The best beers are the ones we drink with friends.Unknown
We were so excited to travel to Munich, Germany with our friends! We were only there for about two days, but we loved exploring this city.
Our top priority was Oktoberfest so we got a hotel in the town of Planegg, which was about an hour train ride away from Hauptbahnhof, the central Munich train station and a 40-minute train ride to the Oktoberfest fairgrounds. This little town was quiet and quaint and we really enjoyed it.
We arrived at the the Munich airport on Wednesday and headed to the Hauptbahnhof station to drop off our bags at the storage lockers because we didn’t want to lug them around all day. The lockers were about 5 euros for the whole day. Make sure you don’t lose the key!
We then headed out to explore Munich. Make sure you give yourself the whole day because there is so much to see and do. We ended up following Rick Steves’ Munich self-guided walking tour, which you can download for free on his app. It is best to download it ahead of time so you aren’t using up a ton of data while you walk around. Also, you want to give yourself the whole day to wander so you have time to go into the different churches, buildings, and beer halls that are scattered around the city.
We also made sure to give ourselves a whole day on Thursday to enjoy Oktoberfest. It was our first time going to Oktoberfest and it was always high on our list of festivals we wanted to go to! Next time, we’ll definitely go for longer.
It is said that “the best beers are the ones we drink with friends.” We had the best time drinking beer, eating pretzels and chicken, listening to the band play, singing beer hall songs, talking to local German people that sat next to us, and later going on some fair rides. It was an unforgettable experience!
Here are the top activities and attractions we recommend for Munich.
Marienplatz means Mary’s square, which is why you see the column with the statue of Mary and baby Jesus in the middle of the square. Many of the beautiful buildings that you see around this square were destroyed during WWII and then later rebuilt. They had old pictures of what the buildings used to look like, so they tried to replicate the same design.
The building that will grab your attention with its neo-gothic architecture is the Neues Rathaus (or New Town Hall), pictured above. If the building alone doesn’t do it, then the Rathaus-Glockenspiel will. Every day at 11AM, noon, and during the summers at 5PM, the clock will start to rotate with an elaborate show of figurines and music. The first story that is presented is about the 16th century wedding between Duke Wilhelm V (or founder of Hofbrauhaus) to Renata of Lorraine. In this scene you will see knights jousting to honor the couple. They made sure to have the Bavarian knight (dressed in their colors blue and white) beat the Lothringen knight (dressed in his colors red and white).
The next scene is the Schäfflertanz (or coopers’ dance). Coopers were barrel makers. The story goes that there was a plague in Munich for a year and during that time coopers would dance around the streets because they thought that it would bring “vitality” to those that needed it. They were known to be loyal to the duke and as a result their dance was seen as a symbol of “perseverance and loyalty to authority through difficult times.”
If you can peel your eyes away from the New Town Hall, don’t forget to notice the beautifully designed Altes Rathaus (or old town hall) that you see in the picture above (the grey pointy building). This building was also demolished during WWII and had to be rebuilt after.
St. Peter’s Church
This church is known for being the oldest church in town. It dates back to the 11th century when it was originally a monastery. During WWII, in anticipation of bombing, the Nazis took pictures of the inside of the church in case they had to rebuild it in the future. Inside the church there is a Gothic chapel made of sandstone that you can find near the altar. It is said that it survived WWII because they covered it with sandbags. You can also see an old photograph of the damage that the church underwent. Fortunately, the locals were able to get enough proceeds to rebuild it. Be sure to climb the tower to see great views of Munich.
When you see the Maypole, you know you’ve reached the Viktualienmarkt. It’s located at the center of the market and the scenes on the maypole are always changing. Back in the middle ages this market was known for selling salt and beer. During this time period, beer was considered a liquid food. Beer is still very prominent even to this day, but it is now paired with meals instead of on its own. A lot of locals are known to frequent the picnic benches by bringing their own food, which is allowed here as long as you buy a drink at one of the food stands.
If you decide you want to get food here (we did), then you will find a lot of local and budget friendly food stands. This location is in such a prime spot that it is said to be very expensive to own land here. However, the locals love their market and the fact that it is so affordable, so the city helps by just charging the stand owners just a small percentage to sell their food or products there. Also, the city does not allow fast food chains to own a stand in this area.
The Jewish Synagogue
Before WWII, the main Jewish synagogue of Munich was at this location; however, once WWII started, Hitler destroyed the synagogue. What you see now is the new synagogue that was thankfully rebuilt in 2006. It is a beautiful building. According to Rick Steves, the Jewish population is now back up to its pre-war size. Take a look at the glass feature above. This is said to represent Moses’ journey through the dessert for 40 years. The beautifully made doors depict the ten commandments in the Hebrew alphabet. Also, the outside stones that you see, represent the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
The Asam brothers were both architects. They wanted to take on a personal project and build a chapel right next to where they lived. They built this tiny church in 1740 to show off their architectural abilities. They were able to do this cheaply, but still have it look like a work of art and have a luxurious feeling to it. One way they did this was by making columns out of wood but painting it and making the structure look like marble. Another interesting feature is the ceiling. The ceiling looks like a dome, but in reality, it is a flat surface. This church is all about illusion!
Sendlingerstrasse is one of the main shopping streets in Munich. It’s completely closed to cars and you can still see some Neo-classical style buildings (and the Asam Church). Much of this street is said to have been rebuilt after WWII; however, they tried to keep a lot of the buildings the same as it once looked. It is a nice walkway to just stroll around.
This street is known as the main pedestrian walkway, main commercial street, or Munich’s main shopping street. Back in the day, Munich was asked to host the Olympics and for that reason they made this street into one of Europe’s first pedestrian streets. Our friends were looking for some things to wear for the Oktoberfest Festival and they were able to find some things that worked for them in the stores along this road. If you are looking for a dirndl or lederhosen for Oktoberfest, then be sure to take a look in one of these stores. You know you are on the right street if you come across the Sitzender Keiler (or sitting boar statue).
St. Michael’s Church
This church is beautifully crafted with a baroque interior. It is known for being one of the first renaissance churches to be built above the Alps. There is a lot of elegance in the inside. Make sure to make your way up toward the altar. On the right of the altar you will come across some stairs. If you are interested, then just for a couple euros each you can see the royal family’s tombs. This royal family ruled the area for 700 years. You will see a lot of famous people of history buried down there. One main tomb we took notice of was King Ludwig II. He was often called mad King Ludwig. If that is still not ringing a bell, then he is the one that built the Neuschwanstein castle, which was said to have inspired Walt Disney to create the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland and the Cinderella castle in Disney World.
We would recommend you take time to visit the Neuschwanstein castle at some point if you can because it is absolutely beautiful! We didn’t go on this trip, but a lot of tour companies offer day trips from Munich. King Ludwig II is still very much respected in the German community. At his tomb you will see some flowers placed there by private individuals.
The Munich Frauenkirche is the main cathedral in Munich. It is very noticeable because of its two green domes, and for that reason is sometimes called the onion church. At the time it was built, the domes were unique because usually there would be spires there. This building took only 24 years to build and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. At the time that was considered very quick, since usually churches of this size and complexity could take up to 100 years or more to build. It was King Ludwig that helped fund the church and as a result there is a giant tomb in the back of the church to honor and thank him for the money.
Michael Jackson’s Memorial
In the little park at Promenadeplatz, you will find a Renaissance statue and right below that sits a Michael Jackson Memorial. They built this little memorial to him since it was said that he would often stay along this park, as would a lot of other famous people. You can still find people going up to his memorial and placing a fresh bouquet of flowers.
This is a really adorable market that sells exotic and luxurious food options. They are most famously known for selling sweets, chocolates, and coffee. However, the item that we highly recommend you buy to take back with you is the Bayerischer Hausmacher Senf süß Dallmayr (aka Bavarian homemade sweet mustard), which is so good! We bought it here and we now wish we would have bought more. We will be going back to get more because it was so amazing. This sweet mustard has been around for 140 years and is made in the southern part of Germany. This sauce is made with no artificial additives or sweeteners. The ingredients consist of spicy paste made from brandy vinegar, herbs, mustard seeds, and sugar. This sweet mustard elevates everything you are eating and makes it taste so much better!
The Hofbrauhaus Brewery is known as the royal’s personal brewery. As with much of Munich, this building was also bombed during WWII. However, this was one of the first buildings to be rebuilt. You will see a lot of tourists and locals alike coming to enjoy the beer, food, and live music. We weren’t able to get a seat here because it was so crowded! Also, if you want to learn more, check out the free Hofbrauhaus museum right next door.
Make sure you take time to go visit this remarkable square that is located in the central part of Munich. You’ll see two very stunning buildings: National Theatre and Residenz Palace. The National Theatre (the building on the right) is a historic opera house that was built with Neo-Grec features with its triangle pediment, Corinthian columns, and portico. Then right next to it you can see the Residenz Palace, which used to house the Wittelsbach monarchs of Bavaria. Also, they had performances in here by Mozart.
This square was laid out in the 1800’s and the church holds half of the royal families’ tombs. This square also has some dark historical links. In 1923, 200 Nazi party members and Hitler met up for a rally here, which ended in 16 Nazi members dead, 4 policemen dead, and Hitler getting arrested. It is said that when Hitler was in power he came back to this square and set up a memorial for the Nazis that died during the rally and told everyone to salute there. There were some that did not believe in Hitler’s message or what he wanted people to do, so not too far away you can find an alleyway that people would use to avoid the square so they didn’t have to salute.
You must try to go at least once in your life! Yes, there are a lot of tourists, but it is also very seriously celebrated by locals too. And a costume is almost mandatory — you can tell the locals really invest in theirs.
This festival dates back to over 200 years during King Ludwig’s wedding fest. Everyone had so much fun at the wedding that they decided to do it the next year and the next year and you get the point. This event starts at the end of September and goes until the first weekend of October for at least 16 days. We went there in early October on a Thursday. We were told it is less busy during the weekdays (although this particular Thursday happened to be a holiday in Germany). It definitely was very busy so we can’t even imagine what it would be like going on the weekend. It is free to get into the Oktoberfest festival, but be sure to bring cash with you because most places only accept cash.
Depending on where you are staying will depend on which train station you will need to get off at. You can either walk from the central railway station of Hauptbahnhof OR you can take the U-Bahn station to Theresienwiese (this is what we did). You can just follow the crowd if you are unsure of where to go to once you get off the train station. You will notice a lot of people dressed up, including whole families.
We got to Oktoberfest at 10:30AM, which was thirty minutes after the gates opened. You will notice a lot of families and it is very kid friendly during the day. As the night progresses, the families leave and it becomes more of an older crowd. As you walk around the first thing you will notice are the massive beer hall tents!
You will also see a bunch of food stands that are selling things like gingerbread heart cookies and roasted almonds. The roasted almonds were so good! The gingerbread heart cookie was very disappointing though, but they were very cute.
When you get to the end of the long lot, then you will see a bunch of carnival rides like a mini roller coaster and bumper cars that some of us went on later. It was a lot of fun, but let me tell you that they take picking a bumper car seat very seriously. Be ready to run to a bumper car if you decide to do this ride or it might take you a while to actually ride it.
If you want to drink at a specific tent, then you have two options. First option is to pre-book and pay for a table for the day. It is a good idea to do this if you have more than 4 people. Each tent sets aside some tables for reservations. It is also nice because if you wanted to, you could sleep in and then go to your table at any time without fear of your table being given away and you have the flexibility to go and wander and come back and it will still be there for you.
If you have 4 or less people like we did, reserving a table isn’t really worth it (they seat 10+) so you’ll have to look for room at the first-come-first-serve tables. These fill up quickly so get there early! We would say to get there even earlier than we did. We got there thirty minutes after it was already opened, but the first tent we went into was already fully packed. It was the Hacker-Pschorr tent that has a beautiful ceiling (see the main blog picture). At the second tent (Augustinerbrau) we got lucky and these nice German guys let us sit next to them. We would say try and get there right when it opens at 10AM or even maybe even 9:30AM and wait thirty minutes before they open, so you can be even closer to the entrance.
There are six breweries that are known throughout Munich: Hofbräuhaus, Löwenbräu, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten-Franziskaner. Each big-name brewery has their own tent at Oktoberfest. Make sure you give yourself a little bit of time to walk through each one later in the day to look around the inside. They are very impressive!
As we said, we ended up sitting down in the Augustiner tent and it was so amazing! Once we found a seat, we stayed there the whole day — partially because we didn’t think we’d find a seat anywhere else, but also because the food and beer were great. We highly recommend checking it out.
Augustiner is one of our favorite German beers, so we were excited to be sitting in this tent. Most of their beers don’t export to the States, but when they do it is very limited and is usually only sent to specialty German beer shops. This brewery is known to be the oldest independent brewery (i.e., still family owned and not corporate owned). What is also nice is that the brewery is 50% owned by charitable foundations. A lot of the locals sitting around us would agree that Augustiner is one of the best. They kept talking about how they were the best tent to go to because they were the only tent that was tapping their beer out of wooden barrels. While here we obviously got some of Augustiner’s Oktoberfest beer. Be warned that the water is a lot more expensive than the beer. When you order a beer it automatically comes in a liter stein (a very large commitment!). If it’s too much to drink, you can always dilute it with lemonade soda. We saw a lot of people doing this, even the guys.
When you start getting hungry, there are pretzel vendors everywhere. They also have a menu and one of the items that we saw everyone getting (including the locals next to us) was the chicken and German potato salad. All four of us decided to try it and it was great! The locals kept telling us we had to use our fingers because it was the right way to eat it.
This tent was a lot of fun to people watch too. There is a band playing in the middle of the room and every so often there would be songs that include chanting and everyone would hold their steins up every time to do the chant and sway their stein from side to side. As the night progressed, people had more liquid courage, so as a result we would see people dancing on the tables and we also saw a guy dancing with a stein on his head (it was very impressive!).
Food Stand at the Viktualienmarkt
Make sure to go and enjoy one of the food stands in the Viktualienmarkt that is located in downtown Munich. It is nice because they have a lot of benches to sit at. We ended up sharing the Hacker-Pschorr Munchner Dunkel beer, which was very good! Then we shared a few traditional food items with our friends: 2 brezeln (pretzels), 2 weisswurst (white sausages), and 1 knödel (dumpling) with schweinebraten (pork seasoned with caraway, coriander, garlic and roasted). Everything we had was very delicious! A note that the weisswurst is pretty bland on its own, so be sure to get the sweet mustard to go with it and then it is great.
There are Augustiner restaurants located all across Munich, not just at Oktoberfest. The one we went into is located on the commercial road right across from the St. Michael’s Church. While here we got a dunkel beer, which is one of our favorite Augustiner beers. We wanted to sample some other foods, but first we had to get more brezeln (can’t get enough of the pretzels). The beer hall made sure that each table had some sweet mustard sauce (we ran out of it ours, so we had to get more). Then we shared some leberkäse (meatloaf made of pork, bacon, ground corned beef, and onions). It was not our favorite, but it was on our list of local foods to try — and the sweet mustard did wonders!
We also shared the kaiserschmarrn (a shredded pancake sprinkled in powdered sugar and served with some type of fruit preserves, usually applesauce). This dish got its name from Kaiser Franz Joseph I, who loved his desserts. The story goes that Kaiser was going hunting at this resort area. The dish that is usually served at the resort was not fancy enough for the emperor, so they added eggs, milk, and raisins. These ingredients were known to be appropriate for royalty. This dessert was great! It wasn’t too sweet, and the pancake crumble was very soft and fluffy. We were sad when we ran out of it. We wanted more!
This restaurant was within walking distance from our hotel in Planegg. The restaurant was so good that we went here on both nights! The inside felt like a German cottage and the staff was so friendly. We made sure to order beer both nights we were there. We all also shared a variety of things, but more so the first night.
The first dinner there we started off with a Bavarian liver dumpling soup (honestly, not that bad) and a big mixed salad. It had a nice mixed salad with a very light and tasty dressing, paired with potato salad, cucumber slaw, and carrot slaw. This salad was so good and helped balance out all of the hearty meals we were having. Then we got our dishes and sides all at once. We got one of their specials, which was half a Bavarian duck served with potato dumplings and rotkohl (red cabbage). We also indulged in schnitzel (pork, non-breaded) in a mushroom-cream sauce served with spaetzle (butter noodles). We topped our entrée selection off with goulash (beef stew) with more spaetzle and a side of sauerkraut. Needless to say, we got a smorgasbord of food!
The food was so amazing, which made us want to come back here the next day for dinner because we couldn’t stop thinking about it. The food was so fresh and made to order. The next night for dinner we didn’t get as much as the first night. We learned our lesson and we also felt like we tried most of the things on the menu at that point. Also, we were not as hungry on Thursday night because we had a few beers while we are at Oktoberfest, so we just wanted some good food to hold us over until tomorrow. We started off by sharing the big mixed salad again. Then we got the bräustüberl’s plate (which was pork filets) in a mushroom cream sauce with cheese spaetzle. Also, we enjoyed the schweinshaxe (or pig knuckle slow-roasted and crispy on the outside) in a dark beer sauce with potato dumplings and bacon coleslaw. We also got some nürnberg rostbratwurst (Nuremberg sausages, which is where the name originates), and some sauerkraut (or fermented cabbage). The restaurant and staff are now two for two in our book! We got different things both nights and both nights we really enjoyed our meal.
You can find this bakery all over Germany, but we went to the one at Hauptbahnhof before catching our train to Berlin. What better snack to have on our train ride than pretzels? They have a variety of options. We got the traditional kind with just some butter and sea salt and our friend got one with pizza toppings. We all enjoyed the pretzels we choose so much that we didn’t even get a picture of them!