For years, there’s been a little Munich in me. About a decade ago, I taught in South Korea. One day I woke up one day under the chill of an ever-failing central heating system and decided I no longer wanted to be there. I wanted to live in Munich.
A random thought? Perhaps not. I’d already taken several trips to Germany and butchered endless German conversations, before I fell in love with the country. Truthfully though, I knew little of Munich. I’d only buzzed through on a quick, decidedly random trip to Oktoberfest. For some reason, I ached to return. And that I did.
To help you make the most out of your stay, I’ve tossed together a few ideas on what to do in Munich on a time-crunch based on the few months I spent living in Bavaria’s capital. Whether you have a layover of just one day in Munich or you’re zipping through on a short but epic Germany trip, here’s my best attempt at the best possible 24 hours in Munich, Germany.
Only have 24 hours in Munich? Follow along with this 1-day itinerary to maximize your trip…
Before I start, please allow me to bore you with my usual disclaimer. Like all of the entries in my “24 hours” series, the aim is to help economize your time. Rarely would I recommend spending only one day in a city. Munich’s no exception.
While you’ll get your feet wet with this Munich itinerary, there’ll always be more to experience. Munich is a big city with its fair share of cool stuff to see, do, eat, and drink. You won’t fit it all in in one day.
Either way, let’s get started exploring with these suggestions for your first 24 hours in Munich. (And remember: there’s always next time!)
What to Do in Munich in 24 Hours
One of the things I love most about Munich—really, about European cities in general—is how easy it is to get around. Most of the points of interest in Munich are within close walking distance of each other—or at the least accessible with a short transit ride.
To get the most of your first day in Munich, I’d recommend picking up a one-day transit ticket for the MMV. Depending on where you are staying in the city, the Inner Munich day pass (€6.60) should work just fine. It’ll cover all of the suggestions in this Munich itinerary—and then some!
Waking up to a beautiful Munich morning (hopefully!), walk or hop on the U-bahn to Marienplatz, the central square of Munich’s Altstadt (Old Town). Nearly every trip to Munich starts here. With good reason.
The architecture around Marienplatz is simply iconic. Start your admiration with the neo-Gothic New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), home of the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
Depending on what time you arrive, you may be a little early to watch the Glockenspiel’s “cooper’s dance” perform to the tune of 43 not-always-in-tune bells clanging. Visit at 11am or 12pm to see the show.
Elsewhere on Marienplatz, you’ll spot the beautifully Gothic Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus). Confusingly, Old Town Hall is actually younger than New Town Hall; it took a thorough butt-kicking in WWII and was later rebuilt. The impressive medieval interior houses a fun-for-all-ages toy museum. Climb the Altes Rathaus tower for good views of the city. (Although better vistas are soon in store.)
Looking to dig deeper into Munich? The two-hour Munich Old Town Walking Tour, starting in Marienplatz, takes in all the major sites of Altstadt and delivers the low-down on the city’s illustrious medieval history.
Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady)
From Marienplatz, look up to the northwest from New Town Hall and navigate a couple streets over towards the graceful Frauenkirche.
In nearly every picture of Munich’s skyline, you’re bound to glimpse the twin onion domes of Frauenkirche piercing into the sky. It’s been that way since the 15th century, and with laws limiting building heights in Munich for this very church, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Frauenkirche is the most enduring symbol of Munich. The church was heavily damaged in World War II, leading to a full reconstruction project that was almost 50 years in the making.
The Devil’s Footstep
One of the quirkiest features of Frauenkirche is the “Devil’s Footstep” at the entrance. Legends claim that the 20-year construction of the cathedral in the 15th century would have been impossible without some kind of divine intervention. Or rather not so divine.
Seeing his project timelines slipping away, the builder enlisted the help of Satan himself to finish erecting the cathedral on time. In exchange, he promised to keep the interior windowless to bathe the church in darkness. The builder fulfilled his end. Or so the devil thought.
As Satan stood in the entrance, the church, with its massive pillars blocking the light, appeared covered in blackness. Something didn’t feel right. He stepped further in, passing the pillars, and was knocked aback as light poured in from the windows.
Displeased with the deception, the devil slammed his foot into the floor of the entrance, forever indenting the concrete with his footprint. As he stormed out of the church one last time, he left behind a perpetual torrent of wind that still swirls around Frauenkirche to this day.
Besides checking out the beautiful late Gothic interior and living out fanciful legends, the south tower of Frauenkirche offers incredible sweeping views of the city. The crypts of the lower level, the final resting place of several Wittelsbach princes, is also worth a look.
St Peter’s Church
Head back across Marienplatz, slipping one block to the south on Rindermarkt, for a look at another enduring religious symbol of Munich, St. Peter’s Church.
The local nickname for St. Peter’s Church, Alter Peter (“Old Peter”), is both endearing and fitting. Long before Munich even became a city, religious buildings have stood upon the site of Munich’s oldest church.
Visit St. Peter’s Church for a glimpse at the magnificent treasures within. Much of the fuss revolves around the 18th-century gilded high altar by Erasmus Glasser. Other works by Jan Polack and Johann Baptist Zimmerman are also stunning.
Best of all is perhaps the observation deck in the church tower. Facing New Town Hall at Marienplatz head on, the view here is, in my opinion, better than at Frauenkirche. Visibility on a clear day extends to the Bavarian Alps.
Subscribe to the view that it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, and you might find yourself sipping on a mid-morning brew at Vikualienmarkt. (Well, when in Germany…!)
If not, Viktualienmarkt is still a great place to grab a snack to fuel up. The market stalls at Viktualienmarkt carry an array of fresh fruits and vegetables along with local specialties. Try out one of Munich’s most classic foods, leberkäse, a Bavarian specialty meat loaf whose English translation of “liver cheese” does absolutely nothing to describe its surprisingly satisfying taste.
Want to experience the best of Viktualienmarkt? Hop onto the Munich City of Beer Walking Tour to combine a tour of the food stalls of Viktualienmarkt with a visit to the Beer & Oktoberfest Museum (including Bavarian beer & food sampling).
Find me a kitschier place in Munich than Hofbräuhaus and I’ll pay for next serving of spätzle. Despite hipster travellers bemoaning places so obviously geared towards tourists, every first visit to Munich should include a stop at the Hofbräuhaus.
Originally built in 1589—and reconstructed after World War II—the Hofbräuhaus is perhaps the world’s most famous beer hall. Join a long line of visitors—Mozart, Vladimir Lenin, Louis Armstrong, and John F. Kennedy among them—and grab a famous brew among the annals of history.
Watch Bavarian stereotypes play out in grand scale as lederhosen-clad waitresses balance a dozen one-litre beer mugs to an endless supply of Bavarian polka music.
Besides the main restaurant, there’s an outdoor Wirtsgarten that’s, in my opinion, far more comfortable for a quick bite or drink.
Stumble on northwest from the Hofbräuhaus to the Munich Residenz on Max-Joseph-Platz. See how the other half lived at this stately former palace of the Bavarian royalty.
The incredible Munich Residenz is spread across several buildings, courtyards, and gardens that span several city blocks. As the largest city palace in Germany, exploring to its fullest will take you a couple hours.
Most impressive in the Munich Residenz is the Antiquarium, an ornate Renaissance hall that will take your breath away. The Cuvilliés Theatre (€3.50/€2.50), a Rococo opera house with intricate tier carvings, is also worth a visit. The Royal Palace section of the Residence Museum is unfortunately currently closed for renovations.
Admission for the Residence Museum and Treasury individually costs €7 (€6 reduced rate) while a combination ticket is €11 (€9 reduced rate).
Walking through the Hofgarten at the northern edge of the Munich Residenz, saunter into the Englischer Garten, Munich’s most epic greenspace.
New Yorkers block your ears: Central Park ain’t got nuttin’ on the Englischer Garten. Don’t take this as a slight on Central Park; I just really love the Englischer Garten!
Not only is the Englischer Garten bigger than Central Park; it’s got surfing, nude bathing, a Japanese teahouse, and—in true German fashion—beer gardens.
The Englischer Garten is beautiful in every season, but truly shines in the summer when Munich takes to the park to frolic in the sun.
Take your time sauntering through. It’s about a half-hour walk from the Munich Residenz through beautiful greenery to the heart of the southern part of park at the Chinescischer Turm.
While the Chinesischer Turm will hardly fool you into thinking you’re in Beijing, the area around it is one of the best beer gardens in Munich. Grab your spot among the 7,000 or so seats and enjoy a Maß of Hofbräu Hell (lager) with Schweinshaxn (roasted pork knuckle) or Obatzda (savoury cheese dip).
To escape the crowds and get experience pure bliss within the city, walk about 20 minutes northeast of the Chinesischer Turm, past the Isarring road, into Hirschau. This northern section of the Englischer Garten is far quieter, feeling more like a park in a small town than in Germany’s third largest city.
There’s hardly a better way to spend a first evening in Munich than at the Augustiner Keller (Anrulfstraße 52). As much as Hofbräu’s presence is felt all over the city, my heart still goes out to Augustiner (among a few other of my favourite Münchner beers).
Under the shade of around 100 towering chestnut trees, Augustiner Keller pumps out their famous Augustiner Edelstoff into one-litre Maß. If you’re not positively stuffed with Bavarian food by now, grab a giant pretzel to ward the Edelstoff from fogging your brain too quickly.
The nearby Augustiner Bräustuben (Landsberger Straße 19), on the southern side of Hackerbrücke, is another classic choice in Munich.
Where to stay in Munich
Finding accommodations in Munich will probably be the hardest part of planning your Munich itinerary. Even compared to other cities in Germany like Berlin, the best hotels in Munich don’t come cheap. It’ll take a little digging to find good deals without compromising location. Here are a few ideas:
- Cocoon Hauptbahnhof: An alpine-themed hotel that’s among Munich’s most unique. Very central location near the Hauptbahnhof.
- Expedia | Hotels.com | Booking.com | Agoda
- Aloft München: A stylish and modern 4-star design hotel in the heart of the city. Location next to Hauptbahnhof puts Munich’s top attractions within short walking distance.
- Expedia | Hotels.com | Booking.com | Agoda
- Sofitel Munich Bayerpost: Among the best luxury hotels in Munich, this 5-star gem, featuring meticulously-appointed contemporary rooms, occupies a stunning historical building steps away from the Hauptbahnhof. Relax on the lovely sun terrace or soak away your troubles in the on-site spa for the ultimate Munich getaway.
- Expedia | Hotels.com | Booking.com | Agoda
Recommended Munich day tours
Looking to squeeze more out of your Munich itinerary? Here are a few of the best day tours in Munich:
- Bavarian Beer and Food Evening Tour in Munich: Enjoy an evening perusing the beer halls of Munich (including the famous Hofbräuhaus) in search of best food & drink in Bavaria on this fun-filled 3.5-hour guided tour!
- Munich City Hop-on Hop-off Tour: The most convenient way to check out the major sites of Munich, this open-air double-decked hop-on hop-off bus offers more flexibility, freedom, and ease than navigating the Bavarian capital on your own.
- Hitler and the Third Reich Munich Walking Tour: WWII history buffs simply can’t miss this 2.5-hour guided tour that jumps through the Munich streets, buildings, and beer halls that give birth to the Nazi movement and set into motion all its horrors.
Getting to Munich
By air: Along with Berlin and Frankfurt, Munich is one of the major international gateways into Germany. Several airlines including Lufthansa offer direct flights to Munich from several destinations worldwide.
By train: If you’re anything like me, you love travelling around Europe by train. München Hauptbahnhof has connections to major cities around Germany and beyond. Popular cities to reach Munich from include:
- Berlin (5h58m)
- Prague (6h3m)
- Salzburg (1h29m)
- Zurich (4h12m)
Want to see more with your one day in Munich? Apply these 1-day itinerary tweaks…
If you’ve got some spare energy to burn and want to take your Munich itinerary further, try out a few of these suggestions:
- Love technology? Marvel at the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest science and technology museum. Less than a 20-minute walk or 10-minute S-bahn trip from Marienplatz will get you there.
- Can’t get enough of the Bavarian royals? Delve deeper into the lives of the Wittelsbachs at Nymphenburg Palace, a beautiful royal palace on the western edge of Munich’s city centre.
- Have a soft spot for German engineering? Take the U-bahn up to Olympiazentrum to poke through the wonders of the always-fun BMW Museum.
- Craving adventure? Spend the afternoon at Olympiapark, hovering high above on the stadium roof walk or Flying Fox zipline.
Finished your 24 hours in Munich? Here’s what to do next…
- Berlin: Germany’s awesome capital is just a train ride away! Get started exploring with this guide to your first 24 hours in Berlin.
- Nuremberg: You’ll love Bavaria’s second city. Not only in Nuremberg a treat on its own, it’s the perfect place to base yourself to explore the northern Romantic Road, featuring some of the best places to visit in Germany.
- Salzburg: Mozart’s hometown is so close to Munich that not visiting would be a sin. Follow in the steps of the Von Trapps and marvel at one of the true urban treasures of Central Europe.
- Prague: If you’ve never visited the Czech capital, you’re in for a surprise. It’s unanimous that Prague is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Check it out on a time-crunch with this itinerary for your first day in Prague.
- Zurich: It’s a short ride over the border from Munich to the compact but sexy Swiss financial capital. Use Zurich as a launching point for your Swiss adventures.