I fell in love with Oberammergau from the moment I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain exploring this one-of-a-kind Bavarian town. I knew I had to see the ornately painted buildings and sweeping landscapes for myself! Oberammergau has a great deal to offer, whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or with the whole family.
About the town:
Oberammergau is a picturesque village in the Bavarian Alps. Located on the Ammer River, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, skiing, and outdoor recreation. But the town is best known for its Easter Passion play and its beautiful mural paintings.
Oberammergau’s famous Easter Passion play is performed by 2,000 town residents every ten years. People from all over the world travel just to see this production. The next one will be in 2020, so you’d better start planning if you want to catch it.
Oberammergau’s beautiful mural paintings grace the facades of houses, shops, and hotels. These paintings are called Luftl (Lüftlmalerei) and usually portray Biblical and religious scenes or German folk tales (such as the Brothers Grimm fairytales). Such colorful paintings on house facades were used to show the owner’s status and wealth in that region. When you tour the town, you’ll see scenes from Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella, as well as characters from The Hare and the Hedgehog and The Valiant Little Tailor. It’s impressive to see how meticulously maintained these works of art have been over the years. I wanted my kids to experience and admire the art in this magical fairytale town so we made a game out of spotting the beautiful scenes while we strolled around this enchanting village.
A few of our favorites included:
Hansel and Gretel/Marie Mattfeld Haus
The Hansel and Gretel House was originally a children’s home founded by a local society. Their mission was to care for children orphaned during WWI. Still operational today, it is currently run by the city of Munich. The artist Throll painted scenes from the story of Hansel and Gretel on the facade of the house between 1922 and 1925. If you look closely, you’ll also see a painting of opera singer Marie Mattfeld, a generous donor during the time of the war.
The Little Red Riding Hood Haus
Due to the popularity of the Marie Mattfeld Haus, in 1953, Max Strauss decorated the house across the street with scenes from Little Red Riding Hood. The beautifully painted scenes depict the whole story, and we enjoyed putting all of the pieces together.
Other Buildings in the area
But the artwork isn’t the only draw of Oberammergau. Spend time walking around the town to see the Passion Theater, museums, and the Pilatushaus. Disneyland may claim to be the most magical place on earth, but I think Oberammergau gives it a run for its money. Below are some must-do activities.
TIP: Make sure to take a map of the town from your hotel (or any hotel in town). You won’t want to miss any of the paintings on display!
Visit the St. Peter and Paul church:
This church might seem plain, but don’t let it fool you. Inside, it’s stunning! You’ll marvel at the beautiful ceiling dome paintings, an ornate carved golden altar, side altars, unusual sculptures, and historic decorations. I found the pastel pink paintings unusual and reminiscent of the beautiful murals on the houses. Your family will feel the town’s deep sense of history walking through the church and adjoining cemetery. I highly recommend adding this stop to your travel plans!
Shop for wood-carvings and Christmas decorations:
One of Oberammergau’s traditional artistic practices, wood-carving is more than a hobby for the craftsmen who call this place home. If you’re anything like us, you’ll enjoy browsing through the many small shops that sell wood-carvings and Christmas decorations. The collections feature everything from religious figures to fairytale characters. I can only imagine how magical this town must be during Christmas. Perhaps, if you time your visit right, you’ll discover that magic for yourself.
Eat at s´Wirtshaus O´gau:
While I am sure there are many excellent restaurants in this village, we were delighted to eat at this German (Bavarian) restaurant. Located in the center of town, it prides itself on a menu of seasonal, fresh, authentic Bavarian cuisine. The food was excellent, the service was impeccable, and the staff was super friendly. They even had a great kids menu! It may be one of the best meals that you have in Germany. A must-try!
Have dessert and coffee at Eiscafe Dolomiti:
It is a great cafe with tons of ice cream and sundae options. With the generous portions, this place is a must-try during your visit — with or without kids!
Enjoy outdoor activities at the family recreation area at Kolben in Oberammergau:
In addition to the stunning beauty of the landscape, there are many winter and summer activities to please kids of any age. Looking for a different sort of adventure? You can take a lift to Kolben in the Bavarian Alps and enjoy a very cool coaster ride down the mountain. Whether you visit in the summer for hiking and outdoor activities or prefer the winter for skiing, the Alps are breathtaking from this family-friendly recreation area. Find more information here
Where to stay:
I highly recommend staying at one of the ski hotels in the area. We flew into Munich (which is the closest airport to Oberammergau) and stayed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (which is a short 25-minute drive away). The prices during the summer are low, and all of the ski hotels have a pool, kids’ club, and game room, as well as tons of activities to keep your whole family busy.
And if you’d like to complete your fairytale experience…
If strolling through the scenes of famous folktales in Oberammergau isn’t enough, you can enjoy one of the areas many fairytale castles. Popular destinations include Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle, and Linderhof Palace.
If you’ve ever dreamed of stepping into a fairytale, Oberammergau will make your dream come true.