Uncover the very best of Bavaria with this guide to how to spend three amazing days exploring Munich and beyond – from charming Marienplatz cafés to fairytale castles.
Munich’s many charms mean it can be difficult to decide what to see first. So we’ve done the hard work for you to pull together the perfect three-day itinerary, one that takes in everything from fairytale castles to the city’s finest food spots.
Day One – Marienplatz and museums
Ease yourself into an action-packed first day at one of the dozens of cafés near Marienplatz, the very center of Munich’s Aldstadt, or Old Town.
There might be better options off the beaten path, but sometimes it’s good to join the throng and soak up the atmosphere before you hit the trail. Café Glockenspiel is a good option to sit back and enjoy the German favorite of ‘kaffee und kuchen’ (coffee and cake) – it also comes with great views of the square.
St. Mary’s Column dominates Marienplatz and gives the place its name. It marks the center of Bavaria and has stood here since 1638 when it was erected my Maximilian I.
The New and Old Town Hall – known as the ‘Rathaus’ – are both here, the former boasting the famous Glockenspiel that performs several times daily to a rapt audience.
If you’d rather look down on the world than up at it, you can climb the 280-feet tower at the New Town Hall or to the top of the Church of St. Peter.
If you’re planning a picnic, stock up on fine local food at the Viktualienmarkt. Cured sausage, hams and cheeses, herbs, cakes and pastries are available here, while the venue transforms itself into an atmospheric Christmas market in November and December.
Munich also lays on three museums that cater for most tastes in art. The trio of Pinakothek museums are in the Maxvorstadt area, close to the Altstadt. Made up of the Moderne, Neue and Alte museums, they all have different specialties. Choose the one for you or dip quickly into all three for a whirlwind tour of art from the past five centuries.
Bring your first day to a fitting end with some real hearty Bavarian food. You can find serviceable sausages and sauerkraut at any one of the many bierkeller in the city, but head to the lively Augustiner Braustuben on Landsberger Strasse for the real deal.
The pork knuckle with cabbage, Bavarian duck with gravy and boiled beef shoulder with potatoes will give you a true taste of the region’s cuisine.
Day Two – The urban garden
Whether you’re in Munich in spring, summer, fall or winter, the changing landscape of the English Garden is a sheer delight. Start your second day in Munich by filling your lungs with fresh air in one the world’s largest urban parks – bigger even than New York’s Central Park.
It’s vast enough to need multiple visits to master, especially with over 50 miles of path, but there are a few highlights you should try and see. The stunning Monopteros Temple, the sunbathing lawn, the Chinese Tower and the Kleinhesseloher See lake with its paddle boats all need to be on your agenda.
If the weather isn’t perfect for the park, tour the Schloss Nymphenburg. Built in the 17th century for the Bavarian bigwigs, much of the current Baroque architecture is from the early 18th, as is the Amalienburg hunting lodge in the grounds.
View the Gallery of Beauties – quite simply full of paintings of women from the local area who King Ludwig I liked the look of. The manicured lawns, lakes and outdoor features are also captivating.
The House of Wittelsbach ran Bavaria as electors, dukes and, eventually, kings, and you can trace that history at the huge Residenz Museum. With Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance elements, it’s a dizzyingly lavish affair, with heavily decorated walls, ceilings and passages.
You’ll find breweries are everywhere in Munich, although at Prinz Myshkin (named after the central character in Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot) an old one has been converted into one of the city’s leading vegetarian restaurants.
It’s a stylish but informal place that runs the gamut of pasta and Indian dishes, pizza and more. Don’t skip the baked zucchini flowers, filled with ricotta and dipped in tempura dough.
Day Three – A fairytale ending
Before heading out of Munich for the day, take your time over a great brunch at the relaxed Kaisergarten on Kaiserstrasse. Go traditional or local, with the local butcher’s white sausages with sweet mustard a definite highlight.
From here you’ll be heading a couple of hours out of Munich to Schwangau see a castle that has drawn visitors and admirers from all over the world. Neuschwanstein inspired Walt Disney when he was designing Cinderella’s castle (and that of Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland) and the influence is writ large.
It’s like something made of icing, perched precipitously on a mountain draped in clouds and mist. Ludwig II designed it, but died before its completion. The authorities responded by finishing it and almost immediately opening it to the public. It does get very busy, especially in the peak summer months, so it’s best to arrive either very early or when the crowds start to thin out after 3pm. Also to the south-west of Munich is the Linderhof Palace, another Ludwig II creation, but one he actually saw completed. Most of the existing work here is from the late 19th century and is heavily influenced by the Palace of Versailles in France.
The gardens hold as much intrigue as the palace’s interior, with a pavilion, Moroccan house and intricate landscapes. It’s a fitting way to end your trip before heading back to Munich – a place that perfectly captures the illustrious history of Bavaria.
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