Andechs Monastery History
Andechs Monastery is Bavaria’s oldest pilgrimage site, with the history of the site dating back nearly 1,000 years. Andechs rests upon a hill known as Holly Hill or Heiliger Hill in Germany. With its prominent location, there is evidence of a notable family of counts known as the “Couts of Andechs” that built a castle here in 1080 BCE. The leader of this family, Count Rasso, supposedly acquired relics of Christ and other prominent saints during his travels. This collection was known as the Andechs Collection of Relics.
In the 12th century, another famous Count (Berthold II for the history nerds) made a decree that forced all his subjects to make an annual pilgrimage to the Holy Hill to worship the relics. This act established the official pilgrimage route that still exists today.
The Counts of Andechs met their demise in the 13th century; their castle was destroyed, the relics lost, and the family line is suspected to have died out. The castle’s chapel remained.
The site was re-established in the 14th and 15th centuries, thanks to a mouse that discovered a missing relic in the remaining chapel and sparked an excavation and eventually the establishment of Andechs monastery. Duke Albrecht III officially established the monastery as it exists today, as he brought Benedictine monks over to oversee the pilgrimage site and monastery development in 1455.
Over the centuries, the monastery, monks, and surrounding community had a lot of ups and downs, from booming pilgrimages bringing in economic wealth and the return of the relics – that remain today, to the monks being forced to leave the site, only to once again return. The monastery survived bombing in WWII, and thankfully so, as many historic works and collections were brought here from Munich in hopes of preserving them. Though the site has always remained an important part of Bavarian culture, life, and history
The current Rococo facade renovation began in 2000, modernizing the architecture and design from its former antiquated self.
The monks today live and reside in the active monastery. They oversee agricultural duties, which are all bio and sustainable, hold services, oversee the brewery, and pilgrimages.
About Andechs Brewery
But I know most of us care about the beer. With Benedictine and Trappist breweries on the decline and at risk of extinction, for lack of a better word (I guess few men want to enter monastic life – but who can blame them?) Andechs beer is a special treat!
The monks began brewing beer shortly after Albrecht III established the modern monastery in the 15th century. The beer brewed on-site is overseen by the Benedictine monks and brewed according to their unique monastic brewing tradition involving multiple mashing and a two-tank process that is also EMAS environmentally certified for sustainability! Today, it remains one of the world’s largest breweries managed by a religious order.
While I am often averse to giving my money to organized religion, I make an exception for damn good beer that goes to support the preservation of Bavaria’s cultural brewing traditions and history that is inherently intertwined with religion. This means the monastery doesn’t run on government church tax funds, just pure profits from that delicious beer. The monks play an important role in pastoral work within the community, helping unhoused and low-income families.
Today, the brewery is one of Bavaria’s best, brewing everything from Helles to Starkbier. They export beer around Germany and even to some parts of the world—So keep an eye out for it at your specialty beer store.
Getting to Andechs Monastery from Munich
To start the day, you will take the S8 from any of the main Stammstrecke stations (Pasing to Ostbahnhof).
Whether traveling alone or with a group, you will want to get a Munich day transportation pass from any transit station. You only need to purchase up to zone 3 to reach Herrsching, your end station, and back. The day ticket also allows you to ride all public transportation. If you are with a group of 2+, get the group pass. Additionally, I highly recommend getting the Munich City Tour 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 Herrsching. Plus, you get access and discounts for over 80 tours, attractions, restaurants, and theaters.
The S8 leaves every 20 minutes and takes 50 minutes. Sit back and relax because your destination is the last stop on this S-Bahn line, called Herrsching. After you arrive at Herrsching, you will begin your walk up the holy mountain. There is an easy-to-read trail map right after the train station, or you can just follow the signs pointing to where to go.
This walk will likely take you anywhere from 45min-1hour depending on your speed and amount of times you stop. The first part of the small hike winds through the town before entering a forest that opens to a grassy meadow. The last part of the hike is a narrow staircase up to the Abbey. All the trails are marked. It is a relatively easy hike, but it is steep in parts and winds through the forest.
There is also an option to catch the 951 bus from Herrsching. I highly recommend hiking for those able, following in the same footsteps as pilgrims have for hundreds of years. However, the bus is a good option for those with limited mobility or on the return if you drink too much or it gets dark. Make sure to keep an eye on the bus schedule, as they stop running around 8 p.m. at the same time the restaurant closes. If you miss it, you might be stumbling back to the Sbahn.
Be in the Know!
Grüss Gott (Grew-ss Gott) is the traditional greeting in Bavaria, and many of your fellow hikers will use this when greeting when they see you on the trail! Don’t be shy in saying it first!
Exploring Andechs Monastery and Brewery
Visiting Andechs Monastery and Church
Woo! You made it to the top, where the gorgeous church and panorama views are waiting. I recommend taking some time to walk around, check out the views, and explore the church before heading to the brewery. You’ll read why it’s essential to get all exploring done first a bit later. You can go inside the church, free of cost, and see classic rococo baroque architecture, which is quite gaudy and fun. As you explore, visit the Monastery store if that interests you. As a non-religious person, I prefer to meander outdoors, taking photos of the scenic vistas and seeing their beautiful herb garden. If you’re planning a work retreat near Munich, this Abbey is also available to book for day conferences!
After you’re done checking out the view and architecture, head down over to the Biergarten.
Eat at Andechs Brewery and Restaurant
The Andechs Brauerei is a full restaurant with ample indoor and outdoor seating. During the autumn months, my favorite beer to order is the Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel. Stark means strong in German, and this stuff is strong! This is a Starkbier that will put you on your ass with 7% alcohol content, caramel aromas, soft roasted notes, and a velvety, strong finish. This beer is best enjoyed during the colder months or after the sun goes down. It is meant to be sipped and enjoyed, not chugged.
If you find yourself here during the summer, I suggest one of the Helles, which can still be strong, mind you, but the lighter in taste is perfect for cooling off after the hike. Alternatively, order the Weißbier if you visit before lunch, as this is the breakfast beer.
The restaurant has excellent vegetarian options, so you can pair your beer with a creamy Käsespätzel, Obatzda, pretzel, or apple strudel. The outdoor seating is self-serve and can get quite crowded during peak seasons. Not sure why I decided to take a photo of the pickles, but you know – when drinking Starkbier anything goes!
If you are more interested in a behind-the-scenes beer tour, you can book a guided brewery tour and tasting – now using VR – how very modern of the monks.
You can also check out my guide to beer, breweries, and beer-themed day trips around Munich.