An imperial day at Lake Starnberg
The proximity to the city of Munich and the secluded atmosphere of Lake Starnberg had attracted Bavarian nobility for centuries. At its shores, you can literally follow the early footsteps of their most famous representative, Sisi, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
Start in Munich
Sisi (often misspelt as Sissi) was born in Munich. Today, her birth house, Herzog-Max-Palais, at Ludwigstraße 13 houses the Munich head office of the German Federal Bank. The palace is only a few steps from Odensplatz. You’ll recognise it by a plaque commemorating the empress on the front façade.
Tip: For a stylish breakfast, head to Cafè Luitpold. The traditional coffee house was opened in 1888 and even has its own little museum.
Catch the S-Bahn to Possenhofen
After having caught a glimpse of Sisi’s birthplace, head to Marienplatz and take the S-Bahn towards lake Starnberg (currently S6, direction Tutzing). Get off in Possenhofen, a village where Sisi spent most of her summers before becoming Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
If you are a fan, head to the Empress Elisabeth Museum in Pöcking, just next to the train station in Possenhofen.
Good to know: The museum has seasonal opening hours. Check their website for more information: www.kaiserin-elisabeth-museum-ev.de.
Then continue on foot downhill until you reach the shores of Lake Starnberg, where Possenhofen Castle stands. In the summer residence of Maximilian Joseph, Duke in Bavaria, young Sisi had enjoyed her carefree childhood before she was caught in the rigid protocol of Hofburg in Vienna.
The castle can’t be visited from inside. During the WWII, it was sold to National Socialist People’s Welfare. After that, it became a hospital, a motor factory, and finally a sheep stall. In the 1980s, the castle was rebuilt into a private apartment building, which saved it from total distraction. Still, you can admire it from outside. Together with the nearby lake, the atmosphere really is royal.
Follow the Path of Elisabeth to Feldafing
From the castle, continue on the Path of Elisabeth (Elisabethweg) along the lake until you reach the pier of the ferryboat to the Rose Island (Roseninsel) in the village of Feldafing.
The walk takes about 30 minutes. It’s a lovely stroll along secluded mini-beaches. Don’t forget your bathing suit during the summer months.
Explore the Rose Island
The small island set in an idyllic landscape was “discovered” by Bavarian King Maximilian II in the middle of the 19th century. It offered a perfect retreat from royal duties. Thus, the King ordered his architect to design a picnic spot for family day trips. To this day, a small wooden palazzo called Casino, and a beautiful rose garden decorate the island.
Maximilian’s son, the legendary fairytale King Ludwig II of Bavaria, used to escape reality on the island as well. He invited his cousin Sisi to join him several times.
However, the history of Rose Island is much more ancient. It represents a prehistoric lakeshore settlement on Alpine foothills of Bavaria. Remains of dwellings, such as early Celtic stilt houses from the 1st millennium BC, were perfectly preserved underwater. Rose Island belongs to the property of 111 small individual sites and has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2011. If the waters are shallow enough, the piles are partly visible.
Good to know: To get to the island from the pier in Feldafing, you need to ring a bell. A Bavarian captain will you up and take to the island and back (4 € per person both ways). There is no timetable. The ferryboat operates on demand.
The island is opened to the public from May 1st till October 15th. On Mondays, the Casino is closed. Therefore the ferryboat service is limited. There are two rose blooming seasons: June and September. If a wedding takes place on the island, the ferry service starts at noon. Check the website before visiting: www.roseninsel.bayern.
Plan for the rest of the day
In the summer, you can relax on Feldafing Strandbad. It is one of Lake Starnberg’s less busy beaches located within walking distance (10 minutes) from the pier. Adjacent to the beach, there’s also a restaurant.
Because of the underwater heritage, bathing on the island and in its close proximity is prohibited.
If you don’t like swimming, stroll around Feldafing’s park, where the Path of Elisabeth continues. Enjoy lunch in the Empress Elisabeth Golf Hotel, where Sisi spent many summer days.
To get back to Munich, take the S-Bahn from Feldafing train station (every 20 minutes). Alternatively, you can walk back to Possenhofen using the easy hiking trail along the Wolf’s gorge (Wolfsschlucht) and take the train from there.
Tip: For both, Feldafing and Possenhofen, you’ll need an MVV ticket for three zones. Choose a one-day ticket for the whole network (Gesamtnetz). If you travel as a group (2-5), the 1-day group ticket is the most convenient option.