Planning a first-time trip to Germany? No city deserves your attention more than Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Even if you’ve only got 24 hours in Munich, much of the city, famed for its Oktoberfest, will be at your fingertips. From marveling at its historic architecture to sipping Augustiners in a leafy beer garden, discover everything Bavaria’s capital offers on a time crunch with this complete 1-day Munich itinerary!
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What to do in Munich in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
Waking up to a beautiful 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—and with good reason.
The architecture around Marienplatz is simply iconic. Start your one day in Munich admiring 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 11 am or 12 pm 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.)
If you’re visiting Munich in winter, Marienplatz is home to Munich’s largest Christmas market. During the entire month leading up to Christmas, gather around the massive Christmas tree in the square during the evening to browse the market stalls and enjoy festive music.
PRO TIP: To get the most out of your first time in Munich, I’d recommend picking up a Munich CityTourCard. The card includes an unlimited transit ticket for the MMV and a TON of discounts for some of the top tourist attractions in the city.
Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady)
From Marienplatz, look up to the northwest from New Town Hall and navigate a couple of 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 city’s most enduring symbol and one of the coolest places to visit in Munich. The church was heavily damaged in World War II, leading to a full reconstruction project that was almost 50 years in the making.
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 back 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, are also worth a look.
Peterskirche (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, Peterskirche (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 nothing to describe its surprisingly satisfying taste.
Find me a kitschier place in Munich than Hofbräuhaus, and I’ll pay for the next serving of spätzle. Despite hipster travelers bemoaning places so obviously geared towards tourists, every first visit to Munich (and any first trip to Germany) 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 a grand scale as lederhosen-clad waitresses balance a dozen one-liter 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 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 of hours.
Most impressive in the Munich Residenz is the Antiquarium, an ornate Renaissance hall that will take your breath away. The Cuvilliés Theatre (€5), 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 €9 (€8 reduced rate), while a combination ticket is €14 (€12 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 the 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 (savory cheese dip).
To escape the crowds and 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 favorite 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 on a Munich layover
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.
- Aloft München: A stylish and modern 4-star design hotel in the heart of the city. The location next to Hauptbahnhof puts Munich’s top attractions within short walking distance.
- 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.
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 traveling 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)
More 1-day Munich itinerary ideas
- 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 center.
- 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.