Think Bavaria’s capital is all lederhosen, beer and oompah music? Think again.
Munich is a hotbed of history and culture, not to mention food and architecture. And of course, it’s the centre of the world-famous annual beer festival (and let’s face it, probably the world’s largest mass hangover).
To get the full Bavarian experience from frolicking in lederhosen at Theresienwiese beer tents to getting to grips with street snacks, check our top 10 recommendations of things to see and do during a whirlwind city break in Munich.
An experience that appears on many a traveller’s bucket list and perhaps the main reason why Munich is known around the world. Over the course of three weeks in September and early October, six million people descend on the Theresienwiese fairgrounds and beer tents for Oktoberfest to consume seven million litres of beer. Traditionally, the Bavarian prime minister is served the first untapped beer and then it’s every man for himself. For the authentic experience, dust off your tracht – traditional lederhosen or dirndl.
2. Home from home in Schwabing
Munich’s bohemian quarter du jour, Schwabing brims with quirky boutiques, bars and cafés, its art nouveau facades symbolic of it being a haunt of intellectuals, artists and writers down the years. For sustenance, Den Weinbauer on Fendstraße does hearty Bavarian classics.
3. Once upon a time at Neuschwanstein…
Perhaps the world’s most breathtaking folly, Schloß Neuschwanstein is the stuff of fairytales. Quite literally, given its role as inspiration for Walt Disney when he came to create his Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Constructed on a rugged outcrop in the foothills of the Alps, King Ludwig II of Bavaria built this beautiful castle in homage to the great German composer, Richard Wagner. Just under two hours drive from the city, it’s definitely worthy of a day trip.
With origins stretching back to 1589, the Hofbräuhaus is one of the city’s oldest beer halls. With its vaulted painted ceilings, cavernous rooms of solid wood benches and dirndl-wearing women flitting about with fistfuls of _mas _beer glasses, the Hofbräuhaus is an essential Munich experience. Having a beer here lets you join the ranks of notable visitors such as Mozart, JFK, Louis Armstrong and Mikhail Gorbachev. The Hofbräuhaus also owns the Hofbräukeller, one of the largest tents at Oktoberfest.
5. Würst for wear
Weisswürst, a sausage made from pork and veal, is a traditional breakfast snack in Bavaria. In the days before fridges, the meat would spoil quickly so it had to be eaten early in the day. According to local legend, the sausage should never hear the clock chime noon and to this day, most Bavarians eat it just so with a bretzen, sweet mustard and a local wheat beer. It may just be the cure for that stinking post-Oktoberfest hangover you’re battling.
6. Climb the Alter Peter steeple
The Church of St Peter, or Alter Peter, is said to be at the very spot where Munich was first founded 13 centuries ago and has since become the symbol of the city. As well as admiring its ceiling fresco, gothic paintings and Baroque fixtures, you can climb to the top of the 91 metre steeple for beautiful views over the copper green and terracotta-tiled roofs of Munich.
7. Lunch on the go in Viktualienmarkt
There are many fine Wirsthauser (pub-restaurants) in the centre of Munich where you can enjoy a local wheat beer and a good schnitzel but, if you’d rather have food on the go, head to the daily farmers’ market at Viktualienmarkt, just around the corner from the Marienplatz (Munich’s main square) with 140 stalls. For lunch, take your pick from the hot street food on offer – sausages, pork loin with potatoes, soup and dumplings – and munch while you meander.
8. Going for gold at the Olympiapark
Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the extensive Olympiapark, on the northern fringes of Munich city centre, was the site of the infamous terrorist attack that killed 11 Israeli Olympians. The futuristic design of the venues wouldn’t be out of place at a contemporary Games. Climb the Olympic Tower for views of the Alps from the 190 metre-high viewing platform.
9. Warhol at Museum Brandhorst
Opened in 2009, the Museum Brandhorst houses one of the largest modern art collections in Germany. Bequeathed to the state by entrepreneur art-lovers Udo Fritz-Hermann and Anette Brandhorst, the collection has over 700 works, including 100 by Andy Warhol and 60 by Cy Twombly (making it the biggest Twombly collection outside of New York’s Museum of Modern Art). You’ll also find 112 illlustrated books by Picasso in this Aladdin’s cave of art wonders, as well as works by Joan Miro and Damien Hirst.
10. Schloss Nymphenburg und Park
Bavaria’s answer to the Palace of Versailles, the sprawling Schloss Nymphenburg was built around the same time in the late 17th century. The construction took place in what was at the time open countryside before urban Munich swallowed it whole. It’s easily accessible using the efficient S-bahn, U-bahn or tram network. Visit not one but four palaces, explore the gargantuan landscaped gardens, and even take a gondola ride on the central canal.
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So, has Munich tempted you?