Munich is a city that seems to effortlessly marry old town charm with cutting edge modern, where Bavarian beer halls, dachshunds and dirndls sit side by side with the towering Olympic tower and sleek BMW Welt as symbols of the city. It’s an ideal citybreak destination in Germany, with easy access via Munich airport, a cosmopolitan food scene and world class art and culture, combined with parks and green spaces for cycling and walking. We visited for a four day break, on my third visit to the city and from this trip and previous ones I’m sharing my recommendations for the best things to do in Munich that we’ve enjoyed.
Covid precautions in Munich: We visited Munich in early October 2020 and found that it was possible to see and do most things, with precautions in place such as wearing masks inside buildings, masks outdoors in the old town area, social distancing and table service at restaurants. At most museums we did not need to pre-book and there were outdoor entertainments such as funfairs taking place. We were able to have a relatively normal and very enjoyable 4 day visit to Munich. For the latest situation and what to expect, check the Munich tourism website.
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Most people seem to start their visit at Marienplatz, the large square that sits at the heart of the old town for Munich sightseeing. The train from the airport runs directly to Marienplatz and I always enjoy that moment when you emerge from the underground into the heart of the city, with the ornate and imposing Rathaus rising in front of you. If you are only visiting for a short time, I’d recommend booking accommodation like this luxury hotel where we stayed that’s within a few blocks of Marienplatz, as it’s such a convenient and central location for sightseeing.
Marienplatz is the tourist hub of Munich, with pavement cafes for people watching, guided tours passing through, street musicians striking up a tune and a Christmas Market held here during advent. A grain market and tournaments were held here in the Middle Ages and the square is named after the central Marien column, erected in the 17th century in honour of The Virgin Mary to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years War.
The decorative neo-gothic Neues Rathaus or New Town Hall was built as recently as 1874 to provide a larger space for civic events. You can walk inside the inner courtyard where there’s a biergarten, visit the Ratkeller restaurant in the cellar and (in normal times) climb the 85 metre tower for views over the square.
If you see a crowd in the square staring upwards, they are probably waiting for the glockenspiel to chime at 11am, 12pm or 5pm when painted figures emerge from the top of the clocktower and circle around while the bells play different tunes.
Photography tip: Because the Neues Rathaus is so tall, it’s quite difficult to get a good picture without a wide angle lens, so you may need to step back along the two streets facing it or climb St Peter’s tower for a better shot.
The white building that borders the eastern side of the square is the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), which was built in the 14th century and the tower with its spire originally formed one of the gates in the old city wall. Look out for the Juliet statue, a bronze figure from the Romeo and Juliet tale that was donated by the city of Verona in 1974, whose right breast has been made shiny by the many people who touch it for good luck! If it’s your first time in Munich you may like to take this Hop on hop off bus tour which will take you around all the sights and help you get your bearings.
Views from St Peter’s church tower
A few steps from Marienplatz is the church of St Peter’s with its 300 ft bell tower, which is one of the oldest churches in the city. The church is attractive, but more notable than the interior is the view from the observation platform at the top of the tower, which gives you panoramic views over Marienplatz, the gigantic twin towered Frauenkirche church and the red roofs of the old town.
You’ll find the entrance to climb up the tower on the outside of the church, with a small kiosk where you pay a couple of Euros to climb the stairs to the viewing platform, which is well worth the experience and the views. The photos here were taken a couple of years ago from a previous visit, as due to the narrow staircase and distancing rules, the tower was temporarily closed at the time of our recent visit, but hopefully will reopen in the future.
Viktualienmarkt food market
Just a short distance from Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt, which is another of my favourite things to see in Munich. The market is open daily except Sundays and holidays and you’ll find an incredible array of local produce and food products in the 140 stalls and shops that surround the market.
The quality here is really high, with every fruit and vegetable polished to perfection and although it’s probably not the cheapest spot in Munich, it’s a great place to browse and buy a yummy picnic to eat later or stop for a bite to eat at one of the stalls and bars that serve food and drink. This 2 hour food tour of the Viktualienmarkt is a good way to taste the best of the market with an expert guide – you can then ask your guide for recommendations as they will probably know the best restaurants in Munich too!
Browsing the fruit and vegetable stalls will give also you a good idea of what’s in season that you may later see on restaurant menus, from white asparagus in springtime to juicy berries in summer and wild mushrooms in the autumn. To learn more about where and what you should eat, check out my article on the food in Munich where I recommend the restaurants and dishes we enjoyed.
In the small shops that surround the market you can find shops selling meat and sausages including the famous Bavarian white sausage and there are also some wine and deli stalls that are good places to buy foodie souvenirs to take home or discover what’s best in the region.
In the centre of the market is a biergarten where you can sit under the shady chestnut trees and order the local beer and other drinks as well as traditional dishes. Like many biergarten in Germany, you are also allowed to eat food that you’ve bought at the surrounding stalls, so long as you order a beer from them.
The market was originally held in Marienplatz but was moved to this square in 1807 after outgrowing its previous location and there are a number of pretty water fountains and basins that supply the market from the brooks that previously ran across this location.
Also worth checking out is the food and restaurant emporium Eataly in the airy, glass Schranenhalle that was formerly a market hall. You’ll find it just off the Viktualienmarkt with lots of deli goods and Italian produce as well as a wine bar and fresh pasta and pizza restaurant. It’s all about Italian rather than German food, but a fun place to browse and eat nonetheless.
Stay at luxurious Louis Hotel in Munich
While we’re talking about the Viktualienmarkt I’ll just mention the luxurious Louis Hotel where we stayed on this last trip. I won a 3 night stay in a photo competition and having the choice of Munich hotels I picked Louis Hotel as we had stayed in its sister Cortiina Hotel on a previous trip to Munich and loved it. The hotel is in a modern building that overlooks Viktualienmarkt and its easy to miss as the reception is tucked away in a courtyard so that you have to hunt to find.
I loved the style of Louis Hotel which is very similar to Cortiina Hotel and draws on old-meets-new European elegance, with wooden parquet floors, faded kelim rugs and velvet furnishings with a muted antique feel. The furniture and light fittings are all elegantly contemporary and it was no surprise to find that these two hotels and several restaurants are owned by an architect and designer duo who have their studio in the Cortiina Hotel building.
Our Courtyard Superior room was compact with a marble lined walk in shower, pull out wardrobe and a curious travelling case cupboard that opened to reveal the TV, mini bar and safe. Every time we walked out of the lift or the bedroom we were greeted by a waft of heavenly fragrance in the corridor and I kept meaning to ask what it was so I could take some home.
Louis Hotel is my idea of a perfect citybreak hotel, where the rooms are stylish and the location central but you’re not paying for unnecessary frills. There’s a cosy bar area just beside reception and a grill restaurant although we didn’t eat there but just had breakfast which was delicious, a mixture of little buffet dishes all in individual dishes and some cooked breakfast options.
The rooftop terrace opens as a bar and restaurant in good weather but was closed when we were there since it was the start of autumn. As you’d expect from a hotel of this quality, all the staff at Louis Hotel were friendly, polished and professional and we really appreciated that the hotel has bikes that guests can borrow, which we did on two of our days there.
If you are looking for understated luxury and designer flair, paired with a wonderful location for getting the most of your Munich visit we can certainly recommend Louis Hotel – check out the rates and availability here.
Just a short distance from Marienplatz is Munich’s most famous beer hall and brewery, the Hofbrauhaus which has become a local institution and tourist attraction in its own right. Despite being one of the first places that beer loving tourists head to, the Hofbrauhaus still manages to keep its convivial atmosphere and authentic charm, with groups of lederhosen clad old boys mingling with the visitors.
There’s generally a Bavarian oompah band playing and although The Hofbrauhaus is huge, with numerous different rooms, the service is swift and efficient. When the weather’s warm there’s also a large courtyard biergarten which has a pleasant atmosphere under the chestnut trees as well as some rooms on the first floor which are quieter.
If you need some ideas for a 3 day itinerary, check out my article from a previous trip about how we spent 3 days in Munich.
In normal times the Hofbrauhaus is known for its party atmosphere, where you can mingle and make friends at large tables and sing along to the traditional songs in the evening. We visited a couple of years ago although not on this most recent trip, so I imagine that the atmosphere in covid times is a bit more subdued with distancing restrictions in place. Although it’s all about the beer, you can also order Bavarian dishes or just snack on one of the giant pretzels that are the traditional accompaniment to beer in Munich. If you want to find the best beerhalls in Munich, try this evening of Bavarian beer and food culture to discover the best traditional dishes and beer.
For an alternative restaurant serving traditional Bavarian food that’s very close to the Hofbrauhaus, try the Haxnbauer restaurant that is known for its pork knuckle that you can see roasting in the window. You can read about our previous visit to Haxnbauer here, when I visited with my parents and we had a fun evening although it’s probably not the best place for non-meat eaters!
Try this 1 day itinerary: Start the day at Marienplatz and explore the Rathaus, then climb St Peter’s church tower for the views and photographs. Move on to the Viktualienmarkt to browse the delicious produce and treat yourself to a snack or drink from a few different stalls. Explore more of the old town and cobbled streets then end your day with beer and traditional Bavarian dishes at Hofbrauhaus or Haxnbauer.
A visit to the Munich Residenz is one of the best places to visit in Munich for culture lovers and a good option if you get a day when the weather’s not so favourable. As the name suggests, this enormous palace was the residence and seat of government of the Wittelsbach dynasty who ruled Bavaria, first as Dukes and Electors and later as Kings of Germany.
Because the Residenz was extended and remodelled by successive rulers, the endless suites of room, each more opulent and gilded than the last, can be a little overwhelming. To be honest I found it a bit too much to take in, so you may want to let the general magnificence wash over you and hurry through at the end if you are getting decorative fatigue.
One of the highlights of the Residenz is the Antiquarium hall, which was created in the 16th century by Duke Albrecht V to house his collection of antique sculptures, which give the hall its name. The lofty hall, covered from floor to ceiling with frescoes, was also used as a state dining hall and is a popular place to have your wedding photos taken. Read more about what we saw at the Residenz on a previous visit here.
I also enjoyed the Grotto courtyard with statues, shells and crystals creating an ornamental pavilion encrusted with decoration at one end of the courtyard.
Be sure to save time at the end of your tour to see another highlight in the Treasury which houses the crown jewels and precious religious jewels belonging to the rulers of Bavaria. The display of wealth and craftsmanship here is enormous, since each generation of rulers would commission expensive and beautiful opjects made of precious metals and gemstones from the finest artists of their day.
There are fairytale crowns, coronets and state jewellery as well as objects of religious devotion and tableware designed to reflect the prestige of its owners. In December a charming Christmas Market is held in the main courtyard of the Residenz which I remember from a previous visit (listen to the sounds of the Christmas Market in my Munich podcast) which felt more local and authentic than the larger more commercial one in Marienplatz. More info | Residenz Munich website
We found the Hofgarten on a previous visit and loved the calm and tranquil atmosphere of this garden that’s just behind the Residenz, so we went back there this time. The Hofgarten was formerly the private court garden for the Wittelsbach rulers of Bavaria, with gravel parterres, an ornamental pavilion at the centre and fountains at all four corners.
You can cycle around the edge of the Hofgarten and it also forms a traffic free shortcut to get to the Englischer Garten where you can also cycle freely. Planted with low evergreen hedges and floral borders it’s a restful place to wander with plenty of benches to sit and soak up the sun while you watch the world go by.
As you enter through the archway from Odeonsplatz you’ll see the broad terrace along one end of the Hofgarten. There’s a large biergarten and restaurant terrace of Tambosi shaded by trees, which serves Italian inspired food and a space for people playing boules on the gravel boulevard. We ate there on a previous visit when the weather is fine and it’s a fun place to watch a game in progress.
Visit a biergarten
No visit to Munich in the warm months of spring, summer and early autumn, would be complete without visiting a biergarten or beer garden. As the capital of Bavaria, there’s a strong beer culture in Munich with numerous historic breweries, so it’s a joy to sit outside under the shady trees and enjoy some of the delicious beer.
A biergarten is just the name for an outdoor space by the brewery or beerhall where beer is served and you can normally also order hearty Bavarian dishes, or just buy a large pretzel to soak up some of the alcohol. Meeting friends at a biergarten is a quintessential Munich experience in summertime but of course as the weather gets colder you can move inside to the beerhall, a large open room that’s the indoor equivalent of the biergarten.
Either way, you’ll sit at simple, bare tables and the waiters and waitresses, often in traditional dress of lederhosen or dirndl, will come to take your order and bring it to your table. They normally have a leather cash wallet so that you can pay them directly and get the change straight away, although cards are also accepted if you are ordering a meal.
One of the most popular biergarten in Munich is at the Chinesischer Turm or Chinese Pagoda which is set within the Englischer Garten. There’s a huge amount of seating and a self service cafe where you can buy Bavarian dishes like sausage and sauerkraut, potato salad, grilled trout and of course lots and lots of beer.
At weekends you can drink to the sounds of the band playing in the pagoda and it’s easy to get there by bus or alternatively you can take a horse and carriage ride or cycle rickshaw to see more of the park. Although this is the best known of the biergarten in the English Garden, there are several more including the one by the Kleinhesseloher lake and other smaller ones that you may come across if you are cycling around the park.
On this visit we also stopped at the popular Augustiner Keller, which has a large and pleasant biergarten and is conveniently close to the Hauptbahnhof or central station, just in case you happen to be in that neighbourhhod. As we were there in the evening and looking more for dinner than drinking, we sat in one of the smaller rooms of the Augustiner brewery and had an excellent beer, with a golden fruity weissbier (white beer) for me and a full bodied pale Helles beer for Guy. Typical evening dishes to order with your beer include a slow cooked beef stew with dumplings which Guy ordered, while I normally go for a river fish such as perch or trout served with vegetables.
Other places that have pleasant biergarten in the central area of Munich are the Viktualienmarkt food market and the Park Cafe at the Alter Botanischer Garten which is a good choice if you like the beer but want a more international style of food.
There are many many other biergarten in Munich, such as the Hirschgarten near Scloss Nymphenburg and of course every local will have their favourite depending on where they like to meet their friends. The locals often dress up in their lederhosen and dirndl, traditional Bavarian clothes to go to the biergarten, so it’s a good place to check out the latest styles.
Close to Marienplatz you’ll find the Munich Stadtmuseum in a quiet plaza that also includes the strikingly modern Ohel Jakob synagogue and Jewish Museum of Munich. The Stadtmuseum houses a diverse collection that showcases the history and culture of Munich, especially the “Typically Munich” exhibits over several floor. We enjoyed learning about Munich’s history and culture, from the Medieval statues and armour on the ground floor, to the beer culture and life of the working men and women, to the 1972 Olympic Games and posters from the era of National Socialism.
There’s a broad range of historical objects but I liked the way that they’ve tried to mix in some street-art and references to contemporary culture, including the immigrant communities of Munich. On the upper floor there’s a colourful collection of puppets and being a lover of fashion, we also dipped into the special exhibition all about shoes. I always find it fascinating to see how tiny the shoes are from even a hundred years ago – we’d probably appear like giants to people of the past!
We used the audioguide which told us the stories of some of the major exhibits, but thought it was a shame that the information around the galleries was only in German, as other than the audioguide there was no information in English or other languages.
One of the permanent exhibitions that we’d love to have seen, but was closed at the time of our visit, was the separate gallery about National Socialism in Munich. The party was founded in Munich and the city was the headquarters and heartland of Hitler’s regime, so it’s important to understand the rise of this movement and how Hitler found so much support here. To learn more about the rise of Hitler in Munich, take this Third Reich and WWII Walking tour and discover a darker side of Munich’s history. More info: Munich Stadtmuseum website
After visiting the Munich stadtmuseum we cycled the short distance to Sedlingerstrasse to take a look at the Asamkirche. Although there are many lovely churches, the Asamkirche is one of the places to see in Munich that’s well worth a look, a jewel box of a church that packs a rich excess of rococco decoration into a relatively small space. The church of St Johann Nepomuk is better known as the Asam church after the brothers who built it as their private chapel between 1733 and 1746, sculptor Egid Quirin Asam and painter Cosmas Damien Asam.
Having purchased a row of four houses, they made the middle two into the chapel, while Egid Quirin Asam lived in the one next door and had a window from which he could look down on the altar. The late baroque church is decorated in ornate Rococco style with gilding, frescoes and painted marble columns and has a beautiful facade, in between the houses which are painted with traditional Bavarian motifs.
When we visited, the grille at the entrance to the church was closed but we could admire the church interior from behind the grille and there are also some gilded figures inside the entrance. Look up to your right to see the quirky golden image of death who is cutting the thread of life being spun by the angel.
Stay in a boutique Cortiina Hotel in Munich
I’ve already mentioned Louis Hotel where we stayed on this trip, but another boutique hotel in Munich we can also recommend, is its sister Cortiina Hotel where we stayed on a previous trip. Hotel Cortiina is very similar in style but a little lower priced than Louis Hotel, although accommodation in Munich is generally not cheap!
Cortiina Hotel is located very centrally just 5 minutes walk from Marienplatz on a quiet street on the old town that’s also near the Hofbrauhaus. It’s an ideal citybreak hotel, in a modern building where they’ve managed to inject plenty of style into the interiors through the use of rich patterns and textures. Our bedroom was furnished with a kelim rug, elegant contemporary furniture and a strokeable velvet sofa and bedcover. The bathroom was wall to ceiling marble, with a powerful walk in shower and a waxed paper door screen, echoing a Japanese style.
Breakfast was taken in the Grapes Weinbar next to reception, which has a small internal courtyard to sit on sunny days, leading to a well equipped gym. Once breakfast is over, the Grapes Weinbar becomes an all day cafe and evening winebar, serving light dishes, wine and other drinks. We loved the impeccable sense of style and professional, friendly service at Hotel Cortiina, which is part of a same group as Louis Hotel, the Italian Bar Centrale across the road and Restaurant Buffet Kass Bar nearby – check out the rates and availability for Cortiina Hotel here.
One of the best things to do in Munich is to rent or borrow bikes (from your hotel) and cycle around the Englischer Garten or English Garden, a great activity at any time of year as long as it’s not raining. The park is huge and was laid out on the orders of elector Carl Theodor in 1789 in the style of an English Country Park, with large areas of grass, lakes and pavilions.
If you don’t want to cycle you can of course just stroll around, but you probably wouldn’t be able to see as much. An alternative is to take one of the cycle rickshaws or horse and carriage ride around the park from the Chinesischer Turm, in which case you may also get a bit of commentary about the things you pass. This 3 hours guided cycling tour is a great way to see the English Garden and many of the other top sites in Munich.
On this visit, we stopped at the picturesque Monopteros temple that was commissioned by King Ludwig I in the 1830s and is set up on a mound to make a pretty picture surrounded by trees. We climbed up the path to the temple and took in the view from the top over the park, with a green and red painted dome in the Greek style.
Next we cycled to the Chinesischer Turm or Chinese Pagoda which has a popular biergarten where he had lunch, washed down with a stein of the local Munich beer, with the sounds of the band playing from the pagoda. The food here is typical Bavarian pub food and it’s fine if you don’t expect gourmet fare, but it’s probably more of a place to come for the atmosphere, setting and beer than the food.
The English Garden is so large that I think most people probably don’t get much further than this southern section, but with our bikes we could easily explore the northern part of the park and continued past the lake, under the main road that bisects the English Garden and along the path that runs beside the Isar river. We reached the Isarwehr or barrage that crosses the river, where we walked across to get views of the shallow gravel banks where people were relaxing in the sunshine.
If you enjoy being outdoors in natural surroundings, the English Garden is a place you could easily spend a day exploring, especially if you bring a picnic or stop for a beer and a bite to eat at one of the many biergarten or cafes in the park.
Surfers on the Eisenach
At the edge of the English Garden is the place just beside Haus der Kunst, where the surfers catch a single wave on the Eisbach river as it flows under the bridge to later join the River Isar. You can follow the crowds who gather on the bridge or on the bank to watch this free spectacle which is one of the unique things to see in Munich.
We stood for 20 minutes to watch the experienced surfers line up on both sides of the river. When it’s their turn they jump on the board to twist and turn, staying on the boards as long as they can before they either fall off or dive off into the river to let the next surfer have a go. I think you’d have to be a very confident surfer to try it here unless you don’t mind making a fool of yourself in full public view!
If you are close to the English Garden it’s worth making a detour as we did to the other side of the River Isar to see Villa Stuck. This gorgeous villa that was built and decorated by the artist Franz von Stuck in 1898 and is one of the less known Munich tourist attractions. The villa is in two connecting parts was constructed in classical style to create a home for Stuck and his family as well as an artist’s studio and gallery space. The house is now open as a museum where you can see the original interiors and artwork, as well as exhibitions upstairs of contemporary art, with a small garden behind the villa.
We most enjoyed wandering through the historical rooms of the villa which are decorated in rich colours, set against dark ceilings and woodwork, in the Jugendstil style, which is the German version of Art Nouveau that was popular in Europe at the turn of the century. Stuck was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman themes, with classical statues mixed in with rich patterns, bronze fittings and mosaic tiled floors, while his paintings and sculptures are on display throughout the downstairs rooms.
The original rooms of the house on the ground floor are in contrast to the art exhibitions upstairs, which tend to focus on more conceptual, contemporary art and while interesting, we didn’t enjoy these quite as much. The garden is also charming, with an outside sitting area and pergola with antique busts and reliefs on the walls. For art lovers Villa Stuck is well worth making a trip to visit, perhaps combined with a visit to the English Garden or a cycle ride along the River Isar. More info: Villa Stuck website
Also close to the river Isar but just south of the Old Town neighbourhood is the Deutches Museum which we visited on a previous trip to Munich and enjoyed very much. This is a fun museum for families and covers all things related to science, technology and transport in a most engaging way. We especially enjoyed the halls devoted to transport and aviation, with balloons and biplanes on display, as well as the colourful exhibitions that explain how the cells in our body work.
There’s a clock tower that doubles as a weather station and the large courtyard also has some of the larger exhibits as well as benches to relax. The museum is set on Museuminsel, a small island in the river which is connected by foot bridges, making a pleasant setting surrounded by water and trees. More info: Deutches Museum website
Swim and cycle by the River Isar
The River Isar that runs from the English Garden to the south of Munich, forms a green corridor with walking and cycle paths, islands in the river and plenty of green spaces along its route. We cycled the section from Deutches Museum to the Englischer Garten and you could continue in either direction, which seems to be a popular thing to do in Munich for locals and families at the weekend.
We spotted a number of pebble beaches by the river, which are very popular in summer for swimming and sunbathing as the river here is so shallow. There’s a huge bar of pebbles in the river near Mariannenbrucke, where we could see loads of people sunbathing and as we continued into the English Garden, there were more gravel beaches in the river near the Isarwehr.
It seems amazing to those of us who are used to walking by the Thames in London to think that a river running through such a large city would be clean enough to swim in safely, but if the locals are doing it, why not join them! If you enjoy wild swimming, be sure to pack your swimsuit when you visit Munich in summer and take a bike ride along the river to discover your own favourite swimming spot.
We borrowed our bike from lovely Louis Hotel which is free for guests, but it’s easy to hire bikes from one of the many public bike schemes in Munich that charge you through a mobile app. Check out Nextbike, Call a Bike and there are probably more. If you want to be sure of a good quality bike then you can rent from an established bike rental shop like Mikes Bike Tours who do both bike rentals and bike tours of Munich.
Try this 1 day itinerary: Cycle to the Deutches Museum in the morning and spend an hour or two there. Continue your cycle ride along the River Isar and stop for a picnic and swim on one of the gravel beaches by the river. Continue cycling by the river to Villa Stuck for the Arts and Crafts interiors. In the afternoon head to the Englischer Garten, stopping to see the surfers on the Eisenach and then cycle around the park with a refreshment stop at one of the many biergarten.
For art lovers, there’s a whole cluster of world class art museums in Munich housed in the Kunstareal or Museum Quarter which is located to the north of the Old Town and is easy to reach on foot, by bike or by taking the metro to Konigsplatz. For a classic art gallery with all the old masters, visit the Alte Pinakothek (Old Pinakothek) which is housed in a 19th century building with an austere brick staircase that seems at odd with the rich colours and gilded frames of the artwork on display.
You can see everything from Medieval German, Dutch and Flemish masters, to 16th and 17th century French and Spanish paintings. If you think of any of the great best known old masters like Raphael, Botticelli, Leonardo you’ll probably find them here. There’s also currently an exhibition with a selection of paintings from the Neue Pinakothek, a separate art gallery that covers mainly 19th and early 20th century artists, which was closed for renovation at the time of our visit.
To be honest I enjoy the 20th century artists such as Klimt and Van Gogh more than the old masters, but I did enjoy seeing the pretty Mme de Pompadour by Boucher relaxing with a book and surrounded by roses. You can save a bit of money if you buy a combined day ticket for €12 which covers the 5 museums of the Kunstareal, although I probably wouldn’t attempt more than two of the art museums in one day.
Pinakothek der Moderne
As part of the same museum campus, visit the Pinakothek der Moderne which covers contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, such as Picasso, Kandinsky, Delauney and Dali. The building opened in 2002, designed by German architect Stephan Braunfels and is very sculptural with an open atrium and central glazed dome. It actually combines four different museum areas within one building, covering architecture, design, prints and drawings as well as the modern art collection.
If I only had time to see one of the museums on the Kunstareal, it would probably be the Pinakothek der Moderne or the Neues Pinakothek (if open) and there’s a nice cafe there too, with seating in a large glass atrium or outside which you can access even if you have not bought a ticket. If you plan to visit other art museums on the Kunstareal campus, it may be more economical to buy the day pass covering all 5 museums for €12. More info: Pinakothek der Moderne website.
For art lovers who want to see more, the other museums on the Kunstreal campus that can be visited in a combined ticket are;
Neue Pinakothek – closed for renovation in Oct 2020 when we visited but is devoted to 19th century art in a modern building that opened in 1981 following the destruction of the original location in WW2. You’ll find work of the Romantic, Impressionist and Art Nouveau genres, with the masterpieces of Manet, Monet, Van Gogh and Cezanne. While it’s closed you can see some of the artwork in the galleries of Alte Pinakothek.
Museum Brandhorst – this striking and colourful building covered with 36,000 ceramic rods is an artwork in itself and the museum concentrates on contemporary artists with the largest collection of Andy Warhol in Europe.
Sammlung Schack – This art museum is in a different location to the others, near the English Garden and houses the collection of Count Adolf Friederich von Schack with 180 paintings by 19th century German artists.
Just a short distance from the Pinakothek museums is Königsplatz, which is worth a look even if you don’t visit any of the museums in the square. The square was laid out in the late 19th century in neoclassical style, commissioned by Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, later King Ludwig I who had a passion for classical antiqity.
This enormous open plaza is enclosed by the Museum of Antiquities, which was modelled on the Acropolis and faces the Glypthothek which also reflects the Greek revival style of columns and porticoes. These buildings house the collection of Ludwig I, who spent enormous amounts of money building up a collection of sculptures and other Greek and Roman antiquities. On the third side of the square is the Propylaea, a classical gateway that was constructed as a memorial for the accession to the throne of Otto of Greece, the son of King Ludwig I.
Königsplatz also played its part in the history of the Third Reich and Hitler held mass rallies there, but these days it’s often used for festivals. While we were there, the square was being used for a funfair, as part of the Summer in the city programme for Munich.
If you’d like to visit the museums, they are:
Glyptothek – Commissioned by King Ludwig I to house his collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. At the time of our visit in Oct 2020 the Glypyothek was closed for renovation.
Antiken Sammlungen – the State Museum of Antiquities on Konigsplatz built by King Ludwig I to house his collection of antiquities from the Greeks, Romans and Etruscans.
Egyptian Museum – Close to Königsplatz, the Agypticher Kunst is devoted to Egyptian artwork and artefacts arranged in a series of halls arranged by themes of Egyptian art and culture.
Alte Botanischer Garten and Park Cafe
A short walk down the road from Königsplatz brings you to the Alte Botanischer Garten or Old Botanical Garden, which is a pleasant place to relax if you’ve had enough of the museums or need some refreshment. The park contains many exotic trees, but after a New Botanical Garden was laid out at Schloss Nymphenburg, the Old Botanical Garden was turned into a park in the 1930s.
In the centre of the park is a statue of Neptune with fountains, surrounded by flower beds and colourful plantings. The main benefit of the park is that there’s a very pleasant restaurant at The Park Cafe, which has a biergarten in the park that makes a nice place to relax when the weather is fine.
We had lunch inside the cafe, which is part of the Hofbrau brewery, but also offers a varied and international menu which makes a nice change if you’ve had enough of the hearty Bavarian dishes (although you can order these too). The Park Cafe often hosts jazz and live music in the evenings and has a very popular Sunday Brunch.
Try this 1 day itinerary: Start the day with a visit to one or two of the museums on the Kunstreal Museum Quarter, depending on what period of art suits your taste. The Pinakothek der Moderne has a nice coffee shop when you’re ready for a break. Then wander down to Königsplatz to see if there are any events or festivals taking place and visit either of the museums of antiquities if you wish. If the weather’s fine continue down the road to the Alte Botanischer Garten and relax in their pleasant biergarten surrounded by flowers, or have a bite to eat inside the cafe restaurant.
BMW welt and museum
Having visited most of the best known sights of Munich in the central area, we decided to use one of our days to venture a little further afield to the north of the city, starting at BMW Welt, which translates as BMW World. It’s easy enough to reach by train, getting off at Olympiazentrum station and then walking a short distance down the road. BMW Welt is part car show room, part exhibition space, part audio visual experience, all designed to draw you into the world of BMW and the glamour and power of their cars and motorbikes. If you are in the market for a new BMW, Mini or Rolls Royce, this is the place to ponder your choice or even pick up the car once you’ve ordered.
Even if you are not really into cars, you’ll be wowed by the stunning building of glass and steel that we entered along a sinuous footbridge, a double helix that’s designed to encapsulate the woosh and speed of a car on the curving road. BMW Welt is one of the top free things to do in Munich and once inside you can sit on the motorbikes, see the old style minis, wander around the different stands of cars and have a bite to eat in the ground floor cafe or even a Michelin star meal at their first floor Eisszimmer restaurant.
On the other side of the road is the BMW Museum which we didn’t have time to visit, but it covers the evolution of BMW engines, cars and motorbikes over 100 years.
Photography tip: If you want to get some nice photos, visit BMW Welt at dusk when the building lights up and glows with colour like a jewel and the interiors are also bathed in coloured lights.
BMW Welt is right next door to Olympiapark, so once you’ve had a look around you can walk straight into the park which is dominated by the striking landmark of the observation tower. The Olympiapark was constructed for the 1972 Munich Olympic games and is now a public park with Olympic Stadium used for sports and cultural events, Olympic Hall and Aquatic centre with a public swimming pool.
When we were there, a funfair as part of the Summer in the City even was in full swing and we walked around the lake and up the small manmade hill on the other side, which gives one of the best views over the lake and the stadiums as well as the Olympic tower.
The 1972 Munich Olympics were also tragically marked by the kidnapping of Israeli athletes staying in the Olympic village by Palestinian terrorists, resulting in a failed rescue attempt and the murder of 11 of the Israeli athletes and coaches as well as a German policeman. There is a memorial in the Olympiapark with photos, videos and information about the event, although we didn’t manage to see it at the time we were there.
I decided that I had to go up the 190m high Olympic Tower, for an even better view over the park, which cost €9 and I was able to pay at the ticket booth with no need to prebook online. The lift took me straight up to the lower observation deck where the glass enclosure was marked with the different landmarks in the view and there was a small cafe and an incongruous mini museum dedicated to Rock and Roll.
Walking up to the next outdoor platform, the force of the wind hit me and up another level it was so strong that I could barely keep standing upright! Still it was a fun experience to get those views looking down on the park, even if the photos were a bit blurry as I could scarcely hold my phone still to take photos in the wind.
Another of the places to visit near Munich that we really enjoyed was Schloss Nymphenburg, formerly the summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria and sits among extensive formal gardens and parkland. The land for the palace was presented in 1662 by Elector Ferdinand Maria to his wife Henrietta Adeleide of Savoy after she gave birth ten years into their marriage to a long awaited son and heir – basically that was the main job of royal women in those days. Their original square pavilion was enlarged and added to by successive rulers, with formal gardens, parterres and lakes added in the French style during the 18th century.
For more things to do that you can easily reach from Munich, check out my article on the best day trips from Munich.
We especially enjoyed the stunning entrance hall with its enormous chandeliers, gilding and romantic pastel rococco decoration which as followed by a succession of beautiful and sumptuous rooms. One of Schloss Nymphenburg’s talking points is the Gallery of Beauties, which contains 36 portraits commissioned by Ludwig I, of notable women associated with the court who were considered the beauties of the day, including noblewomen, actresses and one of the best known portraits of the shoemaker’s daughter. The king certainly had an eye for the ladies and several of the portraits were of his mistresses so perhaps this gallery was a way of giving a veneer of respectability for his passion for women.
We also enjoyed a look around the Marstallmuseum, located in the former riding stables of the palace, with a collection of fairy tale coaches and sledges, many of them incredibly decorated with Rococo painting and gilding. In the gardens there are four other pavilions, one of which, the Amalienburg is open to the public and well worth a look, with its pretty hall of mirrors and rococco decoration.
You can also take a gondola ride in the central canal of the gardens when the weather is fine. The formal French style gardens behind the palace give way to woodland on either side and we also enjoyed our lunch in the beautiful Palmhouse restaurant, in the pretty glasshouses of the palace which had a large outdoor restaurant terrace. We reached the palace by taking the train to Laim station and then walked through the park to reach the palace. More info: Nymphenberg Palace website
Try this 1 day itinerary: Take the train to Laim station and walk through the park to Schloss Nymphenburg. You’ll probably need at least half a day to see everything so after visiting you might like to have lunch at the Palmhouse restaurant in the gardens. Then walk to the bus stop at the junction of Menzinger Strasse and Wintringching and take the No 180 bus (30 mins) to the BMW Welt. Look around BMW Welt and the museum if you have time, then spend the rest of the afternoon in Olympiapark. Return at dusk to BMW Welt if you want some photos of it glowing with coloured lights, then catch the train from Olympiazentrum station back to the centre of Munich.
Plan your trip to Munich
Hotels: We can highly recommend the luxurious Louis Hotel where we stayed that is well located by Viktualienmarkt or its slightly more affordable sister boutique Cortiina Hotel which is also centrally located in the Old Town.
Just a warning that hotels in Munich tend to be more expensive than other cities in Germany and you should avoid any big festival dates such as Oktoberfest (unless attending them) when the prices are even higher. If you want to rent an apartment which is probably cheaper, check out these options for Munich on Airbnb.
Need a guidebook for Munich? I love the DK guides as they are so colourful and well illustrated, so check out the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Munich guide for short trips or the DK Eyewitness Munich and the Bavarian Alps for longer trips.
More articles about Munich
Getting from Munich airport to the city centre
There are a few options to get you from Munich Airport into the city centre and the one that seems most straightforward is the train. From the airport concourse you go straight down into the train station and take the S8 train which stops at Marienplatz and other train stations in the centre of the city. An alternative is the S1 train which takes a different route and takes a little longer to Marienplatz.
You can buy your ticket from the ticket machine on the station platform with cash or card. A single ticket was €11 or if you are planning to make other journeys that day you may wish to buy a day pass which is €13. The train goes every 20 minutes and the journey is around 40 mins. More info: Munich Airport Website
Another option is the Lufthansa Airport Bus which runs every 15 minutes and offers a non-stop service to the city centre. You can use the bus no matter what airline you fly with. Single tickets €11 Return €17
Disclosure: I have visited Munich on a number of occasions and on some of them have received complimentary hotel stays or help with restaurants and experiences from various sponsors*.
* More info on my policies page
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