FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Rose Island and the missing palace

Posted in Feldafing, Germany by folkestonejack on June 5, 2015

Our good progress with our sightseeing plans opened up the opportunity to make one last trip out of Munich and take a look at Feldafing Park, a spot on the Starnberger See where Maximillian II planned to build a massive summer palace.

Maffei-Kapelle overlooking Feldafing Park and the Starnberger See

Maffei-Kapelle overlooking Feldafing Park and the Starnberger See

The early death of the king in 1864 stopped building work in its tracks. The palace had progressed no farther than the foundations (to be fair, construction only began in 1863) and the successful landscaping of the grounds. The project was abandoned and the untended park soon became wildly overgrown. It is said that the bricks from the foundations were removed to build the railway stations at Feldafing and Possenhofen, whilst the finest tree were transferred to Ludwig’s new palaces.

Although the palace and park were lost to history, one element was completed and spared from neglect – a secluded garden retreat known as the ‘Casino’ situated on an island 160 metres from the shoreline. The island, better known today as Roseninsel (Rose Island), featured a small villa and a circular rose bed planted with over 1300 roses. Here, Ludwig II found the perfect location to entertain guests such as the Czarina Maria Alexandrovna and Empress Elizabeth of Austria.

After the death of Ludwig II the island too succumbed to nature and the villa fell into disrepair. The island and park are now owned by the Bavarian state. Restoration work on the villa and rose garden started in 1998 and was sufficiently well progressed to be opened to the public in 2003, in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary, though the upper floor of the villa did not open until two years later. The island is now open to the public from May to October, though the best time of year to visit is around mid-June or mid-August to get the best of the rose blooms. They were just starting to come out when we visited, but must be wonderful at their peak.

The rose garden

The rose garden

One distinctive feature of the garden is a 5 metre tall blue and white glass pillar, topped by a sculpture of a girl feeding a parrot, which was carefully restored in 2001. The original was one of three gifted by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (the others were installed at the Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam, and at Peterhof, outside St Petersburg). It certainly looks striking set amongst the circle of roses.

The villa itself is an interesting place to visit, with some exquisite touches, even though it is much plainer than Hohenschwangau Castle. I particularly liked the wood-panelled dining room on the first floor which was decorated with wall paintings depicting the seasons, a ceramic fireplace held aloft by two figures and small statuettes of Victory atop wooden columns around the walls. It is all rather charming and must have been a wonderful place to get away from the pressures of court life.


To get to Feldafing Park we took the S-Bahn (S6) to Feldafing. After leaving the station we walked along Bahnhof Strasse for a short way before taking a turning that led us onto a footpath ending at the Maffei-Kapelle and a rather splending war memorial (1951) nearby. From here we crossed Tutzinger Strasse and followed another footpath through the golf course which brought us to the landing stage for ferries to Roseninsel (Platanen-Rondell). I think there are a few variations on this route from the signs we saw along the way!

The landing point on Roseninsel

The landing point on Roseninsel

A small ferry runs visitors across the water on demand for a small charge (4 euros return) and tours of the villa are available in German during Tuesday-Sunday afternoons. Tours were running hourly on the day we visited (a Friday) at quarter past the hour and tickets should be purchased from the nearby gardener’s house. Our tour guide took us on a fairly leisurely tour around the property for around half an hour, covering the recent prehistoric finds and plantlife on the island, as much as on the history of the building itself.

The small shop in the gardener’s house sells copies of the official guidebook (in German only) and a map guide to Feldafing Park and Rose Island (available in English and German).

There is no cafe on the island, nor at the ferry stages, so any food or drink needs to be brought with you. Plenty of visitors seemed happy enough just to wander round the island or strip down to their trunks for a swim, rather than all coming to view the villa. Admittedly, it was 33 degrees on the day we arrived so I think the swimmers were quite right to ignore the interior!