When in Munich
The first time I visited Munich, I was 15 years old and never imagined that 10 years later I would move to the city and be married to a German. I have lived in many cities before, but none has conquered my heart like Munich, not even Paris.
Even though I feel like home, I will always be a tourist in Munich. Simply because this city has so much to offer, so many places to be discovered and appreciated that a lifetime is not enough. However, for those of you who will only have a few days around, there are some must do’s and see’s when in Munich.
So here are my insider’s suggestions:
Marienplatz & the Viktualienmarkt
Here is the charming center city of Munich. It’s where you will find the Rathaus -the city hall – and its enchanting clock – glockenspiel – with dancing figures that represent two different stories from the 16th century. The top half is about the marriage of the founder of the famous Hofbräuhaus, Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. The bottom half plays the Schäfflertanz – or the coopers’ dance – which was danced by the people during a year of plague in the city, with the intention to bring vitality. The clock normally plays everyday at 11am and 12am. Between March and October it is also played at 5pm.
Around Marienplatz you will find several stores, restaurants, bars and the Viktualienmarkt, where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from all over the world, handmade products, flowers, wine and local specialties. It is a market that opens in all seasons of the year from 10am-6pm. During summer, try the local sausages; during winter drink a glass of hot wine.
You know those famous huge glasses of 1 Liter beer you see Germans at the Oktoberfest drinking? Well, here is where you will find them and much more other traditional specialties, such as Schweinshaxe, weiss würst and schnitzel (pork knee, white sausage and fried escalopes). This place is a must visit in Munich, even though you will find other beer halls around the city that serves just the same – and sometimes, in my opinion, even better than there. The difference is that the Hofbräuhaus is the oldest and the most famous one, so expect it to be packed.
The Olympiapark is not only a place to run, to take a walk, to watch the ducks playing around, or just to sit and appreciate the green, but it is also where you will find the Olympic Tower. If you want to see Munich from above and at the same time enjoy an amazing lunch or dinner, this is what you were looking for. The Restaurant 181 by the Chef Otto Koch is appreciated not only by tourists, but also by locals, the food is as amazing as the view. Prepare your palate and camera!
BMW Welt and BMW Museum
You can’t visit Munich and ignore the most visited place in Bavaria, with 2.93 million visitors in 2013. At the BMW Welt you will find the official merchandising store of the BMW, cars in exhibition and the opportunity to take a ride around the building with one of the machines. You will also find great food at their restaurant at the top of the building.
The BMW Museum will take you all the way back to when the first invention of the company was developed to the most recent technology. Once in a while they have a special exhibition, like the chance to see and touch the “best car in the world”: Rolls-Royce. Both attractions are connected and can be accessed from the Olympiapark.
Not so far from the Olympiapark you will find this splendid castle. I have to admit that it took me 2 years living in Munich to visit this place, I don’t know why. Maybe because I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful! I was impressed with the place and it really reminded me of the Versailles Palace in France.
The Nymphenburg Castle was built as a summer residence around 1679, especially for the birth of the throne’s heir Max Emanuel. At that time this region was outside Munich, today it makes part of the city. At the site you can visit not only the castle itself, but also the 180 hectares park that surrounds it, where you will see innumerous animal species, from squirrels to Canada Gooses. If you have time, enjoy the Café located at the park and to take a walk around to see the fountains.
Biergarten or Beer Garden
As its name already says, it is a garden, but a very famous and traditional place where you can sit outside and enjoy a local beer while you eat real German food. Beer Gardens are common to be seen in the Bavaria region and the favorite place among the locals. Experience what Germans love and sit and relax at a Biergarten.
Englischer Garten – English Garden
Larger than the Central Park in New York, the Englischer Garten is that amazing green place in the middle of the city, where you can walk around high trees, have an ice cream and a cold beer at a Biergarten. Have a pick nick on the grass or watch the famous surfers surfing at the Eisbach, an artificial river.
A soccer fan? You can’t miss the Allianz Arena – home of the FC Bayern München and TSV 1860 München – one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world. You can either go for a tour during the day or for a game if you are around during the game season: from August to May. The arena changes its light colors according to who is playing: red or blue and has capacity for over 70.000 people. As a FC Bayern München fan, I am often in the arena and it’s always a spectacle.
In Munich during summer? Got some extra time? Take a walk and swim at the Isar, basically the beach of the “Munichers”. It is located in the middle of the city and it is mostly full of people on warm summer days, where you can sit on the riverside, make a barbecue, get tanned and swim.
Milka Welt or Milka’s World
You probably know Milka chocolates, right? They are made in Germany and have a museum – or a store so to say – in Munich, so if you are crazy about chocolate, you will be even more with all the craziness of this place! There are chocolates in every format and flavors you can possibly imagine, clothing, mugs and other souvenirs, and they change the store’s decoration according to the season. You don’t pay to get in, but you will probably pay a lot when you are leaving.
**Update: Milka Welt closed and so far it still unknown whether it will reopen.
Oh yes, how could I not mention the Oktoberfest here? Well, if you are in Munich around end of September and mid October, you have to see by yourself how huge this event is. There are some important facts you need to know if you are planning to go there. One: even though it is called Oktoberfest, it begins on the last week of September and only lasts 3 weeks. Two: it is not easy to get a place to sit on a Zelt – tend – you either make a reservation 1 year before, know someone who works in one of them, or have a lot of patience to stand on the line. Try to avoid it on the weekends – unless you have a reservation – otherwise it can be very stressful. Outside the tends you can have lots of fun on the rides like roller coasters and ferris wheel, and eat some local sweets or buy some traditional souvenirs like the famous gingerbread hearts!
Weihnachtsmärkte or Christmas Markets
If you are in Munich during the cold season, you will fall in love with the shinning Christmas Markets that can be seen all over the city. Basically every neighborhood has at least one of them, they begin at the end of November and end on the 23th December of every year. You will not regret to stop by and have some white/red hot wine, eat a sweet Baumstritzel or buy some handcrafted Christmas decorations. I believe this is my favorite time of the year in Munich, with all that Christmas’ smell around the city, I feel like I’m a kid again.
- Moving around Munich is very simple – even though the German language doesn’t help, I know – when you buy a transport ticket, you can use the Metro, the Suburban Trains, Tram and Bus. Depending on how long you will stay, there will be different tickets you can buy, for 1 day, for groups, for 1 week and so on. I have to admit that they are not cheap, one-day ticket will cost you 10 EUR.
- Practically everyone at the stores, restaurant, etc. speak English. Some restaurants will offer you a menu in English and sometimes even in other languages.
- People in Munich are very helpful with tourists; so don’t hesitate to ask someone on the street if you need some information.
- You don’t have to worry about getting robbed in Munich, but it is always good to pay attention around you, especially if you are around the central station. Munich is very safe and the police are everywhere.
- Munich has one Airport, which is around 30 – 40min away from the center city. If you don’t want to pay for a Taxi or rent a car, you can take the S-Bahn (the suburban train) that will take you to the next U-bahn (metro) station without complications.
- Important: please do avoid talking about Hitler or making any jokes about the topic; it is not prohibited but it is very disrespectful.
- For more information about the city visit Munich’s official website.
If you are willing to take the opportunity of being in Munich to make a day trip to somewhere around, you can go to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, to the charming medieval Regensburg or even skiing in Garmisch. Want to know more about Munich? I will be more than happy to help.