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Munich has a reputation for being a wealthy and somewhat snobby city. Germans from other parts of the country despise the place, mostly because secretly they are desperate to live here. The city is not grungy and falling apart like Berlin, or a bit rough round the edges like Cologne, but if you know where to look there is a little bit of dark and weird to be found. Here are our best dark tourism tips for Munich.
The German Museum of Hunting and Fishing is not for those with a delicate stomach. Rows of taxidermied animal heads and displays packed full of hybrid creatures like the Wolpertinger – which is a small, mythological mammal like a rabbit or squirrel to which wings, antlers, tails, and fangs from other animals have been attached – make for quite the viewing. It’s a bit of shrine to hunting and its attendant traditions, which is fitting since the museum is housed in a 13th century church.
In Europe, Saint Nicholas has many terrifying assistants. Dutch Zwart Piet, Swiss Schmutzli, and North German Knecht Ruprecht all have the job of accompanying Saint Nicholas on his journey and punishing disobedient children. In the Alps of Bavaria, Austria and Italy, bad Santa is known as Krampus, a half devil, half goat that terrorises naughty children.
During the first week of December in Munich, and also in several mountain towns and villages, there is a Krampus Run where up to 300 young men don elaborate Krampus costumes and run screaming though the Christmas markets shaking chains. The costumes cost anywhere from €1,800–€2,500 and weigh up to 10 kilos. Certainly a sight you won’t forget in a hurry.
About 25 minutes outside of Munich on the S2 line, you can find the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. Opened in 1933 as a camp for political prisoners, Dachau went on to serve as the model for all later concentration camps and training ground for the SS. Around 41,500 of the 200,000 prisoners detained in the 12 years the camp existed were murdered. Entrance is free and a self-guided tour takes about half a day. Guided tours last two-and-a-half hours and cost €3 per person. Audio-guide tours cost €3.50
Most of the buildings Hitler frequented during his time in Munich have been destroyed to prevent Neo-Nazis from making the sites a sort of relic or monument. Nevertheless, a guided tour of the Hofbräuhaus, where the first Nazi mass meeting took place, the failed power grab at the Feldherrnhalle, the party rallies at Königsplatz, and the importance of the Hofgarten to the White Rose resistance movement all really helps to map what’s in the history book onto real life places. Tour is daily at 10.15am, lasts two-and-a-half hours and costs €15.
Every town has its ghosts. To find out where the ones in Munich hang out, take a nighttime guided tour of haunted Munich. Explore dark alleys and the haunted town square by lantern light, and hear stories about murder, executions, witch burning, and all sorts of other mysteries. The tour starts in front of the Frauenkirche. Reservations required.
Every Saturday at 8pm from April to December, gravedigger Joseph Grundlgruber takes tourists who are brave enough to meet the doomed Radish Woman, investigate haunted houses, witness a bizarre graveyard encounter, and have an encounter with the Black Lady at Promenadeplatz. Meeting point: Sendlinger Tor; Cost: €24.
In Munich, spring is welcomed through the medium of fire, magic, and ancient ritual. Witches gather to worship the devil in remote places in wild dances on May 1. Or do they? A wise woman in white awaits at the Isartor and you accompany her into the Westenriederstraße for a purification ritual at the old city wall. Later, at Trinity Square, a woman is desperately looking for something at the cemetery and is assisted by a hangman. Also, a lot of things are set on fire. Hear gruesome stories about historical witches on a Walpurgis Night Tour.