In Europe

Munich, Germany | A Two-Day Travel Guide

things to do in munich
Photo by ian kelsall on Unsplash

Munich stands as a testament to the resilience and richness of German culture, effortlessly bridging the gap between ancient traditions and futuristic innovation. The list of things to do in Munich could absorb a traveler for months on end. This Bavarian capital tells a tale of destruction and rebirth, proudly displaying landmarks that have withstood the test of time alongside modern marvels of architecture and technology. The city’s historical significance is undeniable, with landmarks such as the Frauenkirche and Nymphenburg Palace offering glimpses into a regal past, while the sprawling English Garden invites locals and visitors alike to bask in Munich’s natural beauty. Yet, it’s the city’s commitment to preserving its heritage, as seen in the meticulous restoration of the Altstadt (Old Town), that truly captivates the imagination.

Munich’s unique appeal lies not just in its historical sites but in its vibrant cultural scene and the warmth of its people. The annual Oktoberfest is a phenomenon that draws visitors from across the globe, eager to partake in the revelry and sample the famed Bavarian hospitality. However, Munich’s charm extends beyond this famed festival. The city’s art galleries, such as the Pinakothek museums, boast collections that span centuries, offering a feast for the senses to art aficionados. Moreover, Munich serves as a culinary crossroads, where traditional Bavarian dishes share the table with innovative cuisine, reflecting the city’s diverse and welcoming spirit. In essence, there’s a unique blend of things to do in Munich, offering solemn history, artistic richness, and a lively social atmosphere, making it an indispensable stop for any traveler seeking to immerse themselves in the heart of German culture.

Want to extend your trip? Check out this list of things to do in Berlin and other unique places to visit in Germany.

Where is Munich?

Munich, nestled in the southeast of Germany, serves as the heartbeat of Bavaria, lying at a comfortable distance from the Alps’ majestic peaks and the serene waters of Lake Starnberg. This positioning offers a unique blend of urban sophistication and natural splendor, providing an appealing contrast to the city’s bustling streets. Munich is strategically situated, making it a pivotal junction for exploring the broader Bavarian region and beyond. The city is well-connected, with the Munich International Airport acting as a gateway for travelers from around the globe, while the central train station (München Hauptbahnhof) offers seamless rail connections to major European cities like Vienna, Zurich, and Paris.

Munich’s geographical advantage is complemented by its efficient public transport network, ensuring easy access to both urban attractions and nearby natural landmarks. The city’s proximity to the Alps opens up a world of outdoor adventures, from skiing in winter to hiking during the warmer months, all within a few hours’ drive. Additionally, the romantic road, a popular tourist route starting in Würzburg and ending in Füssen, is easily accessible from Munich, inviting visitors to explore the enchanting castles and quaint towns of Bavaria. Munich’s location, coupled with its transport infrastructure, positions it as a perfect starting point for those looking to delve into the rich tapestry of German history, culture, and nature.

How to get to Munich?

Reaching Munich is a straightforward affair, thanks to its well-established transport links that cater to travelers from near and far. The city’s primary gateway, Munich Airport (Flughafen München), is situated about 30 kilometers northeast of the city center. This international hub is well-serviced by a plethora of airlines, connecting Munich with cities across the globe. Upon landing, visitors can opt for the S-Bahn lines S1 and S8, which offer a direct route to the heart of the city, Munich’s central station (Hauptbahnhof), in around 40 minutes. The Lufthansa Express Bus is another viable option, providing a comfortable ride to the city center with stops at key locations, including the Nordfriedhof and Munich’s central station.

For those venturing from within Europe or Germany, Munich is a major rail hub, with extensive Deutsche Bahn services linking it to various German cities and neighboring countries. The Hauptbahnhof serves as the main railway station, offering not just national and international train services but also local transportation options to navigate the city. From here, the U-Bahn (subway), trams, and buses enable visitors to reach any district of Munich efficiently. For explorers coming from closer locales like Salzburg or Innsbruck, regional trains and buses provide a scenic and budget-friendly journey to Munich, highlighting the lush Bavarian landscape en route.

Travelers should consider purchasing a day ticket (Tageskarte) for unlimited public transport within Munich, available at stations and via the MVV app. This ticket simplifies city exploration, allowing for hassle-free transfers between Munich’s diverse attractions. For those driving into Munich, note that the city center is an Umweltzone (environmental zone), requiring a special sticker that signifies your vehicle meets emission standards. This approach to arriving and navigating Munich ensures that the journey is as enjoyable as the destination itself, laying the groundwork for a memorable visit.

Best time to visit Munich

The ideal time to visit Munich hinges on the experiences one seeks, as the city unfolds different facets of its charm throughout the year. The months from late May to early October offer the most favorable weather, with mild to warm temperatures that are perfect for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions, such as the English Garden or the numerous beer gardens. This period also encompasses the city’s high season, culminating in late September with Oktoberfest, the world-renowned beer festival that attracts millions of visitors. Attending Oktoberfest requires early planning, as accommodations can get scarce and prices tend to rise.

For those interested in a more tranquil visit, spring (March to May) and autumn (October and November) present themselves as excellent choices. Spring in Munich is a time of renewal, with blooming gardens and fewer tourists, making it ideal for those wishing to explore the city’s museums and historical sites at a leisurely pace. Autumn, on the other hand, is adorned with vibrant foliage, and the air is filled with the crispness of the season, perfect for enjoying Munich’s café culture and the post-Oktoberfest calm.

Winter (December to February) in Munich has its own appeal, especially for those who appreciate the festive spirit. The city transforms into a winter wonderland, with Christmas markets (Christkindlmärkte) that offer traditional crafts, foods, and the famous Glühwein (mulled wine). Though the temperatures can be cold, the city’s indoor attractions, including its theaters, operas, and museums, provide warmth and cultural enrichment. Additionally, Munich’s proximity to the Alps makes it a convenient base for winter sports enthusiasts. Ultimately, the best time to visit Munich is determined by what one wishes to experience, with each season offering its own unique set of attractions and events.

Best things to do in Munich

Munich, a city of rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes, offers a plethora of activities catering to a wide array of interests. From exploring historical landmarks and world-class museums to relaxing in vast, green parks and participating in lively festivals, Munich promises an unforgettable experience for every visitor. Whether you’re an art aficionado, a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a culinary explorer, Munich has something special in store for you.

Marienplatz and the New Town Hall

At the heart of Munich’s Altstadt (Old Town), Marienplatz is a bustling square that’s home to the iconic New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus). The square is a great starting point for exploring Munich’s historic center. The New Town Hall’s Glockenspiel, a charming clock that reenacts two stories from the 16th century with its 32 life-sized figures, is a spectacle not to be missed, performing daily at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., with an additional show at 5 p.m. in the summer months.

The English Garden (Englischer Garten)

One of the world’s largest urban parks, the English Garden offers a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. With its sprawling lawns, serene lakes, and winding pathways, it’s perfect for leisurely walks, picnics, and even surfing on the Eisbach River wave. The park also houses several beer gardens, with the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) being one of the most popular spots to enjoy traditional Bavarian food and beer.

Deutsches Museum

Science and technology enthusiasts will find the Deutsches Museum an absolute delight. Located on an island in the River Isar, it’s one of the largest and oldest science museums in the world. The museum’s exhibits cover a wide range of subjects, from physics and energy to transportation and space travel, offering hands-on experiences and demonstrations that engage visitors of all ages.

Viktualienmarkt

Foodies will revel in the Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s daily outdoor farmers market. With over 140 stalls offering fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, flowers, and more, it’s the perfect place to sample local delicacies or grab ingredients for a picnic. Don’t forget to visit the beer garden in the center of the market to experience Munich’s lively beer culture.

Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg)

The Baroque palace and its expansive park are a testament to the opulence of Bavaria’s royal past. Once the summer residence of Bavarian rulers, Nymphenburg Palace is now open to the public, allowing visitors to explore its lavishly decorated rooms and the beautiful gardens that surround it. The palace complex also houses several smaller museums, including the Marstallmuseum, which displays royal carriages and sleighs.

Unique things to do in Munich

Besides the typical list of things to do in Munich, the city offers a range of unique activities that allow visitors to experience its less conventional side. Beyond the well-trodden path of historical sites and museums, the city invites curious travelers to delve into its quirks and hidden gems. From surfers gliding on river waves to beer gardens hidden in the depths of the forest, Munich’s array of unique experiences caters to those seeking something out of the ordinary.

Surf the Eisbach Wave

Tucked away in the English Garden, a continuous, man-made wave on the Eisbach river has become an unlikely surfers’ paradise in the heart of the city. The Eisbach Wave attracts surfers from around the globe and spectators alike, offering a slice of surf culture amidst Munich’s urban landscape. Whether you’re an experienced surfer or just enjoy watching the action, this spot provides a distinctive Munich experience.

Stroll through the Alter Südfriedhof

The Old South Cemetery (Alter Südfriedhof) is not only a place of rest but also a serene park and a piece of Munich’s history. Established in the 16th century, it serves as the final resting place for many notable figures from Munich’s past. Walking through its peaceful paths, visitors can admire the artistry of ancient gravestones and mausoleums, making it a contemplative escape from the city’s hustle.

Visit the Potato Museum (Kartoffelmuseum)

Munich’s Potato Museum may sound unusual, but it’s a fascinating tribute to one of the world’s most essential crops. This small, private museum explores the history, cultivation, and cultural significance of the potato, showcasing a variety of potato-related artifacts and artworks. It’s a quirky and educational stop that highlights the humble tuber’s impact on global cuisine and economy.

Explore Munich’s Artistic Alleyways

The city’s street art scene is vibrant and ever-changing, with numerous alleyways and buildings adorned with murals and graffiti by local and international artists. Areas like Tumblingerstrasse and the Müllerstraße underpass have become open-air galleries, offering a colorful and dynamic contrast to Munich’s historic architecture. A guided street art tour can unveil the stories behind these creative expressions and the artists who made them.

Attend a Midnight Movie at Museum Lichtspiele

Museum Lichtspiele, one of Munich’s oldest cinemas, offers a unique movie-going experience with its midnight screenings. This historic theater, which has been operating since 1910, showcases a mix of cult classics, international films, and current hits in its cozy, retro-styled screening rooms. It’s a perfect way to end a day in Munich, especially for film enthusiasts looking to catch a late-night flick in a unique setting.

Discover the Fairy Tale Forest in the English Garden

Deep within the English Garden lies a hidden gem known as the Märchenbogen, or Fairy Tale Forest. This secluded spot is dotted with whimsical, hand-carved wooden figures depicting scenes from classic fairy tales. It’s a magical retreat that delights visitors of all ages, offering a whimsical escape and a reminder of Germany’s rich storytelling tradition.

Best restaurants in Munich

Munich’s culinary landscape is as diverse and vibrant as the city itself, offering an enticing blend of traditional Bavarian cuisine, international flavors, and innovative dining experiences. From hearty meat dishes and pretzels in historic beer halls to gourmet meals in sleek, modern eateries, the city caters to all tastes and dietary preferences. In recent years, Munich has seen a surge in vegetarian and vegan dining options, reflecting a growing demand for sustainable and health-conscious choices. Whether you’re looking for a lavish dining experience, a cozy café, or a quick bite on the go, Munich’s restaurants provide a gastronomic journey through the flavors of Bavaria and beyond.

Prinz Myshkin

Nestled in the city center, Prinz Myshkin offers a vegetarian and vegan menu that creatively reimagines traditional and international dishes. The restaurant’s elegant, airy interior provides a welcoming atmosphere for diners to enjoy a diverse range of flavors. From Asian-inspired curries to Italian pasta dishes, the menu is designed to satisfy even the most discerning palates. The Prinz Myshkin is a testament to Munich’s evolving culinary scene, proving that vegetarian cuisine can be both delicious and satisfying.

Wirtshaus in der Au

For those seeking an authentic Bavarian dining experience, Wirtshaus in der Au is a must-visit. Famous for its knödel (dumplings), the restaurant serves a variety of traditional dishes in a rustic, convivial setting. Vegetarian options are available, ensuring that everyone can enjoy a taste of Bavaria. The restaurant’s lively atmosphere, complete with live folk music on certain evenings, offers guests a glimpse into Munich’s rich cultural heritage.

Max Pett

As Munich’s premier vegan restaurant, Max Pett invites diners to explore the possibilities of plant-based cuisine. The menu features a range of vegan dishes inspired by global flavors, from hearty stews and salads to delectable desserts. The restaurant’s commitment to sustainability and animal welfare is evident in its carefully sourced ingredients and eco-friendly practices. Max Pett’s serene, minimalist décor provides a tranquil backdrop for a dining experience that is both ethical and enjoyable.

Tantris

For those looking to splurge on a fine dining experience, Tantris is a culinary institution in Munich, renowned for its exceptional cuisine and wine selection. The restaurant’s striking interior, designed in the 1970s, creates a unique and memorable ambiance. While primarily known for its gourmet meat and seafood dishes, Tantris also offers exquisite vegetarian options, crafted with the same attention to detail and flair. A meal at Tantris is not just about the food; it’s an immersive experience that combines art, culture, and gastronomy.

Café Frischhut

Known for its traditional Bavarian pastries, Café Frischhut is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. The café is famous for its schmalznudel, a deep-fried pastry that is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth. Alongside its selection of baked goods, Café Frischhut offers a cozy spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the world go by. The café’s warm, welcoming atmosphere makes it an ideal place for a leisurely breakfast or afternoon snack.

Best hotels in Munich

Munich’s accommodation landscape is as varied and inviting as the city itself, offering a wide array of options to suit every taste and budget. From the opulent grandeur of historic hotels to the cozy charm of boutique inns and the practical comfort of budget-friendly hostels, Munich ensures a memorable stay for all its visitors. The city’s hotels often reflect its rich cultural heritage, offering not just a place to rest but an immersive experience into Bavarian hospitality and design. Whether you’re looking for luxury pampering, a central location to explore the city, or a quiet retreat, Munich’s hotels cater to every preference, making your stay an integral part of the travel experience.

Bayerischer Hof

Standing as a symbol of Munich’s luxurious hospitality since its opening in 1841, the Bayerischer Hof on Promenadeplatz remains one of the city’s most prestigious addresses. This grand hotel offers a blend of timeless elegance and contemporary amenities, with rooms and suites designed by renowned artists. Guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the Blue Spa terrace, indulge in gourmet dining across its five restaurants, and experience live entertainment at the Night Club and Komödie im Bayerischen Hof. The hotel’s prime location also provides easy access to major attractions, making it a splendid base for exploring Munich.

The Flushing Meadows Hotel

For those seeking a more intimate and design-oriented stay, The Flushing Meadows Hotel in the trendy Glockenbachviertel district is a perfect choice. This boutique hotel, situated on the top two floors of an industrial building, features rooms individually designed by local artists and personalities, reflecting Munich’s creative spirit. The hotel’s rooftop bar offers stunning views of the city skyline, providing a chic spot to unwind. The Flushing Meadows is ideal for travelers looking to experience Munich’s vibrant urban culture up close.

Cortiina Hotel

The Cortiina Hotel, nestled in the heart of Munich’s historic center, is a testament to minimalist elegance and sustainable design. Its rooms and suites boast natural materials and a soothing color palette, creating a tranquil oasis amidst the city’s hustle. The hotel’s BAR CENTRALE and GRAPES Weinbar offer delightful culinary experiences, emphasizing local and organic ingredients. With its central location, the Cortiina Hotel serves as a convenient and stylish base for exploring Munich’s architectural marvels and cultural sites.

Motel One München-Deutsches Museum

For travelers mindful of their budget without wanting to compromise on style and location, Motel One offers an excellent solution. This design hotel chain, known for its high-quality amenities and affordable rates, has several locations in Munich, with the Deutsches Museum branch standing out for its proximity to the Isar River and the Gasteig cultural center. The hotel features a contemporary design with a focus on comfort, a vibrant lounge serving as a breakfast area, bar, and workspace, and eco-friendly operations, making it an attractive option for eco-conscious visitors.

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