The main metropolis of southern Germany is one of the grand cities of Europe, with architectural and cultural attractions on par with many other top destinations on the continent.
The heart of München is Marienplatz ♥♥♥, a lively square presided over by the grandiose building of Neues Rathaus ♥♥. The new town hall actually looks older than the nearby Altes Rathaus. The former, besides its fascinating collection of statues and gargoyles, boasts the Glockenspiel ♥, a musical clock in a high tower that presents a few mechanical-figure performances every day. A bit drawn out, but still curious.
There are always various street performers on the square, some of them quite good at what they do.
Near and around Marienplatz are several interesting churches, such as Heilig-Geist-Kirche ♥, which has an unusual pink-colored interior; Michaelskirche ♥; and the most distinctive Frauenkirche ♥♥. The latter is one of the biggest Gothic structures in Germany, able to accommodate up to 2,000 people. Other churches that should be worth visiting are Dreifaltigkeitskirche, Bürgersaal, Asamkirche, and Peterskirche (where you should be able to climb a tower for a great view of the surrounding squares and buildings).
Viktualenmarkt ♥♥♥ has been the city’s main marketplace for the last few hundred years. Browsing its stalls and shops is a must for experiencing the “real” Munich. Many shops are famous for offering stuff that cannot be found anywhere else and many are passed from generation to generation within the same family. The storage cellars are built right underneath the shops.
Having a breakfast ♥♥♥ of traditional white sausages, pretzels, and weissbier in any eatery on Viktualenmarkt is as an authentic experience as you can get.
A few steps away from here is the Stadtmuseum. Also within a stone’s throw from here is Hofbräuhaus ♥. It is clearly souped up for foreign tourist consumption, and yet it is also as good as any example of a traditional beer hall, with painted ceilings on the ground floor and a barrel-shaped vault on the first floor. And since you’ll never get bad beer when in Bavaria, it is definitely worth a stop.
For anyone interested in culinary superstores, stepping into Dallmayr ♥ shop on Dienerstr. will prove an utter delight.
One of the most magnificent churches in München is Theatinerkirche ♥♥ (also known as St Cajetan). Its bright-yellow façade is almost blinding, and the interior, whitewashed with stucco decorations and rich Baroque furnishings, is glorious. In the absence of any decorations of gold or other colors, the church appears extraordinarily bright.
Another church that should warrant a look is Ludwigskirche, a 19th-century twin-tower Romanesque wonder, whose Last Judgement fresco reputedly rivals in size the famous Michelangelo’s one in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Next to St Cajetan is Feldherrnhalle ♥, which has a notorious association with Hitler’s Beer-Hall Putsch of 1923. Its Odeonsplatz façade was modeled after Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and contains several monuments to Bavarian heroes.
The large Residenz complex, the former palace of Bavarian kings, is one of the significant points of interest that should be on the itinerary in Munich. The pleasant Hofgarten ♥ in front of it offers a respite from the city.
The spacious Englischer Garten ♥ is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Sit on a bench, watch ducks and geese, or hire a catamaran on the boating lake. At its southeastern edge, a cluster of museums includes Bayerishes Nationalmuseum, a great collection of German paintings at Schack-Galerie, and the Prehistory Museum.
There are two other museum clusters in Munich. One is anchored by Alte Pinakothek ♥, which is among the most famous art collections in the world, housing works by many old masters. Nearby Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne complement it with works from the 19th and 20th centuries respectively.
Not far from these, on Königsplatz, the Neo-Classical Propyläen ♥ gateway connects two museums of antiquities. And in another part of the city center,
The bustling Leopoldstraße ♥ is a pleasant stroll, hosting an almost unending row of cafés and restaurants. The nearby Schwabing ♥ residential area is a quiet oasis with its many pretty houses.
Not too far away from central Munich (but not within walking distance) is Schloss Nymphenburg ♥, a nice 17th-century palace surrounded by a beautiful park. There are several standout rooms inside the palace and a couple of moderately interesting pavilions tucked away in the various parts of the park.
Olympiapark is a sports complex that is frequently used for popular events in addition to sporting ones. For tourists, its main attraction is the views of the city skyline and the Alps at a distance from its high hill.
Deutsches Museum, one of the largest and oldest museums of technology and engineering in the world, is another attraction worth considering for a future visit.
We were in München in spring, not during the Oktoberfest, and therefore did not go to Theresienwiese, a vast meadow within city boundaries that stands empty for 10 months every year and is transformed into busy fairgrounds during the famous beer festival period. Our good friend, who at the time resided in München, took us for a real biergarten experience to Hirschgarten ♥♥♥, the biggest such establishment in the city located at the edge of Schlosspark. You don’t truly catch on with the Bavarian spirit until you pick your glass jug from a pile and wash it yourself at the trough. As at any biergarten, you can bring your own food along if you want, but you are obligated to buy drinks on the premises; you can also buy food on the premises, with pretzels and pork ribs invariably on offer. Hirshgarten abuts the royal deer farm, so you can diversify your experience by watching animals.
If you fly out of München, make sure to at least get a look at the airport brewery. It is not often that an airport has its own establishment of this sort.
München’s metro is frequent and convenient, both for central areas and for excursions further afield. The lines of the city U-Bahn are well integrated with the commuter S-Bahn network.
The important thing to remember is to actually buy tickets and validate them in the ticket machines. Neither turnstiles nor gates impede the entrance to the stations; however, absentmindedly getting on a train without a valid ticket can lead to a hefty fine; ticket checks occur with enough regularity.
Accommodation-wise, any location in Altstadt will put you within no more than 15 minutes of walking to most of the points of interest, but the excellent metro network makes staying somewhere outside of the city center workable as well.
As far as eating out is concerned, whether you reserve a table in advance based on online ratings or just pick a restaurant at random, it is hard to have a truly disappointing meal in Munich. I personally prefer local vibes in less touristy areas, but sometimes sitting down in an eatery on a crowded square can have its rewards.
Worthy of specific recommendations are: Hackerhaus (on Sendlingerstr. in the city center), a frequent mention by the guidebooks, and still managing to offer a good traditional dining experience; Wirtshaus Zur Brez’n (on Leopoldstr.), just great overall.
München is located within manageable day-tripping distance to a number of Bavarian destinations. Foremost of them are the royal castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, discussed in more detail in the article on the rest of Bavaria.