Things to Do in Munich
Located at the western entrance to the exquisite Hofgarten gardens, the Odeonsplatz is one of central Munich’s largest public squares, notable for its distinct Italian-style architecture. Taking its name from the 19th century Odeon Concert Hall that once stood at the head of the square (the remains of the building now form part of a government office block), the space still retains its creative streak, hosting a number of annual concerts, parades and city celebrations. At the top of the list is the Odeonsplatz Classical Evening, a grand open-air event held each July and drawing crowds of over 16,000 to watch performances by the prestigious Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and other world renowned classical acts.
Even if you don’t catch the square at its most atmospheric, the Odeonsplatz still offers a dramatic starting point to city walking tours.
The former court garden of the Residenz Palace, Munich’s Hofgarten was originally laid out in 1613, characterized by its mulberry tree-lined walkways, ornamental fountains and fruit orchard. A large portion of the formal gardens were restored or redesigned post-WWII, but the central pavilion survived, a domed temple designed by Heinrich Schön the Elder in 1615 and topped with a bronze figure of Tellus Bavarica, the symbol of Bavaria.
Today, the Hofgarten remains one of the city’s most tranquil spots, providing welcome respite from the sightseeing trail and making a popular picnic spot for both locals and tourists. Flanked by 19th century arched arcades, the garden retains much of its Italian Renaissance style, with colorful flowerbeds, manicured lawns and painstakingly restored water features.
The former royal palace of the Bavarian monarch, the Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is open to visitors to see its spectacularly adorned rooms and royal collections. The complex of buildings in the Munich Residenz contains 10 courtyards and the museum displays 130 rooms. The three main parts of the Residenz are the Königsbau, the Alte Residenz, and the Festsaalbau, which is also home to the Cuvillies Theatre.
Get a feel for palace life in the Residenz museum which features the collections of porcelain, silver, paintings, and classical antiquities amassed by the Wittelsbach monarchs. The Antiquarium's Renaissance collections is especially breath-taking. Step outside the elaborately decorated rooms to the beautiful Court Garden or check out the Treasury (Schatzkammer) for a display of the royal jewels, gold objects, and ivory.
Munich’s gigantic Deutsches Museum is the kind of museum that begs for multiple visits and as one of the world’s largest science and technology museums, you could easily spend an entire weekend taking in its vast permanent collection. Opening its doors in 1925, the museum sits on a specially constructed river island, reached by bridge from the mainland.
Famous for its interactive exhibitions, inventive displays and impressive collection of artifacts, the Deutsches Museum succeeds in its quest to make science fun and accessible to all ages and interests. Exhibitions cover topics like transport, communication, energy and natural science, with interactive elements including a series of giant musical instruments to play, model coal and salt mines, glass-blowing and paper-making demonstrations and an authentic space laboratory. There’s even a Kid’s Kingdom, where a child-sized mouse wheel and a real fire engine will keep the kids entertained.
Feldherrnhalle, or Field Marshals' Hall, is a monument in Munich that was built between 1841 and 1844. It was built in an Italian style and modeled after the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. It is located on Odeonsplatz at the former site of one of the city's main gates, Schwabinger Tor. The monument was built as a tribute to the Bavarian army that fought in the Franco-Prussian War and features bronze statues of some of the most important generals of Bavaria. In addition there are two lions on the steps. One is growling towards the Residenz Palace, the other is keeping its mouth shut towards the church.
In 1923, Hitler supporters began an illegal march down Ludwigstrasse towards Feldherrnhalle to start a people's revolution against the Bavarian state. Police ordered them to stop, and when they did not, the police opened fire killing 16 marchers as well as four police officers. Hitler was arrested and served a short term in prison.
When thinking of places to go surfing, Germany's landlocked city of Munich is probably not the first to come to mind. But interestingly enough, surfers have been riding the waves in the city's Isar River since the 1970s.
A man-made arm of the Isar, the Eisbach (German for 'ice brook') flows for 1.25 miles (2 km) through a large city park known as the English Garden (Englischer Garten). Just past the bridge near the House of the Arts (Haus der Kunst) art museum, the Eisbach forms a standing wave of over three feet (1 meter). Surfers have rigged the wave by building a system of ropes and planks to channel it into something so surfable, it's home to an annual surfing competition and has hosted world-class surf legends such as Kelly Slater and Jack Johnson. Travelers visiting in summer can see surfers queued up waiting patiently for their turn to shred.
The House of the Arts, or Haus der Kunst in German, is an art museum in Munich that was originally founded by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1937. It originally housed Hitler's vision of what great German art was, and the exhibits were folk art displaying Nazi ideals. The museum's purpose has changed several times since the end of World War II, but since 2003 the museum has been dedicated almost exclusively to contemporary art. The Archive Gallery, the museum's permanent exhibition, displays art, photography, and other items that explore the museum's turbulent history.
Other exhibitions in the museum come from contemporary artists whose works include painting, drawing, photography, video, installations and more. Aside from the exhibitions, the museum also focuses on education and research. The House of the Arts holds special events, kids' and youth programs, and tours.
Königsplatz was initially built to serve the urban notions of King Ludwig I, who wished to integrate culture, administration, Christianity and Bavarian military in one massive green space. The king opted for a European Neoclassic style based on the Acropolis in Athens. He even had two museums built in the same style; first was the Glyptothek, where he could house his sprawling collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and second, the Bavarian State Collection of Antiques, which contains Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts. King Ludwig I also commissioned the Propylaea, an imposing and austere gate which served as a memorial to his son, the Bavarian prince Otto of Greece.
Despite this architectural and urban prowess, the square is now infamous for being the place where the Nazi party held marches and mass rallies during the Holocaust. In fact, the national headquarters of the Nazi party, the Brown House, was located on Brienner Straße just off the square.
More Things to Do in Munich
Enclosing Munich's central square Marienplatz, the Old Town Hall, Altes Rathaus in German, serves as the center for city council activity for the historic city. The Old Town Hall is also known for its architechture style change from Baroque to Gothic after the structure was bombed during World War II.
The interior is a masterpiece of medieval design with golden stairs, decorated beams, and a frieze of Munich's multiple coats of arms. The Grand Hall is decorated with the figures of Erasmus Grasser's Marisco Dancers. The tower of the Old Town Hall is now home to the Toy museum, a childhood collection by Ivan Steiger.
Where can you find the best gourmet Bavarian delights? Munich's Victuals Market, Viktualienmarkt in German, is the place to find exotic fruits, fresh vegetables, artisan cheeses, delicious hams, honey, and truffles.
Many of the market stalls in the Viktualienmarkt have been family-run for generations, and although the gourmet food featured here also means gourmet prices, you would be hard pressed to find better quality culinary delicacies. While in Munich, the Viktualienmarkt is the best place to shop for delicious Bavarian food to make for a picnic lunch at a nearby park.
The Jewish Museum in Munich, inaugurated in 2007, is dedicated to the city’s long Jewish history and is part of the massive Jewish Center on Sankt-Jakobs-Platz. This includes a synagogue, a community center, an elementary school, an auditorium, and a kosher restaurant. The center’s first stone was laid on November 9th 2003, exactly 65 years after the somber November devastation that had Munich’s synagogues systematically torn down during the Holocaust – in fact, the actual synagogue stands over the remains of a previous synagogue. The current architecture of the center is governed by two famous forms in Judaism, namely the temple and the tent; all buildings are connected to each other through a network of inviting public passageways. The museum itself houses temporary and permanent exhibitions across three floors and aims to provide an overview of the local Jewish history and the diversity of the Jewish identity.
Which landmark particularly stands out in Munich's skyline? That would be the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady or Frauenkirche, the church featuring two onion-shaped domes on top of twin towers that reach 99 meters (325 feet). But it's not just the church's architecture that makes it stand out, by law no other tower can be taller or obstruct the view of this symbolic Bavarian building.
Near the entrance of the catherdal is the famous "devil's footprint". According to legend, the devil stomped his foot at this spot when he thought the architect had forgotten to put any windows in the church, before realizing the illusion. Enjoy panoramic views from the south tower and the art of Erasmus Grasser, Jan Polack, and Hans Krumpper that decorate the interior of Frauenkirche.
The oldest church in Munich, St. Peter's Church, or Peterskirche, is a Roman Catholic establishment built in the 12th century in the Bavarian Romanesque style. The interior of the church features the magnificent Mariahilf-Altar, Gothic paintings & sculptures, and a ceiling fresco. But even these beautiful works of art can't top the bizarre gem-studded skeleton of St. Mundita, who stares at visitors with false eyes and jewelled teeth.
From the spire of "Old Peter", as the church is known to the locals, are spectacular views of the oldest part of Munich. Remember to check the colored rings at the bottom, a white ring means the Alps are visible, making the hike to the top even more worthwhile. Although the spire was almost completely destroyed during World War II, it was fully restored with the traditional architecture.
The Bavarian State Opera is one of the world’s leading opera houses, with over 400 performances and 600,000 visitors yearly. Its history spans over three centuries and helped shape Munich as we know it today, a culture-savvy metropolis with unparalleled elegance and flair. Thanks to a controversial yet deep friendship with King Ludwig II, Richard Wagner himself premiered many of his music dramas (including The Valkyrie, The Master-Singers of Nuremberg, The Fairies, The Rhinegold, and Tristan and Isolde) at the Bavarian State Opera, which at the time – and arguably still is to this day – was considered the limelight of music in Europe. Nowadays, over 30 different operas, recitals, ballets, and concerts are staged every season in the splendid original Rococo Cuvilliés-Theater, the largest of its kind in Germany and perhaps the most spectacular in all of Europe. This is also where the Munich Opera Festival, the most important and acclaimed opera festival in the world, takes places.
An art museum in the Kunstareal district, the Old Pinakothek, or Alte Pinakothek, is one of the oldest galleries in the world. It houses famous collections of the old master paintings from the 14th through 18th centuries. More then 800 works from the premier European painters, German, Italian, and Dutch alike, are all on display in the galleries. One gallery was specifically designed to showcase Rubens's masterpiece, Last Judgment - one of the largest canvases ever painted.
Explore the development of painting from the Middle Ages to the Rococo era, compare artistic styles, or simply admire the masterpieces at the Alte Pinakothek. This museum boasts quite an impressive list of artists under its roof, from Dürer to Raphael, Botticelli to Titian, and Rembrandt to Velasquez, the Alte Pinakothek could have an art history book devoted entirely to its vast collection.
Housed in a futuristic mirrored building as fashion-forward as its cars, automobile pioneers BMW take the spotlight at Munich’s BMW Museum, located at the company headquarters near Olympic Park. Whether you’re an auto enthusiast or just looking to get your photo taken beside a slick sports car, you can’t fail to be impressed by the museum’s vast display of cars and motorcycles.
Everything from vintage Rolls-Royce Motors and classic MINIs to recent models like the BMW 850, are showcased in the adjourning BMW Welt – the bowl-like side building that houses the museum’s extensive car collection. Highlights include a 1928 Dixie car, the BMW 328 that won the historic Italian Mille Magalia race in 1940 and a rare 1974 BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’.
In the museum itself, BMW devotees get an insight into the company’s evolution, with a series of interactive exhibitions detailing the history of the brand and chronicling their 90 years of automobile design and production.
Home to the city’s two leading football teams, FC Bayern and TSV 1860, Munich’s Allianz Arena is one of Germany’s largest and most iconic sports stadiums. The award winning building, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, was created as a vision of the future and its unique appearance has been likened to a giant inflatable boat or a huge white car tire. Most spectacular is its extraordinary façade, crafted from illuminated air cushions that change color to reflect the team in residence and create a striking visual in the night sky.
The 66,000-seat stadium opened in 2005 and quickly earned itself acclaim within the international football community, hosting events like the 2006 World Cup Opening Ceremony, the 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-finals and the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. As well as attending home games and international matches at the stadium, fans can also tour the arena, gaining access to the dressing rooms and Players’ tunnel.
Housed in the oldest town house in Munich, the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum features permanent exhibitions on topics ranging from the history of beer to the Bavarian monks’ purity laws and the unique quality of Munich’s beer. As for the story of Oktoberfest, on the upper floor of the museum you’ll learn about its beginnings as a national festival for the 1810 wedding of King Luis to Princess Teresa, right through to today’s celebration — it’s the largest beer festival in the world attended by some 6 million people every year.
You’ll see photos and illustrations, exhibits of brewery and beer-related memorabilia, including original beer mugs from the early years of Oktoberfest. A 12-minute documentary on the evolution of Bavarian beer-making also plays in the small cinema. And as you make your way round the exhibits, check out the building’s original wooden beam and restored murals — they date all the way back to 1340.
Home to the Summer Olympic Games in 1972, Munich's vast Olympiapark is now an international events center, sports venue, and recreational park. In addition to the facilities used for the games, Olympiapark was updated in 2003 to included the Olympic Walk of Stars, modeled after the Hollywood version. A popular concert venue, the park also hosts the Super-Cross Cup, Holiday on Ice, and other seasonal events and festivals.
Outdoor adventurists will love climbing the roof of the Olympic stadium, abseiling on a zipline from the tent roof of the stadium to the lawn 40 meters (130 feet) below, and the newest adrenaline rush: the Flying Fox. The Olympic Tower is also the highest rock museum in the world, with tmons of meorabilia. The Sea Life aquarium gives visitors an educational and entertaining experience about water cycle and sea creatures.
Oktoberfest is possibly the world’s most famous beer festival, taking place in fall in Munich, Germany. Around one million partygoers pour into the city between mid-September and the first Sunday in October for 2.5 weeks of serious carousing and drinking; the epicenter of the merrymaking is Theresienwiese (‘Wiesn’ for short) festival ground just to the west of the Altstadt (Old Town). Here local Bavarian breweries sponsor 14 gaily decorated tents – each accommodating up to 6,000 beery revelers – with their own theme and local beer to sample in one-liter (2.2-pint) glass steins. As the hours pass by, the vibe ramps up and singing and dancing become the order of the day.
But Oktoberfest is not just for drinkers; there are fairgrounds for kids, costumed parades through the streets, an abundance of Bavarian folk costumes – dirndl skirts and leather shorts – to be admired, brass-band concerts and horse-and-trap rides.
Schwabing, as Munich’s traditionally bohemian neighborhood, is quite different from what is otherwise a rather glitzy, snob city. It bred a generation of counter‐culture German litterateurs and painters like Ludwig Ganghofer and Oskar Maria Graf and attracted household names like Kandinsky and Lenin in the 19th century – and although it is not so alternative anymore, it still has an “outsider” atmosphere not unlike Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg or London’s Shoreditch that is undeniably attractive. Sprawling from the English Garden on its southern end to the Allianz Arena far up north, and through Germany’s largest university, this little quirky slice of Munich is now the cosmopolitan stomping grounds of art students and fashion bloggers. It is bursting at the seams with gentrified shops and condos, hip boutiques, and pop‐up restaurants that the cool kids all lust after, although it does retain a charming je‐ne‐sais‐quoi with its colorful facades and historic thoroughfares.
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