Lovely Munich is not among Europe’s cheapest countries to visit, but it’s by no means among it’s most expensive either, so it’s not too hard to have an absolutely great time there even on a shoestring. Here are ten brilliant, Bavarian things to see, do, and eat if you’re in Munich on a budget.
When in Munich… the tradition Bavarian breakfast served up in Munich is a thing called Weisswurst. This is a white sausage of veal, pork and a bunch of herbs and flavours, and it’s a lot more delicious than it looks. The traditional way to eat them is ‘zuzein’ (sucking) where you break the skin and suck the meat out – but you can use a knife and fork if you want. Anyway, they are really great, especially when served with a big soft pretzel, a fat dollop of mustard, and a pint of Munich weissbeer. There’s one place above all other places in Munich to try this particular breakfast of champions – at the lovely Weisses Bräuhaus. You’ll get sausage, bretzel and a pint for around €7. Yes, we know beer for breakfast is odd but you’re on your holidays. Just make sure you get a big glass of water too, you’ve got a long day ahead of you.
In Munich Tours do a really cool three-hour free tour of the city, which departs from Marienplatz every day at 10:40am. The tour guides know more about Munich than most do, and they’re funny. They’ll tell you Munich’s best stories (and a few secrets) while you walk around the city visiting all kinds of sights and landmarks, including the Glockenspiel, the famous Hofbrauhaus and the Royal Residenz. These tours are brilliant for the start of your trip because they get you feeling all passionate about the city, and you’ll get a good idea of the city’s layout and the places that you might want to go back to later in your trip. As with all free tours, the guides work for tips, so while there’s no obligation to tip, please be decent and show them you appreciate their time and knowledge! A tenner is a small price to pay for three hours of information.
The Munich river surfers are awesome. The city is over 1000km, and three or four countries away from any surfable breaks, but Munich is a surfing hotspot nonetheless. The Eisbach river has a standing (stationary) wave and there is a community of seriously skilled and dedicated dudes who ride it, even in the depths of winter. There’s no chance of having a go yourself; this is a dangerous pastime in shallow water with a rocky waterbed – in fact, even thought people surfed here since the 70s, it was only made legal in 2010. At one time it was not unusual to see a soaking wet, neoprene-clad person running away from the authorities, but eventually the powers that be decided that it wasn’t going to stop, so they gave the surfers a break (that was a surf pun) and legalised it. Anyway, head to the bridge near the Haus Der Kunst gallery, and just watch the surfers take on this solitary wave.
Even if you’re not the church-visiting kind, you can’t help but be blown away by the sheer opulence of Asam’s church on Sendlinger Strasse. None of your less-is-more, minimalist design here; every square inch of the place is painted, gilded and sculpted to within an inch of its life. What’s even better about this is how unassuming it is from the outside – it’s certainly pretty and a bit ornate, but you could easily walk by it without knowing what was going on behind its big wooden doors. But step inside and the Baroque lavishness would make Liberachi’s house look like a stone-walled hovel. It’s not a big place and it won’t take long to see, and best of all it’s absolutely free to enter. You’d be mad to miss it.
This food market started as a humble farmer’s market and has grown into something far fancier altogether. It’s a place where the gourmands go now, and as well as getting all kinds of gorgeous local produce – meats, cheeses, bread, sweets, wine, fruit and vegetables, flowers and more – you can also buy some very good street food. There are approximately 140 stalls in the market for you to explore – you could honestly spend half a day ambling around treating yourself to the sensory overload of sights, smells, tastes and sounds. It won’t cost you a red cent to wander around – but since we’re allowing you a tenner to spend here, treat yourself to a beer or a coffee and some more big, bad Bavarian food from one of the stalls.
Again, you don’t have to be particularly into churches to appreciate St. Peter’s in Munich. It’s not as spectacular inside as Asam’s, but on the left-hand side of the alter it does have the creepy, gold-plated and bejewelled skeleton of Saint Munditia propped up on some cushions inside a glass coffin, staring out at visitors with her glass eyeballs. Even her teeth are covered in enough jewels to make Lil Wayne feel inadequate. Once you’ve had a look at her, pay the €2 to climb up to the viewing platform on the church’s steeple. There are 306 steps, and some of them are pretty narrow and dark, so anyone who’s claustrophobic might want to think about this one – if you really can’t handle tight spaces, maybe stay downstairs keeping the sparkly skeleton company…
Englischer Garten is huge, and even though we already sent you there to look at the river surfing, it deserves its own spot on this list. As well as river surfers, it’s got its own beer garden, a Japanese garden and tea house, a Chinese tower, a hilltop temple, a gorgeous lake, a nudist area, an open-air theatre, and even some sheep. It’s just lovely. Rent a bike from Mike’s rentals on Brauhausstrasse and within a few minutes you’ll reach the southern end of the park. You’ll see a lot more of the park by bike than you would walking, and bike rental for the first hour is only a tenner (it’s €2 per hour after that, so don’t panic if you decide you want to spend a few extra minutes sunning your bum in the nudist area).
The Alte Pinakothek is one of the world’s oldest art galleries, and it’s got a serious collection of paintings (widely considered one of the most important collections of art in the world). Boticelli’s Pieta, Parts of the building are currently being renovated and work will be going on until 2018, so at the time of writing, admission is only €4 because you won’t be able to access the whole gallery. But they’ve planned it well, and you can still get in to see extensive parts of the collection so it’s well worth it. An extra bonus – if you can visit the museum on a Sunday, admission is only a euro. Try to see Rubens’ ‘The Fall Of The Damned’ (above right), it’s pretty intense.
If you hadn’t planned on being in Munich on a Monday night, you might want to change your plans. Blade night in Munich sees thousands – literally, thousands – of people don their rollerblades to go for a huge group skate around the city, starting at 9pm. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. And if you don’t have blades, don’t even sweat it, you can borrow some from the K2 stall at the starting point, all you have to do is buy a starter ribbon for €2. The ribbon also gives you a 10% discount on food and drink at the bar where everyone hangs out after the tour. Make sure to get there early before the blades have all been borrowed!
Hofbrauhaus is Munich’s biggest, oldest, busiest, most famous beer hall. It’s almost always packed – usually with other tourists – and it’s a little more expensive than some of the other beer gardens, but you have to go here, even for just one drink (a litre of Hofbrau Original costs €8 here). It’s massive, seating over 2,500 people (but even at that, you still might struggle to find a spot); there’s live Bavarian folk music on almost all day long, and it’s probably the most old-school and traditional of the beer halls. By all means nip off to the cheaper, smaller beer halls if you plan on spending a day in one and you’re in Munich on a budget – but go to Hofbrauhaus too. Just to say you’ve been there.
- Dee Murray