Having been blessed with the opportunity to work remotely through my current job, I spent the month of June in the charming city that is Munich, Germany. With nights, weekends, and beautiful summer weather at my disposal, I spent long hours wandering about the Bavarian capital in an attempt to hunt down the city’s most prized landmarks while simultaneously searching for the best place to grab a beer.
What I discovered after immersing myself in Munich for four weeks is that this small-ish city is equally jampacked with history and beer. While there are dozens of quaint outposts to drink, dance, dine, and discover, one needs no more than a few days to accomplish all of the above. Below I’ve compiled a list of the absolute must-dos for anyone spending a few days in Munich. It’s not completely comprehensive, but this itinerary gives a glimpse into what life is like here without the influence of Oktoberfest.
But first…where will you be staying?
Innenstadt (Inner City)
Munich’s historical city center is the ideal neighborhood to lodge in for a weekend, as 90% of attractions you’d be interested in seeing are accessible by foot or a (very short) ride on public transit. This centrally-located neighborhood is impeccably clean and filled with treasures such as Marienplatz (Munich’s most important square) and Viktualienmarkt (a lively outdoor market).
More eclectic than Innenstadt, Schwabing was once known for as the bohemian quarter and arts district. It’s sought out predominantly by young people for its restaurants and nightlife. It’s quite nearby some major universities, giving it an even more youthful influence.
Isar River & Englischer Garten
Munich is situated on the banks of the Isar, which runs through Austria as well. It’s notably one of the cleanest urban rivers I’ve ever seen, as the general public goes swimming in it on hot days. The riverbanks act as a sort of makeshift beach where locals and tourists alike pass the time lounging, bike riding, picnicking, and of course, drinking beer. Along parts of the river are secluded trails that are ideal for running and that are so serene you forget you’re in a city.
A tributary of the Isar, the Eisbach is a tiny man-made river that flows through the Englischer Garten. What’s incredible about the Eisbach is that people literally go surfing in it! This is definitely something worth seeing with your own eyes. But, since you won’t be able to do so until you get to Munich, I attached a video below.
Englischer Garten (or simply, English Garden) is a public park that spans a whopping 910 acres and is actually larger than New York City’s Central Park. Within the park are a lake, a beer garden, and cultural landmarks such as Chinesischer Turm (or the “Chinese Tower”). In the summer months you can find locals sunbathing (sometimes just in their underwear), rollerblading, playing lawn games, and (you guessed it) drinking beer. Spending time either in the park or by the river is a truly therapeutic experience and gives off vibes that are uniquely Münchner.
Pretty much every major European city has its draw-dropping palace to boast. Munich is no exception. Originally built in 1385, this royal palace was once the home of the Wittelsbach monarchs. The 130 rooms of the residence are decorated in baroque and rococo styles, each one more stunning than the next.
I would highly recommend purchasing the all-inclusive ticket that also grants you access to the Treasury and Cuvilliés Theatre. The Treasury houses the Wittelsbach family jewels and other prized possessions such as dining sets, weaponry, rare coins and more. Spanning from the Middle Ages to Neo-Classicism (i.e. a one-thousand-year time period), the Treasury is equally awe-inspiring as the palace itself and an absolute must-see. The Cuvilliés Theatre was erected in 1753 and was used primarily for opera performances for the 19th-century elite. Some performances are still held there today.
Worth noting is that much of the palace, treasury, and theater were meticulously reconstructed after they were severely damaged as a result of bombing during World War II. These priceless landmarks were rebuilt so magnificently that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish that they are replicas of the originals.
Hofbräuhaus am Platzl
In case you haven’t heard, Germans like beer. A lot. And Munich-dwellers especially like beer. So much so that they welcome Oktoberfest chaos into their backyard on an annual basis. So, while I can’t definitively say where the best place to have a beer is, there is one place in particular that’s worth your time: Hofbräuhaus am Platzl.
While the current three-story facility was only opened in 1958 after post-war renovations, Hofbräuhaus dates back to 1589 and has survived two world wars, 11 changes in ownership, and a whole lot of ruckus. It carries some serious historical significance, as it’s known for being the outpost where Hitler carried out some of his first Nazi rallies. It’s also been frequented by Mozart, Mikhail Gorbachev, and a handful of American presidents. Besides the beer, this is your go-to place for Bavarian grub…and pretzels!!! Lederhosen is optional.
Gärtnerplatz Quarter: Once known for its LGBTQ scene, this area of the city is considered a “hipster” zone (though it looks pretty mainstream to me). Nonetheless, it’s chock full of quaint clothing stores, bookshops, antique stores and more.
Neuhauser- and Kaufinger Straße: Here you’ll find your familiar Zara, H&M, etc. I only included it because other European exclusively-European chains happen to be some of my favorites.
Bamyan Narges: For Afghani comfort food, look no further. A cross between Persian and Indian cuisines, the flavors here pack a punch. The outpost also offers elegant surroundings at an attainable price point.
Yuyumi: For a casual bite, try this Korean joint. Sample noodle dishes, soups, and the famed Korean BBQ for less than 20 euro! Located on a busy-ish street, it’s also a great spot for outdoor dining and people watching.