Backpacker’s Guide to Munich

405448_2117193291660_1847791963_nExperience Bavaria through its beautiful capital city that wonderfully melds traditional Bavarian life with German innovation and modernity.

The Old City

In the heart of Munich lies Marienplatz, which marks the center of Old Munich. The area surrounding the Marienplatz contains many of the old buildings that have been there since the 14th and 15th century. In addition to the beautiful architecture, the area around Marienplatz is also a destination for shopping. The streets that surround the square are for pedestrians only and offer some of the best on-foot exploration of any area of Munich.

  • Frauenkirche- The “Church of our Dear Lady” dominates the skyline of Old Town Munich with its emerald onion domes. Much of the interior of the church was badly damaged during WWII, but has been restored. The South tower of the church is open for visitors and the top provides a beautiful view of Munich.
  • New City Hall- The New City hall is the imposing building that inhabits the north side of the Marienplatz and contains the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel, which is a massive-scale coo-coo clock that performs its mechanical reenactment of Duke Wilhelm’s marriage each day at 11 AM (Noon and 5 PM during the summer).
  • Viktualienmarkt- This open-air market is a great place to explore German cuisine and to find artisan cheeses, sausages, juices, and many other delicious snacks. The market also houses a biergarten which is a great place to take a break from sightseeing.
  • Hobräuhaus- No trip to Munich is complete without a foray into the Hobräuhaus for at least a quick snack. Although it is undoubtedly a tourist trap, the Hobräuhaus is a vibrant celebration of Bavarian culture. Tourists from around the world flock to the Hobräuhaus. During my experience there, I met people from South Korea, Italy and Argentina. Go for dinner time and sit on the ground floor to enjoy a full brass band play traditional alpine music.
  • Maximilianstrasse- This is one of Munich’s four royal boulevards and is also the swankiest street in Munich. Lining this street are some of the most luxurious stores in Munich: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and Tiffany to name a few. If window shopping isn’t for you, go to Maximilianstrasse to find exotic cars parked along the curb. In the few times I walked down this street, I saw a Ferrari 599, a Lamborghini Gallardo, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom.

The Englischer Garten

One of my favorite parts of Munich was the expansive park that lies north of the city center. The Englischer Garten is one of the largest urban parks in the world and contains several hidden gems for those willing to take the time explore it.

  • Chinese Tower Biergarten- This biergarten is tucked away in the middle of the southern end of the park. The tower is an ideal place to enjoy the beautiful Bavarian summer weather and many afternoons, a traditional Bavarian brass band will play the oom-pah songs of the Alps.
  • Monopteros- The Monopteros is a small roman style temple perched atop a man-made hill. From the Monopteros you can get an uninhibited view of Munich’s skyline. Go around sunset to snap a great picture.
  • Surfing- One of the weirdest experiences of my time in Munich was happening upon surfers riding a wave created by the artificial stream system that runs through the park. I know my explanation won’t do it justice so I linked to a video of the surfing here.
  • Hofgarten- Directly southwest of the Englischer Garten is the Hofgarten which is a beautiful Renaissance garden. On a sunny day, the Hofgarten will be packed with locals enjoying the weather. Adjacent to the garden is the State Chancellery building which is another architectural wonder. In front of the chancellery there is a tomb of an unknown soldier from World War I.

Sites Outside the City

  • BMW Museum- An expansive museum that explores the history of BMW and its automobiles, the BMW-Velt museum is well worth a visit. For a dedicated car enthusiast the museum has enough material to make a day of, for those less auto-inclined it is still an extremely interesting and well-done museum. If seeing the exhibits isn’t enough, for a fee you can take any BMW model out for a spin on the Autobahns of Munich.BMW Museum
  • Olympiapark- Olympiapark is the site of the 1972 Summer Olympic games in Munich and is conveniently very close to the BMW museum. The grounds are open for the public to explore and in the summer the site is converted to a carnival with rides, games, and snack stands.
  • Dachau- The first concentration camp opened in Germany, Dachau is located 10 miles northwest of Munich and is a sobering memorial to the Holocaust. The museum takes visitors through the steps that an incoming prisoner went through and is a truly  moving experience.

These are just a few of the many things that Munich has to offer. Some of the best times I spent in Munich were exploring the city without an agenda and finding the innumerable parks and biergartens within the city. In total, Munich is a great place to take in Bavarian culture, beautiful architecture, friendly people, and modern innovation.