Bavaria’s Art Road

For scenic village tours, clients can hit the road in Germany

By: Susan James

From Munich in the west to Passau in the east and from Regensburg in the north to the tiny lakeside village of Murnau in the south, Bavaria’s Art Road connects a loop of artistic riches from past and present alike. With comfortable hotels available along the route, most with expansive spa facilities, and some of Germany’s most traditional cooking to sample, Bavaria’s Art Road offers a variety of pleasures for visitors.

The Art Road is an umbrella term used by the German National Tourist Office that covers a network of art-themed routes and destinations. Eclectic and multi-faceted, these regions include the Blue Land area around Lake Staffelsee in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, where visitors can follow in the footsteps of the creators of German Expressionism, to the Glass Road that runs near the Czech and Austrian borders and traces German glass-making past and present.

The place to start is the strikingly attractive city of Munich. The Lenbachhaus Art Museum is a good place to introduce clients to the beginnings of German Expressionism with works by Wassily Kandinsky, Alexei Jawlensky and Gabrielle Munter. Moving from realistic forms based on French Impressionism and Russian folk art, Kandinsky and Munter developed their work toward brilliantly colored abstracts. The site of this transformation is stop #2 on the Art Road, the idyllic village of Murnau on the Starnsee, a lake in the foothills of the German-Austrian Alps only 45 minutes from Munich and 15 miles from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Murnau is haunted by Gabrielle Munter, who died there in 1962. Her three-story wooden chalet is now a museum and the local castle, the Schlossmuseum, also has a collection of her work. Tourist Information Murnau offers maps of the local sites where Munter and Kandinsky painted. This is also where the couple discovered the Bavarian art of reverse glass painting which is still practiced in the village.

North of Munich, the Art Road curves eastward to the abbey of Weltenburg on the Danube, the oldest monastery in Bavaria and the oldest monastic brewery in the world. Weltenburg’s Baroque church with its life-sized silver statues of St. George and the dragon, designed by the legendary Asam brothers, is one of Bavaria’s greatest treasures. Just a few miles down-river through the Gorge of the Danube lies the perfectly preserved town of Kelheim, which has pre-Roman roots and was the hometown of the royal Bavarian Wittelsbach family, responsible for so many of Bavaria’s present art collections.

From Kelheim the road runs to Regensburg, another exquisitely preserved town with an active art community. Jugendstil or art nouveau buildings mingle with medieval tower houses faceted from stone and Baroque churches decorated inside like jewelry boxes. Kramgasse, a street just steps from the main cathedral, is crammed with the shops of gold and silversmiths. Gerhald Kuffer’s ceramics workshop is located in Goldene Barenstrasse near the Fischmarkt.

Passau, the last stop on the Art Road, is the beginning of Bavaria’s Glass Road. Lying on an island created by three rivers, the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube, settlement here dates back to the Mesolithic. Just across the border from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), Passau and its sister towns to the north, Spiegelau, Frauenau, Zwiesel and Bodenmais, share the same glass-making tradition with which Bohemia is synonymous. Reverse-painted glass, cut crystal, art glass and jewelry made from glittering crystal “pearls” have long traditions in this area.

The Joska Kristall factory in Bodenmais offers tours through its facilities, and Passau’s Hollgasse, or Hell Street, and its side lanes is a cornucopia of art ateliers and shops, selling everything from glass to painting to ceramics to worked gold. Nearby, is the fantastic Passau Glass Museum with over 30,000 glass pieces dating from 1650-1950.

Whether it’s modern art or ancient glass, gold filigree or hand-thrown ceramics, Bavaria’s Art Road puts visitors on the right path.


Hotel Orphee, Regensburg
Commission: 8 percent

Hotel Platzl, Munich
Commission: variable

Hotel Relais & Chateau Alpenhof Murnau
Commission: 10 percent

Hotel Weisser Hase, Passau
Commission: variable

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