The Zugspitze is the Highest Mountain in Germany and the twelfth tallest peak in Europe.
With a summit rising to 2962 meters above sea level, the mountain features some of the best alpine vistas imaginable. As well as the unbelievable views there are three accessible glaciers ideal for winter and summer sports and exploration. Skiing, Hiking, and much more awaits on and around the Zugspitze, so it’s no wonder it has become such a popular day trip destination from Munich.
In this article, we provide our best tips on how to get to the Zugspitze from Munich as well as our favourite things to do there and some other “insider” information.
We hope you enjoy the read.
Where Is The Zugspitze?
Sitting right on the border between Germany and Austria as part of the Wetterstein range of mountains, the Zugspitze is just 6kms from the Bavarian ski resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the south of Bavaria.
The Zugspitze is a popular destination for sightseeing day-trippers as well as for adventurous hikers and skiers and is just under 100kms from Munich from where there are multiple transport options to the mountain.
From Austria, the mountain is also readily accessible with the Zugspitze to Innsbruck route being the most popular at only about 70kms.
How Did the Zugspitze Get It's Name? What Does it Mean?
The Zugspitze name derives from Zugbahnen, meaning “train paths” or “avalanche paths” and was likely so called because villagers in the past would’ve identified the dangerous paths around the peak which would often have been susceptible to avalanches during the winter months.
What To Do At The Zugspitze
Access to the top of the mountain can be achieved from either Germany or from Austria, and at the summit, you can catch a 360 degrees panorama of not only the German and Austrian alpine peaks but also of the Italian and Swiss mountain ranges as well.
During summer, the green lush wilderness hovers the calm Eibsee (Alpine Lake). In winter, it is joyous to find the Bavarian traditional houses peeking through the mystic blanket of snow.
But besides enjoying the stunning views of the Alps from atop the Zugspitze, what more can you do? Well, actually there are many exciting things to do, including loads of activities for kids.
For a relaxing day trip, here are our suggestions to get the best out of your exploration of the Zugspitze:
Get To The Top Of The Zugspitze?
It may sound silly, but actually making the ascent to the top of the Zugspitze is a whole adventure within itself. The journey up the mountain from the German side of the Zugspitze is a treat.
By Zugspitze Cogwheel Train
Taking the famous white-blue cog train will delight you on a nostalgic journey resonating from the 1920s. There are just a few cog trains still in operation in Germany, and only about 50 worldwide so this is a ride in history.
The Zugspitze Cogwheel Train stops at several stations on its 19km route from Garmisch-Partenkirchner Station to Zugspitzplatt at the top of the mountain and takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The stop/start journey that the Zugspitze Train takes as it meanders through the snow-clad mountains is exhilarating, and the thrill of the ride through the dark tunnel whilst realising that you’re actually travelling through the inside of a mountain can be heart pumping, to say the least.
By Zugspitze Cable Car
Alternatively, travel on the modern glassed Seilbahn (cable car) to be engrossed by the breathtaking views as it traverses the north flank of the Zugspitze.
Opened in December 2017 this state-of-the-art cable car to Zugspitze takes thrill seekers to the top of the highest mountain in Germany in record time and takes only about 10 minutes to reach the summit. The trip is taken in unparalleled style and comfort but whilst it’s not exactly cheap it can maximise your time at the top of the mountain,
By Zugspitze Glacier Cable Car
The Gletscherbahn on the top of the mountain takes passengers from the main station at the top of the mountain – Zugspitzplatt to the summit of the mountain which is a further 360 meters higher and is at the very top of the Zugspitze Ski Resort.
Visit The Zugspitze Igloo Village
Are you perhaps feeling creative? Then why not check out and take advantage of the many activities offered by the Iglu Village?
Here you can build your own Igloo or even carve a snow sculpture with a guide. If you have money to spare you can also feast on a hot cheesy fondue or stay overnight in a swanky Igloo.
Visit Austria on the Zugspitze
For something silly, you can jump back and forth from the Bavarian/German to the Austrian/Tirol border as many times as you like! If you are the more sensible type, you can simply walk across to the other side and contrast the view on the Austrian side. There, you’ll see little towns scattered throughout the landscape below.
Finally, if you arrived by cogwheel train, and not by the Seilbahn, you can ride up to the summit with the Gletscherbahn for your last look before ending your trip. If you are lucky, on a clear day, you may even be able to catch the beautiful sunset!
Visit the Zugspitze Museum
This fascinating display details the first ascent of the mountain in 1820 plus the entire history of the train and cable car constructions from yesteryear to the modern.
With plenty of visual images and interesting objects on display, this museum is a great way to learn more about the history of the entire mountain.
Places to Eat and Drink on the Zugspitze
To start, why not warm yourself up with a coffee or hot chocolate at the cafeteria or enjoy a Bavarian culinary delight at one of the restaurants?
Check out the Zugspitze Restaurant list here.
For a snack and a beer (of course), you can head to the München Haus, which has been a respite for serious mountaineers since 1825 and which still offers basic accommodation today.
From the München Haus, you can be adventurous and explore the glacier trail either by yourself or with a tour. In winter, you can rent a toboggan or bobsleigh to ride down the different slopes customised for beginners, children, and “pros”.
We love the Gletschergarten with its glass walls and deck chairs all surrounded in white up on the glacier.
How To Get To The Zugspitze From Munich (plus the fastest ways to the Summit)
Being only 90 kilometres away from Munich, the base of Zugspitze can be easily reached by car or public transportation.
Depending on how much time you have on hand, there are different options available. Here is a quick guide including the quickest and the most cost-effective way to the Zugspitze, including getting to the Summit of the Zugspitze.
Quickest Way To Get To The Zugspitze: By car + Seilbahn (cable car)
Arriving by car and then taking the Seilbahn is the quickest and most expensive way to reach the summit.
A ride on the cable car (without queue) would only take 10 minutes, but it will cost 78 Euros for an adult buying 2 single tickets. The parking cost is 6 Euro for the first four hours, then 1 Euro for every hour after.
Quickest Way To Get To The Zugspitze from Austria
The very sleek tyrolean Zugspitze cable car offers 360-degree views all the way up to delight passengers.
Zugspitze Tickets: Costs and Types
Most Cost-effective way of Getting to the Zugspitze: Combo of Cog train + Seilbahn
The Zugspitze combo is the classic round trip with the combination of a cable car, cog train, and the Gletscherbahn. The package price varies depending on the season but is definitely cheaper. You can pre-purchase the ticket online here.
If your journey starts in Munich, you can purchase Garmischer Zugspitze Ticket from the München Hauptbahnhof (Munich Main train station), which is the greener and more cost-friendly way. You can also buy this online through the DB website, with the search word “Zugspitze” for summer or winter tickets.
This combo ticket includes the return train ride from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, plus a one-way ascent and descent with the Seilbahn, cog train, and glacier lift (Gletscherbahn).
With this ticket, you can umsteigen (change) at Eibsee, take the Seilbahn direct to the summit, or continue with the cog train to the Zugspitze Plateau. From there, you can arrive at the summit with the Gletscherbahn.
Note: There are summer and winter pricing, and also Angebote (offers) for families. You can see the updated pricing here.
Zugspitze Germany: Bavaria's Mountaintop Playground
Now that you have the essential information on how to Get To The Zugspitze, and what to do once you’re there, we hope you are ready for an adventurous trip to the “Top of Germany”.
Once you have visited the Zugspitze once, perhaps you can even plan a further trip. Hiking Zugspitze is a wonderful experience that can be enhanced by skiing, and for the thrill seekers, even climbing!
In my case (Fred here from Absolute Munich), using the cog train, I’ve hiked to the multi-pitch climbing area. Here’s an exclusive view after climbing 400 meters from starting height at Riffelriß 1680m!
Just for fun, this could be a nice idea for a new year’s activity, as the German saying goes, “Ich wünsche dir einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr” (I wish you a happy slide in the new year).
We hope you enjoyed this article on the Zugspitze Massif and we’d love to hear from you about your experiences of visiting the area. Please contact us through our CONTACTS PAGE
Zugspitze: Most Asked FAQs
The Zugspitze is right on the border of Germany and Austria in southern Bavaria just ten minutes from the popular ski town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and about 95 kilometres from Munich.
The Zugspitze is 2,962 meters high or around 9,720 feet and is the highest mountain in Germany.
The Zugspitze was first climbed by explorer Josef Naus on the 27th of August 1820.
Naus was accompanied by his survey assistant Maier, as well as by mountaineer guide Johann Georg Tauschi.
The Zugspitze is part of the Wetterstein Mountains which in turn are part of the lager Northern Limestone Alps section of the Eastern Alps.
All part of the massive European Alps that stretches 1200 kms across France, Switzerland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany and Slovenia.