There are so many things to see in Munich Germany, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’m always surprised to find out that people show up in a place, and then ask, “what should we do?” Honestly, it’s best to go in with a plan. Especially if your time is short! There is much more to Munich than the Marienplatz and Hofbrauhaus. Let me share some of my favorite spots with you!
(BTW- I KNOW this list only scratches the surface! I’ve visited Munich a few times now, and I’m always discovering something new… but it’s a starting point)
Things to see in Munich Germany
Marienplatz and Glockenspiel
There is an unwritten rule, if you visit Munich, you must go to the Marienplatz and see the Glockenspiel. This large open square is the center of all activity in Munich. Fun fact, the name Marienplatz comes from the Mariensäule (Marien Column) in the center-ish of the plaza that was erected to celebrated the end of Swedish occupation after the 30 years war. Today, most eyes are on the neogothich Neues Rathaus (New City Hall). Look up at 11 am, noon and 5 pm (everyone else will be looking up at it too) to see the life sized figures of the Glockenspiel recreate the wedding of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine, a knights battle (spoiler alert, the Bavarian always wins) and the coopers dance to celebrate the end of the plague. Note – the Glockenspiel lasts 12-15 minutes, and since everyone is looking up this is a great time for “pickpockets” to strike. Protect your things..
Done with the Glockenspiel? Look right. That square building is the Altes Rathaus which is currently used as a performance hall. But you don’t have to wait for an official show, street musicians frequently perform under the arches. In the tower you will find the Spielzeug Museum. The musical mobile makes a great meeting place… and jumping off for the Viktualienmarkt
What’s so exciting about a victuals (food and provisions) market? The Viktualienmark isn’t just pears and grapes, bread and cheese… this central market is open year round, and sells a mind-boggling array of foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables from every corner of Europe, Bread, Cheese, Meat (there is even a horse butcher), and SPICES! Permanent halls were installed for butchers and fish mongers. There are flowers and household decorations. There are plenty of “take-away” stands to grab a bite to eat, and naturally (this is Munich, after all) there is a Biergarten. It’s easy to lose yourself in the sheer enjoyment of seeing (and smelling) all of these fabulous products. note- My favorite shop Samen Schmitz (sort of near the Nordsee stand) sells lots of wonderful things to decorate your windows and gardens. I always come home with the most fabulous souvenirs from here.
When you think Bavarian Castle, the first thing that pops to mind is a Fairy Tale building with Turrets (at least 2). The Residenz is a CITY Palace (the largest in Germany), with 130 rooms (glad I don’t have to clean… or even FIND people) and 10 courtyards. (In the Winter, one of the courtyards becomes the home of the Mittelalter Weihnachtsmarkt… my favorite one in Munich). Put on your comfy shoes and take a tour (grab a free audio guide, there are no guided tours unless you show up with 24 friends).
The English Garden is BIG! As big as Central Park in New York. Best way to see the whole English Garden is on a Bike. Ride around until you see a comfortable spot, and take a snooze on the lawn. Feeling hungry? The Chinese Tower has a Biergarten with a HUGE selection of food choices from Sausage to Cake. Want to go to the beach? Spread out a towel at the Kleinhesselohersee. Feeling constricted by clothing? Head over to the FKK section of the park (clothing optional).
Or maybe you want to enjoy some surfing… head to the Southern end of the park and look for the crowds of people by the Eisbach, a part of the Isar. The artificially created waves draws talented surfers and people who love to see them.
Take a Tour!
One of the best ways to get the most out of your time in Munich is to take a walking tour. Your Local Friend Tours is staffed by Locals who know Munich inside and out. And with a number of tours to choose from (with and without delightful food stops) you are certain to come away satisfied that you got to see the best that Munich has to offer.
Churches in Munich
Walking distance from the Marienplatz you will find a number of beautiful churches. If you, like me, like to enjoy Church architecture, be sure to stop in. Keep in mind, some people (I’m looking at you Tech Guy) have limited patience for being dragged from Cathedral to Chapel to Church…. Pick one or a few that are interesting to you.
Frauenkirche– Since nothing in the center of Munich may be built taller than the Frauenkirche, you can see those onion domed towers from just about anywhere (nice to have a landmark to keep from getting too lost!). You can actually climb to the top and get a fabulous view! (FYI this is a STRENUOUS climb!). Don’t want to put in that much effort? Look for the Teufelstritt (Devil’s Footprint). Legend has it that the builder of the Cathedral, Jörg von Halsbach, made a deal with the Devil saying he would build a Cathedral of Darkness. When the Devil realized he’d been tricked, he stomped his foot into the floor!
Michaelskirche– A little further down the pedestrian way from the Frauenkirche is the Michaelskirche. What draws locals and tourists alike is what is found UNDER the Church. Before it was taken over by the Bavarian State, the church belonged to the Bavarian Royal Family… and many of the royal family are there in the Tomb, including King Ludwig II (of Neuschwanstein fame). Be mindful, this is a tomb, and people still actively visit to pay their respects. There is NO PHOTOGRAPHY in the tomb. Still, it’s worth seeing. And those small coffins… heartbreaking.
Heiligergeistkirche- This smaller church sits between the Spielzeug Museum and the Viktuelienmarkt. I wandered in because of the ceiling (designed by the famous Asam Brothers)… but I ended up having the most amazing experience in this “smaller” church. A woman stood before the Mary Altar, and suddenly began to sing… I’ve never heard a more beautiful voice… Everyone in the church stood in silent awe.
Theatinerkirche St. Kajetan– Facing the plaza in front of the Feldherrnhalle (the one with the lions out front) is a a yellow Rococo building. While it may not seem that imposing on the outside, inside it’s quite spectacular. All in white, ornate, and Rococo (think lots of cherubs)… with a black Altar. The Dom is breathtaking, and worth popping in to see. Elector Ferdinand Maria waited a LONG time for his heir, and when his son, the Bavarian crown, Prince Max Emanuel, was (finally) born, he sponsored the building of the Theatinerkirche of St Kajetan.
Asamkirche- In the past year my fascination with the Asam Brothers has grown, so whenever I find out one of their churches is near by, I GO! Of all the ones I’ve seen, this is the smallest, most restricted, and yet, the most crazy ornate of all the churches they helped design. Columns, false marble, cherubs, carvings… you notice detail after detail the longer you stand in the foyer. And, by the way, you won’t get past the foyer. It’s gated off. (And the light is fairly dim). But stand for a while. Let your eyes adjust, and really take it in. (I love the sun above the foyer).
Time to EAT and DRINK!!
Hofbrauhaus – If you go to Munich, you have to at least poke your head in to the Hofbrauhaus. Yes, it’s crowded, and there are tourists, but it’s an institution. And it’s entertaining. Usually there is a band playing (and a few local guys dancing with ladies they swept off their feet). Watching the waitstaff fascinates me. This place is HUGE. Don’t wait to be seated… just go find a place to sit. DO NOT sit at a table that says Stammtisch. Those are for locals only (You will also see Stein Lockers… leave those alone). Have a beer, eat something yummy, and enjoy the people watching.
Ayinger am Platzl- Across the Platzl from the Hofbrauhaus is my favorite place to eat in Munich, Ayinger am Platzl. They serve traditional Bavarian food… but they also serve unexpected and delicious salads, grilled vegetables and seafood dishes. It can be a nice change if you want something a bit lighter. And the beer is quite delicious.
Schneider Bräuhaus- Going the OTHER way from the Marienplatz the Schneider Bräuhaus. Delicious traditional Bavarian food and beer (the specialty is the Eisbock, and it’s not for the faint of heart). They have a few tables outside which is lovely in summer.
Cafe Rischart- Get above the crowds of tourists and take a break with a Kännchen (little can) of coffee and a piece of cake. Cafe Rischart has take-away on the bottom floor… and a full service cafe upstairs. Enjoy the views and the flavors. Their Eierlikor Torte was the BOMB!
My absolute FAVORITE guidebook for Munich is Pocket Munich. It’s compact (fits in an outside pocket of the purse or even, dare I say it, your POCKET). It includes all the maps and tips you could possibly need! Even some fun shopping stops that you shouldn’t miss.
A little Outside of Town
BMW World & BMW Museum- A must for Car enthusiasts! The museum is worth seeing, even if you aren’t into cars (it’s a groovy round futuristic building). Then head over to BMW Welt and pick up your new ride….
Olympiapark- Home of the 1974 Summer Olympic Games, the park is still in use for events even today.
Allianz Arena- Home to the Bayern München soccer team. If you are lucky enough to be there on game day, you MIGHT be able to score a ticket. Any other day, tours of the facility are available.