Guten Morgen from Munich, Germany! Although we only had a little over a day in this historic city, we made the most of it and came up with this list of our favorite 10 things to do in Munich! So grab your walking shoes, your lederhosen, and a map, and have a blast exploring the capital of Bavaria!
Pro Tip: We were lucky enough to be able to take a wonderful, one-hour guided walking tour to visit the first five attractions on this list. If you’re interested in letting a local guide help you get your bearings around this city, we recommend using InMunich Tours. Our tour guide (and founder of the company!), Adam the Australian, was an incredible guide and was able to deliver an unforgettable tour even in the pouring rain! Check out the website here!
1: Old Town Hall
Located on the corner of Marienplatz (central square), this gothic building was first documented in 1310 and served as the domicile of the municipality until 1874. It has undergone several renovations, in 1470 and 1861. It now stands rebuilt as a neo-gothic architectural icon that represents the extensive history of Munich.
2: New Town Hall
Now, I know you’re thinking I probably have this backwards, the “New” Town Hall looks significantly older than the “Old” Town Hall, right? In fact, while the Old Town Hall was built in 1310, construction on the New Town Hall didn’t start until 1867. The larger size and dramatic architecture lends itself to a more appropriate home for the city’s government.
If you’re near Marienplatz at 11 am or 12 pm, be sure to watch the performance by the Glockenspiel nestled in the middle of the New Town Hall. This intricate musical show is an impressive 13 minutes long, and the multi-layered structure depicts the 1568 wedding of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata von Lorraine. The festivities you can see on the Glockenspiel include a jousting tournament, a portrayal of the “Schäfflerstanz,” a traditional Bavarian guild dance to celebrate the end of a the Munich plague of 1635, and the call of the golden cuckoo bird at the top.
Moving away from the Marienplatz to the Odeonsplatz, you will find the Feldherrnhalle, or the Field Marshals’ Hall, dedicated to the Bavarian Army who fought in the Franco-Prussian War. If you get a chance to visit, pay attention to the beautiful statues, most notably, the two massive sculptures of lions out front. If you notice, one has its mouth open (left), and the other’s mouth is shut (right). The lion that looks to be growling is facing the Residenz, the former royal palace of Bavarian monarchs, while the lion with its mouth closed is facing the church, symbolizing that the people can speak out against the crown, but not against the church.
The Feldherrnhalle is also significant for its role prior to World War II. It was first the site of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, where Hitler and the Nazis attempted to take over the Bavarian State. Ten years later, when the Nazis took over Munich, Hitler declared the Feldherrnhalle a memorial to the Nazis that were killed during the Beer Hall Putsch. Because of this, all passersby were required to give the Nazi salute. Many people put their lives at risk by not giving the salute and avoiding the square by ducking around the backside of the monument and taking a detour down the “Viscardigasse” pedestrian street. This alley was later termed the “Drückebergergasse,” or “Shirkers’ Alley.”
4: The National Theatre
On Max-Joseph-Platz stands an infamous opera house. This theater has a tumultuous history, and has been destroyed three times: twice by fire, and once by an air raid in 1943. After the first fire, the architects thought they would use gravity to their advantage to stop future fires. They built a tank for water supply in the roof of the theatre that they thought would easily extinguish any fire. However, when the theater caught fire again in January, the water supply was completely frozen. But, after all, we’re in Munich, so if the water is frozen, where would you guess is the largest supply of available liquid? The Hofbrauhaus Beer Hall of course! After the second fire broke out, residents poured barrels of beer from Hofbrauhaus to successfully extinguish the fire.
5: Visit Churches
There are many churches all around Munich, but the two we recommend are The Church of St. Peter (Alter Peter) and the Assam Church. St. Peter’s Church is the oldest parish church in Munich and was built in the 11th century, before Munich was even founded as a city. The Asam Church (Asamkirche), is a beautifully intricate Baroque church. It is tucked in the middle of a row of buildings, and you would miss it if not for the incredible detail on the facade. We were unable to enter by the time we finally were able to visit, but even the outside is a can’t-miss site.
6: Schloss Nymphenburg
Now, we’re venturing a little more outside of the city of Munich. The Schloss Nymphenburg is a quick metro ride from the middle of the city, and is well worth the travel time. It was a summer residence of Bavarian rulers, and was the birthplace of the infamous King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1845. Currently, it is home of Franz, Duke of Bavaria, the head of the House of Wittelsbach. On the grounds of the palace is a beautiful, 490 acre park, perfect for an afternoon stroll.
7: Olympic Park
This is the location of the park for the 1972 Summer Olympics. It includes the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Hall, Aquatic Center, Olympic Icesportcenter, Olympic Village, and the Olympiaturm, a 291 m tall tower with an observation platform and a revolving restaurant. It is still a cultural icon and hosts concerts, festivals, and sporting events.
8: Allianz Arena
Following our sports theme, Munich is also home to Allianz Arena, the soccer stadium for FC Bayern Munich. It has a full color changing exterior and is the second largest arena in Germany. If you’re a soccer fan, also be sure to check out the FC Bayern Fan-Shop in Marienplatz.
9: BMW Museum
We didn’t have time to visit on our trip to Munich, but if you’re a car lover, you can’t miss the BMW Museum. It is located close to the Olympic Park, you can see the museum building from the bridge into the park! It includes numerous exhibits depicting the history and development of BMW automobiles. The BMW Welt across the street is basically a giant showroom where you can see models of past, current, and concept cars.
There are so many restaurants and other places to eat in Munich, but here are two of our favorites:
First on our list is the Viktualienmarkt, a daily food market in the middle of Munich. It has over 140 stalls including flower stands, produce stalls, and a number butcher shops. This market has been in the same location since 1807 and has expanded greatly in the past two hundred years. Pick one of the butcher shops for a cheap meal of sausage or a pork sandwich.
Fun Fact: This market is also home to Munich’s Maypole. Each village in Bavaria has its own unique Maypole that represents the trades of the town. The best part? It is encouraged to try and steal Maypoles from other cities. Munich’s own Maypole was stolen by the tiny village of Neufinsing. To negotiate the return of their Maypole, the villagers requested a life-long private table at Oktoberfest. My other favorite Maypole-stealing story is when 4 men from a tiny village in the Alps chartered a helicopter to lift the Maypole out of the city!
Also, this wouldn’t be Grounds for Travel if we didn’t mention a coffee shop. The third wave coffeehouse and roaster Vits der Kaffee is a great place to get your caffeine fix. It has exceptional coffee and a wide variety of drinks. We had a single origin coffee from Panama and an excellent slice of cheesecake!
For those of you who haven’t been yet, we hope this guide helps you to have the best time exploring all that this city has to offer! But for those who’ve already visited, what would be on your Top 10 list? Let us know in the comments!