Friends consider Munich my spiritual home on the basis of the punctuality and organisation of public transport along with the city’s strong sporting traditions and plentiful supply of nice cars. They know me too well.
I combined my Munich trip with a stay in Salzburg in Austria, visiting the Austrian city first and returning to Munich by train days later. I only allowed for one day in Munich which, with hindsight, was an error as Munich is a much larger city than Salzburg and is equally engaging.
With literally only 24 hours in Munich, I had to prioritise what to see and do in Germany’s third largest city. The following is the itinerary I took.
By the way, Munich is written as München in the German language. For other Germany tips check out my Germany Travel Tips post.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN MUNICH
GO SHOPPING: As I was based in the Hauptbahnhof area, the pedestrian shopping streets of Neuhauser Strasse and Kaufingerstrasse were one of the first attractions I encountered. Most of the streets adjacent to this area are also good for shopping.
SIGHTSEEING IN THE ALTSTADT (OLD TOWN): Munich does many things well and architecture is one of them to the point that I abandoned shopping plans and simply rambled aimlessly throughout the Altstadt admiring the craft of Bavaria’s bygone builders.
I passed under the Karlstor arch, the remnants of the medieval city wall located between Karlsplatz and Neuhauser Strasse which marks the westernmost point of the Altstadt.
Approximately 1km east of Karlstor is Marienplatz, the centre of the Altstadt. The feature building in this square is the Neus Rathaus (New Town Hall), a 19th century Gothic-style construct with intricate external features and a distinctive grey facade.
Another structure which made a significant impression on me was the Feldherrnhalle, an 18th century Italian-inspired commemoration to the Bavarian Army and site of a tragic riot between the Bavarian Police and Hitler’s followers in 1923, leading to the imprisonment of the Nazi leader.
DRINK BEER: I don’t drink beer nor does the sight of a dirndl-clad beer maid excite me so I knew the Hofbrauhaus wouldn’t be my scene but one can’t come to Munich and not visit. The Hofbrauhaus serves food but there are many restaurants and cafes located in this area as well.
HANG OUT IN OLYMPIC PARK: My scene lay north of the Altstadt beside Olympiazentrum underground station on the U3 line. Here I indulged my sporty side and visited the Olympic Park.
Constructed for the 1972 Olympics with subsequent public use in mind, it continues to be frequented by Munich residents while the main stadium, built in a crater formed from WWII bombing, was home to Bayern Munich FC until 2006.
The tent-like membrane roof of several of its venues is said to mimic the nearby Alps. I was delighted to gain access to the swimming pool arena where Mark Spitz, star of the 1972 games, won his seven gold medals.
It’s both a pleasant and impressive park and very popular with locals exercising and sunbathing.
LEARN ABOUT BMW: Despite Munich’s impressive architecture and rich history, the site which I relished visiting the most was the BMW complex. Located beside the Olympic Park it comprises of the company’s headquarters and manufacturing plant, the BMW Museum and BMW Welt (BMW World).
I started at the BMW Museum which showcased its cars from the early 20th Century onwards. While I love and appreciate the beauty of these mechanical beasts, I know very little of their inner workings. Thankfully, a native German motoring enthusiast was willing to educate me.
Regrettably, I didn’t visit BMW HQ and take a tour of the manufacturing plant. Designed like a four-cylinder car part, the HQ building is one of the most distinctive structures in the world.
Instead, I spent the time visiting BMW Welt: a futuristic showroom for new products, a contact point for customers and an experience of utopian proportions for those of us who only dream of owning a BMW.
Over-awed with the environs, I rested on the floor in a quiet corner with my hand clasped to my chest looking more like a heart attack victim than a fan of the luxury brand who was having a celestial experience.
IS ONE DAY IN MUNICH ENOUGH?
In short, no. Allow one day alone for the Olympic Park and the BMW complex. Day two can be spent in the Old Town.
Munich was a marvellous introduction to a country I’ve grown fond of, a country which forges ahead technologically without losing sight of its traditions. I’ve a tendency to allow too little time on visits to Germany and my one day trip to see Munich’s sights was no different, which means a return visit is inevitable.
MUNICH TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
GETTING TO MUNICH: Munich has two airports. Munich Airport (Flughafen München Franz Josef Strauss) is the main airport located 28km north of the city and is one of Europe’s busiest. Trains and buses run between Munich city and Munich Airport.
Memmingen Airport (Allgäu Airport) is located 110km west of Munich and is served by low-cost airlines such as Ryanair. The Allgäu Airport Express bus travels between Munich central station and this airport.
Arriving from Salzburg by train into Munich Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) is an experience, one where I struggled to find the exit out of. According to online reviews, the station’s frequent renovations test the navigational skills of most visitors. For further information on German rail travel check out my Germany by Train post.
GETTING AROUND MUNICH: Like all German cities Munich has an excellent public transport system. For more details check out the MVV website.
Munich’s high cost of accommodation – the city’s one and only drawback – forced me to choose a miniscule room in a hotel near the Hauptbahnhof, an area which happens to be the Red Light District. Online reviews prior to visiting deemed the area safe and that was my experience as well so don’t let this put you off.
To give you an idea of price, the current rate for the minuscule room is €179 a night on booking.com. The room was so small that I could touch the two main walls upon extending my hands from the centre of the room (okay, I’m quite tall). On the plus side, the bed was comfortable, the room was warm and the staff very helpful and friendly. Thankfully, Munich is such an engaging city, the room was used only for sleep.