Cosmopolitan Munich has many facets. Germany’s second most visited city after Berlin, Munich loves its contradictions. The modern playground of technology and innovation and a bustling metropolis, Munich surprises with a traditional old town adorned with gingerbread architecture and old-fashioned breweries. The scene of the world-famous Oktoberfest, Munich cherishes what others might call German clichés, such as traditional Lederhosen (leather pants), beer steins, sausages, and Bavarian waitresses in dirndls (traditional dresses).
Bavaria’s capital, Munich is situated in southern Germany, north of the Bavarian Alps, on the shores of the Isar River. It’s the third-largest city in the country, so expect to find plenty of things to see and do during a Munich trip. A buzzing city crossed by broad sidewalks lined with fashionable boutiques and dining venues, clean, safe, and embracing a relaxed ambiance, Munich charms visitors with its green parks, beer gardens, historical attractions, and beautiful views of the Alps.
Things to see in Munich
The museums in Munich overflow with historical tales about a city that has had a tumultuous past. Ranging from neoclassicism to Nazism, the stories that Munich tells are intriguing, fascinating, and thrilling. It’s true that this city was the birthplace of the Nazi movement, but it’s also true that Munich has a glorious pre-Nazi history waiting to be discovered. Its great architecture, high art, and fine music are testaments to the city’s rich and colorful past.
Visit Münchner Stadtmuseum (City Museum) to discover tales of local history, photography exhibits, weaponry, musical instruments, and a permanent collection entitled “Typisch München!” (“Typically Munich!) that carries visitors through the city’s history. The Deutsches Museum (German Museum) unveils the innovative facet of Munich, impressing visitors with interactive exhibitions dedicated to science and technology and gravitating around themes like computers, telecommunications, and aerospace. The German Museum Forum next door invites tourists to discover a planetarium and a 3D cinema.
The Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) is dedicated to the history of Jewish culture in Munich and, despite its relatively small size, this is one of the most visited attractions in Munich. The museum has three floors and captures the most important topics in the general Jewish history, including temporary exhibitions, often related to the exile or persecution of the Jews.
Many of the architectural gems that once adorned the Old Town have been rebuilt after the war, including the magnificent Frauenkirche, a true symbol of Munich and a splendid late-Gothic brick structure. Its two towers reign over the city’s skyline while its simplicity exudes an unexpected and subduing grandeur. The cathedral houses the relics of Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian and the towers delight with spectacular views of the Alps.
No visit to Munich is complete without a tour of the Residenz, a complex of palaces that encapsulates lavish rooms, sculptures, antiques, and paintings, as well as seven courtyards and stories that date back to the 14th century when the Residenz was just a small castle. A residence to numerous members of the Wittelsbach dynasty, the castle has been expanded over the years and is currently one of the must-see attractions in Munich.
Art lovers will find Munich’s three Pinakotheks to be extraordinary places to spend a few hours of their time. The Alte Pinakothek (Old Gallery) delights visitors with some of the oldest collections in the world dedicated to paintings by European Old Masters, while the Neue Pinakothek (New Gallery) displays contemporary art, including German paintings from the 19th century, within the walls of a modern building designed by Ludwig I. Pinakothek der Moderne (Gallery of Modern Art) displays some of the best collections of 20th and 21st-century art in the world.
Things to do in Munich
One of the best things to do in Munich has to be to drink a cold beer at one of the many beer gardens in the city. If you truly love beer, head to the Hofbräuhaus, the most famous beer hall in the world and one of the best attractions in Munich. Founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, this is one of the most popular beer halls during Octoberfest and more than 100 active groups of regulars visit the beer hall.
Relax in the English Garden, the city’s main park. This charming green area has been a favorite spot for locals to unwind since the 18th century and is the perfect setting for fun activities, such as sunbathing, soccer-playing, dog-walking or surfing on the incredible permanent man-made wave on the Isar River. The park also has some areas where nude bathing is allowed, so don’t be surprised if you’ll see men and women sunbathing in all their splendor.
Go roller skating at the Olympiapark, an important center for sport and recreation and Munich’s green lung. The park was built for the 1972 Olympic Games and has been one of the most visited landmarks in Munich ever since. The area has an artificial lake, playgrounds and picnic areas, as well as a 291 m-high Olympiaturm that boasts beautiful views. Every Monday, the park is invaded by rollerbladers eager to attend “Blade Night”, a giant street party.
Feed your passion for cars with a tour of the BMW Museum & BMW Welt Munich that reveals secrets from the company’s history and dazzle visitors with historic vehicles and prototypes. Enjoy a tour of the Nymphenburg Palace situated on Munich’s western fringe. Set in an idyllic setting adorned with spectacularly landscaped grounds, wonderful gardens, and a gorgeous park, this Italian villa-style mansion was once the summer residence of Bavarian electors. A splendid Baroque palace, the villa houses a museum, numerous pavilions, an exotic greenhouse, and a chic café.