Considering that Starnberger See is one of Germany’s largest lakes, there are numerous options for getting to the lake from Munich and how to best get around the lake to enjoy the fun things to do in the region. You can think of this guide as a choose-your-own-adventure, and if you live in the area, you might want to return several times to take advantage of the numerous things to do – or plan for a long day utilizing Munich’s great public transit to make several stops.
Starnberger See by S-Bahn
Getting to Lake Starnberg from Munich is incredibly easy, with a direct connection via the S6 S-Bahn line. From any of the main S-Bahn stations along what is called the Stammstrecke (Laim to Ostbahnhof), you can catch an S6 in the direction of Tutzing.
For an easy day trip, you’ll want to exit the S6 at the Starnberg stop. You can access walking/bike trails, restaurants, boat rentals, and more from here. However, if you want to visit attractions such as Rose Island, see the Royal palaces, visit Ludwig II’s memorial, or the town of Tutzing, you may choose to get off at other stops (more on that later).
Whether traveling alone or with a group, you will want to get a Munich day transportation pass from any transit station. If you plan on staying around the town of Starnberg, you only need a day pass for zones M,1, and 2. Buy up to zone 4 if you plan to go further to Rose Island or Tutzing. A day pass for zones M & 1-4 allows you to be flexible if you visit other stops on a whim. I’ll let you know what S0bahn stop you want to alight from for each activity. You also have an option to take a ferry around the lake once you reach Starnberg (again, more on that later).
Additionally, I highly recommend getting the Munich Card if you are exploring Munich for multiple days. This card gives you all-inclusive access to Munich’s public transportation, including to/from the airport and to/from Starnberg. Plus, you get access and discounts for over 80 tours, attractions, restaurants, and theaters.
Google Maps works great to help you navigate from wherever you are in Munich to Starnberg. I’ve taken the S6 here several times, and it is straightforward and easy to use with English announcements.
Starnberg By Bicycle
You can also reach Starnberg by bicycle. There are a few when riding a bike to allow you to customize your day.
- Riding there/back for a long day trip.
- Riding one way and catching the S-Bahn the other way
- Catching the S-bahn to and from Munich to Starnberg but riding around the entire Lake Starnberg. Or renting a bike in Starnberg to ride around the lake.
You can rent bikes from the Hauptbahnhof for the easiest and most affordable option.
My favorite thing about this trip is the variety of scenery you take in in just over 2 hours. When I did this by bike, my partner and I rode from Munich along the Isar River, crossing into farmlands before entering forested trails and finishing on a paved trail parallel to Autobahn 95.
Here is a basic map of our route for the day. We rode our own city/touring bikes and easily managed the dirt and unpaved trails through Forstenrieder Park. If you have a road bike, you might want to stick to a fully paved route, as the City of Munich suggests. You can plan your route with the online bike planner. The route is flat, with only about 120m of elevation gain.
What’s in Store for Your Bike from Munich to Starnberg?
Riding in Munich is very easy. Cars are aware of and respect cyclists, and the bike lanes and paths are often clearly marked. Just ride confidently in the same direction as traffic, follow all lights and signs, and you’ll be fine. As soon as you get to the Isar, you’ll enjoy a nice scenic flat bike trail along the river. Trails are divided for pedestrians and cyclists, so make sure you’re on the right trail! Take a minute to scope out some of the best picnic and swimming areas you can return to another day or later this evening.
Eventually, your paved path will fade to packed gravel through a forest. You will exit the trail and cross the Großhesseloher Brücke (bridge). After the bridge, turn onto a dirt path leading into golden farmland as you leave the city behind. The path from here is mostly unpaved but packed down and manageable. In Bavaria, farms are everywhere, so it’s natural to have multi-use paths that cross and intertwine with them. Be mindful of the farms and working farmers. Eventually, you’ll enter a logged German forest.
This next section is my favorite! Not many people take this route, but the trail crosses through forests—the trees surrounding the tower over the multi-use trail. On a sunny day, just enough light seeps through the branches to light the moss-covered ground in a neon glow. There are many side trails designed for Fire Engines or logging vehicles. Stick to the bigger trail and follow the map. Wild boars live in this forest – they are aggressive, do not approach them.
After the forest, you turn onto another dirt road stretching out in front of you for a few km before meeting the paved bike route. From here on out, you follow the bike trail along the autobahn and soon reach Starnberger See.
Once we arrived at Starnberg, we rode around the lake to the East until we arrived at the Ludwig II Memorial. After eating lunch at a Hotel Restaurant, we rode back to Starnberg, stopping at Percha Beach and catching the S6 back to Munich from Starnberg. But you can plan your day however you like, including riding west to Tutzing and returning from there, riding the entire lake, or just hanging out at Percha Beach.
It took us about 2 hours of riding one way, including some stops and backtracking once. We then spent a few hours at the lake before heading back on the S6. Be on the road around 10 AM to arrive close to lunchtime and allow for stops. If you rent bikes, you can factor this into your start time in the morning.
Important: You must follow the rules when taking your bike on the S-bahn.
- Your bike needs a ticket as well. It is best to get a bike day ticket for this adventure.
- Your bike must go in the section of the S-bahn that has a bike logo on the outside. This is usually at the back of the new S-Bahns.
- You can not bring your bike during peak rush hour, M-F, 6 AM – 9 AM and 4 PM – 6 PM.
Pro Tip: The Starnberg S-Bahn stop on the return route to Munich can get full of bikes and strollers on weekend afternoons and evenings. We managed to grab a spot for our bikes, but if you want to ensure you have a spot, leave before the late afternoon rush, choose to catch the S-bahn to Starnberg and ride back, ride to Tutzing the S6 end station, or travel during the weekday outside restricted times.
Of course, you can drive to Starnberg or any of the places around Lake Starnberg. You must pay for and find parking, but it is readily available at locations such as Starnberg and Rose Island. I suggest this for those with mobility or special concerns or who have a very specific destination in mine, but public transportation and bicycles are a great way to reduce your emissions for a low-impact day.
Whether you come by bike or the S6, there are many things to do in and around Lake Starnberg. I’ll start with some of the nature-based and active things to do, followed by cultural and historical highlights in the area. Whether you love the adrenaline of water sports or appreciate UNESCO sites and castles – this is the place for you!
Ride the Starnberg Ferry – Schiffsanlegesteg Starnberger See
One of the more enjoyable ways to see Lake Starnberg is taking the scenic ferry. You can treat this simply as a sightseeing excursion with long and short tour options, or you can use it to access some of the iconic locations around the lake. This isn’t a dinky little ferry; the boats are larger, with plenty of seating, epic views, and chances to purchase concessions on board. The ferry has eight docking points around the massive lake.
Prices range from 12.60€ for a short tour to 24.20€ for the grand tour, with several additional price points and options in-between. Bikes are welcome aboard, but cost an extra 3€. The boat company offers tour packages, such as riding the ferry to Possenhofen, walking through palace gardens before taking a smaller boat to Rose Island, and then working your way back to Starnberg. Or you can use it as a hop-on, hop-off to visit the Ludwig II memorial, then walk 20-30 minutes to catch another boat down the trail. The ferry’s main docking point is the Starnberg dock, just a brief walk from the Sbhan station.
Check their website for prices, excursion packages, routes, and more information, all in English. The ferry only runs during the summer months.
You would certainly be missing out if you came to Starnberg and didn’t go swimming! So, pack your swimsuit, water shoes, a beach towel, and eco-friendly sunscreen! Your first chance to get in the water is off the Starnberg Sbahn station. As you exit, you’ll see the Lake Promenade – just within minutes to the east, there is a chance to get in the water.
- However, in my opinion, the best beach in the northern part of the lake is Percha Beach, accessible by foot form Starnberg. Percha is an excellent spot for picnicking on the grassy area, snoozing in the sun, launching an SUP with rentals available, or swimming.
- One of the better places to swim is just south of the Ambach ferry dock. You will find an excellent park, swimming beach, camping ground, table tennis, a restaurant, and SUP rental kiosk here. If you are willing to ride or take the ferry, this is an excellent spot for swimming.
- If you make it to the southern part of the Lake, Lido Restaurant has a beach club with a swimming area just in front of the restaurant.
- Located near the Tützing Sbahn station is the Tützing Südbad, with a grassy area, lake access for summing and a beach club.
These are just some of the best beaches around Lake Starnberg, but you’ll notice the numerous beaches as you bike, walk, or ferry around, so feel free to take your pick.
Explore With an Electric Boat
My friends and I rented an electric boat on my latest visit to Starnberger See, and it was such a blast! You’ll notice little boat rental huts along the promenade right off the Starnberg Sbahn station. You can walk up to any of them to rent an electric boat. We fit seven people in ours easily with plenty of extra room. So, this is a great option for a group of friends taking advantage of that group public transportation ticket.
Don’t worry; you don’t need a boat license or certification to drive these boats. You simply show your ID, load up in the boat, and head out into the open water. The boat is easy to drive with a forward, reverse, and steering wheel – even older kids can do it with supervision. Keep an eye out for the large ferry, sailboats, and windsurfers. After you return, you will pay based on the hour. Our total was about 40€; we were out for about an hour. This price split with a large group makes it a good budget option.
They are all electric, so you can enjoy exploring with zero carbon emissions!
Pro Tip: These boats are popular around sunset, especially on weekends. I suggest a late morning or early afternoon ride to avoid waiting in line.
Try Water Sports
The lake is the ideal place to enjoy watersports. SUP rental centers are around the lake. Bavarian Water SUP Rental has two locations: one near the Starnberg Sbahn station, perfect for Percha Beach, and the other just south at Ambach.
If you have never SUPed before and want to learn, check out Heiners SUP school – though this is a German company and is probably best for locals or immigrants with German proficiency. The Wassersport Center is also for German speakers looking to learn windsurfing, sailing, or SUP.
Go for A Bike Ride
If biking all the way from Munich or dealing with your bike on the Sbahn does not sound appealing to you. Then, you can easily rent a bike from Radhaus Starnberg. From there, you can enjoy a ride around the lake – just let them know your planned route so they can equip you with the right bike and equipment. But there is a designated trail circumnavigating the lake. Plan to stop for a refreshing beer, dip in the lake, or enjoy some historical sites.
Enjoy Nature Walks and Hiking
If you want to explore the Starnberger See region on foot, there are plenty of nature walks and small hikes to enjoy. If you don’t mind getting away from the lake, my top recommended hike would be the relatively easy Maisinger Schlucht. Follow a small river up through the forest, across fields, and over small bridges until you reach the top of the trail. I suggest you start this trail from Starnberg, passing the Starnberg Castle for epic views and following the trail to the peak. This is an easy/moderate hike without a lot of elevation. Don’t forget to walk through the Kneippe Starnberg, a cold water bath for your feet the Germans enjoy post-hike.
Other nice tails include a circuit from the Feldafing Sbahn station, the trails around Ludwig II Memorial, and the Leutstettner Moos (Marsh) circuit from Starnberg Nord Sbahn. Komoot is an excellent resource for planning a nature walk – it’s the German AllTrails.
Visit Ludwig II Memorial & See Berg Castle
Starnberg is more than a lake. The region is also historically important for royalty, like Bavaria’s own Ludwig II. Ludwig II spent his summers at Schloss Berg (Berg Castle). He permanently moved to this residence in 1886 when his uncle declared him mentally unwell and unfit to rule. Not long after his move, he and his psychotherapist were found dead in the water near the castle. The official record says that Ludwig II died by suicide, drowning himself, but his death remains a mystery, considering his therapist was also found dead.
While you cannot visit the castle, as it is privately owned, you can view it from a distance. But, the highlight here is visiting Ludwig II’s memorial. Right on the shores where Ludwig was found dead, there is a large chapel and memorial – called the König Ludwig Gedenkstätte Votivkapelle. We rode our bikes here and locked them up to explore the memorial. You can also catch the ferry, which docks at Berg. It is very scenic and a fascinating part of history. Make sure you walk down the water; a cross is erected at the exact place his body was found.
Since you can’t enter the castle, you can stay in the Hotel Schloss Berg and eat at the restaurant. We stopped here for lunch!
Explore Rose Island & See Schloss Possenhofen
Another place frequented by Bavaria’s royalty is the Rose Island or RosenInsel. This is a small island just off the shores of the lake. There is a small villa on the island, which is now a popular event venue. You can reach the island by Possenhofen Sbahn stop. From there, enjoy a walk along the lake, passing the Schloss Possenhofen, the summer residence of beloved Empress Sisi of Austria. Don’t miss the Pschorr Brunnen (fountain), the historical fountain where Empress Sisi herself would drink. Continue through the lake-front trail until you reach a small Roseninsel boat dock. Ride an electric boat over the island. You can also book a visit to this island as part of a package with the ferry.
Once on the island, enjoy impressive gardens in bloom. The peak season for the roses is around July, but it depends on the seasonal temperatures. Usually from mid-June to mid-August, the entire gardens and island are buzzing and full of gorgeous flowers.
Learn About The UNESCO Pile Dwellings
Modern-day Bavarian royalty are not the only ones to have made this stunning lake their preferred residence over the years. Evidence of humans in the area dates back more than 5,000 years ago. At the bottom of the lake, just under Rose Island, are the remains of UNESCO-recognized Pile Dwellings. One of the more recent archaeological discoveries was Early Celtic Period beams from 500 BCE.
UNESCO has listed Alpine Pile Dwellings as essential heritage sites across the Swiss, German, and Austrian Alps. While you can’t see these beams, as you explore Rose Island, you’ll know they are there under the surface. If you are interested in these artifacts, visit the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection.
Learn at Museums
Speaking of museums, there are quite a few in the region, well worth checking out. One true hidden gem in all of Bavarian is the Buchheim Museum. This art museum housed in an eco-friendly building is right on th shores of Lake Starnberg, and you can book the ferry there. Whether you are interested in fine art, abstract and modern art, living and interactive art, or impressive views of Lake Starnberg, the Buchheim is for you! There are plenty of permanent and rotating exhibits in aesthetically pleasing rooms. Don’t miss the famous Buchheim exhibit, the musical swings, and the cafe.
Starnberg Museum hosts exhibits highlighting the region’s cultural and historical history in a historic alpine building. Here, you will find remains of Bavaria’s royal fleet and historical representations of rural and noble houses. There is also a museum dedicated to Queen Elisabeth of Austria.
See More Castles!
If seeing Sisi’s Possenhofen and Ludwig II’s Berg castles were not enough, the lake has numerous castles. Stop by Starnberg Castle, Seeburg Castle, Höhenried Castle, and Garatshausen Castle. To my knowledge, none of these castles are open to the public, but you can get impressive views of the outside along with lake views. Many of the castles have nice gardens or parks around them.
Drink or Eat with a View!
While the restaurants around Starnberger See aren’t much to write home about, there are some excellent places to grab a drink with a few hidden gems for dining. Visit the Tützinger Biergarten for a beer at the edge of the lake. Lounge at Forsthaus am See an Aperol with a view and some of the better food in the region. Strand Cafe Starnberg, Hugos Beach Club, and Seebar Starnberg all have very average food but are great places to grab a drink with a view. Marina Seerestaurant has more upscale eats. Würmsee Suberl for casual beer and German kiosk pub food. Buchscharner Seewirt or the Strandhotel Berg are decent for Bavarian cuisine.