It’s hard not to feel small, standing on top of Zugspitze; mountains surround you in every direction, encasing you in awe and wonderment. A pristine glacier rests in the bowl below. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders play in a wonderland, while hikers explore the wild terrain in the summer. Zugspitze Mountain, Germany’s highest peak, is an exhilarating day trip from Munich for the adventurous outdoor lover or anyone looking to experience views unlike anywhere else in the world! Just check my photos and tell me if that isn’t one of the best views you’ve seen! Zugspitze from Munich is one for the bucket list and one of my favorite things to recommend to all my visiting friends and family. This post was updated in April 2022 with all the latest details and tips!
Getting From Munich to Zugspitze, Germany’s Highest Peak
Taking the day and traveling from Munich to Zugspitze is the perfect way to see the Alps in all their glory, especially if you’re not a big skier or hiker. The day starts in Munich with a train ride to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there, you hop aboard a classic cogwheel train and climb nearly 3,000 meters to the highest peak in Germany. Spend your day exploring the glacier and taking in the stunning views. Take a break to grab Germany’s highest wurst and beer. You can even cross the border between Austria and Germany as often as you want! This trip isn’t the easiest, but it is certainly worth it. I recently made the journey to Zugspitze for the second time in Sept 2019, and we took 12 types of transportation, so be prepared for a long day with lots of logistics. For those who aren’t independent travelers, I will recommend some tours to book that will get you there and back while relaxing.
Booking Transportation from Munich to Zugspitze
How to Save Money with a Combo Ticket
As I mentioned above, a lot of logistics are involved in traveling from Munich to Zugspitze, including several transit companies. If you want to save money, you can buy the Deutsch Bahn Zugspitze Summer or Winter Combo ticket.
However, this can only be done from the main central train station, a DB ticketing booth, or on the train for a 10% surcharge. That’s right, you can not buy this ticket online.
Buying it from the ticketing booth can be done, though it is confusing if you are not used to German train ticketing. I recommend this option for travelers well-versed in ticketing software. If you want someone to walk you through the process, visit the DB Travel Center (Reisezentrum) in the Hauptbahnhof, where you can buy your ticket in person. Depending on the day, the Reisenzentrum can take a while, so if you plan on buying the tickets in person, I suggest you arrive more than an hour before your train or stop by the train station on a day when you have extra time. It seems like it should be a quick process, but sometimes the attendants don’t speak much English, and it takes them a while to book and print the tickets. Also, there can be a serious line in front of you, which means you will be waiting for a while.
Now that I have thoroughly scared you, I’ll hold your hand and walk you through the process, so don’t worry.
While you’re waiting, think of the beauty that waits for you!
The Deutsch Bahn Reisezentrum is commonly mistaken for its info booth. Behind the info booth and to the left, if you are facing away from the train tracks, is a fancy DB travel service center (you can also follow the signs for the DB Reisezentrum). Here, you can buy tickets, reschedule trips, deal with train delays, etc. This center operates like a giant DMV. You enter, get a number, and then wait for your number to be called. On a Tuesday morning in the summer, with minimal people in the area, we waited for about 20 minutes.
NOTE: The Hauptbahnhof in Munich is currently under construction for the next several years. The Reisezentrum is sort of always on the move depending on construction. Look for signs as you enter pointing you in the right direction.
Local Tip: If you are in a hurry, let reception know; they might squeeze you in ahead of other people.
Once your number is called, you can ask the attendant for the DB Zugspitze Combo Ticket. Your price will vary Depending on whether it is the summer or winter season. The 2022 summer price is 73 Euro a person (discounted rate for children), and the winter price is a wee bit cheaper.
Check in at reception to get your number
Wait until your number is called
Three pieces of paper will print, and the agent will hand them to you in a nice little envelope. DO NOT LOSE ANY OF THESE FOR THE ENTIRE DAY! The first is the round-trip ticket that only gets you from Munich to Garmish on a DB train. The second is a voucher you must turn in later for your Zugspitze pass. The third is a receipt. These tickets will cover you entirely for round trip train, gondola transportation, and cogwheel train, from Munich to the peak of Zugspitze and back again.
All three tickets
RT on Deutsch Bahn from Munich-Garmisch
Voucher you will need to trade in later
The Zugspitze Ticket
If this whole combo business isn’t your cup of tea, or you’re a baller and don’t care about money, you can buy these tickets separately. This option is also for people who don’t need train tickets and want a Zugspitze ticket. If you are in Munich, book your DB train online from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkircehn Hbh. Then, before you board the Zugspitzbahn in Garmisch, you can purchase a Zugspitze Ticket, which will get you up the mountain once and back down using either the cable or train. Buying tickets this way will set you back about 63 Euros per person, but you still need passes for the Seilbahn.
Please Note: Buying an individual pass for the Seilbahn (the large gondola that goes from Eibsee to the peak of Zugspitze) is around 40 Euros per person. If you are not efficient in buying the DB Combo Tickets or the Zugspitze Ticket and do everything separately as you go, you might be spending a lot of money.
What is the Garmisch Classic Ticket?
There is also a third option called the Garmisch Classic Ticket. This option DOES NOT TAKE YOU TO ZUGSPITZE, rather, it allows you to ride Alpspitzbahn to a lower peak. There is a hut for dining and plenty of summer hiking trails and winter views. This option is great for those with limited mobility and those who don’t deal well with higher altitudes. Generally, it is a more accessible option.
The Train from Munich to Garmisch/Zugspitze
With tickets in hand, it is time to board your train if you depart from Munich. Your first leg of the journey will take you from Munich to Garmisch Partenkirchen Hbf. The train leaves from Munich Hbf every hour at 32 past. I always like catching the 7:32, 8:32, or 9:32 train. In my opinion, if you catch it much later than that, you will be rushed for time. The earlier you take the train, the more time you have to explore, not stress about catching the last train back, and relax while drinking Germany’s highest beer at the top of the mountain. Trust me when I say that getting to Garmisch is the easiest and fastest part of your journey; from there, you change trains 2x and take two gondolas, which may only run every 30 min to an hour. The bottom line; earlier is better.
What your train should look like
Your final stop
These trains to Garmisch typically leave from platform 27, or 28, but always double-check the timetable. You will look for a train that says Reutte in Tirol, via Garmisch. A friendly DB staff member usually waits outside the trains and can double-check your tickets. Find a seat and sit back and relax. You will reach Garmisch in about an hour and 15 minutes, and the train will stop in Garmisch as it splits, so you have plenty of time to exit.
Zugspitzebahn and Zugspitze Tickets
Leave the train and head down the stairs. You will enter a tunnel and follow the signs for Zugspitzebahn. You will then need to exchange your ticket. Queue in line near the glass building and get your voucher ticket. You will exchange this for a little card that looks like a ski pass. This will be your golden ticket for the entire trip up and back down the mountain, and you will use it four times. If you did not buy the combo pass with the DB train, you could purchase your Zugspitze Ticket or Garmisch Classic Ticket from the booth attendant.
New for 2022: Thanks to reader Gwen for updating me. Previously, you would exchange your ticket in a small yellow building, but with a new updated look, you would exchange your ticket in a glass building.
Follow the tunnel under the platform
Exchange your DB voucher for a Zugspitze voucher
Once you arrive on the platform, board the blue and white historic Zugspitzebahn cogwheel train or wait for it to arrive. It leaves every 15-30 minutes, depending on the season. This leg of the journey is one of my favorites. You chug along past sprawling green pastures, grazing cattle, charming houses, and churches with mountains as the backdrop – unless it is winter, then you’ll pass snowy white fields and skiers. The train stops at Grainau, where you upgrade to a newer Zugspitzebahn that should be on the other side of the platform. Continue on the cogwheel train to Eibsee – where you can make a choice!
Option 1: Continue on the train to Zugspitzeplatz and the Zugspitze glacier (this is not the peak, but the valley below). Here, you can play on the glacier, go sledding, visit Germany’s highest church, hike, grab a drink, and enjoy the view. You can then take a small gondola (Gletscherbahn) to the peak. Once you’ve explored the peak, you can take the large gondola back (Seilbahn Zugspitze) to Eibsee, board the Zugspitzebahn, and return to Garmisch.
Pros – the gondolas run more frequently than the trains; if you stay on the train the whole time and don’t rely on it to get down, you are less likely to have longer waiting periods.
Cons – you will board the train at Eibsee on your way back halfway during its descent, meaning you might not get a seat.
Option 2: Exit the train at Eibsee. Visit the lake (5 min walk) before boarding the massive gondola and riding it to the peak. Explore the summit, crossing the border and eating the highest wurst before heading down the small gondola to the glacier. When ready, you will board the Zugspitzbahn cogwheel train and continue down – changing at Grainau until you reach the Garmisch train station.
Pros – You will feel more comfortable stopping at the Eibsee Lake timewise. You get straight to the top and can perhaps budget your time better.
Cons – You may have to wait for 30 minutes or so for the cogwheel train, but you can explore the glacier and the surrounding area while you wait.
Overall: Your tickets cover you for complete round-trip transportation, including the gondola one way and the train the other. So, it doesn’t matter what option you choose. Both routes are designed to make sense and work. You can play it by ear, if not many people get off at Eibsee, maybe you should get off to have more space in the large gondola, but you can’t go wrong.
I’ve done both and had no significant issues either way. Though if I HAD to pick an option, I would suggest riding the gondola up and taking the train down.
IMPORTANT: Check the current timetables and information for all trains and gondolas. Currently, for winter 2023, there is some constriction on the trains, and things may change.
Whether you are riding it up or down, the Seilbahn is impressive. This gondola is brand new! When I took it a few years ago, it was small and dated, but in 2019, I was blown away. This gondola is breaking world records. It has the largest pylon, the longest cablecar span, and the greatest height difference between a valley and mountain station — basically, it’s all-around crazy cool. Once you load up, you’ll be treated to panorama views of the green Eibsee Lake, endless mountains, and cute villages. If you are brave enough, stand on top of the glass bottom in the middle. To be honest, I was a bit sad when the journey ended, but you have lots to look forward to!
Things to See and Do at the Peak of Zugspitze
Where do I start? There are so many things to do and see at the peak of Zugspitze. I suggest first taking a look around outside at the stunning views of the mountains. It is a bit hard to see over the railing on the lower deck, so head to the very top and take all the photos! Grab a coffee if you are a bit chilled, eat lunch at the cafeteria, or head over to the older side of the platform. The Münchner Haus was built in 1897 and was originally a haven for mountaineers making the dangerous journey to the peak. Enjoy the charming Bayerische atmosphere and order beer and German food – or save yourself for the highest Bratwurst in Germany!
Drink Germany’s highest beer
Eat Germany’s highest Bratwurst
If you’re not hungry, you can continue down to the Bavarian/German and Austrian/Tirol border. You can cross as many times as you want. The views from the Austrian side are different, with more towns and fewer mountains, but it is often much less crowded. Don’t miss the snowflake exhibit on this side as well.
I’m in Germany!
Now I’m in Austria!
You can take a small gondola down to the glacier below, which is also where you catch the cogwheel train. In the winter, this area is mostly full of skiers and a lot of snow, making it challenging to explore too much. However, you can have a snowball fight, watch skiers, visit the igloo village, or try their mini sledding hill. In the summer, you can hike around visit the highest church in Germany, grab a beer, and there is still enough snow left for a mini sledding experience. If you are descending, keep an eye on the train timetable.
Zugspitze Glacier in Summer
Germany’s highest church
Skiing at Zugspitze Glacier. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo
Looking down at the Zugspitze Glacier
Winter vs. Summer
If you live in Munich or nearby I highly recommend visiting in both summer and winter. However, if you are visiting just once in your life they both offer amazing experiences.
In the summer, you have more room to hike or walk around, but the glacier is small, and the snow cover is minimal. Personally, I think the mountains are most lovely with a dusting of snow, but the summer alps have a rugged charm. The temperatures in the winter are well below freezing, and in the summer, you can get away with a T-shirt most days. Prices for the combo tickets are also different.
What to Pack
If you are visiting in the winter, pack a hat, gloves, scarf, winter jacket, and boots. In Summer, you will need a light jacket if windy or a rain jacket if raining and other than that, you can get away with summer clothing. Bring water, good walking shoes, a reliable watch or battery packs for your phones, a book for the train, and some layers.
Book an Organized Tour to Zugspitze from Munich
Getting yourself to Zugspitze and back is a bit complicated. It involves several transportation options that only run at certain times of the day, requiring you to keep an eye on the time so you don’t miss the last trains back into Munich. While I highly recommend the self-guided route for independent and confident travelers, it isn’t for everyone. So, if you don’t like the idea of keeping an eye on train schedules and figuring out how to get from the train to the cogwheel to the gondola and back, consider booking a guided tour package to Zugspitze. Here are two of the best options:
The first option, Full Day Tour to Germany’s Highest Peak: Zugspitze, includes a motorcoach transfer to and from Munich, and the Zugspitze Ticket covers the cogwheel train, the gondola ticket, and ride and sledding adventure in the Alps. Lunch is not included. This is the best bang for your buck, and there are no additional hidden fees, so you can sit back and relax.
The second option, Zugspitze: Full-Day Excursion to Germany’s Highest Peak, appears to be cheaper but does not include the cost of the gondola, which is an extra 49 euros, so it is more expensive in the end. It also does not include the bobsled ride.
Pin to your Germany Planning Board!
I hope you enjoyed checking Zugspitze off your bucket list! This view has no comparison, and no trip to Germany is complete until you’ve experienced this day trip from Munich to Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak!
Looking for even more day trips from Munich?
Don’t forget to pin to your favorite outdoor or German Pinterest board, so your friends can experience this too!