What images conjure up in your mind when you think of Munich? Is it the world-famous Oktoberfest, the traditional lederhosen and dirndls, beer steins, sausages, and pretzels? Okay, yes, but there is so much more to this modern cosmopolitan Bavarian city. Museums, art galleries, world-class hotels and dining, and shopping. All within the beautiful backdrop of the Alps and river Isar winding itself through the city.
You wouldn’t expect anything less from the largest and the capital city of Bavaria, and the third-largest city in Germany, following Berlin and Hamburg. Let this be your guide to the must-see places, attractions, and top things to do in Munich Germany. Here are my Munich favourites.
Munich Landmarks: Must See Places
My Favourite Munich Square: Marienplatz
Start your visit to Munich by visiting the lively Marienplatz. It’s the central square, or heart of the city, since being founded in 1158. Admire all of the historical buildings that surround Marienplatz. Munich’s must-see attractions include the New Town Hall, or Neues Rathaus, and the Old Town Hall or Altes Rathaus. Almost in the middle of the square stands Mary’s Column, or Mariensäule, from 1638, signifying the end of the Swedish occupation of the city during the Thirty Years War. And how Marienplatz got its name.
One of the best things to see in Munich is the famous Glockenspiel. A cuckoo clock where 43 bells ring out followed by a carousel of more than 30 dancing figures at 11 am-noon, 5, and 9 pm. Marienplatz plays host to all of the city’s biggest festivals like Oktoberfest and the annual Christmas market – which is known as being one of the best Christmas markets in Bavaria.
My Favourite Munich Architecture: Munich Residenz
If you love architecture and history then a must-see is Munich Residenz or residence. This palace served as a place for government and residence for Bavarian dukes and kings from 1508 to 1918. Today it is known as one of the most important palace museums in Europe. Every room is more impressive than the next. Especially the Cuvilliés Theatre, a lavish opera house. One of the best architectural details of the palace was its 10 courtyards. Making this one of the best must see things in Munich.
My Favourite Munich Garden: Hofgarten
The Hofgarten is the court garden of the 17th century Munich Residenz. At the center of the garden is the beautiful pavilion called the Diana Temple. The intricate octagon-shaped pavilion, featuring eight entrance archways, is pretty spectacular. We were lucky enough to catch a spontaneous classical concert. Trust me, it is a wonderful place for a stroll and happens to be along the way to many other attractions like the Englischer Garten.
My Favourite Munich Art Gallery: Alte Pinakothek
Alte Pinakothek, built in 1836, is one of the oldest art galleries in the world. King Ludwig I of Bavaria wanted to create the largest museum in the world and for it to resemble a castle. The museum is known for its extensive art collection of Old Masters’ paintings spanning 14th to 18th-century painters. Of all the Munich museums in the city, this is a must visit in Munich.
My Favourite Munich Church: Asam Church
The 18th-century Baroque church is considered to be one of the most important buildings in Bavaria. What makes this unusual is that it was built by two brothers, as a personal church. The lighting within the church is meant to convey a message. The pews are in darkness representing suffering on earth, the middle section is lighter for the Emperor and the light flooding in from above represents God and the light of heaven.
Best Things to Do in Munich
My Favourite Munich Beer Hall: Hofbräuhaus
Despite it being an extremely touristy thing to do, you can’t go to Munich without visiting Hofbräuhaus. This famous beer hall dates back to the 16th century. It offers the traditional German beer hall experience complete with a live brass band. You can’t help yourself, to join in during the chorus of “eins, zwei, g’suffa” (one, two, down the hatch).
Hofbräuhaus has more than 100 active groups of regulars. The oldest regulars’ table has already been held for 70 years, as well as, keeping their kegs under lock and key. When you enter the hall, you seat yourself. It might take a few circles around the large hall before you find a spot at one of the long tables along with others. Of all the tourist attractions in the city, this one will be among the most fun. Prost!
My Favourite Munich View: St. Peter’s Church
The original wooden St. Peter’s Church dates back to the 1100s. Destroyed by a fire in early 1300, it took 40 years to rebuild. In the early 17th century, the 91 m spire was added.
Climb the 306 steps to the 56 m high platform to take in the best view of Munich. Overlooking the Marienplatz you will recognize all the key landmarks in Munich including the Olympic tower. On a clear day, you might be able to see all the way over to the Alps.
My Favourite Munich Shopping: Kaufingerstrasse
Kaufingerstrasse is a shopping area that stretches for several blocks between Marienplatz and Karlsplatz. This entire area is exclusively designated for pedestrian traffic only. It also happens to be the oldest street in Munich. There is a great mix of independent boutiques, chain stores, and large-scale department stores to explore. Don’t forget to wander down some side alleyways for some interesting specialty shops. One of the things to do in Munich on Sunday is to join the locals and window shop. You will see them strolling through here even when the stores are closed to do just that.
My Favourite Munich Market: Viktualienmarkt
When the farmers market outgrew its original location at Marienplatz in the early 19th century, Vikualienmarkt was created. It offers more than 140 booths of seasonal produce, fish, meat, flowers and more. It’s a great place to go for lunch with lots of takeaway options and is open Monday to Saturday.
My Favourite Munich Park: Englischer Garten
The beautiful English Garden park was created in the 18th century. And, is one of the world’s biggest city parks. Yes, it’s even bigger than Central Park in NYC. Massive trees, wide-open spaces, endless paths, and small lakes – it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Here you will find cyclists, runners, walkers, sunbathers and picnickers all coming to escape the busyness of the city. It’s one of the best free things to do in Munich.
The Englischer Garten is more than just a city park. There is a reason why it’s one of the best things to do in Munich. Unique to this park is Munich’s oldest beer garden, Chinesischer Turm, a small Greek temple called Monopteros, and a large duck pond featuring an abundant number of ducks. The most surprising activity always draws a crowd is at the Eisbach river where you’ll find surfing due to the strong currents. Lastly, there are lawn-mowing sheep. Yes, that’s right, sheep whose job is to keep the grass sheared.
My Favourite Munich Beer Garden: Chinesischer Turm
Traditional beer gardens originated in Munich and date back to the 19th century. It’s an outdoor area in which beer and food are enjoyed at long shared tables under a canopy of trees. Traditionalists will tell you there is a distinction between a wirtsgarten (where food is sold and served) and a biergarten (where patrons bring their own food). There are many beer gardens spread across the city, but my favourite was set in the Englischer Garten.
The 18th century Chinese Tower stands tall at 25 metres. It was built as a viewing platform. But today, it’s where you will find the brass band playing. This is the second-largest beer garden, with a capacity of 7,000 seats. The long wooden tables are arranged around the tower and under massive chestnut trees.
My Favourite Munich Day Trip: Dachau Concentration Camp
Of all the day trips you could take from Munich, put this one at the top of your list. The Dachau concentration camp, found just outside the city, was one of the first built and served as a model for all the other camps to follow.
Visitors follow the ‘path of the prisoner’ walking the same way prisoners would have after their arrival in the camp. The haunting entrance marked with the words Arbeit Macht Frei, or work will set you free, appeared at every concentration camp’s entrance point. Once inside you can visit the original barracks, courtyards, and crematorium. It is a moving experience, one that is indescribable, but necessary to learn and reflect on that part of our history.
Best Places to Stay in Munich
Here are the best hotels in Munich that receive top ratings from guests.
- Rocco Forte The Charles Hotel: overlooking the Old Botanical5-star Garden this 5 star hotel offers spa and pool amenities
- Beyond by Geisel: sits right in front of the Munich Town Hall for those that want to be in the center of the city
- DO & CO Hotel München: offers guests city views of the Marienplatz
- AMERON München Motorworld: a stylish hotel near the BWM museum perfect for car enthusiasts
- Or, start your own search here
As a holidaymaker…
Munich Germany is one of my favourite cities. It’s a wonderfully diverse city with lots of history, beauty, and things to do. I just love how you have a modern city within the beautiful backdrop of the Alps and the Isar river that winds itself through the city.
The central location in Bavaria makes it a great launching point to explore nearby, including Austria.