Although Munich is a fantastic city to visit any time of the year, the city truly flourishes during festival season. Oktoberfest, late-September through early-October, and Fruhlingsfest, late-April through early-May, are the ideal times to visit Munich. So pack up your dirndl (or lederhosen) and get ready to Prost!
However, as much fun as the festivals are, there is much more to do in Munich than drink…check out my suggestions below of what to see and experience in Bavaria!
Prost at Oktoberfest/Fruhlingsfest
Starting with the best…Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is based in Munich and originally celebrated the marriage between King Ludwig I and Princess Therese in October of 1810. Over 200 years later, travelers from all over the globe still travel to Munich to drink steins full of delicious German beer and dance on a table or two.
Fruhlingsfest, a.k.a. Springfest, is essentially Oktoberfest’s more chill, younger sister. If you love beer and German food, but want to avoid the crowds, head to Munich in April for Fruhlingsfest instead!
…don’t forget to eat ALL the German food and try out the rides!
Marienplatz (Rathaus and the Glockenspiel)
Marienplatz is my favorite, and the most picturesque, square in Munich! Because a lot of the city was destroyed during WWII, there is not a lot of the original architecture left. The square, especially the Rathaus or New Town Hall, gives you a glimpse back in time into what the city looked like before the war.
Similar to the clock tower in Prague, the Glockenspiel (the tower) puts on shows for tourists a few times a day. If you happen to be in Marienplatz around 11AM, 12PM, or 5PM, make sure to stop and see the show!
Climb St. Peter’s Church
The best views of the square can be found on the rooftop terrace of St. Peter’s Church. A student entrance ticket is only 3 EUR, but be prepared to climb some serious stairs for that view.
Right around the corner from Marienplatz sits Odeonsplatz, another of Munich’s famous squares. Theatine Church, built in the 17th century, dominates the square with it’s bold, yellow facade. The inside of the church is even more stunning than the outside and entrance is free!
The Feldherrnhalle dominates the left side of the square and was actually modeled after the Loggia in Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Inside the Feldherrnhalle sits famous statues telling the stories of Bavaria, guarded by two stone Lions.
Why are the English Gardens in Munich better than most gardens? Must be because of the four beer tents you can find in the center of the park! If you’re looking to get out of the bustle of the city center, the English Gardens are the perfect place for a relaxing walk or bike ride topped off with a cold German beer and a warm pretzel.
Watch the River Surfers
A fact you might not know about Munich…it’s the river surfing capital of the world! You’ll see professional surfers braving these treacherous waves on the river throughout the English Gardens. But don’t get any ideas…these waves are for professionals only.
Book a Bike Tour
One of my favorite ways to see any city is on a bike tour! Mike’s Bike Tours does a great 3-hour tour leaving from Marienzplatz that highlights all the best that Munich has to offer. They even stop for a break in the English Gardens for a beer and a well-deserved snack.
Explore the Viktualienmarkt
Right around the corner from Marienplatz, you’ll find the Viktualienmarkt. A large farmers market located in the city center, it’s the perfect place to grab lunch and people watch in the sunshine. Although not many of us feel the need to grocery shop on vacation, the food stands in the market offer every German specialty you could think of…from giant pretzels to sausages smothered in curry sauce!
If you need a bit of a culture fix between beers, Residenz München is the best place to start. The museum used to be the royal residence of the monarchs of Bavaria and is filled with impressive art from all over the world. Although some of the rooms have been reconstructed after being partially destroyed in WWII, the restoration is impressive and you still get an accurate idea of what the palace looked like before the war.
Dachau Concentration Camp
On a more somber note…Dachau Concentration Camp, one of the largest concentration camps in operation during WWII, is a short train ride outside the city center. The museum and memorial is very well done and, along with being educational, is a very humbling experience. Like much of the city, many parts of the camp were destroyed during the war and reconstructed later on.
The camp itself is free entry and the train ticket only costs around 9 EUR from the center of Munich.
Neuschwanstein Castle (Day-trip)
While in Munich, I was lucky enough to find time for a day-trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, the masterpiece of the mysterious King Ludwig II. The castle is located in Schwangau, about a two-hour train ride outside Munich. You can easily head to Hauptbahnhof station and make the solo-trip to the castle*. However, if you are more interested in joining a group, Sandeman’s New Munich has a great Neuschwanstein tour leaving from Munich.
Even if you’re not a history buff, the story of King Ludwig II and his world famous castle is sure to peak your interest. There is a great conspiracy surrounding the way the King died… Officially the death was ruled an accidental drowning, but many believe the royal family had him killed after he left them almost bankrupt building his luxurious castles. You’ll have to visit to see which story you believe!
The best place to get stunning photos of the castle are from the suspension bridge, Marienbrücke. If you are afraid of heights, or sketchy suspension bridges, I would suggest you stay far away from Marienbrücke. With over 100 tourists on the bridge at any given time, it doesn’t feel the most secure.
*If you do decide to plan the trip yourself, take the train from Hauptbahnhof to Füssen (about 2 hours).
If you decide to hike to the bridge, be prepared for some pretty stunning views of Alpsee Lake on your way to the top!
And if you’re hungry near the castle…
The Alpenstuben Hotel is a great option for a quick sit-down lunch near the castle. Just a couple minute walk from the train station, they serve a delicious pork knuckle! Trust me when I say it’s extremely filling…still have no idea how I finished this myself before a hike.
Commissioned by King Ludwig I, Alte Pinakothek is one of Munich’s most cherished art museums and is home to over 700 paintings. Tickets are only 5 EUR with a student ID and it’s a great way to spend a rainy day in Munich. Most of the artwork has a corresponding plaque explaining the artist and the meaning behind the art, but they also offer an audio tour if you want more of an informative experience.
Where (and what) to eat in Munich?
German food is always one of my favorites, although it’s usually difficult to zip my jeans after I get back from Munich…If you want to eat some tasty and authentic German food check out my post The best Bavarian restaurants in Munich!
Munich is filled with rich history, culture and hearty food. The locals are fun and friendly and the city offers something for everyone! No matter your travel style, Munich should be on your European bucket list.