12 of the best things to do in Munich

Famous for its beer festival and Bavarian traditions, Munich is all of that and much more.

Come for its world-class museums, beautiful old town, large opera house, food markets and vibrant neighborhoods, knowing that at the end of the day, a large beer will always be waiting for you.

Here are the top things to do in Munich.

1. Explore Munich’s old town

A logical place to start a tour of the old town, or the whole city, is central square and popular meeting place Marienplatz. Here you’ll find the fairy-tale-like Altes Rathaus and the gargoyle-adorned Neues Rathaus. The latter dominates the square and sees crowds gather below its neo-Gothic tower to watch the famous Glockenspiel in action.

At 11am, noon and (from March to October) 5pm, colorful figures depict moments from Munich’s history to the sound of chiming bells. To see this spectacle from a different angle, grab a window seat at MONACO cafe on the 4th floor of the Ludwig Beck department store or Cafe Glockenspiel directly opposite the new town hall.

2. Take a stroll in Englischer Garten, Munich’s huge park 

Sweeping through Munich, Englischer Garten is one of the world’s largest urban parks. Providing shade and swimming opportunities in summer, snowy slopes for sledding in winter and beautiful colors in the autumn, this expansive space is a much-loved oasis in the middle of the city. Not to miss are the surfers at the Eisbach wave or the skyline views from the Monopteros temple. 

Local tip: Even as a local, it’s possible to get lost here. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long before you stumble across a beer garden, a kiosk or a map to help you get your bearings.

3. Get dressed up for a night at the opera 

Home to one of the largest opera stages in the world, the neoclassical National Theater is the main venue for the Bavarian State Opera, the Bavarian State Ballet and the Bavarian State Orchestra. Richard Wagner premiered several of his works at this theater, which opened in 1818. Today you’ll find a diverse program of events for adults and children that can be booked online.

Planning tip: Even if you don’t have time to catch a performance, be sure to stroll past the building at night to see the facade lit up in all its glory.

4. Taste hearty Bavarian cuisine in Munich’s beer halls

For some great local grub, head to one of Munich’s many beer halls or Wirtshäuser (taverns). Arrive hungry and dig into pork knuckles, roast chicken, dumplings and large Brotzeit platters laden with cheese, cured meats and pickles. Alternatively, try a traditional breakfast that includes an early-morning beer. Der Pschorr or the famous Hofbräuhaus, both in the center of Munich, are good starting points. If you’re lucky, your meal might even be accompanied by a brass band! 

5. Join the locals for drinks at a beer garden

Best enjoyed on a sunny summer afternoon, Munich’s many beer gardens are one of the best ways to experience local culture. Wherever you go, you’ll sit with others on communal tables, discover culinary delights such as Steckerlfisch (fish grilled on a stick) or Obazda (Bavarian cheese spread) and enjoy a few cold beers. For the full monty, try Bavaria’s biggest beer garden Hirschgarten or the leafy Augustiner Keller close to the central station. For something more low key, try Zum Flaucher close to the river.

Local tip: Note that many places only serve beer by the liter after 4pm.

6. Explore Schloss Nymphenburg palace and its grounds

One of Munich’s top sights, Schloss Nymphenburg comes with grand interiors and expansive grounds. Initially home to a summer residence, commissioned to celebrate the birth of a long-awaited heir to the throne in 1662, the site used to be located far beyond the borders of the city. Today both the palace and the city have expanded significantly, with the area now surrounded by urban life. 

7. Go for a swim at Müller'sches Volksbad

Open since 1901, Müller'sches Volksbad is the oldest public indoor pool in the city. The palatial building on the banks of the Isar, not far from the Deutsches Museum, is also one of Munich’s finest examples of art nouveau architecture. Guests can choose between two pools – previously for different genders, now with different temperatures – and try a selection of saunas and steam baths. Think lovingly maintained paintings, pillars and statues, rather than slides and wave machines.

 

8. Grab a bite to eat from Viktualienmarkt, the city’s largest market

The green stalls at Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s biggest open-air market, move with the seasons. Open six days a week, it’s the place to come for artisanal cheeses, local honey and other local (and non-local) fresh products. You’ll also find places serving freshly pressed juices, sparkling wine and specialty coffee – and, of course, a beer garden sits in the middle of it all.

Planning tip: Because of its location next to Marienplatz, this is also the perfect spot for a quick lunch in between sights. Try Caspar Plautz for top-notch baked potatoes or Poseidon for fish soup. 

9. Explore many of Germany’s best museums in the Kunstareal

Packed with museums, galleries and academic institutions, the Kunstareal art quarter is the place to go for a culture fix. The compact area is home to many highlights such as the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne, and it’s easy to explore on foot. Thanks to its location in the student district, this area also has plenty of fun and affordable places to eat and drink nearby. 

10. Gaze down from Munich’s best viewing platforms

Munich has several vantage points offering excellent panoramas of the city and beyond. In the center, you’ll find the 85m-high (279ft) observation tower in the Neues Rathaus (with an elevator) and the viewing platform in St Peter’s church (without an elevator). Olympic Park has the Olympiaturm, and the large Ferris wheel known as Umadum is in the Werksviertel. Many of Munich’s hotels also have roof terraces while restaurants such as Fitzroy are great for dinner with a view.

Planning tip: In the warmer months, look out for pop-up open-air venues that appear on the top floors of parking garages and cultural venues.

11. Drink up at Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival 

Join the revelers that descend on Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival, every year. You can enjoy the festive spirit in the city or head to the site for fairground rides and beer tents. It’s not all a beer-fueled party: Visitors to the event can also go for lunch in the late fall sun or experience the historic rides and traditional games at the Oide Wiesn. If you're not keen on crowds, though, it's best to avoid visiting during Oktoberfest.

12. Tap into the city’s personality in Munich’s neighborhoods

If you’re ready for a break from sightseeing at Munich’s best-known spots and want to see another side of the city, you can explore several neighborhoods not far from the center that are worth a visit.

Head to Haidhausen for relaxed village vibes, Schwabing for art nouveau grandeur or Maxvorstadt for student hangouts. All make for a relaxing afternoon of coffee and cake or an evening of dinner and drinks. Try Nana for Israeli cuisine in Haidhausen, Das Weinheim for cheese fondue in Schwabing or Gratitude for vegan creations in Maxvorstadt.

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