Editors' Picks

Schloss Elmau

Alpine sanctuary, cosmopolitan-casual luxury, spa-focused

In Elmau 2., Elmau 82493


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Indagare Adored

At a Glance

With its proud, green-tipped tower rising from the forests and meadows that give way to the crags of the Bavarian Alps, Schloss Elmau is a castle-like retreat that invites visitors to indulge in both nature and culture. Built in 1916 by a philosopher who sought an ideological haven, the retreat continues to promote art and intellectualism, including in its role as host of the G7 Summit (in 2015 and 2022). For the usual guest, there are piano and string quartet performances in the concert hall; tastings at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant (one of eight dining options, total); and opportunities to browse the internationally renowned on-property bookstore. This alone is worth celebrating, but Schloss Elmau is equally sought out for its wellness program, which wows both in sheer size and depth of programming (well-being, yoga and sports take centerstage). Guest can also explore with an all-electric BMW and visit the fairytale castles of King Ludwig II nearby.

**The Standout:** The incredible wellness facilities, with six separate spas and pools for adults and families, including an onsen and a hammam **Don’t Miss:** The three-hour hike or one-hour e-bike ride from Elmau up to the spectacular Schachenhaus, the favorite retreat of King Ludwig II in the Wetterstein Mountains

Indagare Loves

  • The Elmau Valley and its views are spectacular in every season
  • The concerts, literary events and political debates (complimentary for guests)
  • The fantastic kids’ club, soccer camps and workshops making Elmau one of Europe’s preeminent family-friendly resorts


Rolling hills, silent forests, meadows dotted with sheep—and then, a grassy knoll that gives way to Elmau, sitting, like Sleeping Beauty’s castle, in a valley below: a fairy tale come to life. A single white tower rises from the compound, an elegant juxtaposition to the looming snow-peaked Bavarian Alps in the distance. The estate is made up of the Schloss, the original castle which houses most of the restaurants and the biggest spa (the Badehaus), and the smaller, more intimate Retreat, opened in 2015. The latter is a hotel within a hotel, located in a freestanding building a bit removed from the castle, with its own entrance, check-in, spa and pools. In an effort at unity, however, all spaces are open to all guests, so while the Retreat feels a bit more secluded and quiet, it's not off-limits to those staying in the main castle.

On paper, the sheer numbers of Elmau are a bit daunting: eight restaurants, six spas, 22 treatment rooms, five pools, three libraries, a yoga center, a large concert hall, even a well-stocked bookstore. Indoors and out, the layout of the resort has been carefully considered, and public spaces are parsed into cozy sitting corners, patios and lounge areas, giving an air of intimacy and reflection. Most of the 162 rooms and suites are located in the castle, parts of which have been completely reconstructed after a fire in 2005. The ground floor, with its imposing grand staircase, vaulted ceilings and colonnaded wings exudes old-world glamour but the rooms and suites themselves are sleek, modern and uncluttered. There’s an abundance of natural materials, including light wood and smooth stone. Banish all thoughts of velvet or chintz: fabrics in the rooms are breezy, with occasional touches of warm color, like the attractive Sienna-red headboards or burnt-orange armchairs. The Elmau’s interior design acknowledges that the biggest draw here is the glorious view. Floor-to-ceiling windows, clad in translucent curtains, give way to the valley and the drama of the Wetterstein mountain range.

The all-suite Retreat offers larger rooms (47 in total), with some glorious corner suites that have nearly 360-degree panoramic views that can be enjoyed from balconies and terraces. (When Elmau hosted the G7 in the summer of 2015, this is where the dignitaries were housed, so President Obama was one of the first to try these sumptuous new accommodations.)

The list of activities on- and off-property fills a small paperback, but in summarizing, there are three main reasons clients, many of them repeat visitors, check in at the resort: culture, spa, family. Almost since its founding (by a Lutheran theologian who purchased the land here in 1912), Elmau invited musicians and artists to come and be inspired by the surrounding nature and share their art with the patrons and other guests. Today, a large concert hall in the main building holds up this tradition by hosting an ambitious cultural program throughout the year. Performances (complimentary for hotel guests) have included opera, chamber music, orchestral pieces, Jazz, readings and lectures.

Another draw is a comprehensive wellness focus. Several spas dot the property, from a beautiful Turkish hammam in the cellar of the castle to the 32,000-square-foot Badehaus Spa with its striking rooftop infinity pool. The menus include everything from extensive body and facial offerings to Thai and Ayurvedic treatments, and Thai Chi, yoga and Pilates are taught in light-filled, wood-paneled rooms. Relaxation rooms are the epitome of spa chic—again, those views—and there’s even a separate family spa, with a dedicated treatment menu for children and a large indoor pool—open 24 hours a day— just for kids.

Then again, there’s a lot just for kids here. Schloss Elmau is renowned as one of Europe's most prominent family-friendly resorts, and during vacation time in the summer and winter, there are almost always more than 100 children staying here. The Kids' Club offers a host of activities, like skiing, golfing, hiking, climbing and kayaking, but Elmau also excels at so-called Edutainment Workshops, which might include programming around science, literature, music, crafts and film. (The Kids' Club has English-speaking staff.) Little ones are also pampered with their own nightly dining buffet, as well as their own pool. Thanks to the size of the place, Elmau is a resort where families and solo travelers and couples can truly co-exist without getting on each other’s nerves.

Many have commented that the bucolic panoramas published in the press and on Instagram looked almost fake in their Heidi-mountainside perfection, but truly, the region is just that breathtaking. And thanks to Schloss Elmau, high-end travelers have the perfect perch from which to explore.

Who Should Stay

Couples, families and friends who seek a mix of wellness, culture and active adventure:

  • Families: The kids’ program at Elmau is renowned for a reason–from children-only buffets to mountain climbing workshops, the list of activities and amenities for the teeny-to-teenage set is impressive.
  • Spa goers: The spa/wellness offering at Elmau is massive and one of the reasons the resort rates so highly among couples and girlfriend getaway trips.
  • Active types: The setting in the Bavarian Alps is incredible, which makes for incredible summertime hiking, biking and wintertime skiing.

Ideal Length of Stay

3 to 4 nights

Getting There

The property is a 90-minute drive southeast of Munich and a one-hour drive from Innsbruck. If you’re planning on staying put for the most part, you don’t need a car, but if you’re interested in exploring the charming villages beyond, it helps to have a rental.

Written by Simone Girner

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