If you have never been to Munich, put it on your bucket list for when we can once again travel. While known for its famous Octoberfest, the Hofbräuhaus, lederhosen, dirndls, beer and sausage, it has much more to discover…it’s called one of the most livable cities in the world.
While travel plans have been put on hold, we can still daydream about where we would like to visit someday. Take a virtual trip with me to Munich, I think you might want to put it on your bucket list for future travels.
Munich, the capital and largest city of Bavaria, is small enough that you could see the highlights in 24 hours but do plan to spend at least three days or more visiting, as there is no shortage of things to see and do. With the city’s close proximity to the Alps, nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, charming villages and beautiful lakes, a longer stay with day trips to the surrounding gorgeous countryside will give you a wonderful introduction to what I like to call “the warm heart of Bavaria“.
When traveling to Europe, my husband and I often make Munich either our first or last stop on our holiday as it has a great airport to fly in or out of. It is ranked 5th in the world and was voted the best airport in Europe in 2020. It has 150 retail stores, about 50 places where you can eat and drink and there is a very nice Hilton Hotel attached to it. We like the convenience of staying there on our last night when we have an early morning flight. Rental cars can be rented and returned at the rental car garage attached to the airport.
When we visit Munich, we stay in the small and charming historical center, called the Altstadt. We enjoy being within walking distance of most of the city’s museums, shops, restaurants, beerhalls and the subway. The Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten, located on the famous Maximilianstrasse, is our personal favorite with lovely updated rooms, a rooftop spa and swimming pool with wonderful views over the rooftops of Munich. One of the hotel’s many delights is having English afternoon tea or an evening cocktail in the lobby beneath the pretty Art Deco glass ceiling depicting the four seasons.
One of the best ways to get your bearings once you’re settled in, is to take a hop on, hop off bus tour of the city’s highlights. After that, my husband and I find the city is best enjoyed by walking. If you use the city’s public transportation to reach out further, it is comfortable and clean, the streets are safe and friendly people are always available should you need help with directions.
The city’s central square in the heart of Altstadt is called the Marienplatz. It is famous for the Neues Rathaus, the new town hall and its Glockenspiel with 32 life sized figures that comes to life three times daily. After watching the clock, there are plenty of things to see and do that are easily reached on foot from the Marienplatz.
I’m a real foodie and always visit the Viktualienmarkt just a short walk away from the Marienplatz. Just look for the decorative Maypole at its center. It’s a daily outdoor farmer’s market with over 140 booths that sell fresh produce from local farms as well as exotic fruits, traditional sausages, meats, seafood, gourmet cheeses from around Europe, pastries, coffees, flowers and more. You will spot tourists as well as locals wearing tradition Bavarian outfits enjoying a beer and a snack at tables underneath the shady chestnut trees in the Biergarten at the market’s center.
The Schrannenhalle is a beautiful wrought iron & glass market that is an upscale indoor extension of the Viktualienmarkt that now houses Eataly Munich. You can eat, shop and learn about Italian food and drink. There are nine restaurants and counters, two cafes and a cooking school.
Any foodie will also want to visit Dallmayr, between the Marienplatz and Odeonsplatz. It is the largest delicatessen house in Europe, with 19 specialty departments. It offers the finest quality products in a luxurious setting. If you wanted to have a gourmet party, this is definitely the place to shop. If you would like to have a bite to eat, you can enjoy oysters and Champagne at the Lucullus Bar, have lunch or coffee and cake at the Café Bistro Dallmayr or a memorable meal at the Michelin two starred Restaurant Dallmayr.
When it comes to dining while in Munich, you will want to try some of the classics such as braised pork roast, sausages of all kinds, sauerkraut, the dark multigrain breads, and of course pretzels.
There are also lots of fine dining German and International restaurants to choose from. One of the reasons locals refer to Munich as “Italy’s most northern city” is the number of good Italian restaurants owned and operated by Italians. Osteria Der Katzlmacher, located near the Hofbräuhaus, is our favorite Italian restaurant with a menu that changes with the seasons.
A visit to Munich isn’t complete if you don’t go to the world famous beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus. Large crowds gather to listen to bands playing Bavarian folk music while enjoying a beer. Yes it is very touristy and you will find better food elsewhere but it’s well worth a visit at least once for the experience alone. Close to the Hofbräuhaus is Haxnbauer, another well known spot for hearty Bavarian food and a better choice if you want a restaurant rather than beer hall. The restaurant is famous for schweinhaxen (pork knuckle) which are big enough to share. Another very good place for Bavarian food and beer is across the road from Munich’s Opera House and the National Theatre. The Spatenhaus an der Oper has a formal upstairs dining room that is elegant and serves Bavarian, Austrian and International dishes while downstairs is more traditional and the menu is strictly Bavarian.
If you are looking to have an afternoon snack of pastry and coffee, Maelu’s beautifully decorated little cakes look almost too perfect to be real.
After a big meal, you might want to take a walk in Munich’s English Garden, it is one of the largest city parks in the world. It was built in 1789 to look like an English country park with large green lawns, lakes, pavilions and the Chinese Tower which is a popular meeting place with one of the largest beer gardens in Munich.
If you only visit one museum, I would suggest the Residenz. It is huge and you can spend half a day and not see it all. It was home to Bavarian royalty and seat of the government from 1508 to 1918. From the outside it’s an imposing but not grand building but once inside, it is decorated with gold, frescoes and marble everywhere you look. You will find the museum’s audio sets useful when you tour its 130 rooms.
If you want a great view of the city, climb the bell tower of the Peterskirche behind the Marienplatz. The Frauenkirche, with its two onion domes is Munich’s main landmark. You can’t miss the Theatinerkirche, painted bright yellow, its all white baroque interior is stunning. It is on the Italian inspired Odeonsplatz facing the Residenz Palace. It can be seen from many parts of the city and marks one of the entrances into Munich’s old town. One of the smallest churches in Munich is Asam Church on Sendlinger Strasse, it is a real little gem.
If you’re passionate about cars like my husband, a “must see” in Munich is the futuristic BMW Museum. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a car buff or don’t own a BMW, I believe you will enjoy the museum.
If you love a good party and don’t mind crowds, you might want to plan your stay in Munich to coincide with Octoberfest once it is safe to gather in large crowds. It’s probably the biggest party in the world with 16 days of parades, rides, lots of food stands and of course the famous beer tents and their entertainment. It starts in September and ends the first Sunday in October but unfortunately it was cancelled for 2020. If Octoberfest is something you want to attend in the future, you need to start planning early as seating in many of the beer tents and hotel rooms can be sold out as early as January each year.
Munich has so much to discover and I’ve only shown you a small offering of what you might enjoy. If you’ve not been to Munich, you really should put it on your bucket list of wonderful places to explore. Someday traveling the world will be once again be possible, in the meantime we can still dream of far away places.