Munich, the capital of Bavaria and the third largest city in Germany, lies on the River Isar on the fringes of the Bavarian Alps. Munich is a fun-loving city, known for its seasonal festivals and rich cultural calendar, so along with visiting the beautiful churches and outstanding museums and palaces, you should spend some time enjoying life with the locals at a festival, a colorful market, or over a slice of one of Munich’s famous cakes in a konditorei.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Munich is from March to May: fall’s crowds have long since departed, and summer’s peak season hasn’t yet hit. But if you’re one of the millions who want to party at Oktoberfest, you’ll need to pack a coat. Average temperatures drift between the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit.
Top Places to Visit in Munich
1. Munich Residenz
For centuries the seat of the dukes, electors, and kings of Bavaria, the Munich Residenz is one of Europe’s most spectacular palaces. Laid out around seven large courts, the vast Residenz complex comprises three main sections. Today, the Residenz houses a number of monuments and museums, including the Residenz Museum, the Treasury, the Court Church of All Saints, and Cuvilliés-Theater. Be sure to explore the palace grounds, too, with its many wonderful old courtyards – including the beautiful Court Garden – as well as numerous fountains, ponds, and gardens.
2. Marienplatz and the Neues Rathaus
Marienplatz has been Munich’s central square since the city’s foundation; the site of medieval jousting tournaments; and until 1807, where markets were held. In addition to the massive Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) that fills one entire side of the square, you’ll find the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) forming a gate at the far end. In the large open square are the Mariensäule, a tall column to the Virgin Mary erected in 1638, and the Fischbrunnen, a newer fountain that includes bronze figures rescued from an earlier 19th-century fountain. Popular with shoppers for its stores, boutiques, and restaurants, Marienplatz is the focus of festivals and scene of a large Christmas Market, one of several in the city. During the Fasching carnival, the Narren-Lindwurm (dragon) dances over the square. Daily at 11am and noon, and at 5pm from March through October, everyone stops to watch the famous Glockenspiel on the front of the Neues Rathaus, as its mechanical figures dine, joust, and dance. It’s one of the city’s best-loved traditions, and something you shouldn’t miss.
3. St. Peter’s Church
Known affectionately as Old Peter, St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche) is Munich’s oldest parish church and stands on Petersberg, a small hill originally settled by monks. Built in Gothic style in 1386, the church was altered with the addition of a Baroque choir with three apses in 1636, while the tower was given a lantern dome in place of its earlier Gothic spires. Interior highlights include the font by Hans Krumper, the red marble monuments by Erasmus Grasser, and the 15th-century Schrenk Altar with its sculptures. The panel-paintings on the choir walls by Jan Polack are also worth seeing, as is the highly regarded Altar of the Virgin of Mercy (Mariahilf-Altar) from 1756. Finally, the 299-step tower – famous for its eight clock faces matched by eight bells – reaches a height of 91 meters and offers panoramic views as far as the Alps.
4. Asam Church
The beautiful Rococo Asam Church, dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk, was completed in 1746. Highlights include a wrought-iron grille from 1776 that separates the stucco figures of the saints from the long nave with its galleries. On the projecting cornice under the ceiling is a magnificent fresco depicting the life of St. John. The most notable feature of the interior, though, is the high altar, enclosed by four twisted columns and on which sits a glass shrine containing a wax figure of the church’s patron saint.
5. Cuvilliés Theater
On the east side of the Residenz in Munich, the Cuvilliés Theater was built in 1755 and is the finest example of a Rococo theater with tiered boxes in Germany. Architecturally stunning, the rare elegance and rich hues of its intimate Rococo interior makes it a truly unique setting for operas such as Mozart’s Idomeneo, which premiered here in 1781, and which, along with many other Late Baroque period operas, is still performed on occasion. You can visit the theater separately or on a combined ticket with the Residenz and its museums.
6. Hellabrunn Zoo
Spread across 89 acres, Hellabrunn Zoo is consistently ranked among the best zoos in Europe. Laid out in 1911, it was the first zoo in the world to have animals grouped according to where they came from. Today, more than 19,000 animals from 757 species are held in open enclosures meant to replicate the conditions of the wild, with animals that normally share habitats kept together wherever possible. Popular features include the Elephant House (now a listed building), the enormous 5,000-square-meter free-flight aviary, the Polarium, and ape houses. Located adjacent to the Isar River in a designated conservation area, the zoo has many delightful footpaths, playgrounds, and picnic spots.
7. English Garden
Munich’s English Garden is not only the largest city park in Germany – it covers an area of 910 acres – it’s also one of the most beautiful. Naturally arranged groups of trees and plants offer ever-changing vistas, and nine kilometers of winding streams and an artificial lake complete the impression of a natural landscape. Designed in 1785 as a military garden, the English Garden attracts walkers, joggers, and cyclists to its 78 kilometers of pathways and bridle paths. It’s also a pleasant place to sunbathe and picnic, and you can stop for a snack or drink at the Chinesischen Turm (Chinese Tower), a 25-meter-tall pagoda.