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Bavaria's Modern Castle Hotel and Medieval Town


Travelers who want to stay at a castle can do so without giving up modern luxuries at this German palace.

Mountains near Schloss Elmau. Photo by Candyce H. Stapen

A sophisticated city with world-class museums, Munich is also the capital of Bavaria. From Munich it’s an easy drive to scenic Bavaria by way of the Romantic Road, a route that stretches from Füssen, outside Munich, north for about 220 miles to Würzburg. Along with good-sized cities, the drive leads you to medieval villages and through a countryside dotted with lakes and fields edged by the snow-capped Alps.

Visit this summer or take advantage of good airfares in fall, or visit in winter if you like skiing and snowshoe hiking. Whatever the season, base yourself at Schloss Elmau, a modern castle hotel just a few miles from the medieval village of Mittenwald.


Munich’s three museums


Stay at a Castle

Schloss Elmau. Photo by Candyce H. Stapen

Schloss Elmau (Castle Elmau), Krün

Set on 1,600 acres in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps about 62 miles south of Munich, Schloss Elmau, despite its grand setting, is an unfussy but elegant retreat. Since the hotel served as the site for the 2015 G-7 Summit, the property had to be suitably tasteful and reasonably secluded but also had to provide excellent service and food appropriate to presidents, prime ministers, and host German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Schloss Elmau is both a luxury hotel with a cultural component and also a lavish spa retreat. Before listening to an evening piano or violin concert, one of 200 held each year in the hotel, you can dine at Luce d’Oro, the hotel’s one-star Michelin rated restaurant, or choose a meal from any of Elmau’s other restaurants. Doing a downward dog or executing a bridge feels especially wonderful in Elmau’s Jivamukti Yoga Center with its views of the snow-capped Bavarian Alps. For more pampering, select a treatment or massage at the property’s 75,000-square-foot spa.

Built between 1914 and 1916, as a castle hotel and retreat, Schloss Elmau’s served as a prison hospital for the German military, a sanatorium for displaced persons and Holocaust survivors, and an acclaimed chamber music venue. The current owner, a descendant of the family that built the castle, took over in 1997, reopening the property in 2007 as a luxury retreat. The modern décor emphasizes clean lines, warm woods and a persimmon fabric embellished with beige Asian elephants, selected by the owner. In summ

er and fall, enjoy hikes, bicycle rides, and daily yoga as well as horseback riding nearby.

Ski in winter. Schloss Elmau provides shuttles to five nearby ski areas. Among them are Luttensee, 10 minutes away, good for beginners and families with young children; Dammkar, also 10 minutes from Elmau, Germany’s longest powder slope at nearly 23,000 feet; and Garmisch, 20 minutes from Elmau, which suits all levels and has a snowboarding park.

Year-round, Schloss Elmau offers childcare for ages 1-5 and in summer, it offers programs for ages 6 to 15.

Scenes from Mittenwald. Photo by Candyce H. Stapen


At the base of the Karwendel Mountains, Mittenwald is a few miles from Schloss Elmau. Frescoes adorn the exterior of many of the village’s houses and the local woods are perfect for a “walderlebnispfad,” or forest walk, especially pretty in fall.

The Geigenbau (violin) museum details the town’s 300 years of violin making, which began when in 1684 when local Matthias Klotz returned from years of studying the craft in Italy. The museum displays two of Klotz’s violins. Although modern, mass-produced violins have diminished Mittenwald’s violin industry, aficionados still commission hand-crafted instruments. These can take one and a half years to complete and cost from $3,000 to more than $10,000.

For Bavaria tourism information, www.bavaria.us.

What are your favorite German castles? Are there castles you can’t wait to see? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter, @familyitrips.

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