Stunning architecture, palaces, Olympic parks and pedestrianised areas to stroll along – arguably, Munich has it all. In winter it may seem like a less-than-inviting idea to walk around for several hours sightseeing Munich’s many outdoor attractions, but as long as you take enough rest stops to fuel up on warm beverages you’ll be absolutely fine (and Munich in the snow is a sight certainly not to be missed.) If visiting in summer, then you have nothing to worry about – except, of course, arranging a suitable number of stops for ice cream. As with Do:Munich, there’s a lot to see – here’s my Top 5 to get your list going:
1. NYMPHENBURG PALACE & BLUTENBURG CASTLE
Munich and its surroundings have many pretty palaces, so it can be hard to decide which to spend your time on during a short visit. My suggestion would be Nymphenburg Palace – still within Munich city, yet with extensive beautiful grounds which could easily trick you into feeling as though you are out in the countryside somewhere. Initially built as a summer residence, it’s easy to see how royalty would have enjoyed relaxing here. Although, as you know, I’m not normally one to spend time inside museums and prefer to be outdoors, I do recommend exploring inside Nymphenburg Palace – particularly the Great Hall with its impressive ceiling. If you’re a walker and the weather is fine, then I would recommend strolling for around an hour all the way through the gardens to nearby and lesser-known Blutenburg castle. Blutenburg is dainty, picturesque and surrounded by a little moat, so you can be forgiven for thinking upon arrival that you’ve stepped back in time to an age of knights and damsels in distress.
The clue is in the name: this extensive park and its surrounding buildings were built and used for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Now, Olympiapark is a place to relax on sunny days, run, cycle, swim, enjoy a concert at the stadium…the list goes on. If you didn’t manage to make it up the Alte Peter mentioned in Do:Munich, then the Olympic Tower at Olympiapark is your next best bet to get an amazing panoramic view of the city (it’s just somewhat pricier than the church and requires even more of a head for heights). While visiting the park, it’s also worth taking a look inside the impressive Olympic swimming pool – it’s possible to view from above without having to pay for a ticket. It is now a public pool though, so if you have your swimwear with you and fancy doing butterfly or breaststroke in the lanes of former champions, then a ticket will only set you back a few euros. For the daring, it’s also possible to walk along the roof of the olympic stadium and abseil or do the Flying Fox down to the ground again (check out more on this on the official website because booking in advance is essential). Also, if visiting in summer, check to see whether the summer festival Tollwood is already in full swing. The festival is free to walk around, tickets for the music tent are the only things that need to be bought if wished. There’s plenty on offer to enjoy there – street food, bars, music, a ‘beach’, and local art and clothing vendors offering their quirky and hipster wares which range from handmade hammocks to an array of spices and tea leaves.
3. KARLSPLATZ TO MARIENPLATZ
Start your tour of Munich Old Town at Karlsplatz (known only as ‘Stachus’ to locals). Aside from the ginormous fountain in the middle, the first thing that you will notice will be the Karlstor – one of several large city gates (originally 4, now only 3 remain) which mark the entrance into Munich’s Old Town. It’s here that the pedestrianised zone begins, which makes walking through Old Town all the more pleasant. On the way down Kaufingerstrasse, Munich’s mainstream shopping street, make sure to take in the stunning Frauenkirche (where the devil is rumoured to have entered and left footprints behind). At the end of the seemingly endless parade of shops (and H&M’s…there are 3 just on this street alone), is the famous Marienplatz with it’s two town halls – old and new. The New Town Hall, which is actually the bigger and more exuberantly gothic one, has the well-known Glockenspiel. My tip? If you happen to be there at around 11 a.m. (or 12 pm or 5 pm in summer) then its pleasant enough to be worth staying for but, I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to stand with the throngs of tourists to see it.
4. ODEONSPLATZ TO THE ENGLISCHER GARTEN
From Marienplatz you’ve got two options to walk towards my next tip, Odeonsplatz. You can either take the road past the gorgeous golden yellow Theatinerkirche or, take the one which leads you by the impressive Opera and the Munich Residenz (the former royal palace located in the heart of the city). Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed and, of course, you can always opt to come back down whichever ‘strasse’ you didn’t take the first time. One thing though: if walking down to Theatinerkirche and in need of a sweet pick-me-up, make sure to stop by Maelu for its stunning and delicious cakes, and overly indulgent, thick hot chocolate. Upon reaching the expansive square, Odeonplatz, if you haven’t taken time to pause already, then pull up a chair at the famous Tambosi cafe and take in the surrounding architecture (notably the dominating presence of the Feldherrnhalle loggia). Tambosi though, is famed more for its prime location and history than amazing drinks and service, so just stick to a refreshing Spritz or a hot drink here before moving swiftly on.
Fired up on all cylinders after a cafe stopover, the next leg of this little journey to enjoy is walking through the palace Hofgarten on your way to the expansive lush greenery of the Englischer Garten public park. Once in the park just enjoy strolling around, but make sure to take a look at the Chinesischer Turm pagoda, the Monopteros temple which presides over the park from a small hill, and also the pleasant lake towards the north of the park.
Although in summer many Munich locals can be seen jumping into the Eisbach brook which runs through park to cool off from the heat, they do so at their own risk – technically it is not allowed but the rule is not enforced. As a solo traveller, I’d recommend to avoid the temptation and just dip your toes in instead, rather than getting yourself into any potential trouble in the water alone.
Finish your avid sightseeing off with watching Munich’s talented city surfers. On a bridge just past the Haus der Kunst, on the edge of the Englischer Garten, is a standing wave. It’s here where all of Munich’s avid surfers flock to, come rain or shine, to show off their skills. As the wave is rather forceful, particularly in winter when water levels and currents are high, normally only the most experienced of surfers are seen here – beginners tend to go to a spot near to Thalkirchen, as mentioned in Munich: Do. Don’t worry about not finding the bridge, the small crowds of people that often gather to watch will certainly help you spot it.