Discover art, music, Rococo churches, nude sunbathing and river surfing in the German capital of beer. Here are some classic things to do in Munich.
Things to do in Munich
1- Drink beer at Oktoberfest
Starting from late September, the area at the foot of the statue of Bavaria turns into a raucous toasting ground with sideshows, a Ferris wheel, stalls selling candy floss, gingerbread hearts and roast almonds, balloons, stuffed animals as well as 14 Munich brewery beer halls.
Six and a half million visitors descend upon the Bavarian capital over 16 days.
Munich’s crafty Wittelsbach rulers used the 1810 marriage celebration of Ludwig I of Bavaria to Therese von Saxe-Hildburghausen to generate substantial taxes from the consumption of beer.
According to Munich’s beer regulations – which are the oldest in the world – beer should be brewed using barley, hops and water. Yeast is not mentioned.
Book your Oktoberfest seat early or you might miss out.
2- Have fun at the Hofbrauhaus
If you can’t visit Munich during Oktoberfest, the Hofbrauhaus is the place to go for thigh-slapping fun.
Buxom dirndl-clad Fräuleins glide through the huge festive hall, from table to table, handing out enormous one-litre beer steins while the thigh-slapping, foot-tapping music from the Bavarian brass band raises the fever pitch in the hall.
It’s a cult experience where a hall full of people sway and sing German songs to the band’s happy beat.
It’s so much fun and there’s no shortage of volunteers to conduct the band either.If you’re not convinced, here are more fun reasons to visit the Hofbrauhaus.
You’ll find the Hofbrauhaus at the Platzi in the heart of the Old Town.
3- Surf the Isar River
Although Munich is not a seaside city, keen surfers queue up to surf a the Isar River.
If you head over to the Eisbach arm of the Isar River at the English Gardens – where the river flows out of a tunnel – you will find wetsuit-clad surfers challenging each other’s skills on this fast-flowing professional spot.
It’s one of the coolest things to do in Munich and only strong surfers should attempt it.
The Isar River flows northwards from its source in the Bavarian Alps.
The 373-hectare English Garden is one of the largest city parks in the world. It stretches over 5km along the Isar River. It was built in 1789 by Karl Theodor (Munich’s least popular ruler).
Nude sunbathing is another favoured activity. And when it snows, the cross-country trails are filled with skiers. In summer the beer garden tucked away under the Chinese Tower is never empty.
Parallel to the English Garden, the once-Bohemian suburb of Schwabig now has graceful Jugendstil art nouveau architecture and hip restaurant and bar scene.
4- Explore Asamkirche
This masterpiece of Bavarian Rococo architecture is unassumingly tucked away in the midst of Sendlingerstrasse’s shopping buildings.
Outside the church, you’ll see the statue of St. Nepomuk, a 14th-century monk who performed many noble deeds by helping the poor; unfortunately, he drowned in the Danube.
However, the interior of this small 18th-century church is an elaborate Baroque fantasy adorned with high ceilings, marble columns, frescoes surrounded by rich red stucco and ornately gilded woodwork.
Commonly referred to as the Asamkirche after its builders, it was constructed by the Asam brothers, Cosmas Damian and Egid Quirin.
5- Discover Munich’s galleries
Like many cities throughout Europe, Munich is a rich art city with over 40 galleries and museums.
Munich’s main artistic gems are organised in three Pinakothek Museums. There’s the Old Pinakothek (with its 14th – 18th century paintings by masters Duer, Rembrandt, Rubens and Leonardo Da Vinci) and the New Pinakothek (which displays paintings and sculptures from the 18th and 19th centuries). Then there’s the Pinakothek Moderne, which exhibits contemporary art, paintings and architecture.
You can also gaze at the works from the Blue Rider Expressionist movement represented by Kadinsky, Klee, Marc, Macke and Munter at the Tuscan villa-style Municipal Gallery in the Lenbachhaus building.
The Glyptothek has Ancient Greek & Roman art, while more experimental contemporary art by unknown artists can be found at Aktionsforum Praterinsel.
6- See Nymphenburg and other palaces
While most of the more well-known palaces are in the Bavarian countryside and can be visited on one of these day trips from Munich, the city itself is home to beautiful palaces.
Nymphenburg was the summer residence of the Bavarian monarchs. The gothic-style palace was built by the Wittelsbachs in 1467.
There are a number of palaces at Schleissheim such as Neues Schloss Schleissheim, which was built along the lines of Versailles. It has vaulted frescoed ceilings and lovely grounds.
Schloss Lustheim has a Baroque interior and a precious collection of Meissen porcelain.
In the Residenz Treasury, you will also find crystal, ivory, jade and gold.
Legend has it that a tourist while admiring the shimmering crown of Queen Therese von Bayern in the Residenz Treasury, came up with the well-known phrase ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’.
7- Listen to the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Munich’s concert halls are filled with well-dressed lovers of classical music, who provide the city’s cafes and hotels a sophisticated after-concert atmosphere.
Classical music is a serious affair in Munich with many concert performances, open-air events, operas and symphonies. The city has three major orchestras led by star conductors.
While in Munich, catch a performance of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra at the Philharmonic Hall in the Gasteig Cultural Centre.
8- Wander around Marienplatz
Marienplatz is the charming town square with clockwork figures and a Glockenspiel with 43 bells. The 19th-century Glockenspiel is the main feature of the Neo-Gothic Town Hall building.
You’ll find a fabulous view of the city from the top of Town Hall tower.
The centre of the square was once a vibrant farmer’s market and has a statue of the Virgin Mary.
There’s also a toy museum and the Frauenkirche (Munich’s 15th-century cathedral). Visit Marienplatz on a warm sunny day and join Munich’s residents relaxing in one of the many open-air cafés.
Bicycle tours of Munich usually start from Marienplatz and are an ideal way to explore the rest of the city.
9- Learn something new at Deutsch Museum
You could lose yourself for days wandering around the six floors of the world’s largest technical museum.
Deutsch Museum’s permanent exhibits read like an A-Z of an encyclopedia, featuring everything mankind has ever invented in order to make life easier.
From steam engines to Helios space probes, music instruments to rockets, you will surely find something that fascinates you there.
One of the highlights is the archaeological reconstruction of the famous Altamira cave in northern Spain, which comes complete with replica 15,000-year-old cave paintings.
Two separate exhibition spaces were added for the growing collection; the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum serves as a transport museum and the Flugwerft Schleissheim, once a palace, is an airplane museum.
Where to stay in Munich
10- Live like a celebrity at Hotel Bayerischer Hof
Soak up the atmosphere of Bavarian royal opulence at Hotel Bayerischer Hof. From the smart attire of the guests, it is easy to believe that this is Munich’s best hotel.
The guest list certainly boasts an impressive array of celebrities from politicians to movie stars; Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, The Agha Khan, John Paul Gautier and Britney Spears have all laid their head to rest in the plush rooms of this historic hotel.
Opened in 1841, for King Ludwig I to provide luxurious accommodation for his guests, the hotel has five different styles of décor to choose from.
The 1839 bar in the mirrored hall has been redesigned with steel and glass to provide a stunning contrast to its original heritage interior.
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