Check out this guest post from Tom of Abroad American! Be sure to take a look at his blog for many interesting posts on travel and living abroad.
Munich was certainly not what I had expected when I stepped out of the central station for the first time 3 years ago. I was on my first solo travel experience ever. First, I toured around some of Ireland, and then flew to Frankfurt to visit it and the nearby cities of Darmstadt and Heidelberg.
Up to that point, each of the places I visited had pretty much been what I expected. I suppose I expected Munich, being the third-largest city in Germany, to be more of a bustling city, taller and denser than Frankfurt since it had more people. Wrong.
Munich is a large city, but it has a nickname in German, “Millionendorf” – a “million-person village”. It’s earned that title because of the ways it just seems like a big town. From the lack of high rises within city limits, the old medieval city structure and its focus on pedestrians and cyclists, to the friendliness of its people, it is very much like a charming village that simply grew quite large.
Despite the city not quite being what I expected, I absolutely fell in love with it. Now, 3 years later and 2 years of living here, I have a much better understanding of the city and what makes it special. I would recommend normally spending a bit more time in Munich, but you can certainly have a solid 48-hour visit if that’s all the time you have.
- Munich is the 3rd biggest city in Germany, with a population of around 1.4 or 1.5 million people. It’s the capital of the southern German state of Bavaria.
- The city straddles the relatively small Isar River, and lies about an hour or an hour and a half north of the Bavarian Alps.
- The city has a moderate continental climate, and is usually most pleasant from mid-May until mid-September. Winter is cold and wet, and averages around freezing point for most of the season.
- Munich has a splendid public transportation system. Buses, trams, regional trains, suburban trains and an underground system connect every corner of the city pretty darn well.
As with most any visit to a European city, I’d recommend starting to get to know the city by wandering a little. After a quick breakfast, head to the old city to wander around and just simply see the city for what it is.
Have a coffee at a café, grab a Butterbreze (a pretzel sliced in half with butter spread on the inside), visit all the sights around the city center, take your pics and enjoy the architecture. I’ve attached a map below with all the major sights in Munich. As you can see, many are clustered around the center and you can walk between them!
The “free” walking tours given by Sandeman’s New Europe Tours are fantastic, and I do recommend them. But at around 3 hours, they can be a bit much, though I still believe totally worth it. I just think you can do the tour on your own as well if you want to.
Some of the highlights should be: Hofgarten, Odeonsplatz, Marienplatz, Kaufingerstraße, Karlsplatz, Viktualienmarkt, and Sendlingerstraße/Sendlinger Tor. If you’re looking for churches, Frauenkirche, Alter Peter, and Asamkirche are all within this central district.
For lunch, I’d suggest getting yourself to a beer garden in summer or a traditional restaurant / beer hall in winter. There are several choices all throughout the city center and the rest of the city, this is a decent list of the various beer halls and beer gardens in the city.
Grab a pretzel and some Obatzda (a kind of soft, spiced cheese spread that is perfectly paired with pretzels). I’d also suggest some roast sausages (Bratwurst), Sauerkraut, Käsespätzle, or if you’re quite hungry, a half roast chicken or even a Schweinehaxe (crackling pork knuckle).
In my Beer Festivals in Germany post I cover a lot of the traditional Bavarian foods that would be served at beer fests just like at these traditional beer halls and beer gardens. Of course, I’d say having a beer with lunch, or a Radler (half beer, half Sprite) would be just right.
There are also other sights to see in Munich outside the center. Nymphenburg Palace is in the northwest of the city, and is one of the largest palaces in Europe.
A similar palace called the Residenz sits in the heart of the city, but Nymphenburg is something special. The gardens of Nymphenburg are pretty dazzling by themselves, though, so if you’re here in the summer, it’s a must-see!
Image Credit: Rennett Stowe from USA (Nymphenburg Palace in Munich) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Munich held the Olympics in 1972, and the city built out a very large park in the north of the city to host several of the events. The Olympiapark always seems to have some sort of event going on (a festival in summer called Sommer Tollwood is quite well-known actually!) and it’s just a nice place to visit with beautiful landscaping, architecture, and a large tower that has possibly the best overlook views of Munich in the city!
Here’s a decent list of things to do around Olympiapark, including the Olympic Tower.
Evening activities will depend on your tastes. There are hundreds of great restaurants in Munich, and with a little local knowledge, you can find every cuisine on the planet. Depending on how much you ate for lunch, you might not want to go somewhere for schnitzel, but if you do there are a couple notable spots.
Steinheil 16 is well-known for having a good breaded pork delicacy, but a personal favorite is the lesser-known Schmaus & Braus in the mid-north of the city. The benefit with both of these spots is that they’re nearby to bar hotspots.
Steinheil 16 is very close to the university district, head to the street Schellingstraße for many great options. Schmaus & Braus is close to the Münchner Freiheit district, which also has plenty of bars and pubs.
In the Münchner Freiheit area, there are a couple great bars I highly recommend. Alfonso’s, a small bar with a very unassuming outside, has great live rock music every night inside. And Schluckauf, which means something kind of like “bottoms up!”, is a great college-style bar that’s always having a good time, if you’re in the mood.
There is another great bar quarter of the city, Glockenbachviertel. Search on Google Maps or Trip Advisor for bars and pubs in this quarter, the Münchner Freiheit district, or an area west of the Universität subway station (again, most are on a street called Schellingstraße), and you’ll definitely find a spot you like.
To start your second day in Munich, I think a typical Munich brunch is in order. Head to any one of those traditional restaurants in the city center and order yourself a Weißwurst Frühstück if you eat meat (white sausage breakfast), a Weißbier, and this time you MUST order the pretzel and Obatzda.
The mixture of these three things is a fantastic brunch combination, and of course, a half-liter Weißbier is cheaper than your usual mimosa! Follow up your slightly boozy brunch with another walk around the city center, visiting some of the sights you might have missed the first day.
In the afternoon, you have several options. If it’s a particularly hot summer day, cool off in the Isar River or relax in the fields and streams of the English Garden with a little picnic and enjoy the parks.
Head to the Viktualienmarkt, the central traditional market of the city with amazingly good local foods and produce. Buy some specialty cheese, sausage, fruit, and other snack items you want and then walk on over to the English Gardens. Grab a spot in the sun or the shade, and just enjoy the atmosphere. It’s one of Munich’s treasures, so enjoy it! When you’re in the park though, don’t be surprised if you pass by some people lounging carelessly naked! Nudity of that sort in public is quite acceptable in Germany, though usually confined to certain sections of the parks
If the weather isn’t so great, you could visit one of the many great museums in the city. I really do recommend any of the city’s museums, or making a short day trip to Dachau. Dachau is a nearby town that held a famous concentration camp during the war. Visiting the Dachau concentration camp is very, very somber and will put you in a pretty retrospective mood. It is honestly physically chilling.
However, learning about and feeling the effects of this very relevant and important part of the country’s (and the world’s) history is important. Use the opportunity while you’re here if you have the time.
The town is on the city’s suburban rail (S-Bahn) system and can be reached in about 45 minutes from the central train station. Self-guided tours with audio guides take quite a while, and the location closes in the evening so give yourself some time to get there and really spend some time there.
Though I’d recommend staying in the park for as long as you’d like, there are other places worth visiting! To get an unobstructed view of the city, there are three good spots I know of.
First is that Olympic Tower I mentioned above. The others are located more in the center of the city providing a different kind of view.
First, the tower of the Alter Peter (St. Peter’s church). It costs 1 euro to climb, and that climb is quite long and a little claustrophobic with so many people going up and down all the time, but the view is just about unbeatable.
The tower overlooks the old town right above Marienplatz, providing views that you can’t have any other way.
The other good overlook I like to visit is a rooftop café at the top of my university! The Vorhoelzer Forum café is open to the public and provides magnificent city views from the university to the south.
On a cloudless day, when the so-called Föhn (a dry, warm wind) is blowing, you can see the Bavarian Alps to the south, dominating the horizon.
For your last few hours in Munich, I begrudgingly suggest going to the Hofbräuhaus for dinner and revelry through the evening.
Oktoberfest only lasts 16 or 18 days in the fairgrounds, but in Hofbräuhaus, it’s year-round. Yes, it might be the most “touristy” thing you can do in Munich, but I think it’s worth it.
Inside Hofbräuhaus, you’ll find delicious food just like at the other beer halls with one very important extra – a great vibe.
A live brass band plays traditional and newer songs in the center of the main dining hall, providing a very fun, somewhat rowdy, and generally excited atmosphere. The famous beer hall also offers seasonal brews in addition to the typical Munich style, Helles.
Tips for 48 Hours in Munich
- Getting in and out of Munich, and around the city, is VERY easy and cheap with the public transport system. Take the 5 minutes to look at the map or at Google Maps to see how to get around to places from your hotel/hostel/apartment. Don’t be that tourist that takes a cab everywhere! The public transport is an especially good deal if you’re in a group – look for the group 1-day or 3-day tickets on the machines.
- Yes, there are tons of great restaurants in the city center, but there are tons of other great ones outside it too. Check Google Maps, Trip Advisor, or even Yelp to look for your first night’s dinner spot.
- Learn a few basic German phrases to throw out whenever you interact with a local – starting off on the right foot goes a long way to making a good impression! Here’s a short list of easy and useful phrases for your 48 Hours in Munich.
- Many people you speak with will speak English, but don’t count on everyone understanding you or speaking English at all! You’re in Germany, where they speak… German! If you’re ambitious, there are a few free and easy ways to learn German outside of a class that I’ve written about before – check out my post 4 Ways to Learn German. I’d highly recommend using an app or listening the podcasts listed in the post.
Have you been to Munich? I’d love to hear your thoughts and get your recommendations! Comment below or feel free to contact me!
48 Hours in Munich was written by Tom Scriba of the blog, Abroad American. Tom is a 27-year-old American who wanted to see more than his desk job life in Chicago allowed him to. In 2015, he picked up his life and moved it to Munich, Germany to attend a master’s degree program and explore that part of the world. After a year or so living abroad, he founded Abroad American to teach others about traveling, moving and living abroad, and the challenges and joys of doing so. Join Tom on a quest for discovery, lifelong learning, and broadening perspectives on the world.