Formed about 10,000 years ago by a glacier, Lake Chiemsee features crystal clear waters dotted with idyllic islands.
Situated in a stunning location about 110 kilometers from Munich, serene Chiemsee Lake is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Bavaria. It’s nicknamed the “Bavarian Sea” and truly has tides like the sea! It is a remnant of the primeval Thetis Sea, which once covered almost half of Europe.
With an area of 80 square kilometers, Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria,. Although it’s surrounded by reedy flatlands, the nearby mountains provide a majestic backdrop.
Chiemsee has three main islands – Herreninsel, Fraueninsel, and uninhabited Krautinsel – which all have frequent ferry connections to the mainland. The main tourist magnet is the New Palace of King Ludwig II on Herreninsel, with its stunning gardens.
Are you going to Bavaria but not yet sure what to do at Chiemsee lake? I have spent a prolonged weekend there with my boyfriend, and below I’ve compiled our favorite activities there so that you can decide which ones will be best for you!
We visited off-season (October) and stayed in a cozy family-owned pension in Traunreut, a small town about 10 kilometers east of Chiemsee. The weather was not so warm anymore and we had to dress reasonably in order not to get cold while cycling and going on a boat tour.
Chiemsee Lake and the Chiemgau region around it is beautiful yet peaceful; don’t expect any big parties there. If you are fond of nature and the outdoors, you will surely enjoy it as much as we did.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the best things to do at Chiemsee Lake!
01| Take a boat trip around the lake
Taking a boat trip at Chiemsee is definitely a must-do. It really all depends on the weather, though. As we visited in autumn, it was quite cold, and we had to wear extra clothes to keep warm. Don’t do this on a rainy day, otherwise, you will probably find the islands hiding in fog. On the upside, visiting in the off season or when the weather is bad will give you a more private experience.
Most boat trips start from Prien am See, where you get to choose from various routes around the lake. Choices include the West Route, East route, and the Big Round (Inseltour West, die Inseltour Ost und die Große Chiemseetour). A ticket costs a maximum of 13 EUR.
You can find all the relevant information about schedules and prices on this website. We started our boat trip in Gstadt, and because we were visiting in the slow season, we were able to get our tickets on the spot without having to stand in a queue.
02| Go for a stroll around Herreninsel
Herreninsel, with its fairytale palace built by Ludwig II, is definitely one of the major highlights of Chiemsee Lake. Modeled on Versailles, this palace was built as a “Temple of Fame” in honor of King Louis XIV of France, whom the Bavarian monarch fervently admired.
Once you get out of the boat, just follow the crowds. 99 percent of visitors head directly to the Royal Palace of Herrenchiemsee (New Palace), which is about a 15-minute walk from the pier on Herreninsel.
The complex is truly majestic. Construction started in 1878 and was preceded by a total of 13 planning stages. Highlights include the grandiose Great Hall of Mirrors, many fascinating staterooms, breathtaking marble State Staircase, and a surprising “magic table”.
Guided tours take place throughout the day, providing access to around 20 magnificent rooms. At the end of the tour, you can even take a horse-drawn carriage back to the pier.
If you’d like to explore this beautiful island beyond the touristy palace, there are some quiet corners. The Palace Gardens and lakeside path feature lovely scenery with lake views and a mountainous backdrop.
If you want to have a beer or bite to eat, you can either choose the restaurant near the pier (Schlosswirtschaft Herrenchiemsee) or the beer garden a few minutes’ walk away (Biergarten Boje 5), with great views especially during the sunset.
03| Discover the charm of the small Fraueninsel
While Herreninsel is the biggest of the three islands, at 230 hectares, Fraueninsel is the smallest, at 16. But size is not the only major difference between these two.
While Herreninsel is mainly known for its lavish castle and has few permanent inhabitants, Faueninsel is home to about 300 people. Many of them even offer their rooms up for rent so that you can experience staying at Fraueninsel overnight. During the summer months when many visitors come and stay until the last boat, evenings are the perfect time to experience the magic of this unspoiled island once they’ve all gone home.
The island also has an active Benedictine convent with nuns who make marzipan and liquors using herbs from their garden. You can buy these as a souvenir in the shop near the monastery.
The best thing to do in Fraueninsel is to enjoy a lovely walk. A complete circuit of the island is about 1,5 kilometers and takes half an hour (or longer depending on how often you stop).
The island also offers a decent selection of restaurants and cafes. We stopped in at the Hotel-Restaurant Inselwirt, which serves some great local beer and has lovely views of the lake from the terrace. If you want to taste something local, go for the smoked Chiemsee whitefish.
04| Cycle around the lake
If you like to be active during your holiday, cycling might just be the best thing to do at Chiemsee for you. It was an absolute highlight of our long weekend! We brought our bicycles and used them pretty much every day to explore the surroundings. No matter where we went, there were always plenty of signposted trails to choose from. With 2000 kilometers of cycling routes, this region is really a paradise for cyclists.
The most popular option is the lakeside circular route around Chiemsee. It spans 60 kilometers, and you can start pretty much anywhere along the lake. There are only a few short inclines, making it suitable for anyone looking for a leisurely ride or families with children. With the boat and bus connections, it’s also possible to skip some section of the route if needed.😊
Since we stayed in Treunreut, we also cycled to some nearby towns and organized multiple trips to Chieming and Gstadt. One of our favorite spots that we cycled to was Seeon Abbey, which I’ll cover in the following section.
05| Visit charming Seeon Abbey
With a stunning location on a small island, the former Abbey of Seeon makes for a perfect trip just a few kilometers north of Lake Chiemsee. The Abbey was founded by the Benedictine monks back in 904.
Seeon Abbey soon developed a significant scriptorium, producing manuscripts not only for the abbey’s own use but also for other monasteries and churches. Their most important client was Emperor Henry II, who presented many volumes to the Bishopric of Bamberg.
Although the buildings serve as a hotel and restaurant (modern enough to host regular events and conferences), it still maintains its original look, featuring stucco rooms, a beautiful inner courtyard, and snug corners. If you want to spend the night, you can check the availability and prices here. Reviewers seems to love staying here!
We did a cycling trip to Seeon starting in Chieming, following the lake-side path. It was 13km/45min one way, on a signposted cycling route. I really loved the monastery; if we already hadn’t booked our accommodation, we definitely would have stayed here overnight!
Location: Seeon Abbey on GoogleMaps
06 | Have a sunset drink
If you are searching for a place to enjoy a nice breakfast or drinks in the evening, Haus am See in Chieming is the perfect place. This cozy little restaurant is built on pontoons by the water, providing stunning views of the lake.
We actually found this spot by chance while walking along the beach in Chieming am Chiemsee. Luckily they still had a free table! I loved their hot chocolate and soups, and they had tasty looking cakes as well.
Haus am See is definitely one of the smaller restaurants, so if you are planning to go there at a popular time (high season, sunset time, etc.), it’s a good idea to make a booking in advance.
Location: Haus Am See on GoogleMaps
07| Feast on traditional Bavarian food
Your trip won’t be complete if you skip out on the local cusine. Bavarian food is quite heavy, but if you followed my above recommendation to do some cycling, you’ve definitely earned it!
Make sure to visit one of the many traditional Bavarian restaurants in the area to get to know what the local cuisine is all about. Our favorite restaurant in the area was Dorfwirt st Georgen. Although it’s not directly on Lake Chiemsee, it’s definitely worth the trip. The food was lovely, portion sizes were large, and if you visit in the summer, you will get to enjoy their Biergarten. The location of Dorftwirt on GoogleMaps is here.
What should you eat? Here are three dishes not to miss:
- Schweinsbraten with bread roll Knödeln and cabbage salad
- Schweinshaxe (roasted pig knuckle)
By the way, Bavarian cusines is usually what is presented as “German food” around the world, though far from all of them are popular throughout Germany.
I hope you have enjoyed my post covering the best things to do at Chiemsee Lake. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!