Great Beer. hearty food. Full of culture and festivals.
Did you know that I have quite the connection with Munich, Germany? Back in 1990 I was born there, and lived in Munich until I was seven years old – I was also a member of the Mary Murray Irish Dancing School! Though Dublin then became my hometown, I always go back to Munich and even did my third year of college in 2011-2012. Since I’ve been back to Munich a number of times in my adulthood, it’s only fitting I retell some of those tales, teach you a bit of German vocabulary and give you my personal recommendations – all of which should be helpful for when you visit, what I deem, the best city in Germany!
Munich is an old city but with plenty of traditional and modern charm. If you’ve been wanting to visit for Oktoberfest, the Christmas markets or in summer – do! Right now it’s hard to imagine what these wonderful festivals will look like, or when they’ll happen again, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but hopefully in the future you will be able to experience them.
Travel & Accommodation
Whenever I fly to Munich, it’s usually via Lufthansa or Aer Lingus to Munich International Airport (Dublin-Munich approx. 2 hours direct). The airport is very big and can be confusing if you’ve not been before, so I recommend to avail of the information desk to get the best price & value for your transportation and for your stay. There are two S-Bahn trains (S1 and S8) that run from the airport towards the city centre.
Public transport in Munich is the best I know! They have the U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (suburban) trains, Trams and Buses, as well as Regional Trains. When you’re getting a ticket, there are a variety of combination prices and tourist tickets, hence why I recommend you chat with the info desk in the airport, or at the major stations (Hauptbahnhof, Ostbahnhof and Marienplatz are best). This map below is essential when visiting Munich – though keep an eye on their website for the most up to date version!
As I usually stay with a family friend during my visits, I’ve only had hotel accommodation once whilst in Munich. If you’re looking for an all-out fancy hotel, The Charles Hotel is my recommendation. Located by the Alte Botanischer Garten(Old Botanical Gardens), the hotel rooms have amazing views over the city, with comfortable beds, ample space and luxurious details. Their Classic Room also can feature interconnected doors, which makes it great for groups or families. The breakfast option is decent, albeit a pricy add-on, while the pool and fitness facilites are top notch. The downstairs bar also makes strong cocktails, while the lobby area is a comfy spot for a little sit down and meeting point too.
If a more affordable option is what you seek, I do know of two great hostels around the city, Euro Youth Hotel and Wombat’s The City Hostel – for more you could have a look on Hostelworld. Another option would be to check Airbnb Munich, but naturally the closer to town, the more expensive the pay. Munich is a safe city, and therefore the areas you choose to stay in really should slightly depend on what you aim to see and do, because of which trains you can take.
Oktoberfest in Munich is an experience like no other. It’s the home of the festival, and despite what you know, it’s not solely about beer! Oktoberfest runs from the last two weeks of September until the first weekend in Oktober. In Munich, Oktoberfest an der Wiesn is a huge festivity and grounds, with traditional Bavarian food from a variety of sausages to desserts, as well as entertainment shows, funfair games and attractions, rollercoasters, live music and of course, the beer tents.
The Munich breweries are the only ones allowed to have their own tents, where they serve only their beer. These include Höfbräuhaus, Paulaner, Löwebräu, Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pfschorr and Spaten-Franzikskaner-Bräu amongst many. FYI bräu is German for brewery, if you haven’t already guessed! There are also cocktail bar tents for those who prefer the sweet & strong stuff to beer, and the Weinzelt for wine lovers.
Access to such beer tents is usually walk-in, however during some peak times it can be very difficult, unless you’ve pre-booked in advance. The iconic Bierstein is a given, and if you’re wary of holding one litre of beer in a big glass, they also do half litres, and Radler, a mix of beer and lemonade! Celebrations inside tents do get loud and naturally a bit messy, but it’s a lot of fun.
The amount of food on offer around die Wiesn is amazing! You’ll find all varieties of Würste (sausages) from Bratwurst and Weißwurst to the classic Heinz wurst, a fixture of Oktoberfest since 1906. Grilling sausages is the best way, and you’re sure to have one you’ve not yet tasted if this is your first time to Munich. Be sure to have a brezel with your sausies too!
You’ll also find Ammer Hühner & Entenbraterei, where the world’s first chicken rotisary was invented at Oktoberfest back in 1885, Ochsenbraterei (a tent that offers a variety of roasted ox dishes), Steckerlfisch (fresh grilled fish-on-a-stick), hamburgers, pork cooked various ways and of course Knödel, Bavaria’s iconic dumping. On the sweeter side of food, I recommend you get roasted & caramelised nuts especially the pecans and almonds, cakes, pies and crepes, as well as traditional Dampfnudel, Kaiserschmarrn and Gugelhupf. You won’t go hungry at Oktoberfest! And don’t forget to nab a Lebkuchenherzen with a lovely message for keepsakes.
Security is important at Oktoberfest, and large backpacks and bags are not allowed in, there is a bag check-in area though which is secure. Don’t bring valuable with you in case they get lost or stolen – it happened that my friend’s passport in his jacket was stolen and we had a bit of an emergency at the Irish Embassy!
Overall, Oktoberfest is a hell of a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to go again!
Please note: Oktoberfest 2020 has been cancelled due to COVID-19 – the first time since 1949
Munich and Germany have a great reputation for their Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas markets. In the last week of November until Christmas week, Munich turns into a magical wonderland with many vendors from traditional food and drinks, to arts, crafts and toys, as well as fashion, jewellery and gifts. If you come here for a spot of Christmas shopping, the Weihnachtsmarkt are the place to go. Although not cheap, you will find an array of gifts, decorations or tasty treats for you, the family and your friends.
The best ones I found are Christkindlmarkt am Marienplatz, Viktualenmarkt, Wittelsbacherplatz and Tollwood an der Wiesn. I love to walk around, smell the roasted chestnuts in the air (and buy some for munching), have a few Glühweins and soak up the atmosphere under the twinkling Christmas lights.
Similar to Oktoberfest, you’ll find many vendors selling traditional food like the aforementioned roasted Makronen (chestnuts) and Mandeln (almonds), as well as Lebkuchen, Stollen and Dampfnudel mit Vanillasoße in the sweet department, while Weißwurst, Wienerwurst and Bratwurst mit Brezel are most popular in the savoury department.
Glühwein (mulled wine) is rather synonymous with Weihnachten (Christmas), and sure, this hot spiced red wine is known around the world. In Munich you can get the traditional version, but also top it up with a few alcoholic additions such as rum and whiskey. And then there’s also the Heiße Schokolade (hot chocolate), which are always a delectable treat during cold days and evenings, that can sometimes be bought with an alcoholic kick too.
Recommendations – Sightseeing
If you’ve not been to Munich before there are so many wonderful places to see and visit, especially during non-festival season. Many spots are accessible via foot from Marienplatz, whilst others all have nearby or central stations via U-Bahn and S-Bahn.
I’ll start with one of the best stars of Munich, the Englischer Garten. I have so many memories of this park, from home videos of when I was a tiny tot, to walking around with my Mam in my early teens, college days during the hot summer, wintry walks with friends over a hot cuppa and enjoying beers at the Chinesischer Turm during Oktoberfest. The Englischer Garten is a huge 3.7km² and was created in 1789, and is actually one of the world’s largest urban public parks!
It’s a really wonderful walk, which you can access from a number of U-Bahn, Tram and Bus stations, or walk in on its south-western entrance near Residenzgarten. Attractions within the park include Japanisches Teehaus (Japanese Teahouse, Schönfeldwiese, the Monopteros (Greek style temple), Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), Schwabinger Bach and Kleinhesseloher See, and the Eisbach, which is known for the coolest river surfers spot.
Walking along the Isar River, the city’s main river, makes for a lovely stroll or an alternative way of heading into the city instead of using public transport. There are many bridges south of the river to cross over whilst towards the north it takes you through the Englischer Garten.
Schloss Nymphenburg and its accompanying Schlosspark Nymphenburg are truly beautiful. It’s a must-visit when you’re in Munich, and especially in Spring or Summer when the gardens are in bloom. A Baroque palace completed in 1675, it was the favourite summer residence of the rulers of Bavaria and Munich including Charles Albert, Elector Charles Theodor, King Max I Joseph and King Ludwig II; while today it’s home and chancery for Franz, Duke of Bavaria, head of the House of Wittelsbach. The palace is also accessible for tourists via its numerous museums, showcasing its stunning architecture and interior design, gold and marble features, garden and exterior grounds, artwork and overall history. The 490-acre park was in fact redone by Englischer Garten landscaper Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell, with many beautiful features. These include the Grand Cascade, which features the statues of Isar on the right and Danube on the left (two of Munich’s rivers), the photogenic Cour d’honneur, the Kaisergarten, the dozen decorative marble vases with mythological themes, as well as the multitude of garden pavilions and statues.
The Japanischer Garten in Westpark is also a lovely place to visit, and makes for great walks outside the core city centre. Nearby is the city’s zoo, Münchner Tiergarten Hellabraun, which has many of your favourite animals, a brilliant children’s playground and isn’t overly expensive to visit.
On the opposite side of the city is the famous Olympiapark, where there are many attractions such as the BMW Museum and BMW Welt, Sea Life, Mini Golf, Olympia Tower and the Rock Museum. Of course, Olympiapark also features plenty of sports activites with the ice rink & stadium, soccer arena and swimming pool, as well as Flying Fox (ziplining and roof walking), paddle boats & boards and kayaking. National and international soccer games, concerts and outdoor cinemas also take place at Olympiapark.
If museums and art galleries are of interest to you, Munich has plenty. Those I recommend to visit include the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne as the holy trinity. Furthermore are the Egyptian Museum, Geology Museum, Haus der Kunst and Museum Brandhorst. If you’re after more history of the city, the Residenz Museum, Munich Stadtmuseum, Deutsches Museum and Bavarian National Museum are worth a visit.
Further points of interest include the main plazas of Marienplatz, Karlsplatz and Odeonsplatz. At Marienplatz you should also pay a visit to the Neues Rathaus (town hall) where you can go up and get an epic panoramic view of Munich. Nearby is Frauenkirche, which is a stunning Gothic church, while the Viktuelenmarkt is a great outdoor and daily market open Monday-Saturday. Munich’s main street for shopping is Kaufingerstraße, but you’ll find many more shops, shopping centres and boutiques around Karlsplatz and Hauptbahnhof as well as around Sendlinger Tor.
If you’re looking for a little excursion out of the city, I highly recommend the beautiful area of Pöcking, which is near the Starnbergersee (Starnberg Lake). You can actually walk alongside the lake from North to South through forests and get the ferry back. On the south-eastern side of Munich is Fasangarten, the area I grew up in and lived in during college. It’s a lovely area the suburbs, with the Perlacher Forest and the best Greek resaturant I’ve been to (more below!) that I recommend to visit if you are in the area.
One spot for an excellent beer, Guinness, Irish music and great atmosphere is Killian’s Irish Pub near the aforementioned Frauenkirche. They also show the Six Nations Rugby annually, which was hella important to me while living in Munich! Augustiner am Dom is another great pub for more German traditions.
Recommendations – German Food
Bavarian cuisine is probably my favourite in Europe, and in fact, German food is very similar to Irish in a number of ways. Their love for potatoes and meat is HUGE, while their variety of sauces to compliment is as big. Fresh fish and vegetables are always available too, excellent bread and the iconic Brezel, and of course a good beer to help it all go down.
Of course, Germany is known for sausages, and in Munich Weißwurst and Bratwurst are most popular. The former is best eaten with sweet mustard and a fresh Brezel (pretzel), while the latter is ideal in a toasted roll and ketchup. Although Currywurst is eaten in Munich, you’ll find it more in Northern German.
Knödel is a favourite of mine, which I find such comforting food. It’s available in a few forms: Semmelknödel (made from bread), Kartoffelknödel/Klöße (made from potatoes), Grießklöchen (made from semolina) Leberknödel (made from liver and bread) and Speckknödel (made from bread with bacon bits).
These are often accompanying a piece of roasted meat (usually pork like Schweinsbraten), with Sauerkraut or Rotkraut (pickled white cabbage or red cabbage) and gravy, or within a soup. There is also a sweeter variety with Zwetschgenknödel (made from bread with plum or apricot filling) and Topfenknödel (made from quark cheese) that are rather delicious for dessert or weekend brunch.
Käsespätzle is another one of my all-time favourite dishes to eat, and also to cook here in Dublin. This dish is a heartwarming noodle dumpling dish, served with traditional cheese that’s oozy and melted, and crispy or sautéed onions. It’s the Germans’ answer to mac & cheese, and frankly I think it’s much better and way tastier. It can be served as a vegetarian main or as a side dish for meat.
As I mentioned, the Germans love their potatoes. There is such a variety of dishes made with potatoes that are often eaten with roast meat, gravy, and vegetables. These include the aforementioned Kartoffelknödel and Bavarian Kartoffelsalat, a cold potato salad that’s lighter but often wetter than the Irish one made of round cuts of boiled potatoes with chives and vinegar. Kartoffelpüree, a smoother mashed potato dish, and Bratkartoffeln are hugely popular too, the later is one of my favourites being round pan-roasted spuds with spices and onions. Rösti or Kartoffelpuffer are also a tasty side or light main meal beloved in Germany, made of grated then shallow-fried potatoes. You’ll also find Kartoffelkäse on some menus and in supermarkets, which is a spread made from potatoes, onions and sour cream, and quintessentially eaten as part of Brotzeit.
German food is also excellent in the sweeter department. Their love for kaffe und kuchen (coffee & cake) is massive, and they have a lot more than Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gâteau) and Krapfen (doughnuts). Making dough and batter is like a speciality of the Bavarians, with the oft mentioned Dampfnudeln mit Vanillesoße (sweet dumpling filled with a sweet fruit sauce served with vanilla sauce), Kaiserschmarrn (thick cut up pancake mixed with fruit), Apfelküchel (pastry with sliced apples dipped in batter and fried til golden!), Zwetschgensdatschi (plum pie) and Apfelstrudel all popular choices.
Recommendations – Dining Out
Part of the Munich charm are the delicious dishes you’ll come across in a number of excellent restaurants and eateries around the city. Below are my favourite spots to eat out in when visiting Munich, that I always bring my friends to too! You’ll always find traditional attire on the staff when you visit a proper Bavarian restaurant. Where you might recognise a beer name in a restaurant name’s…it’s safe to say they’ll only serve that beer. Lastly, remember that in Bavaria…portions are BIG!
Hofbräuhaus München, Platzl 9, 80331 München: First of all, visiting the Hofbräuhaus is a must when in Munich. It gives you the true experience of what beer halls are like, and the Bavarian atmosphere too. It’s especially fun during Oktoberfest, if you’re lucky enough to get a spot, but all year-round it’s a great place to go. Whether you’re with family or friends, I highly recommend visiting the Hofbräuhaus. Their beers are very good, and the food is especially delicious! Be patient with the waiting & kitchen staff though, they have a lot of people to serve so it will be slow, but definitely worth the experience. Also you might need to do a few rounds looking for a free spot during peak hours.
Cookie FM recommends: Hofbräu Original, Münchner Weisse, Radler, Käsespätzle, Blaukraut, Münchner Weißwürste, Bratwurst, Kartoffelsalat, Schweinshaxe, Wiener Schnitzel
Nam Nam, Amalienstraße 25, 80333 München: This is one of those places that will remind me of college, because it’s one of the first places I discovered whilst attending university at LMU Munich. Nam Nam is a great Thai restaurant with brilliant decor, authentic & delicious dishes and a vast menu for drinks! It’s a great spot with family or friends, as it caters to all budgets, and if you’re looking for a fulfilling meal – then eat here! The staff are extremely friendly too.
Cookie FM recommends: Homemade Spring Rolls, Wan Tan, Popia Gai, Pad Thai, Priew Wan Tao-Hu, Gai Pad Med Mamuong, Pina Colada cocktail, Thai Mai Tai cocktail
Opatija am Alten Peter, Rindermarkt 2, 80331 München: As a big fan of Greek & Mediterranean food, this is a glorious find. Opatija is a hidden gem in the heart of Munich City with two locations, first established in 1960 that offers a family restaurant, amazing portion sizes, reasonable prices and such friendly service. The flavours really take you to the Mediterranean, and the accompaniments are top notch. The only downside…there is too much choice on their menus! Also, their Bellini was the biggest I’ve ever had – so thank you!
Cookie FM recommends: Raznjici, Pljeskavica, kleine gefüllte Pljeskavica (cheese-filled burger), Mini Mixed Opatija, Bellini cocktail
Café Münchner Freiheit, Münchner Freiheit 20, 80802: This café is one of my favourites because it will forever remind me of living in Munich, but also of my Mammy. Located in the pretty area of Münchner Freiheit, this café has its own outdoor seating area (with blankets in wintertime) as well as multiple levels inside. Whether you are looking for a fulfilling breakfast, a tasty lunchtime break, the famous kaffee und kuchen, ice cream or a hearty dinner before a night out, Café Münchner Freiheit has it all.
Cookie FM recommends: Schnitzel Wiener Art, Gnocchi, Egg Benedict, Würstel-Topf, Krapfen, Zwetschgensdatschi, Karottenkuchen, Kaiserschmarrn, Apfelstrudel, Ice Cream
Schuhbecks Orlando, Platzl 4, 80331 München: A fancier spot for traditional Bavarian cuisine, from the ornate décor to the specialities, there’s a lot about Schuhbecks I love. The service is great, and the flavours here are some of the best I’ve had. Their prices aren’t overly expensive, and just opposite the aforementioned Hofbräuhaus too.
Cookie FM recommends: Schuhbecks Currywurst, Wiener Schnitzel, Salmon Fillet, Kaiserschmarrn, Apfelstrudel
Zum Franziskaner, Residenzstraße 9, 80333 München: Another excellent option for Bavarian cuisine, I love the rustic feel of this spot and it’s great for outdoor seating too. Their meat specialities are top notch, and the service is truly Bavarian too.
Cookie FM recommends: Franziskaner Weißwürste, Schweinsbraten, Wiener Schnitzel (Veal), Grießnockerlsuppe, Potato Salad, Käsespätzle Tegernseer Art, Apple Fritters, Kaiserschmarrn, Apfelkücherl
Spatenhaus an der Oper, Residenzstraße 12, 80333 München: Probably the fanciest Bavarian institution I’ve experienced in Munich, Spatenhaus an der Oper is very special. Looking out onto the opera house square, their menu has a variety of Bavarian traditions and beloved family favourites too.
Cookie FM recommends: Pancake Soup, Bratwürstl, Semmelknödel and Kartoffelknödel, Kuffler Wiener Schnitzel, Bavarian Roast Duck, Crispy Schweinsbraten, Zwiebelbraten von der Ochsenlende
Woerner’s, Marienplatz 1, 80331 München: I first stumbled upon this café during my Erasmus college year, and it’s a nifty little café for lunchtime. They have both outdoor seating on Marienplatz as well as indoors space upstairs, with good service and tasty food.
Cookie FM recommends: Spaghetti Arrabiata, Potato Soup with Bacon, Käsespätzle, Smoked Salmon with Rösti
Rischart Café am Marienplatz, Marienplatz 18, 80331 München: Rischart is easily one of Munich’s beloved institutuons, because of their baked goods. Known for their huge variety of bread and cakes, Rischart also offers sit-down cafés around the city. My all-time favourite bread is their Tomatenbrot, which I miss dearly back home! My favourite café location is on Marienplatz, with indoor upstairs seating that overlooks the square. A busy café restaurant where you’ll find menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s also excellent post-shopping or studying for a spot of kaffee und kuchen.
Cookie FM recommends: Brezenhörnchen, Vanillebreze, Nussschnecke, Apfelschnecke, Erdbeerschnitte, Tiramisu, Apfelstrudel, Käsekuchen, Schoko-Moussetorte, Vanillekrapfen, Münchner Weißwürste, Kaiserschmarrn Klassik, Flammkuchen Diavolo, Schwarzwald Eis (Black Forest Ice Cream Dessert), Eiskaffee (Iced Coffee), Heiße Schokolade
Café-Bistro Dallmayr, Dienerstraße 14-15, 80331 München: Dallmayr is another one of those institutions in Munich because of its tea, coffee and iconic delicatessen. Located just a minute’s walk from Marienplatz and overlooking Marienhof, the Café-Bistro Dallmayr is a special spot that always reminds me of my family. It was a place my parents would meet their friends for kaffee und kuchen or a late lunch, and I always feel its luxurious décor and excellent service is what makes it that little bit more special. And as a tea lover, their variety is brilliant – in fact, it’s here where I had my first Earl Grey and have loved it since!
Cookie FM recommends: Dallmayr Breakfast, Pancakes, Omelette with Cheese & Ham, Smoked Salmon, Shrimp Cocktail, Bärlauchravioli with Asparagus, Heisse Schokolade, Russische Scholoade, Schokokuchen, Käsekuchen, Creme-Charlotten, Prinzregententorte
Delistar, Amalienstraße 40, 80799 München: This was one of my favourite spots for lunchtime while in college, but also during the colder months because they make the best hot chocolate in Munich! Their savoury options include a variety of bagels, toasted wraps, sandwiches and more, while their sweeter options are just as tasty with cakes, muffins and brownies.
Atzinger, Schellingstraße 9, 80799 München: Another find whilst in college, Atzinger is a nifty Bavarian gastropub that serves up hearty meals at affordable prices, and of course great beers too. Plus they’ve a deadly beer garden!
Cookie FM recommends: Currywurst, Nürnberger, Ranger-Cheeseburger, Florinis, Schnitzel Münchner Art, Kaiserschmarrn
Griechisches Restaurant Barka, Fasangartenstraße 124, 81549 München: If you don’t mind a little trip to the suburbs, where I lived this was my local restaurant and frequent treat. A Greek restaurant that has been around for 17 years now, this spot has delicious food that’ll keep you full for a long time. Their service is very friendly, totally suitable for families and they even offer takeaway.
Cookie FM recommends: Tonosalate, Halloumi, Tzatziki, Choriatiki, Gyros, Souvlaki-Spieß, Gyro-Giro, Vodino Fileto, Mousaka ohne Worte, Calamari, Tomatenreis
I hope you enjoy Munich as much as I did, and if you’ve any questions or want more recommendations, don’t hesitate to ask me!
Images © Nirina Plunkett, respective restaurants