As the third-largest city in Germany and the home of Oktoberfest, the world-famous beer-drinking festival, Munich has much to offer visitors. And while many of the city’s best-known sights center on beer, Munich also has world-class museums, beautiful parks, and excellent shopping.
Seeing this city in a day won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding. Here's what to do when you visit.
Any visit to Munich should begin in its most famous square, Marienplatz. Located in central Munich, this square is an ideal introduction to the capital of Bavaria.
Start with a visit to Neues Rathaus, or the New Town Hall. This elaborate building is not nearly as old as it appears; construction took place between 1867 and 1909. Statues and stained glass windows depicting people and events from Bavarian history decorate the facade. For a great view of central Munich, take the elevator to the top of the tower. Tickets can be purchased inside the New Town Hall.
When you’ve finished touring the New Town Hall, head out to the middle of Marienplatz to watch the Glockenspiel show at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., or 5 p.m. (the evening show is available only in the summer). Thirty-two life-size figures reenact events from Bavarian history accompanied by traditional music. The show lasts about 15 minutes. To avoid standing a long time waiting for the show, consider grabbing a table at a nearby cafe and enjoying a coffee or beer beforehand.
Very close to the New Town Hall is one of Munich’s most recognized churches, Frauenkirche. In place of the more common single, pointed steeple, this church has two towers topped by domes. If you took the elevator to the top of the town hall tower, you had an excellent aerial view of these towers. There is no fee to visit the church, but it is still an active place of worship, so access may be limited.
Stroll Through The English Garden
Munich is home to one of the largest urban parks in the world, the English Garden. Established in 1789 along the Isar River, this vast green space offers 48 miles of paths for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Throughout the park are restaurants, beer gardens, and snack shops, so it’s definitely a place you could spend several hours if time permits.
In addition to lovely lawns and trees, the park features a Chinese tower, a Japanese teahouse, and a Greek temple, Monopteros. Those willing to climb the hill to the temple will be rewarded with a nice view of the surrounding city. If you’re visiting on a weekend, check out the traditional tea ceremony at the teahouse.
Visitors feeling particularly adventurous can explore Schonfeldwiese, the lawn where nude sunbathing has been allowed since the 1960s.
Visit The Birthplace Of River Surfing
Most people surf in oceans, but where that is not possible, some enthusiasts have resorted to rivers instead. In fact, the sport of river surfing began in Munich. Located within the English Garden is a small man-made stretch of water called the Eisbach River, where surfers can often be found. Typically there are more onlookers than surfers, since this is a very small stretch of water, but it’s always fun to experience this lesser-known sport.
Appreciate Munich’s Excellent Museums
Munich is home to more than 80 museums, including those dedicated to art, history, culture, and automobiles. If you’re only spending a day in town, select a museum that best aligns with your interests.
Art lovers should consider visiting Alte Pinakothek, Residenz, or Lenbachhaus. Alte Pinakothek is one of the oldest galleries in the world and houses a significant collection of works by the Old Masters. Residenz was the former seat of government and the residence of Bavarian dukes, but it’s now home to an impressive collection of art, furniture, jewels, and tapestries. Located in the former home of the Realist artist Franz von Lenbach, Lenbachhaus is primarily a collection of contemporary art and features works by many Munich-based artists.
History buffs will want to head to the Bavarian Museum or the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. The Bavarian Museum is an ideal place to visit for those interested in the visual arts and cultural history of this region of Germany. The Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism covers the rise and fall of the Nazi Party, which was founded in Munich in 1920.
Munich is also home to one of the largest science museums in the world, the Deutsches Museum. This is a great option for those traveling with young children, since the museum features many hands-on exhibits.
Feel Like Royalty At Nymphenburg Palace
To see how Bavarian royalty lived, a visit to Nymphenburg Palace is in order. Start by exploring the palace’s gorgeous interior rooms, including the Stone Hall, Queen Caroline’s bedroom, and the palace chapel. Next, check out the four museums located on the grounds, including the Carriage Museum, Porcelain Museum, Museum of Man and Nature, and the museum dedicated to the work of Erwin von Kreibig, a painter and graphic designer. Finally, stroll the palace grounds, which today constitute a park popular with locals. Quite a bit of wildlife can be seen in the park, including deer, rabbits, and foxes.
Drink Your Beer In A Garden
Since beer gardens originated in Munich in the 19th century, it would be a shame to leave the city without partaking in this important tradition. There are no lack of lovely settings to choose from for this activity.
One of the largest and most popular beer gardens, Chinesischer Turm, is located in the English Garden. With 7,000 seats available, this place can definitely get crowded, but that is part of the fun. After enjoying a few beers, stroll the nearby garden paths.
Hirschgarten, located in the park of the same name, offers 8,000 seats and is the largest beer garden in Bavaria. Located within walking distance of the palace, this would make a nice stop for a meal after sightseeing.
Biergarten Viktualienmarkt is located in an outdoor market, making it very popular with locals. Since this beer garden is smaller, it can get quite crowded, but it does offer a very authentic experience.
Eating In Munich
A great day in Munich will need to include a couple of authentic Bavarian meals. Fortunately, your options are nearly unlimited, since Munich is loaded with good restaurants.
Billed as the world’s most famous tavern, Hofbrauhaus should be the first meal stop for any visitor. And since it’s located near Marienplatz, it’s a great place to stop for food after some early sightseeing. While some people complain that this spot can feel touristy, most enjoy the large hall filled with long wooden tables and benches and traditional Bavarian music. Grab a spot, order a beer, and enjoy the live music. The menu offers a wide selection of German food, including schnitzel, sausages, and pork knuckle. If the weather isn’t ideal for a beer garden, Hofbrauhaus can be a fun alternative.
Augustiner am Dom, located next to Frauenkirche and near Marienplatz, is another well-known restaurant for authentic Bavarian cuisine. There are many traditional options on the menu, including roast pork with dumplings, duck with red cabbage, and Augustiner beer goulash. In the summer, there’s even a beer garden.
Located under the New Town Hall is Ratskeller, which attracts both government officials and tourists. From pretzels to bratwurst and potato soup to schweinebraten, this place offers a large selection of traditional German meals. Don’t forget about dessert! Try one of the local favorites like apple strudel or Black Forest cake.
Visiting a farmers market is an ideal way to sample local specialities. In Munich, this can be done at the 200-year-old Viktualienmarkt. Open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, Viktualienmarkt sells dairy items, produce, fish, and bread. But there are also vendors selling prepared foods like sausages, soups, and sweets. In December, the market becomes one of the local Christmas markets.
Shopping In Munich
If you’re starting at Marienplatz, it’s easy to continue shopping along Kaufingerstrasse, one of Munich’s oldest streets -- it offers hundreds of popular international chains. In the evenings, live music is often heard along this row of shops, ranging from a single guitar player to a five-piece band with a vocalist.
The ultimate luxury shopping destination in the city is Maximilianstrasse, where visitors can find Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and much more. Named for King Maximilian I, this boulevard is also full of beautiful architecture, so it’s worth a stroll even if these luxury stores aren’t for you.
If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind items, check-out Sendlinger Strasse. While there are also international chain stores located here, they are mixed in with mom-and-pop shops that have been in families for generations. Gartnerplatz is another area to explore for smaller shops offering unique and handmade items.
Munich is Germany’s most popular city for tourists. That’s easy to understand when you consider the wealth of things to do here. This iconic Bavarian city is full of great sightseeing, delicious food, and fun shopping -- the only challenge will be deciding what to do here with just one day.