The beating heart of German culture, industry, commerce and history, Munich, the capital of Bavaria is a stunning example of architecture and the arts. Most famous perhaps for its legendary annual beer festival – Oktoberfest, the pulse in the city is energetic and vivacious and Munich is one of the most densely populated cities in Germany.
Starting out life as a medieval town, having seen the likes of the Duke of Saxony, Henry the Lion and the Duke of Bavaria, documents go back to show that the city had origins as far back as the mid 1100s. Evidence of the city’s fascinating history is everywhere – gothic architecture and impressive cathedral churches and residences of German Kings and Holy Roman Emperors make the past come alive.
Surviving two World Wars and the painstaking restoration of the city to its former glory, ready to host the Summer Olympic Games a few decades later, is a standing testament to the people of Munich. These days, ancients sites, historic museums, manicured parks and gardens all live harmoniously between new age technology, high rise buildings, modern architecture, plenty of Biergartens, lakes and lush surroundings. Listing Munich as having one of the most coveted lifestyles in the world, according to research, Munich may be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but when it comes to an enviable lifestyle, there is no near match for the city anywhere in Europe.
Map of Munich
There is a bustling student life here, as Munich is home to internationally acclaimed universities and is considered to be a leading centre for science and research in its own right. Considering you are in the most prestigious beer country in the world, Munich is famous for its breweries especially the legendary Weissbeer, a Bavarian specialty.
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Best Time To Go to Munich
Being so close to the Alps, Munich is the German city that gets the most snow in winter, along with plenty of below freezing temperatures. But don’t let that put you off; the snow is part of the city’s charm. The weather can be unpredictable though, with a warm, muggy wind known as a föhn wind, which whips down from the Alps changing the weather rapidly and making the Alps seem almost closer to the horizon.
In the summer months the temperatures can get very hot, and it is not uncommon to have an average of 36°C (97°F) during June, July and August, but this is when it is most busy. The umbrellas over biergartens pop up everywhere, the parks are in full bloom, lush tree-lined walkways are heaving with markets and people milling around and the atmosphere is happy and energetic.
Munich is one of those places you can visit right throughout the year; it all depends on your preference and your budget. It goes without saying that the summer season and during Oktoberfest is going to be your busiest, along with peak season prices for flights, accommodation, food and entrance fees and the queues to get into museums, sights and attractions are going to be long. November and December are also busy as visitors flock to the city – bundled up warm, to experience a true German winter: Lots of mulled wine, gingerbread men and Christmas markets and loads of visitors, despite the freezing weather.
Spring and fall are quieter months; the weather is still great, and the prices are somewhat lower and you can get great off peak prices, but remember this is Munich – not a city known for anything that comes cheap.
Getting Around in Munich
Depending on what you want to see and how long you plan to be in the city, there are two great ways to get around in Munich. One is by bicycle – the city is very much bike friendly. You can pick up a multi-day rental at any of the agents throughout the city if you plan to see lots of things in one day, or register with callabike.de (the numbers are listed on the bikes all over the city) You just pick one up and drop it off anywhere you go. It is recommended that you wear a helmet even though it is not enforced. You can pick up maps and bikes at the Hauptbahnhof (main train station)
The other great way is the public transport system. Pick up one ticket – an MVV, and you can travel on the trams, the S-Bahn (trains in the suburbs) and the U-Bahn (Underground train). A weekly ticket will be your most affordable option if you are staying for more than 3 days.
Taxis are expensive and with such a great transport system it is not necessary to use one and driving is not recommended – traffic is horrendous, parking is non-existent and if you find some, it will seriously hurt your wallet. Arrange a shuttle to your hotel and back to the airport with all of your bags if you like and then make your own way from there.
Major Attractions and Sights
Munich has an absolute abundance of exciting things to see and do, and most certainly a few days is not going to be enough to see and experience everything. There is something going on in the city all year round and if you are going for Oktoberfest, you need to book months in advance for your spot in the beer hall, a hotel room and the like; otherwise you can forget about that one. Whether you are here for the food, the people, the architecture, the history, the incredible culture, the buzzing atmosphere and the vibe, you are literally spoilt for choice.
The Schloss Nymphenburg is the previous summer residence frequented by many Bavarian Kings. The stunning baroque palace was commissioned in 1664 and was continuously added to over the decades. Stunning parks covering some 490 acres surround the incredible palace and French baroque pavilions of breathtaking opulence and a number of famous museums such as the Erwin von Kreibig-Museum, the Porzellanmuseum München, the Marstallmuseum and the Museum Mensch can be visited here.
Frauenkirche is a dramatic Munich landmark built in the 1400s. An absolutely incredible cathedral that can seat no less than 20,000 people is now the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, and catholic mass services are held here frequently. One of the only original surviving interior pieces that was not destroyed in the war is the Teufelsschritt (Devils Footstep).
The National Bavarian Museum is one of the most fascinating museums of cultural history in all of Europe. Discover here loads of artifacts dating from the Middle Ages until the 20th century from pottery, to armor, furniture and porcelain.
Theatinerkirche is a majestic Rococo style Church built in the 1600s as a gesture of thanks for the much anticipated birth of Prince Max Emanuel – heir to the Bavarian crown in the late 1600s. Features include stunning architecture, paintings and a 71 meters high dome.
Briennerstrasse is one of the 4 grand royal avenues that run through the city. Meander along the exclusive strip of high end boutiques, enjoy a coffee at one of the sidewalk cafes or a meal at one of the upscale restaurants in the eastern section.
Neues Rathaus is one of the most iconic landmark buildings in the city, covering well over 9000 square meters in area and boasting some 400 plus rooms. There is a big restaurant taking up the entire basement floor – Ratskeller, and there are some small businesses including the city’s biggest tourist information office located here. Every day the Rathaus-Glockenspiel is played at 11, 12 and 5pm.
The Schloss Schleißheim is a stunning baroque palace just outside of the city centre. It was originally built as a residence for Elector Max Emanuel in the early 1700s, but the Elector was forced into exile and never ended up living there. It is an astounding architectural feat of genius and not to be missed, especially the 980-seater beer garden on the palace grounds.
The Tierpark Hellabrunn or Munich Zoo, is possibly the most famous zoo in the world. And even if you are not a fan of traditional zoos, you must visit this one- to dispel all the negative connotations you may have with animals in captivity; animals in abundance in their natural habitats, one of the biggest free flight aviaries in the world and a special children’s zoo. Not to be missed.
The City Museum of Munich has a fascinating and comprehensive showcase of the exciting history of Munich. Exhibits show the harsh reality of war and what this incredible city went through during war torn times. See the puppetry and musical instruments exhibitions as well as the seasonal displays.
Shopping in Munich
Shopaholics will think they have arrived in retail heaven when they get to the city. There is something everywhere, whether it is pedestrian street markets, Christmas markets, farmers craft and produce markets, jumble and bargain sales, antique shops, high end boutiques, flea markets and designer shops you are after, you are in luck, whichever way you turn.
The city is massive, so it is impossible to list every shopping district, as every area has one. Christmas markets are mainly located at Chinesischer Turm and Englischer Garten, Marienplatz and Wittelsbacher Platz. There are some great flea and bric-a-brac markets at Theresienwiese, Messegelände Riem, Olympiapark and Hofflohmärkte.
Kaufingerstrasse / Neuhauserstrasse is one of the most popular shopping districts for affordable shopping, less high end prices and lots of places to rest a pair of exhausted shopping feet. During summer and on Saturdays, this area is heaving with people and can be unpleasantly busy, so if you don’t like crowds pick a better time to go.
Eating Out in Munich
Bavarian cuisine is everywhere in Munich. Sausage and beer are meal staples from breakfast to dinner, and lots of meat, bread, pretzels and beer are everywhere. Feast on a lazy late breakfast consisting of Weißwurst and Weissbier, hot breakfast sausage with mustard and white beer. Don’t go home without trying the Schweinshaxe or Schwinsbraten along with a quick snack to go with some more beer – Leberkässemmeln, which is a white roll filled with pork, veal and lemon served with mustard. It’s good value for money and will keep you going the whole day.
Baked goods, cakes and pretzels of Brezn, are staples you will find in every café and restaurant. But there is also an abundance of international cuisine throughout the city, so if you flew half way around the world to get a Chinese takeaway in Munich, you are in luck.
Shop around at the fresh markets, and buy local natural produce, feast on chestnuts, fresh fruit, ice cream and pastries from the street markets.
The Weisses Bräuhaus Munch on Weisswurst, is the place for Weissbeir and to enjoy a fun filled evening with lively ommpah-band.
Handskugel is the oldest restaurant in Munich founded in 1440. Good Bavarian food, great beer, a fantastic atmosphere and one of the best Bavarian experiences to be had.
Ruffini is one of those places that you can go into at any time and have a good time no matter what time or day: Lots of organic food, hip people, families, friendly tattooed artists, students and couples, who come to sit on the sunny, self-service terrace on the rooftop.
Nightlife in Munich
Kugeralm is a traditional Bavarian beer garden where you can pick up a Radler. A half beer and half lemonade mix invented by some savvy bar staff who actually ran out of beer upon being descended by hoards of cyclists who arrived for a thirst quenching drink on a hot summer’s day in 1922. They quickly diluted the beer with half a glass of lemonade and served it to the cyclists, professing that it was made especially for them because it didn’t have such a high level of alcohol.
Hirschgarten is the largest beer garden in Europe, seating a whopping 8,000 beer lovers. There are wild boars, deer and a mini zoo.
Waldwirtschaft is the place to go if you are looking for somewhere to start off a great night on the town. Enjoy live jazz music and rub shoulders with local celebrities.
Oktoberfest One of the world’s most well-known festivals – a celebration of German beer, Oktoberfest can be looked at as the planet’s most well attended drink-a-thon, where thousands of people come from all over the world to drink their body weight in beer, and then some. Just over 2 weeks of celebrations that start in September and spill right over to October, the festival has been going from strength to strength for over 200 years. More than 7.5 million people visited the festival and consumed almost 7 million liters of beer in 2011 alone, all dressed up in traditional Bavarian costumes, hats and all. It is without a doubt the biggest party in the world, and to get the best seats in the house, book a year in advance.