Language: The official language of Munich is German. However, English is commonly spoken in hotels and in some cafes and restaurants. Most young(ish) people have a basic level of English as well!
Transportation: Munich has one of the best transportation systems in Germany. You can easily get around the city by bus, tram, underground, and overground train. By purchasing a ticket, you can use all modes of transportation in the city.
I’m super excited to share with you a very special Beginner’s Guide! Some of you may or may not know that Munich as a very special place in my heart. The fun-loving, beer-drinking, lederhosen-wearing city has been home since July 2018!
And while I may be biased towards this beautiful Bavarian capital, one thing is for sure. Bavarians take two things very seriously. The first thing is beer, and the second thing is the outdoors.
Because that’s what makes Munich so wonderful. You can eat and drink exceptionally well (especially in the traditional beer gardens), while also enjoying the natural beauty of Southern Germany. There are grassy parks, flowing rivers, and views of the Alps. What else can you ask for?
Where to Stay in Munich
If this is your first time to Munich, then you’ll want to stay in Altstadt, or old city. Close to all the biggest attractions like Altes and Neues Rathauses (old and new city hall), Viktualienmarkt, and Hofbräuhaus, Altsadt is the center of tourist life.
Here, you’ll find charming cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and of course, traditional German pubs! Altstadt is also a shoppers paradise, as it’s home to Marienplatz and Odeonplatz which are both littered with big name and luxury brands.
And since you’re centrally located to Hauptbahnhof (main station), the English Garden, and other neighborhoods, it’s the perfect jumping off point for exploring the rest of Munich. The hotels might be higher priced, but you can’t get any more central!
Budget: Hotel Sendlinger Tor
Mid-Range: Hotel an der Oper
Luxury: Bayerischer Hof
With the biggest concentration of bars, restaurants, and museums, Maxvorstadt is the cultural heart of Munich. Surrounded by two universities, Maxvorstadt is teeming with students and locals at all hours of the day. As you walk down the main streets of Ludwigstraße, Barer Straße, and Schellingstraße, you’ll find people spilling out into the streets as they drink coffee or shop at the many boutiques.
Maxvorstadt is an ideal place to stay due to it’s location to many attractions in Munich. You’re in walking distance to Altstadt, the English Garden, Hauptbahnhof. However, you’re far enough away from the crowds of tourists, which can be a blessing in high season.
Budget: Leonardo Boutique Hotel
Mid-Range: Hotel Hauser an der Universität
Luxury: Hotel im Hof
This laid-back enclave of cafes, restaurants, and shops was once the bohemian center of Munich. One home to artists, musicians, and overall creatives, Schwabing feels more like a charming home-away-from-home neighborhood. It’s further north of the city, which means everything is just a bit more authentic (read: less touristy) out there.
Bordered by the famous Olympic park to the north and the English Garden to the east, Schwabing is a great place to relax. Not to mention, some of the best restaurants can also be found here, including the three-star Michelin Tantris.
But even if you’re here just to grab a cappuccino or bowl of ice cream, Schwabing is a unique gem that can’t be missed.
Budget: Frederics München City Schwabing
Mid-Range: H’Otello F22
Luxury: Das Nikolai Hotel
What to do in Munich
1. Eat at Viktualienmarkt
Located in the heart of Altstadt, Viktualienmarkt is the ultimate, gourmet market for foodies. Grab some freshly grilled sausage, a couple salted pretzels, and an ice cold glass of beer as you bask in the sun watching the bustle around you. You can also purchase some great souvenirs like handcrafted mustards, gooey cheeses, and other Bavarian crafts at one of the many booths. Try to come during the early afternoon, when the older generation of Bavarians dress up in traditional lederhosen and dirndls for lunch!
2. Sunbathe in the English Garden
Did you know that the English Garden in Munich is actually larger than NYC’s Central Park? Filled with lakes, grassy fields, beer gardens, forested trails, it’s the best outdoor escape from the city. Bring a picnic, some sunscreen, and your closest friends to enjoy the natural beauty of this fantastic park. And even if you don’t come during the summer, you can still marvel at the local surfers! Yes – every day, dozens of people don their wetsuits and surf the tides in the Eisbachwelle!
3. Get Drunk (or just slightly tipsy) in the Beer Gardens
As my all-time favorite activity in Munich, there’s nothing more Bavarian than drinking a liter (that’s almost three cans of beer) of smooth, refreshing German beer. And during the spring, summer, and fall, you can visit one of the many outdoor beer gardens in the city! And while they serve German delicacies like sausage, crispy pork knuckles, and potato salad, it’s common to bring your own picnic! My favorite beer garden destinations are Augustiner-Keller, the Chinese Tower in the English Garden, and Hirschgarten.
4 Shop the Handicraft Boutiques
Like most cities around the world, Munich is known for international and luxury shopping. But if you’re looking for something more unique, there are hundreds of boutique shops scattered around the city. Skip the department stores in Marienplatz and head for Hohenzollernstraße, Gärtnerplatz, and Shellingstraße. You’ll find one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry, handmade clothing, and adorable furnishings and decor!
Tips for Traveling to Munich
1. Don’t expect to shop on Sunday! Except for restaurants, bars, and cafes, everything in Munich shuts down on Sundays. That includes retail shops, grocery stores, and pharmacies. But if you’re in a pinch, there is a grocery store that stays open in Hauptbahnhof (the main station). Make sure to stock up on your necessities beforehand!
2. Carry cash. Unlike most places in the United States, Germany is a cash society. While most retail shops take credit cards, you can’t expect that cafes, restaurants, or bars do. And in some cases, these places on take cards from German Banks (EC Cards).
3. Add your tip beforehand. When it comes time to pay at a cafe or restaurant, you should include any tip before handing the waitstaff your money. While it’s customary in some countries to leave the tip on the table, it’s more common to add the tip before you give cash or have your credit card ran. And speaking of which, it’s typical to round up anywhere from 5-10% for a tip.
4. Transportation is not free. Trains, trams, and buses work on an honor system in Munich. You might see locals with monthly passes breezing through the gates, or boarding a bus without stamping anything. However, you’ll need to find the small and easy to miss, blue stamp machine to punch the time if you have a daily ticket. There’s no turnstile or scan system that’s required when entering a train station, which many tourists assume means free transportation. But if you get caught without a valid ticket, you’ll be charged a fine of €60.
5. Watch for cyclists. Munich is a cycling city, so be prepared to see thousands of cyclists whizzing through the streets and alleys. Some of the time they use the main street, but other places have designated cyclist lanes on the sidewalk. Try not to confuse their lane for the normal, pedestrian sidewalk – bicyclists can be mean!
6. Obey the Pfand. When you’re in the beer garden, you might wonder why your €6 beer rings up at the cash register as €8. Well, that’s because most beer gardens and outdoor festivals add a returnable deposit, known in German as Pfand, to the total price. You’ll receive a token that you’ll need to return along with the glass or bottle to get your money back.