With a few exceptions, I’ve probably spent the more time in Germany than any other country in my travels- and certainly it’s the only country I’ve returned to so repetitively besides my own! For the first few trips, I stuck pretty determinedly to Berlin- first because of the music scene and then because I loved the culture of the city.
On my most recent trip to the country, I wanted to shake things up a bit and headed further South. Well seasoned travelers can imagine the cultural whiplash I received upon arriving in Munich- seemingly Berlin’s opposite in every way.
As the third largest city in Germany and the capital of Bavaria, the city receives an enormous share of visitors due to both its traditional Gothic architecture and its annual Oktoberfest- the original and largest ‘fest in the world. I had the unfortunate timing to have planned my trip right smack in between Oktoberfest and the Christmas Markets, so I saw the trappings of both but truly experienced neither.
Even without these two events, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Munich! Marienplatz, the main square of the city is right out in front of the New Town Hall- Neues Rathaus- and a great starting point for an adventure in Munich- plus the tall Marian Column in the middle of the square makes an excellent meeting point for locating friends.
I now instinctively head to climb the highest point in town and the tower of St. Peter’s Church fit that bill- and for less than five euros! The beginning of the climb was a little claustrophobic and I was rudely reminded that beer does not count towards hydration, but the view from the top was incredible and completely worth it- and I had successfully arrived at the top right as the Glockenspiel clock did it’s thing right across from us! This famous clock consists of thirty-two life-sized figures telling two different 16th century stories lasting around fifteen minutes.
I’m endlessly fond of Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours, so of course I had to check out their Munich tour! While the whole city holds an architectural delight around every corner, I particularly enjoyed the odd little cultural touchstones like the Michael Jackson shrine- freshened up daily by his adoring fan club, and Muncich’s famous Eisbach River wave surfing wave. Just the one. While this wave seems to be somewhat unknown amongst tourists, it’s endlessly popular amongst surfers and locals alike. I saw surfers practicing at all hours of the day- in November, even! The local maps even have little icons of surfers in the area, which I thought was adorable.
Of course, no trip to Munich would be complete without a sampling of the local food and drink! There are six breweries original to the city; Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten-Franziskaner- of which Hofbräu is the most famous. The iconic “HB” logo is a staple on German beers here in the states!
The Hofbräuhaus is definitely worth a visit! It’s one of the most popular breweries in the world, so it’s a good idea to try to avoid peak times. Don’t hold your breath trying to grab a private table, though! Once a spot opens up, feel free to ask the other patrons if you can join them- it’s time to make some new friends!
I also highly recommend having a meal at Ratskeller Munich. This restaurant is actually in the cellar of the Neues Rathaus so its centrally located in the city and its low profile door belies the huge underground restaurant with a thousand seats. This restaurant has gothic style vaulted ceilings and painted murals so its worth a visit even if you’re not hungry. On the other hand, the Kaiserschmarren I had here changed my life so you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to check out their menu.
It’s important to note that Bavaria closes down on Sundays- and they take that very seriously. I had planned to do a little souvenir shopping before my flight home, but there really was nothing open!
While I didn’t have time to check it out on my brief visit, Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace make popular day trips out of the city. I’ll just have to check them out on my next visit!
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