Chiemsee Day Trip: Exploring Bavaria's Sea, Herreninsel, and Fraueninsel

Chiemsee | Introduction

Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria and is often referred to as the "Bavarian Sea." The lake boasts stunning scenery and contains three main islands: Herreninsel (Men's Island), Fraueninsel (Women's Island), and Krautinsel (Herb Island), which is uninhabited. With its natural beauty and rich history and culture, Chiemsee is an ideal destination for a day trip.

Chiemsee | Transportation

Tours of Chiemsee typically involve taking a boat to visit two or three of the islands. The Chiemsee boat company offers regular services connecting the main islands. The boat tours usually depart from the Prien/Stock or Gstadt piers and visit Herreninsel and Fraueninsel. For a typical day trip, you can choose to depart from Prien in the morning, with a 30-minute boat ride to Herreninsel. After spending about 2-3 hours exploring, you can then take a 15-minute boat ride to Fraueninsel, and return to Prien pier in the evening. If you're starting from Munich, you might consider joining a local day tour.

Chiemsee Day Trip (from Munich)

For a self-guided trip to Prien, you can either drive or take the train. Driving from Munich takes about an hour. You’ll travel along the A8 motorway and then exit at Bernau or Prien, following the signs to the lakeside parking area. The scenic Bavarian countryside makes the hour-long drive pass quickly. If you prefer public transportation, you can take a train to Prien am Chiemsee station. Once you arrive in Prien, you can walk to the lakeside pier to board the boat.

Chiemsee | Attractions

Herreninsel

Herreninsel, the largest island in Chiemsee, covers an area of about 238 hectares. In the 8th century, a monastery for men was established on the island, and to ensure the monks could focus on their religious practices, women were not allowed to enter, hence the name Herreninsel (Men's Island). Today, however, Herreninsel is best known for the Herrenchiemsee New Palace, built by King Ludwig II. It is the third palace constructed by Ludwig and is the most expensive and luxurious of them all.

In addition to Herrenchiemsee New Palace, Herreninsel also features the Old Palace (Altes Schloss) near the pier. This former monastery of Chiemsee has now been converted into a museum that showcases the rich history and culture of the lake region. Visitors can learn about the area's extensive past, from the medieval monastery to the 19th-century royal palace architecture, recounting stories of bygone eras. After visiting the Herrenchiemsee New Palace, it is worth spending some time exploring the Old Palace to gain a deeper understanding of the region's history.

Herrenchiemsee New Palace

Tickets for visiting Herrenchiemsee New Palace can be purchased at the pier, and entry to the palace requires a guided tour. To reach the palace, you can either take a 20-minute walk uphill or pay for a carriage ride, both of which take about the same amount of time. We chose to walk briskly up the hill and quickly arrived at the palace.

Herrenchiemsee New Palace was the last palace started by Ludwig II. It is said that after visiting the Palace of Versailles in France, Ludwig decided to have his own Versailles and began constructing this palace in 1878. The scale and opulence of the palace rival Versailles. The interior is lavishly decorated, featuring a magnificent Hall of Mirrors, grand halls, and the King's private apartments. The most famous feature is the Hall of Mirrors, modeled after the one in Versailles but one-third longer, measuring 98 meters. It includes 33 crystal chandeliers, 44 candelabras, and required 1,800 candles to be lit at once. However, this hall never hosted a ball. This is partly because Ludwig built the castle solely for his own enjoyment and partly because Herrenchiemsee New Palace was never completed. During Ludwig's lifetime, the candles were lit only once by his servants, which took a significant amount of time. Nonetheless, Herrenchiemsee New Palace symbolizes Ludwig II's extreme pursuit of luxury and art. It's important to note that photography is prohibited inside the palace, but you can take pictures in the gardens outside.

The gardens outside the palace are also quite extensive, featuring a symmetrical Baroque design with numerous intricate sculptures. In front of the palace, there are two fountains: one dedicated to a goddess and the other to a god of war. Descending the steps, you will encounter the grand central fountain, which is equally impressive.

Fraueninsel

Fraueninsel, or Women's Island, is more tranquil and covers an area of only 15.5 hectares, but its historical and cultural value is immense. The island is home to a Benedictine convent (Benediktinerinnenabtei Frauenwörth), established in the 8th century, making it one of the oldest monasteries in Bavaria. The convent features an ancient bell tower, which has become a landmark of the island. While Herreninsel historically housed a monastery for men, Fraueninsel's convent has been exclusively for women. The nuns still live and work in the convent, giving the island a sacred and peaceful atmosphere. Although visitors cannot enter the convent, they can explore the surrounding areas.

On the island, the Church of St. Mary (Marienmünster) is also a must-visit site. The church's interior is beautifully decorated and houses many precious religious artworks, allowing visitors to feel the profound religious and cultural heritage. The monastery garden surrounding the church is equally worth exploring. The flowers and plants in the garden are meticulously cared for, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

In addition to its religious buildings, Fraueninsel also features a traditional fishing village (Fischerhäuser) that preserves the lifestyle of the local fishermen. Visitors can stroll along the narrow streets and admire the old wooden houses, experiencing the simple and authentic way of life. The small island has several little harbors, and the scenery around sunset is particularly relaxing and picturesque.

Before our return boat arrived, we had enough time to take a leisurely walk around Fraueninsel. With extra time to spare, the foodie in us decided to look for something delicious. At the northern end of the island, we found a small shop called Chiemseefischerei, which primarily sells fresh seafood. They also offer fish sandwiches and local beer. The sandwiches are priced at 4 euros each. We bought the island's specialty, a smoked fish sandwich, and sat by the shore to slowly enjoy it. The sandwich itself was very simple: marinated fish placed in a bun with a bit of mayonnaise. It was incredibly fresh and tasty. If the shop hadn't closed after we finished (we seemed to be their last customers), I probably would have bought another one. After finishing the sandwich, it was just in time to catch the boat back to Prien.

Further reading



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