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Best things to do in Munich

Gastronomy, history, contrasts and a lot of life. Munich is the perfect city for a weekend getaway. Take note of its must-sees!

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

Jul 20, 2021 • 8 min read

Best things to do in Munich

Postcard from Munich | ©Jan Antoin

Munich is the most important city in the German area of Bavaria and both it and its surroundings have a lot to offer to the traveler. The more you walk around Munich, the more sights you will discover, but if you are short on time and have to choose, here's what you can't miss:

1. Choose a guided tour of the most relevant places in the city.

Odeonsplatz | ©Allie_Caulfield
Odeonsplatz | ©Allie_Caulfield

In my opinion, this is a must-do activity, as few experiences will give you a more complete view of the place you are visiting. The guided tours of Munich are walking tours (although the bicycle tour is also very popular) led by an expert guide who shows you the main points of interest of the city while telling you its history.

Guided tours have always existed, but they used to be something reserved for "wealthy" travelers while now there is a wide variety of routes and prices. What you will learn during these tours has little or nothing to do with the fact-filled version that appears in history books; it is a much closer point of view that combines history, legends and local customs.

Itinerary

The route of each tour is different, but most of them cover the main points of interest of the city, which are:

  • Marienplatz
  • Odeonplatz
  • St Peter's Church
  • House of Art (Haus der Kunst)
  • Square of the victims of National Socialism
  • Viktualienmarkt

Other tours

The city of Munich has a lot of history and many places to visit, but also its surroundings are worth a visit. With a guided tour you can get to know Munich and its surroundings without having to worry about transportation logistics, schedules, etc. Here is a list of the best ones for me: Best Tours and Day Trips from Munich.

2. Visit the city from the tourist bus

Tourist bus en route through Munich | ©Paul Burroughs
Tourist bus en route through Munich | ©Paul Burroughs

If you have little time and want to make sure you don't leave any corner of the city unseen, buying a pass for the Munich sightseeing bus is the most practical option. A bus with panoramic views and audio commentary will take you around the main sights of the city quickly and without long walks.

You can use this service in two ways: making the complete route to see the city or making use of the free stops option to move saving time and effort between the main monuments. You have at your disposal a pass for one or more days and paying a fixed amount you can use the tourist bus as many times as you want. In this article I tell you a little more: Hop on Hop off Bus Tours.

Places you will see along the way

  • Art District (Kunstareal)
  • Odeonsplatz
  • English Garden
  • Deutsches Museum
  • Marienplatz
  • Stachus Passagen
  • Allianz Arena
  • Munich Academy of Fine Arts

3. Take a historical tour of the Dachau concentration camp.

Entrance to Dachau concentration camp | ©Terence Burke
Entrance to Dachau concentration camp | ©Terence Burke

The history of Germany is inevitably linked to the Nazi regime. The concentration camps established by Adolf Hitler throughout Europe are famous all over the world; today many of them function as memorial museums that are there to remember the horror of this stage of history and to perpetuate the memory of the victims. During your trip, you can book a guided tour of the Dachau concentration camp from Munich.

Dachau is located about 13 km from Munich and can be reached by train or car. There are different organized tours that include transportation to and from Munich and the services of a guide in English and Spanish during the entire visit. Although you can also visit the camp on your own, I recommend the latter option.

In the Dachau camp you will see places like the monument to the unknown soldier, the count square, the SS training buildings, the barracks or the crematorium. The entrance to the former concentration camp is free of charge and the visit is not recommended for children under 14 years old. You can read more about my experience in my article on: Guide to Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp.

4. Visit Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle | ©Joey Owst
Neuschwanstein Castle | ©Joey Owst

Germany is not only a region of big cities, but also of beautiful mountains and breathtaking landscapes. If you take a trip to see Neuschwanstein Castle, you will see this first-hand.

Along with Linderhof (there are also tours to visit both), Neuschwanstein Castle is the most popular castle in Germany and, although you may not know it, one of the most famous in the world. Responsible for the latter was Walt Disney, who was inspired by it to design Sleeping Beauty's castle.

The visit to the castle of the so-called "Mad King" (if you book a guided tour they will tell you the whole story) is worthwhile in itself, but don't forget to enjoy the surrounding landscape crowned by the breathtaking Bavarian mountains. If you are looking for a contrast to the cityscape of Munich during your visit, this excursion is the best option to complete your trip. To organize your trip with all the details you need to know, here is my article on How to Visit Neuschwanstein Castle.

5. Discover Salzburg

Salzburg seen from the river Salzach | ©Dimitry Anikin
Salzburg seen from the river Salzach | ©Dimitry Anikin

The city of Munich has many sites to visit and an unquestionable historical and cultural value, but another advantage is its geographical position. From Munich, either by private transport or by train, many European cities can be reached easily and quickly, and one of the most popular among travelers is Salzburg.

You can get to Salzburg from Munich on an organized tour or on your own, but if you have little time and want an expert guide to guide you on your visit I recommend the first option.

The Austrian city of Salzburg is located two hours from Munich and has places to visit such as its famous cathedral, the Mirabell palace and gardens or Mozart's birthplace. If you have seen the movie "The Sound of Music" you may well be familiar with many of these places.

6. Familiarize yourself with the Marienplatz from now on

Marienplatz | ©jay8085
Marienplatz | ©jay8085

When you visit a city, there is always one place that sticks in your memory and another that you remember above all others as a landmark.

In Munich the two are probably one and the same. Marienplatz is not only the nerve center of Munich; this square is also the soul of the city and a place full of life that lends itself to you coming back to it again and again during your stay in the city. Every time you do, you will discover something new.

The iconic gothic style building that crowns this square is the Munich City Hall and if you visit it as part of a guided tour you will surely be given several indications to get lost in the contemplation of its facade.

Also, you can not miss the St. Mary's column (XVII century) located in the center of the square or look at the clock carillon. If you visit Munich at Christmas, you will find one of the most charming Christmas markets in the country at Marienplatz.

7. Enter the Residenz or the Royal Palace of Munich

Interior of the Residenz | ©Andrew and Annemarie
Interior of the Residenz | ©Andrew and Annemarie

From the 16th to the 20th century, this palace has been the official residence of the Bavarian royal family. Today it has been converted into a museum, so you can visit it during your stay in Munich and marvel at its architecture.

What personally impressed me the most were its vaulted ceilings and decorated with paintings. Walking through its corridors is like entering a different dimension where time stands still and it is a sensation that you should not miss if you visit the German city.

The Residenz is open to the public all year round until 5 pm (last entrance at 4 pm) in winter and until 6 pm in summer. I recommend purchasing the audio guide in your language before starting your visit.

8. Stroll through the English garden

English Garden | ©Sven Mieke
English Garden | ©Sven Mieke

Just one kilometer from the old town of Munich is what many consider to be the best park in the city. In the English garden you can take a pleasant stroll no matter what time of the year it is, and you can also see a Chinese tower or a Japanese tea house.

In every corner of this garden you will find small lakes, sculptures, and picnic spots if you visit the city in summer. When you want to reconcile with nature and take a break from the pace of the city, don't forget to visit this park.

9. Tour the Viktualienmarkt

Viktualienmarkt | ©Allie_Caulfield
Viktualienmarkt | ©Allie_Caulfield

The monuments and history of Munich will undoubtedly impress any traveler, but what about the soul of the city? Where is the best place to see up close the routine of its inhabitants and, ultimately, breathe the true essence of Munich? For me that place is, without a doubt, the Viktualienmarkt and if I highlight it as a must-see area is because I hope it is for you too.

This open-air food market is located in the old town and is open every day of the week except Sunday. All kinds of people gather there and it is the ideal place to chat with locals. My advice is to buy the product that catches your attention and try it quietly while you sit on one of the nearby terraces to contemplate the bustle of the area.

10. Taste German beer in mythical breweries such as the Hofbräuhaus.

Interior of the Hofbräuhaus brewery | ©Marco Tamburro
Interior of the Hofbräuhaus brewery | ©Marco Tamburro

It would not be unreasonable to say that German beer is part of the idiosyncrasy of the country and an essential element of its gastronomy. Leaving Munich without tasting its beer is considered an affront, so it is best to choose the ideal place for this "must" before returning from your trip.

In any tavern you will be served a great beer, but if you go to breweries like the Hofbräuhaus, you will also be breathing a bit of history. This place, specifically, is today one of the most visited in the city; it had its dark period when Hitler began to give speeches there on which cemented the Nazi party and in World War II was destroyed and later rebuilt.

To this day, the Hofbräuhaus is one of the best places to taste a mug of beer and a regional dish in a typical local atmosphere. If you visit during the Oktoberfest, the experience gains even more authenticity.

Things to do in Munich