Munich is the capital and most populous city of Bavaria, the second most populous German federal state. With a population of around 1.5 million, it is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, and thus the largest which does not constitute its own state, as well as the 11th-largest city in the European Union.
Known primarily for its annual beer festival Oktoberfest, Munich is also known for its beautiful historic city centre with the old castle, the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, hearty Bavarian cuisine and a variety of art museums and historical sights. As the capitol of Bavaria and the gateway to the magnificent Alps, this German city offers something for every type of visitor. Art lovers can add the Alte Pinakothek and the Neue Pinakothek to their lists of daytime activities – not only can you see over 700 artworks dating from the 14th to the 18th century in the Alte Pinakothek, but the architecture with its skylights was groundbreaking at its time and set a standard for European museum architecture. The Neue Pinakothek has the largest display of Germany’s contemporary works and you can see famous works from Dali, Picasso and Andy Warhol too. If Nazi German history entices you, a visit to the Dachau concentration camp is a must. Take the S2 train from Munich’s central station, Hauptbahnhof, in the direction of Dachau/Petershausen. It will take you about 25 minutes to arrive at Dachau train station, and from there you can take bus 726 towards Saubachsiedlung. Entrance is free of charge, but you can pay an optional €3 for an audio guide, which is recommended for a full experience of this first Nazi concentration camp which opened in 1933.
As the capitol of the Bavaria region, you will find plenty souvenirs of the typical Bavarian style such as lederhosen and dirndl in Munich, but if you’re eager to explore a little beyond the main tourist spots, you will find many other boulevards and streets with designer fashion boutiques, antique shops, second-hand bookshops and seasonal markets. One of the oldest shopping streets in Munich, Sendlinder Strasse, is the ideal street for shoppers and window shoppers alike. This pedestrian zone is home to small family-owned shops selling antiques, books, jewellery and handicrafts. The street starts at Sendlinger Tor which is where one of the smaller Christmas markets can be found. The top high-street brands can be found in Kaufingerstrasse, one of the busiest shopping streets in Munich for both tourists and locals. Escape into the smaller streets and passageways running off this main street to find interesting boutique and specialty stores.
Getting around Munich is fairly easy due to an extensive public transportation system which consists of trams, buses, the underground U-Bahn and suburban S-Bahn trains. You can purchase your tickets from the ticket offices or vending machines at the main train stations or at selected newspaper kiosks throughout the city. Remember to validate your ticket by inserting it into the small stamping machines at the entrances of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn tracks, tram and bus stops. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you’ll find plenty of locals around to follow by example. For unlimited travel on the buses, trams and trains, buy a Day Ticket, known as a ‘Tageskarte’ in German. Munich is also incredibly bike-friendly and there are plenty of options of renting a bicycle from as little as €14 per day.
Make the most of your Munich visit by booking cheap accommodation in advance. There are a variety of options available – whether you’re a single student traveling with a backpack or a group of friends looking for affordable options close to the city’s main tourist landmarks. From hostels with communal bathrooms to budget and luxury hotels, find your choice of accommodation according to the nature of your trip. To be in the heart of Munich’s historical centre and the picturesque medieval square, stay in Altstadt. A more affordable alternative if you want to be close to the centre is the vibrant Isavorstadt and Schwabing, both pack with restaurants, bars, museums and shops. To experience the Munich nightlife, the district of Maxvorstadt has a lively student population.
For the best flights to Munich from Cape Town or Johannesburg fly Emirates Airlines, Turkish Airlines, KLM, Air France or Qatar Airlines. Compare these airlines and book the best price, or search for cheap flights and air tickets in advance. Once you arrive at Munich Airport you can budget a 30-minute drive or 40-minute train journey to the city centre. South Africans require a Schengen Visa to enter Germany and need to ensure that you schedule an appointment at one of the visa application centers at least 3 weeks prior to your departure date.
Beer halls, beer gardens, Weisswurst (breakfast sausage) and Brezn (soft pretzels) are all among the first things that come to mind when you mention Munich. With more than 200 beer gardens across the city, you can have an experience to your liking – from ones that seat 2500 people to smaller ones off the beaten path. The Mini- Hofbräuhaus in the Englischer Garten can host up to 100 people and are one of the bests for a traditional experience away from the busy crowds. Viktualienmarkt in the Altstadt and the smaller, less touristy Elisabethmarkt in Schwabing are highly recommended for fresh produce, cheese, exotic fruits, flowers, spices, wine and beer. If you’re hoping to avoid the tourist crowds rather head to Wiener Platz. It’s the smallest permanent market in Munich, located in a quaint village square with the traditional maypole, beautiful chestnuts trees and an old-school well.