WHY VISIT MUNICH?
With the start of Oktoberfest in Munich happening this weekend, I knew it was finally time to put my guide together to this amazing city. I’ve been to Munich on three occasions, and it remains one of my favorite European cities to visit for a weekend, or to stopover in before heading to ski in the Alps. In addition to being home to some amazing festivals, tasty food & drink (yes, the beer here really is that good), and art, it is the perfect starting point to any trip in southern Germany.
WHERE TO STAY
If you’re keen on staying near Old Town, which you should be if it is your first time in Munich, there’s no better spot than the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski. In close proximity from many of the city’s popular sites, it an ideal home base for days where you plan on exploring the city on foot. My friend and I stayed in one of their Junior Suites, which was a perfect size for us. A formal living room, and massive bathroom gave us enough space to get work done and get ready in the mornings, and unwind without feeling like we were on top of each other at the end of the night. One of the other highlights of the room was our balcony, where we took our breakfast in the mornings.
The lobby is home a tasty afternoon tea, with friendly service. If you’re visiting in the cooler months, it’s a great excuse to warm up mid-afternoon. And, if you’re really hungry, reserving a table for dinner at Schwarzreiter Tagesbar and Restaurant is a power move that you won’t regret.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Hofbräuhaus – Situated in the heart of Munich for ages, this is the world’s most famous tavern that was built over 500 years ago. Notorious for being filled with people from all over the world, mainly tourists, this spot may seem a little overwhelming to the seasoned traveler. However, pull up a seat at one of the shared tables, and you’ll feel like you’re at your neighborhood pub before you know it. This spot is obviously teeming with history; hundreds of personal beer mugs of their regular guests are stored in their world-famous safes in the Schwemme, and around this time of year, many tables are saved for regulars (some tables have belonged to the same group of people for 70 years!)
Brenner – Off Maximilanstraße, this bustling, brasserie-style hot spot offers Mediterranean cuisine, which is a welcome reprieve from the sausages, pretzels, and sauerkraut spilling out of just about every other restaurant in Old Town. Meat and fish dishes are cooked over an open flame, and served with handmade pastas to boot.
Prinz Myshkin – For all of my vegetarian and vegan readers, this restaurant is for you. This is considered the original spot to grab top-tier veg fair in the city, having been opened since the 1980s. This place definitely books up for both lunch and dinner, so be sure to book ahead, especially if meat isn’t an option.
Zephyr Bar – I am unapologetically a gin lover, and a trip to this hangout near the River Isar is perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail or date. Currently, I recommend you order a Jupiter Disco, featuring Sloe Gin (my fave!), or a Hot but Cold with notes of mango and chili. But, the menu changes regularly, so don’t be disappointed if these aren’t on the list. A classic gin fizz is a great way to start the evening if you’re not seeing anything jump off of the menu. If it’s a bit too crowded for you here, trying checking out The High, owned by the same team.
Augustiner-Keller – Grab a crisp lager at this historic institution, which has been pouring brews since 1812. In the warmer months, sitting outside with a few thousand others under the chestnut trees can initially feel a bit daunting, but embracing the beirgarten vibes is part of the fun.
Sophia’s – A great excuse to visit my Rocco Forte family, this chic restaurant lives in The Charles Hotel, next to the Old Botanical Garden in the centre of Munich. Michelin starred chef Michael Hüsken doesn’t disappoint. All the hallmarks of great cuisine are served in a relaxed atmosphere. This spot is perfect for a lunch meeting, or a family dinner. I personally love the space during they day; the high ceilings flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows bring in an abundance of natural light.
WHAT TO DO
Watch the surfers on the Eisbach – For any friends that ask what to do in Munich, I always, always, always recommend checking out the surfers. While this is usually met with initial confusion, I explain that they are surfing on the Eisbach River, not the ocean. Surfers from around the world flock to this spot, not only for its unique location, but also because it is a consistent wave. More days than not, you’ll see
Take in the air at Viktualienmarkt – This outdoor farmer’s market was previously home in Marienplatz, but grew too big and is now assembled on an area covering 22,000 square metres. If you’re looking for a good spot to grab fresh fruit for breakfast in your AirBnb or a snack in the midst of historic sightseeing, this is a good bet.
Channel your inner royal at Residenz Munchen – Featuring Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicist and Historicist styles, this former residence to the monarchs of Bavaria is a history buff’s dream. Much of the residence was destroyed in WWII, and was rebuilt, however, the room pictured above, the Antiquarium, was built in the 16th century and remains the oldest room in the palace. Comfortably, this massive space could hold a couple hundred of the royal family’s guests for dinner and dancing. Note: A visit to the residence can turn out to be pretty time consuming. If you’re the type of person who likes to read every plaque on the wall, give yourself at least half a day to explore.
Smell the roses at the English Garden – With almost 50 miles of jogging/biking paths, this is a great spot for visitors to come and break a sweat in the morning before heading out for their day, or to lay out on a sunny day after grabbing a lager at the beer garden right by Kleinhesseloher Lake.
Explore Marienplatz – Much like any other European city you will visit, there is always a square in the city center. Marienplatz has been the city’s main square since the 1200s, and is a heavily foot-trafficked pedestrian area. While you’re there, be sure to look up and catch The Glockenspiel in action. The figurines depicting Munich’s historical stories twirl at 11AM and 12PM daily, and at 5PM in the warmer months.
Relax at So SPA – If you’re only in Munich for a short period of time, you may not have the ability to fit some time to unwind into your schedule, but if you find yourself in the city for an extended period, a trip to this spa is worth it. After a long day, a session in the sauna and steam bath is the perfect way to re-energize for the rest of your trip.
Do you have any other spots in Munich that I didn’t mention that I need to check out on my next trip? Let me know in the comments below.