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Top 10 Things to Do in Munich
Steeped in history, and packed with museums, castles and seasonal festivities unlike anywhere else in the world, Munich is a city truly unlike any other. From Oktoberfest and Munich’s beer gardens, to the fairy tale-like Neuschwanstein castle, here are the top 10 things to do in Munich.
1. Neuschwanstein and Ludwig II
An idealized vision of a knight’s castle on the outside and a homage to Wagner’s operas on the inside, Neuschwanstein was Ludwig II’s most ambitious project. During the same period, he commissioned Linderhof and Herrenchiemsee, two castles in the French style. More than 50 million visitors have admired these fairy-tale castles since they were built by the shy and world-weary king. At Neuschwanstein, in particular, there seems to be no low season. A day trip toward Füssen in the Schwangau is an unforgettable experience, and one of the top things to do in Munich!
With more than six million visitors, over five million litres of beer, 200,000 pairs of pork sausages, and 100 spit-roasted oxen – Munich’s Oktoberfest is the largest folk fair in the world. At the foot of the Bavaria statue, a huge field, the Theresienwiese (Wisen for short), is transformed into a fairground with beer tents operated by traditional breweries, rides, and a variety of vendors selling gingerbread hearts, roast chicken and fresh pretzels. For 16 days, visitors and locals, some in traditional costumes, indulge in Bavarian revelry.
3. Beer Gardens
In summer, Bavaria’s “liquid food” is served in beer gardens. And summer unofficially begins during Lent in March, when the breweries market their bock beers such as Salvator, Maximator or Triumphator. No matter what you drink – ale, light beer or WeiBbier (wheat beer) from Augustiner, Löwenbräu, Paulaner – if you haven’t sat on a wooden bench beneath the chestnut trees on a mild summer’s night and sipped on a MaB (a litre) of beer while enjoying the aroma of pork sausage or grilled fish, you simply don’t know Munich.
4. Schloss Nymphenburg
To celebrate the birth of their son in 1664, the Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife Henrietta Adelaide of Savoy commissioned Agostino Barelli to build a summer palace to the west of Munich. The wings and annex building were added from 1701 onwards. The historic gardens to the rear of the palace beckon for a pleasant stroll. Over the course of 300 years, the original ornamental garden was expanded into a vast ensemble comprising a Baroque garden, a system of canals, and small pavilions scattered throughout the park.
In preparation for the 1972 Olympic Games, a former airfield and parade grounds were transformed into an Olympic park. The park features landscaped hills, an artificial lake, a communications tower, and sports facilities. Designed by the firm of Behnisch & Partners, the elegant, airy ensemble derives its character chiefly from the transparent tensile roof designed by Frei Otto. Tent-shaped, it covers part of the stadium, the hall, and the pool, and is considered a masterpiece of modern architecture.
Henry the Lion transformed Marienplatz into the centre of Munich – and it remains the heart of the city today. This is where the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) stands, major public transit lines meet, and locals and visitors alike stroll past street entertainers, or sit at the restaurant and café patios lining the square. A pedestrian zone begins at the western end of the square; the elegant WeinstraBe and TheatinerstraBe lead off from the north; toward the east are the Isartor and MaximilianstraBe, and to the south the Viktualienmarkt.
7. Deutsches Museum
The Deutsches Museum, founded by Oskar von Miller in 1903, is housed on an island in the Isar River in a building dating from 1925. The world’s largest museum of technology and engineering is a tour de force – only a fraction of the exhibits can be viewed in a single day. The best approach is to plan your visit in advance.
8. Museum District
The Museum District comprises three major museums: the Alte Pinakothek, the Neue Pinakothek, and the Pinakothek der Moderne. Nearby is the Glypothek, the State Collection of Antiquities, Lenbachhaus and the Museum Brandhorst. The Alte Pinakothek was founded by Ludwig I, designated by Leo von Klenze, and opened in 1836. It houses the collections of Bavarian dukes, electors, and kings, as well as the treasures of dissolved monasteries. Today, the museum holds priceless masterpieces of the 14th – to 18th-century art.
9. Starnberger See
Of all the lakes in Munich’s lake region, Starnberger See is the most popular being practically on the city’s doorstep. It is also the largest body of water in the region – 21 km long, 5 km wide, and up to 125 m deep – and offers attractive spots for bathing, sailing and surfing. Members of the nobility built their summer residences here; Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) spent her summers at Possenhofen, while her cousin Ludwig II resided at Berg. The best way to experience the lake is to take a steamboat trip.
Located in the heart of the city, this former residence of Bavarian kings and home of the Wittelsbach dynasty until 1918 was gradually transformed from moated castle (1385) into an extensive complex with seven courtyards. Highlights include the largest secular Renaissance building (the Antiquarium), interiors from the 17th century and the Rococo period, and Leo von Klenze’s Classicist Konigsbau. The complex also houses special collections such as the silver and church vestments collection, and porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries.