If the mention of Munich only evokes images of huge beer steins to you, it’s high time to visit this friendly and inviting city in the south of Germany to see how much more it has to offer than just beer and pretzel!
The capital of the State of Bavaria, Munich is the third largest city in Germany with a population of roughly 1.5 million. Still, visitors very often get the impression that they are staying in a nice little town. Munich is somehow “big, but small”, most probably due to its friendly and charming atmosphere. It is also a green place with large parks and public gardens offering various sports.
The name of the city (“München” in German) is derived from the German word for the monk (“Mönch”) and refers to the Benedictine monks who founded a monastery here in the Middle Ages. The city’s coat of arms still bears the image of a monk. Munich officially became a city in the 12th century.
The architecture of the city is an exciting mixture of historical and modern. Munich did not suffer extensive bombing during the Second World War, and the buildings that were destroyed were reconstructed after the war and have been carefully preserved ever since. Thanks to all that, you can explore a beautiful historical city center with wonderful buildings of the past centuries, churches and museums. Munich has always been a city of art and culture. However, Munich is also a major center of business and high-tech industry and its innovative contemporary buildings well reflect this other face of the city.
Great sites to discover, pleasant places for relaxation and sports, good German food and beer halls – experience them all! The motto of the city is “Munich likes you” (München mag Dich), and you will find a thousand reasons to like Munich.
Top things to see in Munich
Most of the historical sites of Munich are in its Old City (Altstadt). Tours of the Altstadt typical start from the Marienplatz, the main square of the city, which is perhaps the most popular tourist hangout in Munich. The square was named after the column in the middle, which has a golden statue of the Virgin Mary on the top. There are several spectacular buildings around the square, including the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), an impressive brick building, which is a considered a symbol of Munich, and the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus), an exquisite neo-Gothic building, which serves as the seat of the local government. From the top of the 85 m tower of the New City Hall, you will get a magnificent view of the city. The famous clock (Glockenspiel) on the front façade, with its automated clockwork figures, is a real spectacle. Other must-sees in the Altstadt are the Old City Hall, Peterskirche (another fine church) and the Hofgarten (a gorgeous garden inspired by Versailles).
This gorgeous baroque palace, which used to be the summer residence of Bavaria’s rulers, is one of the top attractions of the city. The impressive building is luxuriously decorated inside and out, and the splendid English-style park also adds to the charm of the place.
The most famous beer hall in Munich was built in the 16th century as a brewery. It is frequented by locals as well as tourists and has a nice restaurant as well, featuring dishes of the traditional Bavarian cuisine. Hofbräuhaus is also one of the most important scenes of Oktoberfest, a major folk festival held in the second half of September.
Munchen is home to several great museums and art exhibitions. The Alte Pinakothek is renowned for hosting one of the world’s largest collections of Rubens’ paintings as well as excellent pieces by Titian, Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein and many others. The Deutsches Museum is an outstanding museum with displays about natural sciences and technology. The BMW Museum and BMW Welt Munich is an exciting exhibition about the history of BMW vehicles.
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
The Dachau Concentration Camp was Germany’s first Nazi concentration camp where thousands of people lost their lives between 1933 and 1945. The site is a shocking reminder of the Holocaust with guided tours of the reconstructed barracks and a Visitor Center with exhibitions. The camp is about an hour from Munich and it takes at least half a day to see everything.
How to get around? The city is famous for its excellent public transportation and the price of passes is quite reasonable. The Munich City Tour Card is also a great way to save on transportation costs and admission fees to sights. It includes unlimited public transportation and discounts on various attractions within Munich, bike rental, bus excursions to other places in Bavaria and a range of experiences such as bungee jumping.
When to visit? There is no best time to visit Munich, since it has something to offer tourists throughout the year, including the various festivals and Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkt). It generally has a lot of visitors and if you want to avoid extreme crowds (and high accommodation prices), don’t time your visit to coincide with major festivals.
Free walking tours in English are offered every day by New Europe Tours, which take you to most of the important sites. Check out the website for starting times and availability information.