You might know Munich as the home of the Oktoberfest. Before my recent trip, I’d only visited once and not seen more than the inside of a beer tent – so I’m glad I’ve now had the chance to get to know the city.
Here’s my complete guide beginning with my top 10 things to do:
1. See the Glockenspiel perform
Every day at 11am and midday (and 5pm between March and October) the Glockenspiel performance beings visitors to the central Marienplatz Square. You’ll find the dancing figurines located up at the top of the New Town Hall (or in German the Neues Rathaus). Their dance tells tales from old folklore – a royal wedding, a jousting tournament and a traditional dance.
2. Put your foot in Devil’s footprint in the Frauenkirche
In an old legend, architect Jorg von Halsbach made a deal with the Devil. So long as no windows were built and it remained a celebration of darkness, the devil would provide funds for the church. Halsbach built windows but designed columns to block them from view so that the Devil couldn’t see them from his position on the vestibule. The Devil was happy initially but once he realised he’d been tricked he flew into a rage and stamped his footprint into the floor – it’s thought you can still feel the cold breeze of him there today.
Whether you believe it or not, everyone seems to take this photo!
3. Climb the New Town Hall
The day I had to do this was probably the greyest on record but I still enjoyed my view of colourful Munich (including people’s bright umbrellas) from one of the highest vantage points in the city. It’s just €2.50 admission and you catch a lift meaning no stressful climbing is involved!
4. Eat Bavarian food
You can’t come to town without trying the local cuisine. I like bratwurst sausages with sauerkraut cabbage, or why not try pork knuckle with gravy and dumplings? Pretzels are everywhere and I enjoyed eating them with a traditional cheesy dip. Another food I loved was käsespätzle: cheesy pasta with bacon and crispy onion on top.
5. Go on a free walking tour
I love free walking tours when I visit a new city. I went exploring on the Sandemans tour which operates on a donation system and begins at the Marienplatz Square. You’ll visit the Frauenkirche, Odeonsplatz Square and lots of other spots of interest, plus learn about the city from someone who knows it inside out.
6. Shop at the local markets
The Viktualienmarkt is a farmers market with lots of fresh deli produce as well as trinkets and flowers. You’ll find 140 Bavarian stalls just a minute’s walk from central Marienplatz Square so it’s the perfect spot for eating and foodie souvenirs. The cheese market made me want to tuck in there and then!
It’s closed Sundays so if you visit Munich on a weekend be sure to add it to your Saturday itinerary before the finish time of 3pm (on weekdays it’s on from 10am-6pm).
7. Explore the traditional buildings
With loads of centuries-old buildings, Munich is a great spot for experiencing the real Bavaria. The New Town Hall was built in classic neo-gothic style while lots of the newer town houses are simple and colourful yet typically German.
8. Enjoy the gardens
The Englischer Garten is the most famous – here you can sit and enjoy a beer by the Chinese pagoda or watch surfers ride the rapids in the river. If you walk to it from Odeonsplatz square you can begin by meandering through the Hofgarten (below) and work yourself up for some real greenery.
9. Odeonsplatz Square
The Odeonsplatz Square has a few sights to see like the golden Theatinerkirche (note: anything with ‘kirche’ on the end means church). You can also take in the Feldherrnhalle building: a monument decorated with impressive lion sculptures where the Nazi party delivered their propaganda speeches.
10. Experience a beer festival
If you can time your visit around the Oktoberfest, great! If not, there are lots of alternatives. Nearby town Dachau is just a 15-minute train journey from Munich and holds an annual two-week festival in August called the Dachau Volksfest. Failing that, you’ll get a similar vibe at a proper beer hall – two of my favourites are the Augustiner Braustuben across the road from Meininger City Hostel in Hackerbrucke or the Augustiner-Keller not far around the corner. As the names suggest both these places serve Munich-favourite Augustiner-Brau beer as well as traditional German foods.
If you’ve got a spare day, I’d suggest one of the following…
I was gutted I didn’t have time to head to Neuschwanstein Castle and it’s the first thing on my itinerary next time I’m in Southern Germany. My friend, Meisha, made the pilgrimage as a day tour from Munich with Sandemans. The trip departs from Hauptbahnhof (the central train station) at 9am, returning by 6.30 or 7pm, and costs €40. Entrance to the castle on arrival costs another €13.
Dachau concentration camp
You can catch a 15-minute train to Dachau from Munich Hauptbahnhof to visit the first concentration camp – a poignant and important reminder of the country’s history.
This famous ski town is a 1.5-hour drive from Munich. You can travel there easily via the Flix Bus (the bus station is just a 10-minute walk from central Munich).
Whether or not you ski, it’s worth a visit to the area for the typical Bavarian houses and cog wheel train journey into the mountains. You can get off the train at various places – for example, Lake Eibsee where you can take an hour-long circular walk and soak up the amazing scenery.
You’ll get a great traditional meal at beer halls like Augustiner Braustuben or Augustiner-Keller near Hackerbrucke station. However, my favourite eatery was Glockenspiel Cafe which has a view down to Marienplatz Square and directly across to the Glockenspiel figurines (visit at 11am or 12pm to see the performance). I ordered a cheese and fruit platter with lots of locally-produced German cheeses and generous helpings of Bavarian bread for around €10.
Had I had more time in town, I’d have definitely made my way through Culture Trip’s best brunches list.
Meininger City Hostel is a great base. Dorm beds start at €23 including WiFi and it’s just a 15-minute walk into town. It’s also across the road from Augustiner Braustuben beer hall so you won’t be short on entertainment. Or beer.
Getting there and away
The international airport links you up with London from as little as £20 per flight and lots of other domestic and international airports around the world. From Munich you can also catch the affordable Flix Bus over the border to France, Spain, Austria and other countries – a good option if you’re on a budget euro trip and don’t mind a long journey.
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