Munich, the capital of Bavaria and the third-largest city in Germany, lies on the river Isar on the periphery of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is a wonderful city that you’ll definitely fall in love with more each time you visit.
From exploring the new museums to visiting a traditional beer garden and from witnessing the royal palaces to visiting the ancient churches, there are a lot of fantastic things to do in Munich.
Even if biergartens and Oktoberfest are an important part of Munich culture, they are not the only major attractions to this cosmopolitan city. The city offers a lot of incredible things to do including experiences and must-see sights, but it is important to prioritize what is really worth your time.
So, here are is a selection of 10 of the best things to do in Munich that will add a special touch to your Munich holiday experience. Make a visit to this captivating city and experience these things just like the locals do, and learn about the modern heritage of Munich.
1. Marienplatz and the Neues Rathaus – Explore Munich’s central square
Serving as Munich’s main town square since 1158, Marienplatz is still considered the heart and soul of Old Town. In addition to the massive Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) that covers one entire side of the square, you’ll find the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) forming a gate at the far end.
The large open square consists of the Mariensäule, a tall column of the Virgin Mary erected in 1638, and the Fischbrunnen, a newer fountain that includes bronze figures near the main entrance of the Neues Rathaus.
Popular with shoppers for its stores, and restaurants, Marienplatz is the focus of festivals and scenes of a large Christmas Market throughout the year. The Narren-Lindwurm (dragon) dances over the square during the Fasching carnival.
Everyone stops to watch the famous Glockenspiel on the front of the Neues Rathaus, which has belled each day at 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, and then 17:00 PM (from March to October). Mechanical figures in the Glockenspiel perform a miniature tournament to recreate several events in Munich’s Medieval history every day. It’s one of the city’s most-loved traditions, and something you shouldn’t miss.
Take some time to appreciate the intricate stonework on the Neo-Gothic façade, and you can ride the elevator to the middle gallery of the building’s 85-meter tower for stunning views over the city and the Bavarian Alps on cloudless days.
You can find the Tourist Information Center in the Neues Rathaus. In the back of the building is a restaurant serving authentic Bavarian dishes.
2. Frauenkirche – Witness the Devil’s footprint
Munich’s huge brick Frauenkirche – the Cathedral Church of Our Lady – with its two dome-topped towers is a unique part of the Munich skyline. It’s been referred to as resembling a pair of beer steins bubbling over.
Even though there are a lot of prettier churches in Munich, no one possesses the fifteenth century Frauenkirche’s sense of scale. Besides being the epitome of history and architecture, it is also the city’s largest church.
The Frauenkirche suffered in World War II, but there’s still a lot of restored or original art to explore inside. There’s a tomb monument to Louis IV, the fourteenth-century Holy Roman Emperor, and also, there is a mysterious shoe-shaped impression at the entrance, called the Devil’s footstep. The Devil’s footprint is one of the biggest attractions at Frauenkirche.
You can tour the church for free and the small fee to reach the observation platform at the top is definitely worth it. The top of the towers offers spectacular views across the city to the Bavarian Alps.
3. Englischer Garten – Walk or bike in Germany’s largest city park
Scanning a map of Munich, you’ll be struck by the size of the Englischer Garten (English Garden), which covers an area of 910 acres. Munich’s Englischer Garten is not only the biggest city park in Germany, but it’s also one of the most beautiful parks.
Proposed in 1785 as a military garden, the Englischer Garten attracts walkers, joggers, and cyclists to its seventy-eight kilometres of pathways and bridle paths. The Bavarian National Museum is also situated inside the park, with its splendid collection of medieval German sculptures and tapestries, and the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection, which exhibits local prehistoric artefacts.
It’s also an ideal place for a picnic and sunbathing, and you can stop for a snack or drink break at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), a 25-meter-tall pagoda. Don’t be surprised if you see some people in the park taking off their clothes as it is legal and completely acceptable to sunbathe nude inside the Englischer Garten. No matter how you slice it, the garden is a great place to rest and reenergize yourself.
4. Eisbach River – Watch Surfers Master the Waves
At the far side of the Englischer Garten lies the Eisbach (Ice Stream) River. Surfing seems an unlikely sight in a landlocked city, but watching surfers master the waves of Munich’s Eisbach River at the Eisbachwelle – which is considered the world’s largest urban surfing location – has become an important pastime for locals as well as visitors.
Enjoyably, you’ll witness people surfing in the river. As Munich proudly holds the claim of being the origin of this unique activity of river surfing, throughout the year you can see adventurers surf in the fierce waves of the river.
There are specific types of boards and skills needed for this cold-water sport, which was banned until 2010, but now attracts courageous professional and semi-professional athletes in wetsuits throughout the year. Also, famous surfers can often be spotted at the Eisbachwelle.
Nowadays, you’ll find crowds of locals and visitors gathered on the banks of the Eisbachwelle to watch surfers’ stunts, and cheer on the daring wave runners. It’s better to have proper skills and experience before diving in, so it’s more of a spectator sport and taking part is not for beginners.
As the river is usable all year long, many even dare the cold German winters for a surf. Things can get a little weird on the hottest summer days. You may see some locals surf naked. So, just relax while you observe the surfers and give loud applause or just join in if you like!
5. Munich Residenz – Learn About the Royalty and Heritage
The home of various Bavarian rulers and emperors, the Munich Residenz is one of Europe’s most stunning palaces and the best place to learn about royalty and heritage.
Spread out around several large courts, the vast Residenz complex consists of three main sections: the Alte Residenz, towards the Residenzstrasse; the Königsbau, near the Max-Joseph-Platz; and the Festsaalbau (250 metres long Banqueting Hall), towards the Hofgarten.
The earliest part of this huge complex was the splendid Renaissance Antiquarium, built between 1568 and 1571 and is now part of the magnificent Residenz Museum. Apart from museums, this palace consists of 130 rooms which its own antiques.
Today, the Residenz houses a number of museums and function rooms, including the Residenz Museum, the Treasury (Schatzkammer), Cuvilliés-Theater, and the Court Church of All Saints (Allerheiligen-Hofkirche). Don’t miss to explore the palace grounds too, with its many beautiful old courtyards – including the wonderful Court Garden – as well as various fountains, ponds, and gardens.
The lavish Residenz Royal Palace is a must-see, and purchasing the combined ticket for the Residenz, the Treasury, and the Cuvilliés-Theater is highly recommended. Hours vary by season, so make sure to check all the details on the website before you visit.
Moreover, you can book a guided tour to discover the architectural and artistic splendour of Munich Residenz. Pay a visit to this largest palace in Germany and feel the royalty!
6. Hellabrunn Zoo – Encounters with The Nature’s Beloved
Are you looking for things to do in Munich for families?
Visiting Hellabrunn will be the ideal one for you! Spread over an area of 40 hectares, Hellabrunn Zoo is always ranked among the top zoos in Europe. Laid out in 1911, it was the first zoo in the world to have animals kept together according to where they came from.
Home to more than twenty thousand different animals from over 750 species, this zoo is a must-visit for all kinds of travellers. If you’re anxious about the zoo’s humane credentials, you would be happy to know that it takes part in breeding programs for endangered species like drill baboons, and silvery as well as Arctic foxes, elephants, and gorillas. Polar bears, Alpacas, giraffes, and South American sea lions are a few of the animals that you’ll find here.
Popular features include the gigantic five thousand square-meter free-flight aviary, the Elephant House, the Polarium, and Ape houses. The zoo is more or less a nature’s reserve, a unique and very special attraction, spread over a large area in the Isar meadows with many delightful footpaths, playgrounds, and picnic spots.
7. Art Museums – Treat for All Art Enthusiasts
Munich is a hub of museums and art galleries. You’ll find one of the finest groups of art museums anywhere in Europe in the art district around Königsplatz, presented in Neoclassical style in 1862.
It has three museums or Pinakothek namely old, new and modern:
- Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery), has fine collections of Dutch, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and medieval paintings.
- Neue Pinakothek (New Picture Gallery), with its displays of art ranging from Rococo to Art Nouveau; and to encounter masterpieces by major pioneers of Modern art like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne.
- Pinakothek der Moderne (State Gallery of Modern Art), the sleek glass and concrete museum, finished in 2002, holds a number of exhibits related to modern art, architecture, and design, which includes works by Picasso and Warhol.
Other notable museums are the Glyptothek and the State Antiquities Collection (Staatliche Antikensammlung), with their huge collections of ancient sculptures and antiquities.
Staying true to their names, the museums present pictures from middle age to modern age respectively. If you’re truly a photography enthusiast visiting these museums is a must thing to do in Munich!
8. Viktualienmarkt – Food, Beer Garden, and Souvenirs
In the 1800s, the Viktualienmarkt started as a simple farmers’ market but quickly grew to overtake Marienplatz as Munich’s main market for fresh food, delicacies, and exotic ingredients that are not available elsewhere in the area.
It now has over a hundred produce stands organized into various sections on an area covering 22,000 square meters, offering a wide range of German and international delights from Monday to Saturday.
But that is only half the story, as there’s a welcoming shaded big Biergarten (Beer Garden) in the centre of the marketplace, and one of Munich’s favourites. The wide-open market is a great place for an afternoon stroll, to throw your feet up and watch people go by.
If you are hungry, make sure to stop by the famous Münchner Suppenküche soup kitchen to eat (popular items are goulash soup, Krustis sandwiches, and sausage) like a local, or you could grab a wurst or schnitzel from the Biergarten’s own self-service restaurant.
Moreover, you can tantalize your taste buds with regional cuisine as well as international delicacies in the bustling life of the Viktualienmarkt with some gourmet food tours as provided below.
Each month the Viktualienmarkt features a distinct one of Munich’s main breweries on tap making it the most contrasting of the city’s hundred and eighty beer gardens.
The candy-striped, blue and white Maypole overlooking the Viktualienmarkt is a highly iconic imagine in Munich and undoubtedly worth a photo or two.
The Viktualienmarkt is also a good place to buy souvenirs, and sample some of the goods that are only available in Munich.
9. Oktoberfest – Experience the World’s Largest Beer Fest
Steaming from hundreds of years of fall agricultural festivals, the Oktoberfest has grown to become the world’s biggest beer festival and best party attraction with over seven million visitors as well as millions of litres of beer consumed!
The 16-18-day beer festival begins on the third Saturday of September and goes back to 1810 when Prince Ludwig I married Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.
Today Oktoberfest has around fourteen major tents capable of holding thousands of party-goers a piece at Theresienwiese in the west of the city. It is actually a family-friendly event offering much more than just the huge beer tents. Smaller tents with carnival rides, a sea of state fair games, and even a roller coaster will keep you busy for days.
Attending Oktoberfest requires advanced planning since it can get crowded so make sure to get there early in the day if you want a seat. There are 80,000 seats inside the main beer tents and around fifty to seventy percent of the tables are remained reserved every day, but you will be competing with more than six hundred thousand daily visitors for spots!
So, you’ll have to be there between 12 PM – 2 PM on a weekday to snare seats. The crowds usually are much lesser during the weekdays which gives you the freedom to hop between the beer tents, try different food and drinks, and explore the festival grounds thoroughly.
Just hold a glass of beer, eat authentic German food, dive into the Bavarian culture, and have the best time of your life!
10. Allianz Arena – Visit to The Home of FC Bayern
Even if you’re not a die-hard soccer fan, a visit to the home of FC Bayern has to be on the list of must-do activities in Munich.
The reason is not just because they’re Germany’s top soccer team and have a special place in the nation’s culture, but they also shifted into an amazing new home just over a decade ago.
Munich’s Allianz Arena is ranked alongside Barcelona’s Camp Nou and London’s Wembley Stadium as one of the best soccer complexes in Europe. The 75,000-seat stadium is the second-largest arena in the country with 2,874 luminous panels, which light up with the club’s colours on match days.
The Allianz Arena’s hour-long tour (available daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) is a complete-access experience, guiding you into the player’s tunnel, dressing rooms, a mixed zone where post-match interviews are taking place, and the press conference room.
Moreover, you can spend some time in the museum familiarizing yourself with Bayern’s all-time greatest players like Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus, and remembering the club’s five Champions League victories.
Just make sure to book your tour well in advance.
A shortlist of these ten best things to do in Munich can barely do the city justice.
To make the most of your trip, we’ve put together a list of things and attractions that you can’t leave Munich without doing and seeing, from the cultural visits to architectural tours to culinary discovery and the chance to witness slightly bizarre sports with some stunning city views.
A trip to the Bavarian capital leaves many with a strong desire to return again and again to discover more of what the city has to offer.
Photos via Dreamstime