Must See: Chiemsee, Bavarian Sea & Islands

April 3, 2017
Travel

Chiemsee Palace

With my next trip to Munich a matter of weeks away and me unable to contain my excitement, now seemed like the perfect time to highlight another Must See on my travel bucket list. For this month’s Must See travel feature we’re traveling a bit southeast of Munich to the Chiemsee!

On our first trip to Munich some years back, we traveled by car to Salzburg with friends. As we passed a seemingly unending body of water on the left side of the car, one of our friends turned to my husband and I in the backseat. “That’s the Bavarian sea,” she said, with a smile. She meant the Chiemsee.

The Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria. And given how many lakes the federal state of Bavaria has, that’s saying something. The freshwater lake is 30 square miles so it isn’t insignificant.

The lake has three main islands. The largest is the Herreninsel (translated as the “gentlemen’s island”), the Frauenchiemsee (“ladies’ island”) and the Krautinsel (referred to as “cabbage island” as it was used for agriculture during the Middles Ages). The Krautinsel is uninhabited and not accessible.

Herrenchiemsee Chiemsee

Herreninsel

The largest of the three main Chiemsee islands is home to a palace, dubbed the New Palace. Built by King Ludwig II in 1878, the palace was modeled after the palace at Versailles but, similar to Neuschwanstein, was never completed. Lucky for us, though, it is open to tourists!

Surrounding the palace there is also a lavish park that visitors can stroll through. According to the Bavarian Palace Department, it features “3.5 hectares of lawn, 6.5 hectares of paths, 0.1 hectares of flowerbeds, 2.5 hectares of hedges, 4900 metres [sic] of avenue trees and numerous pools and figures.”

Fraueninsel Chiemsee

Frauenchiemsee

The 38-acre Frauenchiemsee is actually inhabited. The car-free island is home to an active Benedictine convent. A decade ago, the population of the monastery was reported to be 30. It was founded by Duke Tassilo and consecrated by Bishop Virgil of Salzburg in 782. However, from 1728-1732 it was rebuilt. A hundred years later in 1837 it was re-established as a monastery by King Ludwig I.

The monastery’s church is full of history. It is thought to date as far back as at least the 11th century. Romanesque frescoes have been discovered during restoration work. The monastery itself is not open to the public but the church and a gateway building (“Torbau”) can be toured.

chiemsee-bahn

Getting to the Chiemsee

So this is the fun part! From Munich, you can easily reach the Chiemsee by taking a train to Prien am Chiemsee. It’s roughly an hour away.

Once you reach Prien am Chiemsee, you could hike just over a mile for about a half-hour to reach the pier. Or you could take a ride in a steam train with the Chiemsee-Bahn, Railway Chiemsee!

The Chiemsee-Bahn dates back to 1887. The train company has two locomotives at their disposal: one steam and one diesel. However, it is the steam engine that has been in operation since the opening in 1887! The train and the adjacent buildings have been lovingly restored. And, really, who can pass up a ride in an old train?

Once you get to the pier, you can take a ferry across the Chiemsee to either the Herreninsel or the Frauenchiemsee.

Chiemsee

After you visit the lake, be sure to explore the surrounding area. It isn’t to be missed! Whether you are interested in palaces, lakes, trains or carefully manicured gardens the Chiemsee really has a lot to offer. It’s easy to see why the Bavarian Sea is on My Must See List.

Want to see what other locations are on My Must See travel bucket list? Explore previously featured locations!

Top photo by Prien Marketing GmbH/Kurt Schubert, second photo by Prien Marketing GmbH/Tanja Ghirardini, third photo by Prien Marketing GmbH/Paul Mayall, fourth photo from Chiemsee Schifffahrt Ludwig Feßler KG’s Facebook page.

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