Munich, Germany’s third-largest city after Berlin and Hamburg, has so many attractive sights to offer that you’ll find interesting activities all year round. If it’s a spring weekend getaway, you can visit the English Garden, while in the summer you’ll enjoy a day at the Olympic Park or on the river’s beaches. In the fall you cannot miss Oktoberfest in Munich, the festival’s original location and in the winter enjoy a museum or opera, or rent a car and take a day-trip to the Alps.
Here is a quick overview of our top 10 list:
- Go eat at the Hofbräuhaus tavern
- Take a tour of the Bavarian state opera
- Spend a morning at the Nymphenburg Palace
- Get your nature fix at the English Garden
- Climb on top of Alter Peter church for panoramic views
- Get a beer at the original Oktoberfest location
- Sports and rock at the Munich Olympic park
- Soak up some art at the Alte Pinakothek
- See the heart of Munich in Marienplatz
- A must for car lovers: the BMW Museum
1. Go eat at the Hofbräuhaus tavern
A typical German tavern is more than a place you go when you’re hungry. It’s a culinary as much as a cultural experience, and Hofbräuhaus is one of those places you must see in Munich. This famous beer hall, or wirtshaus as it’s called in German, was an extension of the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus brewery, one of the oldest in town, dating back to 1589. The brewery was relocated to the outskirts of Munich a bit before the 1900s, and today you’ll find only the tavern at the same location, just a few steps from Marienplatz square.
Take a seat inside the place Mozart used to frequent, as he lived near it back in the 18th century. Taste typical Bavarian delicacies such as veal or white sausages, roasted pork knuckle or bierbratl – roasted pork belly with gravy and the typical sauerkraut. And of course, you cannot miss tasting the local beer, which comes by the litre. Make sure you bring your appetite to this place!
2. Take a tour of the Bavarian state opera
One of Europe’s top opera houses, the Bavarian State Opera occupies a Neoclassical building, an architectural masterpiece which has been burned down two times already, the last time during World War II. If you’re an opera fan, make sure you book your tickets in advance, but even if you’re not, taking a tour of the building is still a great plan. Marvel at the backstage area and all its beautifully decorated reception rooms.
Just a few years ago, the Munich Opera received the international award ‘opera house of the year’, but the city of Munich has hosted its Opera Festival in the building ever since 1875. The Bavarian State Opera was privileged to host a great number of world premieres, such as a few of Wagner’s and Mozart’s operas and more recently the masterpiece creations of Richard Strauss. Make sure you add it to your list of things to do in Munich!
3. Spend a morning at the Nymphenburg Palace
The Nymphenburg Palace is actually a baroque-style complex of buildings and parks, deemed one of the largest royal palaces of Europe. It’s been built and continuously enlarged over the past couple of centuries, and today both locals and travellers flock to see this impressive complex in Munich, still the residence of the Duke of Bavaria.
When you visit the palace grounds, you can discover a few of the interior rooms, such as royal apartments, a few pavilions and the queen’s bedroom. But there is also an array of galleries to discover: the Porcelain Museum, the Carriage Museum, and the Museum of Man and Nature. The Gallery of Beauties is another hall where you can see a collection of 36 portraits of the most beautiful women of Munich from the 1850s.
If you visit the place more for the outdoors part, prepare to be mesmerized by the 490-acre park landscaped in an Italian style and dotted with plenty of cascading waterfalls and shooting fountains. You can easily spend an entire morning here, as there are plenty of things to do and see in this royal part of Munich.
4. Get your nature fix at the English Garden
Another excellent place to add to your ‘what to do in Munich’ list. The English Garden is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Acres and acres to run in, stroll or play, and a network of 78 kilometers of paths for cycling lovers. Walk up next to the Monopteros, the circular colonnade structure, to admire the panoramic views of Munich, before making a stop at the beer garden. Impressive in its size, the 7,000 available seats make it the second largest beer garden in Munich. There it seems like there is always a free spot for anyone in need of a refreshment.
The English Garden also hosts a Japanese Teahouse, which is built on an artificial island on the Schwabinger Bach stream crossing the park. The Japanese Teahouse opened in 1972 and regularly hosts traditional tea ceremonies.
5. Climb on top of Alter Peter church for panoramic views
Head up in the Old Town of Munich and close to the Marienplatz square you’ll find St. Peter’s Church, which the locals call Old Peter (Alter Peter). The oldest parish church in the city offers an exciting surprise: if you climb up the 299 steps to its observation deck, the reward will be a splendid, panoramic view of Munich. On a clear day, you can also see the Alps and some of the snow-capped tops.
In terms of its architecture, Old Peter has gone through various transformations. Ever since the 11th century when it was built, the church has been reformed several times, which shows in its varied styles which you can admire inside.
6. Get a beer at the original Oktoberfest location
For many, Munich is synonymous with Oktoberfest. The German beer festival exported all over the world actually starts the third week of September in Munich, and lasts approximately two weeks to end the first Sunday in October. The organizers estimate a mind-blowing 7.5 million liters of beer being consumed during the festival each year.
Oktoberfest is organized on what is a public park throughout the year but becomes Theresienwiese for the duration of the festival. As early as June, the organizers start to build up the huge tents and a funfair over an area of almost 40,000 square meters. Each tent holds up to 10,000 people at a time, and despite the sheer size of the festival grounds, you must make your reservations in advance to get access to it.
7. Sports and rock at the Munich Olympic park
Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the place is now a natural and entertainment complex for visitors of all ages, which spreads on an area of over 300 hectares. You could spend an entire day at the Olympiapark, as it has something for everyone. From guided tours of the stadium to natural picnic areas on manicured lawns, and a sea life center, you’ll have plenty of options to pick from. Alternatively, you can climb up to the TV tower and on a good day get not just the panoramic view of the city of Munich, but also of the nearby Alps. Within the TV tower you can also step into the Rock Museum where you can find personal items from legends such as Freddie Mercury, Elton John or the Rolling Stones.
8. Soak up some art at the Alte Pinakothek
One of the oldest art galleries in the world, the Old Pinakothek of Munich hosts over 800 famous works of world-class European artists. The building itself is a work of art as well, built in the Neoclassical style at the beginning of the 19th century. It’s one of the most impressive buildings you’ll see in Munich and worth putting on your to-visit list. The Bavarian King who commissioned the construction of the museum, Ludwig I, did it in a wish to democratize culture and give the general public access to his own art collection.
The artworks you can see at the Alte Pinakothek are mainly classical pieces, from the golden age of classical art – 14th to 18th centuries – from German and Italian to Flemish and Spanish artists. Some of the most famous paintings include Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin and Child, a self-portrait by Rembrandt and Vélazquez’s Young Spanish Gentleman.
9. See the heart of Munich in Marienplatz
Ground zero of the city of Munich, Marienplatz or Mary’s square is always full of life, surrounded by history and traditions. Dating back from 1158, the plaza has a column with Mary’s statue on top, hence the name of the square. This is the beating heart of the city, bustling with people day and night around its historic fish fountain, a popular photo op among tourists.
Marienplatz hosts the city’s 2 town halls: the old one – which now hosts a toy museum, and the new one, and both are built in a Gothic architectural style. The new town hall has an intricate watchtower which holds a miniature knight show every day at 11am and noon, reenacting stories from the 16th century with its 32 figures.
Every December, the heart of Munich transforms into one of the oldest and most famous Christmas markets in Europe – the Christkindlmarkt.
10. A must for car lovers: the BMW Museum
Next to the German car manufacturer’s headquarters shaped like a 4-cylinder engine, you’ll find the BMW Museum and the additional BMW Welt building. The museum, a circular building shaped like a racing car engine, outlines the brand’s history and vision for the future. Whether you’re a car lover or not, the most impressive part of the BMW Museum is the large display of cars and motorcycles, From vintage cars to prototypes, racing cars and everything in between.
The BMW World is another architectural masterpiece of Munich, a modern glass and steel swirling cone, covered with solar panels, which opened its doors in 2007. It functions as an interdisciplinary center, and also as a delivery point for specially ordered cars. Customers get a staged experience where the car gets lifted to them from the underground on a round elevator, as a precious trophy.
Now that you have the best tips for the top 10 things to do in Munich, you’re ready to search for a cheap flight to Bavaria’s capital or spontaneously book a hotel and show up to enjoy all the culture, sports and nature the city has to offer.
How do you get to Munich?
You can fly to Munich from Hamburg or Berlin, rent a car from Frankfurt and other major German cities. If you fly into Munich from any other part of Europe or even the world, keep in mind that the Lufthansa hub is located there – so you can fly direct with Lufthansa or any other Star Alliance partner.