Whilst backpackers and twenty-somethings flock to Munich for the city’s annual Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital is more than just a beer-swiller’s paradise.
Germany’s third largest city is a modern, sophisticated city with a history steeped in tradition and a legacy of Baroque architecture and priceless artworks.
During the last century, Munich suffered immensely as a result of both World Wars. Residents almost starved during WWI, whilst the second war brought severe bombing and more than 6000 civilians died.
Like a true survivor, though, the city has emerged from the depths of despair to become a cosmopolitan hub that is at the forefront of industry.
Thankfully, today, the city, with a population of 1.3 million, is once again at peace and, for the visitor, there are some wonderful things to do in Munich, Germany.
[This post may contain compensated links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.]
What to do in Munich
Munich Old Town and Marienplatz
The Old Town is a great place to start your Munich sightseeing as there are a number of interesting and important buildings to be seen amongst the cobbled streets.
Your first port of call should be Marienplatz, the main square of the city. Here you’ll find the imposing neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) with its famous Glockenspiel (carillon).
One of the most popular attractions in Munich, the carillon features 16 figures and 43 bells that perform a reenactment of a 16th century wedding of Bavarian Duke Wilhelm V and Renate of Lorraine.
Make sure you visit at 11am or 12 noon to watch the colourful characters perform their dance high in the tower of the 19th century building. Additional performances take place at 5pm from March to October.
The New Town Hall is also where you’ll find the Munich Tourist Office. It is housed on the ground floor.
Marienplatz is also home to some of the famous Munich Christmas Markets which are held every December. Shoppers can make their Christmas gift purchases whilst enjoying the traditional German Christmas fare of mulled wine, gingerbread and roasted chestnuts.
Shopping at a Christmas market whilst snowflakes fall around you is a magical experience and this is easily one of the best things to do in Munich in winter.
Address: Rindermarkt 1, 80331 Munich
The Church of St. Peter, fondly known as ‘Old Peter’, is one of the most recognisable landmarks in Munich and takes the honour of being the oldest parish church in Munich.
Dating back to the 12th century, the church has undergone several alterations over the years and features a gilded high altar from the 18th century, rococo sculptures and large ceiling frescoes.
It’s worth climbing the 300 steps of the church’s 92 metre- high tower for magnificent views of the Old Town. A small entrance fee applies for entry to the observation deck.
St. Peter’s Church tower is open daily: Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm (until 6.30pm in summer), Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10am to 5.30pm (until 6.30pm in summer).
Address: Frauenplatz 1, 80331 Munich
Munich’s most famous church, Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is just west of Marienplatz. Her two domed towers are a symbol of the city and no other building in the city is allowed to exceed the height of her towers.
The nave dates back to the 15th century, and artworks from five centuries are displayed inside.
Visitors who climb the south tower (currently closed for renovation) are rewarded with majestic views over the city as well as the chance to see the seven giant bells of the tower.
More great views can be found from the Isartor, (Address: Tal 43, 80331 Munich) one of Munich’s preserved medieval buildings, and the only one of the three city gates to have retained most of its original aspect.
Karlstor, (Address: Karlsplatz, 80335 Munich) at the edge of Karlsplatz, a popular meeting place for the locals, and Sendlingtor, are the cities other two gates.
The three are joined by a ring road, inside which is the bustling city’s heart.
On a sunny day, grab some fresh food from the Viktualenmarkt (Address: Viktualienmarkt, 80331 Munich) for a picnic at the beautiful English Garden, Munich’s largest parkland.
The 900 acre park is the biggest in Europe and features everything from manicured lawns, to ponds complete with swans, beer gardens, a Chinese Tower, a Japanese Teahouse, a Greek temple – and nude sunbathers!
On a warm day it’s not uncommon to see the locals, minus their clothes, catching a few rays in their lunch break!
The English Garden is the ideal place to relax after your hectic sightseeing and the fact that a visit is one of the free things to do in Munich is an added bonus.
Those looking for a bit of adventure can try surfing on the artificially created wave in the Eisbach (which translates as icy stream), at the southern end of the park on Prinzregentstrasse.
Surfing the Eisbach is only for experienced surfers – beginners are definitely not allowed! As well as being very cold, the water is also very fast-flowing.
Your best bet is to watch the professionals from the sidelines.
Like to include Munich as part of a multi-country European vacation? This sample two week Europe itinerary is a great one to consider.
Address: Museuminsel 1, 80538 Munich
Munich’s Deutsches Museum is one of the world’s largest science and technology museums with lots of interactive displays that appeal to visitors of all ages so if you are looking for things to do in Munich with kids, this is the place to go.
With eight floors of displays covering an exhibition area of 538,000 square feet, it’s unlikely you’ll get to see everything, so grab a map when you enter and pick out displays of particular interest.
Of special interest for families is the KinderReich (Children’s Kingdom) where there are heaps of activities to entertain and inform the youngest members of the family.
If you’ve only got time to visit one of the museums in Munich, the Deutsches Museum is a great choice.
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm daily
Closed: January 1, Shrove Tuesday, Good Friday, May 1, November 1 and 11, December 24, 25 and 31.
Admission: Entry costs €14 per adult and €4.50 per child. Family tickets are also available.
(Address: Residence Residenzstrasse 1, 80333 Munich)
The royal palace, known as the Residenz, is one of Europe’s largest palaces and is easily one of the top Munich attractions.
Home to Bavaria’s rulers from 1385 to 1918, the palace is now a museum which boasts over 100 rooms filled with priceless artworks and treasures dating back to the 14th century.
These include jewels and crowns worn by the Bavarian royalty as well as household goods from many centuries ago. Decorated in Early Rococo style, it is equal to many of Europe’s most beautiful buildings.
Opening hours: The Residence Museum is open:
- April to 15 October: daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (last admission 5 p.m.)
- 16 October to March: daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.)
Closed: January 1, Shrove Tuesday, December 24, 25 and 31.
Admission: Entry to the Munich Residence Museum costs €9 per adult. Children under 18 years are free.
It’s also possible to attend concerts at the Residenz. Two popular options are:
- A 1-hour Residenz Serenade – click here to check details and prices
- A 1-hour classical concert in the Court Chapel – click here to check details and prices
Work on a new summer residence for the Bavarian rulers commenced in 1664, resulting in Schloss Nymphenburg, a sprawling palace around five kilometres from the Old Town.
Today’s palace began life as a cube-shaped villa and was added to over the centuries to become the immaculate construction we see today. It really is one of the most impressive sights in Munich.
Highlights include the Gallery of Beauties (38 female portraits), the King’s Chamber with its ceiling frescoes, and the Queen’s Bedroom, which still houses the bed on which King Ludwig II (he of Neuschwanstein Castle fame) was born.
No less spectacular is the park surrounding the palace which feature fountains, ponds, lakes, manicured gardens and forests. You can even enjoy a ride on a Venetian gondola on the middle channel of Park Nymphenburg from April to mid-October.
Opening hours: Schloss Nymphenburg is open:
- April to October 15: daily 9 am to 6 pm
- October 16 to March: daily 10 am to 4 pm.
Closed: January 1, Shrove Tuesday, December 24, 25 and 31.
Admission: Entrance to Nymphenburg Palace costs €8 per adult. Children under 18 years are free.
You can also buy a combination ticket which includes entrance to additional Park castles and the Marstall Museum (home to a rich collection of royal carriages and riding gear. Combination tickets cost from €12 to €15 per adult.
BMW World and Museum
(Address: Am Olympiapark 1, 80809 Munich)
Car enthusiasts will enjoy the BMW Museum, located next door to the car-maker’s headquarters, where they can check out BMWs from over the years.
even exhibition houses display over 100 different BMW cars and motorcycles, as well as special exhibitions. You can wander amongst the exhibits at leisure or join an 80-minute guided tour.
Opening hours: The BMW Museum (which is located next door to BMW World) is open Tuesday to Sunday and public holidays: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm. Closed Mondays.
Admission: Entry costs €10 per adult and €7 per child. Family tickets are available.
(Address: Spiridon-Louis-Ring 21, 80809 Munich)
Sports fans may prefer to visit the Olympia Park complex, home of the infamous 1972 Munich Olympics. For a bird’s eye view, take the lift up the 290 metre Olympic Tower, or burn off a few calories by swimming a few laps in the Olympic Pool.
The Olympic Stadium can be explored on your own or you join a guided tour. There’s also the option to enjoy a tour of the roof for wonderful views over the city, and to zip from one side of the stadium to the other on Europe’s longest flying fox.
Also located at Olympiapark is SEA LIFE Munchen. Over 3,000 sea creatures from 260 species are housed in the aquarium, including Germany’s largest variety of sharks.
There are daily feeding displays, touch pools, interactive lectures, and guided tours are also available.
Opening hours: SEA LIFE Munchen is open daily (except for 24 December) from 10am to 6pm.
(Address: Heinzberg-Allee 25, Fröttmaning)
A bit further from the centre of town, but well worth the trip for football lovers, is Allianz Arena. Munich’s modern stadium was built in time for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and is home to the city’s premier team, Bayern Munchen.
Costing 280 million Euros to build, the stadium is an impressive site, particularly when lit up at night. Special effects allow the outside stadium façade to change colour, depending on which teams are playing.
The stadium is also used as a venue for concerts and other sporting events.
You’ll need to join a tour to visit Allianz Arena and the FC Bayern Museum. Tours take place daily, except for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This tour is a great option as it includes the sights of Munich as well as your transport to and from Allianz Arena.
Where is Munich
Munich is located in southern Germany, in the state of Bavaria, just north of the border with Austria.
How to get to Munich
There are numerous ways to reach Munich with excellent air, road and rail services into the city.
Getting to Munich by air:
Munich International Airport is the second busiest airport in Germany (after Frankfurt) and is serviced by many of the world’s major airlines. Regular flights connect Munich with other European cities, as well as destinations around the world.
Getting to Munich by car:
Germany’s dense Autobahn network offers great connections between Munich and other cities across Europe. There are no toll roads in Germany. > Click here for tips about driving in Europe.
Distances and journey times between Munich and other popular European cities include:
- Frankfurt to Munich: 400 kilometres / 3h:45
- Salzburg to Munich: 143 kilometres / 1h:45
- Zurich to Munich: 316 kilometres / 3h:50
- Milan to Munich: 551 kilometres / 5h:45
Getting to Munich by train:
There are frequent rail services to Munich from right across Europe. Allow the following travelling times for these popular journeys:
- Frankfurt to Munich: 3h:35
- Salzburg to Munich: 2h:16
- Zurich to Munich: 5h:30
- Milan to Munich: 7h:20
How to get around Munich
Getting around won’t be a problem in Munich as the city has a very good public transport system. The U-bahn (underground train), S-bahn and buses, all provide excellent coverage of the city and suburbs with regular services.
Consider purchasing a CityTour Card which covers public transport and offers discounts at selected partners.
Where to eat (and drink beer) in Munich
All that sightseeing will probably leave you ready to re-fuel and when in Munich, you really should head to one of the many beer halls, like the Hofbrauhaus, for some typical Bavarian fare – beer and pretzels!
Here you will be entertained by brass bands, served by waitresses in traditional Bavarian costumes, whilst you snack on pretzels and drink steins (half or one litre glasses) of beer.
Whilst the Hofbrauhaus is the most famous of Munich’s beer halls, it is full of tourists, so for an even more traditional experience, wander through the alleys of the old town and find yourself a local haunt.
You can also join a 3-hour guided tour of some of Munich’s oldest beer halls and breweries – click here to check details and prices.
If you happen to visit Munich in late September or early October, why not join the thousands of others drinking beer at Oktoberfest?? This article is full of Oktoberfest tips and tricks.
Where to stay in Munich
As one of the largest cities in Germany, there is a huge range of accommodation in Munich to choose from. No matter what your budget allows you to spend on accommodation, Munich will have something to suit your taste and wallet.
For other hotel options, > click here to browse on Booking.com
Whether you prefer art and history or the vibrancy of a modern city, there are things to do in Munich for every visitor.
Allow at least a couple of days to see the highlights of the city and soak up the Bavarian hospitality. You won’t regret it.
If you’d like to get out of the city, you’ll find plenty of great options for Munich day trips in this article.
You can read more about other fantastic destinations in Bavaria in our Bavaria Travel Guide.
PIN FOR LATER