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Murnau, Germany

Where is Murnau?

Murnau am Staffelsee is a small town to the south of Munich situated just before you get to the foothills of the Alps and the renowned mountain destination of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

It might be the fact that it is so close to the mountains and the better-known winter ski destination that has managed to keep Murnau something of a hidden secret.

Murnau am Staffelsee town centre
Murnau am Staffelsee town centre

But Murnau is a historic town, with its own castle, and, as the full name Murnau am Staffelsee suggests, is on the shores of its own lake. In fact, the Staffelsee lake is to the west of the town and another lake, the Riegsee, is located a short distance away to the east.

Murnau also has its own special protected landscape. The Murnauer Moos is the largest preserved peat bog in Europe.

Murnau is also famous as the home of artists Wassily Kandisky and Gabriele Münter, known for the 'Der Blauer Reiter' ('Blue Rider') German Expressionist movement. The tourist office for the area is known as the Blue Land as homage to the artists.

How to get to Murnau

Nearest airport to Murnau

Although the airport at Innsbruck may be closer in kilometres, the driving time is around the same to Munich Airport.

Distance to Innsbruck Airport: 83km
Distance to Munich Airport: 104km
Distance to Memmingen Airport: 122km

Innsbruck Airport offers a good range of summer flights (and an even wider selection in the winter) although the journey over the border involves climbing onto the Seefeld plateau and through the mountains towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Munich Airport is probably the best option for those needing a wide selection of scheduled flights and the journey to Murnau can be made almost entirely on the motorway.

Allgäu Airport at Memmingen is a smaller airport popular with the budget carriers.

Murnau train station

The train station at Murnau am Staffelsee is on the main line between Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Munich. It also acts as the junction for those wishing to change to the spur line through to the Passion Play village of Oberammergau.

Where to stay in Murnau

Murnau town centre is located around 15 minutes' walk from the train station and about 20 minutes from the lakeshore and the ferry landing stage.

The nearby hamlet of Seehausen is a possible alternative for those wanting to be closer to the Staffelsee lake.

Murnau am Staffelsee accommodation map

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History of Murnau

The town of Murnau first appears in records in 1150 and it received its town charter two centuries later in 1350. As it was the only settlement with the right to hold a market between Weilheim and Mittenwald, it became the economic centre of the region.

Murnau was repeatedly occupied by Swedish and French troops during the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century and suffered an outbreak of plague in 1634. The town also suffered from fire, with the centre burning four times between the 17th and 19th centuries.

View of Murnau am Staffelsee
View of Murnau am Staffelsee

Murnau became known as a tourist destination in the mid-19th century with the arrival of the rail link from Munich. It became popular as a 'Kurort', a place where people stayed to breathe in the clean mountain air and recover from the dirt and smog of the cities.

Expressionist painters Gabriele Münter, Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky all spent time living and painting in Murnau between 1908-1914.

The Münter House also played a decisive role in the history of the "Blue Rider". It became an important meeting place for the avant-garde.

Murnau am Staffelsee is now a successful market town with around 12,000 inhabitants, about eight times as many as at the beginning of the 19th century.

What to see in Murnau am Staffelsee

Murnau Schlossmuseum

The former Murnau castle ('Schloss Murnau') can trace its history back to the 13th century (and possibly even to the 12th century), according to recent finds.

The castle in Murnau was the official residence of the custodians of Ettal Monastery for over 400 years. Following secularisation in 1803, the castle was used as housing or education until 1980. The Murnau Schlossmuseum ('Murnau Castle Museum') has been housed here since 1993.

Murnau Castle Museum
Murnau Castle Museum

Most of the museum is dedicated to the works of the artists of the "Neue Künstlervereinigung München" and the "Blaue Reiter", who achieved the decisive breakthrough to a new expressive style of painting in the surrounding landscape at the beginning of the 20th century.

The centrepiece of the museum is the extensive collection of works by Gabriele Münter with over 80 paintings, drawings and prints from the period between 1902 and shortly before her death in 1962.

Staffelsee Lake

The nearby Staffelsee is a popular lake for swimming and other water sports, as well as for hikers on the walking trails through the nature reserves and along the shoreline of the lake.

The lake has a surface area of eight square kilometres and reaches a depth of nearly 40 metres.

Passenger ferry on the Staffelsee
Passenger ferry on the Staffelsee

A regular passenger ferry service operates in the summer months between Seehausen, Murnau and Uffing am Staffelsee, as well as a short leg between Seehausen and the lake island of Buchau.

The circular tour of the lake on foot is just over 20 kilometres, although some walkers prefer to use the ferry to shorten the full distance.

Tourist Office in Murnau am Staffelsee

The Murnau Tourist Office is located in Untermarkt. It is open Mon-Fri year round and on weekends and public holidays in the morning during the winter and summer seasons.