We dare you to think of somewhere better to start the festive season than Germany… we’ll give you some time so don’t worry… can’t think of anywhere…? No? That because there isn’t! Germany and its Christmas markets, in our opinion, are the only place to head when the autumn leaves start falling off the trees and you start hearing the jingle of Christmas tunes.
We’ve done the big B (Berlin) before, so it was time to spread our wings and head somewhere a little less obvious ‘capital city’. Munich seemed like the next best bet and it had nothing to do with its world famous beer halls we promise!
Now, what we came to realise is that in winter in Munich you need to know what you’re doing and where you’re heading. It’s not a little town where you can just wander round the pretty streets and be charmed for hours; for one it’s way, way, way too cold for that, like it’s freezing, and secondly it’s a big, brash, working city. Sure, there are pretty buildings, but not the type which come row, after row, after row – and they’re bold, imposing lumps, not whimsical, wonky cottages.
Top Tip: PLAN PLAN PLAN!
However, after realising our usual tactic of wandering the streets wasn’t going to work and we actually put in some hard graft to find where to go, we realised, Munich has so much to offer other than the Christmas Markets (not to say we didn’t visit them frequently…)
Before we delve into all the things you need to put on your list, our other biggest piece of advice is get the underground! We normally advocate walking everywhere, it’s how we believe you see a city best. But, and this is a big big ‘but’, Munich is big and Munich is cold (in November especially), so you want to be getting to your destination quickly. Added bonus… with all your fingers and toes!
Weihnaxhtsdorf im Kaiserhof der Residenz (Christmas Market heaven)
So, we’re going to be upfront and honest, this is where we spent most of our time. It was the reason we went and it was the one we fell in love with the most.
Set in a little courtyard, surround by beautifully painted, classic buildings was the sweetest and most charming Christmas Market. It wasn’t huge and boastful, it wasn’t all singing and all dancing, and it wasn’t full of rowdy crowds. It was a little, tranquil slice of Christmas heaven. There were stalls selling everything from handmade slippers and baubles, to crepes and German sausages. There was a bandstand in the middle where people would sing true Christmas classics, and there were mulled wine stalls, umpteen mulled wine stalls!
We came back over again and again, and we are pretty firm on saying it was our happy place while we were in Munich.
To be honest, we’re not 100% if ‘Weihnaxhtsdorf im Kaiserhof der Residenz’ does actually translate into ‘Christmas Market heaven’, but we think its pretty fitting.
Marienplatz & Rathaus-Glockenspiel
Marienplatz is a place that even if you tried your hardest to avoid it, you would still end up there five times a day. It’s the centre of the city on the ground and also the underground, when you’re travelling around. But, this is for a good reason, not only is it one of the oldest squares in the city, which boasts one of the biggest Christmas markets, it is also home to Rathaus; an insanely stunning Gothic building with such amazing detail you could stare at it for hours.
Even though we were only on a three day trip, I think we saw it around 12 times, and it never got old. It could be the first thing you see when you arrive and the last thing you see before you depart (which is actually a real possibility), but you would not become bored.
Now, as you know if you have been reading our posts for a while, we love a good church. Absolutely love them – and we found out Munich has a good old collection! However, our favourite, hands down, was the multi-coloured beauty Asam. Squeezed in between shops and restaurants on a pretty bog-standard shopping street, it is one of the prettiest buildings you ever will see.
Plus, it does what it says on the tin. Once you’re inside the colours and the detail are amazing – and it’s not a bad break from the cold either.
So, when we said that we didn’t head to Munich because of its world famous beer halls we might have been lying to you. On our first day we visited the Christmas markets after seeing some of the sights, and after a few mulled wine we decided it was the perfect time to check the biggest and the best out.
Hofbräuhaus München is a three floor beer hall with a band and the best vibe ever. We were planning on staying for an hour or two, but we were completely taken by the energy and jolliness of the place, four hours later we were still there. The joy that clunking two steins together can bring to even the grumpiest of faces is amazing! Plus, as your sat on long benches with a mixture of people you easily make friends.
We’re not going to lie, it might have made the next day of exploring a little harder, but it was one of the funnest things we did while in Munich! If our heads and stomachs could have handled it we would have done it all again the next night.
Wirtshaus Ayinger Am Platzl
Due to slightly sore heads from the Hofbräuhaus München, there was a moment on the trip when all we could think about was a good schnitzel. After having the best of the best in Vienna last year, we were caving our autumn trip fix and there is no where else to go other than Wirtshaus Ayinger Am Platzl.
Again, this is somewhere we loved and ended up twice over the weekend. The restaurant has an old Bavarian theme with wooden panelling and benches for tables. But, more than that, the food and the lager is traditional, locally sourced and to die for.
If you want an authentic meal, this is the place for you.
Endless Stairs München
This is a quirky little corner of Munich and something which we would recommend if your are interested in sculpture and art. It’s a little out of the way, so you need to make a little bit of effort to get there. Plus, you aren’t allowed to climb it, which we found a little disappointing – however, we love a good wild card.
One place we were eager to head to was the Olympiapark, where the 1972 Summer Olympics were held. We love the London Olympic Stadium from the 2012 Olympics, so we wanted to see another. However, we have to say, we were a little disappointed.
It might have been the grey and miserable day, however we can normally find the light in most things. We didn’t feel like there was much to do, there wasn’t much information on the Olympics that took place or what the stadium and grounds have been used for since. It seemed like such a huge opportunity to find out more about the history of the city from a sporting perspective, however it was not to be.
The silver lining was the viewing tower at the back of the park. The views over the city were amazing and it really did feel like you were stood on top of the world. Not evening the drizzle could ruin that for us.
Munich Documentation Centre
Again, if you’ve been reading our posts for a while, you’ll be aware that we like a bit of history. If we’re honest there is no history we find more fascinating than Hitlers rise to power, World War II and the aftermath all the way up to the early 90’s when the Berlin Wall was ripped down. Luckily for us Munich has a museum; the ‘Munich Documentation Centre’ which documents all of this highlighting Munich involvement and importance throughout the whole period.
The museum is architecturally beautiful for a start, with the exhibition starting on the forth floor, running all the way down to the ground. It is detailed and well thought out, offering insights which we hadn’t known before.
So, if history is something which interests you, or if you just want to know a little bit more about the city, then this places is truly fascinating and wonderful.
Dachau Concentration Camp
Finally, although the Christmas Markets are jolly and the beer halls are amazingly fun, Germany does have a rather dark history, and this is something which has always intrigued us. Since visiting Auschwitz in Poland many years ago we have been eager to educate ourselves on this matter further.
Dachau Concentration Camp is just under an hour outside of Munich and it was one of the first concentration camps built under the Nazi regime in 1933. They have turned it into a memorial sight, to remember the appalling and heartbreaking things which took place here.
Visiting a concentration camp we understand is not everyone’s idea of the prefect pre-Christmas get away, however, for us, it was something we simply could not miss.
The sight has been reconstructed to its original design and the main work house has been converted into a thoughtful and detailed museum about the history of the site. We heard a tour guide walking into the grounds, telling his group that this ‘wasn’t going to be a fun morning’ and ‘they shouldn’t expect a lot of jokes out of him because this wasn’t that type of tour’, and it’s not. However, it is so important in our opinion, even vital that people remember what happened.
Things we didn’t get time to do;
- Englischer Garten (it was way too cold… we have no other defence…)
- Neuschwanstein Castle (our biggest regret…)
- BMW Museum (because we don’t like cars that much, but we understand there are probably people who do…)
Overall, Munich makes you work a little harder than most cities, you need to plan, you need to explore and you need to wrap up warm. However, it is fascinating and so much fun when you crack that icy exterior.