Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Best Things to Do in Munich, Germany: A One Day Guide

Munich is the capital of the state of Bavaria in southern Germany. Originally the site of a Benedictine monastery - in fact, Munich means "by the monks" - Munich is known for it's annual Oktoberfest celebration, it's beer gardens, is home to BMW, was home to the 1972 Summer Olympics and was voted the world's most livable city in 2018. We visited Munich to attend Oktoberfest and spent another day visiting the Old Town and the city center. Here are some of the best things to do in Munich if you have a day - or several.

Visit a Beer Garden
Munich is known for it's Beer Gardens. In fact, they are proud to claim hundreds of them. Personally, I think they know how to drink beer - outside under a tree while relaxing with friends or family. Isn't that just the best?

Hofbrauhaus - The most famous beer garden of them all. The grand daddy, Hofbrauhaus. Started by Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria, in 1589, Hofbrauhaus seats 400 people and has the energy to go with it. We had a delicious lunch here and enjoyed the music, food and a chance to see the Hofbrauhaus horses outside. It's located in the center of Munich so it's easy to combine with a walk around the city.

Hirschgarten - My favorite beer garden in Munich is located in the park of the same name. Our hotel was a mere 15 minute walk away so we headed here for a late dinner after arriving in the city on a perfect fall evening. Seating 8000 people, it's the largest beer garden in Bavaria. (In fact, one of the staff told us that there could be up to 10,000 people there on a fall afternoon watching football!) We were there on a non-busy weekday evening, though, and I found it to be quite charming with it's paneled wood walls and our helpful waiter. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Watch the Rathaus-Glockenspiel chime
The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is a clock located in Neus Rathaus, or New Town Hall, that dates from 1908. Everyday at 11am and 12pm the clock acts out two stories (one on the top and one on the bottom) - one is the reenactment of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. It includes knights jousting with one knight representing Bavaria - and of course, he wins every time. The other is of the famous Schafflertanz, or coopers dance, which was a dance to repel the plague in 1517. The whole act lasts about 15 minutes - and you'll know it's over when the rooster crows three times. (Expect large crowds and get your viewing spot a few minutes before if you're interested in seeing this)

The Marienplatz, or St. Mary's Square, is the main town square, and the most famous, in the center of Munich. The New Town Hall is the showpiece of Marienplatz and it's where locals and tourists alike gather. It's a convenient spot to meet and start a tour around the city - in fact, it's where we started our walk around Munich. (There is a helpful TI located just next to the New Town Hall.)

Check out the Devil's Footprint at the Frauenkirche
If you're in Munich's Old Town, you might be interested in visiting the Frauenkirche: The Cathedral Church of Our Lady whose onion domes serves as a symbol of Munich. Construction on the church began in 1468 and it has a few "claims to fame". The first being that it houses the legendary "devils footprint" - there is a black mark on the floor that legend states the devil made as he stomped his foot when he wasn't able to enter the church. Another noteworthy aspect of the church is the tomb of the princes under the chancel including the grave of the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian.

The church was heavily damaged in World War II so there has been ongoing construction to rebuild. One of the things that rebuilding allowed was the ability to climb the South Tower which gives one views of Munich and on a clear day, the Alps.

Tour the Munich Residenz
The Residenz is the former royal palace of the Wittelsbach monarchs of Bavaria (who are coincidentally buried in the Frauenkirche above) It's the largest city palace in Germany and it served as not only the residence, but also the seat of government of the Bavarian dukes and kings from 1508 to 1918. And it is really something to see!

The ornate Grotto, decorated entirely in seashells, is the first room that you come to. I found it to be quite the surprise - the last thing I expected to see was a seashell themed Grotto in the middle of Munich.

This hall, the Antiquarium, is the oldest room in the Residenz and is the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps. It was built to hold Duke Albrecht V's antique sculptures.
First off, it's humongous. Make sure you have plenty of time to tour - we spent hours here, probably about 3, and even got separated as we were wandering and each taking our time to view all the rooms.(We took the free audio tour - one where each room is labeled with a number and you just follow along.) In fact, there are 10 courtyards and 130 rooms which range from Renaissance to Baroque to Rococo to Neoclassicism in the decorations and artwork. Some rooms are sumptously decorated as would be befitting kings and queens - and it's actually a bit much to take in all at once. It really feels like it goes on forever. 
This ceiling appears real but it actually faux - it's just an illusion through painting
The Duke's private worship area

Unfortunately, much of the Residenz was destroyed by bombing in World War II but, in my opinion, it has been restored to it's former glory. Some rooms are empty - and some have furnishings like what had been there in the past. It's definitely one of the city's gems!
The stunning Ancestral Gallery, or Ahnengalerie, with portraits of the royal Wittelbach family
Tips to visiting the Residenz -
-The Residenz is centrally located in the heart of the city.
-We combined it with a visit to the Hofbrauhaus for lunch.
-There is an entrance fee but that does vary as to what you are doing - a tour of the Residenz only, or combining it with other state run facility tours such as the Treasury, Cuvilles Theatre or Residenz Museum.
-There is a free audio tour available 
-The audio tour is meant to be done in sequential order so it is difficult to turn back - take your time in each room.

Enjoy a Festival
Munich is also known for it's many festivals. There is a Christmas Market held every year in Marienplatz (something I aspire to visit someday). There is Fasching, or Carnival, with it's parades and balls leading up to Ash Wednesday. The Spring Festival is known as the "little sister" of Oktoberfest. And of course, there is Oktoberfest - which was our reason for visiting Munich. Tents of beer, horse drawn wagons, carnival rides, pretzels and bratwurst, beer steins, music and celebrating. I had a blast at Oktoberfest - and maybe one day, I'll make it back to celebrate again.

How about you? Have you been to Munich?

Linking up with: My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and Faraway Files at Oregon Girl Around the World!