Discover fairytale castles, spectacular super soccer stadia and Bavarian Baroque in our top 10 guide to marvelous Munich.
Picking just 10 things to do in Munich isn’t easy. This is a city with a long history, one that’s seen the rise and fall of dynasties and experienced a turbulent 20th century.
It’s a place full of Bavarian splendor that sits alongside tell-tale influences from other cultures, while also being home to a new breed of architects, artists and creatives. There’s so much to see and do in Munich beyond this top 10, but this is the perfect place to start.
Yes, you’re in Germany, but why not join the Munchner in a park inspired by the green open spaces of England? The Englischer Garten – or English Garden – is one of Europe’s largest urban parks, dwarfing even Central Park in New York.
Explore nearly 50 miles of paths on foot, take in magnificent flower gardens, an 18th century Chinese Tower, Japanese Tea garden and a Greek temple known as the Monopteros.
It’s also worth looking out for the flocks of local sheep that mow the grass for free and, this being Germany, be prepared for nude sunbathers.
A fairytale castle
It’s worth taking time to make a trip out of the city to experience one of Bavaria’s most popular attractions. Neuschwantstein Castle is the kind of castle you dream about – the type you expect a fairytale princess to call home.
Construction started in 1869 and the ornate castle, built in a Romanesque Revival style, was intended to be the home of King Ludwig II. Shortly after his death in 1886 it was opened to the public and has since become one of the most visited and photographed castles in the world.
Conceived as a tribute to German composer Richard Wagner, the name translates as ‘New Swan Castle’ – a reference to Wagner’s character The Swan Knight.
Spend time in the center of Munich and you’ll find yourself crossing the main square time and time again. Marienplatz, located at the very heart of the city, is a central hub that appeals on a number of fronts.
The Glockenspiel, a motorized cuckoo clock, puts on a charming 12-minute performance three times a day, while the contrasting Gothic 19th century New Town Hall and its predecessor the 14th century Old Town Hall are worth a visit, not least for their amazing rooftop views.
Other points of interest are the Mariensaule – the column of St Mary – and a buzzy collection of cafes where you can recharge with coffee and cake (a German specialty) while taking in the sights and sounds around you.
With the occasional challenge from the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Munich’s very own soccer team Bayern have ruled the domestic league over the last decade. In fact, they’re the most successful German team ever and have even won the prestigious European Champion’s League five times.
They play at the impressive Allianz Arena, which is worth a visit even if you’re not a fan of the sport. Check out the unique walls of the stadium – they’re actually inflatable cushions that change color depending on which team is playing. Book a 75-minute tour to get a unique insight into one of the world’s most original sports stadiums.
Castle of the Nymph
In the mood for a bit more Baroque ‘n’ roll? The Schloss Nymphenburg, or Castle of the Nymph, dates back to 1664 and was once home to Bavaria’s rulers. The original inhabitant enjoyed the enviable name of the Electress Adelaide of Savoy. While it’s no longer a royal residence, a descendant, Franz Duke of Bavaria, still keeps a place here.
Join the tour, a riot of billowing rooms, ornate frescoes, elaborate décor, and an impressive collection of coaches and sleighs. A nearby park is a popular socializing space enjoyed by the locals, with many points of interest including the Amalienburg hunting lodge.
Germany is a real powerhouse in European car manufacture, and few brands have as prestigious a reputation as BMW. The marque’s heritage is celebrated at the BMW Museum, affectionately nicknamed the Salad Bowl.
Located near the Olympic Park, it’s a serene place designed with calm efficiency. Exhibits are interactive, informative and essential for car lovers young and old.
While Ludwig II didn’t live to see the completion of Neuschwantstein, he did oversee the finishing touches to the Linderhof Palace in 1878. The façade is Baroque, the interior Rococo and incredibly ornate. You’ll find it difficult to locate one square inch that hasn’t been decorated with sumptuous detail.
Take a tour to see the Hall of Mirrors, the ostrich plume carpet, the dining room complete with dumb-waiter and Meissen porcelain console tables. Legend has it that servants had to lay the dining room for four guests even when Ludwig dined alone, so that he could chat to imaginary guests including Marie Antoinette.
Spend some time in the serene landscaped gardens while you let everything soak in.
The Viktualienmarkt is the finest of all of Munich’s markets, a thriving and lively outdoor spot in the Altstadt – or Old Town. Grab local specialties here, as well as fruit, fresh bread and honey. It’s the ideal place to throw yourself into the world of German sausages, with a huge variety on offer.
Visit from November to the end of December when it gets a festive makeover to be transformed into Alpenwahn, a bustling Christmas market.
The incredible Asam Church – Asamkirche – was built in 1746 by two brothers, Egid and Cosmas Asam. One sculpted, the other painted, and together they packed the tiny chapel with Late Baroque touches that were their attempts at salvation not just for themselves but for Munich too.
The Life of Saint Nepomuk ceiling fresco is worth the visit alone, but the two brothers left no corner undecorated. Perhaps that’s hardly surprising, given they lived next door – making this essentially their own private chapel.
Roam the Residenz
The largest city palace in Germany, the Residenz is a huge undertaking for any visitor. Life is made somewhat easier as only 90 rooms are open to the public at any time, and it’s fascinating to see how the building changed from 14th century castle to royal palace.
Much of the ceiling was reconstructed after WWII bomb damage, but the Renaissance interior of the Antiquarium and Perseus fountain are intact. If you’re short of time in Munich, make this one of the first places you visit – it’s the city’s history in a nutshell.
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