Whether you’re visiting for a long weekend or planning to make Munich your new home, there’s plenty to see and do in Germany’s third biggest city. This green city is known for its beautiful parks, many museums, and beautiful palaces. To make the most of your trip, we’ve put together a list of attractions you can’t leave Munich without seeing, from the best museums to stunning city views.
This square has been the heart of the city since 1158 when it was used for markets and even tournaments. Today, it’s best known for the Christmas markets, which start three weeks before Christmas. Marienplatz is dominated by the Neues Rathaus, which covers 9,159 m² (3.5 sq mi) and has over 400 rooms. It was designed by Georg Hauberrisser, who won a competition to design the city’s new town hall. One of its most famous features is the elaborate Glockenspiel cuckoo clock with a carousel of figures dancing at 11am, noon, and 5pm.
Next to the Feldherrnhalle are the distinctive towers of the yellow Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church) standing at 66 metres (216.5 feet) tall. This 17th-century Catholic church was built by a Bavarian nobleman to give thanks for the birth of a long-awaited heir to the throne. Its Italian architect, Agostino Barelli, brought a touch of the Mediterranean to Munich with its High Baroque style. Step past the yellow Rococo exterior into its incredibly beautiful, ornate interior, stare up at the dome 71 metres (233 feet) above, and admire the stucco and sculptures.
The edge of the Englischer Garten opposite Bruderstrasse is home to one of Munich’s favourite and most unlikelypastimes – surfing. As water thunders out from beneath a small bridge, surfers line both sides of the bank waiting patiently for their turn. Surfers need to jump off the bank and onto their board as well as make sharp turns to avoid the river walls – that’s why Munich surf shops sell small boards with kevlar-protected edges. People tackle the waves year round, even during Munich’s bitter winters, and Eisbachwelle is strangely mesmerising.
You know beer’s important to a city when there’s a state-run beer hall! The famous Hofbräuhaus dates back to the 16th century and offers the quintessential German beer hall experience complete with live brass band. Oktoberfest rules apply: no service without a seat, so expect to charm your way onto the end of a table and share space. If possible, avoid Friday and Saturday nights; as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Munich, it can take over 45 minutes to find a table and get a beer. For speedier service and a less stressful experience, go on a Sunday evening instead.
One of the most impressive Neoclassical buildings of Königsplatz is the Glyptothek. This beautiful building claims to be the only museum in the world dedicated solely to ancient sculpture. Visitors are free to wander the exhibits and get up close with the art, which is openly laid out rather than hidden away behind glass. Far from a stuffy traditional museum, it feels like an art gallery and prides itself on interesting, modern twists – they currently have modern replicas of famous statues carved from wood with a chainsaw. An entry ticket will also grant access into the State Collection of Antiques in the opposite building, and it’s just €1 on Sundays.
This park in the southwest of the city, about 10 minutes on the U-Bahn from Marienplatz, is often overlooked by tourists, yet it has so much to offer. As well as a BBQ area by the lake, it has a Japanese garden, a Thai temple and even an outdoor cinema in summer. Many families and friends bring picnics or have a BBQ, but there’s also a beer garden and a tiny wooden hut selling spit-roasted fish (steckerlfisch) for those who don’t fancy cleaning the BBQ!
Right at the exit of Odeonsplatz U-Bahn station is the prestigious Residenz. Though it started as a modest castle in 1385, subsequent rulers renovated and expanded it, eventually turning it into a grand palace and gardens. Today, it’s a vast complex of museum and exhibitions about Bavaria’s history and also plays host to classical concerts and music competitions. Except for a handful of public holidays, it’s open daily until 5pm or 6pm, depending on the season. Make sure to leave luggage at home or the hotel – there are strict rules about bringing large bags into the Residenz.
Munich’s answer to the Statue of Liberty stands guard over the Oktoberfest grounds each year. The 18.5-metre-tall (60.75 ft) statue erected in 1850 by King Ludwig I personifies Bavaria. Cast entirely in bronze and weighing almost 90 tons, it’s so big it had to be produced in several parts. Hidden inside the statue is a spiral staircase that leads to an observation deck, where the entire Oktoberfest area and downtown Munich are visible through four slits in her helmet.
This museum is a reminder of a past that Munich all too often tries to sweep under the rug. More than a collection of Nazi documents, its focuses on the history of antisemitism and racism, and the many different forms they can take. Its blank white walls and hushed, library-like atmosphere mirror the seriousness of its content. The exhibits are almost entirely text based, so reading stools are even provided for relief – make sure to take one as you’re bound to spend more time here than intended.
A famous Munich landmark, St Peter’s Church (Peterskirche) towers above the city on a hill between Rindermarkt and Marienplatz, making it the perfect spot for an incredible view. From 56 metres (183.7 feet) up, look right down onto the rooftops of Aldstadt and Frauenkirche, the symbol of Munich. On a clear day, visitors can see over 100 kilometres (62 miles) into the distance, all the way to the Alps! Such a great view takes some legwork; there’s a winding spiral staircase with 306 steps to the top.
A swimming pool might not sound like much of a destination, but this beautiful Art Nouveau building on the banks of the Isar shouldn’t be missed. Müller´sches Volksbad has been a public pool since it opened in 1901, and taking a dip today still costs only €4.40 (£3.75/$4.70). Inside is also a Roman steam bath and a Finnish-style sauna with colourful lighting. You’ll need to make like a Münchener, though, and leave the bathing suit at the door – saunas are an important part of German culture, and in most saunas, swimwear is actually banned.
Despite covering over 5,000 years with its collection, this museum prides itself on presenting its ancient relics in an easily digestible way – quality over quantity. The building itself is worth seeing; set below ground with bare concrete walls, large halls, and custom neon lights, it manages to be modern and interesting yet match its contents perfectly. Good German-speakers can also attend one of their regular lectures on ancient Egyptian culture.
Nymphenburg Palace was built to celebrate the birth of the Bavarian heir Max Emanuel to the throne. With its beautiful gardens and grand rooms, it soon became a favorite of Bavarian rulers, several of whom were born or died here. Not as many rooms of the palace are open to tourists as might be expected; after seeing everything inside, get some fresh air in the extensive formal gardens. There’s even a dedicated app that uses augmented reality to help visitors learn more about what they’re looking at.
Right next door to Nymphenburg Palace are Munich’s Botanical Gardens, covering over 50 acres. The greenhouse complex is home to everything from palm trees to terrapins inside its beautifully tropical environment – keep an eye out for the lawn-mowing robot. There’s also a café in the centre of the gardens serving full meals, alcoholic drinks, and excellent ice cream Open almost everyday until early evening, the gardens are strangely good for a rainy day, and at only €4.50 a ticket for adults, visiting is a bargain.
Frauenkirche’s two iconic onion domes are the most distinctive part of the Munich skyline. It was built in the late 15th century but was badly damaged by airstrikes in World War II and has been gradually restored. Look round the small inner chapels, and also find the grave of Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian inside. Climb the south tower for views across Munich – see right across to the Alps a clear day.
While the garden is better known for river surfing and naked sunbathing than it is for its views, there’s also a Grecian-style bandstand called the Monopteros, hidden in this sprawling 900-acre park. Munich is a pretty flat city, so King Ludwig I decided a Greek temple was just what his Englisch Garten needed, and the hill was constructed 15 metres (49 feet) high from bricks then covered with earth. Today, it offers views back down to central Munich including the distinctive onion domes of Frauenkirche.
Food market is a bit of an understatement for the sprawling stalls of Viktualienmarkt. The grandfather of Munich food markets, it moved to the square between Frauenstrasse and Heiliggeist-Kirche after outgrowing its original home at the heart of the city in Marienplatz. Today, the market offers everything from fresh vegetables and spices to butchers. It’s a great place to go for lunch – choose between homemade soup and a pretzel to fresh falafel. It’s also expanded beyond just food, and you can pick up homemade toiletries and fresh flowers.
Though this park is best known as the place to go tobogganing in Munich in winter, it also offers great views of the city from its hill, made from World War II rubble. On a clear day, even the Alps are visible. Rather than a traditional beer garden, Luitpoldpark has a Mexican cantina at its centre. Ready to work off those spicy tacos? Join one of the free “Fit im Park” sessions run by the city, or just get lost in the hedge maze.
Tucked in between the buildings on Sendlingerstrasse is one of the most important late baroque buildings in southern Germany. This tiny chapel measures just 22 by 8 metres (72 by 26 feet), but it’s full of ornate marble work and statues. It was built from 1733 to 1746 by the Asam brothers as their personal chapel, hoping to secure their salvation in building it – they could even see the altar from their house next door. The interior of the church conveys their goal quite clearly: the lightest part of the church is the top, symbolising the salvation of heaven, while the pews representing the earth are mostly in darkness.
Museum Brandhorst only opened its doors in 2009 but has already become an established part of the Munich art museum trail. Rather than packing the hyper-modern building full of exhibits, the museum has wide-open galleries and vast white walls. Its permanent exhibitions include works by modern art icons such as Damien Hirst, Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol (including his Marilyn portrait). Make the most of €1 entry on Sundays and avoid Mondays when the Brandhorst is closed.