Ernest Hemingway, one of Jonathan’s favourite writers, once said that once you have seen Munich, “everything else in Germany is a waste of time”. Dare I say this, but we kind of agree. Having visited other major German cities such as Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg – Munich is by far our favourite city. Although I have to admit, we did discover many gorgeous Bavarian villages and towns on our river cruise.
Where Is Munich?
Munich or München as it’s called in German is the capital city of Germany’s state of Bavaria. It is located around 30 miles north of the Bavarian Alps and is the third-largest city in Germany. It is currently home to about 1.5 million residents.
A Little History About Munich
The name Munich means “Home of the Monks” as way back in the 8th century there was a Benedictine monastery. In 1158, the Duke of Bavaria, Henry the Lion (what a fabulous name!) permitted the monks to set up a market where the road from Salzburg met with the River Isar. The following year, a bridge was built across the River Isar, and the marketplace was fortified. Munich was officially declared a city in 1175, and a monk is depicted on the city’s coat of arms. You’ll come across lots of pictures and paintings of monks as you explore the city.
What To See and Do In Munich?
Take A Free City Walking Tour
Whenever we visit a new city, we love to do a walking tour. It’s such a great way to get your bearings and get a better understanding and appreciation of a place. We did a 2.5-hour free walking tour with this company and it was excellent. They also offered a paid afternoon walking tour where you learn about the Nazi movement in Munich. It sounded really interesting, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time.
Tours conducted in English take place four times a day – 10:00, 10:45, 14:00 and 16:00. The meeting point for these tours is in Marienplatz in the Old Town near the Rathaus (New Town Hall), in front of St Mary’s Column.
Admire The Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall)
Built in 1874, the Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall) is an impressive neo-gothic building that dominates the north side of Munich’s Marienplatz. It’s possible to go up to the top of the 85-meter-high (255 feet) tower of the Neue Rathaus. Here you will find an observation deck that can be accessed with a lift if you don’t fancy walking up the stairs. We didn’t go up to this particular vista as we wanted a view of the town hall from up high, but more on that later.
Opening Hours – Rathausturm (New Town Hall Tower)
Open daily, except January 1, Shrove Tuesday, May 1, November 1, 25 and 26 December.
- Monday to Friday: 10 am to 8 pm.
- Saturday 10 am to 4:30 pm.
- Sundays and public holidays 10 am to 2:30 pm.
How Much Does It Cost To Reach The Observation Deck of the Rathausturn?
- Adults: 4 €
- Children and those aged 6 to 17: 1 €
Watch The World Famous Glockenspiel Show
Twice a day at 11 am and midday and also at 5 pm during the summer, you’ll find hundreds of onlookers crammed into Munich’s Marienplatz staring up at the Glockenspiel on the Neue Rathaus.
The Munich Glockenspiel recounts one of the most decadent 1568 royal weddings of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine. The wedding ceremony is then followed by the red-coated barrel makers doing the Schäfflertanz dance. Legend says the barrel makers started the dance to let Munich’s residents know that the plague was over and it was safe to leave your home. The show lasts about 15 minutes. It’s very cheesy, but charming and you really should see it.
Visit Frauenkirche (Cathedral Church of Our Lady) And The Devil’s Footprint
Just a short walk from the Marienplatz, you’ll reach the Frauenkirche. Construction of the cathedral began in 1468, but the church was severely damaged during airstrikes during World War II. In the entrance of this late-Gothic church, you will see the legendary Devil’s footprint.
There are several legends surrounding the footprint, but the version we heard goes like this. In 1468, the architect Jorg von Halsbach due to lack of funding for the church made a deal with the Devil. The Devil said he would provide funds for the cathedral to be built as long as there were no windows inside. When the building was finished, the Devil entered the church to survey the outcome and was initially satisfied as not a single window could be seen.
The architect had cleverly designed the nave with columns that blocked the side windows from view, and the large central altarpiece covered the stained glass windows at the back of the church. However, as the Devil stepped further into the church, he realised he had been fooled. In a fit of anger, the Devil stamped his foot on the ground and left an imprint on the floor. Furious, the Devil left the church and turned himself into a wind spirit, which to this day rushes around the church towers.
Climb The Tower At Kirche St Peter (St Peter’s Church)
The Kirche St. Peter is the oldest parish church in Munich and is known affectionately as Alter Peter (“Old Peter”).
If you want to enjoy a view of the entire city centre from top of the tower of St. Peter’s church, you must first climb 306 steps. There is no lift, you have to walk, but once you reach the top, you get a great view of Munich and the Neue Rathaus in Marienplatz. On a clear day, you can see the Alps.
There is a €3 entrance fee for the observation deck.
Opening Hours – St Peter’s Church
- Summer hours:
Monday to Friday: 9 am to 6:30 pm.
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 10:a.m. to 6:30 pm.
- Winter hours:
Monday to Friday: 9 am to 5:30 pm.
Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 10 am to 5:30 pm.
Closing: 6:00 p.m.
Pop Into The Asam Church
We came across this church as we strolled from our hotel into the old city centre. It’s located on Sendlingerstraße, right in the heart of the shopping district. It turns out it’s one of the most important late-Baroque buildings in southern Germany. This ornate personal chapel was built between 1733 and 1746 by two brothers hoping to secure their salvation.
Egid Quirin Asam was a sculptor and Cosmas his brother was a painter. Using their skills, they filled every inch of the 22m by 8m chapel with statues and figurative paintings.
Although the brothers had intended to keep the church for their personal use, they reluctantly agreed to open the church to the public. Sadly, neither Egid nor Cosmas lived to see the church’s inauguration in 1746.
Browse The Stalls At Viktualienmarkt -Munich’s Daily Outdoor Market
We loved exploring the bustling Viktualienmarkt in the heart of Munich’s old town.
Initially, this market was located in Marienplatz, which is just around the corner, but it quickly outgrew the space. In 1807, King Maximilian I decreed that it was to be moved to this nearby square, making Viktualienmarkt the oldest farmers market in Munich.
The name Viktualienmarkt comes from the Latin word victualia, which means “groceries”.
It’s an excellent place for fresh produce, dairy, bread, Bavarian specialities and flowers. There are also a few places to enjoy a beer or a snack here too.
Open every day except Sunday.
Watch The Surfers At The Englischer Garten (English Garden)
Having lived close to some of the finest surf beaches in Portugal, we didn’t expect to see surfing in Munich, but we did!
The waves on the Eisbach river at the southern entrance to the Englischer Garden near the Haus der Kunst (art gallery) attract surfers and observers from all over the world. This surf spot is famous for being the largest, the best and the most consistent city centre location for river surfing and people have been coming surfing here for 40 years.
The surfers take turns to surf, and it’s fun to watch. However, if you want to have a go, you need to be experienced as it is not recommended for beginners. When you get bored watching the surfers, take a stroll through the Englische Garten. It’s one of the largest urban parks in the world.
Enjoy A Beer At The Hofbrauhaus
You can’t come to Munich and not have a beer at the Hofbrauhaus. Yes, it’s a little bit touristy, but it’s a must-do.
The Hofbrauhaus is probably the most famous beer hall in the world. It’s the oldest, dating back to 1589 and it’s also the largest beer hall in Munich accommodating up to 5,000 revellers.
Many well-known figures have drunk here – such as Mozart, Louis Armstrong, Lenin, Gorbachev, John F Kennedy and George HW Bush.
One of the Hofbrauhaus most infamous visitors was Adolf Hitler who held the first National Socialists Meeting here in February 1920. It was here that Hitler introduced the 25-point program that paved the way towards World War II and the Holocaust.
If you’re interested in learning more about Nazi history in Munich, Sandemans do a three-hour walking tour every afternoon at 2:30 pm. For more details, see here. https://www.neweuropetours.eu/sandemans-tours/munich/munich-third-reich-tour/. This tour costs 15€ per person and has excellent reviews, but we didn’t have time to do this actual tour ourselves. Maybe next time.
Where To Eat in Munich
Augustiner an Platzl was a great place to eat. The restaurant is just a stone’s throw from the famous Hofbrauhaus. It serves typical Bavarian food such as Roast Pork, and Pork Knuckle etc. vegetarian options are available. Although they do look at you as if you’re mad when you order a vegetarian dish, I had a very nice wild mushroom stew and dumplings.
Andy’s Krabler Garten was another fun choice to eat. Jonathan ate an enormous schnitzel, the biggest I’ve ever seen.
I asked the waiter what he would recommend for vegetarians. He replied, ‘I’d recommend you find another restaurant.’ So instead, I ordered the beef roulade, he laughed at my lack of willpower, and I have to admit, the beef was delicious. It’s official; I am the world’s worst vegetarian!
For A Light Snack or Lunch
Bavarian friends of ours had told us we must try the Leberkäs-Semmel. It’s a traditional Bavarian meatloaf in a bread roll, and we were recommended to add some sweet mustard. It tasted a lot better than it looked, it’s a bit like spam. Apparently Vinzenz Murr is the best place to find them, and they have stores all across the city.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Munich?
The best time to visit the city of Munich to avoid the crowds and enjoy pleasant weather is from late March through to the middle of May, or from the beginning of September until the Oktoberfest crowds arrive.
Summer and the Christmas and New Year’s season can be quite a busy time to visit because of the number of outdoor events available in the summer and for the fabulous Christmas markets in the winter.
The absolute busiest time to visit Munich is during the famous Oktoberfest, which lasts from the mid to end of September until the beginning of October. If you are interested in attending Oktoberfest, you will need to book your accommodation well in advance.
A Little History About Munich’s Oktoberfest
When Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese on October 12, 1810, all of the townspeople were invited to attend the wedding party, which took place in the fields just outside the city gates. After the wedding, they named the fields Theresienwiese in honour of Princess Therese. Apparently, the party was so much fun that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to organise another party for the following year. Oktoberfest was born!
How To Get To City Centre From Munich Airport
When you have finally managed to navigate your way through the massive Munich Airport, it’s quite easy to find your way to the city. Once you enter the Arrivals Hall, follow the S signs for the S-Bahn.
The S1 and S8 S-Bahn lines connect Munich Airport to the city centre at 10-minute intervals. The S1 travels via the west of Munich city and the S8 via the east. The journey time takes around 35 minutes.
Just before you exit the terminal building, you’ll see the ticket machines. The Airport-City Day Pass is the best way to save money. For just 24.30€ up to 5 persons can not only get to central Munich but also travel on all of the inner-city buses, subway lines and trams until 6 am the following day. If travelling solo, the Airport-City Day Pass is 13€. (Prices valid as of August 2019).
The Lufthansa Airport Bus leaves every 20 minutes from the airport to Hauptbahnhof ( Munich’s main railway station) via Munich-Schwabing (Nordfriedhof). The trip takes around 35 minutes depending on traffic.
Price €10,50 if you buy online or €11 if buy on the bus. Prices valid as of August 2019. For up to date prices and schedules, check their website
Taxi fares are around €70 to the city centre.
What’s your favourite city in Germany? Tell us in the comments below.
Side Trip From Munich
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Less then 30 minutes by S train from central Munich, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site is one of the most thought-provoking day trips to take from Munich. For more details regarding visiting this site, please see here.