München, or as we English speakers know it as, Munich – the heart of Bavaria. Known for Oktoberfest and the plethora of beer that comes with it, it’s naturally a hotspot for tourists and Germans alike. You might be wondering is 2 days in Munich enough? I’ll tell you right now it really isn’t… but that’s just a reason to return!
1ST DAY IN MUNICH :: GET ACQUAINTED
Whenever I visit a new city, I always like to wander. Even if the visit is short, it’s always nicer to have your bearings sooner rather than later. So let’s get started, shall we?
Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour of Munich
What better way to get acquainted than with a walking tour? I’ve done a few of their tours in Europe and have never been disappointed. Despite Robin having plenty of relatives in Germany, he had never really explored Munich before so it was the perfect place to start! Unfortunately Mother Nature wasn’t on our side but alas, it didn’t stop us from having fun! Tours start at 10:00am, 10:45am, 2:00pm and 4:00pm. As Robin and I only arrived in the city late the night before, we decided to sleep in a little and thus tagged along with the 2pm walking tour.
We began in Marienplatz where the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is. Its beautiful Gothic Revival style is just as it was from the time it was built. While you may find it surprising, despite the damage done in World War II the building remained unharmed. This is because it was used as a strategic point of location for the Allied bombers to determine they were over Munich, therefore they left it unharmed. This played out well as Munich was documented before the war by the Nazis, and those photos were stored in the basement of the New Town Hall. At the end of WWII, the people of Munich had a choice to either rebuild based on the photos, or start from scratch. One walk through the heart of the city and you’ll know right away they chose to rebuild the city to what it was. Berlin and Frankfurt were documented in the same way and had the same choice, but their citizens chose to build anew.
While the Neues Rathaus is a beautiful building, many flock to catch the tune of the Rathaus Glockenspiel. Dating back to 1908, it chimes every day at 11am and noon. If you visit between March and October, you have the added bonus of catching the show at 5pm as well. Each show lasts about 12-15 minutes and as it chimes, the Glockenspiel re-enacts two 16th century stories – the marriage of local Duke Wilhelm the 5th (founder of the famous Hofbräuhaus) and the story of the Schäfflertanz (the Cooper’s Dance). Legend has it that the Coopers danced through the streets to bring cheer to those suffering in 1517 when the plague was running rampant in Munich. This dance became a symbol of strength and perseverance during dark times. While you may not want to stay for the whole thing, I’d highly suggest catching a glimpse of at least one tale, but you’ll have to do that on day 2.
INSIDER TIP: The best view of the square is from the top of the Peterskirche (St Peter’s Church) which you’ll visit on the tour. More information coming your way in this post!
Marienplatz is also home to a statue of Mary, which is where the square gets its name. She has been standing for 400 years (minus times of war), and every Oktoberfest someone tries to steal her. No one has ever been successful… yet.
Speaking of Oktoberfest, the tradition started when King Maximillion’s son Ludwig was married. To celebrate the royal family held a party that was 5 days long with free wine and food. The people asked to have a party similar to this every year, and it slowly morphed into what is now today’s Oktoberfest.
FUN FACT: Oktoberfest can get a little crazy to say the least. So crazy the Australian Embassy sets up a temporary embassy during this time as many Australians have been known to lose their passports during the event. Another thing is that they have a lost child meet-up point because approximately 50 children on average are left behind by their parents at Oktoberfest. Don’t worry though, the children are always returned to their families!
Another highlight included a stop at Odeonplatz which features the Theatinerkirche. It was unfortunately undergoing renovations during my visit, hence the lack of photos, but you won’t miss it. Seriously, I’m not kidding. You can’t miss the bright mustard yellow Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church) and its Italian high-Baroque style. Next to it you’ll find the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal’s Hall in English), modelled after the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. An interesting thing to note is that the lion facing the government building has its mouth open while the lion facing the church has his closed. This has been said to represent the ideals that you shouldn’t speak against the church, but you can always speak against the government. During the Nazi era, Hitler used this area for SS parades and rallies. Hitler insisted the parades marched through here as it’s traditionally always been an important site for public events. To this day the annual Oktoberfest parade still proceeds down Ludwigstraße to the Feldherrnhalle!
Close by is the Nationaltheater (as you could have guessed, the Munich National Theatre), located in Max-Joseph-Platz. While it is technically it is an opera house and home to the Bavarian State Opera, the King wanted to name it a theatre, so a theatre it is. What the king says, goes! It has suffered a few tragedies over the years as construction was only half-finished before it burnt down in 1817… for the first time.
Afterwards, they changed the design to invert the peak of the roof so it would collect water. Pipes were then attached to create the world’s first sprinkler system. This would have came in handy when the stage caught fire in 1823, however the pipes were frozen since it was winter. As all water sources were frozen solid, they turned to the Hofbräuhaus to use their beer to put out the fire. Unfortunately as the Bavarians love their beer so much, it turned into a ‘one for me, one for the fire, two for me, one for the fire’ sort of situation. It then burned to the ground again while the city had a big block party. However that wasn’t the last time as the Nationaltheater was again destroyed for a third time during a WWII air raid. What stands now is actually the fourth rendition of the building, built in 1963. As you can see, they opted for the peak design again thanks to advancements in sprinkler technologies.
Now onto what Bavaria is REALLY known for… their beer! This is seen on Munich’s Maibaum (or Maypole), a giant pole used to tell travellers way back when what the city was known for – a tradition that dates back to the 16th Century. Munich maibaum is all about beer and features the six local breweries: Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Löwenbrau, Paulainer, Spaten and Hofbräu. You’d think that there would be 6 barrels rather than 7, right? Well the 7th represents the Reinheitsgebot also known as the Purity Law. Enacted fully in 1516, it insisted that in order to truly be considered beer, the only ingredients allowed in production were water, barley and hops.
Despite Augustiner being the oldest brewery in Munich (almost 700 years), I’d say Hofbräu is the most well known because of the famous Hofbräuhaus. Originally only for those of royalty, it is now a top tourist attraction with 35,000 visitors daily. You’ll also see monks all over Munich as it’s the symbol of the city. München is derived from the old German word for monk as the first record of monks brewing beer was in 749. If that doesn’t prove that the people of Munich know their beer, then I don’t know what does!
Your final stop on the Sandeman’s New Europe tour will be the Peterskirche or St Peters Church. A Bavarian Romanesque style church was built at the end of the 12th century, later to be expanded in the Gothic style. Unfortunately the great fire of 1327 destroyed the building, burning it to the ground. Just over 40 years later the church was reconstructed with the addition of the spire’s Renaissance steeple top in the early 17th century. Fast forward to World War II where church was destroyed again.
Munich had a lot of work to do to rebuild the city, and so in 1950 when the first Oktoberfest happened after the war, Augustiner Bräuhaus said all of the money the made selling their beer would go directly towards rebuilding the church. You can tell how much the people of Munich loved that church (and Augustiner) as they actually ran out of beer! And thus Peterskirche was literally built with beer money.
Also, you’ll notice that the Peterskirche’s cross is crooked as it’s facing the side of the church instead of the front. Legend says it was blown off during a big storm. Later monks found it, but being too old to put it back up, thought long and hard on how to find someone to put the cross back on. Naturally they went to the beer halls and found someone to do it for 1L of beer. This man scales the side of the church – beer in hand – and puts the cross back on. While on top of the church he sees a crowd forming below. They were trying to tell him that the cross was crooked, but seeing as he was drunk, he thought they were cheering for him. Not wanting to disappoint the crowd, he chugs his beer and then drops the stein. Despite the fact that it bounces and tumbles all the way down, it doesn’t break. Naturally, this was seen as a miracle and the stein was then declared a holy relic.
SOMETHING TO NOTE: The tour group doesn’t actually go inside the church, though I highly suggest doing so at another time. Depending on your tour’s start time it may be closed as it was for us, meaning a return visit.
And on that note, it’s time to say goodbye to everyone as your Sandeman’s New Europe tour is now complete!
Finish the Night with a Bite and a Beer
Robin and I couldn’t take it anymore – with all this beer talk, we naturally needed to have a Maß ourselves! Before we made our way there though, we stopped for a bite to eat at Haxnbauer. You’ll find Haxnbauer inside the historic Scholastikahaus which dates back to the 14th century. A lot has changed since then as the owners renovated to create the elaborate restaurant you see today.
Recommended to us by a number of friends and family, it’s said to be the place to get Schweinshaxn (pork knuckle) which is a must-eat when in Bavaria. After finding out the knuckles are marinated for a whole day in their top-secret salt-herb mixture and then grilled to perfection. As if reading this wasn’t enough, you can actually see them as you walk by. Talk about a tease! Luckily we were able to sneak in a reservation and boy did it live up to the hype.
With bellies full to the brim, it was time to visit the infamous Hofbräuhaus! As we were visiting during peak season, it was a blur of people as the place was packed. We wandered through the great halls and up the stairs until we could finally find an empty table. After waiting for over 15 minutes of being looked through by waitresses, we were finally able to flag one down. By that point we were already unimpressed with the service for being blatantly ignored, only to find out that the upper floors were for reservations only. Would have been nice if there was a sign that said that! Thanks no thanks Hofbräuhaus!
With that, we decided to head across the street to the Augustiner am Platzl and give them our money instead and I suggest you do the same. There are a number of Augustiner locations in the area which I’m sure would be great, but the Platzl location was definitely fantastic and I recommend it! The Maß there were almost a Euro cheaper with staff much friendlier and more accommodating. We had a great time, although I did learn something very important…
STORY TIME: A litre of beer? It’s heavy as f*ck especially for someone with tiny wrists like myself. While it’s fun to get your photo taken with the big ass beer, after a while the novelty wears off. I legit couldn’t handle holding onto it with one hand anymore so I started using both to help brace the weight of it. WELL. Doesn’t the waiter come over and take my left hand off the Maß, places my right which was cupping the glass so it’s gripping the handle and sternly tells me “You’re making the beer warm” in the thickest German accent I’ve ever heard. Needless to say Robin was crying with laughter and I was on the lookout every time I took a drink for the rest of the night!
With bed calling our names, we called it a night as we planned to do some more exploring the next day before making our way back to Frankfurt.
2ND DAY IN MUNICH :: EXPLORE AND RE-EXPLORE
The fun part about getting the orientation over and done with the first day is that you actually have an idea where everything is for your second day! Plus you can figure out what points of interest in Munich you’d like to truly visit and plan your return!
The Best View of Munich
Lucky for us the weather cleared up and we were greeted with sunny skies for our second day in Munich! Naturally we made our way back to Marienplatz to re-explore the area without the doom and gloom. One of our first stops was Peterskirche so we could head to the lookout. Oh yes, and explore inside the church too… but really I just wanted to go to the top.
While it is free to explore inside the church, it costs €3 per person (€2 if you have a student card!) to ascend the tower. Climbing the Alte Peter may not sound like fun but trust me, it’s worth the money and the 299 stairs you have to tackle for the view. What, did you think there was an elevator or something? You gotta earn that view! I swear it makes the sights even sweeter.
Grab a Bite at the Farmer’s Market
Climbing stairs and enjoying breathtaking sights can really work up an appetite. Luckily Munich’s Viktualienmarkt is close by and awaiting your arrival! If you’re navigationally challenged, head for the maypole and you’ll find it no problem.
The Viktualienmarkt is the oldest market in the city, dating back to the 1800s. Mind you what you see today looks much different than hundreds of years ago! Since it’s humble beginnings, different pavillions for bakeries, butchers, and more have been built. Here you’ll find plenty of fresh eats, handmade goods and more. It’s a great place to get souvenirs or treat yourself to a memento of the city.
This is also a great time to just explore the old town a bit more. Wander the streets, do a little shopping, oogle at dirndls and how badly you want an authentic one but you can’t bear to sacrifice an arm, a leg AND your first born child to afford it. Munich really is a picturesque city and one of my favourite parts about it was just exploring aimlessly so I could take it all in.
Time for a Stroll… and a Beer!
While the beautiful buildings in the old town are breathtaking, Mother Nature’s beauty in the Englischer Garten is just as beautiful in its own way. Spanning over 900 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest urban parks. It’s the perfect spot on a summer day to enjoy the sunshine, to enjoy the fall foliage as the months get cooler and to enjoy the snow when Munich becomes a picture perfect postcard.
Within the park there are a number of attractions to check out. One of these is the Japanese Teahouse, built in 1972 for the Olympics held that year in the city. It was a gift from the head of the Urasenke Tea School in Kyoto to Bavaria. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies take place here quite regularly! Another is the Monopteros, a Greek-style temple perched on a small hill in the garden. While it was originally wooden, the structure you see now was created in 1832 using materials left over from the Munich Royal Residence.
Let’s be honest though, no trip to Munich is complete without a visit to at least one beer garden… and the Englischer Garten is full of them. Find an open table, grab a Maß and a pretzel too if you’re feeling peckish. Then you’ll feel like a true German! If you’re going to go anywhere, I highly suggest the Biergarten am Kleinhesseloher See as it offers some amazing views of the lake!
LOOKING FOR MORE DURING YOUR 2 DAYS IN MUNICH?
This 2 day itinerary is a little on the leisurely side due to uncooperative weather, however there is no shortage of things to do in Munich. If you’re looking to really jam pack your time, here are a few other suggestions including a few I hope to do upon my return! As I mentioned, 2 days in Munich surely isn’t enough, but you’ll have a great time exploring the heart of Bavaria.
Surfing in the City – That garden I was just talking about? Yep, you can actually go surfing on the Eisbach, a manmade river that flows through it. While I can’t surf to save my life, I’d love to go check it out and I’m sure you would too!
Wander Olympia Park – Originally constructed for the 1972 Olympics, this huge complex offers a number of activities to locals and visitors alike. With a pavilion for open-air concerts, rowboats for rent, mini golf and a playground just to name a few of the things, it’s definitely a destination with something for everyone. Don’t forget to take a ride up the Olympic Tower and possibly grab a bite at their revolving restaurant!
Catch an FC Bayern Munich Game – If you didn’t know, Germans love their soccer and Bayern’s infamous soccer team is loved just as much and also hated as they tend to dominate. Hell, they comprise a good chunk of the national team! Head to the Allianz Arena and see them in action… and take me with you.
Experience a Munich Oktoberfest – It is where the tradition started, after all! If you’re brave enough to tackle the crowds, go drink with the best of them but be sure to plan in advance as hotels can book up early.
Learn at the City’s Museums – As with any historic city, naturally there are plenty of museums to explore. I’d say the Deutsches Museum should be top of the list as its one of the oldest science and technology museums in the world!
Travel from Munich to Dachau Concentration Camp – While I’m not a big fan of dark tourism, I’m a firm believer that we need to learn about our past so as to not repeat it in the future. I made the trek out during my first visit to Munich in 2012 and it was the most important place I visited. While it was heavy, heartbreaking and not exactly top of the list for happy memories you want to create on vacation, it’s definitely something everyone should experience. You can take a guided tour or wander around on your own. Also be sure to bring tissues – you will cry. If you don’t, you’re a monster. JK, I’m just a crier.
Explore a Castle in Munich – Everyone knows Germany is just as synonymous with the word castle as it is with the word beer. There are so many castles scattered throughout the country and Munich is home to the Schloss Nymphenburg. Okay, it’s more of a palace than a castle, but its Baroque elegance is worth a visit. If you want to see a real castle though, the drive from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle (yes, the Disney castle!) is only 90 minutes and totally worth it!
Experience the Cheer of a Munich Christmas Market – I’ve only been to one Weihnachtsmarkt and I’m already hooked. There’s just something about the crisp air as you snack on delicious eats and smell the Glühwein spices as they waft your way.
WHERE TO STAY IN MUNICH
Travelling to Munich by car? You may have trouble finding parking (or at least a spot that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to pay for) so both of these hotel recommendations are further outside of the old town core. It was easy to get to the old town (30 minutes or less) via the Ubahn and a day pass is €6,90 or it’s €2,90 for a single ride.
If travelling in via transit sounds lackluster to you, I get it! I would have rather stayed in the heart of the old town too. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than I did and snag a deal below!
So I stayed in two different hotels for the two nights I was in Munich – great for you as you get more information on hotels, annoying for me because it’s a pain to switch. I can’t really complain though as I got my first hotel stay for free with points so it’s as if I got two nights for the price of one.
The first hotel is the Hotel Perlach Allee, located in the Neuperlach district. It’s a no frills hotel with the usual amenities – comfy beds, free WiFi, minibar, free newspaper, etc. Parking is not included but we had no trouble finding a spot on the street for one night a short walk away. While the décor was a bit dated to say the least during my stay (see left), it seems that since then the hotel has now become a part of the Blattl Hotel group and has seen some facelifts (see right). It now also includes a restaurant as well as underground parking for €8. There is also coffee and tea in the common area along with games and tablets you can borrow during your stay. I’m glad they got rid of the terrible red carpet I had to experience! See what other guests have said about the Hotel Perlach Allee.
For our second night, Robin and I stayed at the Arthotel ANA Munich Messe. Also located in Neuperlach, this hotel prides itself on the quirky, artsy design and comfortable amenities. Though I have to say they go above and beyond. You can rent bikes for free to explore the area, there’s a games lounge with will billiards and foosball, a gym and a sauna. Oh… and they actually have good coffee. SCORE. On top of all that, parking is FREE which seems to be almost impossible to find in many German cities. Even the small ones. The only downside is that there’s no air conditioning but that’s par for the course in many European hotels. We had an amazing stay here and would definitely return! I’m sure other guests would say the same.
While Munich is a tourist hotspot, as soon as you step foot inside the city it becomes clear as to why. There is so much history permeating around every corner. With so many things to see in Munich, I hope this post will give you some insight into planning your own Munich itinerary! Ready to hop on a plane and snag your flight to Munich? Check out my tips for finding cheap flights!
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