Without a doubt, Munich was the highlight of our trip to Germany. In fact, spending 48 hours in Munich was one of the best travel decisions I've made in a while. But how do you begin to narrow down a travel agenda when you've only got two days? Use this Munich travel guide to plan where to go, eat, and sleep when you visit Munich!
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Cultural Capital of Bavaria
With so many cultural things to do in Munich, it's hard to not fall in love with Munich. What I'm trying to say is that if Munich isn't high on your Europe bucket-list, it totally should be. While it may be the third largest city in Germany, it feels more like a small town perfect for visitors.
Munich's history is rich with royal ties, political conflicts, and artistic movements. In fact, for many years Munich was the heart of the German cultural movement. Once the capital of Bavaria, Munich has a cultural heritage of its own, making it an ideal place to visit for anyone interested in history and culture.
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Arriving in Munich
No Munich travel guide is complete without mentioning the fantastic public transportation system in Munich. After a three-hour train ride from Vienna, we arrived at the Munich Central Station tired, cold, and worse for the wear. But we were happy to be there all the same.
The centrally-located train station made our arrival a breeze. And although our lodgings were easily-accessible by tram, our fatigue and the inclement weather meant we were taking a taxi. Quickly, we found the taxi stand outside and were soon on our way to our destination.
Stay at a charming Hotel
Even with so many places to stay in Munich, it was easy to choose a hotel for our two-night stay. Charm and authenticity oozed off the page when I visited the website of Hotel Laimer Hof, a family-run boutique hotel located steps from the Nymphenburg Palace.
We were greeted warmly by the staff, a welcome relief from the snow that had begun to fall outside. After just a few minutes, we were settling into our cozy quarters. Despite the weather, it wasn't long before we were out the door and on our way to explore Munich.
Visit the Nymphenburg Palace
Any good Munich travel guide must start with a visit to the Nymphenburg Palace. Located within walking distance from our lovely hotel, the palace was a great way to begin our tour of Munich. Large, wet snow flakes fell as we explored the stunningly beautiful palace grounds. Ponds full of ducks and swans lie between the well-manicured gardens.
Nymphenburg Palace, once the summer home of Bavarian kings and queens, played an influential role in the development of the German state. Relics of the past are carefully arranged in the well-preserved mansion. The knowledgeable audio guide gave us a glimpse into the lives of German nobility as we toured the grand estate.
Try the Local Snacks
Next on our agenda was a tour of the center of the city. But hunger panges were distracting us, making it hard to focus. Luckily, we found the perfect snack shop in Karlsplatz station, an underground U-Bahn & S-Bahn station that features an underground shopping mall, Stachus Passagen!
Brezelina is a locally-owned pretzel shop that specializes in the golden knots of goodness. The menu features standard pretzels, as well as pretzel sandwiches and dessert pretzels. Their Karlsplatz location is ideal for a midday snack when sight-seeing in the heart of the city.
Be on Time for Rathaus-Glockenspiel
Our first stop in the city center was Neues Rathaus, a striking neo-gothic building that features a world-renowned glockenspiel display. Since 1908, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel features a daily display of 32 life-sized figures who dance along to the sounds of bells while re-enacting scenes from Munich's history.
We arrived in Marienplatz just in time to see the magnificent performance. The performance occurs daily at 11 am, 12 pm, and 5 pm (only in summer) and lasts up to 15 minutes. Mesmerized, we stood with hundreds of other onlookers as the historical display chimed out over the square.
While we opted to skip the observation tower because of the weather, it's high on my list for my next visit to Munich. Rumor has it, you can see from miles from the 255-feet tower deck.
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Go Shopping in the Historic City Center
Munich's Inner City, or Altstadt, features an incredible variety of retail stores, perfect for visitors who like to shop. We spent a few hours strolling the cobble-stoned streets in search of unique gifts for family back home. With only 48 hours in Munich, it was hard to take advantage of the terrific vast shopping in Munich, one of the things I was most looking forward to experiencing.
One of the shops that stood out was Pick N Weight, a well-organized vintage shop with something for everyone! If the rest of the vintage shops in Munich are anything like Pick N Weigh, then I've got to go back to Munich! After picking out a vintage The Bridge bag, we set off again in search of dinner.
Try Local Flavors When Dining
We followed our nose to Zwickl, a conveniently located modern gastropub. Sleek decor, local delicacies, and seasonal menus made this spot stand out in our search of authentic but affordable places to eat in Munich. Plus, the carefully curated selection of wine and beers was just what the doctor ordered after a long day of sightseeing.
The seasonal menu featured modern versions of traditional Bavarian dishes, making it difficult to decide on our entrees. After much deliberation, we selected a trio of the best meatballs I've ever eaten. Dangerously cheesy, our side of homemade spaetzle was the perfect way to warm up after the chilly walk.
The collection of house-made mustards served with our meal took everything to another level. In fact, the mustards were so good that we bought several jars to give as gifts to family back home. Our favorite was the wild garlic mustard!
Use the Public Transportation
Our bellies full of local beer and sausage, we knew it wouldn't be long before a sleepy haze fell over our eyes. We could see no more than our way home. Thankfully, our hotel was just a quick tram ride away.
Our group day ticket made riding the local trams and buses a breeze. And the intricate, yet accessible, public transportation system put all of Munich within a short ride from our hotel. And when it came time to head to the airport, the nearby S-Bahn station made accessing the Munich airport a snap.
See a Local Art Show
No matter where we go, it's important for us to experience the local art scene. So, it's no surprise that our Munich travel guide included museums and cultural experiences.
While many of the Munich attractions we visited were historical, one new attraction stood out among the rest. Magic City is a temporary indoor street art museum in the heart of Munich's Olympic Park. The traveling street art show features works from some of the most prolific and well-known street artists of the time.
Big names like Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and many more line the walls of Magic City. The large, vibrant works intoxicated us as we made our way through the labryinth-like installation. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the exhibits by taking selfies to post on social media using unique Magic City hashtags.
As many of you know, I love street art! So this show was exactly the type of thing I hoped to see during our European travels. I loved that the collection contained works of local artists, as well as from artists throughout the world. We learned much about the history of street art in Munich, and how Munich played a pivotal role in the underground movement in Germany!
Experience Olympic Park
While in the area, we decided to explore the heart of Olympic Park, taking shelter from the light rain that began to fall under the space-age tents for which the park is now famous.
The unique structures built for the 1972 Olympics still seem modern and contemporary, despite the fact that they were created so long ago. It was great to see the structures are still being used as opposed to abandoned and derelict.
Since the games, the park has been used primarily by locals for recreation of all varieties. But attractions like the Sea-Life Center and the BMW museum (not to mention seasonal festivals and events) bring Munich visitors to the park, too.
Look for Affordable Lunch Spots
After exploring Olympic Park for a while, it was time for us to head to our next Munich attraction: the Residenz. But first, we needed to find lunch that was both affordable and on the way. So, as we made our way back toward the city center, we searched for a locally-owned sandwich shop.
Just a few blocks from the Residenz, we found La Baguette, which is probably the cutest sandwich shop in all of Munich. Ideally located for local university students and visitors exploring the nearby English Garden, La Baguette offers a cheap, delicious lunch for diners on the move.
With only two seats in the shop, it's not ideal for travelers looking for a full-service restaurant. But it's the perfect place to pick up a picnic to take to the nearby park. And don't let the French name fool you. The menu has a great selection of traditional German meats and delicacies.
If you're more of a food tour kinda traveler, consider this great guided tour of the lovely Viktualienmarkt in the heart of historic Munich. Get a little taste of Bavarian culture for the cost of a nice lunch!
Make Time for the Residenz
One Munich attraction stood out above all others during our research: the Residenz. Munich's grandest museum, the Residenz is located in the former palace of the Bavarian monarchs. The vast complex of 130 rooms demonstrates Munich's might in grand fashion.
Filled with pristine collections of furnishings and artwork, the Residenz is a culture lover's dream. The free guided audio tour features stories of the many whims of the Bavarian monarchs, including their passion for art and architectural styles reflected in the now famous museum.
Vast halls, spacious living rooms, and highly decorative sleeping quarters are on display throughout the Residenz. But the crowning jewel has to be the grand Renaissance Antiquarium, an enormous vaulted chamber filled with elaborate furnishings, stained glass windows, and ornate stone work. We were pressed for time but still managed to spend nearly 4 hours at the Residenz. Allow for more time if you enjoy opulence and splendor.
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Experience a Traditional Beer Garden
Munich is notorious for its rich beer history. Everywhere you go, the clean, crisp lagers are available. Festivals, such as Oktoberfest, celebrate Munich's beer culture, but for those of us unable to make it to Oktoberfest, visiting one of the local beer gardens is the next best thing when visiting Munich. After all, no Munich travel guide could be complete without a traditional beer garden experience.
Once the heart of the Bavarian kingdom, Munich is famous for its brewing tradition. Legend has it, local breweries planted gardens of trees to shade their underground cellars. In the Spring and Summer, those lovely gardens became the perfect spot for locals to gather for outdoor dining and drinking, a tradition that's still going strong today.
Modern Munich is home to six major breweries, each with their own beer garden. Of the four, we decided to visit Lowenbrau Keller. First opened in 1883, this traditional beer garden is less touristy and slightly off-the-beaten path. Upon entering, the traditional decor and dress worn by the waitstaff signaled that we had made the right decision.
We lounged by locals in large booths while enjoying several large steins of refreshing beer. To accompany our beer, we dined on freshly baked pretzels and obatzda, a traditional Camembert and butter spread. The welcoming atmosphere and the Bavarian charm made it hard to leave, but we had dinner reservations across town!
Have a Romantic Dinner for Two
Reinvigorated by our stop at the beer garden, we set off again in search of our next destination, Restaurant Alter Hof. Named for the medieval quarter where it's located, the cozy restaurant specializes in preserving Franconian traditions. And the knowledgeable wait staff were quick to suggest local wines to pair with our seasonal meal.
The robust menu was full of Bavarian delicacies, many of which we tried. We dined on a decadent meal of fresh asparagus risotto, cream of asparagus soup, and a selection of bratwurst fit for a king. Intricate but complex flavors, as well as the playful touches to each dish, made the chef shine.
Take it from us; if you want a guaranteed table, be sure to go early or call ahead to make reservations. This favorite date-night spot fills up quickly in the evenings. But no worries, the hip wine bar downstairs is the perfect place to wait for a table.
Day Tripping from Munich
Munich is perfectly situated for day trips to some of the best German cities and attractions. You can take any of these easy day trips from Munich to extend your vacation without all the stress of arranging for accommodations. Let the experts do all the work!
Need a More Detailed Munich Travel Guide?
With only 48 hours in Munich, it was hard to do it all. Our Munich travel guide highlights many of the cultural attractions Munich is famous for, but it couldn't possibly include them all.
If you need a more detailed Munich travel guide, consider buying a Lonely Planet travel guide or visiting the official website of the city of Munich! There you'll find everything you need to plan the perfect visit to Munich!
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