Arriving in a new city and being eager to explore, although exciting, can be daunting, and the deluge of advice online is a little overwhelming. So, I’m here not just to add to this overload, but hopefully to debunk a few myths and add a little extra spice.
The most highly recommended thing to do in Munich is the glockenspiel in the Rathaus (town hall) in Marienplatz, at 11am and 12pm every day. Whilst mildly impressive that it still works after several centuries, the performance itself is rather underwhelming, and I’d say there are dozens of far more exciting things to do in this amazing city than to watch tiny figures twirl to tinny music. If you really want to see the glockenspiel do its thing though, climb St Peter’s Church opposite and watch it from there. The views of the city skyline are incredible – on a good day, you can even see to the Alps – so even if the glockenspiel isn’t your piece of cake, there’s no doubt that the views will be. Bring water though – the climb through the Pretty Little Liars-esque bell-tower is no joke.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Munich between the end November and the end of the year, then you’re undoubtedly here for the Christmas markets, and rightly so. The streets are packed to the brim with elegantly decorated, traditional German stalls. My favourite is the Residenz Weihnachtsdorf (Palace Christmas Village), tucked away in a palace courtyard. Not only do they do the best chocolate-covered fruit around, but they also feature a row of huts housing Germany’s favourite fairytales and Christmas scenes. There’s nothing better to get you in the festive spirit.
If you’re visiting outside the depths of winter, never fear: you may have missed the markets, but you’re right on time for some gorgeous natural beauty. Munich is surrounded by the renowned Bavarian lakes, and when the weather is warm enough, you can even swim in them. Alpine forests and even the mountains themselves at some point surround the stunningly clear waters. And if you don’t have the time to make the forty minute journey out of the city, then head to the English Gardens, where the River Isar is also available to swim in, and there’s even the Eisbaden where you can surf, if you dare to brave the churning waves. Beware though – when the sun is out, there always seems to be an inexplicable number of nude sunbathers.
If you’re a cultured traveller seeking some intelligent entertainment, the three Pinakotheks are where it’s at. Just €1 each on Sundays, you can choose between old (Middle Ages to the Renaissance), new (18-19th Century), or modern art. The Deutsches Museum is probably worth giving a miss though – although compared to London’s Natural History Museum, it turns out it’s largely just signs to read and not a lot of interesting or interactive exhibits.
Aside from these experiences, the unmissable sights to see are undoubtedly Marienplatz, surrounded by great shopping streets for every price bracket, Odeonsplatz, with the Fraunkirche and the Residenz onhand, and Sendlinger Tor, the oldest of the original gates into the city. These are all within walking distance of each other and the gorgeous architecture on the streets linking them means there’s never a dull moment.
If you have a spare hour, take the U6 out to my personal favourite spot in the city: Westpark. Although smaller than the English Garden, it’s packed to the brim with plants and Asian-style buidlings, spots to relax by the clear lake, and its very own Biergarten. In winter or summer, it’s easily the best place for a walk, and a chance to see a spot outside of the city centre, away from the standard tourist routes.
Photos: Rachael Davies.