What it’s like to stay in a beautiful castle in the Bavarian Alps


Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat & Cultural HideawaySchloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat & Cultural Hideaway — Photo courtesy of Brian Welsh

Castles have a way of getting folks’ attention. Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat & Cultural Hideaway is no exception.

Located in Bavaria, about an hour-and-a-half from Munich, it was built in 1916 by philosopher Dr. Johannes Müller as a cultural retreat. Nearly a century later, in 2005, after being destroyed by fire, it was painstakingly rebuilt by his grandson, Dietmar Müller-Elmau.

Its grand, castle charm and commitment to cultural events and activities remains, but its interiors now shine with modern décor and hardwood floors that seem to stretch for miles.

One of Germany’s better-kept vacation secrets, in 2015, Schloss Elmau played host to the G7 Summit, introducing its scenic personality to the world.

Thinkers, nature lovers, music aficionados, families – just about anyone – will find something to enjoy here. From snow-centric winter sports, to pampering spas, well-endowed libraries, and summer hiking in the shadow of the Bavarian Alps, here are the 10 best things to see and do during your stay.

Sleep in and linger longer

Hideaway roomHideaway room — Photo courtesy of Brian Welsh

With a view at seemingly every turn, it could be easy to feel rushed to see it all. But that defeats the purpose of a stay at Schloss Elmau. In addition to the main castle, called the Hideaway, there’s a second wing or property known as the Retreat.

With a combined 162 rooms and suites, accommodations are warm and inviting, and thanks to an abundant number of windows, the outside finds its way in. Taking in the view is even better when it can be done from bed.

Room rates (including half-board) at the Hideaway start at $694; from $861 at the Retreat.

Wander comfortably

Rainbow of spa robesRainbow of spa robes — Photo courtesy of Schloss Elmau

Learning your way around the castle’s grounds takes time, but discovering its unique offerings is part of the fun. To help first-timers learn the lay of the land, guided tours are offered every afternoon.

Along with the mountain scenery, a rainbow of guests in colored spa robes is an everyday sight. Purple, pink, teal (there are eight colors in all) – just don’t expect to see any white robes. Repeat guests in the know can even request a robe in the color of their choice.

Curl up with a good book

Hideaway libraryHideaway library — Photo courtesy of Brian Welsh

Three libraries offer a silent space to get lost in a new book or old favorite. But if your reading list could use a boost, you’ve got access to expert advice.

Run by Dr. Ingeborg Prager, a friendly woman with a Doctorate in Literature, the bookstore at Schloss Elmau is believed to be the biggest bookstore in any hotel in Germany. Along with titles for adults and kids (in English and German), guest authors visit and speak regularly.

Take in a concert

Concert hallConcert hall — Photo courtesy of Schloss Elmau

In addition to readings and book presentations, Schloss Elmau also hosts classical music and jazz concerts in its onsite concert hall. (A whopping 200-plus events are typically held every year.) With seating for 300, guests don’t need a ticket, or even a reservation, they simply just show up.

Kids are welcome to attend performances, but they need to be able to sit still for an hour, the average length of a show. Cultural events are included in the room rate.

Warm up

Kaminstube restaurantKaminstube restaurant — Photo courtesy of Schloss Elmau

Schloss Elmau boasts 36 wood burning fireplaces. They burn all day, 365 days a year. Find your favorite, sit down and simply enjoy.

Cool down

Badehaus spaBadehaus spa — Photo courtesy of Brian Welsh

Set aside time to visit the pools, all half-dozen of them. Located both indoor and outdoor, some are family-friendly, some adults-only, and one can be enjoyed in the buff. One is located at the Hideaway, two at the Retreat, and another pair in the Badehaus. From June through September, a 25-meter lap pool at Ferchenbach Creek is heated to 80° Fahrenheit.

Every outdoor pool comes with an impressive view, but once you lay eyes on the scenic soaking spot atop the Badenhaus Spa, you may find it hard to leave.

Immerse yourself in spa days

Hamam spaHamam spa — Photo courtesy of Schloss Elmau

Finnish saunas, salt water steam rooms, bio-saunas, aroma steam rooms and treatment rooms with a view are just a handful of facilities located in the six spas at Schloss Elmau. The Oriental Hamam Spa is believed to be the largest Hamam west of Istanbul.

Say “Namaste”

Schloss Elmau Jivamukti Yoga CenterSchloss Elmau Jivamukti Yoga Center — Photo courtesy of Schloss Elmau

The Schloss Elmau Jivamukti Yoga Center holds classes twice a day. Mornings are designed for beginners; afternoons are open to advanced students. Classes are included in the room rate. More than 20 yoga retreats are held per year.

Get outside and explore

Summer hikingSummer hiking — Photo courtesy of Schloss Elmau

Winter brings options including skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowtubing and tobogganing. A shuttle runs to the surrounding ski areas of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Seefeld. As the snow begins to melt, fat tire bikes and electric bikes allow guests quicker access to sparkling mountain scenery.

Come summer, nearly 20 miles of trails open up for hiking. Guests can loop Lake Ferchensee or visit King Ludwig II’s Konigshaus am Schachen. Archery lessons are available with eight-time German champion Christian Kuffer, while tennis players have three clay courts at their disposal.

Go daytripping

Neuschwanstein CastleNeuschwanstein Castle — Photo courtesy of Brian Welsh

If you can pry yourself away from the grounds, there’s plenty of sights within an easy drive. Innsbruck, Austria is about a 30-mile trip. Seemingly straight from the pages of a fairy tale, Neuschwanstein Castle is less than a 90-minute drive. From there you can take in views of less-visited Hohenschwangau Castle, or if you’re in a castle state of mind, tour both.

The Rococo-style Wieskirche takes about an hour to reach by car. After touring the church, walk into the meadow to take in the view and say hello to the horses.

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