3 days in Munich
Munich doesn’t get nearly the amount of buzz it deserves. It’s not as world renowned as London or Paris and gets overshadowed by its sibling to the north, Berlin, always the cooler, hipper, and more modern of the two. And yet, Munich is absolutely charming. It’s a taste of old world Germany while still in urban settings. It has stunning buildings, a vast array of authentic food options, and a history to learn about that will keep you occupied for days.
Here’s the perfect weekend itinerary for one of Europe’s most underrated cities.
Munich’s city center is on the smaller side and so it makes sense to stay right there since most attractions are easily walkable and happily the terrain is quite flat. The Hotel Torbrau is the perfect choice as its location makes it less than 10 minute walk to the famed Marienplatz and it’s also the oldest hotel in the city. Wherever you end up staying, once you drop off your bags and freshen up, head out and explore your new surroundings.
Viktualienmarkt is a great introduction to the city and of course, the food (“markt” is market in German). While originally a farmer’s market, today it has become a popular site for gourmet food offerings and visitors comprise both locals and tourists. It features everything from a biergarden to countless food options (currywurst anyone?) to unique souvenir offerings. If standing and eating isn’t your thing, there are also numerous restaurants that surround the market so just head there and get your pretzel for the road.
And don’t miss the famous Maypole although it’s somewhat hard not to considering it’s the tallest point in the market. Munich is located in the German state of Bavaria and is very big on Bavarian pride which is reflected in the maypole (blue and white are its flag colors).
Just remember that the market isn’t open on Sundays (it’s a Monday through Saturday operation) so plan accordingly.
Now that you need to walk off those one too many calories you consumed between your rich German food and the one too many pints of Dunkel, head over to the Church of St. Peter to climb to the top of its tower. Just be forewarned-there are 306 steps in total and no elevator. (If you want to wimp out and skimp on the exercise, the tower at the Old Town Hall offers an elevator to the top.)
The views at the top of St. Peter’s tower are unparalleled and offer incredible vistas of both the famed Marienplatz (which features both the Old and New Town Halls), the Viktualiemarkt which you just came from, and the city’s most famous twins, the onion domes at Frauenkirche, Church of Our Lady (“Frau” is woman in German, “kirche” is church).
Like most of Germany, Munich wasn’t spared during World War II in terms of bombings. The city was almost obliterated and most of what you see today was rebuilt including the Church of St. Peter. Many of the buildings in Munich’s city center feature photographs before and after the bombings. When you walk in the beautiful (albeit reconstructed) sanctuary there, think back to when you would have been standing in nothing but rubble, the other buildings around you a fiery blaze.
And what the Grand Place is to Brussels, the Marienplatz is to Germany. It’s the (crowded) heart and soul of the city which makes it numerous things including a photographer’s delight, a pickpocket’s treat (just watch your stuff, especially when the famed Glockenspiel is set to go off), and the chance to revel in one of those precious travel moments when you think to yourself, “wow, I’m really here,” as you gaze at all of the incredible architecture.
Fun fact-the Old Town Hall is actually newer than the New Town Hall since the Old Town Hall was almost destroyed during World War II and had to be rebuilt. But it was rebuilt to how it looked pre-World War II.
You don’t need to partake more than once, but be sure to catch the famous “show” at the Glockenspiel. Every day at 11AM (and twice more in the summer), it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. In total it consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. There’s even a jousting match which is truly the cherry on top.
Jet lag is probably catching up to you by this point so search out a beer hall near to your hotel to grab an early dinner. I mean there are still a ridiculous number of beer and foods you need to try. If you’re unsure on what to get, stick with the two S’s-spätzle and strudel. You would make a German opa proud.
All right, call it a day, your feet need to rest and your stomach needs time to breath before tomorrow’s go-around.
While it’s easy to think of Munich as this charming city (it is home to the over the top Oktoberfest celebrations), Munich also has a very dark recent past. Although Berlin is often equated with Hitler and his Nazis due to its being the capital, it was in Munich where the Nazi party was formed, the city that was truly its heart and soul.
Although any guidebook will mention the main sights, do yourself a favor and book a walking tour of the Third Reich. Everything you think you already know about Hitler and the Nazis will be quickly surpassed by how much more you’ll learn.
Did you know that the reason Hitler’s Stormtroopers wore brown uniforms was tied to World War I? After Germany lost in the First World War, it was forced to give up its numerous colonies in Africa. It was in the colonies that German officials wore the brown uniforms, lighter attire for those tropical temperatures. Well, since they had no more use for them in places like Namibia and Tanzania, they became the new uniforms of the Stormtroopers or “brown shirts.”
It’s also eerily sinister to walk in the same places that some of history’s most sinister beings once did less than 100 years ago.
No one ever said history was all fun and happiness so after you get your share of learning about the dark past, head to a beer hall to temporarily forget your troubles and the disturbing things you just learned about.
While there are much better (and cheaper) places to eat, a first time visit to Munich doesn’t seem complete without stopping at the world famous Hofbrahaus. Whether you go for just a beer and one of the humongous pretzels the women in their bust revealing dirndls sell as they walk around the restaurant or a full meal, it’s a fun time for what it is-an uber touristy activity but enjoyable nonetheless. And only there will you find the house musicians with giant steins at their feet because naturally you mix polka and beer.
Okay, you haven’t made it to any museums yet but don’t you think it’s about time you did? The Residenzmuseum is not to be missed, but here’s the best part (in case you’re lukewarm on museums in the first place)-it’s not actually a museum but rather a royal palace. Located right in the city’s downtown section, it may remind you of Madrid’s Palacio Real, another royal structure located right in the heart of the Spanish capital. The Residenz is massive and includes both the palace and the treasury (royal jewels, anyone?). Audio headsets are included as part of your admission ticket but containing so many rooms (130 in all), you’ll want to pick and choose which you want to visit. The Antiquarium and the Ancestral Gallery are must sees.
Did you know that Mad King Ludwig II is tied to the Residenz? He was from the Wittelsbach dynasty that the Residenz belonged to. Although being a country boy at heart, Ludwig II absolutely hated when he had to stay here.
You can’t leave Munich without trying the world famous schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle as it’s known in English. And before you make a face and think there’s no way in heck I’m trying something that has knuckle in its name, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
While there are numerous places to sample this artery clogging, stick to your bones entrée, Haxnbauer is the most well-known spot so head there. When you get close to the building, you can literally smell the knuckles roasting on the spit over an open beechwood fire.
There are a variety of pork (and veal knuckle) sizes to choose from at Haxnbauer, so go with the one that your stomach can handle whether it’s slices, half a knuckle, or even a whole one if you’re brave…and hungry enough.
In case you’re in need of a little sweet treat before you have sweet dreams, head to Schuhbeck’s Eissalon for some ice cream. Considered to be one of the best ice cream spots in Munich, it won’t disappoint since it also means hanging out in one of Munich’s prettiest platzs which is even prettier at night.
Say gute nacht to Munchen and dream of “doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles” (oh wait, that’s Austria)
Here’s the thing, even being a smaller city there’s still a ton of places to visit in Munich including the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest science and technology museum; the BMW Museum; the Alte Pinakothek (world class art collection); English Garden whose size rivals that of New York’s Central Park (you can also surf here, no joke); Nymphenburg Palace; and Olympia Park which was constructed for the 1972 Olympic Games.
However, considering that you’re in Munich, you’re also in close proximity to numerous day trip options including Dachau, the former concentration camp, and countless royal palaces (the Wittelsbachs really liked the Bavarian countryside).
Neuschwanstein is undoubtedly the most famous one (I mean, it inspired Walt Disney himself) so you can’t go wrong with visiting what many consider to be a modern wonder of the world even if it is on the newer side (it was built in the 19th century).
The main thing is when you get out of Munich, just enjoy the utterly stunning countryside and of course, the Alps. The weather can definitely fluctuate here so pack and dress accordingly, wear layers and strip down (or up) if need be.
With the exception of a visit to Dachau, many of the other day trips will take a good portion of the day so just plan for a mellow evening once you return to the city, complete with more German food of course. Perhaps ask at your hotel’s front desk for a dining recommendation, one away from the tourist crowds and where the locals go (to flee those same tourist crowds).
Sadly, your time in the Bavarian capital has come to an end. But before you leave, after your breakfast of weisswurst (white sausage commonly eaten at breakfast), have one more stroll through the city center, and perhaps even stop in a church or two and see some of those famous interiors like Frauenkirche (of the twin domes fame), and Asamkirche, a beautiful Baroque church that was intended to be the private church of the two brothers that built it although church hierarchy demanded it be open to the general public.
No doubt that you could spend more time here but hopefully Munich impressed you enough that you’ll definitely want to return one day in the future. It may not have the world recognition of some other European cities but it equally marvels in its own quiet way. Well, quiet when it’s not Oktoberfest.