Munich, Germany offers a lot in the way of attractions, shopping and great restaurants – everything a big city should have. Three days in Munich will give you enough time to see the major sights, as well as squeeze in a day trip or two, depending on your interests.
Marvel at the Marienplatz
The Marienplatz (or Mary’s Square) has been Munich’s main square since 1158. Here you’ll find the gothic Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) and Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), as well as a plethora of restaurants and shops. The New Town Hall (pictured below) dates to 1874. Don’t miss its solar-powered glockenspiel, which chimes at 11am, 12pm, and through March-October, at 5pm.
The Old Town Hall dates back to around 1310. Through the centuries the facade changed from late gothic to neo-gothic architectural styles.
The Old Town Hall is now home to the Spielzeugmuseum (Toy Museum). This museum covers four floors and houses everything from tin toys, model cars and trains, to the iconic Barbie. Whether you have kids or are just a kid at heart, this museum is an interesting walk through time:
You can also visit nearby Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church), a gothic-style Roman Catholic church with a 91-meter tower. You can climb the tower for beautiful views of the city.
Stroll through the English Garden
The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is one of the world’s largest urban parks. Sir Benjamin Thompson, an American-born british physicist and inventor created the garden for Prince Charles in 1789. Don’t miss a leisurely stroll (and perhaps a picnic) in this beautiful park in the heart of Munich.
This is also a great stop if you’re into birding. You might spot everything from fieldfare and mistle thrush to Mandarin ducks and these adorable bar-headed geese, if you have a sharp eye (and maybe a bird book!)
If all the walking around leaves you parched, you can stop for a pint at one of the two beer gardens in the park. The larger beer garden seats 7000!
Watch the River Surfers
During your English Garden stroll, you may come across a surprising sight – people surfing on the river!
Every day, as many as one hundred surfers come to the Eisbach (German for “icy creek”) to catch a few waves. The Eisbach River flows through the English Garden, so you can catch a glimpse while strolling through the southern end of the park.
The water never gets warmer than around 15 degrees Celsius, so it’s a bit on the chilly side. It doesn’t stop the surfers though!
The Eisbach is actually a man-made river, and the standing wave where the river surfing takes place is around a meter high. Since it is a standing wave, surfers can stay on it for as long as they’re able to keep their balance because it doesn’t ebb and flow like ocean waves.
River surfing technically wasn’t allowed until 2010, when it was officially legalized, but surfers have used it since 1972. Now they even hold surfing competitions here. However the current is quite strong and it’s recommended that only professional and very skilled surfers attempt to surf the Eisbach wave.
There are also occasional clashes between the surfers and kayakers. As well, two people drowned in the river in the 2000s. So even though the city now allows surfing in the river, actual swimming is still illegal. For the most part it seems pretty harmless though, as long as you’re an experienced surfer.
Grab a pint at Hofbrauhaus
If Hofbrauhaus could talk, I’m sure it would say “I’m kind of a big deal.”
The story begins in 1589. Wilhelm V., Duke of Bavaria, didn’t like the beer made in Munich and initially had it imported from Lower Saxony. A few chamberlains and council members suggested starting up their own brewery. The brewery opened to the general public in 1828.
Also of note, in 1919 the Communist government set up headquarters in the beer hall. A year later Adolf Hitler himself, along with the National Socialists held their first meeting in the Festival Room, located on the third floor.
While we were there, we got to take a peek at the coveted beer stein cubbies. These date to 1970 and are reserved for the regular customers of Hofbrauhaus:
We were told there is a waiting list to snag one of these coveted beer stein safes!
Hofbrauhaus is huge. It offers several rooms filled with long communal tables, plus additional balcony seating outside. And, no proper night spent in Munich is complete without listening to a live oompah band:
We really loved this place. Yes, it was hard to find a seat. Yes, it was loud. But the party atmosphere was second to none. People were happy to be here, and it showed. This is the kind of place that just buzzes with energy, and those are hard to find. Personally, when I find that certain vibe, I find it hard to leave. Plus, hello, beer!
The food is no slouch either. It’s simple fare, but delicious and hardy.
And you can’t really leave Munich without having a proper pretzel. At first we were wary of ordering one because they are HUGE. But, as we discovered, they are also surprisingly light:
Get Cultured at the Museum Quarter
The Kunstareal (Museum Quarter) is a cultural hub consisting of 18 museums and exhibition halls. The museums and galleries span a history of over 5,000 years. Here you can see everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern art, and everything in between.
Visit the Olympiapark
Olympiapark is the former site of the 1972 Summer Olympics. The thing about old Olympics sites is that many of them become abandoned and fall into ruin after the games come to an end. But Munich managed to repurpose the old site and make it worth visiting.
You can walk or bike the trails, eat at the revolving restaurant housed inside the Olympic Tower, and visit various temporary exhibits and cultural events held at the Small Olympic Hall and Olympic Stadium.
Go Vroom Vroom at BMW Welt
A visit to BMW Welt (BMW World) is a must for car lovers. This huge building is part museum, part adventure park, part showroom and part sales floor. It’s conveniently located next to the Olympiapark.
The BMW Museum includes seven exhibit halls as well as temporary exhibit spaces.
In the main BMW building, you can check out the latest rides BMA offers and explore some interactive exhibits. You can even book a driving experience in the BMW of your choice.
If you opt to purchase a vehicle here, the car is driven down this ramp in dramatic fashion!
Book a Day Trip
There are several day trips worth taking from Munich. These are the top two I would recommend:
Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace is a wonderful and relaxing day trip from Munich. Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most photographed castles in the world. It was also the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.
Getting there: The most comfortable way to get there is by booking a bus tour. However you can also get there by train. Leaving from Munich’s Central Station (Hauptbahnhof), take the train heading to Fuessen. From there, grab a taxi the remainder of the way to Neuschwanstein Castle.
Dachau Concentration Camp is a sobering and even disturbing location to visit, but an extremely important one.
Dachau was the first concentration camp the Nazis opened in 1933. It was also in operation the longest, finally closing in 1945 when U.S. forces arrived at the camp. At least 32,000 prisoners died here, although that number is likely much higher.
After the Comité International de Dachau (CID) and Bavarian state government agreed to create a memorial site on the grounds of the former prisoners’ camp, the barracks were demolished in 1962. Two replicas now stand in their place.
In 2014, vandals stole the postern with the inscription “Arbeit macht frei” (“work will set you free”) from the Jourhaus gate. It was found in a carpark in Bergen three years later.
Getting there: The easiest way is by Deutsche Bahn Regional train. Leaving from Munich’s Central Station (Hauptbahnhof), take the S2 train in the direction of Dachau/Petershausen until you reach the Dachau station. From there, take bus 726 towards “Saubachsiedlung.” This will get you to the entrance.
Take a Beer and Brewery Tour
Germany is, without question, one of the most famous countries for beer. So what better way to get acquainted with the local tipple than by taking a Munich beer tour?
The company we used was Munich Walk Tours. They also offer Christmas market tours, Bavarian food tasting, and others.
Our tour began at the Ratskeller. This was a restaurant/bar, situated in the basement of the New Town Hall just a few steps from our meeting point. The New Town Hall was built between 1867 and 1874, and the Ratskeller restaurant has occupied the basement since 1874. This makes it Munich’s oldest wine cellar.
We then made our way over to Augustiner am Dom, about a three-minute walk from the New Town Hall. This was where we ordered our first beers of the night:
The Augustiner brewery has been in operation since 1328 and is Munich’s oldest independent brewery! Their most popular brew is Helles, a pale lager. We opted for the Edelstoff, described as sweeter, stronger, and more “sparkly” then Helles.
This was where our guide taught us about the Reinheitsgebot, or the German Beer Purity Law, dating from 1516. This was a set of regulations restricting the ingredients of German beer to only three: water, barley and hops. Yeast only became the fourth ingredient later, once people realized its importance in the role of fermentation. The rule was partly put into effect to prevent price competition with bakers for wheat and rye.
We then took the train to the Paulaner Brauhaus:
Paulaner has been brewing beer since 1634; or at least the earliest documented evidence of the Paulaner Brewery dates to 1634, so it may be even older.
The brewery began with the Munich monastery Neudeck ob der Au. It was quite common for monks to brew beer or make wine. Any beer that the monks didn’t need for themselves, they gave to the poor or sold in the monastery taverns. When the monastery dissolved in 1799, the brewery was briefly leased to the state.
This part of the tour was a little different: instead of just drinking beer and talking about it, we actually got to tour the inner workings of the brewery. This included seeing some of the ingredients that go into the final product:
The tour ended at Hofbrauhaus, and we were more than happy to wrap up our three days in Munich there!
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