The First-Time Visitor's Guide to Munich

Munich is filled with culture, contemporary classic design and fine museums and theaters. Put these destinations on your list

Munich knows how to have a good time—this is, after all, the beer capital of Europe. But while the merriment continues year-round in the city’s bounteous beer halls, Munich shakes off its hangover and retains a surprisingly sensible reputation for hard work and innovation.

This is the home of BMW and Siemens, and is the location of some of Germany’s finest museums, art galleries and theatres, lending it a rather refined and prosperous air. All this marries well with its elegant Bavarian palaces and grand churches. But look past the sharp suits and flash cars and you’ll find another beer hall pounding with oompah music—an appealing reminder of Munich’s mischievous side. For the first-time visitor, Munich offers myriad things to do and classic sites to visit. Here's what to put on your travel to-do list for your first trip:

BMW Welt

Old Town, Museums and Landmarks

Munich’s centre radiates out from Marienplatz, the Gothic heart of the Altstadt (Old Town). This is where you’ll see the daily chimes from the glockenspiel, inside the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall).

Christmas Market in Marienplatz

Just to the north is the sprawling Residenz, a former palace of the Wittelsbach rulers for several centuries, meticulously restored after being bombed in World War II. It is surrounded by grand town houses, churches, theatres and elegant shops, while to the east is the neighbourhood of Platzl, home to the city’s most famous beer hall, the Hofbräuhaus—a focal point for beer drinkers since 1644.

Further east is Museumsinsel (Museum Island), an island on the Isar River, site of the Deutsches Museum.

Galleries, Neighborhoods & Outdoor Markets

Back at Marienplatz, the Viktualienmarkt sprawls to the south of the square—a bustling outdoor food market, one of the greatest in Europe. In summer, this is transformed into an expensive beer garden. To the west is the main pedestrian shopping district, leading to Karlsplatz and on to the main train station.

Old Pinakothek Gallery

A few blocks to the north of the station is a cluster of excellent art galleries, known collectively as the Pinakothek, which house a collection of new and contemporary art. To the south is Theresienwiese, the purpose-built area that holds the huge tents of the Oktoberfest each year.

Munich’s best-known suburb is Schwabing, the lively student district, stretching to the north of the centre. The tranquil, grassy Englischer Garten can also be found here.

Chinese pagoda at Englischer Garten

Further north still is Olympiapark, site of the 1972 Olympics, and out to the west are the sculpted grounds of Schloss Nymphenburg, Munich’s summer palace.