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The sound of Benedictine monks singing could be heard high on the Andechs Hill above the German countryside: “Veritas mea, et misericordia mea, cum ipso: et in nomine meo, exaltabitur, exultabitur, cornu ejus, cornu ejus.” Welcome to the Andechs Monastery!
Pilgrims have been visiting the Benedictine monks at the Andechs Abbey here for centuries, however the pilgrims today come for a rather atypical reason – they come for the beer. On a summer’s day, the sound of clanking glasses can be heard loudly over the Benedictine chants in the outdoor beer garden that seats over 3,000 people!
History of the Andechs Monastery
The Andechs Monastery (called Kloster Andechs in German) has been on the pilgrimage map since the 11th Century when pilgrims began visiting this German abbey to see relics from the Third Crusade instead of trekking all the way to the Vatican in Italy. The abbey boasts that it has a part of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus.
The benevolent monks built the Andechs brewery in 1455 to help pilgrims quench their thirst after the rather challenging climb up to the abbey. To this day, the Andechser Brewery is still monastic owned and run, and you’ll see monks on the hillside and in the courtyards in their robes.
I first made my own pilgrimage here in the summer of 1999. It was a lengthy pilgrimage to this monastery near Munich that lasted about an hour, but was well worth the effort. To a young man who was still unable to drink back in the United States, it made a significant impression. I quickly fell in love with Andechs beer and the German monastery high on the hill above the Ammersee (Lake Ammer).
We recently repeated the pilgrimage to the monastery and brewery while driving back to Munich from Liechtenstein. It was the perfect spot to stop for lunch, enjoy a beer, and a delicious pork loin. German monastery food seems to have improved considerably in the last few decades!
After lunch, I visited the grounds of the Abbey. The highlight is the ornate, gilded Baroque church built in 1712. It was a bit over the top for my tastes, but seems inspiring to many.
It is also the final resting place of composer Carl Orff and you can see his final resting place just off the main church. Orff is best known as the composer of “Carmina Burana.” Visiting his resting place, you can almost hear his most famous work in your head: “O Fortuna, velut luna, statu variabilis, semper crrescis, aut decrescis.” (Loosely translated: O fortune, like the moon, changeable, ever growing, and waning.)
After thinking about his song, the moon iconography on the clock located on the side of the abbey tower makes a bit more sense.
This monastery isn’t far from the famed Romantic Road touring route in Southern Germany. If you’re driving (or walking or biking) the Romantic Road, this can make a nice diversion. T
o visit, get off the Romantic Road at Landsberg am Lech, head around the Ammersee to the monastery and then resume the Romantic Road drive at Hohenfurch. You won’t miss anything in between, and you’ll be able to visit the one of the best monasteries in Germany!
It is also located between Munich and the Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. If you are doing a day-trip to the castles and have a car, this would be a great spot to stop in the afternoon.
Whether your interest in Andechs is religious, musical or culinary, there is something for everyone high on his little mountain outside of Munich. I can think of no better way to spend a day in the German countryside.
How to Get to Andechs Monastery
One of the most common questions about visiting Andechs is how to get there. Most people visit Andechs as a day trip from Munich. There are a couple of ways of getting to Andechs.
It takes about an hour to reach Andechs from Munich. The easiest way to of getting to the monastery from Munich is on the S-bahn Train #8, which departs Munich city center every 20 minutes. The trip takes about 45 minutes from Munich to the village of Herrsching, which is at the bottom of the hill. From there, you have four options:
Taxi. There can be a handful of taxis at the Herrsching train station. Hire one to take you up the hill. This will be the fastest (and most expensive) option to get from Herrsching to Andechs.
Public Bus. There is a public bus to monastery (MVV #951) that goes from the Herrsching train station up the hill. The bus runs rather infrequently (every 2 hours to every 30-40 minutes or so depending on time of day and day of the week).
Private Bus. There’s a private shuttle bus that runs about every 15-20 minutes.
Walk. There’s a forest path that goes up the hill for a total distance of about 5km. The path is generally well signposted. The duration of the Herrsching to Andechs walk varies depending on your level of fitness, with most people doing the hike in between 60 and 90 minutes. When you get the top, you’ll definitely have earned your beer!
By far the easiest way to reach Andechs is to drive out from Munich. There’s a large, paved car park just below the abbey. The parking lot has a payment kiosk and you can select the amount of time. You’ll save significant time in transit if you drive yourself. We recommend getting a rental car in Munich and doing the drive yourself!
The one downside here is that someone needs to be the designated driver. German drunk driving laws are particularly severe (rightly so!), so don’t even tempt it.