The best things to do in Munich on your first visit

As a first-time visitor to Munich, this guide will provide you with all the can't-miss attractions as well as with insider tips from our local writer. Even if you have already visited the city, surely, you'll still discover something new in our guide. We want you to experience a fun time exploring Munich and to help you make the most of your stay in this many-sided city, where tradition and progress go hand in hand.

What you find on this page

Start exploring the city at Marienplatz

Marienplatz is Munich's central square and the best place from which to start your exploration of the old town. The most striking building on this site is the New Town Hall. It was built in neo-Gothic style at the beginning of the 20th century and serves as a place of work for the city’s mayor and municipality employees. The 85 metre high Town Hall Tower offers an excellent panoramic view over the surrounding area and an elevator takes visitors up in seconds. The viewing platform is daily open and tickets are available at the tourist information office next door from the elevator in the town hall.

There is another viewing platform only a stone's throw away on top of the tower of St. Peter church, which is commonly known as Alter Peter and it offers probably the best bird's eye view of Munich! However, there is no elevator and visitors have to be fit to make it up the steep stairs to the top. On clear days, you can see from both towers the Bavarian Alps stretching across the horizon to the south.

New Town Hall Tower | Marienplatz 8, 80331 Munich
Alter Peter Tower | Rindermarkt 1, 80331 Munich

Experience Munich’s royal past at the Residenz

Die Residenz is located right in the historic centre of Munich only a short walk away from Marienplatz. In previous times the Residenz served as the seat of government and used to be the residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings for many centuries. Although much of it was destroyed during the Second World War it was gradually reconstructed after 1945. Today, with the museums of the Bavarian Palace Administration (the Residence Museum itself, the Treasury and the Cuvilliés Theatre) along with other cultural institutions, it is one of the largest museum complexes in Bavaria and is among the most important palace museums in Europe. It is definitively worth a visit, if you are interested in the different epochs of courtly architecture and interior design. The entrance to Residence Museum and the Treasury is on Max-Joseph-Platz as well as at Residenzstrasse. Free audio guides are available at the cash desk.

Die Residenz | Residenzstraße 1, 80333 Munich | More info

Take a rest at peaceful Hofgarten

Hofgarten is a picturesque public park at Odeonsplatz designed in the Italian Renaissance style, dating from the early 17th century. It's part of the Residence building complex and visitors can stroll in the beautifully landscaped public park at any time of the day. Often during summer artists play classical music in a pavilion, which is located in the centre of the park and visitors can watch locals play boules on the sandy paths that surround the park. Grab a coffee at one of the nearby cafés and enjoy a peaceful moment on one of the park benches scattered around Hofgarten.

Indulge in local specialities at Viktualienmarkt

Right in the centre of Munich’s old town you will find Viktualienmarkt, the oldest and largest food market of the city. On an area of more than 18,000 square metres around 110 traders sell fruit, vegetables, tropical fruits, meat, game, poultry, cheese, fish, bread and baked goods, spices, flowers and much more. You’ll have a great time strolling through the market stalls and discovering local specialties and tasty snacks for in between meals.

Roam around bustling Gärtnerplatz neighbourhood

Gärtnerplatzviertel (Gärtnerplatz district) is a popular neighbourhood in the centre of Munich, where locals meet with their friends in one of the many cute cafés, bars or good restaurants or go shopping for the latest fashion trends. A great starting point to explore this area is Gärtnerplatz, a square located only a short walk from Viktualienmarkt and the old town.

Discover a diversity of museums and art galleries in Munich's art district

In Munich, art traditionally plays a major role, which is shown to the public in many different museums and galleries all over the city. In the so-called Kunstareal, however, the density of museums and galleries is particularly high. Art ranging from the dynasties of Ancient Egypt to the Classical world up to modern times can be looked at in a total of 18 museums and exhibition halls, over 40 galleries, six renowned international colleges and countless cultural institutions. All places are in the immediate vicinity and easily accessible by foot. More Info

Good to know: some of the best museums in Munich have a reduced admission price of only 1€ on Sundays. However, you have to expect more visitors to the museums on Sundays than on other days.

These are some of our favourite museums in the Kunstareal area:

  • Pinakothek der Moderne: Pinakothek der Moderne: contemporaray art, prints and drawings, architecture and design under one roof.
  • Alte Pinakothek: paintings from the Middle Ages to the middle of the 18th century and one of the most important picture galleries in the world.
  • Lenbachhaus: magnificent works by the Blue Rider group (Der Blaue Reiter), Joseph Beuys, the Dresden Romantics, the Berlin and Düsseldorf schools and the influential Barbizon school of painting.
  • Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst: 5000 years of art and culture that make up Egypt’s fascinating history.
  • Museum Brandhorst: pieces by artist such as Cy Twombly, Damien Hirst or Andy Warhol.

We've prepared a map with these museums:

Visit a traditional Munich beer garden

Munich is known for its many breweries, such as Augustiner, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner among others. Most breweries run their own beer gardens where they tap their beer fresh from the barrel and offer traditional Bavarian specialties, such as Obazda and Brezn (Bavarian cheese & pretzel), sausage salad, spareribs or roast chicken.

A much-loved beer garden among local residents, which is off the beaten tourist path, is Hofbräukeller. It’s located at Wienerplatz, a bustling neighbourhood marketplace with a variety of stalls, stores and cafés located in the Haidhausen residencial district. Tucked away behind the main building of Hofbräukeller restaurant you will find a large beer garden with a capacity of 1,400 seats in the self-service section and additional 400 seats in the out-door restaurant section (service at the table is provided). Many old, large chestnut trees provide pleasant shade in summer to enjoy a cold "Maß" (1 litre of beer). You should come here to get to experience an authentic local beer garden.

Hofbräukeller am Wiener Platz | Innere Wiener Straße 19, 81667 Munich | More info

Let yourself be impressed by German engineering in the BMW Welt and BMW museum

Munich is home to the prestigious German car manufacturer BMW. The company's headquarters, plant and its own museum are just a short subway ride away from the centre. Here you can dive into BMW’s versatile worlds of brands and products and visit the diverse exhibitions at BMW Welt. You can experience the entire history of the BMW Group in an exciting exhibition at the neighbouring BMW Museum. If you’re interested in German car engineering and design, BMW’s Museum is just right for you! A visit to BMW can be perfectly combined with a visit to the Olympic Park, which is only a short walk away.

BMW Welt and BMW Museum | Am Olympiapark 1, 80809 Munich | More Info

Go for a stroll through Olympiapark and up the Olympic Hill

In 1972, the XX. Olympic Games were held in Munich. The construction of the Olympic Park with its sports facilities and the Olympic village for the athletes was the most significant construction project of the Federal Republic of Germany after the second world war and it was to be a symbol of Germany's commitment to peace and democracy. Even today, it’s impressive how well the huge sports facilities fit into the natural surroundings and how both are combined to form a harmonious picture. The best view of the entire site and also of Munich's skyline can be had from top of Olympic Hill (a small mountain with a short 15 minute climb) or from the viewing platform of the Olympic Tower at a height of almost 190 meters. From May to September, the annual Open Air Cinema takes place directly on the shore of the Olympic Lake as well as many more sports, music and cultural events all throughout the year.

Olympiapark | Spiridon-Louis-Ring 21, 80809 Munich | More info

Visit Nymphenburg Palace & Park

A visit to Schloss & Park Nymphenburg is like a journey back in time to the Bavarian Monarchy. By walking through the magnificent rooms of the castle one gets put back to the courtly life of the 17th century. The entrance fee to the castle also gives you access to the museum and the porcelain exhibition.

The adjoining extensive landscaped park with its fountains, canals, lakes and pavilions is ideal for long walks and benches to rest on can be found throughout the park. A visit to the park alone is worthwhile and the entrance to the park is free!

Nymphenburg Castle & Park | Schloß Nymphenburg 1, 80638 Munich | More info

Take a tour of FC Bayern München’s football stadium Allianz Arena

Allianz Arena is the home stadium of the prestigious local football club, FC Bayern München. From the outside, the imposing structure looks like an oversized pillow that is illuminated outside match days from dusk onwards for around three hours. When there is no football match, visitors can book a stadium tour with an optional visit to the club’s own museum. On the tour you can get a glimpse behind the scenes of the stadium, including a visit to the players' cabins and the players' bench directly on the pitch.

Allianz Arena | Werner-Heisenberg-Allee 25, 80939 Munich | More info

Explore the greenhouses of the Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden in Nymphenburg is one of the largest of its kind in Germany and is one of the most important botanical gardens in the world. You can explore the fauna and flora of humid tropical areas, hot deserts and cool tropical mountain forests spread over 4,500 sqm in the Glasshouse Complex. The outdoor area is spread over 52.4 acres and is suitable both for a journey of botanical discovery as well as for going for a stroll in beautiful surroundings.

Botanischer Garten Nymphenburg | Menzinger Str. 65, 80638 Munich | More info

Learn about science and technology at Deutsches Museum

Munich’s famous Museum of Science and Technology captivates its visitors with more than 30 exhibitions spread over an area of some 25,000 square meters. Visitors can watch how artificial lightning is generated, they can get an impression of what it must feel like to work in a mineshaft, they can be amazed by the star show in the planetarium and many more exciting exhibitions. You can easily spend a whole afternoon here and still not have seen everything.

Deutsches Museum | Museumsinsel 1, 80538 Munich | More info

Enjoy contemporary art at Museum Haus der Kunst

Haus der Kunst is one of Munich’s most prestigious museums for contemporary art. It doesn’t dispose of its own collection but hosts changing exhibitions devoted to international contemporary art. In this field the museum enjoys an outstanding reputation worldwide and the fact that it is undergoing a constant change provides a great opportunity for regular visits. The building is one of Munich's landmarks and is worth a visit for itself.

Our recommendation: after you’ve finished your tour of the museum drop by Goldene Bar for coffee or lunch. The café / restaurant / bar of the museum is located on the rear side of the building. During the summer season you can enjoy your drinks and food sitting on the spacious outdoor terrace.

Haus der Kunst | Prinzregentenstraße 1, 80538 Munich | More info

Watch the surfers at the Eisbach river wave

If you’re visiting Munich for the first-time it might be surprising to you to spot someone riding a bicycle with a surfboard tucked under the arm. However, this strange sight makes sense once you learn that surfing on river waves is a popular sport in the city. Munich is widely recognized for its great river surfing spots, first and foremost for the Eisbach river wave. Over the past few years, it has become a popular attraction for visitors to come here and watch the surfers perform. Since it’s located right next to the museum Haus der Kunst and at the entrance to the park (Englischer Garten) you can combine watching the surfers with a visit to the museum or a walk through Englischer Garten.

Eisbach Wave | Prinzregentenstraße 1, 80538 Munich | More info

Take a walk through Englischer Garten (English Garden)

The English Garden is the place where Munich locals come to recharge their batteries. The large park offers many ways to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. People enjoy playing sports on the park's many meadows, swim down the Eisbach river on hot summer days, surf on a standing river wave, go for a bicycle tour or sit in a beer garden in the shadow of old chestnut trees.

Watch the sunset from Maximilianeum

There are some popular places in Munich to watch the sunset. One place where you have a particularly beautiful view over Munich's old town is the driveway of the Maximilianeum. This magnificent building serves as the seat of the Bavarian Parliament and sits somewhat elevated on the high bank of the Isar River. At sunset you can sit on the parapet of the driveway and enjoy a great view of the Maximilians Bridge and over the Maximilians Street, which leads into the old town.

Maximilianeum | Max-Planck-Straße 1, 81675 Munich

Frequently Asked Questions about visiting Munich

Is Munich worth a visit?

Munich is a city where tradition meets progress. Visitors can experience the laid-back Bavarian lifestyle and still be excited by a vibrant international city, which provides home to almost 1.5 Mio residents. Munich boasts a multitude of cultural institutions, museums and historic landmarks, beautiful parks, a great choice of regional and international food, shopping venues, events all year round (not only the Oktoberfest!), a vibrant nightlife and much more. Those who have once experienced Munich’s high quality of life often return. Munich is also an excellent home base to discover other beautiful places in Bavaria, which are only a short drive away, like Lake Chiemsee, Neuschwanstein Castle or the Bavarian Alps.

When to visit Munich?

The best time to visit Munich is from early summer (June) to fall (October), when the climate is mild and much of life takes place outside. This is the time when Munich is refert to, with a wink, as the northernmost city in Italy. The best way to explore Munich is on foot or by bicycle, what you can do best when the weather suits. Furthermore, places like the English Garden or the many outdoor cafés and restaurants are best enjoyed when it’s nice out.

Where to stay in Munich?

Munich is a city composed of 25 districts, each of which has its own charm. Even though Munich has a very good public transportation network that allows you to reach most destinations within the city quickly, we would recommend booking a hotel in the centre of the city. This will save you commuting time, as many of the interesting sights and must-see places are centrally located. We would recommend getting a hotel or Airbnb west of river Isar in the Old Town district, Glockenbachviertel, Lehel or Maxvorsatdt.

Although there are many hotel offers here, we would advise against booking a hotel near the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), as Munich does not show its best side here.

Is Munich a save city?

Munich is the safest metropolitan region in Germany according to the 2020 statistics of criminality. Tourists can move freely and safely throughout the city at any time of the day or night. However, as everywhere in the world, visitors should use common sense and avoid potentially problematic situations.

How much time do I need to experience Munich?

To get a first impression of Munich’s must-see places we recommend a stay of 2 to 3 days.

The best way to explore Munich?

Many of Munich’s must-see places and attractions are centrally located. You can either get from one place to the other by foot or riding a bike, which you can rent from one of the providers in the city centre. Also, recently e-scooter providers introduced their rental service across the city, however, one should be aware of the risks involved in driving an e-scooter. If there is a longer distance between two places you can also use the public transport system, which connects all parts of the city and is very reliable, easy to navigate and comes at a fair price. If you plan to use the public transport system more often we recommend to purchase the Munich Card & City Pass which allows you to travel on public transport and gives you additional value, like discounts for attractions, museums, shops and restaurants in Munich.

Can I get by with English in Munich?

Even if you don't speak a word of German, you can usually get by with English without any problems. Munich is used to international visitors. Especially the younger generation speaks good English and there should be no communication problems in most shops, in restaurants or cafés and at sights.

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