If you haven’t been to Munich you are missing out! The capital city of Bavaria is filled with history and beer halls, green spaces, and plenty of museums. Whether you are visiting Munich for its famed Oktoberfest or simply enjoying its beer gardens and upbeat energy, you are going to love your time in Munich. These are the best things to do in Munich Germany that you cannot miss!
Things to do in Munich
Munich, Germany’s third-largest city got its name from the monks who founded it. München means monk in German, hence the name Munich. Cool eh! You may also like: The Essential Guide to Germany’s Romantic Road
Enjoy our best of Munich video: 24 Hours in Munich
Hop on a Bike with Radius Tours
The best way to become acquainted with a city is to take a city tour, and when in Munich, that tour is cycling with Radius Tours. (ask for Tim!) Cycling is an excellent way to see the city of Munich. It is easy to get around, it has a small downtown core and you can see a lot in a short amount. Munich has great cycling trails, bike paths so don’t have to worry about traffic. You can rent bikes for about $30 USD to take a self-guided tour or book a guided tour with Radius Tour. We really loved the insight and information we got from our guided tour.
Marvel at Marienplatz
Marienplatz got its name from the Marian column that was erected to celebrate the withdrawal of Swedish troops after the 30 Years’ War. You can see the golden statue of Mary at the top of the altar. It also houses the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) and the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus).
Neues Rathaus is a stand out of the square with its imposing Neo-Gothic facade standing front and centre. Completed in 1905, it replaced the old city hall as the headquarters for local government when Munich’s population boomed during the final decades of the 1800s. Visitors can go inside to climb to the top of the observation tower for a panoramic view of the city.
If you travel to Munich in December, you’ll experience the Christmas Markets of Marienplatz. It’s difficult to top the Christmas markets of Germany and Munich has some of the best. Marienplatz is the largest in Munich. Read: Christmas Markets and European River Cruise Tips
Watch the Glockenspiel at Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) and
While the New City Hall may be the largest building in Marienplatz, the most famous attraction in Marienplatz is certainly the Glockenspiel. Located in the tower of Neues Rathaus, the Glockenspiel is a set of 43 bells and 32 figures that perform every day at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m and 5 p.m. from March to October. The figurines tell stories from Munich’s history including the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V and the dance of the barrel makers who helped keep spirits alive during the plague.
English Garden – Englischer Garten
It is easy to get out to nature in Munich. Just on the edge of town is the English Garden (Englischer Garten) which is the largest garden in continental Europe. You can easily spend a day relaxing in the sun and taking in the scene. It was modeled after an English Garden to perfection.
Everything is handmade to create a sense of calm with manmade ponds, rivers, waterfalls, and hand-planted trees to recreate the royal English gardens. You can do everything from cycling the paved paths to playing football, slacklining, and you can even sunbathe in the nude. Yes, Englischer Garten is a clothing-optional park.
Watch River Surfing on the Eisbach River
One of the coolest things to do in Munich is to make your way to the Eisbach River near the English Garden to watch river surfers. River surfing is very popular in Munich but be warned, do not attempt if you don’t have experience. During the day you’ll see expert surfers riding the waves downtown Munich. They have been doing this since 1972, but it only became legal in 2010 after Munich passed the Common Sense Law. The Ice river was formed by diverting the main river to clean up all rivers in the park.
Cool fact: The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was filmed in Munich and there are several locations throughout the city where you can see film locations. Check out Reelstreets for locations.
The Royal Residenz is one of Europe’s great residences and one of the largest museums in Bavaria. This massive palace houses 10 inner plazas filled with history. The residence served as the seat of government and royal residence from 1508 to 1918. Spanning the centuries, this magnificent palace showcases rooms filled with art and furniture from the Renaissance through Baroque, and Neoclassicism.
While exploring the Royal Residenz, make sure to take a stroll along the most expensive street in all of Germany. Maximillianstrasse has all of the high-end shopping, luxury boutiques, galleries, and designers. You’ll find Gucci, Chanel, Fendi..all the usual expensive brands. It is here that you’ll also find the historic Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München. If you are looking for a luxury stay in Munich, this is the place!
Müller’sches Volksbad (Müllersches Public Baths)
If river surfing is a bit much but you still want to get wet, check out the Müller’sches Volksbad swimming pool. The Art Nouveau design is worth seeing alone but this public swimming pool also has a sauna, steam baths, and massage. It’s a great way to relax those travel-weary muscles in Munich’s oldest public pool that dates back to 1901.
Another square that you must see in Munich is Odeonsplatz. King Ludwig I modeled the square after the squares of Italy. The Roman-inspired neoclassical buildings make you feel as if you are in a little slice of Rome. In the square, you’ll see Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshalls’ Hall), a monument dedicated to the bavarian army by Ludwig I Residence on one side, and Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church) dedicated to the birth of Prince Max Emanuel in 1662.
When visiting Odeonsplatz, be sure to talk a walk around the corner in search of the Golden cobblestones. This unassuming monument pays tribute to those who defied the Third Reich. This alley is located in front of what was at the time the headquarters of the Third Reich and people were required to give the Nazi salute when walking by. People avoided walking in front of the building by taking a shortcut through this alleyway and when the Reich caught on to what was happening, they killed those who dared to defy Hitler. This memorial pays tribute to those who paid the ultimate price.
It is not the most uplifting of things to do in Munich, but we feel that it is important. The Documentation Centre is a museum and memorial of remembrance that documents and addresses the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship. We must learn from the past and the people of Munich and Germany do not shy away from the past and instead learn from it. The Centre sits on the Former nazi headquarters that were either demolished or left empty.
It may be touristy and it may be busy, but if you have one beer in Munich, you must go into Hofbraeuhaus. Hofbraeuhaus is one of the most famous taverns in the world, and no trip to Munich would be complete without going inside to feel its energy and fun! Enjoy Bavarian entertainment, pretzels, and a massive pint of Bavarian beer.
The standard size beer is served in a 1-liter mug! This 500-year-old tavern was founded in 1589 by Wilhelm V, the Duke of Bavaria, and sits in the heart of Munich. It has been a gathering place for centuries and it feels as if you have stepped back in time to a wild Bavarian party. Servers are dressed in traditional Bavarian Leiderhosen, and Bavarian bands are playing as crowds sit in lines along the wooden tables.
Speaking of beer, Munich is famed for its beer celebrations. If you are lucky enough to visit in September, you can take part in Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival. Oktoberfest was started by King Ludwik I in 1810. He was the first king of Bavaria and as a gift to his wife, he invited the people of Bavaria to come and celebrate. They had horse races, dancing, performances, and celebrations. Oh, and beer. Lots of beer. The tradition continued and Oktoberfest was born. It has grown into an 18-day festival attracting 6 million visitors a year.
If you want to learn more about Oktoberfest (and not visiting during the festival) you can check out the Oktoberfest Museum located in Munich’s oldest townhouse at #2 Sterneckerstrasse.
If you are not in Munich during Oktoberfest, never fear, beer is still a large part of the culture. Two of the world’s largest beer gardens are located in Munich. The beer garden was born in Munich out of necessity. Beer was originally brewed underground to keep the casks warm. White gravel was then placed above the tunnels to reflected the sun and Chesnut trees were planted to create shade. Their low root system was suitable to not destroy the underground storage as the roots wouldn’t penetrate too deeply. Back in the day, the only things served were beer, pretzels, and radishes. Today, you can bring your own food as long as you purchase a beer.
Chinese Tower (Chinesischen Turm)
Chinesischen Turm (The Chinese Tower) is the second-largest beer garden located in the English Gardens. This is a great place to stop for a pint as you sit under the shade of its chestnut trees. Modeled after a Chinese pagoda, this is a really cool beer garden.
If you are wondering what the largest beer garden in the world is, it is Hirschgarten also located in Munich. Hirschgarten is the largest beer garden in the Munich with 8000+ seats and it is popular with the locals.
You can’t miss seeing Frauenkirche – the Cathedral Church of Our Lady. Its high spires tower over Munich’s Old Town. These towers actually survived regular bombings of WWII and still stand today thanks to the fact that no highrises can be built around it. Visitors can climb up to the top of the towers for a bird’s eye view of Munich. When you do go inside, be sure to keep an eye out for The Devil’s footprint. It was believed that the devil stomped his foot at the entrance after becoming annoyed with yet another building that was made in God’s name.
Even Munich’s farmers market has a beer garden. Viktualienmarkt is Munich’s main food market with more than 100 vendors selling fruit and vegetables, a butchers’ hall, fish hall, and flower shops. When the market grew too big in Marienplatz, King Maximilian I moved the market in 1807. It has expanded and grown over the centuries and is Munich’s favorite shopping and gathering place.
While Frauenkirch may be the largest and most imposing church in Munich, Asam Church is the most interesting church to visit in Munich. The Rococo Asam Church was designed by the famous Asam Brothers in 1746. They were a painter and a sculptor who modeled it in the Baroque style. Its ornate facade attracts visitors, but once inside is when you truly see the work of art. Its ornate gold finishings and paintings make it one of the must-see things in Munich.
Saint Peter’s Church
Saint Peter’s Church is the oldest church in Munich housing the oldest bells in Munich in its clocktowers. Take a walk along its outside to see the old graves on the walls and make sure to walk up to the top of its 56 meter high viewing platform for views of Marienplatz (Munich’s Central Square) and City Hall (New Rathaus) plus Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) and panoramic vistas of Old Munich.
Museums in Munich
One could spend weeks exploring all of Munich’s museums. In fact, there are 126 museums in Munich. Ones that are not to be missed are located closely together are the Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery), the Neue Pinakothek (New Picture Gallery, The Pinakothek der Moderne, the Museum Brandhorst and the Sammlung Schack.
Choosing museums to see in Munich can be overwhelming with so many of them, but the Deutsches Museum is a cool place to visit in Museum to take a walk through time. This museum of technology is the largest of its kind in Europe taking you from early innovations to the high-tech world of today. One cool thing to see is a replica of the Red Baron’s plane from WWI.
Oldest Museum in Munich
The Glyptothek is the oldest museum in Munich and is worth checking out. We mentioned King Ludwig’s love for Italy above and this museum houses his collection of classical Greek and Roman sculptures. It dates back to 1830.
Bavarian National Museum
No trip to Munich would be complete without a visit to the Bavarian National Museum. Founded by King Maximilian II in 1855 it is one of the most important museums in Bavaria showcasing its cultural history and art and artifacts dating back to prehistoric times.
Hot Tip: Every Sunday, some museums cost €1: Museums include the Alte Pinakothek, the Pinakothek der Moderne or the Brandhorst Museum, the Bavarian National Museum, and the Museum of Man and Nature and many more. Check the official website to see what museums offer €1 entry.
Nymphenburg Palace is a beautiful sprawling palace that was used as the main summer residence for the former rulers of Bavaria of the House of Wittelsbach. Places of note to see are The Hall of Mirrors, Grand Hall, Carriage House, and the Royal Hunting Lodge.
Located outside of town, Olympic Park is not to be missed when visiting Munich. Munich was host to the 1972 Olympics and this beautiful park is an amazing way to spend the afternoon. There are parks, waterways, lakes, and the Olympic stadium.
A highlight for us was going up Olympia Tower. It has one of the most beautiful views in Munich with a 360-degree vista of Munich and the Alps. It is the highest viewpoint in all of Munich and when you are up there, you’ll not only see views but there is a museum that showcases the acts that have performed at Olympic Stadium over the years, a restaurant.
BMW Museum – The BMW Welt
While you are out at Olympic Park be sure to stop in at the BMW Museum. Located at the BMW factory and headquarters, the BMW Welt is not only a museum, it is an architectural wonder. There are 125 makes and models of BMW automobiles and motorcycles spanning the massive complex.
Michael Jackon’s Memorial
If you are looking for something quirky to see in Munich, check out the Michael Jackson memorial. Michael Jackson frequented Munich and in front of his favourite hotel there is a makeshift memorial to Jackson on the Orlando de Lace monument. His statue has been taken over by Michael Jackson memorabilia left by adoring fans.
Getting Around Munich
It is easy to get around Munich with public transport. Their public transit system goes everywhere, really economical. You can easily interchange from one mode of transportation to another with a valid ticket. Note: make sure to validate your ticket before getting on the train
- The U-Bahn (underground railway) is fast and efficient avoiding traffic and congestion.
- Straßenbahn (tram) – This is an excellent mode of transportation in Munich with many stops.
- S-Bahn (aboveground railway) – similar to the U-Bahn but it runs above ground.
Walking – Downtown Munich is a very walkable city and you can see a lot of the top attractions in Munich by foot.
Cycling – Cycling is definitely our favourite way to get around Munich when the weather is nice. With 1,200 kilometers of cycling trails, Munich is definitely a bike-friendly city.
For exploring Bavaria, we rented a car and this really was the best way to get around this beautiful section of Germany. See CarRentals.com for price comparisons
Best Day Trips from Munich
When visiting Munich, you must not forget to explore Bavaria. This is one of the best places in Germany for outdoor adventures, beautiful fairytale castles, and fascinating history. While you need weeks to really explore it, some of the best day trips from Munich are just a short drive away.
Neuschwanstein Castle is the epitome of the fairytale castles one comes to expect from Europe. In fact, Walt Disney modeled Cinderella’s castle after Neuschwanstein Castle. Located just 90 minutes from Munich, this is the castle is not to be missed.
Set within the rolling Bavarian countryside Linderhof Palace is one of three separate country palaces commissioned by King Ludwig II. The palace contains sculptures and statues, a fountain that reaches 25 meters high from pressure alone and gardens. This is a beautiful palace modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France.
Dachau Memorial Site
The Dachau Concentration Camp is a somber memorial to those who died during the Nazi Regime. It was the first concentration camp built by Nazi Germany and serves as a reminder of the atrocities that were committed by the regime. This is a historic site that is to be respected when visiting to honor those who suffered greatly during World War II.
Want to pop into Austria? Make sure to visit the city of Salzburg if you have the time. We always love adding a country to our list when traveling and this is an easy day trip from Munich. Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and is significantly known for its Baroque architecture. In fact, because of this, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
And these are the best things to do in Munich Germany. Munich is one of Germany’s most exciting cities. It took us several visits to Germany before visiting Munich and we wish we did it sooner. It has easily turned shot to the top of our list of the best cities in Europe to visit in your lifetime.