body of water in a park with a tower under a blue sky

Top Things to Do in Munich

While Munich may be known for the annual Oktoberfest, there’s plenty to do year-round. The Bavarian capital is home to a vast range of modern, historical and cultural attractions, including palaces, stadiums and beer halls (of course).

If you’re planning a trip, whether it’s a brief one day stopover or an extended stay covering two or even three days, this article will guide you through the top things to do in Munich. The range of attractions and experiences on offer will highlight why Munich is such a beloved destination amongst both first-time and returning visitors.

Festivals and Events: The Heartbeat of Munich

Munich is a city that thrives on its festivals and events. Each reflects the city’s rich customs, traditions, and cultural values, regardless of the season. Often seen as the kick-off to the folk festival season, Spring Festival (Frühlingsfest) is a smaller counterpart to Oktoberfest. No less vibrant, it marks the beginning of spring with thrilling rides, Bavarian delicacies, and, of course, beer tents.

The crown jewel of Munich’s festival calendar, Oktoberfest, is the world’s largest folk festival. Drawing over 6 million visitors each year, it’s a spectacle of traditional Bavarian culture, featuring an extensive array of beers, foods, and amusement rides. For those planning to attend, finding accommodation early is essential, as the city becomes a magnet for international visitors.

As the festive season approaches, Munich transforms into a winter wonderland with its Christmas markets. The one at Marienplatz is particularly magical, offering everything from homemade ornaments to warm Glühwein. It’s the perfect spot for finding unique gifts or simply soaking in the holiday spirit.

In addition to these, Munich hosts a variety of other events that cater to diverse interests:

  1. Tollwood Summer Festival: Celebrates tolerance, internationalism, and openness with a mix of musical acts, circus performances, and an array of arts and crafts from around the globe.
  2. Kocherlball: A traditional dance event taking place at the Chinesischer Turm, inviting everyone to dress up and dance till dawn in one of Munich’s most picturesque settings.
  3. Starkbierfest: A three-week celebration dedicated to dark and strong beers, offering beer enthusiasts a chance to explore deeper into Bavaria’s brewing traditions.

No matter the time of year, visitors will find that there’s much more to experience in Munich beyond Oktoberfest. As well as those mentioned above, the city’s event calendar is filled with unique festivals worth attending, from the medieval flair of the Kaltenberg Knights Tournament to the traditional market vibes of Auer Dult. Each event offers a glimpse into the city’s multifaceted cultural landscape, making Munich a year-round destination for festival-goers.

Cultural Experiences and Museums in Munich

Munich’s cultural landscape is as diverse as it is fascinating, offering a plethora of museums. From ancient Egyptian artifacts to cutting-edge contemporary art, the city’s museums are treasure troves of knowledge and beauty.

Kunstareal District

At the heart of Munich’s art scene, the Kunstareal is an arts district that houses some of the world’s most renowned museums. Highlights include:

  • The Alte Pinakothek, showcasing art from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. It’s home to masterpieces by Dürer, da Vinci, and Rubens.
  • Neue Pinakothek, which focuses on 19th-century art.
  • Pinakothek der Moderne and Museum Brandhorst, which offer contemporary and modern art by icons like Picasso, Warhol, and Damien Hirst.

For science enthusiasts, the Deutsches Museum stands as one of the world’s largest museums of science and technology, with exhibits that span from classical physics to space technology.

Specialised Museums

Munich’s specialised museums will be of interest for visitors who want to take a deep dive into the city’s offerings. The NS-Dokumentationzentru is particularly noteworthy, for more than just history enthusiasts. It’s dedicated to documenting the history of National Socialism, providing a critical look at Munich’s past during the Third Reich.

For art lovers, the State Collection of Egyptian Art and the Bavarian National Museum offer insights into ancient civilisations and European art and culture, spanning over two millennia.

Unique Cultural Venues

Munich is also home to unique cultural venues such as the Munich Kammerspiele and Residenztheater. Both are not just architectural marvels, but are renowned for their high-quality performances in opera, ballet, and theatre.

For those interested in contemporary art, the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA) showcases street art by international artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey.

To complement your cultural explorations, guided tours are available at many venues. Engaging in these experiences not only enriches your understanding of Munich’s historical and artistic significance, but also offers a deeper connection to the city’s vibrant cultural scene.

Beer Gardens and Bavarian Cuisine

Exploring Munich’s beer halls and gardens and indulging in Bavarian cuisine is an experience that offers a genuine taste of local life.

Famous Beer Halls and Gardens

Hofbräuhaus: Known worldwide, this iconic beer hall is the epitome of German beer culture, offering beers by the litre, traditional Bavarian food, and live oompah bands.

Augustiner Keller: As one of Munich’s largest beer gardens, it provides over 5,000 seats under the shade of chestnut trees, serving hearty local cuisine alongside fresh Augustiner beer straight from wooden barrels.

Hirschgarten: Holding the title of the largest beer garden in Munich with 8,000 seats, it not only offers a vast selection of beers but also features play areas and a game reserve, making it a perfect spot for families.

Beer Garden Etiquette: Munich’s beer culture offers a great blend of community and independence that’s pretty unique to the city. Bavarian law states that you’re allowed to bring your food to beer gardens, and you should also be aware that beer gardens are self-service. Beer garden tours, similar to pub crawls, provide plenty of information about Munich’s beer heritage and etiquette if you’re interested.

lots of people sitting at tables in a brightly decorated beer hall during oktoberfest
A beer hall during Oktoberfest

Bavarian Food

Breakfast: Start your day with a traditional Bavarian breakfast comprising Weisswurst, sweet mustard, pretzel, and wheat beer.

Main Dishes: For lunch or dinner, savour quintessential Munich dishes such as roast pork, Obatzda, roast chicken, Käsespätzle, and the sweet treat of Kaisersmarrn.

Unique Eats: Don’t miss out on trying a giant schnitzel at Steinheil 16. The questionably flavoured ice creams at Der verrückte Eismacher are also worth a try.

Historical Landmarks

Exploring Munich’s historical landmarks offers a journey through time, revealing the city’s rich heritage and architectural marvels. For those interested in deepening their understanding of Munich’s history, it’s worth noting that the Bavarian Palace Administration offers a sightseeing pass, granting access to over 30 castles and palaces.

Nymphenburg Palace is one of Munich’s must-see attractions. Once the summer residence of Bavarian rulers, this Baroque masterpiece boasts an expansive park and several museums. Showcasing the opulent lifestyle of the past, the palace’s grandeur and meticulously designed gardens make it a perfect day trip.

The central square of Munich, Marienplatz, is another location that pulses with history. It features the iconic New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) and its famous Glockenspiel cuckoo clock. This area serves as a focal point for visitors to start their old town exploration. Guided tours bring the history of these landmarks to life, offering insights into Munich’s development and cultural significance.

The city is also home to numerous churches and cathedrals, including Theatinerkirche, Frauenkirche and Asamkirche. Theatinerkirche, a striking Roman Catholic church known for its yellow façade and opulent interior, is a key landmark in Munich’s cityscape.

Frauenkirche, meanwhile, is a stunning Gothic cathedral. With its distinctive twin onion domes, it not only serves as a final resting place for Emperors and Kings, but also houses legends of the Devil’s footprint, adding a mysterious allure to its historical significance.

Finally, Asamkirche, a hidden gem with an intricate baroque interior, showcases ornate marble work and statues that exemplify the artistic mastery of the Asam brothers.

Modern Attractions

Munich’s modern attractions offer a blend of technological marvels, recreational spaces, and unique experiences that cater to all ages and interests.

Technological and Architectural Wonders

One of the city’s most famous architectural masterpieces is the Allianz Arena, home to Bayern Munich football club. Recognised globally for its unique exterior that changes colour to match the team’s kit, this stadium is not just a football lover’s dream but a marvel of modern architecture. As well as enjoying world-class football matches, visitors can take a guided tour to explore behind the scenes.

BMW Welt is another technological and architectural wonder. A paradise for car enthusiasts, this futuristic building houses an extensive range of BMW cars and offers guided tours. Furthermore, its lifestyle shop is a great place to find unique souvenirs.

BMW Welt building lit up in red and blue at night
BMW Welt lit up at night

Recreational and Cultural Spaces

When it comes to recreational and cultural spaces, Olympiapark is a nice place to visit, particularly during warmer weather. The park is a testament to the successful reuse of Olympic venues, offering a wide range of events and activities. It’s also home to the Olympic Tower, which provides panoramic views of Munich from its observation deck.

While this might seem a surprising suggestion, Munich International Airport is also an interesting spot. Beyond its role as a transportation hub, the airport surprises visitors with its own brewery, minigolf area, and an observation area perfect for plane spotting, making Munich one of the best places to get stuck on a layover.

Unique Experiences

For a unique experience, consider dinner hopping in a school bus. Combining sightseeing with culinary delights, this unique experience allows visitors to dine in a school bus as it navigates through Munich’s streets. Alternatively, for a playful break, visit the Technical University of Munich’s Garching campus, where parabolic slides offer a fun and quick way down between floors.

For those planning to explore these modern attractions, the Munich Card and Munich City Pass offer discounts and all-inclusive admission, making it easier and more affordable to enjoy what the city has to offer. Engaging in activities and experiences, such as the guided tours at BMW Welt or enjoying the panoramic views from the Olympic Tower, can be easily booked.

Shopping and Fashion

Munich offers a diverse shopping experience, catering to all tastes and preferences. Here are some of the city’s most notable shopping destinations.

High-End Fashion and Luxury Shopping

Maximilianstrasse: Known for its upscale shops, art galleries, and five-star hotels, it’s the go-to place for luxury shopping. Here, you’ll find world-renowned designer brands like Gucci, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, and Dolce & Gabbana. For those looking for luxury at a more affordable price, there are also second-hand designer clothing and accessories available.

Fünf Höfe: This first-class retail and lifestyle destination boasts over 60 exclusive shops, bars, cafés, restaurants, specialty stores, art galleries, and a concert hall, offering a sophisticated shopping experience in the heart of the city.

Trendy and Eclectic Finds

Glockenbachviertel: Offers unique shops selling jewellery, postcards, fashion, or furniture. It’s a great place to discover young designers’ creations and potentially spot Munich’s stars or celebrities.

Hofstatt: Features a unique architectural design with trendy fashion and home-décor shops, cafés, and bars, making it a must-visit for those looking to explore contemporary trends.

Shopping Malls and Centres

Olympia-Einkaufszentrum (OEZ): As Bavaria’s largest shopping centre with over 130 shops, it houses major designer brands, clothing stores, electronics, footwear, jewellery, and two primary department stores, along with a variety of gastronomic establishments.

Stachus Passagen: The biggest underground shopping mall in Europe, offering more than 50 shops, including a Decathlon outlet. Shoppers can find a wide range of products such as fashion clothing, personal care, cosmetics, books, electronics, jewellery, and chocolates.

For those planning their visit, it’s important to note that most stores are closed on Sundays. Therefore, it’s advisable to plan your itinerary accordingly if you wish to go shopping.

Outdoor and Leisure Activities

Munich’s outdoor and leisure activities offer a perfect blend of nature, adventure, and relaxation for all ages. Highlights include the famous Englischer Garten, as well as a few hidden gems.

Englischer Garten

A sprawling green oasis in the heart of Munich, Englischer Garten is ideal for picnicking, jogging, and enjoying the serene atmosphere. The park is home to several biergartens, where you can unwind with a refreshing beer after a day of exploration.

For those looking to catch some waves, the Eisbach wave at the southern edge of the park offers a unique surfing experience right in the city centre. It’s a popular spot amongst both local and visiting surfers, showcasing Munich’s vibrant outdoor culture.

For a more immersive experience, guided walking tours of the park, including stops at the Chinese Tower Beer Garden, are available, combining leisure with learning about the park’s history and landmarks.

white circular building on a small hill surrounded by trees in a park on a clear day
Englischer Garten

Alternative Outdoor Venues

Known for its Japanese garden, Thai temple, and inviting beer garden, West Park provides a tranquil escape with a touch of international flair. Luitpoldpark, meanwhile, is perfect for those looking to stay active during their visit. Famous for its hill made from World War II rubble, it offers panoramic views of the city and hosts free “Fit im Park” sessions.

Alternatively, you could visit Müller’sches Volksbad. An architectural gem, this historic public swimming pool offers a Roman steam bath and Finnish-style sauna for a relaxing day out.

Adventurous Outings

For the thrill-seekers, Munich’s proximity to the Bavarian Alps offers easy access to hiking and biking trails. Guided tours and excursions are available for those looking to explore the mountains.

Those interested in water sports can try surfing at the previously mentioned Eisbach wave. Alternatively, explore other surfing spots like the Surfwelle Floßlände and the indoor surfing at the Jochen Schweizer Arena.

Street art enthusiasts can partake in cultural adventures by discovering Munich’s vibrant urban art scene. Many tours highlight the best works in bike and pedestrian tunnels throughout the city centre.

In addition to these activities, Munich’s extensive network of bike lanes and rental services make it easy to explore the city on two wheels. Guided bike tours are also popular, offering stops at various landmarks and beer gardens for a quintessential Munich experience.

Munich Itineraries: One, two, or three days in Munich

Crafting a Munich itinerary that captures the essence of the city while accommodating the time constraints of one, two, or three days can be a challenge. Here’s a guide to making the most of your Munich adventure, complete with accommodation options and unforgettable experiences:

One Day in Munich

  • Morning: Start with a visit to Marienplatz to observe the Glockenspiel show, a fascinating mechanical clock that enacts stories from the 16th century.
  • Midday: Explore the vibrant Viktualienmarkt, a traditional farmers’ market offering fresh produce, artisanal foods, and a taste of local life.
  • Afternoon: Conclude your day with a tour of the Nymphenburg Palace and its beautiful gardens, immersing yourself in Bavarian history and architecture.
  • Stay: Opt for a cosy boutique hotel near Marienplatz for easy access to sights and a comfortable retreat.

Two Days in Munich

  • Day 1: Follow the one-day itinerary.
  • Day 2: Embark on a day trip to the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle, often referred to as the Sleeping Beauty Castle. Book a guided tour by bus to also include a visit to Schloss Linderhof for a full day of exploration.
  • Stay: Consider staying in accommodations that offer easy access to the train station for an early start to your day trip.

Three Days in Munich

  • Day 1 & 2: Follow the two-day itinerary.
  • Day 3: Dedicate your morning to a short side trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp, a poignant reminder of Germany’s history. Later, spend your afternoon exploring the Bavarian National Museum for a dive into cultural artifacts. Alternatively, head to the Englischer Garten for a leisurely stroll in one of Europe’s largest urban parks.
  • Stay: Choose a hotel or apartment that balances proximity to Munich’s central attractions with easy access to transportation for your day trips.

Experiences to Enhance Your Itinerary

  • Marienplatz Glockenspiel Show: Secure a spot on a guided walking tour that includes the history of Marienplatz and a prime view of the Glockenspiel show.
  • Nymphenburg Palace: Book a guided tour of the palace and gardens to uncover the stories of Bavarian royalty and the architectural marvels of the estate.
  • Neuschwanstein Castle Day Trip: Look for a guided tour that not only takes you to the castle but also includes stops at other significant sites along the way. Also read our article Neuschwanstein Castle: Getting there, guided tours and more for more information.

Practical Information for Visitors

Here are some practical tips and information to help enhance your stay in Munich:

Payment Methods and Cash Handling

  • The Euro (€) is Germany’s official currency. Exchange your money before you go, or consider setting up an account with a secure online bank that doesn’t charge exchange and transaction fees when you go abroad.
  • Always carry cash and coins as many restaurants and stores only accept cash or EC-cards.
  • It’s common to pay for bathrooms in Munich, so keep coins handy for such instances.
orange underground tunnel
Marienplatz underground station

Transportation and Mobility

  • Utilise Munich’s efficient public transport system, which includes U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses. They’re all accessible with the same type of ticket.
  • Consider purchasing the Munich Card or Munich City Pass for unlimited travel and discounts on tours, attractions, and activities.
  • Download the MVG app for convenient route planning and ticket purchasing.
  • Be cautious around bike lanes and always validate your transport tickets to avoid fines.

Accommodations and Stays

For a luxurious experience, explore top-rated hotels in the Altstadt (Old Town). Be warned, though- they can be pricey. Use Booking.com to see what’s out there; as well as hotels, you can also use this platform for flights, car rentals and booking attractions and experiences.

Budget-friendly options are available near the main train station area, offering convenient connections to surrounding areas. Hostelworld is a great place to start looking for cheap stays in Munich, and offers more than just beds in dormitories- you can also find private rooms and boutique style experiences for wallet-friendly prices.

Lehel, Glockenbachviertel, Haidhausen, and the area around Olympiapark are recommended for a blend of comfort and convenience, with easy access to public transport and local attractions.

Exploring Munich, with its rich blend of historical landmarks, vibrant cultural scene, and numerous outdoor spaces, provides an unforgettable experience of Bavaria. From the grandeur of Nymphenburg Palace to the lively beer halls and serene landscapes of the Englischer Garten, the essence of Munich captivates all who wander its streets.

Whether it’s a day spent marvelling at art in the Kunstareal District, an evening enjoying Bavarian cuisine in a traditional beer garden, or a morning exploring the bustling Viktualienmarkt, Munich offers a diverse array of experiences bound to leave lasting memories.

CTA: Use sites like Get Your Guide, Viator and Tiqets to see what kinds of activities you can do in Munich!

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