Frutillar: a taste of Germany in southern Chile

Even the name of the town Frutillar sounds delicious, and with a culinary heritage as rich as its cuisine, Frutillar is known for gastronomic pleasures.

The German immigrants who settled the area in 1856 were attracted to the shores of Lake Llanquihue because of its similarity to Switzerland’s Lake Geneva. These hearty meal makers found a comfortable haven in Frutillar, and passed cherished old-country recipes down through generations, preserving a distinct Swiss-German sensation in southern Chile.

At first sight, modern-day Frutillar seems utopian. Sturdy wood houses with Germanic architecture and artistic craftsmanship inhabit peaceful streets. But it is the scent of fresh-baked cakes and warm bread mingling with the soft lake breeze that creates an invitation – a comfortable sensation of being home.

Bakeries and tea houses are easily spotted (and smelled) on Frutillar’s main avenues, especially waterfront Avenida Phillippi, where you can also find hotels and restaurants serving delectable German dishes and artisanal beers. The nearby Museo Colonial Alemán (German Colonial Museum), on Avenida Vicente Pérez Rosales, describes the area’s unique history.

But the real treat in Frutillar is its phenomenal pastries.

“Frutillar” is a Spanish word that literally means a patch of strawberries – appropriate since the most famous German pastry in Chile is kuchen (pronounced “ku-hen”), a tart that can be made with strawberries or other fruit. An equivalent delicacy is the strudel, stuffed with cream and berries or apples, and Frutillar’s bakers seem to be engaged in a friendly competition to prepare the best.

The only way to truly locate the most delicious pastries in Frutillar, though, is to attempt to test them all!

Frutillar – a sensory destination.

Feast your eyes across azure Lake Llanquihue to the distant, snow-capped Osorno Volcano on the far side, a stunning view augmented by green pastures, tranquil forests and quaint Dutch architecture that brings dollhouses to mind. Listen to spontaneous folk music in the streets, or visit the acclaimed Teatro del Lago (Theater of the Lake), constructed over the lake itself, to hear professional concerts throughout the year. Run your fingers through the fresh, moist lake air as it touches your skin, or visit a local spa for a deep massage. And of course, smell and taste Frutillar’s hand-kneaded sweets with steaming tea or coffee at a charming family bakery.

When to go

Visit Frutillar at any time of the year, but for an enhanced experience, take advantage of photographic opportunities afforded by the full moon hovering vivid over the lake and accompanying the picturesque volcano.

The Semanas Musicales (Music Weeks) concert series is another powerful attraction, held during the summer at the Teatro del Lago.

Whenever you decide to go, don’t forget to buy a kuchen or strudel for the trip home.

Where to stay

Try the historic Hotel Bauernhaus, a century-old German tea house and hotel offering luxurious accommodations, located on Avenida Phillippi.

Other hotels and hostels can be found in the same area, or one could choose to stay in the larger town of Puerto Varas, a 30-minute drive along the scenic shores of Lake Llanquihue.

How to arrive

Frutillar is 25 km from Puerto Varas and 63 km from Osorno, and can be easily reached by car.

Lake Llanquihue and the Osorno Volcano (Photo by Gretchen Stahlman)
By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel

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