Top Five Things to Do in Munich Before You Die

by J.N. Duke

Attend a Beer Festival

The Oktoberfest beer festival in late September is a popular reason for visiting Munich.  This means that a trip to Oktoberfest involves colossal crowds, hotel booking issues, et cetera.  A great option for those wanting to avoid the tourist hordes is the Starkbierfest.  This is Munich’s “strong” or “dark” beer festival, held in March.  This festival stems from an old tradition of monks fasting for lent who were wanting something to take the edge off their hunger, so they brewed dark beer with less water and more wheat.  Fun facts about Munich beer festivals: there is no admission fee and the legal drinking age in Germany is eighteen.

Englischer Garten
Englischer Garten. Photo by Denis McLaughlin

2. Experience Europe’s Biggest Metropolitan Park

The Englischer Garten is larger than both Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York, with just as much to offer.  This sprawling combination of English landscape and Bavarian charm is the brainchild of American Benjamin Thompson, who in 1789 thought the marsh along the Isar should be landscaped for recreation.

Just two kilometers away from the Marienplatz, the Englischer Garten is easily accessible.  A Japanese island teahouse, several biergartens, recreation fields, and surfing options begin to scratch the surface of all the sights in the gardens.  The park is also home to a nude sunbathing area, designated FKK for “frei körper kultur” or free body culture.  The Japanese teahouse was a gift from Japan for Munich’s hosting the 1972 Olympics.  The huge Chinese pagoda biergarten can seat as many as 7,000 guests. Past the Kleinhesseloher Sea, to the North edge of the park, lie the more wild and remote regions of the park, yet there are still three biegartens out there. 

3. Bask in the Art

West of the Englischer Garten is a collection of three period-specific art museums.  The Alte Pinakothek is among the oldest galleries in Europe and has some 800-plus works of Medieval to Rococo period art.  The Neue Pinakothek picks up where the Alte left off, with works dating up to the 20th century, including the great German master Caspar David Friedrich.  The last of the three Pinakotheks is the Pinakothek der Moderne.   This is the largest modern art museum in Germany, involving 20th and 21st century works, including photography and mixed media.  

4. See the Sights at the City Center

The Mariensplatz usually tops tourist to do list in Munich, and with good reason.  The history and architecture of the plaza embodies everything resplendent and distinctly Bavarian about Munich. Here are both the old and new Munich town halls, the latter of which contains the famous Glockenspiel, landmark of Munich.  The Glockenspiel is akin to a giant cuckoo clock, with 32 life size figures reenacting events from Bavarian history.   The mechanical show occurs at 11 a.m. and noon. 

Another crucial Munich landmark is the Fraunkirche – Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady.  Building height regulations ensure that the twin towers of the cathedral rule the skyline.  The biggest church in Munich can hold up to 20,000 people, and is sepulcher for many famous Germans.  The Church also boasts a view of the Bavarian Alps from the summit of one of the towers, accessible by stair. 

The city center of Munich is host also to the Viktualienmarkt, literally victuals market, which is the daily farmer’s market, located just a few streets away from the Mariensplatz.  Here you can anticipate all the sights and smells to be expected from a historical European farmer’s market, plus the Bavarian bonus of hops for beer brewing and sausage garlands to pair with cheeses from the foothills of the Alps.

5. Don’t Forget You’re in the Heart of Car Country 

The Deutsches, or German, Museum is a must-see if you have any interest in the fields of engineering or physics.  One of the largest science museums in Europe and located on an island in the Isar, it is worth checking out even if you are not a scientist.  This museum contains the bench upon which the atom was first split, along with the first automobile and other such fascinating artifacts.  

Near the Olympiapark is the BMW museum, heaven for the gearhead.  Exhibits of huge numbers of makes and models of BMW’s induce mouth watering in the car enthusiast.  This building itself is also worth noting.  Called “The White Cauldron” by natives.