Today we have a guest post from Jamie from City Starlings about the best places to visit in Munich. Jamie is a native New Yorker who has lived in Munich for NINE years. Today, she’s sharing her favorite attractions, restaurants, and events, as well as the hidden gems in Munich that most tourists don’t know about. Enjoy!
There’s so much to love about Munich, Germany, which you may also know by its German name, München. Munich is a beautiful, safe city that has a stunning old town, green parks, and tons of history.
There are also many incredible places in Munich to discover — which is what I’ll be sharing here in this guide.
Amazing places to visit in Munich
Munich attractions to see on foot
Start off your trip with a self-guided walking tour of Munich that will take you to the city’s main attractions.
Begin your walk in Karlsplatz, a square that was founded in 1797. Here you can see Karlstor, one of the city’s only remaining medieval gates. You can also enjoy impressive views of the Palace of Justice (Justizpalast).
From here, walk along Neuhauserstrasse, a popular shopping street, until you reach the Marienplatz, the city’s most beautiful public square. If you time your visit properly, you can see the famous Marienplatz Glockenspiel performance, which takes place every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m.
Next, stop by Viktualienmarkt, a daily food market and foodie paradise. It has a small beer garden as well. Then, head north to the beautiful Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper).
Further north, you’ll find the Odeonsplatz, a large square in central Munich where Hitler and the Nazi party infamously attempted a failed coup. In this plaza, you’ll see the Theatine Church of St. Cajetan, a 17th-century Catholic church. Opposite the church is the Munich Residenz, the former palace of the Wittelsbach family who ruled Bavaria from 1180-1918.
Museums in Munich
Munich has tons of interesting museums. Here are several of my favorites:
Lenbachhaus – An art museum housed in a beautiful yellow villa. The museum is world-renowned for its art collection from the Blue Rider movement, which includes works by Kandinsky, Klee, Marc, and Münter.
Deutsches Museum – The Deutsches Museum is Munich’s Science and Technology Museum. It has mines, real-life aircrafts and boats, and an observatory. It’s the perfect museum to visit with kids, who are encouraged to push buttons and experiment. The museum is so large that you will not see all the exhibits in one visit, so research what you want to see before your trip.
Munich Documentation Center – Opened in 2015, this museum focuses on the history of the Nazi regime. Built on the site of the “Brown House”, the former Nazi headquarters, this museum is a free attraction.
The Munich Art District (Kunstareal) – There are three main art museums in Munich’s art district. Luckily, it’s very easy to visit all three on the same day (they’re actually across the street from one another!). On Sunday, you can visit all of them for just one euro each.
- Alte Pinakothek has an incredible collection of European masters from the 14th – 18th centuries.
- Neue Pinakothek features artwork from the 19th century, especially Impressionism. It also has a very nice outdoor cafe.
- Pinakothek der Moderne is a modern art museum housed in a minimalist building.
BMW Welt and the BMW Museum – The BMW Welt is an exhibition center that showcases BMW cars and motorcycles. The nearby BMW Museum covers more than 100 years of BMW’s history. Fun fact- BMW started in 1917 in Munich.
Free things to do in Munich
Short on euros? Luckily, there’s no shortage of free things to do in Munich:
The Residence Gardens, which were laid out in 1613 by Maximilian I, are really pretty in summer.
The Eisbach is a man-made wave where people surf year-round. Located at the southern-most tip of the Englischer Garten, it’s fun (and free!) to watch the surfers here.
The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is a gigantic public park located in the heart of the city. Walk north from the Eisbach to the Chinesische Turm Biergarten (Chinese Tower) for a nice cool beer.
The Isar River passes through the city of Munich. It’s a great place to walk, bike, or even swim. There are even a few nude sunbathing spots along the river, so if that’s your thing, don’t forget to pack your birthday suit.
Nymphenburg Park is a beautiful park that comprises 490 acres of lakes, canals and green lawns. I love just walking through here.
Olympiapark was built for the 1972 Summer Olympics but is still used for concerts, sports events, festivals and more. For amazing views of Munich, head to the highest hill in the park where you can see Munich’s cathedral and more. The park also offers a tourist train and a Sea Life Aquarium for the kids.
Things to do in Munich at night
Take a night tour – There are a few excellent night tours in Munich such as the Nightwatchman Torch Tour, which is a medieval tour of Munich by torchlight. There are also night-time beer tours like this Bavarian beer and culture tour.
Go to the ballet, opera, and the symphony – For ballet or opera, visit the Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper). To hear the symphony, visit the Gasteig.
Go bar-hopping – The best nightlife and bars can be found in the neighborhoods of Schwabing, Maxvorstadt, and Glockenbachviertel. There’s also a Munich pub crawl.
Visit the Container Collective – The Container Collective is a very cool creative space made out of former shipping containers.
The best views in Munich
St. Peter’s Church offers amazing views of the Marienplatz, the cathedral and beyond. All you need to do is climb 299 steps to reach the top.
Olympia Park Tower provides amazing views of the city as well and you don’t even have to climb any stairs!
There are many rooftop bars that offer great views of Munich. Check out the Vorhoelzer Forum, the Bayerisches Hotel or the Mandarin Hotel.
Hidden gems in Munich
Dachau Old Town is older than Munich and unlike Munich, wasn’t destroyed during World War II. Most people know Dachau for the concentration camp and never bother visiting the actual town. It has an old palace on the top of the hill facing Munich, which can be seen on a clear day. The desserts in the palace restaurant are to die for. Luckily, all those calories can be burned off while you walk through the palace gardens followed by a walk in the old town.
Schloss Blutenburg (Blutenburg Castle) is a quaint little palace from the 15th century. It has a small courtyard with an even smaller chapel. There’s also a German restaurant facing the lake and the International Youth Library is housed on grounds. I love biking there to just read a book on the lawn.
Biergartens in Munich
In Munich, there are Biergartens all over the city. Biergartens are outdoor spaces in which beer and food are served at long communal tables. In addition to beer, you can also get traditional Bavarian food like wurst (sausage), chicken, cold salads, fries, and more. You can even bring your own food, but you MUST order your beverages at the self-service counter. There are no waiters!
Two of my favorite biergartens are Hirschgarten and Zum Flaucher Biergarten.
Beer Halls in Munich
Der Pschorr is a traditional beer hall known for its delicious Bavarian food like schnitzel, sauerbraten (marinated beef) and apple fritters.
The Hofbräuhaus is a three-story beer hall that dates back to the 16th-century. Although it’s often packed with tourists, I highly recommend visiting. In addition to being one of Munich’s star attractions, the Hofbräuhaus is also interesting to visit because of its dark past. Head upstairs to the third floor to see the Festsaal (Festival Hall), which is where Hitler gave one of his first speeches to the Nazi party.
Restaurants in Munich
Tip – make sure to make reservations at these restaurants, as they are always busy.
- Ratskeller – a large cellar restaurant serving traditional Bavarian food.
- Schneider Bräuhaus – a classic beer hall that serves the best Weisswurst (white sausage).
- Georgenhof – tasty Bavarian food in a beautiful art deco restaurant.
- Kaisergarten – an upscale German restaurant with wonderful little outdoor eating area.
Foods to try in Munich
Here are some traditional Bavarian dishes you should try on your trip to Munich. I hope you like pretzels and pork!
- Pretzels are served in all Bavarian restaurants. They are especially tasty when dipped in Obatzda, a Bavarian beer cheese dip.
- Schweinebraten is a roast pork dish typically served with dumplings and sauerkraut.
- Schweinshaxe is a roasted ham hock.
- Sausages (wurst) are typically served in a mixed sausage platter and accompanied by mustard and pretzels.
- Weisswurst is a boiled sausage that is typically eaten for breakfast with pretzels and sweet mustard. Just don’t forget to remove the outer skin before eating it.
Hotels in Munich
Best luxury hotels: The Mandarin Oriental and The Charles Hotel are two of the best hotels in town.
Best mid-range hotel: The Hilton Munich City is the best option for location, quality/price, and accessibility. Right next to the Gasteig, you can catch a cultural event and then dine in one of the many nearby restaurants.
Best hostel: The Euro Youth Hostel is a highly rated hostel that is located in central Munich.
Events in Munich
Oktoberfest is the biggest event of the year when Munich is flooded with more than six million visitors. The festival runs for 16 days in September and October. As you might imagine, the city gets very hectic at this time. You definitely have to prepare for Oktoberfest but when done right, it’s a lot of fun.
RELATED POSTS: 20 Essential Tips for Your First Oktoberfest and What to Wear to Oktoberfest: A Complete Packing Guide
Munich’s Christmas Markets start on the Friday before Sunday Advent and run through Christmas Eve. Colorful little outdoor markets open up throughout the city offering spiced wine, food, and local crafts. You can’t help being affected by the festive lights and cheerful mood of the city.
The Long Night of the Museums is a city-organized cultural event that is held in October. From 7 p.m. until 2 a.m., the public can visit museums, galleries and cultural centers for a small fee. This is a great opportunity to admire art exhibits in historical buildings while listening to live music.
Day trips from Munich
Königssee is a beautiful lake with crystal-clear water that is located near the Austrian border. Make sure you take the boat tour and stop at Salet to visit Obersee, a nearby lake that is also gorgeous. Book a full-day tour to Königssee Lake here.
Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s mountain retreat
The Eagle’s Nest was one of Hitler’s mountain retreats. Open from mid-May to mid-October, it is worth visiting for the views. Book a day-trip to the Eagle’s Nest here.
Salzburg, Austria, is a close drive from The Eagle’s Nest and is a mandatory visit. If you’re a fan of the Sound of Music or Mozart, don’t miss it. Book a full-day tour to Salzburg from Munich here.
The best time of year to visit Munich
The best time to visit Munich is from late spring to winter (May-December). Summer is great for the balmy weather and Biergartens, and November and December are wonderful because of the Christmas markets.
June – August – In summer, people are outside enjoying the sunshine in the parks. Biergartens (beer gardens) are especially popular in summer.
November – December – the city is alive with the sights and smells of Christmas; Munich’s Christmas Markets are beautiful and fun to visit. Glühwein (spiced hot wine) is served at all the markets. It is typical for friends to meet and huddle around having Glühwein, to ward off the cold.
Recommended Christmas Markets: the Medieval Market in Wittelsbacher Platz and the Christmas Village in the Munich Residenz
January – March – What I love the most about Munich is all the nature that surrounds the city. If you’re a skier, you’ll love visiting Munich this time of year, as the Alps are only an hour or two away. If you’re not a skier, you’ll still enjoy visiting the beautiful ski towns such as Lech, Mayrhofen, and Saalbach.
Have you ever been to Munich? What are some of your favorite places to see in Munich?
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