I love, love, LOVE Munich! Having lived there for 12 years, I have a special (sentimental) connection to this wonderful city. I started my first job there back in 2000 and to discover a city while beginning a new phase of life left a warm and lasting impression. Many people have asked me which is better – Munich or Berlin? I’d say, they can’t really be compared. While Berlin’s majesty seems to me more like a gracefully ageing diva, Munich seems to be a more colorful and younger lady. Here are some of my tips on how to best experience this thriving city, mix and match your sightseeing options with your dining and drinking options as you see fit!
The Best Views in Town:
To capture the breath-taking cityscape that features the majestic Alps as a backdrop you have several options.
- St. Peter Tower in old town.
- The hill at Olympic Park, reached by subway. The Olympic Park is also a nice area to take a stroll among the various Olympic stadiums and athletic facilities that are still in use. Oftentimes, there are events going on at the Olympic Park, e.g. outdoor movies by the lake, which is a great thing to do on a warm summer evening, or exhibitions.
- Top of the Olympic Tower, which provides an even wider view than the Park. There is also a restaurant at the top though I am not sure of the quality.
Walking and Biking Possibilities:
Munich offers a plethora of strolls and bike routes, too many to list. You could go from the Olympic center to the Schwabing quarter, the wide avenue of the Leopoldstrasse – my stomping grounds while I was living in Munich – the options are endless. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Don’t miss the beautiful city park, called the English Garden. It is enchanting with its green lushness and it is so big that when you need a break there are, of course, beer gardens in the English Garden and cafes nearby.
- The Isar River offers great opportunities for active pursuits and it is easily accessible from the city. I recommend accessing it from the Deutsches Museum area. The river’s banks have been re-naturalized and Munich residents use them for bathing, running, cycling, walking their dogs and many other outdoor activities. You can also purchase a bottle of good Munich beer at one of the kiosks strewn around the area and sip it while having a picnic, listening to the rushing water and indulging in some laid-back people watching.
- By train, you will have easy access to hiking in and around Munich. You may also consider taking a day trip to Salzburg in Austria, which is a quick train ride from Munich.
- Munich is a cycling paradise and has well-developed bike trails that are set apart from the roads so you are away from cars. I cycled to work every morning, half an hour out and back, and it was the most beautiful ride along the wide avenue of the Leopoldstrasse, especially in summer.
Restaurants and Food:
- My favorite restaurant in Munich is the L‘Amar. It features organic, locally-sourced Italian cuisine with a small menu that changes regularly and a large antipasti selection. They also have delicious coffee and cakes as well as beautiful organic wines.
- If you’re a veggie lover, you might enjoy the Prinz Myshkin, offering sophisticated vegetarian cuisine.
- For out of this world coffee and cakes I head to Vee’s Kaffee, an Italian-style cafe bar located between the Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) and the Viktualienmarkt (see more about it below) inviting you to have a cup or two, taste some delicious cake, read the newspaper and relax.
- Viktualienmarkt, is a permanent outside market where vendors sell delicious cheeses, veggies, fruit, wine, meat and sausages… You name it! It started out as a farmer’s market and inched its way up to a gourmet market over the years. Its pretty-sounding name stems from the old word for food, “Viktualien”! It’s also the place to get the absolute best authentic Bavarian pretzel. Turn to Karnoll’s Backstandl for the real thing.
- For traditional food in a welcoming traditional setting with a modern twist, visit Munich’s first microbrewery – Giesinger Bräustüberl! This little brewery started out in a garage in a small Munich neighborhood called Giesing (hence the name) and the owners and employees have successfully grown their business into a larger brewery with a real Wirtshaus (i.e. traditional restaurant). The beer is truly delicious and it is nice to see that Bavaria, a region so proud and insistent about its purity laws, has begun to recognize and embrace other types of beer. The restaurant is amazing as well! Though their website is in German they do speak English. Speaking of microbrews – they have been thriving in this traditional beer city and you will encounter more with each visit.
- Another great option for traditional food is Georgenhof in Schwabing featuring a lush beautiful beer garden and an impressive interior with dark gleaming wood paneling adding a certain elegance to the large bar.
- Ballabeni. The gelato here is as good as the long queue implies! Don’t be deterred by the line, it moves quickly. My absolute all-time favorite is Lemon Basil. My husband and I make sure to get gelato there whenever we are in Munich.
Beer Gardens – yes they need their own list:
- Another beloved brewery is Augustiner which is a privately owned Munich brewery, but is much older than Giesinger. In fact, it’s Munich’s oldest brewery. It was founded in 1328. Augustiner also has beautiful beer gardens throughout the city that are definitely worth a visit. Note: Tours are not available at the brewery and the beer gardens are not on the brewery’s site.
- Hirschgarten (Deer Park). Located in Nymphenburg, which means you can easily add a historical element to your beer exploration by visiting the Schloss Nyphmenburg, the baroque summer residence of the Wittelsbach rulers.
What about Wine?
- My wine store of choice is the Garibaldi, which has several locations. You can both buy, and taste wines here and they occasionally host events.
- If you prefer wine to beer then the perfect place to wine and dine is Walter & Benjamin. The wine bar and restaurant are open from Tuesday to Saturday evenings, from 6 P.M. to 11 P.M.
- Deutsches Museum – Munich’s renowned science museum.
- The Jewish Museum
- The Stadtmuseum (city museum) features permanent and temporary exhibitions, that often focuses on Munich and its related history.
- You are in BMW’s hometown, and the BMW-Museum is close to the Olympic center so the two sights might be make a good choice for one afternoon. A highlight is the famous cylindrical tower that still houses the BMW headquarters.
There are many options for art museums throughout the city, but here are a few of my top choices.
- The Pinakotheken
- Haus der Kunst
- The Lenbachhaus
- Brandhorst Museum with its impressive and unique architecture. A bonus for this museum is that amazing artisan gelato is available across the street at Ballabeni -see Restaurants and Food above.
Where to Sleep – Hotels:
We have a number of centrally located hotels on our recommendations list
Sights in the Downtown Area:
- Marienplatz (Mary’s square). Dominated by the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) and its famous Glockenspiel, a small spectacle set in an alcove on the front side of the building that includes bells and life-sized figurines. This two-part music-box like mechanical display tells the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm and Renata of Lorraine featuring a joust and, on the lower part, the cooper’s dance, which dates back to the time of the plague in 1517. According to myth, coopers are said to have danced through the streets in this time of desperation to spread vitality and hope.
- Dom zu unserer lieben Frau (Cathedral of Our dear Lady), also known as Frauenkirche, an impressive masterpiece with the famous two towers and the red roof. The cathedral can hold about 20,000 people!
- Sendlinger Strasse is the nearby shopping pedestrian area where you will find the Asam Church, a Rokoko style church wedged tightly between other buildings. The inside is amazing!
Getting Around – Public Transportation:
The city boasts excellent public transportation. You can take subway trains – called U-Bahn, recognizable by the white letter U on a blue background, buses and trams. These can all be accessed with one type of ticket or pass, it’s just important to choose the correct area or time coverage. You can find more information here. All means of transportation are easy to use, safe and clean.
Of course this is only a glimpse of this fabulous wondrous city and there are so many more things to do and see. One thing I can guarantee, you will not be bored!