Munich might be Germany’s third biggest cities but it’s perfect for a weekend break and there’s plenty to pack into 30 hours in this beautiful city. With an early Saturday morning flight from Manchester and a late return on the Sunday we were burning the candle at both ends but it was fully worth it to immerse ourselves in Bavaria’s best known and capital city.
1. Marienplatz & the Glockenspiel
The focal point of Munich is the formidable Marienplatz in the heart of the city. In the run up to Christmas this is where you can find the market stalls but these were sadly all packed up during out January visit. This means though that your focus is truly on the spectacular neo-gothic New Town Hall which dominates the square.
The New Town Hall boasts an 85m high tower and a ticket allows you to ride the elevator up to the viewing platform. A technical fault on the weekend were there meant that we didn’t get to marvel at the view you catch. The tower also houses the infamous Glockenspiel which runs at 11am and 12pm daily (and at 5pm as well during March to October). Just before performances which show characters from Munich’s history spinning around on two levels, the square fills up considerably but there’s plenty of space to crane your neck up and enjoy the spectacle!
As we were making our way back from a merry evening in Hofbräuhaus and passing through the Marienplatz, the snow started to flurry around in thick flakes feeling like a complete fairytale! Early the next morning we returned in the peaceful (but absolutely freezing) Sunday morning light. This is the best time to come if you want to see the Marienplatz quiet and enjoy it all to yourself.
2. Munich Residenz
Soak up some Bavarian history with a visit to the beautiful Munich Residenz. This exquisite and sprawling building was the former Royal Palace and was also the location of the government for Bavarian nobility. Parts of the building have been destroyed multiple times but it has been reconstructed over time to the grandeur you can explore today.
There are various different ticket options depending on which parts of the Residenz you want to visit. If you’re looking for the classic photo of the Antiquarium (initially built as a library and to house antique sculptures but converted into a ballroom soon after) then you’ll find it at the beginning of the tour, immediately after the Grotto.
3. The English Garden
London has Hyde Park, New York has Central Park and Munich has the English Garden although it is bigger in area than both! Stretch your legs and explore this swathe of green in the city and even treat yourself to a beer (or mulled wine to warm up in Winter) in the beer garden next to the Chinese Theatre in the middle of the park.
Where Eisbach River meets the South West edge of the garden you’ll find surfers (yes you really did read that right) riding the Eisbachwelle. It was below zero degrees when we visited and there were plenty of wet suited people plunging into the water to see how long they could stay on the endless wave.
Meander along paths through the trees and over bridges and admire a city skyline view from the Monopteros, the distinctly Greek looking temple that stands on a small mound overlooking the Southern part of the garden.
4. Indulge in German Baked Treats
When you think of Germany can you smell the gingerbread cooking and hear the pretzel crunching? With all of this exploring, keep yourself going with a classic traditional German treat. Pick up a colourfully decorated gingerbread heart from a street stall (along with hot roasted nuts) and use it as a photo focal point before tasting the spiced biscuit.
Nibble a brezen (German pretzel) as you’re walking along or if you need to give your feet a rest, pop into Schmalznudel near St Peter’s Church to tuck into one of four different warm, fluffy, deep fried and covered in sugar dough treats.
5. St Peter’s Church
Set a few paces back from the Marienplatz, Alter Peter is the oldest church in Munich. Its tower stands 91m high and so is an excellent spot to view the whole city but specifically for a birds eye view of the Marienplatz, Neues Rathaus and the Frauenkirche.
There are a dizzying 299 steps to climb and it’s a very tight squeeze the further you get up as you try to make way for people going in the opposite direction. The view at the top makes it totally worthwhile though so don’t miss it!
Unfortunately the weather during our weekend in Munich was overcast, cloudy and intermittently snowing but apparently on a clear day you can see all the way to the Alps!
6. Visit a Beer Hall
Munich is synonymous with Oktoberfest, the massive beer festival that brings thousands of tourists from around the world flooding into the city for a few weeks in September and October every year (check the Oktoberfest website for the dates each year). So there is no excuse not to check out one of the city’s beer halls when you’re in a city that’s fuelled by the stuff.
The most famous beer hall is Hofbräuhaus located on Platzl. It was build in the 16th century and is situated over three floors. Come initially for the experience and stay for the fun.
We visited Hofbräuhaus on Saturday evening for a raucous evening of steins, Oompah music and merriment. We were not disappointed. Wooden tables are overlaid with check tablecloths as a chorus of ‘Prost’ rings through the rooms followed by the clink and slosh of beer in steins. Make sure to hang to nab a table closer to the band to be in the middle of it all with the best atmosphere and soak it all up with a giant pretzel.
7. Discover Hidden Corners
As with many cities, one of my favourite things to do is walk. Wondering the streets and getting yourself lost is one of the best ways to stumble upon hidden corners and peaceful streets that are easily missed when dashing about.
There are plenty of these in Munich to discover! A few of my favourites to keep your eyes peeled for are: St Anna im Lehel, the colourful buildings opposite Max Joseph Platz and Platzl.
8. Asam Church
As you walk along Sendlinger Strasse, a shopping street in the centre of the city, the last thing you expect is the lavish baroque church that sits unassumingly within its confines.
Step in through the ornate doorway which is sandwiched between two buildings on the street and you’ll be amazed at the detail and excess in the decoration of this church. It was built by two brothers as their personal chapel and the late-baroque design has finishing touches of gold leaf.
In 1972 Munich hosted the Summer Olympic Games with East & West Germany competing as two separate countries. The Olympiapark is still in use today and you can take an underground train out to Olympiazentrum to explore.
In good weather the Olympiaturm has sweeping views of Munich and beyond but given the snow and low cloud we decided it wasn’t worth the 9 Euro ticket to be whisked up to the top of the tower. Instead we explored the park poking our noses into the Olympia-Schwimmhalle, posing in the Olympic Stadium and walking up to survey the park from The Olympic Hill.