I’ll admit that I primarily flew in and out of Munich because I found cheap rates and could use it as a launching point for the rest of my trip. I had no idea before my visit how much character and uniqueness Munich has, from the nudists in the English Gardens to the surfers on the river. I’d go back in a heartbeat, maybe next time around the holidays for the Christmas market in Marienplatz. I spent a total of five days exploring Munich, and these ten activities rose to the top.
Marienplatz is the heart and main square of Munich, featuring many shops, restaurants, and the Glockenspiel (clock) of the new city hall. The Glockenspiel goes off at 11am and 12pm daily, as well as at 5pm except in the winter months. You’ll see many tourists congregating in the square, but the best place to view the clock is from Alter Peter, the lookout tower at nearby St. Peter’s Church. Plan on arriving somewhat early so you can grab your spot a few minutes before the hour.
My favorite part of Marienplatz, however, was the number stores featuring coo coo clocks. You can’t touch them yourself, but you can ask a shopkeeper to make one of the clocks go off by pulling the hour hand to the next hour. Also, the clocks with more than two pieces hanging down tend to have more complex features.
Just a couple minute walk from Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s famous outdoor farmer’s market that’s open daily. This is the perfect place to find fresh fruits and veggies, have a light bite to eat for lunch, and buy some local gifts or souvenirs.
I was on the hunt for white asparagus, which is considered a delicacy in Germany. Though I was successful in finding it, I may not have been the best at preparing it later (or I didn’t have the right supplies at my hostel). It was just okay. If you’re good at making it, let me know the trick in the comments!
3. Cathedral Church of our Lady
Also called Munich Cathedral, this beautiful building is known for the devil’s footprint on one of its floor tiles. There are various legends around this, though they all involve the devil having been there to leave this mark while the cathedral was being constructed. Make sure to find it before you leave.
4. English Garden
The English Garden is humongous, and if it’s nice outside you could easily make a day of it. Make sure to watch the surfers at Eisbachwelle, which rests at the south part of the park at the base of the Eisbach river. The best view is from the bridge, but it’s also fun to grab a spot to sit on the nearby grass to watch for awhile. There’s an additional surfing spot farther north on the river, which is more popular with beginners. Also head north to find the several nudist zones within the park, spots for swimming, and a beer garden at the Chinese Tower. I had a Radler at the beer garden, which is a mix of beer and lemonade. With your change, you’ll get a token; return the token with your empty beer glass to get your deposit back. I also recommend going to the Chinese Tower on a weekend so you can enjoy live music from an authentic brass band.
5. Munich Residenz
The Munich Residenz is a former Bavarian palace with incredibly impressive architecture and decor. Don’t take my word for it – just look at these photos. A ticket is 7 euros and you could spend anywhere from 2-4 hours exploring.
6. Third Reich Tour
Since I had some extra time at the end of my trip, I booked a last minute Third Reich Walking Tour through Radius Tours. I had been on a powerful trip to Dachau earlier in my trip through the same tour company, and knew that these guides are legit historians. Though not what I think of as “fun,” I felt like it was important to learn about Munich’s dark history as the headquarters of the Nazi party. Stops included the beer hall where Hitler made his first speeches, Hilter’s former apartment, and victim memorials. I’ll always remember the tour guide noting that wherever you see a relatively new building, that’s where a bomb went off during WWII (as Germans don’t tear down and rebuild otherwise like Americans do).
7. Neuschwanstein Castle
This is the stuff that fairy tales are made of. Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for the castle at the Disney theme parks, and it’s not difficult to see the resemblance. There are also endless stories about King Ludwig II, who built the castle, wanted it all to himself, and probably rolls over in his grave as tourists flock there.
Neuschwanstein is a short distance outside of Munich. Though accessible via bus, it looked easier and not much more expensive to take a bus tour. I opted for one from Mike’s Bike Tours. The bus ride was scenic and relaxing, and the tour guide told stories about King Ludwig II that I would not have gotten from a solo visit to the castle. Once you arrive, you can either hike to the castle or take the shuttle. I thoroughly enjoyed the hike, but it is a doozy that requires good shoes and some stamina. Entrance to Neuschwanstein and a brief tour of the inside was included in the price. Before leaving, make sure to find the bridge that allows you to get a photo like this:
We also made stops to Linderhof Palace (which also belonged to King Ludwig II of course) and for lunch. On the way back I also bought a beer for a couple euro, which you can legally drink on the coach bus. When in Germany!
8. St. Michael’s Church
The real gems of St. Michael’s Church are the catacombs below, where King Ludwig II was interred, among others. The catacombs cost two euros for a quick visit. I recommend that if you’re going to tour Neuschwanstein Castle, go there before the catacombs so you can learn about King Ludwig II, his personality, and his mysterious death beforehand. This makes seeing his tomb all the more interesting.
9. Max Pett
I had to throw in a vegan restaurant for good measure. Check out Max Pett for delicious brunch or some vegan takes on classic Bavarian food. Vegan Wiener schnitzel? Yes please. Plus the outdoor patio is super cute.
10. Alter Südfriedhof
Am I the only one who loves a good cemetery when I’m on vacation? They’re relaxing, historic, often beautiful, and you may even learn a few things. This one is now also a public park and contains graves of many important figures from Munich’s history.
What tops your list of things to do in Munich? Let me know in the comments!