On our trip to see the Passion Play in Germany, we strolled around town admiring the Oberammergau painted houses or Luftmalerei for which this small Bavarian town is renowned. The famous Oberammergau Passion Play only takes place every 10 years and in the years in between, the town is still a popular place to visit with picturesque, painted Alpine houses with carved balconies fringed with pink and red geraniums.
Update: The 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play has been postponed to 2022 due to the Corona Pandemic – more information on the official website.
Oberammergau wood carving
Oberammergau has also been known for centuries as a centre of skilled wood carving, as farmers needed to find ways to earn extra income through the long hard winters, when the village was under snow. Wood carvers from Oberammergau were renowned for their skill, some specialising in crucifixes, others in wooden painted religious figures and crib scenes, others in brightly coloured toys, using locally grown linden and alder wood.
As the industry grew, street traders or Kraxenberger would travel all over Europe selling these carvings from wooden frames or Kraxe on their backs and in the 18th and 19th centuries residents left the village to set up successful retail businesses selling the wood carvings.
If you are interested in visiting the Oberammergau Passion Play 2020 read my article: Tips for seeing the Oberammergau Passion Play
Oberammergau Painted Houses
The Oberammergau painted houses originated from the 18th century and started when the Oberammergau houses were given painted window surrounds to embellish the simple facades, and later religious and fairy tale scenes became popular. The term for these painted houses or Luftmalerei originated from one of the earliest local artists ‘Franz Seraph Zwinck’ who lived in the house called Zum Luftl.
Listen to my Podcast: The Oberammergau Passion Play and visit to Altotting
Franz Seraph Zwinck also designed one of the local parish churches and painted the well known Pilatus house which is now used as a craft gallery with wood carving demonstrations and has an attractive small formal garden. In the 20th century the religious themes were extended to fairy tales and some of the Bavarian painted houses are covered with scenes from Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel using the same traditional style.
Enjoy a hassle-free tour to Linderhof Palace, the quaint little town of Oberammergau, home of the Passion Play, and finally the most visited castle in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle, in the heart of the Bavarian Alps
If you’d like to learn more about the history of wood carving in Oberammergau you can visit the small local history museum in the centre of town with displays of modern and traditional carvings and objects – the craft is very much alive today and you can see demonstrations in locations such as the Pilatus House.
Read more from this trip: A pilgrimage to see the Black Madonna at Altötting in Germany
There are plenty of shops in Oberammergau selling the carved, painted wooden figures and crucifix and others selling wooden toys and Christmas decorations. The town is well worth a visit in the summer with plenty of beautiful walks in the surrounding mountains and is a good base to see local cultural attractions such as the decorative Royal Palace and gardens at Linderhof and the Benedictine Abbey at Ettal.
Explore more of the region on this day-trip to the splendid castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, lunch in Hohenschwangau, and through the little town of Oberammergau
Hotels in Oberammergau
If you are booking your accommodation independently or visiting outside the period of the Oberammergau Passion Play, here are some hotels in Oberammergau that we recommend, but if none of these suit you, look at other hotels in Oberammergau.
Hotel Maximilian in Oberammergau – A 5 star Alpine design hotel that’s centrally located in the heart of Oberammergau, with a spa and sauna, a traditional Bavarian bar and upscale restaurant.
Romantik Hotel Böld in Oberammergau – located by the river Ammer, on the edge of Oberammergau town centre, this 4 star hotel offers contemporary Bavarian decor and scenic views of the Alps.
Parkhotel Sonnenhof in Oberammergau – A 55 room 4 star Alpine style hotel with spa and indoor swimming pool, that’s on the edge of Oberammergau, just across the river from the old town.
Oberammergau Passion Play – Visitor Resources
Our 5 day tour to the Oberammergau Passion Play and other places in the region was booked with Pax Travel who organise holidays to many other pilgrimage destinations.
Looking for a guide to the Oberammergau passion play? We recommend The Pilgrim’s Guide to Oberammergau. If you need a guidebook for visiting Germany we recommend the DK Eyewitness Germany Travel Guide or the Lonely Planet Germany Travel Guide.
More articles about Oberammergau and the Passion Play
More articles about our visit to Altötting from this trip to Bavaria
A pilgrimage to see the Black Madonna at Altötting in Germany
Hotels in Altötting – Review of Hotel Zur Post
Bavarian Lake swimming in the Badesee near Altötting
Delicious Bavarian Food – Wiener Schnitzel and cherries
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