Oberammergau, a Charming Bavarian Village Famous for Painted Façades (Lüftlmalerei)

Oberammergau is a small town in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. With just a few thousands of residents, it is well-known for its vibrant painted façades (Lüftlmalerei), the emotionally charged Cathartic event Passion Play, and a long tradition of woodcarvings. Besides, Its picturesque setting makes this small town a popular destination for family holidays and outdoor seekers.

During our family getaway in southern Germany, which included my 80-year-old mother and my brother’s family, we dedicated several hours to explore Oberammergau. The town left a lasting impression on us, radiating a timeless charm. At first glance, Oberammergau seemed frozen in time, reminiscent of a bygone era. However, as we strolled through its streets, we discovered a harmonious blend of modern and traditional life, making it a truly attractive destination.

Explore the charm of Oberammergau with these interesting attractions:

  • Oberammergau through a German Tongue Twister
  • Parish Church St. Peter and Paul
  • Bavarian Architecture
  • Painted Façades (Lüftmalerei)
  • Traditional Woodcarving Products
  • Oberammergau Museum & Eisenhower Museum
  • Passion Play Theatre

Oberammergau through a German Tongue Twister

I first heard about this town from a famous German tongue twister. Years ago, while studying German at a language school, our German teacher gave us tongue twisters to practice and improve our pronunciation. One of them stuck with me:

Ob er über Oberammergau, oder aber über Unterammergau, oder ob er überhaupt noch kommt, ist ungewiß!
(Whether he’s coming via Oberammergau, or perhaps via Unterammergau, or not at all is uncertain)

In our language class, we all struggled to read it smoothly, often bursting into laughter when someone stumbled. Our teacher also shared materials about this town, and since then, Oberammergau has stayed with me. After living in Germany for many years, I can now pronounce the name and the tongue twister fluently!

View of Parish Church St. Peter and Paul from the centre of the small town Oberammergau, southern Germany
View of Parish Church St. Peter and Paul from the parking lot outside of the small town Oberammergau, southern Germany
Shops sell traditional woodcarving products

Parish Church St. Peter and Paul

We parked the car by the river, just outside the village. As we stepped out, the sight of the white Parish Church St. Peter and Paul greeted us, its polygonal tower reaching for the sky. The central part of the church is gracefully arched, crowned with a flat oval dome. The church has a lovely graveyard, and we couldn’t resist exploring its serene grounds.

Bavarian Architecture

As we entered the village, the streets lined with charmingly painted houses bursting with color immediately caught our attention. The typical Bavarian architecture dominated the entire village. Since it was summertime, balconies and window flower boxes were overflowing with vibrant geraniums. I often wonder how Germans manage to keep their flowers flourishing throughout the entire summer, while the same flowers on my balcony never seem to last longer than two weeks!

Painted Façades (Lüftmalerei)

We took a moment to appreciate the painted façades. Many of the paintings depict religious themes, while a few showcase fairy tale scenes. These beautifully painted façades, known as Lüftmalerei in German, are created in an illusionist style. A notable example is the Pilatushaus, where the painted columns create a 3D effect as you approach.

Painted façades (Lüftmalerei)
Shops sell traditional woodcarving products, Oberammergau

Traditional Woodcarving Products

The Bavarian architecture, characterized by distinctive style elements, particularly the prominent use of wood, defined the village’s aesthetic. This longstanding tradition is upheld by skilled craftsmen, showcasing their art of woodcarving in the local shops. The village’s rich history in woodcarving, dating back to the 12th century, is evident in the masterpieces created by these talented artisans.

We passed the shops of these highly skilled woodcarvers, artisans whose craft has thrived for centuries. Although the shops were yet to open, we engaged in a leisurely bout of window shopping, admiring the diverse wooden products on display.

Some shops are small and display products for sale, many are also religious-related scenes. But some products are depicting the Bavarian people in the past, such as farmers, hunters, and craftsmen. Among these shops, some displayed religious-themed items, while others portrayed scenes from Bavarian history, featuring farmers, hunters, and craftsmen.

Oberammergau Museum & Eisenhower Museum

The interior design of the Oberammergau Museum is like a mix of the past and present. It has a bright chapel with modern steel and glass, along with traditional features like arched windows and wooden banisters. Unfortunately, the museum wasn’t open when we arrived early that day, so we couldn’t explore it.

In the Eisenhower Museum, you can learn about the 34th President of the United States, “Ike”, as he was called from an early age, He spent his childhood there. However, the museum has limited opening hours, so it’s a good idea to check online or call before planning your visit.

Passion Play Theatre

The charming Bavarian town of Oberammergau is globally renowned for its spectacular Passion Play, a tradition dating back to 1634, performed every decade (with a few exceptions). The play performs on a semi-circular open-air stage, recently renovated to provide 4720 covered seats, ensuring a comfortable and secure experience for audiences worldwide.

For additional details about the Passion Play and other events, please check their website. Keep in mind that participating in the Passion Play requires careful advance planning.

The Post Hotel in Bavarian architecture
Painted corner room and blooming flowers on the balcony

Where to stay

Oberammergau attracts tourists with its ideal proximity to the mountains and various interesting sightseeing spots. The village is a hub for outdoor activities, catering to both adventure enthusiasts and families alike, making it a perfect base for exploring southern Germany. Among the centrally located hotels is the charming Hotel Maximilian.

Situated in the heart of Oberammergau, just 700 meters from the Passion Theatre, this privately owned Alpine-style design hotel offers spacious rooms decorated with traditional Bavarian decor. Additionally, Hotel Maximilian offers a relaxing spa area for guests to relax.

How to get there

By tours

Various tours from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle include a stop in this charming village on their itineraries. One notable option is the tour to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles from Munich, which takes a detour through the picturesque town of Oberammergau. If you’re staying in Munich and lack personal transportation, joining a tour is the most convenient way to explore the area.

By car

If you’re driving from Munich, take the A95 motorway south to the Ettal exit. From there, proceed onto the B-23, leading you to Oberammergau.

For those coming from Fussen, follow B17, exit at Rottenbuch, and continue along B23 to reach Oberammergau.

By train

Departing from Munich Central Station (München Hauptbahnhof), board the train bound for Innsbruck (a regional train with daily departures). When you arrive at Murnau, make a seamless transition to the connecting train that conveniently takes you to Oberammergau. The travel from Murnau to Oberammergau is straightforward, as Oberammergau serves as the ultimate destination on this route.

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