Munich has always fascinated visitors. It enjoys an incomparable historical and cultural heritage. This is what the millions of tourists who come to visit Munich every year appreciate. But being a foreigner is not enough to love Munich, it is not uncommon to be surprised when discovering or rediscovering one of the wonders the city has to offer.
The city is not as snobby as it is often made out to be: Here you’ll find hip cafes, interesting buildings, museums and other sights as well as plenty of opportunities to enjoy time in nature!
Munich has many sights to offer:
From the Marienplatz to the Deutsches Museum to the magnificent Nymphenburg Palace and the English Garden, there is something for everyone. You don’t have to be a Bavarian to notice that this city is bursting with sights and charms.
But with so many things to see and do in Munich, it’s hard to come up with a list that gets to the point while still having a realistic experience of all that Munich has to offer. And if you’re only here for 4 days… what’s the point of that? So I decided to cut down my list to show you the best parts of Munich you absolutely must see.
This square in the centre of Munich is just too impressive to miss. Search Munich and the first thing you’ll see is a photo of Marienplatz. The main building here is the Neues Rathaus, the New Town Hall. If you’re standing looking at the Neues Rathaus, to your right you can see the Alte Rathaus, the Old Town Hall.
Marienplatz is ALWAYS packed with tourists. The only time I’ve seen it empty was early on a rainy Monday morning, so if you’re not great with crowds try and pick your times. The Neues Rathaus has a world-famous glockenspiel show at 11am, 12pm and 5pm in the Summer. You can see in the tower in the photo above, and about a third of the way up, there’s a green-looking section. In there are life-sized dolls which dance around mechanically. They tell the stories of the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V to Renate Lorraine in 1568, then on the lower floor people dance after a plague. The glockenspiel has been playing every day since 1908!
A freaking huge park in Munich that is swarming with people in the summer. You might have heard about the Eisbach, a part of the gardens where surfers can surf a man-made wave. Beware, it’s only for experienced surfers! The gardens are 3.7 km2 which makes them larger than New York’s Central Park. There are a couple of beer gardens located in the gardens, an open air cinema and so much more. I’ve been to the gardens quite a few times and still find places that I’ve never seen before.
Don’t be surprised to find sections packed with naked bathers, as there are certain sections where you’re allowed to go without clothing. It’s widely accepted for people to jump into the river in their underwear if they forget their swimwear, too.
There’s around 78km of paths throughout the English Gardens so you will see many runners, cyclists and people playing sports in the parks. We saw a group of people playing cricket right next to a group playing “football” (Aussies call it Soccer). We came across a huge paddock filled with Sheep the other day in the Northern section of the gardens (called Hirschau). So whenever you visit the gardens, you will always find something new!
Fun tip: Go to the Seehaus Biergarten for an all-you-can-eat breakfast for €25. They cook you eggs as you like them and you can have all the fruit, meats, cheeses, bread and coconut drinks you want!
3: Deutsches Museum
The Deutsches Museum is seriously the biggest Museum I think I’ve ever seen in my life. It spans 5 levels plus a Planetarium on the 6th level. The museum was founded on June 28, 1903.
The Museum constantly has exhibitions showing throughout the day, so when you get there grab an English (or whatever language you need) pamphlet and find out when the next demonstration is. My favorite so far has been the glass-blowing exhibition.
The museum has come a long way throughout Germany’s history. 80% of the buildings were damaged by air bombings in WWII, and following the war it was the host of the Post Office, the College of Technology and also the home of Liberated Jews. You can see some of ‘vehicles’ of war – there’s a huge U Boat submarine which is 41m in length. Legend has it the Germans had kept the submarine even after being told to destroy it and many other U Boats after the war. It somehow came to be a posession of the Deutsches Museum (which the Allies approved). So interesting!
Fun tip: The tower that you can see from the Isar has 4 faces – a barometer, thermometer, hygrometer, and anemometer. It’s been measuring the weather since 1925!
4: Residenz München
I may write a post dedicated to the Residenz alone, and this gigantic building was the reason I’ve become a tad obsessed with Bavaria’s former rulers.
The Antiquarium (pictured below) is absolutely my favourite part of the Residenz. It measures over 60 metres long and was built between 1568-1571 to house the antique collection of Duke Albert V. From 1581 to 1600 Duke Wilhelm V and his son Maximilian I transformed it into a banqueting hall, installing a fire place and lowering the floor level so that they could look out over their guests. It is said to be the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps.
Beware of the Relics room – I thought this might have fancy diamonds and precious stones… no. It had bones of Saints. Yeuch!
The Reich Zimmer are the most beautiful rooms of the Residenz and were built just for show. Don’t miss these rooms. Oh and the TREASURY is the place where the fancy precious stones are. It is in a separate section to the museum, and you’ll need an extra ticket for this section. You can also get an extra ticket for the Cuvilliés Theatre which is an amazingly decorated small theatre on the premises of the Residenz. You will have to exit the Museum & Treasury section, and enter again through the entrance near the Feldherrnhalle. I missed this the first two times I went because of the sneaky entry and have told everyone since to not miss this amazing theatre.
Fun tip: Many of Munich’s Kings lived in Residenz and added their own flair to the building. Each section of Residenz was built or remodelled by a different King or Elector.
If you’ve ever had beer from Munich you’ll know that it’s classed as the best beer in the world. Munich gets its name from the Monks who founded the city (Munichen meaning “by the monks”), and these Monks made their money by brewing and selling beer.
It is widely known that in Germany there is a beer-brewing law. This law, the Reinheitsgebot, only allows certain ingredients to be used in beer brewed in Germany. These ingredients are water, grain, yeast and hops. The law was lifted on imported beer in 1988 however beer brewed locally in Germany still has to follow the four-ingredient rule.
Many Germans are proud of Augustiner and the fact that they do not advertise. They’ve become big based purely on the high quality of their beer. Their bottles haven’t changed in years and their label design hasn’t changed in over 20 years.
Augustiner supplies quite a few pubs and biergartens throughout Munich, and the Augustiner-keller is the largest of those. They can hold over 5,000 people! Back in the old days there used to be an Ox that would pump beer from the cellars by walking around in a circle for hours on end using ropes and a winding system. Unfortunately the oxen were retired in 1891. We were born way too late to see it!
Fun tip: Augustiner-Bräu is the oldest brewery in Munich and is the only one out of the six big breweries that is not owned by the state. Many Müncheners will agree that their bier is the best.
6: St. Peterskirche Bell Tower
Before climbing the 300-step bell tower, I’d highly recommend going into the church itself. It’s one of the oldest churches in Munich and in the 8th century Monks lived around it on a hill called Petersbergl (hence the name). The church burnt down in 1327, with one of its bells surviving the great fire. The 92m spire was added in the 17th century and is commonly known as Alter Peter.
Once inside, you might notice the skeleton laying in the second chapel on the left. This is the remains of St. Mundita, and is gilded in gold and covered in precious stones. Jewels are placed in it’s rotted teeth and two false eyes stare out making it quite the tourist attraction – an extremely eerie one!
The church was again destroyed in WWII, and reconstruction was complete in 2000.
The 300 steps up to the Bell Tower viewing platform are made of various materials, mostly wood. It’s a small charge of 2 euro to make the ascent. You’ll be able to see out the tiny windows on the way up, and you’ll even get a glimpse of the famous bells that you can hear throughout Munich on a daily basis. If you’re afraid of heights, I’d recommend not looking down through the steps! The steps are quite narrow and in the height of Summer it can get quite crowded, so going up later in the day or at opening is recommended.
The challenge of those 300 steps is worth it when you get to the top – the views of Munich are stunning. You’ll get a great view of Marienplatz and even better, the Alps on a clear day.
Fun tip: There is a special type of bell that rings on Sundays at 6pm to commemorate all the deceased and victims of war in Munich. The oldest bell has survived since 1327.
7: Schloss Nymphenburg
Nymphenburg Palace was the Summer Residence of Bavaria’s Rulers. It was comissioned by Ferdinand Maria and Henriette Adelaide of Savoy in 1664, with the central pavilion being completed in 1675. Max Emanuel then added two pavilions to the south and the north, and his son Charles VII Albert added the Schlossrondell. Charles Theodore comissioned the galleries to be widened in 1795, and in 1826 Leo von Klenze removed the gables and created an attic decoration. Today, it is the home of the last surviving member of the Wittelsbach family, Franz the Duke of Bavaria. His ancestor King Ludwig II was born here.
The Park surrounding the Palace is 490 acres and the many paths are used by runners and Sunday strollers alike, and the Palace has over 300,000 visitors a year. Just remember to put your backpack in a locker before you enter!
Fun tip: Don’t forget to visit the Marstall Museum and the Porcelain Museum, both located in the South wing of the Palace. See if you can pick which Ceremonial Carriages belonged to King Ludwig II.
8: Olympiapark, Stadium & Tower
The Olympiapark was built for the purpose of the 1972 Olympic Games and the stadium can hold 69,250 people. The surrounding parklands are beautiful and also contain a man-made lake. Tourists can now enjoy picnics and walks in the park, a ride up to the top of the 291m Tower, and the many events and celebrations that are held in the grounds. The park and stadium were built in an area that was largely airfields before Munich was chosen as the host city of the 1972 Olympics. It was also more recently the home for Munich’s football team Bayern FC.
Fun tip: Make the trip up to the top of the Olympic Stadium Tower for €5.50 to see a sprawling view of Munich and the Stadium. Bon Jovi and The Rolling Stones have each performed here 6 times!
9: Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Reminding you of Munich’s morbid past, the Dachau Concentration Camp was liberated by American Troops in 1945, and opened as a memorial in 1965 by survivors. If you don’t know about Dachau, look it up for more information, but in short it was one of the many Concentration Camps opened in Germany during WWII originally for German and Austrian Political prisoners and Jews. By the end of the war, it was open for practically everyone. Dachau started off housing around 5,000 prisoners, and that number grew to over 12,000 people by the end of the war. Prisoners worked as laborers and built the Camp from the ground up but it was always bursting at the seams as more prisoners were admitted. The Dachau camp was in operation for nearly the entire Nazi regime which makes it the longest serving Concentration Camp.
206,206 prisoners were recorded at Dachau throughout the period it was open, and deaths totaled 31,951. These are the recorded stats and after reading a couple of visitor accounts I’ve found that the Memorial staff advise 41,566 is a more conservative estimate, however the recorded deaths were wildly inaccurate due to the Nazis not counting Jews, Gypsises, old or weak prisoners and unidentifiable bodies in mass graves because “they were not considered people”. Absolutely horrifying.
A friend recently did a tour with Radius Tours and highly recommended it. It was a 5 hour tour and she was able to fill me in on stories and facts that I didn’t know from visiting twice without a guide. I’m booking myself in when our next round of visitors arrive! While Dachau may be an assault on your senses, it’s imperative to go in order to realise the horrors of the War and what people went through. After all, it was only around 70 years ago.
Interesting tip: Kids in Munich are required to visit Dachau throughout their schooling. Don’t be surprised to find many groups with their teachers when you visit.
Viktualienmarkt is a huge space with heaps of stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meats, honey, flowers, plants, seafood, and so much more. You could easily spend a full day here exploring and eating til your heart’s content. The market is loosely divided into sections for each type of food/product, so you’ll find a bunch of fresh fruit stalls together, Cheese stalls together, meat stalls together etc etc. The market holds many events throughout the day, and probably the most exciting is the opening of Asparagus season! Germans love their Spargel (white asparagus) and even the pubs surrounding the market offer fresh Spargelcremesuppe daily for the entirety of the Spargel season. Definitely try it out.
Fun tip: Find the gigantic Maypole which has symbols relating to the market adorning it. The Maypole is raised on the 1st May every year. The symbols include dancers, musicians, a fruit lady, beer carts and more.
Wow OK I’m exhausted after writing all of that.
What are your favorite parts of Munich? Are these ones on your MUST SEE list?