Munich, the capital city of Bavaria, is the third largest city in Germany by population. In fact, there are 1.4 million people who live within the Munich city limits, and 2.6 million in the outlying suburbs. Yet with all these people, and all the things to do in Munich, the city manages to maintain a small town feel that’s utterly captivating. Stunning architecture, interesting museums, beautiful green spaces, a complex and somewhat chaotic history, and, of course, its internationally famous beer gardens make this one of the most popular cities in Europe, never mind Germany.
1. Enjoy the gardens at Schloss Nymphenburg
There are several palaces and summer residences situated throughout Munich, but few are as grand and jaw dropping as Schloss Nymphenburg. This palace served as the summer residence of the Bavarian kings, and it dates back to the late 1600s. There is also a spectacular 490-acre park that surrounds the palace, and several museums within its precinct.
Insider tip: You can enter the palace to view a few of the rooms, but the real drawcard here is the garden, which is free to enter. Pack a picnic, or your running shoes, and spend a sunny afternoon exploring this tranquil space.
2. Drink (and eat) in a beer garden
Munich is famous for its high quantity of beer gardens and beer halls. These range from the overpriced and touristy, to budget friendly and authentic. A general rule of thumb is that those beer halls in the inner city, including the world-famous Hofbräuhaus, are worth a look, but are generally overpriced and packed with tourists. Whichever beer garden or beer hall you choose, be sure to sample the local brew and a German specialty or two such as pretzels or eisbein.
Insider tip: If the weather is good, head for Waldwirtschaft. It has live music and traditional food stalls on most weekends. The largest beer garden in the world, Hirschgarten, is also full of life and amazing beer. If the weather isn’t favorable for sitting outdoors, head to the Augustiner Bräustuben. This famous beer hall is as authentic as it gets.
3. Marvel at baroque architecture at Schloss Schleißheim
These vast and impressive grounds on the outskirts of Munich comprise of three palaces, which many regard as some of the finest examples of baroque architecture. The palaces were home to some of Bavaria’s most important royalty. The surrounding park is also one of Germany’s most beautifully preserved baroque parks, complete with captivating fountains and canals.
Insider tip: Go thirsty – there’s a popular beer garden on the palace grounds that seats 1,000 people and dates back to 1597.
4. Tour the royal avenues and squares
There are four impressive royal avenues in Munich’s inner city that form the starting point for most visitors: the Brienner Strasse, the Ludwigstrasse, the Maximilianstrasse, and the Prinzregentenstrasse. These date back to the 19thcentury, and you’ll find magnificent architecture and an electric atmosphere from tourists and locals alike. Without some detailed information, you may lose some of the historical context of the more interesting locations.
Insider tip: There are frequent free walking tours through the Munich inner city. The most popular of these is Sandeman’s New Europe Munich walking tours.
5. Explore an old Olympic Park
There’s an eerie calm and intrigue that enshrouds Munich’s Olympiapark. This large Olympic Park was constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics. Many of the structures remain in use, including swimming pools, arenas, and a large dam. There are stunning views over the city from some of the park’s green hills, but if you’re after the ultimate vantage point take an elevator ride to the top of the Olympic Tower, with a viewing platform 190 meters up.
Insider tip: Combine your trip to the Olympic Park with a visit to the famous BMW Museum. It takes you through the history of the famous car manufacturer. There are several vehicles and bikes on display and occasional shows in the entrance hall that are free of charge.
6. Bask in the organized chaos of Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest is one of the world’s most popular festivals and takes place every mid-September for the two weeks leading into October. You should consider visiting at least once over this period even if it’s just to say you’ve been. Thousands of locals and visitors descend on the small demarcated grounds to drink beer and celebrate German culture. The festival manages to walk a fine line between all out revelry and organized chaos, and it’s an experience to behold.
Insider tip: If you do decide to venture into Munich over Oktoberfest, be sure to book accommodation well in advance – prices soar and availability is limited months before.
7. Cycle through Englischer Garten
The green heart of Munich, Englischer Garten, is one of Europe’s most pristine urban parks. Larger than New York’s Central Park and with vast cycle paths and quiet roadways, the Englischer Garten is perfect for a gentle cycle. There is no entrance fee required, and there are several beer gardens located throughout.
Insider tip: Track down Munich’s famous artificial standing wave in the Eisbach Creek. It’s in the southern end of the park, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch some surfers showing off their skills.
Munich is one of Germany’s most popular cities, and not just for the beer lovers. There’s a stately Bavarian charm to the city that’s totally enthralling. With so many things to do in Munich, it’s an ideal stop on a German rail journey.
Originally written for Eurail.com