Frauenchiemsee (or Fraueninsel) is the smaller of the lake's two major islands. On its sandy shore is a fishing village that holds an elaborate festival at Corpus Christi (usually late May). Fishing boats are covered with flowers and streamers, fishers are outfitted in Bavarian garb, and young women of the village dress as brides. As the boats circle the island, they stop at each corner for the singing of the Gospels. The island is also the home of a Benedictine convent, Frauenchiemsee Abbey, founded in 782, which makes it the oldest in Germany. The convent is known for a liqueur called Kloster Likör -- it's supposed to be an "agreeable stomach elixir."
You can walk around the island in about 30 minutes, enjoying panoramic views of the lake. Torhalle (tel. 08054/7256), a summer-only art gallery, is in the ancient hall that used to be the gatehouse of the Frauenwörth convent. Admission is 2.50€ for adults, 1.50€ for students, and free for children 11 and under. The hall is open only May to October daily 11am to 6pm.
Herrenchiemsee (or Herreninsel) is home to the fantastic Neues Schloss (also known as Königschloss), Herrenchiemsee 3 (tel. 08051/68870; www.herren-chiemsee.de), begun by Ludwig II in 1878. Never completed, the castle was to have been a replica of Versailles, which Ludwig admired. When work stopped with Ludwig's death in 1886, only the center of the palace had been completed. Nonetheless, the palace and its formal gardens, surrounded by woodlands of beech and fir, remain one of the grandest and most fascinating of Ludwig's constructions.
The palace entrance is lit by a huge skylight over the sumptuously decorated staircase. Frescoes depicting the four states of existence alternate with Greek and Roman statues in niches on the staircase and in the gallery above. The vestibule is adorned with a pair of enameled peacocks, Louis XIV's favorite bird.
The Great Hall of Mirrors is unquestionably the most splendid room, and the most authentic replica of Versailles. The 17 door panels contain enormous mirrors reflecting 33 crystal chandeliers and 44 gilded candelabras. The vaulted ceiling is covered with 25 paintings depicting the life of Louis XIV.
Practically every inch of the state bedroom has been gilded. On the dais, instead of a throne, is a richly decorated bed, its purple-velvet draperies weighing more than 135 kilograms (300 lb.). Separating the dais from the rest of the room is a carved wooden balustrade covered with gold leaf. On the ceiling, a huge fresco depicts the descent of Apollo, surrounded by the other gods of Olympus. The sun god's features bear a strong resemblance to those of Louis XIV.
The dining room is a popular attraction for visitors because of the so-called "little table that sets itself." A mechanism in the floor permitted the table to go down to the room below to be cleared and relaid between courses. Over the table hangs an exquisite chandelier of Meissen porcelain, the largest in the world and the single-most-valuable item in the palace.
You can visit Herrenchiemsee year-round. From April to September, tours run daily 9am to 6pm. Off season, they run daily 9:40am to 4pm. Admission (in addition to the round-trip boat fare) is 8€ for adults, 7€ for students, and free for children 17 and under.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.