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Oberammergau Passion Play - Europe's Once-a-decade Show You Have to See

17th July 2017

It only happens once every 10 years; the most famous Passion Play in the world sees the picturesque Bavarian hamlet of Oberammergau come to life in a way like never before. Travellers flock to Germany from all corners of the Globe for the rare chance to witness this striking dramatisation of the resurrection of Christ.

If there was ever a show in Europe that you had to see, it is this – and it’s just over one hour’s drive south of Munich.

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Passion Play theatre Oberammergau
The Passion Play theatre at night in Oberammergau. Image: Collette

Origins of the Oberammergau Passion Play

The Oberammergau Passion Play is renowned for its beauty and detail and it has a fascinating history.

After Oberammergau was struck by the bubonic plague in 1633, the townspeople swore an oath that they would perform the "Play of the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ" every 10 years if the village was spared. Miraculously, it worked, and true to their promise the locals performed their first Passion Play in 1634.

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Oberammergau Passion Play.
The 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play will be the 42nd show season. Image: Collette.

Since then, this tradition has continued as pledged for nearly 400 years, making it one of the biggest and most important shows in history. 

Anticipation Builds for 2020

The next Oberammergau Passion Play season is set for 2020 and is expected to draw almost 500,000 spectators to 102 performances (five every week, from May to October). The play is staged in a purpose-built venue that was constructed in 1929 after the play’s popularity boomed; with capacity to seat 4800 people, the auditorium could almost seat the entire village itself.

There will be more than 2000 actors, choir singers, orchestral musicians and stage technicians to bring the show to life – all of whom must come from the village, since a special play law is in effect. Animals stars like sheep, goats, donkeys and even camels make special appearances too.

The 2020 performance of the Oberammergau Passion Play may still be a couple of years away, but the excitement is already building and as for the tickets, they are already going on sale.

There are many ways include this extraordinary experience in your European holiday plans – including independent travel as well as inspiring land and river cruise tour itineraries that include tickets to the play.

Pre-register your interest in the Oberammergau Passion Play 2020 and we’ll keep you in the loop on how to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event!

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Oberammergau village streets.
Oberammergau is a lovely village nestled in an alpine valley.

5 Ways to Make Oberammergau Even Better

Once the curtains close, the show doesn't stop. Don’t miss these local experiences to round-out your once-in-a-lifetime Oberammergau experience.

Peat therapy

A little pampering can go a long way and especially so in Bad Kohlgrub and Bad Bayersoien – two lovely spa towns just north of Oberammergau. There are various treatments on offer but the “moor mud baths” are a must-try local experience. For this, peat is heated with water and steam; peat is a natural medicine said to help with conditions such as gout and muscle and joint pains that is naturally found in the pine moors of the Ammergau Alps.

Linderhof Palace

One thing Bavaria promises is fairytale castles galore and just 14 kilometres from Oberammergau stands the enchanting Linderhof Palace – a legacy, like many of the others, of King Ludwig II. A baroque-rococo affair, it’s an opulent affair through and through; the grand interior is adorned in mirrors, glitzy chandeliers and hand-crafted ornamentals while the beautifully manicured gardens and quirky outbuildings set a most magical backdrop.

Outdoors adventure

With so many mountains in its midst, there’s no denying the opportunity for outdoor fun and adventure on Oberammergau’s doorstep. Once you’re done admiring the pretty peaks peering down over the town, get up there via the Kolben Chair Lift. There are great forest trails to hike and bike and from November to March, the layer of snow makes it a haven for keen skiers and snowboarders.

Ettal Monastery

This Benedictine abbey with its castle-like grounds is splendidly sprawled beneath the forested mountains of Ettal – Oberammergau’s neighbouring village. Established by a Bavarian duke in the early 1300s and later expanded in baroque style, it’s now Germany’s largest Benedictine monastery and home to around 50 monks. Admire the architecture before stepping inside the stunning domed abbey church, then top it off with a visit to the on-site brewery and distillery to sample beers and liqueurs made by the monks.


Laber Mountain views in Bavaria, Germany.
Discover beautiful views atop Laber Mountain.

A scenic lunch

Want some summit views without all the effort? Jump on the vintage gondola that glides up Laber Mountain to the highest peak fronting onto Oberammergau. At the top you’ll discover a summit restaurant dishing up traditional Bavarian fare with a side of awe-worthy 1684-metre-high panoramas. On a clear day, the views stretch as far as Munich, with a slew of beautiful lakes, valleys and mountains before it. 

Stay the night

While Oberammergau is a hive of colour and activity during the day as tourists venture to and from the play and explore the main streets to admire the lovely houses and wood carving crafts that have flourished here since the 12th century, it’s a completely different scene by night. Stay the night for your chance to feel as though you have a charming Bavarian village nestled in a lush alpine valley all to yourself. 

Want to know more? Pre-register your interest in the Oberammergau Passion Play 2020 and we’ll send you all the latest news on how to experience this once-in-a-lifetime show!