station showing the train station as well as Zugspitze above.


We caught the next train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We decided to have dinner there rather than back in Munich. We decided to walk to Döner Center Bodrum, a few blocks away from the station in the town’s downtown area.

There was, unfortunately, a line out of the door when we arrived! We decided to join the queue and wait. Service was slow as all the bread is freshly prepared.

It was good though the döner meat was more lightly flavored than usual. At least we were able to get a table! It does seem that we arrived at the worst possible time as the restaurant was empty by the time we finished.

Unfortunately, the long queue meant that we missed the next train to Munich by 10 minutes or so and had to wait for the next departure one hour later.

  1. https://liftblog.com/2015/07/10/garaventa-building-record-breaking-tram-in-germany/ ↩︎

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