Nestled in the heart of the Bavarian Alps, Munich combines historical elegance with down-to-earth charm. View timeless masterpieces from the world's great painters, take a stroll down one of Europe's best shopping streets, and rub elbows with the locals at a beer garden.
For centuries, Munich has been a major center of art and commerce. You'll find splendid baroque churches in the Old Town neighborhood and masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Vincent van Gogh in the Museum District. The world-famous Maximilianstrasse shopping district has high-end fashion houses like Chanel and Ralph Lauren, and the headquarters of car manufacturer BMW are in the suburbs.
Munich is a very friendly and approachable city. You can sing along with an Oompah band in a crowded beer hall, or, if your taste runs to quieter pursuits, sunbathe in one of Munich's many parks. Plus, you are only a few miles away from some of the highest peaks in the Bavarian Alps.
Munich is an art lover's paradise, and the Museum District is ground zero for great paintings. There are funky art galleries and antiques shops where you can buy copies of old masters on almost every corner, but don't miss the great museums, Alte Pinakothek and Neue Pinakothek, were you can admire works by Goya, Rembrandt, and Albrecht Dürer.
Even if you don't visit during Munich's annual Oktoberfest, there are plenty of opportunities to sample the region's famous beer. The many beer halls scattered throughout the city are a lot of fun, but they can sometimes be overpriced and overcrowded. For a quieter experience, stop by one of the outdoor beer gardens, where you can enjoy a pint and a pretzel in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
Munich's temperate climate makes outdoor living enjoyable almost anytime of year. The city's many parks include the elegant Hofgarten, the former royal grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace, and the laid-back Englischer Garten, where locals unwind on the banks of the Isar River.
Munich makes a great base for an exploration of Bavaria. Must-see attractions include the fairytale spires of the Neuschwanstein Castle in the Allgäu region, and the towering heights of Zugspitze in Upper Bavaria, which has breathtaking views from the summit.
During the 19th century, these temples of culinary grandeur served chocolate, coffee, and gourmet delicacies to Munich's ruling classes. Today, everyday citizens crowd shops like Dallmayr on Dienerstrasse and Käfer-Schänke on Prinzregentenstrasse to enjoy a high-end lunch or to grab a cappuccino before hitting the museums.
The busiest tourist season is autumn when the annual Oktoberfest draws thousands of visitors to wash down sausages and roast chicken with a pint of Bavaria's legendary beer. However, hotels often inflate their prices during this time of year, which means you might pay quadruple rates for a room. Those on a budget should visit Munich during the spring when a variety of much more affordable folk festivals take place such as the Starkbierfest, or Festival of Strong Beer, in March and the traditional celebration of spring, the Maibaumaufstellen, on May 1.
Most international visitors will arrive via Munich Airport (MUC), which is 17 miles northeast of the city. The easiest way to get to central Munich from the airport is via the commuter train system, which runs two lines to Munich Central Station (Hauptbahnhof). The S1 line runs through the northern and western districts, and the S8 line runs to eastern Munich. Trains leaves every 20 minutes, and the price is EUR10.40 for a single ticket, EUR11.70 for a day pass, or EUR21.30 for a family pass. You can also get a Lufthansa-operated bus to the central station for EUR7.50 or take a taxi for around EUR50 per trip.
Munich is well connected by train to the rest of Europe, including two high-speed lines that run between Paris and Strasbourg. Trains arrive at Munich Central Station.
The outer suburbs of Munich are easily accessible by several major highways, including the A8, which runs between Salzburg and Stuttgart, and the east-west route A96, which runs between Lindau and Munich. However, once you arrive in the city, driving is a challenge. There are three highways, called ring roads, that encircle the city, but traffic is often congested.
Traveling to Munich by bus is very convenient, especially if you are coming from another part of Bavaria. Lines like MeinFernBus, IC Bus, DeinBus and more reach Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof or ZOB and operate locally and internationally. The only bus lines that operate at the Munich Airport are the Lufthansa-operated buses. Those buses will take you to Munich Central Station.
If you are looking for traditional charm try the Bayerischer Hof on Promenadeplatz. This Michelin-starred hotel in a 19th-century palace offers a rooftop pool and lounge, a private cinema, and historic paintings. For authentic Bavarian charm, stay at the Gästehaus am Englischer Garten, which has cozy rooms next to the famous park. Hotel Daniel on Sonnenstrasse is an affordable option for families with children that is conveniently located in the city center. Single travelers will find good value at Hotel Pension am Siegestor on Akademiestrasse.
Old Town - this historic district in central Munich houses many of the city's cultural and artistic treasures. Explore the splendid Baroque palace, the Munich Residenz, tour the magnificent gold-ornamented cathedral, Asamkirche, and visit Munich's oldest pub, the Augustiner-Bräu.
Schwabing - this northern neighborhood is the home of Munich's intelligentsia. The area around the University of Munich has a scholarly vibe with students visiting art galleries and used bookshops and hanging out in cafes.
Olympiagelände - there's a lot to see in this suburb, including the 1972 Olympic stadium - don't miss the view from top of the Olympic Tower - and the futuristic BMW headquarters, which are shaped like four cylinder heads.
Munich has a fast and efficient public transportation service with a commuter train, a subway, and tram lines operating throughout the city. One ticket is good for all three forms of transportation, but you must have your ticket stamped at a validation machine before you can use it. The cost is EUR6 for a one-day pass to ride through central Munich or EUR8.60 for the entire city. A good deal for tourists is the City Tour Card. For EUR31.50, you get a three-day transportation pass and discounts on museum admission, shopping, and food.
Taxis in Munich are beige cars with yellow and black signs on the roof. The cost is a flat-rate of EUR3.30, plus an additional per mile charge of EUR1.70 for up to five miles, EUR1.50 for five to 10 miles, and EUR1.30 for more than 10 miles.
Driving is not recommended in Munich. Most of the Old Town has been converted into a pedestrian zone, and there is extremely limited parking. However, a rental car is a good option if you are planning a day trip into the Alps. The prices are extremely affordable, starting at around EUR17 per day, and there are a large number of both international and local car rental companies scattered throughout the region.
For high-end luxury items, head to the Maximilianstrasse shopping district in the Old Town. Here you'll find boutiques from all of Europe's major fashion houses, trendy art galleries, and traditional souvenirs. Those in the market for secondhand items can visit one of Munich's many flea markets. The weekly Olympia Park market is a good option at any time of year, but, if you want to get antiques at good prices, mark your calendar for the biannual Theresienwiese, which is the largest flea market in Europe.
American-style supermarkets can be a bit hard to find in Munich - most residents prefer to shop at specialty stores and open-air food markets - but the discount grocery chains Aldi and Lidi are a good option if you need to buy the basic necessities. The prices are comparable to American discount chains, with milk costing EUR3 and eggs EUR2.
Munich is known as the gourmet capital of Germany. There are dozens of fine-dining restaurants throughout the city, but if you are looking for cutting-edge cuisine, visit Tantris on Johann-Fichte-Strasse for the roast lamb filets served with white asparagus and orange hollandaise. For an authentic beer hall experience head to the Hofbräuhaus on Platzl 9 where you can grab a pint and a pretzel while listening to the pounding rhythms of an Oompah band. There is also a good quality restaurant in the upper floor of the building. Traditional Bavarian restaurants like Bratwurstherzl on Dreifaltigkeitsplatz have more affordable fare. You can nosh on a grilled pork knuckle with noodles and potato salad for around EUR25.