The Ultimate Munich City Guide
Last updated: 30 Sep 2020 / by Sam Williams
With approximately 1.5 million residents, Munich is the third biggest city in Germany. However, the quality of life is impressive, and said to be the best in the country.
Around a fifth of the city is made up of green spaces and parks, and the people are friendly. Munich is sometimes described as an enormous village, capturing the Bavarian way of life and quaint Alpine character on a larger scale.
Munich isn’t the cheapest city in Germany and compared to Berlin, can be more expensive. However, it offers an abundance of things to see and do, with a multicultural heart and a vibrancy that makes it a wonderful place to be.
How to Get Around
Although slightly smaller than Hamburg and Berlin, Munich is still a sizeable city and so you’ll need to have a means of getting around. This doesn’t mean purchasing a car, as there are many better and more efficient ways of traveling around Munich. Some of the options for transport around Munich include:
- Underground train – U-bahn
- Overground light rail – S-bahn
- Trams – Strassenbahn
- Sightseeing coaches and tours
Cycling is popular in many places around Germany and Munich is no exception. You can easily cycle around the city, and there are many places where you can rent a bike for the day.
Where to Eat
As Bavaria’s heart, Munich is often associated with pretzels, sausage and beer, but there’s much more on offer.
If you’re looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s an enormous choice of food that caters to all tastes and budgets. Below is a snapshot of some of the best places in the city.
Preysinggarten is a restaurant that offers something for everyone. If you’re a vegan or a veggie you won’t find an abundance of top-notch choices but here at Preysinggarten you’re well-catered for.
Families are in luck too as there is a playground around the back to keep the little ones entertained. The 19th-century architecture is simple but beautiful and offset by the natural decor.
The food is Mediterranean with specials on the board every day.
If you enjoy the traditional schnitzel and sausage, head to Wirtshaus Maximilian. This restaurant provides familiar food but with a modern twist.
It’s inexpensive and affordable so it’s a top pick when you’re on a budget. If you’re looking for a beer to drink there’s no shortage of choice with 30-40 German beers on tap or bottle, plus a wide variety of Austrian and German wines too.
Sushi may not be traditional German food but you’ll find a few different sushi restaurants in the city. Kokumi is one of the best, offering fusion cuisine with delicious sushi and miso soup. Describing itself as a Japanese cookhouse, the restaurant has some stunning specials, including a Matcha cheesecake.
As you might have guessed from the name, this is a restaurant that’s all about fish. When you arrive, a carefully arranged display of fresh fish on mounds of ice sets the scene.
The restaurant has small and cosy corners and the low lighting gives an intimate feel. There are soups, pasta and rice dishes along with fish specialists such as grilled mussel starters and tuna tartare.
For a swankier meal out, treat yourself to a dining experience at Pageou. Named after chef Ali Güngörmüs’ childhood village, the restaurant offers upmarket Turkish cuisine which combines rustic recipes and a la carte sophistication. In the summer you can enjoy al fresco dining in the courtyard and there’s even a private function room for hire.
Vorhölzer Forum Cafe
You’ll find cheap, tasty and simple food at this cafe, but this doesn’t make our list for the cuisine. The pizza, sausage and coffee here are excellent and portions are generous but it’s the view that is so spectacular.
The cafe is off the beaten track, meaning that tourists do not often found it. Enjoy eating your dinner while gazing out over Maxvorstadt, and on a clear day, you’ll even be able to see the snow-capped Alps.
Tian is one of the few dedicated vegetarian restaurants in Munich, located near the Viktualienmarkt for maximum convenience.
The dishes are all made from local, fresh, organic produce and the choice includes 4-8 course meals. Many of the dishes are made from a combination of simple ingredients, with options such as ricotta, watermelon and cucumber gazpacho and vanilla or strawberry panna cotta. Every pick is immaculately presented and it feels like a real indulgence, even if you’re not usually a veggie.
Head to the BMW showroom in Munich’s center and admire the beautiful motors before settling down for an equally high-class meal at Esszimmer. The Michelin-starred restaurant is trendy and exclusive, with exquisite paneling accompanying the gourmet French and Mediterranean cuisine. This restaurant isn’t a cause drop-in, but more of a dress-up occasion and perfect for an intimate dinner or indulgent night out.
Nur Einmal Leben
Despite the very German-sounding name, this is a Greek restaurant with a phenomenal reputation. Homemade Greek food at reasonable prices is served in a stripped-back decor, with seating available outside as well as indoors. Make a reservation if you can rather than just turning up as it’s prone to getting very busy!
What to Do
The available activities vary depending on the time of year, but whenever you visit, there are always plenty of things to enjoy. Here’s a small selection of what’s on offer:
(2020 cancelled due to COVID-19)
The largest beer festival in the world, Oktoberfest puts Munich on the map.
Held annually in autumn, Oktoberfest is a celebration of Bavarian culture and attracts more than six million visitors from many countries. Only beers that have been brewed in Munich can be served at Oktoberfest, but there are many varieties on offer. Along with millions of beer liters, there are many other attractions at Oktoberfest such as stalls, fairground rides, live music, and food.
BBQ by the Isar
The Isar River is a big part of Munich life, and there are many opportunities to stroll along the banks or take a trip by boat to see the sights. However, when the weather is nice, Munich residents flock to find a space to enjoy a BBQ along its banks.
There are only certain places in Munich where a barbecue is allowed, but the north and south spaces around the Isar are popular. You’ll need to get there early if you want to get a spot, but the effort will be more than worth it.
The oldest circus group in the world, the same family has run Circus Krone for more than a century.
They now have a permanent building in Munich, the Kronebau, a stunning 3000-seat venue that hosts shows between December and March every year.
Some of the acts on offer include clowns, lion tamers, horses, elephants and acrobats. Unlike other circuses, Circus Krone is renowned for the care it provides to its animals, and provides email addresses for fans to correspond with all of the artistes personally.
Walk Around Englischer Garten
Sprawling over more than 21 acres, the Englischer Garten is one of the biggest urban parks in the world. Spreading from the centre of Munich right up to its north-eastern boundary, the Englischer Garten provides a refreshing green oasis throughout the city.
Commissioned in the 18th-century, the park has two distinct areas. The southern part is usually busier while the northern half is much quieter and preferable for those looking to enjoy green spaces in seclusion.
It’s impossible to list everything that’s included within the boundaries of the park, but some highlights include two beer gardens, a Chinese pagoda, a Greek temple, a Japanese teahouse, a lake and a surfing facility! With more than 45 miles of paths curling around the forested areas, landscaped gardens and open parkland, you could explore Englischer Garten all day and still only cover a fraction.
Shopping on Maximilianstraße
Built for King Maximilian II in the 19th century, Maximilianstraße is one of Germany’s most exclusive boulevards.
It offers architectural beauty, with buildings combining Neo-Gothic and Renaissance styling but it’s the names over the doors which are the biggest draw. Maximilianstraße is the elite shopping avenue in Munich and you’ll find some of the most exclusive and sought-after designer names here, including Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Armani.
Along with the designer clothes, there are also high-class jewellers such as Bulgari and also art galleries, just to complete the elegant ambience. If you have the cash to splash out, shopping on Maximilianstraße is a real treat, but it’s also enjoyable just taking a walk along it and appreciating the history and glamour.
Take a City Tour
Munich is a city that has so much to see it can be hard to know where to start. Many tours around the city provide an excellent starting point for exploring Munich.
For those days when it’s rainy, a bus tour means you can still see the city without getting drenched. A pedicab tour can also be enjoyed if it’s wet, giving you a closer look at the city while still remaining dry. If the weather is nicer, many walking tours and cycle tours visit top spots and themed tours. These include a tasting tour of Viktualienmarkt, the famous food market in Munich.
Visit BMW Welt
You don’t need to be a superfan of BMW cars to book a place on a guided tour of BMW Welt. As well as walking you through the history of BMW, you’ll have the chance to see what the future holds with virtual technology and exhibitions. There are a variety of different tours offering a look at different aspects of the giant BMW operation plus the museum on site. There are junior tours designed for children, as well as plenty for adults to enjoy too.
What to See
There are many historical and cultural sights in Munich which could fill up an itinerary all on their own. Here are a few suggestions for some of the places to visit:
Dating back to 1838, the Alte Pinakothek is one of the world’s oldest art galleries. Created on King Ludwig I’s orders, the art gallery was built to hold the royal art collection which Duke Wilhelm IV began in the 16th century. Today, you’ll find a range of paintings from all over Europe, the oldest of which dates from the 13th century. Some of the artists included in this gallery include Albrecht Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, Hans Baldung Grien and van Dyck.
Dachau Concentration Camp
Dachau holds the dubious honour of being the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis, and was originally intended for political prisoners. Over the years, its use was changed and it became a base to transport prisoners to other notorious locations such as Auschwitz. The intended capacity of Dachau was 6000 but by the end of World War II it was crammed full with 32,000 prisoners. The usual horrific experiences of Nazi prisoner of war camps prevailed at Dachau as elsewhere, including medical experimentation, starvation and disease. Today, Dachau has a museum, a video presentation about the history (not recommended for young children), and some of the original structures such as the dormitories.
Hofgarten and Residenz
Lying right in the center of Munich, the Hofgarten provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
A court garden that was commissioned by Duke Maximilian II of Bavaria, Hofgarten was created in the 17th century in the Renaissance style.
A pavilion in the centre is dedicated to the goddess Diana, with each of the eight arches leading to paths which wind around the pretty, landscaped garden.
The Residenz lies next to Hofgarten so it makes sense to combine visits to both into one afternoon. Wittelsbach family used this enormous palace, the rulers of Germany from the 11th century until 1918.
Originally built as a fortress in 1385, the palace was expanded over the years to become a truly impressive building. With 130 rooms, a theatre, a church, riding stables, and the Hofgarten, the Residenz was an opulence exercise.
Although World War II led to serious damage, a large amount of restoration has been carried out and the palace is open today as a museum.
Located on the Marienplatz, the town hall – known in German as the Neues Rathaus – is an incredible example of Gothic Revival architecture. With trefoil arches, pinnacles and carved statues of the first four Bavarian kings, the architecture is an absolute triumph.
Originally built in 1874, it had to be enlarged just two decades later due to Munich’s population explosion. The famous Glockenspiel has chimed every day since 1908 with quaint motorised figurines acting out scenes from the 1600s.
Deutsche and City Museums
The Deutsche Museum is widely regarded as one of the best science and technology museums in the world, with exhibitions, displays and demonstrations which include hands-on, interactive experiences.
There is a wide and diverse range of subjects featured in the museum, ranging from marine biology and mining to pharmaceuticals and space. If you want to get a taster before you go, the museum offers 360-degree guided tours online.
If you want to find out more about the city of Munich, the Stadtmuseum (City Museum) is the place to visit. The museum includes many different historical Munich aspects, including fashion, film, music, puppet theatre, and the fairground.
A spectacular piece of 19th century architecture, Feldherrnhalle was originally constructed in homage to the beauty of Italian art for King Ludwing I. However, over the years it became an important monument and part of German history.
Initially intended to house a memorial to the Bavarian Army, it was later commandeered by Hitler who installed a bronze swastika tablet. Such was his insistence on public demonstrations of respect, an SS guard was stationed at the Feldherrnhalle and no-one was permitted to pass unless they executed a Nazi salute. This led many residents to avoid the memorial and instead cut through Viscardigasse, an area that now has gold paving to mark the peaceful act of civil resistance.
Today, the Fernherrnhalle is a place where shoppers and visitors rest during the day, relaxing on the steps while watching the world go by. Once a year in July, a big open-air classical music concert is held nearby, with the Fernherrnhalle transforming into the orchestra pit.
Tierpark Hellabrunn is the first geozoo in the world, and located in Munich. Although you’ll find lots of wild animals in the park, it doesn’t look like a traditional zoo. This is because the animals are organised according to their geographic distribution and arranged in sophisticated communities.
Talking a walk around the zoo is like a mini-tour worldwide with natural groups of exotic animals, including bats, elephants, and giraffes. For younger visitors there are two playgrounds, plus a petting zoo which includes pygmy goats.
Built in the 17th century, the Theatinerkirche was designed and built as a tribute to the heir to the throne.
The first Baroque church to the north of the Alps, the Theatinerkirche is wonderfully elaborate with carvings inside and out.
The church’s exterior is a stunning sight, with a yellow facade, two towers, and an impressive dome.
The inside is just as striking, with gorgeous white arches and ornate decoration in every direction. One of the many of the highlights inside is the royal crypt where several members of the Wittelsback family were laid to rest.
Whether you’re just in Munich for a short time or a longer spell, exploring the city at night allows you to see a different side. There are many venues in Munich which offer evening entertainment; here’s a select bunch of the best:
Munich Distillers Bar
Munich is very well-known for its beer and traditional Bavarian bars, but some places provide something a little different.
Munich Distillers Bar offers a trendy yet intimate atmosphere with candlelit corners and arches you’ll want to explore. But it’s their drinks menu which set them apart from the typical beer halls, as they offer spirits they’ve distilled in-house including rum, vodka and a wide variety of gin. They offer a seductive menu of cocktails made from these, promising a fun – if tipsy! – night for all.
As the oldest beer hall in Munich, Hofbräuhaus was built almost 500 years ago. This provides a glimpse at some of the most spectacular Bavarian architecture; take time to look at the ceilings in particular.
The beer hall works hard to retain its historical atmosphere and transports patrons back to olden days with a live band on the first floor, belting out folk music.
A beer hall is a very different experience than visiting a pub or bar, and Hofbräuhaus offers a traditional experience for locals and visitors to enjoy.
If you’re a fan of live music, Backstage is where you want to go in Munich. A wide variety of artists will play at the club every week, with everything from pop and rock through to garage and indie.
Before the music starts you can grab a bite to eat, with traditional Bavarian bar snacks available to buy. They also have regular party nights too which rotate between the different styles of music.
If you turn up and they’re not playing the tunes you like, it’s still worth staying for a drink or two as they also have stunning light shows to accompany the music.
Glockenbackviertel isn’t the name of a single establishment, but an area within Munich. The streets in this area are renowned for being lined with bars, clubs, and establishments that welcome a more individual customer type.
To put this in perspective, Freddie Mercury at his outrageous best-loved to party in Glockenbachviertel in the 1980s. His favourite bars were places such as Old Mrs Henderson (now called Paradiso Tanzbar), Frisco (now called Padres) and Deutsche Eiche. The district hasn’t changed much since the days Freddie enjoyed partying, so if you love rock music, quirkiness and individual style, Glockenbachviertel is the place for you.
You can’t visit Munich without going to a beer Keller, even if you’re only in the city for the weekend. Augustiner Keller is set up as a traditional Keller, with a long candlelit tunnel which is intimate and atmospheric.
If you like beer, you’ll be in your element with countless varieties of Bavarian beer on tap. Augustiner Keller also brew their own beer, so you’ll be able to drink it right from the keg. Beer aficionados swear there’s no better way!
For an upmarket and classy evening, head to Jahreszeiten Bar. With a timeless, art deco vibe, the centrepiece is the giant stained glass window which allows light to stream in. With wood panelling, and a cream decor, it’s effortlessly stylish and the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine.
The bar is renowned for its cocktails but you can also enjoy light bites. As you enter, you can’t fail to notice the mouth-watering display of tarts and miniature gateaux. There are lots of pastries and delicate cakes that are handmade by the hotel. Drinks and sweet treats – what’s not to love?!
If being the centre of attention is something you enjoy, Kölsch might be the bar for you. A laid-back vibe where the manager drinks with the patrons, Kölsch doesn’t have the usual kind of dance floor.
If you want to enjoy a boogie, you’ll need to climb up onto the long counter and do your funky thing while being watched by the rest of the bar below. It’s a fun atmosphere where everyone who chooses to put on a show is cheered, with plenty of alcohol on offer to give you a bit of courage.
An evening out in Munich doesn’t just have to mean visiting bars, clubs and beer Kellers as there is plenty of culture to enjoy too. The Bayerische Staatsoper is one of the world’s top opera houses and puts on more than 450 performances annually. With 2101 seats and architecture dating back to the 19th century, a visit to this theatre is a real experience.
Every season includes song recitals, concerts and operas from many different centuries so there’s always something to see.