Visitors can cover a lot of ground in a weekend in Munich’s compact city center. Most of the city’s best sights are no more than a short walk or a few subway stops away.
Compared to many of the world’s leading cities, Munich is relatively small. With an abundance of culture, shopping and restaurants in the city center – plus an excellent subway (UBahn) system – it’s easy to see a lot of the Bavarian capital in just a weekend.
Marienplatz and the Glockenspiel
Most sightseeing tours begin with a stroll around Marienplatz, the main square which constitutes the heart of Munich. The famous Glockenspiel (a mechanical clock with dancing figures) rings daily at 11:00am, 12:00pm and, during summer months, 5:00pm. If it’s rainy and cold, head to Café Glockenspiel (in the building directly opposite the bell tower; located on the 4th floor), and try to get a seat by the window to see and hear the display over a hot cup of coffee.
The nearby Viktualienmarkt, a huge open-air food market, is a good place to stop for a quick lunch or snack.
See One of Munich’s Historic Churches
Alte Peter (Munich’s oldest parish, dating from 1180) stands just off the Marienplatz and is well worth a look, inside and out, for an example of mixed Romantic, Gothic, Early Baroque and Rococo styles. Nearby Frauenkirche (15th century), with its double onion domes, is a visual landmark that can be seen from various points across Munich. Also near Marienplatz is Michaelskirche (16th century), the largest Renaissance church on the northern side of the Bavarian Alps.
Check Out Munich’s Museum Scene
Most of Munich’s main museums are located in the city center, so it’s easy to tour one in a morning or afternoon. The Munich Municipal Museum (city artifacts from 13th century onward), and the Jewish Museum of Munich (history of Jews in Nazi Germany) are each a short walk from Marienplatz.
Just a couple of UBahn stops away is the Kunstareal (Art Quarter), a 4-square block area packed with museums, including the Alte Pinakothek (14th to 18th century European paintings), the Neue Pinakothek (18th and 19th century painting and sculpture), the Pinakothek der Moderne (20th & 21st century art), the Glyptothek (Greek and Roman sculpture) and the new Brandhorst Museum (20th & 21st century art), which opened in May 2009.
Munich’s famous Deutsches Museum (science and technology) is a 20-minute walk from Marienplatz.
Shopping in Central Munich
Surrounding all sides of Marienplatz is a wealth of shopping, including German department stores, international retail chains, and local shops selling German handcrafts and Bavarian goods (such as lederhosen and Munich souvenirs).
Just a couple of blocks north of Marienplatz begins Munich’s most exclusive shopping area, along Maximilianstrasse. Every high-end boutique, from Armani to Rolex, is represented here. It’s fun to take a break at one of the avenue’s cafes and watch the crowds stroll by.
Beer and Bavarian Food in Munich
Hofbrauhaus, one of the most visited tourist sites in Munich, is the place in the city center to get a taste of traditional Bavarian beer, food, and music. It’s noisy, crowded and festive but captures the Oktoberfest spirit year-round. For a quieter, less touristy beer hall, take a short UBahn ride to Lowenbraukeller near Stiglmaierplatz. They also have a nice beer garden (biergarten) that is open in the summer months.
If the weather is good, nothing beats lunch or dinner in a biergarten. The nicest one near the city center is the Biergarten at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) in the Englischer Garten, just a few blocks walk from the Giselastrasse UBahn station.