5 Things To Do On Your First Trip To Munich, Germany

With Oktoberfest just around the corner, it’s a great time to plan a trip to Munich, a great starter city if it’s your first-ever trip to Germany. Rich in Bavarian culture, this vibrant locale is worthy of a visit all year long, with enough museums, historic squares, parks, palaces and beer gardens to suit every style, interest and budget.

Celebrate Bavarian Culture at Oktoberfest

If you happen to be visiting Munich in 2023 between Sept. 16 and Oct. 3, work a trip to Oktoberfest into your itinerary. Believe it or not, it’s not all about the beer (okay, a lot of it is). This annual celebration of all things Bavaria is a family affair, with plenty of steins for those of age—in Germany, that’s 16 and up—and kid-friendly carnival rides for the whole family. Don your best dirndl or lederhosen (you’ll find affordable outfits at many shops around town) and spend the day taking in the festivities, noshing on giant pretzels and singing along to tunes played by oompah bands. If your trip doesn’t coincide with the festival, visit Munich’s Hofbräuhaus, Augustiner–Kellner, Königlicher Hirschgarten or Viktualienmarkt beer gardens for similar food and drink options and traditional Bavarian vibes year-round.

Stroll The Historic Downtown

While Munich is a very picturesque city in general, Marienplatz in the historic Old Town is its crown jewel, featuring a famous Fischbrunnen (fish fountain), St. Peter’s Church, the New City Hall, the Old City Hall and the Mariensäule, a column dedicated to Mary, patron saint of Bavaria. For a real treat, visit Marienplatz at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., and from March to October, at 5 p.m. to see the Glockenspiel clock play out its reenactment of Duke Wilhelm V and Renate of Lorraine’s 1568 wedding, a Munich tradition since 1908.

See the Surfers Do Their Thing

Surfers in Germany? You read that right. Surfing enthusiasts from around the world come to ride the waves on Munich’s Eisbach River at the Eisbachwelle, located just behind the Haus der Kunst art gallery in the Englischer Garten (English Garden). These world-famous waves are man-made, the result of a nearby dam being built in 1972 to divert water from the Isar River. Today, it’s a fun spot to watch the pros do their thing—the waves are not recommended for beginner-level surfers.

Pick a Museum, Any Museum

History buffs, rejoice! Munich is full of museums, whether you’re into regional or national history, art by the grand masters—including Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer, Titian, Rubens, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci—modern and contemporary art, science and technology, natural history, Jewish culture, archaeology, aviation or transportation. There’s also a nifty children’s natural history museum inside Nymphenburg Palace, which is worthy of a look in its own right. Learn all about Bavarian history at The Munich Residence, which served as the home of the region’s dukes and kings between 1508 and 1918.

Use Munich as Your Base for Day Trips

Once you’ve had a few days to absorb all the sights and sounds of Munich, consider venturing out, either by car, train or guided tour. Located within a two-hour drive or 3.5-hour train ride of the city center is Füssen, known for its incredible hiking opportunities and proximity to Neuschwanstein Castle (get your tickets in advance if you wish to view the inside, as these guided tours tend to fill up quickly). Auto enthusiasts should head 2.5 hours out of town (by train or car) to Stuttgart, home of the Mercedes–Benz Museum and the Porche Museum—opt for one of the city’s nifty hop-on-hop-off bus tours if you want to see the sights but only have a few hours.

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