Munich Travel Guide: Explore the City’s Best Kept Secrets

Where does one even begin when talking about Munich? As an American whose significant other is stationed near Munich, I’ve had the unique privilege of experiencing Munich as a semi-local.

I’ve found the city to be exceptionally welcoming to Americans. I’ve experienced Munich being one of the “easiest” cities to get your feet wet with if you’re nervous about traveling to a country whose primary language isn’t English.

The locals are friendly (even for stereotypically harsh Germans!), and many are eager to practice their English on you. Of course, I always recommend attempting to learn a few basic German phrases as a sign of respect. This Munich travel guide will cover everything you need to know before visiting what has become one of my favorite cities worldwide.

Welcome to our Munich travel guide. Here you’ll find key details about the city, including best times to visit, how to get around, and key things to know about the culture.

Key Details

Province/State: Bavaria

Country: Germany

Population: 1,576,416

Time Zone: Central European Time

Languages Spoken: German

Currency Used: Euro

Our Take

Munich is the capital of Bavaria and the third largest city in Germany. Located on the banks of River Isar, Munich boasts a rich history that dates back to 1158.

Munich is a city with distinctive Bavarian traditions. It has a proud history and culture that feels different from the rest of the country. The city’s architecture is a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and modern styles.

Additionally, the city is surrounded by the 741-acre Olympiapark. Visitors to Munich can immerse themselves in the city’s impressive art scene, with many museums, galleries, and street art displays to explore. Whether visiting for the iconic Oktoberfest or experiencing the impressive Christmas markets, Munich always has something new and exciting to discover.

Best Time to Visit

Depending on your goals, there is no bad time to visit Munich. However, you’ll want to consider your interests. Let’s take a look at what the different months can offer you:

September-October: Fall is my favorite time to visit Munich. In addition to the iconic Oktoberfest festival, you can expect cool days perfect for long bike rides throughout the country’s extensive trail system.

Plus, the leaves have begun to change, making for postcard-worthy views. Of course, Oktoberfest makes for a busy city. In 2023, Munich welcomed 7.2 million visitors during the 2.5-week festival.

November-December: If you’re a Christmas market lover, late November through December 24 is the best time to be in Munich. During this period, Munich comes alive with Glühwein stalls and elaborate Christmas displays.

January-March: For those searching for the best deals, winter is an ideal time to visit Munich. If you don’t mind braving the colder weather, you’ll get to enjoy lower prices on hotels and flights. Plus, Munich celebrates Fasching (Carnival), their second most popular festival, during this time.

April-May: The gardens start blooming, and the famous beer gardens begin to open their doors for the season. In spring, you can catch Frühlingsfest. This is Munich’s Spring Festival, where visitors enjoy traditional music, food, and beer.

June to August: It should come as no surprise that June through August is also a busy season. While you will have to fight the tourist crowds, the summer months are the best time to enjoy beer gardens, hikes in the nearby Alps, and the complete “on season.”

How to Get There

Munich is well-connected to the rest of Europe, with its international airport–Franz Josef Strauss Airpor (MUC). It is a hub for many major airlines, making travel from most countries easy.

From the airport, there are various options for getting into downtown Munich. The fastest and most convenient way is taking the S-Bahn train, which runs every 10 minutes and takes approximately 45 minutes to reach the city center. There are also bus and taxi options available.

If you are traveling from other cities in Europe, taking the train is a popular choice. Munich has excellent connections with other major cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, and Vienna. The central train station is München HBF, located in the city center and easily accessible by public transportation.

How to Get Around

Transportation in Munich is very good. It’s reliable, frequent, and cost-effective. Let’s look at the best ways to get around the city.

Metro: The Munich Metro, also known as the U-Bahn, is the fastest and most convenient way to get around. It has eight lines that cover all parts of the city, and trains run every few minutes from 4:15 am to 1:00 am daily.

Trams & Buses: Munich has an extensive bus network with a variety of routes and schedules. You can purchase at ticket machines located at major stops.

Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Munich, and you can easily hail one on the street or find them at taxi stands. Make sure to take licensed taxis only for safety purposes.

Uber: Uber is also available in Munich. However, due to European regulations, it may be more expensive than traditional taxis.

Bikes: Cycling is a popular mode of transportation in Munich, with many dedicated bike paths and rental options available. You can also bring your own bike on trains for longer trips.

Scooters: Recently, electric scooters have become a popular option for getting around Munich. They can be rented through various apps and are perfect for short trips or sightseeing.

Walking: With its beautiful architecture and quaint streets, walking is the best way to truly experience Munich. Most major attractions are within walking distance from each other in the city center, making it easy to explore on foot.

Pro Tip: If traveling by train, remember to validate your ticket before boarding. For buses or trams, you can validate on board.

Cultural Heritage

Germany’s history is complex, beautiful, broken, and inspiring. It’s experienced everything from world-changing innovation to devastating conflict and intense rebuilding.

From the tribal societies of the early Germanic peoples through the Holy Roman Empire’s medieval influence, Germany has played a pivotal role in European and world history. The Renaissance brought a flourishing of arts and sciences, followed by religious upheavals during the Protestant Reformation.

The 19th century saw the unification of German territories under Prussian leadership, marking the birth of the German Empire in 1871, a significant force in World War I. The Treaty of Versailles’ harsh terms led to economic turmoil and the rise of Nazism, culminating in World War II and the Holocaust, leaving an indelible scar on human history.

Post-war Germany was divided, East and West, through the Cold War until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, leading to reunification in 1990. Since then, Germany has emerged as a leading European nation, advocating for peace, democracy, and unity.

Etiquette

Munich, like many other German cities, has its own unique customs, quirks, and etiquette that visitors could benefit from being aware of. Let’s talk about them:

  • Jaywalking is a big no-no: Always wait for the pedestrian signal before crossing the street. Seriously– if you don’t, you’ll probably get yelled at. Even if no cars are coming.
  • Don’t sweat the small talk: In Munich, people value their personal space, so don’t be surprised if locals aren’t particularly chatty with strangers. However, once you get to know them, they’re incredibly friendly and welcoming (especially after a few beers!).
  • Cash is king: While credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments, there are still many places that only accept cash. Be sure to always carry some euros with you, just in case.
  • Always say “Prost!” before taking a drink: In Bavaria, it’s customary to say “post” (meaning “cheers”) before drinking.
  • Be punctual: Germans are known for their efficiency and value punctuality. If you have plans with a local, arrive on time or even a few minutes early.
  • Respect the quiet hours: There are strict rules about making noise in residential areas on Sundays and public holidays.
  • Refrain from loud conversations on public transportation: People tend to keep to themselves while riding public transport. So, try to keep your voice down and avoid making phone calls.

Local Area

Munich is split into 25 districts, with each offering its own unique vibes. Here are some of the coolest and most popular neighborhoods to explore in Munich:

Old Town: This is the historic center of Munich and home to many of the most popular tourist attractions like the Marienplatz and Hofbräuhaus. It’s also a transportation hub, so you’ll find many trains and bus systems leading here.

Schwabing West: This is one of the most international areas in all of Munich. Since the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich is here, the vibe is very cosmopolitan and upscale. There is also a a ton of nightlife, so you’re never lost for something to do.

Maxvorstadt: This area is known for being the city’s cultural center with many museums, art galleries, and theaters. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the history and arts of Munich.

Glockenbachviertel: This neighborhood is known for its LGBTQ+ scene, making it a hub for diversity, inclusivity, and late-night nightlife. It’s also home to many trendy cafes, boutiques, and restaurants.

Haidhausen: If you want to taste traditional Bavarian culture, Haidhausen is the place to be. This charming neighborhood has a mix of historic buildings, modern bars, and restaurants, making it an interesting combination of working-class quarters and nightlife glam.

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Cait Kontalis
WRITTEN BY

Cait Kontalis

Cait is a Chicago-based Greek-American but spends most of her year floating around the globe. She holds a B.A. in Communications and a M.A. in Nonprofit Management. Her favorite destinations include visiting her homeland in Greece, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and wherever her partner is stationed abroad. Cait is also a powderhound, taking to ski slopes in the Rocky Mountains and throughout the country.

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