Munich Starter Kit
This isn’t meant to be a guidebook. It is simply an introduction to a forum about Munich/Bavaria/Germany. I’m Lauren, and I briefly lived in Munich in 2008. Please feel free to post any questions here and I’ll try to respond promptly and accurately.Introduction
Munich (München/Muenchen) is the capital of Bavaria (Bayern), the largest and second most populous of Germany’s 16 states (Länder/Laender). Munich is the third largest city in Germany, behind Berlin and Hamburg, with a population of about 1.3 million.
Bavaria is located in the southeast of Germany, though it was a part of the former Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), and the area was in fact part of the American occupational zone after World War II. Located in southeastern Bavaria, Munich is a great city from which one can explore the region. What many people do not realize is that the center city of Munich was actually rebuilt after World War II, since the city was almost completely leveled during the war.City Layout/Main Sights
Marienplatz is the square at the center of Munich, located in the middle of the mostly pedestrian old town and shopping district. This square is Munich’s most memorable sight and features the city’s new and old town halls (Neues und Altes Rathaus). There is a U-Bahn/S-Bahn stop there (Marienplatz). The center city is compact (one could walk from one end to the other leisurely in 30 minutes), but is full of many sights and things to do. The famous Viktualienmarkt is located just southeast of Marienplatz; the Hofbräuhaus is just about due east, while Maximillianstrasse, the city’s most expensive shopping street is also to the east. North of Marienplatz lies Odeonsplatz; near there is the Residenz, Munich’s royal palace, and the Hofgarten. To the west of center city lies Karlsplatz’s open air fountain, which is connected to Marienplatz by two pedestrian shopping streets, Neuhauserstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse. Off of these streets lay St. Michael’s Church and Frauenkirche.
Four other S-Bahn/U-Bahn stops are located around the ring of main streets that surround old town: Odeonsplatz to the north, Isator to the southeast, Sendlinger Tor to the southwest, and Karlsplatz to the west. A couple blocks further west from Karlsplatz is Hauptbahnhof, the city’s central station. There are a ton of hostels in this area. The Oktoberfest grounds are located at Theresienwiese, south of Hauptbahnhof and southwest from the center city. North of the train station and old town lay the city’s main art museums, like the Pinathotheks and the Lenbachhaus. The famous Englisher Garten is located northeast of the city center, starting near Odeonsplatz and stretching a few miles northward.
Several other popular sights lay out of walking distance from old town. A few miles northwest of the center city is the BMW Factory and Museum as well as Olympiapark, home to the 1972 Olympics. During the summer there are a lot of free or reasonably priced concerts and events that happen here. West of the city center is Schloss Nymphenburg, a the largest baroque royal palace in Germany (over a mile long). A huge park and botanical garden surrounds the balace.Transportation
Munich has a comprehensive public transport system that will get you wherever you need to go. For short stays, sticking to the U-Bahn (subway) and the connected S-Bahn (suburban train system) will be easiest, as stations are clearly marked with either a blue and white “U” or a green and white “S” symbol and each station has clear maps. The bus and tram (Strassenbahn) system is more confusing as there are more routes. You can pick up bus and tram maps at any MVG Information Center, including those at Hauptbahnhof, Karlsplatz, Sendlinger Tor, Odeonsplatz, Mariensplats, and Olympiazentrum.
The S-Bahn/U-Bahn system is divided into zones. Most tourists will stay in the center (white) zone, and thus only need one-zone tickets. The most significant exception to this is the airport, which is located in the outermost (red) zone 4. There are many different types of tickets, including a single ticket, a strip of tickets (11 euro for a strip of 10; you must use two strips per zone), a day pass (5 euro for zone 1, 10 euro for the whole network), 3-day inner zone pass (12.30 euro). A great deal that a lot of travelers don’t know about is that you can buy a partner day pass which is good for up to 5 adults all day (you must travel together though; 9 euro for the innermost zone and 18 euro for the whole network). The 3-day partner ticket for the inner zone is 21 euro. For more public transport information, including a route map and tariff plan, check out http://www.mvv-muenchen.de/en/index.html
If you’re flying into the airport (Flughafen), you can take S-1 or S-8 into the center city. This is probably the best option since the airport is rather far away and cabs are quite expensive. Lufthansa also runs a shuttle from Hauptbahnhof to the airport which departs about every 20 minutes for the cost of 10 euros per person (ask at your hotel/hostel for exact details). The Munich airport is a Lufthansa hub, so there are many direct flights to and from all over Europe as well as the world (lots of direct transatlantic flights).
Munich is also the central train hub in Bavaria, and you can catch trains all over the region and all over Germany (and Europe) from here. A great train deal is the Bayern Pass, which is good for a whole day of unlimited travel on regional (slower) trains, and it is 19 euros for one person or 27 for up to five (must travel together). Trains available for this deal include RB (RegionalBahn), RE (RegionalExpress), and ALX trains. On regional trains, it is about 0:45 to Augsburg, 1:30 to Regensburg, 1:45 to Nuremburg, 2:45 to Lindau (on Lake Constance/Konstanz/der Bodensee), and 3:16 to Wurzburg. For more information on train travel, go to www.bahn.de
. This website also has special price deals on certain tickets. When you search, click on the “local transport” option for the trains for use on the Bayern Ticket.
Since the high speed trains that connect European cities can be expensive without a railpass, I’ve found buses to be a good option. Eurolines (www.eurolines.com
) connects Munich to most other large cities in the region (Prague, Berlin, Budapest, Paris, Venice, Ljubljana, Croatian coast) for relatively cheap. Since many of those places are 4-8 hours away, taking the night bus can be a good option (i.e. the bus leaves Munich at midnight and gets into Prague at about 5am), so you still maximize your days and you cut out the cost of a hostel for a night. If you’ve never traveled by bus in Europe, they are surprisingly comfortable and quite safe.Expenses
Munich is one of the most expensive cities in Germany, much more expensive than Berlin. Germany is on the Euro and ATMs are plentiful; almost every block in the center city as well as many in Hauptbahnhof (the main train station). Many restaurants and shops, especially smaller ones and those outside the heavily touristed zones, only take cash.Eating
Munich is the perfect place to try German food. At German restaurants and beer halls, you’ll find traditional foods such as schnitzel, bratwurst, and pretzels. A good dish for vegetarians to try is käse spätzle, a cheese noodle dish. There aren’t too many vegetarian and vegan options at traditional German restaurants, but there is also a pretty good selection of international restaurants in the city. Also, there are a few specialty vegetarian restaurants throughout the city (check out http://www.vegguide.org/region/291
for a list).
You’ll find plenty of restaurants in the pedestrian old town, but they’ll be expensive, with prices rising as you get closer to Marienplatz. Another area that has a lot of restaurants is the University district, and the area around Ludwigstrasse/Leopoldstrasse (U-Bahn stops Universität or Giselastrasse). This is a trendy area where a lot of students hang out and there are tons of restaurants in the low- to mid-price ranges which serve all sorts of food (traditional German, Mexican, Chinese, steakhouses, etc.).
Viktualienmarkt, the city’s center city market is another place that’s great for grabbing a bite to eat (and rather inexpensively too). There you can find breads, meats, cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as sauces, honeys, dried fruits, wines, and just about every thing else you can imagine to create your own lunch or dinner.
Another budget option is to eat meals at a Bäckerei (bakery), Konditorei (bakery/pastry shop), or Imbiss/Imbissstand/Imbissbude (snack stand), which you’ll find scattered throughout the city, especially in and around Hauptbahnhof. Rischart and Müller are two of the most common bakeries you’ll see across the city, including in many U-Bahn/S-Bahn stops as well as scattered throughout the old town; they can be handy places for a grab-and-go sandwich, pretzel, or pastry. There’s also a grocery store in the Karlsplatz U-Bahn/S-Bahn station underground, near the center city.Drinking
Any tourist to Munich has to at least stop in one beer hall or beer garden (or both!) during their visit, since Munich is one of the most famous beer cities in the world. There are six main Munich breweries, and almost restaurants/bars serve at least one type on tap (you’ll see which plainly advertised by canopies or umbrellas on outside tables). The big six are: Paulaner, Augustiner, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten. Beers come in half-liter pitchers as their standard size (Halbe), but you can also order a liter (Mass). Helles is the word for light beer and dunkles for dark. You’ll also be able to find Weissbier, a white beer made from wheat. Another popular drink is the Radler, which is a mixture of beer and either lemonade or lemon soda. This is a good guide that lists different beer halls and beer gardens in Munich: http://www.xs4all.nl/~patto1ro/munipubs.htm
The most famous beer hall/brewery in Munich is the Hofbräuhaus. It’s pretty touristy, but it’s probably worth ducking inside to grab a drink. Like other beer halls, hanging out here at the long wooden tables is a great way to meet other people (though here you’re more likely to run into foreigners than Germans). Even if you don’t stay for a drink, most tourists at least walk through this most famous of beer halls. Another famous beer hall is the Augustiner Keller and garden, located near Hauptbahnhof. White beer aficionados enjoy the Weisses Bräuhaus, located in the center city. If beer isn’t your thing, Pfälzer Weinprobierstube is a traditional German wine restaurant near Odeonsplatz.
The most centrally located beer garden (Biergarten) is at Viktualienmarkt. Since it’s so prominently located in the center of the shops and stalls downtown, one can’t miss it. There are several other great beer gardens further out from the center. There are also several beer gardens in the Englischer Garten, the most famous being the one by the Chinese Tower. Possibly the best beer garden to visit the locals is the Hirschgarten (located at S-Bahn stop Liam; turn left when exiting the station, go under the tunnel, make your first right, and you’ll see the Hirschgarten at the end of the street), the world’s largest beer garden (it seats something like 9,000). Since it’s out of the way you’ll find way more locals than tourists here. And, it’s an inexpensive place to grab dinner as well.My Munich Top Five
1 – Check out the center city area by visiting the pedestrian zone around Marienplatz; watch the glockenspiel play at 11am and wander around the lovely downtown, including checking out the Hofbräuhaus, the Old and New Town Halls, and several of the churches
2 – Grab lunch in Viktualienmarkt, the open air market in downtown Munich
3 – Head out to Olympiapark to admire the unique architecture and chill out by the pond
4 - Spend an afternoon sunbathing in the unique atmosphere of the Englisher Garten and stop for dinner in the trendy University district right to the west of the Garten
5 – Get away from the tourists and spend an evening enjoying German beer in the Hirschgarten, largest beer garden in the world (and definitely try a Radler if you’ve never had one while you’re there)