At Christmas, Munich, the capital of Bavaria in the south of Germany, pulls out all the stops. Generally, it’s cold enough to snow, so the roofs of all the fabulous buildings and churches are topped with a glittering cap. In the morning, icicles drip from gutters and tree branches and ice roses cover windows. Munich opens her jewelry box and pulls out the best Christmas decorations to spread lavishly all over the city. Huge stars, angels, and Christmas trees decorate streets and shop windows and everybody can enjoy not one but over 20 Christmas markets.
The Isar, the river flowing through Munich, sometimes freezes over, to the delight of ice skaters. Trams are a popular means of transportation in Munich and it operates a special Christmas tram. A venue called Munchner Eiszauber provides ice skating in an open-air arena should the ice of the river or other lakes not be safe and thick enough. There is indoor ice-skating available too.
The Christmas spirit continues with special Christmas dinners in some 5-star hotels and restaurants with performances in theatres and the opera.
Indoors or outdoors, you’ll never forget it’s Christmas if you come to Munich. The sheer abundance of venues and events makes Munich the perfect Christmas destination.
1. Visit The Most Magical Christmas Markets
Marienplatz – Christkindlmarkt
Marienplatz is Munich’s main square in the heart of the city and the location of the biggest and oldest Christmas market in town. It was first held in 1310. This year it is scheduled to last from November 22–December 24. Approximately 140 vendor stalls are spread out over the market with the romantic backdrop of the Gothic-style New Town Hall. In front of the market stands a gigantic 100-foot tall Christmas tree, decorated with 2,500 lights. The stalls sell the most beautiful handcrafted Christmas decorations, wood carvings, and mouth-blown baubles as well as gallons of mulled wine, gingerbread sweets in all shapes and forms, and the Bavarian grilled sausages, hot sauerkraut, and Leberkas. Find the Christkindl post office where your postcards get a special stamp.
Medieval Christmas Market
Located on Wittelsbacher Platz near Odeonplatz, this is a Christmas market of a different kind. If you love all things Viking or medieval, this is the event for you. The vendors wear period costumes and sell such things as lambskins, gold jewelry, and handcrafted drinking horns. Food is roasted over an open fire and jugglers and knights in shining armor roam the place. Try a fiery drink: Feuerzangenbowle. A rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and slowly melted into a bowl of rum punch.
Weihnachtsdorf in der Residenz
Inspired by the feeling of an alpine village, the second largest Christmas market of Munich is set up in the courtyard of the Residenz, the majestic royal palace. The stalls are shaped like chalets, the vendors sell exquisite local art, a great many Christmas dolls and angels and snacks, often based on potatoes. There are puppet shows and music on the central stage.
Pink Christmas Market
This is definitely not your traditional Christmas market, but a great spectacle and entertainment where everybody is welcome. Located in the heart of Munich’s LGBTQ quarter, Stephansplatz, this event is best visited in the evening to enjoy the full glory of plenty of pink lights and decorations, plus music and performances.
For an overview of more Christmas markets in Munich see this.
2. Ride The Christmas Tram
Munich is a party town, just think of the world-famous OktoberFest. Whenever an event can be turned into a party, it will, and Christmas is no exception. The Christmas Tram isn’t just a seasonally decorated tram, trundling around the city to see the Christmas lights. It is indeed a dinner party in tram cars, decorated to match the Christmas spirit with staff in traditional costumes serving you a succulent dinner or buffet of your choice while you tour the most important sights of the city all illuminated with an abundance of Christmas lights. Book your tour on the website and party through town.
If you fancy a shorter tour of 35 minutes with mulled wine and gingerbread instead of a dinner party, there is this alternative.
3. Try Curling At The Nymphenburger Canal
Have you ever done curling before? Here is your chance to join one of the latest winter sports fashions in Munich and in a marvelous place too. As soon as the temperatures drop below freezing point, ice enthusiasts in Munich head to the Nymphenburg Canal. The Nymphenburg Palais is a beautiful Baroque palace that was the summer residence of the Wittelsbach dynasty. It’s surrounded by a canal which is quite shallow so it freezes easily. Signs are put up to advise when it is safe to step on the ice. Still, you are doing so at your own risk. The canal is a natural rink and curling is a favorite activity. Curling sticks can be rented there, so join the fun and shoot away. There is also ice skating and ice hockey.
4. Ice Skate At Muenchner Eiszauber
Muenchner Eiszauber is a Christmas event in Munich not to be missed. It takes place from November 22, 2021–January 10, 2022, when the Stachus, a huge square in the heart of the city, is turned into an ice skating rink. It’s the largest movable ice arena in Europe. Whether you are a pro or step into ice skates for the first time doesn’t matter, plenty of fun lies ahead and you also do something for your health. Skates are for rent at the site. Use is divided into blocks so there is no overcrowding. While you glide along in the fresh air, you can admire the Christmas lights on the surrounding buildings. Every day, there is another program. If for instance, you turn up in Dirndl or Lederhosen, you get into Wies’n Hits for free. Plenty of food and drink is around, too. The evening is party time, check out the program.
5. Enjoy Christmas Performances In Theatres And Opera
Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper is a world-famous venue for opera and classical concerts. Treat yourself to an evening in the lavishly decorated opera house and, at Christmas, listen to the OperaBrass concert. Opera and concerts are taken seriously in Bavaria, so dress up.
A typical Christmas ballet is the Nutcracker. It will be performed on several days during the Christmas period in the Prinzregententheatre.
6. Spend A Few Hours In Alte Pinakothek
It can be pretty cold in Munich at Christmas, so it’s a good idea to get out of the cold and icy wind for a few hours by spending them in one of Munich’s best and most prestigious museums, the Alte Pinakothek. The museum is located in easy to reach Theresienstrasse. It’s actually three museums, exhibiting works of art reaching from the Middle Ages to Modern Art. You can of course go on your own, but if you prefer explanations from an art expert, you can book a guided tour with Paul.
Pro Tip: Theatinerstrasse, one of Munich’s best shopping streets, is just around the corner. You can combine your museum visit with some serious Christmas shopping, all within walking distance, or if you prefer, a few tram stops.
7. Enjoy A Bavarian Christmas Dinner
What would Christmas be without a delicious dinner? You will be spoiled for choice of venue in Munich, so let me tell you about two very different but equally great restaurants depending on the atmosphere you like.
The first is the boisterous, famous Hofbrauhaus, the seat of Bavaria’s oldest brewery. It’s big, and you mostly eat at communal tables, crowded and rather noisy but the food and drink are excellent. Make your reservation early.
If you prefer a more elegant setting, there is a Christmas dinner at the 5-star hotel Bayerischer Hof. You can choose between five restaurants and six bars. If after your meal you feel like a theater performance, you can go to the in-house boulevard theater Komoedie and round out the night with a drink at Trader’s Vic. All under one roof.
8. Party At Wintertollwood Festival
Located on Theresienwiese, the legendary venue of the Oktoberfest, Wintertollwood Festival is a Christmas experience of a different kind. This year it lasts from November 24—December 23 and the party vibe is undeniable. The theme is fire and light, reflected in, among other things, a huge firebird sculpture and fire painting. Three tents house stalls that sell strictly sustainable goods. A magical forest, new this year, features a huge Christmas tree, decorated with colored baubles and balloons. There are art installations, performances and the partying gets underway in the Witches’ Cauldron with live bands, all open until 1 a.m.
9. Best Christmas Shopping
If you are looking for some last-minute or special Christmas gifts, Munich is the place to be. There are, of course, the Christmas markets for handcrafted Bavarian items, but there are also shopping streets in Munich where you can find beautiful things for all budgets. Some are pedestrian areas, but a word of caution: They are accessible to bicycles and trams, both silent, so watch out. One of Munich’s most popular department stores is Galeria Kaufhof, located between Marienplatz and Karlstor. Offering just about anything, it also has lovely Christmas decorations. Marienplatz itself and Theatinerstrasse are shopping streets for jewelry, designer clothes, and art. For the biggest selection of books (in several languages), head to Hugendubel, either on the Stachus or Karlsplatz, opposite the Hotel Bayerischer Hof.
Many destinations in Europe celebrate Christmas in a big way, here are just a few to consider: