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Munich is the most expensive city in Germany. Fortunately for travelers with wallets that are not making it rain, there are plenty of ways to see the city on the cheap. Hostels are plentiful and near the center, most of the sights are walkable, and getting a decent meal for €5 is easily done. Here are our suggestions on where to get started.
As long as you order drinks, it is totally fine to bring your own food to a beer garden in Munich. Grocery stores in Germany are the cheapest in western Europe, and even the discount outlets like Lidl, Penny or Aldi still offer quality bread, meat, and cheese. Take your picnic to the massive, 8,000-seat Hirschgarten, go further down the river to Zum Flacher, go a bit upscale at Hofbräukeller at Wiener Platz, or hang out with the cool kids at Waldwirtschaft Grosshesselohe.
Turkish food is fresh, delicious, and cheap. A döner is lamb, beef, or chicken shaved off a giant roast, wrapped in a pita with tomatoes, cucumber, and tzatziki. In the town center there will be a place to get döner on every corner. If you prefer to have a sit-down, try Anatolia’s by the English Garden, Myra in the gay quarter, Dilan on Herzogstrasse, or Pardis in Neuhausen.
Go to the opera
The Bayerischer Staatsoper is a world-famous house with top-level singers doing their thing nearly every night from October to June. You don’t need to dress up, though you can if you want to, and with a bit of patience (and strong calves) you can take in a show for as little as €10. Bring along any student or military ID you have and enquire at the box office first thing in the morning.
The center of Munich is compact and very pedestrian friendly, so there’s no need to take the street car or Ubahn if you’d rather save that cash for beer. Another adventure on the cheap is to take the Ubahn to a random station and get off and have a walk around the neighborhood. There’s all sorts of interesting stuff just waiting to be discovered in residential districts.
The Müller’sches Volksbad is a fantastic Art Nouveau building on the banks of the Isar and has been a public pool since it opened in 1901. Inside, there’s also a Roman steam bath and a Finnish sauna where you can soothe your pack-weary muscles, as well as quiet rooms where you can lay down and sleep or read. Entrance is only €4.40 and it’s no problem if you haven’t got a bathing suit—Germans sauna naked.
Find the cheapest beer in the city
Bratwurst Glöckl am Dom is the place to go for beer so cheap, it is practically free. The trick is finding it. Don’t go in the main restaurant, instead walk around the left side of the building into an alley and go in a little door. Pull the rope next to the frosted glass window, wait for someone to yell “Yaw wos?” (Good evening, may I help you?) and order a beer from the board.
Hang out in the Botanical Gardens
Palaces and art galleries are great, but sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a bit of nature. Munich’s Botanical Gardens are 50 acres in the middle of the city with greenhouses, trees, flowers and lawn-mowing robots. There’s also a café should fortification with a good piece of German cake be required.
Make lunch your main meal
Like most cities, the big restaurants in Munich often have a reduced-price menu on at lunchtime with the best deals usually a prix fixe option. Sure, eating at the grocery store is cheaper, but even on a budget, it’s nice to splash out a bit on hot food that comes with a tablecloth and cutlery. All restaurants have menus posted outside, so you can check the prices before you go in.
Stay in or near the center
It is tempting to stay outside the city in accommodation that is cheaper per night, but take care in your calculations. Fares to the outer zones are up to €11.40 each way, so just getting into town can add €25 a day per person. Most of the attractions in the center are within walking distance of each other and there is plenty of cheap accommodation in this zone as well.
Blow the budget
So you can’t stay at the Mandarin every night or eat at a Michelin star restaurant twice a day, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time in town in a 18-bed dorm or eating dodgy pork products from Kaufland. Decide what kind of experience is the most important to you—a luscious bath, a write-home-immediately meal or a night out at the opera, ballet or theatre—and save some space in the budget for making it happen. You won’t regret it.