Munich is the largest city in southern Germany and is famous for its annual beer festival, Oktoberfest, which brings the huge drunk crowds, but there’s a lot more to Munich than drinking steins of beers. There is a beautiful historic city center, large parks and gardens (with surfing), hearty German food, and beer halls filled with friendly people. There is also Munich’s famous clock, art collection, the palace, and the famous English Garden. The city wasn’t bombed during the war like Berlin was so a lot of the history is still visible in the city. Munich is also a smart base for people visiting other places in Bavaria. Munich lacks the edgy feel Berlin does but it’s just as awesome a place to visit. Don’t skip Munich, drink a beer, and let this guide help you plan your trip.
Hostel prices – Munich is a bit more expensive than Berlin. Dorm rooms cost between 20-35 EUR a night and private rooms are around 60 EUR. Prices double or triple during Oktoberfest, so book ahead if you’re hoping to have a good time. Renting from a local will often times be your best option. Wombats is my favorite hostel in the city.
Budget hotel prices – Hotel prices begin at the lower end of hostel private rooms so expect to pay 60 EUR and up per night for a double room with breakfast. You’ll find a lot of affordable listings in the city on Airbnb.
Average cost of food – As long as you don’t go to high end restaurants, you can eat for under 18 EUR for a sit down meal (the beer halls provide the best value). Many restaurants have “Mittagsmenü”, or special prices for lunch on a working day, where you usually pay about 6-9 EUR for really good food. McDonalds and other fast food places cost around 7 EUR. You can also get hotdogs and sausages from vendors for 2-4 EUR. A week’s worth of groceries will cost around 45 EUR.
Transportation – Munich has an excellent public transport system that includes buses, trams, and a S and U-Bahn network. Tickets are 8.30 EUR for a one-day or 15.50 EUR for a three-day pass.
Money Saving Tips
Visit the cheap Museums – On Sundays, the Bavarian Museum is only 1 EUR, rather than 7 EUR. History buffs may enjoy this museum filled with old relics and artifacts.
Eat cheap – The quick sausage stands and shwarma places offer a chance to eat really cheap for only 2-4 EUR. Food near the central train station is also inexpensive and quick.
See a cheap movie – On Tuesday, it’s “Cinema-Day”, and movie tickets are cheaper (the big cinema at Stachus only is only 7-10 EUR). Also, student tickets for the opera or ballet are only 12 EUR.
Top Things to See and Do in Munich
Experience Oktoberfest – Oktoberfest is a two-week drinking festival that occurs at the end of September. Thousands of people descend on the city to spend the time dressed in Bavarian clothes, drink huge steins of beer, and eat face sized pretzels. I barely made it out alive! ‘Nuff said. Here’s an example:
See Alte Pinakothek – This important art museum is home to over 800 works dating from the Middle Ages to the Rococo period. It features one of the world’s largest exhibits of Rubens’ paintings as well as works by Titian, Frans Hals, Altdorfer and Albrecht Dürer. Admission is 4 EUR from Mon-Sat and 1 EUR on Sundays. A day ticket to all three Pinakothek museums plus the Museum Brandhorst and Schack-Galerie is 12 EUR.
Visit the Church of St Peter – Munich’s oldest parish church features art dating back six centuries. You can climb the 306 steps for lovely views of the city from the tower.
BMW Museum & BMW Welt Munich – The BMW Museum is housed next to BMW’s head office in northern Munich. It features exhibits about the history of BMW cars and motorcycles with historic vehicles and prototypes, plus displays on alternative fuel and traffic management. It’s out of the city but if you’re a car lover, I highly recommend this place.
Travel outside Munich to Dachau Concentration Camp – Dachau was the site of Germany’s first Nazi concentration camp. You can come explore and bear witness to this tragic episode in human history. The visitor center also screens a documentary film about the concentration camp. It is a very sad place to visit and one that reminds us that evil wins when good men do nothing. It is located outside the city and takes a full day to see.
Hang out at the Hofbräuhaus – The world’s most famous beer hall is one of Munich’s top attractions and a visit here is a must if you love beer. The Hofbräuhaus was built by in 1607 and was originally used as a brewery. It was remodeled after the brewery moved to a new site in the suburbs. It’s the most popular beer hall during Octoberfest too.
Visit the Nymphenburg Palace – This impressive baroque palace was the summer residence of Bavaria’s royalty. It features a lavishly decorated interior and a breathtaking banquet hall. The palace is surrounded by extensive gardens and the rooms are very beautiful.
Stroll the English Garden – The English Garden is a massive park that offers many places to picnic, hike, and relax. Moreover, near the entrance is a river where people surf as the water flows out under the bridge. (You can go surfing yourself too!) There is a great beer garden in the middle of the park where you can relax on a beautiful day. Check out this video of locals “surfing”:
Shop at the Viktualienmarkt – This market is in the middle of the city and has a great choice of fresh fruit and vegetables, food stores, cheese, antipasti. It’s not very expensive either.
Visit the Deutsches Museum – One of the largest technical museums in the world, this museum is host to a huge array of exhibits. For anyone interested in construction, engineering, aerospace, and the natural sciences, this is a great attraction. You could easily spend the entire day here.
Partake in Maibaumaufstellung – The first of May is a public holiday in Germany, and every year, there is a festive erection of Maypoles all over the country. Small villages will go head to head, attempting to steal the maypole of rival villages. If one is stolen, it must be “purchased” back. There is always an interesting array of activities on this day.
Shop at Kaufingerstrasse – This is a shopping area that stretches for several blocks, which is exclusively designate for pedestrian traffic. There is a great mix of independent boutiques and large-scale department stores to peruse. When you get tired of shopping, there is a slew of restaurants, bars, cafes, and beer gardens to stop at.
Enjoy a Performance at Bayerische Staatsoper – Considered to be one of the top attractions in Munich and Bavaria alike, this is also one of the best opera companies in the world. The pieces put on here are primarily composed by Mozart, Wagner, and Strauss. Seeing a show here is definitely one for the to-do list.
Go skating – Olympiapark and the English garden are two popular spots for bladers and there are more here than you might imagine, especially from May to August. Every Monday is “Blade Night” in the parks, which basically is code for a giant street party.