We timed our visit to Munich around the famous beer festival Oktoberfest. We spent half of our time in beer tents sampling brews and enjoying the atmosphere. The other half, we spent exploring the city. At first glance, Munich is a modern city, comparable to large cities internationally. Once we dove deeper, we discovered a unique city where biking is second nature, green space is plentiful, and beer flows freely.
Here’s what we did in Munich (besides drink beer):
Marienplatz and the Rathaus-Glockenspiel
This square has been the city center since Munich’s birth and is surrounded by many of Munich’s most interesting sites. It is home to the New Town Hall, Old Town Hall, and many fountains and monuments. The New Town Hall features the Rathaus-Glockenspiel with 32 figures who act out tales of Munich’s history and legends. The show plays every day at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., and at 5 p.m. from March to October and lasts from 12 to 15 minutes.
Church of St. Peter
Just a few steps off of Marienplatz is the oldest parish church in the city. The church’s tower is open to the public for €2.50 with a student ID, or €3.50 without. There are 299 steps to the top of the tower and the walkway is very narrow. The longest part of the climb was stopping to squeeze ourselves into corners while people came down past us. Once you reach the top, the tower offers a panoramic view of the city that really is stunning. The lookout area is very small and gets disorganized and claustrophobic when the tower is full of people. If you decide to go up, scope it out from the bottom first to see how packed it is because it is difficult to enjoy the view when you feel like a sardine.
Another must see right off of Marienplatz is the Victuals Market, an open air market with fresh fruits, veggies, traditional Bavarian delicacies, and prepared food from around the world. Grab some fresh juice here to keep your energy up.
The English Garden is one of the largest parks in the world and a relaxing spot for sunbathers, beer-drinkers, and even, surfers. The Eisbach river that runs through the park features a four foot tall wave that surfers in this land-locked city flock to. For those less athletically inclined, like us, the park is home to Munich’s second largest beer garden located by the Chinese tower. Even on a rainy day, we found people enjoying beer under the tower’s shelter. Pack a picnic and spend a Sunday afternoon people-watching with locals and tourists alike.
Beer and Oktoberfest Museum
We didn’t make it to this museum because we spent so much time at Oktoberfest itself. It you can’t make it to Munich during Oktoberfest, get a small taste of the culture, and the beer, that makes Oktoberfest world famous.
Munich’s museum scene doesn’t stop at beer. The Alte Pinakothek features paintings from the Middle-Ages to the Rococo period with big names like Titian, Rubens, and Dürer. The Neue Pinakothek is it’s modern sister, with 18th through 20th century art with a wide collection of German art and French Impressionism. Even more modern is the Pinakothek der Moderne, Germany’s largest museum for modern art. Buy tickets to these art museums individually, or purchase a day pass for €12 or a five visit pass for €29. These two passes also get you entry to the Museum Brandhorst, the Pinakothek der Moderne’s twin, and the Collection Schack, the state aquired art collection of an art-appreciating count.
Munich Residenz and Nymphenburg Palace
If you don’t have time to make the trip to the world famous Neuschwanstein, Munich is home to other palaces. The Nymphenburg Palace is the former summer home to Bavarian monarchs and is located within the city. The castle is decorated beautifully in the Baroque style, and surrounded by expansive gardens. Visit the castle complex and collections for €11.50/€9 reduced during the on season, or €8.50/€6.50 reduced during the off season, just note that during the off season parts of the complex are closed.
Where to eat in Munich
This beer hall is one of the most famous in the world and has been in business since the 16th century. Stop by to enjoy Bavarian food and, more importantly, a liter of beer. The best advice we received in Munich was “if you keep eating, you can keep drinking.” Bavarian food is rich, carby, and perfect for soaking up liters of beer. The taproom is large, but very popular, so if you’re on time constraints try to make a reservation.
Stoneheil 16 is located in a quiet neighborhood near some of Munich’s popular museums. Consider making a reservation if you’re on a time crunch, or just line up outside behind other groups waiting for a table. The wait is well worth it for huge portions of cheap, delicious food. A plate of schnitzel and potatoes the size of my stomach was about €10 and a bowl of spaetzle the size of my head was even less. Both entrees came with a large salad. After we ate here, we walked for miles around Munich. Don’t do this. The food is so heavy and filling that I recommend laying down for at least an hour after you eat. It’s the perfect comfort food for a rainy Munich day.