What if we told you there’s more to Munich than just Oktoberfest? Mind blowing, right? Don’t get us wrong: there’s plenty to do in Munich if you’re here for the beers, but it would be remiss to leave Munich off your itinerary if you think you’ve done Germany because you’ve seen Berlin.
Munich swaps Berlin’s nightclub scene for Bavarian Beer Halls, fairytale like architecture and everything done with a sprinkle of Bavarian culture.
So, if you’re ready to discover more the beauty this city has to offer, here’s the ultimate first timer’s guide to Munich (even when Oktoberfest isn’t on).
When To Go
If you’re travelling for Oktoberfest there are no prizes for guessing when to visit. If you’re visiting outside of then, we recommend March to May for less tourists and temperate weather. If you’re in town to check out Bavaria in all of it’s autumnal glory, then you really can’t beat a visit in the September to November. While a visit in summer will have you thanking the weather gods for the best beer garden vibes, ever.
Where To Stay
Munich doesn't have the strongest Airbnb game and prices fluctuate heavily depending on the season, so a hotel if your best bet here.
The Altstadt is peak fairy tale vibes and the heart of Munich’s old town. If you’re looking for an insanely picturesque spot to stay, circle Altstadt on your map and get ready to check in to the Louis Hotel. If you pick this as your base you’ll be an easy stroll away from the city’s most impressive sites. Like Marienplatz (pretty much the heart of the CBD) and all of the city’s best beer halls. And if you visit during the Christmas season you’ll be a whisker away from the Christmas markets too.
If you’re up for more of a vibe, then Glockenbach is your ‘hood. This is where Munich’s Bavarian conservativeness lays to rest and the party begins. This is the spot for LGBTQ+ bars, Australian-level brunch and coffee spots and a heady taste of local life away from Marienplatz’s swathes of tourists and walking tours. The Flushing Meadows is a dreamy design hotel you’ll probably recognise from Pinterest. You’ll find it in an industrial building nestled alongside one of Munich’s lavish parks. Even better, it boasts an epic rooftop bar.
Last but not least is Schwabing aka the hipster capital of Munich. Staying here is perfect if you’re looking to spend your days exploring the huge Englischer Garten (it’s bigger than Central Park in NYC!) and hitting up vintage stores. Accomodation options here are more traditional to Munich’s history than the aforementioned design hotels, but offer a much more authentic experience. We love the Das Nikolai Hotel with its airy bay windows and pastel yellow exterior, while the Englischer Garten Guest House is smack bang on the gardens and delivers a strong punch of Bavarian vibes.
Things To Do
Yep, surfing. But not the surfing we’re used to. You can watch some (very) brave Bavarians riding their kevlar-coated boards on the waves created as the Eisbachwelle River passes under a bridge on the edge of the Englischer Gardens. You’ll find the surfers lining the banks all year long—even in winter. This is one we’d save for the locals only, but pack a picnic of beers and fresh pretzels and you can watch these guys all day.
CATCH SUNSET FROM A CHURCH
The perks of a city filled with ancient, towering churches? Plenty of epic vantage points to catch the sunset at. The city’s most famous church, St Stephans, is a great spot in the centre of Munich to watch the sunset over the city’s breathtaking skyline. On a clear day, you can even see out to the alps. Another great option is the ‘onion church’. The Frauenkirche earned this nickname from locals thanks to its two green onion shaped domes. Climb up the South Tower for the perfect sunset vista from one of the most iconic spots in Munich.
Pause For History
When in Germany, no visit is complete without taking the time to pause and remember the area’s history. In Munich, you can take a poignant visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp to witness the horror of the war first hand. Fair warning: this is an intense day trip. You can also spend a day at the NS-Dokumentationzentrum where thousands upon thousands of Nazi documents are kept.
TAKE A HIKE
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, so you better believe there are some epic hikes that take you through the picturesque Bavarian nature. Come Saturday morning, most locals will be on a quick train ride into the countryside for a weekend of walking. You can even catch a train to Austria’s alps in less than an hour. And if you feel like it, there’s even a hiking trail that takes you from Munich to Venice.
Peruse The OG Food Market
The Viktualienmarkt is Munich’s oldest food market. Call in early to mingle with the locals as they shop for their fresh vegetables, flowers and locally made beauty products. If you’re stopping by early, you can pack yourself a picnic for a day soaking up the sun in one of Munich’s many parks, but if you head here for lunch you’ll be blessed with choice between homemade Bavarian deliciousness (think soups, fresh pretzels and more) and more multicultural offerings like mouth-watering falafels and other Middle Eastern delights with thanks from the city’s migrant population.
GET YOUR CHRISTMAS ON
We really couldn’t write a list of things to do in Munich and not include Marienplatz. It’s the center of the city where you’ll find Munich’s oldest churches, best beer halls and shopping. Come Christmas, Marienplatz is filled with Christmas spirit as the cutest ever markets pop up in the space. Swing by for mulled wine, ginger bread and roasted chestnuts.
Augustiner Beer Hall
Bavarian food is true comfort food. None more so than the iconic pork knuckle. When you’re in town, you’ll be spoilt for choice with plenty of spots to try it, but skip all the TripAdvisor reviews and trust us when we say Augustinerbrau is THE spot for the best ones in town. Tucked away down a leafy side street in Marienplatz, this beer hall serves them up the best—complete with crispy crackling and potato dumplings. The pork knuckles are marinated for days and then slowly roasted, resulting in the best crackling you’ll ever eat and meat that falls off the bone. Pro tip: this is one of the better spots to sample a local Bavarian Beer too.
When in Germany, eat as Angela Merkel does. This is one of her fave spots to bring VIPs, so you know it’s good. Order the Bouillabaisse or the tartar fritz and thank us later. Or, if you’re feeling really hungry, order the fresh seafood tower. Chez Fritz, located in Glockenbach, is the perfect place for dinner and then drinks in one of the neighbourhood’s many cosy wine bars.
You didn’t think we’d write a list of the best places to eat in Munich without including bratwurst, did you? This is one of the best spots to acquaint yourself with one of the country’s most famous dishes and you’ll find it just off Marienplatz. Expect high levels of Bavarian kitch with cuckoo clocks and all the trimmings. This is without a doubt a spot for tourists to try the wurst, but trust us when we say it’s bloody delicious.
Things don’t come more authentically Bavarian than the Hofbrauhaus. It’s Munich’s oldest, biggest, and most famous beer hall. Fair warning: this spot fills up with tourists real fast, but you can still expect to be sharing a table with locals dressed in their lederhosen and raising steines. To find a seat, head in and find an empty spot at one of the hall’s tables or wander into the beer garden and do the same. Our tip is to skip eating here and grab a fresh pretzel instead, you’ll find better food elsewhere. Stay for live the band and atmosphere.
Grapes Wien Bar
For a bar without the cuckoo clocks and menus printed in every language possible, head to Grapes Wien Bar in Glockenbach. Think everything from tres expensive vintages to local organic wines and wines from neighbouring Austria.
Gartensalon is a female run cafe in Amalien-Passage in central Munich. A corner of the city heavy on the 70s vibes and ripe for a good session in a sun-drenched beer garden. Head here for breakfast, great coffee and homemade cakes. They’re open until 7pm, so perfect for an early evening spot to soak up those long, warm European nights before exploring the funky neighbourhood.
Next up, here's eight reasons you need to visit Düsseldorf.
Image Credit: Luis Fernando Felipe Alves, Alistair MacRobert, Daniel Seßler, Andrew Nguyen, Hofbrauhaus, Seng chye teo, Jorg Greuel