A visit to Munich is essential for any trip to Germany, as the city is full of fascinating history, culture, architecture, and festivals. It’s well known for Oktoberfest and biergartens around the city, but there are many other great reasons to visit this European destination too. Depending on what time of year you visit and how long you are traveling, you may be able to join in Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest celebration or take a day trip to see the Alps, KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau, or Schloss Neuschwanstein. But if even if you only have a few days to explore the city, these are some of the top things to do and see in Munich, Germany.
Marienplatz and the New Town Hall
In many places, the central square is the beating heart of the city, and this is certainly the case with Munich. Marienplatz is the name of Munich’s central square and also a great starting place to explore the area’s landmarks and buildings. The Mariensäule is also located here, which is the home of the new town hall. This is also where you can see the Glockenspiel, which is a carillon that’s over a century old and chimes for all to hear down below. It chimes at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. every day between November to February. You can also watch the life-sized mechanical figures reenacting scenes from Munich’s history in this square to learn more about the city.
The largest church in Munich is Frauenkirche, also known as the Catholic Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady. It was built in the fifteenth century and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Munich. Over 20,000 people can attend a service here at once. It’s a famous work of architecture and many visitors climb the tower steps to get a lovely view of the city and the Alps mountain range. Entry into the church is free of charge.
Viktualienmarkt has been around since 1807 and is a colorful market with food stalls and shop vendors. You can shop for fresh produce, flowers, and fish here, as there are typically around 140 stalls open for business Monday through Saturday. This is a great place to pick up hard-to-find and exotic ingredients, adored by both locals and visitors alike.
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
concentration camps are a tragic part of Munich’s history and a visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp will teach you about the city’s role in World War II history. This was one of the very first concentration camps in Germany. When you visit, you can humbly walk along the path that prisoners were forced to walk and see the barracks, courtyard, and crematorium.
Residenzmuseum houses a collection of historic pieces from the Wittelsbach age when the first family ruled the Bavarian region. The artifacts date back to about 700 AD and include sculptures, tapestries, books, porcelain, and artwork. There are over 130 rooms to explore at the Residenzmuseum, so many visitors spend a full day here.
The 1972 Summer Olympic Games were held in Munich and Olympic Park celebrates that significant event still today. The original Olympic village included a stadium, tower, ice rink, swim hall, tennis facility, and cycle center. Visitors can walk around the stadium and climb to the top of the tower to get lovely city views. There’s a small museum and a restaurant inside the tower as well. Visitors can access the park via public transportation on Munich Undergrounds’s Olympic Line (U3).
Frauenkirche may be the largest church in Munich, but Peterskirche is the oldest one. This church was built in the late 12th century, and visitors are allowed to climb to the top of this one as well. There are about 300 steps to reach the top and there’s no elevator. Architecture and history buffs will appreciate the medieval religious architecture, and everyone can learn more about its history inside the church’s doors.
Animal lovers will enjoy a visit to Munich’s Tierpark Hellabrunn, a zoo and animal sanctuary that has thousands of animals across hundreds of species. It’s located on the south side of the city and accessible by public transportation. This is a fun place to visit for both children and adults, and you can catch feeding shows at various times throughout the day.
BMW Welt and Museum
Whether you drive a BMW back home or not, the BMW Welt is worth a visit during your time in Munich. You’ll learn about the history of the company, legendary models, and new prototypes in the exhibits, films, and displays here. You can check out all the BMW brands here, including MINI, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, BMW i, and BMW M. This is where the company’s headquarters are located and there’s a museum located next to the “Welt”.
Munich’s largest park is the English Garden, which is a wonderful place to spend a lazy afternoon or enjoy a picnic lunch. You can hike along the park’s paths, get on the water in a paddle boat, and then stop at a nearby beer garden to sample local brews. There are several good places to grab a beer around the Chinese Tower. Keep in mind that the area around Eisbach is “clothing optional,” just in case you want to sunbathe without getting those unsightly tan lines.
Museum fans and science geeks will love the impressive Deutsches Museum in Munich, as it’s Europe’s largest science and technology museum. Many visitors spend an entire day just exploring this huge museum, which is set on a tiny island in the Isar River. About 1.5 million people visit this museum each year to see the nearly 28,000 exhibits and artifacts on display. One of the top museum highlights is the Verkehrszentrum, which displays all types of vehicles throughout history. Other popular displays feature musical instruments, space probes, sailing ships, and robots.
It would be a shame to visit Munich and not experience the culture of the city’s authentic beer halls. One of the most popular ones is Hofbräuhaus, which is known around the world. This three-floor beer hall dates back to the 16th century and is open 365 days a year. Some of the other beer halls worth visiting in Munich include Weisses Bräuhaus, Der Pschorr, and Paulaner Bräuhaus. There’s really no better way to wash down delicious traditional German foods like roasted pork knuckle and pretzels! Augustinerkeller is a highly recommended traditional beer garden in the city center that serves traditional Bavarian cuisine.