There are SO many things to do in Munich in one day. Seriously, it’s insane – Germany’s third-biggest city is packed with diversions and cultural sights, and the friendliness of its residents will definitely entice you to spend longer there. The biggest problem you’re going to have is narrowing it down… but I’m here to help you! (I’m nice like that.)
- 1 Munich in one day – is it possible?
- 2 See the surfers at the Englischer Garten
- 3 Sampling German food
- 4 Take a trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
- 5 Grab a beer at the Hofbräuhaus
- 6 Take a trip up the Peterskirche church tower
- 7 Go shopping for lederhosen and dirndls near Karlsplatz
- 8 Get some goodies at the Viktualienmarkt
- 9 Where to stay, in order to do it all in a day (that rhymes)
- 10 And here’s a map!
Munich in one day – is it possible?
I didn’t know what to expect when I visited Munich. I’d never visited Germany before. I didn’t know what to expect from the food, I didn’t have a clue how to navigate the public transport, and the only German I knew was “was ist das?”, “ich liebe dich” , and “schokolade”, which seemed useful in varying degrees. I didn’t even do a lot of research about what I was going to do when I got there, which my anxiety usually compels me to do. Was I going to find myself wandering blindly, randomly telling people that I loved them?
Well, I loved Munich. Aside from some initial confusion on the train from the airport – unless I was missing something, the signs on the platform at the airport are not super informative about which stations the train stops at, which led to me being convinced I was going in the wrong direction – Munich immediately scoops you up into its welcoming bosom. It hugs you close, shoves a beer and a pretzel in your hand, and says “relax! We’re all friends here!”. And I liked that atmosphere very much.
But when a city is so welcoming, and when there’s so much to do there, it brings up a question: should you attempt to see Munich in one day?
I say yes. It’ll be a full, packed day, but it’ll be mighty fun. I was there for one and a half days, and it was enough time to see all of the biggest sights, as well as take one trip outside of the city. Plus there’s so many other beautiful locations nearby that even if you’re intending on being in the area for a few days, you’ll almost undoubtedly want to take trips to places like the Black Forest or Neuschwanstein Castle. Planning things to do in Munich in one day is going to help to free up your schedule a bit, and make the most of Bavaria.
So, let’s look at the best things to do in Munich in one day!
See the surfers at the Englischer Garten
Munich is a landlocked city. So no chance of seeing people surfing and catching the waves, right?
Wrong! Munich’s Englischer Garten (the large park just north of the city’s heart) regularly sees surfers take to a wave, which is created by a bridge crossing the Eisbach river. The fast-flowing Eisbach explodes into the park at its southern end, and the resulting wave is perfect for experienced surfers to take on. And it’s a really cool atmosphere there! A crowd usually forms to cheer the participants on, and the surfers seem to feed off the energy created.
We stood and watched the surfing for quite a while, before we turned to explore the Englischer Garten further. About ten minutes later we were crossing a bridge deep in the park and admiring the view, only to have one of the surfers from earlier riding her board along the river! Perhaps it was a faster way back to where her car was parked, but it looked damn fun. I’ve never had a surfing lesson (yet!), but I’d sign up for that!
If you’re looking for fun things to do for free, watching the surfers should definitely be on your list of things to do in Munich in one day. Get an U-bahn train to Lehel station, and walk a short distance from there.
Sampling German food
As you may have already noticed from this blog, I really love German food. And what better place to taste the best of Bavaria than Munich?
I didn’t have a bad meal anywhere in Germany. Everything was so simple and inexpensive, yet so tasty and filling! Also, the way that the dishes are presented and supplemented with side dishes really adds to the flavour. You might think that you’ve had the best bratwurst in the world in New York City, but trust me – nothing compares to German sausages in Germany, served on a bed of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.
My personal favourite was the Bayerischer Schweinebraten – or roast pork! Done right, the roast pork simply falls apart when you poke it with a fork, as it gently marinades in its own gravy, and it melts in the mouth. Potato dumpling on the side soaks up all that delicious flavour, accompanied by red cabbage. It all sounds so basic, but it works.
You’ll find awesome eateries all over Munich, but I loved Gasthaus zur Festweise – and for those of you who are looking for things to do in Munich in one day whilst in town for Oktoberfest, you’re doubly in luck: the restaurant is only a couple of blocks away from the festival grounds! Check out my guide to the foods you must try in Germany and Austria!
Take a trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Visiting Dachau won’t be for everyone – it’s a deeply emotional experience, where you’ll be confronted with the worst of what humanity can do – but it’s an important place to see.
Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp, and the horrors of what happened there can’t be learnt without a feeling of immense sadness, and revulsion towards the people who committed such murders. But it has become a place of memorial and learning: what was a place of death has become a place of education. When I visited it was good to see the place well-subscribed with groups of teenagers who were learning about what happened there, with the reminder that they must never let it happen again. There’s also, remarkably, a sense of peace and hope about the site, thanks to the institutions who have set up bases there. The places of worship, and the Carmelite convent of nuns in particular, definitely deserve a visit.
Even though Dachau is well outside the city limits, you can still add it to your list of things to do in Munich in one day. It’s very easy to get there via train: simply buy a ticket from a S-bahn station in Munich (we went from the main Hauptbahnhof station) and you’ll arrive in about half an hour. From there it’s just a short bus ride; have a look at my guide to Visiting Dachau for in-depth transport information, and what to expect when visiting the site.
Grab a beer at the Hofbräuhaus
Let’s be realistic here: if you’re visiting Munich, then you want to visit a beerhouse. C’mon! It’s Munich. I wanted to visit a beerhouse, and I don’t even drink alcohol!
The granddaddy of all the beerhouses in Munich is the Hofbräuhaus, which is rather conviently located just near the central Marienplatz. It’s also got some serious history attached to it. After being built in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria (check out the portraits on the gloriously-decorated ceiling!), it’s been a home-from-home for the rich and poor of Munich ever since – Mozart used to pop in here for a few pints whilst he was composing an opera. You can’t really disagree with a recommendation like that!
When you enter, you’ll notice three things: the aforementioned ceiling, the abundance of wooden tables on which you’ll be perching, and the staff wearing lederhosen and dirndls. You’ll be ushered to a table, which you’ll probably share with some new friends, and you’ll place your order with the staff. And then you can sit back and take in the atmosphere – when I was there, I loved watching the reactions of a Chinese tour group when their server came over to them, with their order of twelve very large steiners of beer in his hands! It’s also fun to look at some of the graffiti scratched into the wooden tables; it seems to be a tradition for people from around the world!
The nearest S-bahn station is Marienplatz (don’t drive if you’re intending to drink!) – get there early, as its not possible to reserve tables.
Take a trip up the Peterskirche church tower
The tower at Peterskirche has the best view of the city – but it’s not for the faint-hearted! (or if you’re not faint-hearted, it might make you that way!)
The tower is 92 meters high, and is reached by 306 steps. This might not sound too bad, but if you’re remotely afraid of heights – or just generally anxious about things, like me – then you’re in for a ride. The steps are all wooden, and thanks to the view’s popularity, it gets very congested on the steps. Accordingly, you’re quite often brought to a halt on the wooden steps, which wobble noticeably, while you become intimately acquainted with the bodies of the people squeezing past you in the opposite direction. It’s during these stops that you notice that the carpentry from ye olde medieval Munich is not quite what it could be, and that some of the wooden supports seem to be charmingly held together by gravity and a lot of prayer.
It’s fair to say that my boyfriend and I were fairly clinging to each other at this point, making unintelligible noises of primal fear.
But! The views from the top are gorgeous. You can see the whole of the city laid out before you, and it’s a stunning spot for grabbing a photo of the Marienplatz buildings. So even if the thought of the climb makes you anxious, it’s totally worth putting on your list of things to in Munich in one day… but the secret is to get there early in the day. It opens at 9am on weekdays and 10am on weekends: get there before opening time, ready the €2 it’ll cost you to ascend the tower, and be one of the first up. You’ll totally avoid the more hair-raising aspects of the visit!
Go shopping for lederhosen and dirndls near Karlsplatz
Go to Munich, and you’ll notice that the traditional dress of lederhosen and dirndls aren’t just worn by people working in beerhouses, and certainly aren’t confined to the tourist brochures. It’s actually pretty common to see the residents showing some local pride, and heading out for an evening in the distinctive leather trousers and low-cut dresses. Indeed, my boyfriend and I shared a train carriage with a huge amount of young Muncheners who were off to a party, all wearing their finest.
Even better, the locals don’t mind – in fact, seemed positively flattered – when we decided to get our own!
There’s loads of lederhosen and dirndl shops in Munich, but they’re generally very expensive – if I were a local, and were after the real deal, they’d absolutely be where I’d head to. But if you’re just visiting, and want something to wear in the evenings during your stay, I’d recommend checking out some of the shops on Neuhauser Str, near Karlsplatz U-bahn station. I went into Steindl Trachten, and it was absolutely brilliant! Aside from having choices in all colours and price ranges, the staff are thoroughly lovely. They’re definitely a credit to the store; I was helped with my dirndl by an adorable lady, who totally didn’t care that I kept flashing my boobs at her (unintentionally!), and helped me get the right fit whilst chatting to my boyfriend about tattoos. In turn, my boyfriend was assisted by a genuinely friendly guy with a mustache, who was telling us how much he loved Britain, and how stupid prejudice is (most agreed).
Check out their clothes, and see the lovely staff who model them, on their website!
Get some goodies at the Viktualienmarkt
The Viktualienmarkt is Munich’s equivalent of London’s Borough Market, and it’s huge. If you want a fresh food market in order to take some genuine German goodies home with you, or you just want to grab a snack, then this is the place.
You certainly won’t lack variety: you can buy meat, game, poultry, cured meats, and sausages (obviously!). If you want to go a bit healthier, there’s fruits, tropical fruits, and a plethora of vegetables. Add the finishing touches with countless spices and herbs, or dress the table with flowers or decorations made from dried cinnamon or cloves. Even if you don’t need anything, the Viktualienmarkt is well worth putting on your list of things to do in Munich in one day purely for the experience of wandering around the stalls, trying to guess what you’ll see next (you won’t win; it’s a really pointless game).
Get the train to Reichenbachplatz and walk north; you won’t be able to miss it!
Where to stay, in order to do it all in a day (that rhymes)
Yes, it’s possible to do all of this list in one day, but you’re definitely going to need to stay somewhere fairly central. Otherwise time is wasted by commuting in! But hotels in central Munich can be quite pricey, especially in the summer and around Oktoberfest, so what’s the best way to do it all without breaking the bank?
If you don’t want to go the route of hostels or Airbnb, of which there are many, then I have a solution for you. I stayed at the Aparthotel Adagio Muenchen City, and it was a brilliant option. It’s a block from the city’s main train station, but completely soundproofed against any noise. It’s a really new building, so everything works well with a crisp design. But even better, the room comes supplied with a small kitchen, so you can save a bit of cash by making some of your own meals – there’s a Lidl supermarket just down the street, so you don’t even need to go far too get ingredients. The hotel rates are extremely reasonable to start with, but by giving you the opportunity to save money whilst you’re there, it becomes a really economical way of seeing the city!
And here’s a map!
If you like the sound of the places I’ve described, use this map to see where they are and plan your route!
A really good idea is to get a Munich XXL train ticket – this covers train (S-bahn and U-bahn) travel in the whole of the city centre, and as far out as Dachau. It’s definitely worth getting! You can pick them up from ticket machines on any of the city’s stations.
So there we have it! These should all go into your plans of things to do in Munich, and it’s definitely doable in one day. You’ll fall in love with this friendly, eclectic city as much as I have!
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