Berlin had its time in the spotlight, best known for its alternative style, underground clubs and overall trendy culture, but now Munich is rising up as a top tourist destination. Although the city is best known for Oktoberfest, there’s a lot more to Munich than just beer and pretzels. Bavaria’s capital is an eccentric city with strange quirks and an extensive, fascinating heritage. You can’t possibly see all of Munich in one trip but we’ve tried to make that possible for you with our helpful tips.
1) Getting around
U-Bahn, Marienplatz station — Flickr - PFNKIS
Munich has one of the best transportation systems in Europe. It’s simple to navigate and makes taking day trips to nearby cities and even other European countries really easy. Transportation is always on time and extremely efficient. The U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses will take you anywhere you need to go. Even better, explore the alleys and hidden streets of Munich by foot or bike. Bavarians take cycling very seriously and won’t hesitate to reprimand you if you’re standing or walking in the bike lane.
2) Always be on time
U-Bahn, Candidplatz station — Flickr - Achim Lammerts
Being on time is not a major priority in most southern European cities. Five minutes really means 15 and ‘on my way’ means I haven’t even left yet. In Munich, this is the exact opposite of appropriate behaviour. Your time is no more valuable than anyone else’s and you shouldn’t waste people’s time because of your tardiness. It’s an insult to Germans and is definitely not a bright idea if you have an important business meeting or even if you’re just attending a social gathering. That’s German efficiency for you!
3) A typical breakfast is probably not what you’re thinking
Bavarian white sausage breakfast — Flickr - Timmmmmmm
In Munich, Weisswurste (white sausage), is a breakfast speciality, usually served with sweet mustard and a basket of baked pretzels warm and fresh, straight out of the oven. It may take some getting used to, because of the odd colouring of the sausage and heartiness of the meat first thing in the morning, but it’s definitely something to try one when you’re in Bavaria.
4) Green space everywhere!
Englischer Garten — Flickr - Marcus Ramberg
Throughout Munich, there are patches of luscious green grass, the flowing Isar and towering trees in nooks all over the city. From the Englischer Garten to Olympia Park, nature is woven throughout the city. Especially during the summer months, in which people flock to the green with friends and family for a barbeque, swim or jog.
Chinesischer Turm Biergarten in the Englischer Garten — Flickr - JaBB
In the 19th century, Bavarians were only allowed to brew beer in the winter, and to keep it cool for sale in the summer, they stored it in cellars in shaded areas along the Isar. People would come to sample the beer in the summer and from there on out, King Max Joseph I declared these gardens as spots where beer and food could be sold. Beer is a huge part of the lifestyle in Munich and biergartens make beer drinking even more enjoyable. Biergartens are a great place to let loose on the weekends because they offer relaxed, friendly environments. Be prepared make room at your table for strangers that may actually become your friends by the end of the afternoon. You can bring your own food to have a picnic lunch, but you have to order beer. Try Gutshof Menterschwaige along the banks of the Isar or Seehaus in the Englischer Garten.
Oktoberfest — Flickr - Sean O'Neill
Oktoberfest is Germany’s largest festival, dating back to 1810 when Bavarians celebrated Prince Ludwig’s marriage. Oddly enough, Oktoberfest is actually in September and runs through the first weekend of October. Be sure to visit an authentic Trachten (traditional German attire) store where you can buy a pair of leather Lederhosen, for men, or a Drindl, for women. The beer tents fill up quickly, so it’s wise to get to the tent for a table early in the morning or make a reservation for a large group of four or more people. The tents are colourful and fun with a circus atmosphere. Litre beers are €10 and the waiters and waitresses keep them coming for as long as you are at your table, whether you order them or not.
7) Always look people in the eye when saying “Prost!”
Flickr - ritch97x
Although you may have heard of this superstition before, Germans take it very seriously. Every time you say prost (cheers), which will be countless times if you’re planning on going to Oktoberfest, be sure to look everyone in the eye as you clink glasses or else you and whoever you don’t make eye contact with will have bad luck for seven years. If you don’t do this, the person might think you wish bad fortune upon them.
8) The best time to visit
Schloss Nymphenburg — Flickr - Roland Moriz
If you want to enjoy the biergartens and Munich’s beautiful parks, the best time to visit is from early April to early June, right before the tourist season starts. If you’re looking to come to Munich for Oktoberfest in September, think about going to Fruhlingsfest, which is practically the same, just not as large. Hotels for Oktoberfest need to be booked a year in advance and room rates soar. June is also quite nice as temperatures are not too hot yet and tourism is just starting so it won’t be too overwhelming to sightsee and explore.
9) “Urban Naked Zones”
Monopteros, Englischer Garten — Flickr - LuxTonnerre
This may come as a shock to visitors, especially non-European visitors, so make a mental note of this. In Munich, there are several areas designated as “urban naked zones.” The city has a philosophy of “leben und leben lassen,” meaning live and let live. To each his own, I suppose. So, if one day you go for a stroll in the Englischer Garten, be prepared for anything of the sort.
10) Rich culture
Brandhorst Museum — Flickr - JasonParis
Munich is an epicentre for rich culture, art and history. There’s a museum for every interest under the sun and the history encrusted in the walls and atmosphere of the museums is very powerful. Museums are free on Sundays, so make sure you see as many as you can. Unfortunately, you probably won’t have time to visit all of the museums and famous sites that Munich has to offer in one visit, so make sure you prioritise what you want to see. One thing that is really special to Munich is that no matter where you are in the city, you are surrounded by its intriguing history.