Munich is the largest city in southern Germany and is famous for its annual beer festival, Oktoberfest, which brings in huge drunk crowds. But there’s a lot more to Munich than drinking steins of beers. The city is host to 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. While Munich may lack the edgy feel Berlin has, it’s still an awesome a place to visit. Don’t skip Munich!
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost between 15-30 EUR a night, though you can usually find cheaper prices during the low season (winter). Private hostel rooms start around 60 EUR, which means you’re likely better off getting a hotel or using Airbnb. Free WiFi is standard, and a few hostels also include free breakfast. Self-catering facilities are not too common in the city’s hostels, so if you need a kitchen for your stay be sure to double check before you book. Be aware that prices double or triple during Oktoberfest, so book ahead if you’re hoping to have a good time (The Tent, located outside the city center, is very popular with travelers). There are also a handful of campgrounds outside the city. They offer basic facilities and prices range from 5-10 EUR per night. My favorite hostel is Wombats.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotel prices begin around 60 EUR per night for a double/twin room. WiFi is generally included, and in many cases so is free breakfast. If you plan on booking a hotel for Oktoberfest, you’ll need to book in well in advance (like months) as hotels will sell out. You’ll find a lot of listings in the city on Airbnb (though they are more expensive than in other parts of Germany) with shared accommodation starting 35 EUR per night while entire homes/apartments begin around 80 EUR per night.
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 hot dogs and sausages from street vendors for 2-4 EUR. If you plan on cooking for yourself, a week’s worth of groceries will cost between 45-55 EUR. I really enjoy eating at the beer hall Augustiner Bräustuben.
Transportation – Munich has an excellent public transport system. Tickets are 8.60 EUR for a one-day or 16 EUR for a three-day pass. If you want to explore the city by bicycle, day rentals usually cost around 15 EUR per day. Intercity buses and trains are also available, though they can be pricey. Munich to Berlin costs you between 24-34 EUR for a bus or 100-140 EUR for a train; Munich to Cologne costs 30-50 EUR for a bus or 95-140 EUR for a train. Tickets are always cheapest when booked in advance, so try to get your ticket early.
Suggested daily budget – 50-60 EUR / 52-62 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
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.
- Cook your own meals – Eating at restaurants for every meal can really destroy your budget. Try and cook some of your meals to save yourself some cash!
- Couchsurf – The best way to save money on accommodation is to stay with a local. Not only will you save a few bucks but you’ll get insider access to the city itself. This is the best way to discover all the hidden gems Munich has to offer!
- Free walking tours – New Europe Tours offers daily tours of the city, which cover all the top sites. The tours are in English and generally last a couple hours. They’re a great way to explore the city while learning about its history and culture. Best of all, they are free!
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. Admission is 10 EUR, and discounts are available for seniors, students, and families.
- Visit the 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. Entry is free.
- 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. During the high season, admission is 11.50 EUR. From October-March it’s only 8.50 EUR.
- 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 so stock up here if you are cooking for yourself!
- 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. Admission is 11 EUR for adults and 4 EUR for students.
- 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. Prices vary depending on what you see and when with tickets ranging from 10-200 EUR.
- Go skating – Olympiapark and the English Garden are two popular spots for rollerbladers — 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.