Oberammergau is a vision. The alpine town is adorned with intricate paintings covering half-timbered houses that, paired with the town’s cobbled streets, place you right into a Bavarian fairytale.
Though you might feel like you’re in another world when visiting Oberammergau, the town is just a stone’s throw from Munich. Several landmarks in Bavaria are near the town, making Oberammergau a natural integration to a weekend or day trip itinerary.
I paired Oberammergau with Neuschwanstein Castle as one of the day trips from Munich I took while visiting Bavaria. We visited during a year when the residents were performing the Passionsspiele (Passion Play).
Born out of a centuries-ago promise to the Lord Himself, the Passionsspiele is now what Oberammergau is best known for.
Here’s what it’s like to visit:
How did residents of this town end up performing the Passionsspiele, anyway? For that, we look all the way back to the time of the bubonic plague.
In 1633, the plague made it to Oberammergau, and the village wasn’t handling it well. Many died, causing the villagers to turn to God Himself to help.
If the Lord spared the town, stopping the deaths, the townspeople would perform a passion play once every ten years to express their gratitude.
According to legend, shortly after making their plea, deaths in Oberammergau began to come to an end.
Oberammergau still performs the Passionsspiele once every ten years, on the decadal year (2000, 2010, etc.).
What is Lüftlmalerei?
All those beautiful murals on buildings in Oberammergau are a specific type of art called Lüftlmalerei. Lüftlmalerei can be found all over Bavaria and Northern Austria, though Oberammergau has one of the best displays and is also believed to be where it originated from.
The murals often leverage baroque trompe-l’oeil to replicate architectural features or depict scenes of Biblical figures, peasants, and farmers.
I couldn’t help but look up and around while strolling through Oberammergau. Lüftmalerei comes in all sizes, from covering entire buildings to just being a small detail—a moment of joy when discovered. The overflowing window boxes of the timbered houses that were canvases for the Lüftlmalerei only made the murals more delightful.
How to Get to Oberammergau from Munich
There are three primary ways to reach Oberammergau from Munich: public transportation, driving, and day trip tours.
How to Go to Oberammergau on Public Transportation (Train and Bus)
Reaching Oberammergau on the train takes about one hour and 50 minutes.
To take the train to Oberammergau, take Deutsche Bahn train RB 6 from München Hauptbahnhof (the central station in Munich) towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen. At the Murnau station, transfer to Bus EV towards Oberammergau.
Driving to Oberammergau from Munich
We rented a car in Munich and chose to drive to Oberammergau. Driving to Oberammergau from Munich takes one hour and 15 minutes.
Booking a car rental at the Munich airport was easy. If your driver’s license is in English, you don’t even need to have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Keep in mind that if you choose to drive to nearby countries, like Slovenia, you will need one.
German roads are unlike anywhere else I’ve traveled—the country easily has the best drivers out of them. This is likely because getting a driver’s license in Germany is extremely difficult and costs thousands of dollars.
To reach Oberammergau from Munich by driving, exit the city and take the A95 (fastest) or B2 highway. I recommend taking A95 on the way there, then taking B2 on the way back, so you can drive part of Germany’s scenic Romantische Straße (Romantic Road) before returning.
Oberammergau Tours from Munich
If you don’t want to have to rent a car but also don’t want to navigate public transportation in Germany yourself, consider taking an Oberammergau tour from Munich instead.
It’s uncommon to see Oberammergau-only tours from Munich. However, the village is included as a stop on several tours to Neuschwanstein Castle nearby, bundled in with other nearby landmarks like Ettal Abbey and Linderhof Palace.
Below are a few of the best Oberammergau tours from Munich:
The Best Things to Do in Oberammergau
The best thing to do in Oberammergau truly is to wander. The quaint town is absolute eye candy, especially when empty.
Of course, there are some attractions and activities you should keep in mind if planning on spending more than just a few hours in the town.
My time in the town got cut short, so unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to do all of these, but they come with high reviews from fellow travelers.
Look for Lüftlmalerei by Wandering the Town
You can easily spend a few hours strolling through Oberammergau, craning your neck, and circling buildings to see all of the colorful Lüftlmalerei.
Tip: While it might seem obvious to do this in the main part of town, some of the most impressive displays of Lüftlmalerei can be found by leaving the town square and venturing into residential neighborhoods. Just keep your volume down and stay mindful of local residents.
Visit Passionstheater, the Venue of the Passionspiele
Even in years when the Passionspiele isn’t being performed, tourists can catch a glimpse of the Passionstheater, the play’s venue.
If you choose to see a show, keep in mind that the theater is open-air and gets chilly in cooler months.
Should you visit when the Passionspiele is being performed, by all means, go. Keep in mind that tickets sell out quickly and will need to be bought well in advance. The play is five and a half hours with a three-hour intermission—plan your day accordingly.
See St. Peter und Paul Church
Though St. Peter und Paul church may not look like much from the outside, inside, detailed frescos cover the ceilings, surrounded by a peachy pink hue and gilded gold accents at this southern German Baroque church.
Statues of saints cover the gold altar, adding to the church’s ornate design.
Shop for Bavarian Woodcarving Souvenirs
Oberammergau isn’t just known for the Passionspiele but also for its master woodcarvers. The town is filled with Christmas shops and woodcarving souvenir stores highlighting the tradition, which makes the town a wonderful place to pick up a few things to bring home.
Käthe Wolfahrt might be the obvious shopping stop in the city, but the smaller, locally-owned woodcarving stores are really where it’s at. These stores, scattered across the main part of town, offer goods ranging from Christmas ornaments and nativity scenes to heavily detailed cuckoo clocks.
My favorite of the Oberammergau woodcarving shops was Toni Baur – Holzschnitzereien & Krippen aller Art, whose shopkeeper’s generosity I will never forget. Those who can’t make it to Oberammergau but still want a piece of Bavarian woodcarving for themselves can shop on Toni Baur’s online store.
Stroll Past Pilatushaus
Pilatushaus is often regarded as the most beautiful building in Oberammergau, though I’d say that’s thoroughly subjective considering how different each building is!
The Lüftlmalerei-covered building is certainly among the best, if anything, for the fact that murals cover the entirety of the large building. Inside, various artists, craftspeople, and woodcarvers have workshops for tourists to observe.
Have a Beer at The Ammergauer Maxbräu Restaurant at Hotel Maximilian
By the time you reach Oberammergau on your Germany trip, you probably will have already learned that beer in Germany is a very, very big deal.
The village is no exception to the rule. Known for its Kellerbier, Ammergauer Maxbräu Restaurant at Hotel Maximilian is the town’s most popular choice for locally brewed beer. Kellerbier is an unfiltered, cask-conditioned lager hailing from Franconia that’s uncommon in most other parts of the world.
If you’re a beer enthusiast, you don’t want to miss this stop. Contact the hotel well in advance of your visit to Oberammergau to make a reservation if you’re visiting during Oktoberfest or other peak tourist times in Germany. When we visited, we were unfortunately turned away because the restaurant was filled to the brim.
Take in the View on Kolbensesselbahn and Ride Down on the Alpine Coaster
Take a break from town by heading into the Ammergau Alps on the scenic Kobensesselbahn. The two-person chairlift operates year-round, running between the station in Oberammergau and Kolbensattel, a ski resort and recreation area.
At the top, enjoy a beer and Bavarian cuisine at the lodge or take one of the nearby hikes. Between June and October, the lodge also offers live music.
Though you can take the chairlift back down the mountain, Kolbensattel’s alpine coaster offers a more immersive way to experience the beauty and nature of the Ammergau Alps.
Round-trip Kolbensesselbahn tickets are €15,00 ($16.01 USD) for adults, €11,00 ($11.74) for kids six through 15, and €5,00 ($5.34) for kids three to five.
Combined tickets for one-way Kolbensesselbahn ascent and the alpine coaster start at €15,50 for adults, €12,00 for kids six through 15, and €6,00 for kids three to five. Full pricing can be found on the Kolbensattel website.
Since we were short on time, we chose to skip this one, which I don’t regret in the slightest (there was just SO much to do in Bavaria). It would have been really fun to do had we been taking a more relaxing trip with more time in the area.
Landmarks and Day Trips Near Oberammergau
There are several attractions near Oberammergau, perfect for a multi-destination day trip from Munich. The following landmarks are top trips from the town:
- Linderhof Palace
- Ettal Abbey
- Neuschwanstein Castle
- Schloss Hohenschwangau
Learn more about these destinations by clicking here.
Where to Stay in Oberammergau: The Best Oberammergau Hotels
I didn’t stay in Oberammergau overnight, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it! If you’re seeking to relax in a quiet, relaxed town or need a resting point near Germany’s Romantic Road, Oberammergau is a great choice.
These Oberammergau hotels have high guest ratings:
Hotel Wittelsbach Oberammergau
Dorfstraße 21, 82487 Oberammergau, Germany
Located in the heart of Oberammergau, family-run Hotel Wittelsbach pays homage to local culture in its alpine-style building. Rooms are simple and bright, paying homage to Bavarian tradition with light wood furnishings and check drapery.
Also on the property is a wood-paneled Bavarian restaurant.
Dorfstraße 21, 82487 Oberammergau, Germany
Boutique-Hotel LARTOR is a swift change from the half-timbered houses that are a hallmark of alpine towns in Bavaria. The geometric, contemporary building is home to a stylish contemporary hotel.
The hotel of just twelve rooms is not located in Oberammergau proper. Instead, it’s located in Unterammergau and is more of a retreat a little further into nature, with a view of the Ammer Valley.
Restaurant Hieronymus, Boutique-Hotel LARTOR’s onsite restaurant, is one of the best in the area. With an eye-catching abstract wood bar and whimsical hanging vehicle, the restaurant serves international fare with subtle nods towards the region, featuring a Chef’s Table on Mondays of five courses and five wines and an à la carte menu with prix fixe options on all other days.
Visiting Oberammergau: FAQ
Oberammergau is well worth a visit. The charming village should not be skipped over when visiting Bavaria and is covered in incredible, unique Lüftlmaleri buildings. Also making Oberammergau worth a visit while visiting Munich is the Passionspiele that the history-packed town performs once every 10 years.
You could spend anywhere from an hour to a full day in Oberammergau, depending on how much you want to wander and if you’re visiting attractions nearby. To do everything the village has to offer, consider booking a hotel for an overnight stay. That said, you won’t miss much if you don’t.
Looking for more things to do in Germany? Explore the links below:
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Eva Phan is the founder of Eva Darling, a travel and style website aiming to empower women to see the world solo while sharing on-trend, luxury feminine style inspiration. Featured in publications including Forbes, Thrillist, and Yahoo News, Eva has combined her education from Parsons School of Design with her incurable case of the travel bug to create a global destination that encourages others to romanticize their everyday.