Located along the Austrian border, Mittenwald is the home to charming cobbled streets, mountain landscapes and the art of crafting classical instruments. Goethe called this village, popular since the Middle Ages, “a picture book come alive”.
Mittenwald is a small Bavarian village located close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It is situated in the Valley of the River Isar, by the northern foothills of the Alps, on the route between the old banking and commercial center of Augsburg and Innsbruck, beyond which is the Brenner Pass and the route to Lombardy, another region with a rich commercial past and present.
Cozily nestled under snowcapped peaks, sleepily alluring Mittenwald is the most natural spot imaginable for a resort. Known far and wide for its master violin makers, the citizens of this sleepy village (all of 7,387 of them, as of 2017) seem almost bemused by its popularity. The air is ridiculously clean, and on the main street the loudest noise is a babbling brook.
The center of the town is dominated by the Parish Church of St. Peter and Paul with its Baroque steeple. The original structure was built in 1315 with the current design from Josef Schmuzer dating from the mid-1700s. It is surrounded by the Christmas market during Advent. The pedestrian zone and “Lüftlmalereien” (frescoes) on the house facades nearby add quite a bit of flair. The renovated historic center is resplendent, with its giant violin and raft, little streams and squares. Also you´ll find two parks for relaxing and enjoy culture in Mittenwald.
Once a wealthy town as a stopping point for goods going to Venice, the town was largely frozen in time. Walk through the charming Altstadt (old town) where a babbling brook still runs through the center. On its main street, Obermarkt, beautifully painted façades known as Lüftlmalerei decorate the houses. Some date back 250 years and these painted illusions add architectural elements to the otherwise plain buildings. They also tell the story of the town with scenes showing the profession of the house owner, festivals and religious vignettes.
This violin-making center and climatic health resort in Bavaria is steeped in history. To the south where the Isar rises, Bavaria meets Tyrol. Because of this, Mittenwald has been a commercial gateway to the south for centuries. This time of prosperity is brought to life again by the town every five years in the form of the “Bozner Markt” or Bolzano market, a traditional Christmas market in South Tyrol. Music fans will also appreciate the violin-making museum, the genuine folk music and the very diverse Musiksommer festival.
Mittenwald is known as the “Village of a Thousand Violins” for its famed son, Matthias Klotz, who brought the art of making divine instruments back to Mittenwald. After studying under the masters in Italy, he returned to the village in 1684 and carried on the tradition by mentoring violin makers. He stared with his brothers, but soon half of the men in the village were at work crafting violins. The location was ideal for good-quality wood and Mittenwald became a cultural hot spot.
The Geigenbaumuseum Mittenwald (Violin Making Museum) was founded in 1930. The displays highlight the craft of violin making and its development as it ties into the village of Mittenwald. Here visitors will find samples of violins throughout the ages, and tempt their senses by hearing, seeing and even smelling the instruments. This is the perfect rainy day activity.
To celebrate the town’s cultural contribution, there is an annual violin building contest each June with concerts and lectures.
The area surrounding Mittenwald is also a paradise for vacationing in Bavaria. The varied landscape is loved by cyclists, hikers and families alike: The palette ranges from crocus meadows to jagged rock formations. Take the Kranzberg chairlift in comfort; the higher mountains are then reached by taking the Karwendel cable car.
The alpine tradition of the cows coming home after a summer in the highlands is a highlight in many Bavarian towns, including Mittenwald. Known as Almabtrieb in this region, it is truly a spectacle to watch hundreds of cows clang through the narrow village streets.
Arrive early to catch the Kranzkuh, an elaborately decorated lead cow with a wreath of alpine flowers, cross and a mirror. The following cows wear their bells to ward off evil spirits. Also included in the parade are traditional alpine horn blowers, Goaslschnalzer (whip dancers) and Schuhplattler (shoe slappers).
It usually takes place in mid-September, although it is subject to weather conditions.