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Think Bavaria can only be enjoyed in the summer? Think again. Here’s what to do if you’re visiting Munich in the winter.
Munich is pretty at any time of the year, with its charming lanes and historical sights combined with the natural beauty of its peaceful parks for both locals and visitors to enjoy. Munich is mostly known around the world thanks to Oktoberfest. But trust me, there is so much more!
Munich is the capital of Bavaria and also the most expensive city in Germany. The location is nearly perfect; situated near the River Istar, it only takes a short trip to reach the Bavarian Alps and many other natural wonders of the region. I have listed the Best Day Trips from Munich here.
Some years ago, I got the chance to spend three weeks in Munich during my journalism summer school. This is when I first visited Munich’s main attractions and surrounding lakes (and some of the city’s beer gardens, too!) Ever since I moved to Germany, Munich is only about one hour from where I’m staying, a town called Ingolstadt. This is why I’ve had the opportunity to visit Munich in winter and am now able to share my recommendations with you!
Getting around Munich
Are you arriving in Munich by plane? The Munich Airport is located 28 km northeast of the city center. You can reach Munich in about 45 minutes on the S-Bahn (lines S1 and S8). Get off at Hauptbahnhof central station and you’re there! The bus runs every 20 minutes.
The public transportation in Munich is quite convenient; there is no need to rent a car to get around. The daily ticket costs 6,70 € and it allows you to use all kinds of public transportation until 6 am of the next day.
I also enjoyed walking around Munich, but the distances can be pretty big unless you stay at a hotel in the city center.
Things to do in Munich in winter
You will definitely need some warm clothes and comfortable shoes to survive a visit to Munich in winter. However, if you are lucky enough to visit on a sunny day, you might still end up eating ice cream.😉
These are my recommended things to do in Munich in winter:
01| See Munich in Winter from Above
There is no better way to experience Munich than seeing it from above. At a height of 251 meters, the Olympia tower provides some of the best views over Munich in winter. The observation platform is located at 190 meters. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Alps.
The tower is situated in Olympic Park, which was constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics. The park can be reached in about half an hour from the city center by public transportation. Be prepared to queue for visiting the tower; it’s one of the most popular things to do in Munich in winter or any other season, too.
There are more things to see in Olympic park: if you are there on a sunny day, it is worth enjoying its greenery on one of the many walkways. You can also visit the Olympic Stadium, but this is already included in your tower view.
Entrance fees: 9 EUR for the Olympic tower, 3 EUR for the Stadium.
Address: Olympiapark, Spiridon-Louis-Ring 7, 80992 München
02| Explore pretty Marienplatz and see the Glockenspiel
There is no way you could skip iconic Marienplatz, the city’s main square since 1158. The major sights are the two city halls, each featuring ballrooms and a tower. Remember to take a look at the Mariensäule, a Marian column erected in its center in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swedish occupation, and which lends its name to the whole square.
Marienplatz plays an important role in the history of Munich: it was a place where many markets have been held and tournaments have taken place. In order to remember such events, a Glockenspiel was built as a part of the new town hall tower. It is a cuckoo clock consisting of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. Every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., and 5 p.m. the clock starts to play one of the two stories from the 16th century. These scenes might also remind you of the astronomic clock in Prague.
You can either see this from the square directly or head to the opposite building and enjoy the views combined with brunch at Glockenspiel Cafe, situated in a building directly opposite the clock. You will find it on the top floor. Just remember that in winter the Glockenspiel skips the 5 pm slot (in the summer, they still play at this time, so it is confusing for many visitors who wait there and nothing happens).
Entrance fee: none
Address: Marienplatz 1, 80331 München
03| Eat and drink in a traditional brewery
If you missed the famous October beer festival, no worry! Munich has a number of well-known breweries and beer halls that are open all year round. Of my trip, I visited Augustiner Brewery and found it worth recommending.
Established in 1328, Augustiner Brewery is Munich’s oldest independent brewery. Its monastery complex was the largest sacred building in Munich until the completion of the Frauenkirche cathedral. The Augustiner monks supplied beer to the Bavarian royal family until Hofbräu brewery was founded in the 16th century.
The Augustiner Brewery features its own restaurant and beer hall, serving typical Bavarian cuisine and amazing beers. We stopped there for a lunch on Sunday and found it very authentic, with friendly waiters and cool atmosphere. The beer was pretty amazing!
Entrance fee: None. But of course you need to pay for whatever you eat and drink.
Address: Landsberger Str. 31-35, 80339 München
04| Visit Peter’s church and its tower
Munich is a city of churches, and one of them features a tower that you can climb. Peter’s Church features the only elevated structure in the Munich city center. Unlikely in the Olympic Tower, you will have to climb the real stairs here, and there are more than a few. Actually, there are 299 of them to climb, within a narrow, zigzagging and claustrophobia-inducing staircase.
Be prepared to wait, as there might be a long queue for climbing the tower. But with some patience, and ideally a decent level of fitness, you will be able to experience this amazing view of Munich in winter.
By the way, the inside of the church is worth visiting, too. The church was built in the 11th century, and rebuilt a few times after that. Inside you can find a magnificent gilded high altar from the 18th century and large ceiling frescoes that extend along the entire nave.
Entrance fee: 3 EUR
Address: St. Peter’s Rindermarkt 1, 80331 München
05| Appreciate the frozen beauty of The English Garden
Spanning across an area of 370 hectares, The English garden belongs to one of one of world’s largest urban public parks. It’s stretching from the city center to the northeast. Thanks to greenery and number of walking paths, this is where locals spend their free time and also makes for a perfect place to enjoy the snow when in Munich in winter.
English Garten was designed by Brit Sir Benjamin Thompson in 1792, like an English country park with views of the city and an overwhelming number of trails for cycling and walking.
There are several sights within the park, with 15-meter-high Greek temple being one of the highlights. (It was King Ludwig who decided for its construction). Other than that, you can also visit the Japanese teahouse or Chinese Tower.
Entrance fee: None
Address: Englischer Garten, 80538 Munich, Germany
06| Relax in the spa
In case you experience a freezing day while in Munich in winter, warming up in a spa is always a good option.
One of the most unique places to visit is the Müller‘sche Volksbad. Thanks to the magnificent art nouveau design, it is regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful swimming pools. It was constructed in 1901 and was the world’s most expensive swimming pool at the time. It features a sauna, too.
You could also make a trip to Therme Erding, but it’s really big so it may not be the most relaxing experience (plus, it’s only worth it if you stay for most of the day). If you have the budget, stay at one of the many hotels that feature a spa. I’ve heard good things about the SO SPA.
Entrance fee: Müller‘sche Volksbad: 4,80 €
Address: Rosenheimer Str. 1, 81667 München
07| Enjoy palaces and castles
You definitely should visit La Residenz, which is the official home of Bavaria’s kings and dukes. The former’s Antiquarium is a real sight to behold, with endless classical statues and frescoes covering the large Renaissance structure. Plus, you can enjoy the interior no matter what the weather is like.
Another highlight of Munich is Schloss Nymphenburg, but I recommend you not to visit it when in Munich in winter. During the winter time, its amazing gardens are closed, so you miss out on most of the beauty.
Entrance fee: La Residenz: 7 EUR
Address: Residenzstraße 1, 80333 München
08| Enjoy the Christmas markets (only in December)
During Advent, Christmas markets in German city squares turn the magic right up. No matter how cold it gets, there is always enough places to enjoy a mulled wine.
Some of these markets are historical and have typical wooden hut-like shops selling wooden crafts, decorations, traditional food, and drink. The Christmas markets in Munich open at the end of November and close shortly before Christmas.
My favorite markets include Medieval style Christmas market at Odeonsplatz (interesting handicrafts and historical decorations) and magical Christmas village in the Residenz (for its fairytale beauty). You should also check the enormous Christmas tree at Marienplatz market, situated right in the center of town.
09| Explore the museums
Winter is a perfect time for some of the outstanding museums in Munich. Firstly, you won’t freeze inside the museum. Secondly, Munich offers a lot of variety in terms of its museums. These are three museums I recommend visiting:
Why go: A compact museum spanning 5,000 years of Egyptian history. Interestingly, this museum is entirely underground.
The Pinakothek der Moderne
Why go: One of the world’s largest modern and contemporary art museums. Die Neue Sammlung is considered the world’s oldest design museum
Why go: An appealing museum situated in a futuristic building. You will get to know everything about the cars:)
10| Go ice-skating
The city center of Munich transforms into a skating rink from November to January. Stop by Karlsplatz (Stachus) and rent skates for an allotted session of ice skating: it’s so much fun! From children to elderly people, everyone gathers here!
At night they turn on neon lights and it turns into an all-out party. The fun doesn’t stop there as the entire area of Stachus transforms into a cozy Alpine hut full of Glühwein and piping hot snacks.
Address: Karlsplatz. 1, 80335 München
11| Spend an evening in a theater
Munich is quite renowned for its theater and opera houses. In fact, the Bayerische Staatsoper counts among the top 10 opera houses in the world. It can be a bit tricky to score tickets for the evening performances, but it will be worth it (they got English subtitles).
Furthermore, The Residenztheater is one of the largest and best-equipped venues in the German-speaking world. If you are looking for a popular, well-known piece of global literature (Shakespeare, Schiller, Moliere, Ibsen), this is the ideal place for you.
Day trips from Munich in winter
If you have enough time to explore sights beyond Munich, you will soon realize that Bavaria is an incredibly interesting place to be. I have listed my favorite day trips from Munich in a sperate guide, along with the travel information.
Neuschwanstein is considered the prettiest castle near Munich, Bavaria and perhaps even Germany: and it’s even more valid in winter, especially if you see it covered with snow. his 19th-century palace is perched on a steep hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. You can go there by car or on the train. Neuschwanstein makes for a pretty typical day trip from Munich so you should know this place is quite touristy but definitely worth the visit.
Nuremberg is a popular day trip from Munich trip for city lovers and the history buffs; there are many places where you can uncover the history of WWII, including the Nuremberg Palace of Justice – the place where the 1945 Nuremberg trials were held. If you visit Germany during Advent, Nuremberg features the olders Christmas markets in Bavaria.
Known as a popular ski resort, Garmisch–Partenkirchen is located in Bavarian Alps and looks down to town is Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. It’s one of the most popular places to go on a skiing day trip from Munich.
Where to stay in Munich
Advent is a high season in Munich, yet there are still lot of various accommodations to choose from. I’ve compiled the best of the best hotels and hostels in Vienna that are the perfect blend of luxury and comfort at the perfect price.
BUDGET: Wombats City Hostel Munich
Wombats City is my top choice for where to stay in Munich for travelers on a budget. It’s just a short walk from Old Town and features a great social atmosphere, laundry facilities, and relaxing hammocks. Check the availability here.
MIDRANGE: Ibis Munich City North Hotel
The is a great base for your time in Schwabing, one of the coolest areas in Munich. The hotel has a terrace, bar and an on-site restaurant. They offer airport transfers, dry cleaning and laundry services too. Rooms have comfortable beds, private bathrooms, and all the necessities. It’s situated near Englischer Garten. Check the availability here.
SPLUGE: Sofitel Munich Bayerpost
A luxury 5-star hotel situated is a historic building, just 100 meters from Munich Main Station. The hotel features amazing spa facilities include an indoor swimming pool, sauna, and a modern 24-hour fitness studio. Check the availability here.
What to wear in Munich in winter
Rain and snow are both common during the winter in Munich. It is great to have some layers since it can get pretty cold: Warm and waterproof clothing is essential.
Be sure to pack:
- Comfortable, breathable shoes
- Scarf, hat and gloves
- Layers: leggings, long-sleeved shirt, coat
What to wear in Munich in December? It’s the coldest month, so you have better to be ready. After a few hours outside you will be happy to enter a museum, café or anywhere heated to unfreeze your body parts. Keep in mind that once you enter these buildings you will probably want to take some layers off.
Where to eat in Munich
Are you looking to enjoy an excellent dinner in Munich? My recommendation goes to Piazetta, a cozy restaurant located in the Rosenheimer Strasse. It’s owned by a family of gastro specialists from Italy: their goal is to use the best ingredients and they are always happy to give a warm welcome to their guests. The menu is varied, with a great selection of salad and pizzas, es well as Italian specialties such a Crema Catalan. It’s definitely a must-eat place in Munich – you will love it. You can find the opening times and more details on their website.
Here are other great places to eat in Munich:
- Greek food: Paros
- Indian food: Swagat
- Sushi and Curry: Kim Sang (Amazing Sushi and the Curry is also sooo good:)
- Burger: Hamburgerei or Burger Lobster
- Thai Food: Wohnen und Accessoires: it´s a concept store that includes amazing massages and restaurant and café.
- Great places to eat breakfast: Mr Pancake, Cotidiano, Backspielhaus, Ideal Espresso Bar
- The best Ice cream in Munich: True & 12, it´s all homemade without any additives
- The best German pastry shop: Café Widmann
I hope this guide will help you to plan your trip to Munich, so that you can make the best of your trip. If you have any questions about visiting Munich in winter, you can always write to them in the comments.
Thanks for reading!
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Disclosure: I went to Munich on my own expenses. All places including brewery of café are, as always, honest recommendations aimed at making your trip more enjoyable. If you have any questions about Munich in winter, feel free to ask in the comments!