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Munich, a village in comparison to Berlin, yet you can still feel the hustle and bustle of this ever growing Bavarian capital. Lederhosen and Suits make for an unlikely combination as the city is still deeply rooted in traditions while at the same time is a business powerhouse within the European economy. But there is sooo much to see and do beyond just coming for the world’s most famous beer festival, Oktoberfest.
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Munich is one of those cities that for me took a couple of visits before I truly began to appreciate its charm. It gets incredibly busy and touristy, it’s a bit expensive and traffic is terrible. But beyond those negative bits, Munich is really a wonderful city with amazing architecture, beautiful parks, fascinating history, great shopping and is a food lover’s paradise, not to mention the beer!! So I’ll be sharing with you 25+ things to do in Munich from an expat’s point of view! Munich is one of those cities where there is no best or bad time of year to visit, however, being a fall lover, I personally find the weather more enjoyable in Munich in autumn, plus if you’re looking for the best fall festivals in Germany, than visiting at the end of September for Oktoberfest is always a great time of year to come.
History of Munich
Founded in 1158, Munich was the seat of the Wittelsbach dynasty in 1255, of which King Ludwig II who built Schloss Neuschwanstein came from. However, the town was always out shined by its neighboring cities of Augsburg and even Nuremberg until it became the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria (which some Bavarians still claims to exist). The capital continued to prosper until it became a breading ground for the Nazi movement after the First World War ultimately leading to disaster during the Second World War. Thankfully it has all been restored to its former glory and is the beating heart of Bavaria and is today one of the number one top towns to visit in Southern Germany.
Getting Around Munich
Getting from the Munich Airport to Munich City Center is relatively easy as you will leave the airport, and head down to the underground train station where you will grab the Please use the S1 or S8 to Munich City Center with departures about every 10 minutes. However, navigating Munich’s Public Transport system comes with many tricks, but have no fear, it’s one of the easiest to navigate and most of the sights are within easy walking distance nonetheless.
Munich’s Old Town
Begin any sightseeing trip to Munich by starting at Karlstor (Karl’s Gate) which is the west entrance into the old town and was once part of the medieval walls. The old city walls were demolished in 1791 to make room for the ever growing city. If you’re coming from the Main Train Station you will most likely walk through this gate. From here, meander down Neuhauser Strasse and shop till you drop!
2. Go Shopping for Lederhosen & Dirndl
There is never a moment when you’re in Munich when you won’t find locals wearing their Lederhosen and Dirndl. Traditionally worn on special occasions, the locals here don’t seem to care. Every day is a special occasion here so why not go shopping and grab some traditional Tracht either as a souvenir or for Oktoberfest! Throughout the city you will find many stores to help you look like a local in Munich!
The Augustiner Brewery is the oldest and most celebrated brewery which was established by Augustinian monks in 1328. Inside you’ll find elaborate interior decorations and a lively atmosphere for clicking beers and enjoying traditional Bavarian cuisine! You can find it along Landsbergerstrasse, the main shopping street in Munich.
Standing tall over Munich is the twin onion domed towers of the Frauenkirche which is the largest Gothic building in southern Germany and the is the icon of Munich. It was built in a record breaking 20 years, at a time where building such grandiose buildings took on average 600+ years to build and is one of the most famous sights to see in Munich!
5. Neues Rathaus & Marienplatz
The true gem of the city is without a doubt the impressive Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) designed in a Flemish Gothic style reminiscent of Brussel’s City Hall. Dominating the busy Marienplatz, the New City Hall replaced the older version just feet away in the late 19th century. This is THE number one point of interest in Munich and where most visits begin!
Taking the Elevator up the Rathaus Tower:
Open Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm. Closed on weekends and public holidays.
- Children 7-18: 1 €
- Adults 2,50 €
- Family: 6 €
6. Rathaus Glockenspiel
The Rathaus Glockenspiel (Clock chimes) is famous for drawing onlookers to stop and watch the mechanical dancers, musicians and jousting knights in celebration of the marriage of Wilhelm V. For amazing views over the city, take the elevator up the Rathaus Tower.
Watching the Clock Chime:
Since 1908, figurines representing stories from Munich’s history twirl on two levels daily at 11:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (the 5:00 p.m. show is omitted from November through February).
7. Eat at the Ratskeller
Located in the inner courtyard of the city hall, you’ll find the Ratskeller which serves traditional Bavarian cuisine and beer and has been open since 1874. It has been rated as one of the top places to eat in Munich!
8. Altes Rathaus: Spielzeugmuseum
Just feet away from the Rathaus is the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) which dates back to 1470-1480 but today houses the Toy Museum. Inside you’ll find old-fashioned doll houses, model trains and teddy bears.
9. Peterskirche Tower
If you’re looking for one of the absolute best things to do in Munich, then look no further! Overlooking Marienplatz is Munich’s oldest church, Peterskirche (Peter’s Church) dating back to 1368. For the ultimate view over Munich and the Neues Rathaus, you’ll have to trek up the narrow winding staircase leading to the most stunning panorama of Munich and is easily one of the top things to do in Munich. Trust me, this is one tower you will DEFINITELY want to climb!
Climbing the Tower:
The tower is open Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm during the summer, 10 am- 6:30pm on weekends. During the winter, the tower is open Monday – Friday 9am – 5:30pm and on weekends from 10am – 5:30pm.
Entrance: 2 €
Just behind and to the right of the Altes Rathaus, you can find Viktualienmarkt, which is the city’s famous open-air food market that has been here for the last 200 years! You’ll find all sorts of meats, sausages, vegetables, flowers, knickknacks and more. They say that one who doesn’t check out the heart of Munich, can never boast that he has seen Munich. In the center of the market is the Maibaum with the traditional blue and white stripes which represent the colors of Bavaria. This is one of the best budget-friendly places in Munich to come for cheap food!
The most famous tavern in the world and sought after beer hall in Munich is without a doubt Höfbrauhaus with a history dating back to 1589. Here you’ll find men and women in their traditional Lederhosen and Dirndl, extra large pretzels and maß krugs (1 liter beer glasses). Throughout the beer hall, you’ll find elaborate signs with names designating the table to a specific Stammtisch group – groups of locals who gather often to chat and drink! It was also here that Hitler infamously proclaimed the 25 theses for the Nazi Party. It will be crowded here and difficult to find a table, but don’t give up hope! You simply can’t leave without visiting one of the must-see attractions in Munich!
Officially known as the Church of St. John Nepomuk but is often referred to as Asamkirche after the Asam brothers who built it between 1733-1746. Intended as their very own family chapel, they had little restraints when it came to designing this opulent chapel influenced by both Bohemian and Italian Baroque styles. They were famous for building other magnificent churches for example at Weltenburg Abbey.
13. The Residenz
The enormous royal palace complex, the Residenz is located in one of the most elegant parts of Munich. The streets are lined with lovely cafes, palaces and the opera house. Until 1918 the Residenz was the home of the Wittelsbach dynasty (the family related to King Ludwig II). While the outside might certainly looks like a bunch of buildings crammed together, it’s actually quite stunning on the inside and certainly worth taking a look around!
14. Rub the Lion for luck
Just outside of the Residenz, standing guard to the entrance into the Royal Palace are multiple Lions holding a shield. To feel like a local, rub the no shiny portion on the statue to bring luck. You will see locals walking by and casually touching to bring them luck.
15. The Residenzmuseum
Inside the Residenz museum are some of the most spectacular rooms, which includes the Antiquarium is one of the top sights to see at the Residenz which was originally built to house Duke Albrecht’s collection of antiquities but was later remodeled into a banqueting hall by his successors.
16. The Schatzkammer
As one of the largest royal treasury houses in Europe, you can expect to find some magnificent examples of royal insignia from the Kingdom of Bavaria as well as many other shiny objects. You definitely don’t want to miss the Schatzkammer! For the record, can I have one please??
17. Cuvilliés Theater
Crossing the Brunnenhof (Fountain courtyard), you’ll come to the exquisite red and gold court theater, the Cuvilliés Theater. The extravagance of the theater only managed to survive the bombing of Munich during WWII because the carved tiers of boxes were removed for safekeeping. The entire building was destroyed during the war and was replaced by the modern theater that is now there and is still in use.
18. Feldherrnhalle and the Theatinerkirche (St. Cajetan)
Dominating Odeonsplatz just next to the Residenz is Feldherrnhalle which was built to shelter two statues of Bavarian generals which was the location of the “people’s revolution” by Hitler and 2,000 of his followers on November 8, 1923 who were stopped by police in front of the Feldherrnhalle. After this Hitler was imprisoned and in 1933, when he came to power, this moment was known as the “Hitler Putsch” (revolt) and a central moment in the Nazi party.
Standing brightly next to Feldherrnhalle is the Theatinerkirche built in a pure Roman Baroque fashion to celebrate the long awaited birth of a son to Elector Ferdinand and his wife. The church was completed 100 years later and today is the burial site of the Wittelbach dynasty.
Directly behind the Residenz and between the English Garden is the Hofgarten, one of the loveliest parks in Munich built between 1613-1617. In the center of the garden is a lovely little pavilion for the goddess of Diana – the goddess of hunt, the moon and nature.
20. The English Garten
In 1789, an American suggested that the 5km of marshy land along the Isar River be transformed into an English style park and today is enjoyed by the citizens of Munich. It is one of the largest parks in Europe with plenty to do. You can have a picnic here or if you’re brave enough, lay out at the designated nudist section of the park visible to all park goers. Autumn is the best time of year to visit Germany when the country is ablaze in deep reds, yellows and oranges.
21. Chinesischer Turm
The landmark biergarten surrounding the Chinesisher Turm (Chinese Tower) is located in the center of the park. Here you can enjoy live Bavarian brass music while enjoying traditional Bavarian cuisine and beer from the self-service biergarten open during the warmer months. It’s honestly one the best biergartens in Munich! You could have a pleasant walk to the Chinese Tower in warmer months, but if you’re short on time, I suggest taking the bus to get there – Bus 58 from the Munich HBF and a return bus ride from the Chinese Tower to Munich HBF take Bus 68.
22. Watch the Surfers at the Eisbach
If you’re looking for something rather cool and unusual to do in Munich, stopping to watch surfers hit the waves in a river is probably something you might never think you would see! Despite being extremely far away from the nearest beach with good waves, Germans have found a way around this problem. A popular sporting event for tourists to enjoy on their meandering walk through the English Garden are the surfers at the Eisbach. Munich is the birthplace of river surfing and has been around since the 70s. The river never gets above 59*F/15*C.
23. Eat Weißwurst
You simply can’t leave Munich without having a traditional Bavarian breakfast, Weißwurst – a type of seasoned white sausage. Typically you are served 2 white sausages with a pretzel and sweet mustard for dipping. To eat it, you must slice your sausage down the middle and carefully peel the skin off with your knife. True Bavarians will suck it out of the skin. Eating a Weißwurst in Munich is one of the top traditional meals to eat while in Bavaria!
24. Buy a Lebkuchen heart
Typically found at all beer festivals and Christmas markets can be found in Munich 24/7. This is a traditional Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookie) in the shape of a heart which can also be worn as a necklace with different phrases written on them, ranging from “I love you”, “My Princess”, “The biggest heart of the best person in the world!”. If you don’t unwrap it, the hearts will last for an eternity, so you can also save it as a souvenir.
25. Go to Oktoberfest
The single most amazing thing to do in Munich is to go to Oktoberfest at least once in your life. If you’re a beer lover, this is the ULTIMATE beer festival which doesn’t actually take place in October! Actually, it takes place during the last two weeks of September. The festival began as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Theresa von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. Over time, as the festival got larger, the dates were pulled forward into September. I’ve written a detailed post on everything you need to know about Oktoberfest to prep you before your day of debauchery!
26. Schloss Nymphenburg
Not far from the city center, but necessary to get there by U-bahn is one of the loveliest things to do in Munich, the Schloss Nymphenburg which is where King Ludwig II of Bavaria was born. He would eventually build Schloss Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee and Linderhof. The inside of the palace has magnificent ceiling frescoes that you could just stare at all day. Outside of the palace are lovely gardens to enjoy a leisurely walk through. You may even catch a glimpse of some swans swimming in the fountains. On beautiful days, you can now take a gondola ride around the fountains.
27. Dachau Concentration Camp
Established in March 1933 during the Nazi era, the Dachau Concentration Camp was the model for all subsequent camps and was highly publicized. During its 12 years, more than 200,000 people were imprisoned here during the Second World War, of which 43,000 of them died. Entrance to the camp is the Nazis’ disgusting joke “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work makes you free) on the gate to the camp. Inside, you’ll now find a memorial to those who were forced to endure such terrible conditions, see the bunkers and the gas chambers. Everyone should visit a concentration camp at least once in their lives and if you’re looking for an educational day trip from Munich, than Dachau will be incredibly enlightening.
Open daily from 9am – 5pm. Entrance is free for all. To get here take the S2 from Munich then take bus #726 to the KZ-Gedenkstätte.
28. Starnbergersee or Ammersee
For Munich residents looking to escape the concrete jungle, many head to either Lake Starnberg or Lake Ammer for easy day trips from Munich, which can be easily reached with the S-bahn.
Also known as the Princes’ Lake, this is where the Bavarian King Ludwig II was mysteriously found dead along with his doctor in June 1886. Here you’ll find parks for children, luxurious bars and cafes along the river bank as well as boat tours. If you’re interested, you can also rent a paddle boat. The town itself is home to some of the wealthiest communities in Germany and the lake is reachable by taking the #6 S-bahn from Munich.
Reflecting the somewhat more simple style, Ammersee is often referred to as the Farmers’ Lake. In the lakeside town of Herrsching, you’ll find a pleasant path to walk along the shores of the lake leading to the Kurparkschlössl (Little Castle) built in 1888 by the artist Ludwig Scheuermann. To get here, take the #8 S-bahn from Munich.
Where to Stay in Munich:
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Hilton Munich City – a S-bahn ride away from the heart of Munich, this Hilton hotel provides comfy rooms and a fabulous breakfast!!
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Holiday Inn Munich City Centre – Just down the street from the Hilton Munich City, the Holiday Inn is incredibly comfy and provides a large international breakfast, including Bavarian cuisine!
For more great sights to see around Munich:
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!