The beautiful Bavarian city of Munich has just about everything that comes to mind when you think of Germany. There are rollicking biergartens, charming half-timbered buildings, street vendors selling steaming sausages and the picturesque natural scenery of parks and the Isar River. More than just the famous home of Oktoberfest, Munich is both painstakingly preserved and dazzlingly modern. There’s a whole treasure trove of wonders to discover during your language course in Munich!
Oktoberfest and beer gardens
It’s impossible to talk about Munich without mentioning Oktoberfest, so let’s start by satisfying your curiosity! Running from about mid-September through early October, it’s one of the most famous festivals in the entire world. There are a few basics you absolutely need to know, the first being that your hotel or hostel should be booked months or even a year in advance. Second of all, if you’d like a seat in the tents you should arrive as early as 9 a.m. on the weekends, while getting there early afternoon is fine for weekdays. Everyone loves the idea of dressing up in traditional German costumes, but keep in mind that they’ll set you back upwards of €100. Ordering a cheap Halloween or carnival costume is largely frowned upon!
If you’d like to experience the atmosphere of Oktoberfest without actually attending the event, you can head to Munich’s famous Hofbräuhaus. At this traditional beer hall you’ll hear German brass bands and traditional drinking songs, all while you swig your brew from a giant beer stein and feast on pork knuckle, spätzle and sauerkraut. A less touristy, local favourite is Augustiner Bräustuben near the central train station, or enjoy the great outdoors at the Chinese Tower beer garden in the Englischer Garten.
Palace-hopping in Munich
Smack in the centre of Munich is this ancient royal residence, aptly called the Munich Residenz. With a mind-boggling 130 rooms, you could easily spend the day here but it’s best just to hit the highlights. You’ll be absolutely amazed by its grandeur!
To the west of the city centre is the summer royal palace, the Schloss Nymphenburg. Perched on lush green grounds sprinkled with fountains and little lakes, it’s easy to see why this was the royals’ summer playground. Spending the day visiting these two palaces is a great way to step into Munich’s past.
German charm: traditional Munich
If Munich is a living, breathing city, then Marienplatz is its beating heart. The site of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is where people flock for the 11 a.m. chiming of the Glockenspiel, where cuckoo-clock style figurines act out traditional German stories.
Steps away, the Peterskirche dominates the Munich skyline with its tall tower, “Old Pete” (Alter Peter) whose 306 steps you can climb for sweeping city views. Other historic churches that are well worth visiting include the Frauenkirche on the other side of Marienplatz, with its enormous twin towers and mysterious “devil’s footprint” and the Michaelskirche nearby housing the remains of mad king Ludwig II.
Munich museums: an art lover’s paradise
If you love art, you’ll be in heaven in Munich. Head to the stately Alte Pinakothek to take a gander at the classics from Hieronymus Bosch to Rubens, Rembrandt, Raphael and Tintoretto. Behind the Alte Pinakothek at the Neue Pinakothek, you’ll find works by Renoir, Manet, Gauguin, Cézanne, Degas, Van Gogh and Klimt. And finally, check out the modern art of Miró, Magritte, Dalí, Klee and Kandinsky at the neighbouring Pinakothek der Moderne.
The real stunner, however, is the Museum Brandhorst, housed in a modern, multi-coloured building filled with around 100 works by Andy Warhol. Save yourself some money by visiting on a Sunday when admission is only €1 at all four museums!
Take advantage of a sunny day
Germany isn’t known for its great weather, but Bavaria does boast a better climate than most of the country. When the sun decides to make an appearance, make the most of it by packing a picnic or biking through one of Munich’s picturesque parks. Whether it’s in the Englischer Garten (bigger than New York’s Central Park!), the small but pretty Alter Botanischer Garten or the palatial gardens of the Residenz or Schloss Nymphenburg, you can’t go wrong where a park is involved.