Top 10 Things To Do in Munich:
Munich Germany is a wonderful city that you’ll fall in love with more every time you visit. On each stop in Munich we seem to find new amazing sights we didn’t known were there. With all of the layers we have uncovered in the city it was really difficult trying to narrow down a list of the top ten things to do in Munich. There are probably 30 must see sights and experiences in town, but it is important to prioritize what is really worth your time.
When coming up with our list of the top things to see in Munich, we kept going back to the best memories we have made there. That’s really what it is all about, finding what you can do in Munich that will actually stick with you over time. The only things we did not include were day trips to Neuschwanstein Castle & Dachau Concentration Camp which should be on your Munich itinerary, but are located outside of town. We know from first hand experience that you will love our top ten things to do in Munich!
Suggested Itineraries For Munich: HERE.
1. Attend Oktoberfest:
About Oktoberfest: Steaming from hundreds of years of Fall agricultural festivals, Oktoberfest has grown to become the World’s best party attractions of 6 million visitors. The modern festivities really took off when Bavarian crown prince Ludwig I married Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12th 1810. Ludwig had married Theresa right out from underneath Napoleon so they made sure to make it a grand event. The party lasted for 5 days after the wedding before ending with a horse race. The the party atmosphere embedded, the local breweries became involved in the late 1800s which led to mega-sized beer tents. Today Oktoberfest has 14 major tents capable of holding up to 5,000 to 10,000 party goers a piece. Oompah music spills out from every corner of the Oktorbefest grounds while traditionally dress guests hold l-liter beer mugs and eat authentic German food. Oktoberfest is actually a family friendly event offering much more than just the huge beer tents. Smaller tents plus a sea of state fair games, carnival rides 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 read up on tips and tricks in our guide.
Read More: Full Oktoberfest Guide.
2. Visit A Beer Hall or Beer Garden:
About Munich’s Beer Halls: Beer halls in Munich are like Starbucks in Seattle, they are everywhere and are deeply embedded into the city’s culture. Of the almost 200 beer halls and gardens in Munich, there are a few that we love the most. By far the most famous of Munich’s beer halls is the Hofbrau Haus. Duke Wilhelm V opened the royal brewery in 1589 and the current beer hall in 1607. It was exclusive to the royal family and their guests including Mozart and Austrian Empress Sisi until it opened to the public in 1828. While it is packed with tourists, the Hofbrau Haus is the best place to experience an old school beer hall with traditional oompah music and authentic German food. Among locals the favorite beer hall is Augustiner Keller located near Munich’s train station. Shaded by chestnut trees, this self service beer garden opened to the public in 1812 and even has a cave-like indoor area. Augustiner is known for great Helles beer and is Munich’s oldest brewery founded by Augustinian monks in 1328. The third beer garden you need to known about is the Chinese Tower in the middle of the English Garden. It was community seating for 6,000 people and is centered on a 5 story tall gazebo. You’ll quickly understand why the beer halls are on of the top things to do in Munich.
Featured On: Old Town Munich Free Walking Tour
3. Tour The Munich Residenz:
About The Munich Residenz: Beneath the inconspicuous exterior of Munich’s Residenz lies a vast palace complex that needs to be on your to do list. The property started as a small defensive castle for the royal family in 1385 called Neuveste and grew over the centuries into the sprawling palace you see today. While there is a ton to see in the palace our favorite room to visit today, the Antiquarium Hall. The Hall was built to house the Wittelsbach family’s huge collection of antiques, books and classic sculptures. Finished in 1568, the space quickly became known as the largest and most lavish Renaissance interior North of the Alps. In the Royal Portrait Gallery you can see huge slashes on some of the paintings where they were quickly cut out of their frames to protect them from WW2 bombings. Make sure to stop by the impressive Royal Treasury which has grown from the 1500s to house treasures the Wittlesbachs collected from Royal Jewels and even items going back to ancient Egypt. May most beautiful space in the entire Palace maybe the Residence Theater (Cuvilliés-Theater), which was built in the 1700s. Even though the theater was leveled in WW2 the elaborate interior and carved woodwork had been hidden away to protect them and rebuilt afterward.
Featured On: Old Town Munich Free Walking Tour
4. Marienplatz Square & Town Hall:
About Marienplatz: Serving as Munich’s main town square since the 1100s, Marienplatz is still the heart and soul of Old Town. Marienplatz is home to the castle like Old Town Hall and the Goliath-sized New Town Hall (Neuse Rathaus) which dominates the square. Sitting at over a football field in length, the huge building has 6 courtyards and over 400 rooms. The highlight of Town Hall is the 280 foot tall clock with a 2 level, 28 foot tall Glockenspiel (Carillon), which is the largest in Germany. Everyday mechanical figures in the Glockenspiel perform a miniature tournament to re-enact numerous events in Munich’s Medieval history.
While in the square, make sure to investigate the Virgin Mary Column (Mariensäule) which gives Marienplatz its name. The column was added by Maximilian the 1st in 1638 declaring Mary the new patron of the City for protection Munich during a 3 week Swedish occupation during the 30 Years War just 6 years earlier. The column is capped with a beautiful golden statue of the Virgin Mary which was originally built for the nearby Church of Our Lady in 1590. Four playful child-like warrior statues surround the sturdy base of the column on each of its corners. Over the holidays a vibrant Christmas markert surrounds the column.
Featured On: Old Town Munich Free Walking Tour
5. Stroll The English Garden:
About The Garden Garden: If river surfing, beer gardens, and escaping the city to relax in the park sound great then you’ll love Munich’s English Garden. Established in 1789, the English Garden is one of the best urban parks in the World. Munich’s massive green space is not only one of the biggest in Europe, but it is more than twice the size of both New York City’s Central Park and London’s Hyde Park. While the 6,000 person Chinese Beer Garden may be the most popular attraction there are a lot of others things to also do in the park. We love watching the surfers tackle the waves on the Eisbach River which is a rare thing to see right in the middle of a city. Don’t be surprised if you see some people in the park taking off their closes at it is legal and perfectly acceptable to sunbathe nude in parts of the English Garden. No matter how you slice it, the park is a great stop to rest and recharge your batteries.
Read More: English Garden Walking Tour
6. Asam Brothers’ Church:
About The Asam Brothers’ Church: The delightful Asam Brothers’ Church is one of Munich’s hidden gems and easily our favorite church to visit in town. The church, officially named Saint Johann Nepomuk Church, was built as a show house for the famous Asam Brothers who lived right next door. Often considered the masters of the Rocco movement, the church building brothers showed their work off to potential clients from all over Europe. The property is only 30 feet wide, but was a very over-the-top interior. From dark flowing features to golden accents, the church is truly a work of art. Our favorite feature is the bright yellow, oval-shaped window above the alter called the Eye Of God. Imagine what kind of an impact it had on potential clients seeing it for the first time.
7. Pinakothek Museums:
About The Pinakothek Museums: Ruling Bavaria for over 750 years, including time as Holy Roman Emperors, the powerful Wittelsbach family accumulated a trove of wealth and art. In the early 1800s, King Ludwig I had a huge art complex built to hold the Royal family’s vast painting collection. When the Pinakothek building opened in 1836 it became the largest museum in the World. One of the huge galleries was built just to house Rubens’s “Last Judgment” from 1617 which was one of the largest canvasses ever painted.
Known today as the Alte Pinakothek, the Wittelsbach’s first major museum build now focuses on the Old Master painters. Two other World-class museums were later added to the Pinakothek including the Neue Pinakothek in 1981 which covers the painters of the 1800s and the Pinakothek Moderne which covers modern art from the early 1900 as well as post-1960 contemporary art. Touring the museums will expose you to art truly fit for a King.
8. Saint Peter’s Church:
About Saint Peter’s Church: Saint Peter’s Church is the oldest parish in town and pre-dates the city of Munich itself. In the 800s a group of monks were the first to settle here and built modest monastery and chapel on what they called Saint Peter’s Hill. Not only did this define the Munich’s location, but the name München is literally derived from Mönch, the German word for monk. The church’s towers has been re-built a few times and was home to Munich’s 1st public clock. Today you can hike up to get an amazing views of Munich from the fire balcony if you are willing to hike up 306 steps. You will even be able to see far away sights to the North such as Olympic Stadium on a clear day.
Make sure to explore the richly decorated interior of St Peter’s Church, its gold-laced giant Alter, and even a skeleton? That’s right, not only is there a Reliquary with a ton of assorted bones/skulls, but also the almost comical, gem-covered skeleton of Saint Munditia. Turned into a religious martyr in 310AD, her remains were decorated in 1675 before finally being put on display here. It’s only fitting to see this odd collection as Munich is said to have more relics than any other city outside of Rome. These relics make it easy to miss the elements of Saint Peter, whom the church is named for, above the alter and on the ceiling. The painting on the ceiling represents St Peter being crucified upside-down on Vatican Hill in Rome which served as a spring board for the growth of Catholicism. It are these often overlooked aspects of the church that make it one of the top ten things to do in Munich.
9. Nymphenburg Palace:
About Nymphenburg Palace: The huge Nymphenburg Palace on Munich’s West side was built by Bavaria’s Royal Wittelsbach family as their country home in 1664. While Munich has grown a lot since then, when the estate was built it was actually considered very rural. The biggest expansions in 1700 under Prince Max Emanuel helped turn the manor into a huge estate. He added large wings of mural filled salon rooms to each side of original square Italian villa and added a French formal garden. Several royal pavilions were also added around the grounds. Among these pavilions were the beautiful Hall of Mirrors and the very fancy Royal Hunting Lodge (Amalienburg) designed in Rococo-style in 1734. If you look closely along the floor of the lodge you will see cubicles made for the hunting dogs to sleep in.
The central part of the home was turned into the Grand Hall in the mid-1700s with over the top decorations. These decorations included hidden musical instruments as the space was used for concerts. The ceiling of the main hall was done by the famous baroque artist Johann Zimmermann as the 76 year old spent 10 months painting on his back. While the Grand Hall in the main building is amazing, our favorite place overall at the Palace is the Carriage House (Marstallmuseum). The Carriage House sits at the far end of the property and holds a large collection of gilded royal stage coaches, carriages, and sleighs. The second level of the Carriage House is a truly unique Porcelain Museum highlighting dishes made over 300 years in the family’s porcelain plant.
10. Odeonplatz Square:
About Odeonplatz Square: Created when the city was was expanded in the 1600s, Odeonplatz Square is surrounded by a great collection of sights. The first things you’ll want to check out is the large 4 column, open-air gallery in capping the square is called the Field Marshall’s Hall (Feldherrnhalle). Built by Ludwig I in 1841, the gallery is modeled after the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and was meant to honor the commanders of the Bavarian Army. The Field Marshall’s Hall was made famous in 1923 when Hitler’s failed revolution called the Beer Hall Putsch was foiled here.
Above Field Marshall’s Halls is the bright yellow Saint Cajetan of Thiene Church. The was built in 1663 in honor of the birth of Prince Max Emanuel after over a decade of the royal couple trying to produce an heir. The spacious, white-washed interior is one of our favorites in Europe and quite unique. Elaborate vine and shell decorations fill every inch of the Theatinerkirche along with 100s of child-like winged angle figures. Details on the columns and inside the 230 foot tall dome are especially beautiful. The square was opened up with the Medieval Schwabinger City Gate was tore down in the 1800 and it also offers great access to the Hofgarden Royal Park.
11. Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt):
About Victuals Market: Victuals is a Latin word for food, which is fitting for this daily market often called The Stomach of the City. The Viktualienmarkt (pronounced: vick-tool-lee-an market) started as a simple farmers market in the 1700s, but quickly grew to overtake Marienplatz as Munich’s main market. It now has over 100 produce stands organized into 6 sections and even has a welcoming shaded beer garden. The sprawling market is a great place to throw your feet up and people watch. If you are hungry, make sure to stop by the legendary Münchner Suppenküche soup kitchen to eat like a local. The most popular items are goulash soup, Krustis sandwiches, and sausage with sauerkraut. Sitting at a table with a tablecloth means you will have a server come to you and no tablecloth means it is a self-service area where you buy from the stands or bring your own food with you. Every month the market features a different one of Munich main breweries on tap making it the most diverse of the City’s 180 beer gardens.
The blue and white, candy-striped Maypole overlooking Viktualienmarkt is an extremely iconic imagine in Munich and definitely worth a photo or two. This one, decorated in an Oktoberfest theme, is one of 30 Maypoles scattered around town. Maypoles date back to per-Christian times and are symbols of fertility and luck. Each year on May Day (May 1st) spring celebrations are held around the Maypoles including the tapping of the new year’s batch of beer. In Medieval times during May Day the top of the Maypole would have market items hanging from the halo wreath on the top. If you could climb up to the top barefoot you got to keep the prizes waiting there for you. During the holiday season Viktualienmarkt also hosts a Christmas Market which features the Maypole covered in lights.
About Frauenkirche Church: You will be able to see the massive 325 foot tall twin towers of the Frauenkirche hovering above Old Town from almost anywhere in Munich. This mega-sized cathedral has become a symbol of Munich not only because its dominance in the skyline, but also because the brick towers survived heavy WW2 bombings even when the most of the church was leveled. The towers were meant to be finished with elaborate Gothic spires to look like the style seen at the cathedral in Cologne Germany, but it never happened because of money. In 1525 the twin towers with faced off with brick and the tops were covered in a large copper plated onion domes. An Old Town building height restriction ensured the towers would be seen which was extended throughout the entire city in 2004 as skyscrapers started to pop up. During the Summer you can ascend the massive 325 foot tall towers with a climb of about 90 steps plus an easy elevator ride to get some great views of the city.
The interior of Frauenkirche is gigantic. The size seems even crazier when you learn that Munich had only 13,000 residents when the 20,000 person Cathedral opened. As you enter all of your attention is funneled to the high alter as tall columns make Frauenkirche appear almost windowless from the entrance. Legend has it that the architect made a deal with the Devil when the project ran out of money that he would help fund the project as long as it had no windows. After the Church was finished and paid for, the Devil realized he was tricked and stomped his foot hard in the entrance making an imprint in the marble floor. The Devil’s footprint can still be seen today and is one of the biggest attractions at Frauenkirche. Other highlights include the royals buried here like the huge bronze tomb of Ludwig IV, who ruled during the early 1300s during the height of the salt trade, and was elected Holy Roman Emperor.