The top 20 sights and attractions in Munich
Castles, museums, churches, parks and squares bustling with life: We show you the top 20 things to see and do in Munich.
Of course, any new resident or visitor to Munich should definitely see the Frauenkirche and the Marienplatz at least once. But Munich has so much more to offer, not just for fans of historical buildings. We take you on a tour of the sights and attractions you should absolutely see sooner or later!
Video: Experience the beauty of Munich's top 20 sights
Built in the 15th century, the gothic "Cathedral of Our Lady" or Frauenkirche in German, was and is an unmistakable symbol of the city. But not everyone knows that the Frauenkirche serves as the final resting place of Emperors and Kings and that the Devil himself is said to have visited the church. The 500-year-old brick building is the seat of the Archbishop of Munich and Freising. Visitors can climb one of the cathedral’s two 100-meter towers for spectacular views over the city. (Please note: the tower is currently closed for maintenance)
Travel back in time to the age of the Bavarian monarchy: the extensive park with its pavilions, promenades along the palace canals, enormous fountains, magnificent flower gardens and, of course, impressive palace buildings is a source of fascination for Munich natives and tourists alike. In addition to the rooms inside the castle, which were designed by the best sculptors, painters and plasterers of the time, you can visit several museums housed in the palace itself, including the Museum of Man and Nature and the Museum of Nymphenburg Porcelain.
The heartbeat of Munich: Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square), the world-famous center of the state capital, is home to the New Town Hall. No matter the time of year, there’s always something happening near the Mariensäule (Column of St. Mary) – whether it’s people gathering to witness the Glockenspiel (carillion housed in the Town Hall), the Christmas market, championship celebrations for major sports teams or simply visitors from all over the world strolling through the city. Marienplatz is situated in the very center of Munich, where the east-west axis between the Isartor and the Karlstor gates and the north-south axis between Schwabing and the Sendlinger Tor gate meet, making it an ideal starting point for sightseeing around the city.
St. Peter’s Church, located just behind Marienplatz, is the oldest parish church in Munich. Alter Peter (Old Peter), as it is lovingly known by the people of Munich, offers one of the best views over the city’s rooftops. It also houses Munich’s oldest bells and clocks. The tower isn’t the only feature worth visiting. The church’s impressive Baroque high alter and the relics housed in a glass case, specifically the skeleton of St. Munditia, are well worth a visit.
Allianz Arena in Munich's northern Fröttmaning district is one of Germany’s most spectacular, state-of-the-art soccer stadiums. Home to FC Bayern München, record champion of the German Bundesliga, the stadium’s numerous air pockets light up in red at home games. On special occasions, such as St. Patrick's Day, they shine green. At Christmas, the arena is illuminated to resemble a huge Christmas present. Built to the plans drafted by renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron, the Allianz Arena has become one of Munich’s main landmarks in the north of the city since it opened back in 2005. In addition to soccer games, visitors can go on guided tours of the area and visit the FC Bayern museum, called the FC Bayern Erlebniswelt.
Karlsplatz, better known as Stachus, is formed by the Karlstor gate with a semicircle of rondell buildings on both sides and serves as the entryway to Munich’s largest pedestrian zone. The saying German “Da geht’s ja zu wie am Stachus” has spread beyond Munich throughout Bavaria as a way to describe a place where there’s lots going on. These days, there’s still a lot going on at Stachus, day and night: Several S-bahn, U-bahn and tram lines run through here, with cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians passing through by the thousands every day. Some simply use it to make their way through the old town, while others use it to access the pedestrian zone. It also serves as the starting point for Munich’s shopping district.
“La dolce vita” is truly on display at Odeonsplatz in Munich: The Italian-style square is complete with a Late Baroque-style church, a building designed in the style of the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and a great deal of hustle and bustle. It also serves as the northern boundary of the pedestrian zone and forms the starting point of Ludwigstrasse. A number of landmarks are located within a stone’s throw of Odeonsplatz, including the Residenz palace with the Hofgarten (Royal Garden), the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshalls’ Hall), the Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church), several palaces and the sweeping Bazargebäude (Bazaar Building). High-profile events are regularly held in the square, including the Stadtgründungsfest celebrating the city’s founding, the Streetlife Festival and the popular Klassik am Odeonsplatz open-air classical music festival.
The Munich Residenz is the largest palace in any German city center. Stretching from Dienerstrasse to Max-Joseph-Platz, its imposing façade towers over all those who come to marvel at it. Highlights of a tour around the Residenz of Bavaria’s erstwhile rules include its many apartments, ballrooms and chapels, featuring different styles ranging from Baroque to Rococo to neoclassical – a testament to the continuous expansion and rebuilding the palace has undergone during its more than 600-year history. Also worth visiting are the palace treasury, the sumptuous Rococo Cuvilliés Theater and the magnificent Hofgarten (Royal Garden).
The largest museum of technology in the world: The German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology, as it’s officially called, is both a traditional museum and a modern, hands-on facility. Visitors can get involved with demonstrations, experiments and media stations, where they can press buttons, flip levers and switches and touch many of the exhibits. The 50 or so subjects covered by the museum are diverse, ranging from agriculture and food technology to astronomy, chemistry, photography and film, aeronautics and space technology, marine biology and physics to shipping, telecommunications and even clocks.
Olympiapark (Olympic Park) is one of the most impressive and popular places in Munich. Created for the 1972 Olympic Games, it is home to some of the state capital’s most important buildings: the Olympic Stadium, with its famous canopy top, Olympic Hall and the 290-meter Olympic Tower, featuring a 190-meter platform that affords spectacular views over the city. The 850,000-square-meter park is home to numerous activities every year, including concerts, spectacular events, festivals and sporting events.
BMW Welt is BMW’s very own experience and delivery center – where the company’s future and its history meet. Guests are invited to explore the exhibitions, which feature models from all BMW Group brands, and the facility offers tours, restaurants and souvenir shops. BMW Welt, which opened its doors to the public in 2007, is located a stone’s throw away from the Group’s headquarters, its main plant and the BMW Museum. Its distinctive, futuristic architecture has made it one of Munich’s newest landmarks.
A world-class gallery: The Alte Pinakothek (Old Pinakothek) in Munich is home to an outstanding collection of European paintings, stretching from the 14th to the 18th century. More than 700 paintings are displayed in 19 halls and 47 cabinets. Art lovers have been admiring the museum’s impressive exhibitions, spread out over two floors, since 1836, when the building designed by architect Leo von Klenze first opened. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections) is entrusted with maintaining the art displayed in the Alte Pinakothek. Together with the Neue Pinakothek, the Pinakothek der Moderne and the Museum Brandhorst, the Alte Pinakothek forms the core of Munich's art district.
The Neue Pinakothek (New Pinakothek) is a labyrinth of beautiful art. Laid out in a figure eight, the museum takes visitors on a circuit through the exhibits, ending back at the entrance. In between, a fascinating overview of the eras of European art awaits visitors, exhibiting pieces from the Enlightenment to early modernity. The museum is home to nearly 400 world famous paintings and sculptures, such as “Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh, Spitzweg’s “The Poor Poet”, Piloty’s 35-square meter “Triumph of Germanicus” and portrait of King Ludwig I in full Regalia, representing European art from the late 18th and 19th centuries and the early 20th century. (Note: The Neue Pinakothek has been closed to the public for structural reasons since December 31, 2018)
Pinakothek der Moderne
Four museums under one roof: The Pinakothek der Moderne (Modern Pinakothek) is one of Munich’s largest attractions and one of the world’s most famous venues for art, architecture and design. All in all, the complex’s 12,000-square-meter space takes visitors on a comprehensive journey through art in the 20th and 21st centuries across four museums: the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen’s (Bavarian State Painting Collections) Sammlung Moderne Kunst (Collection of Modern Art), the Munich Design Museum’s Neue Sammlung (New Collection), TU Munich’s Architekturmuseum (the Museum of Architecture) and the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung (State Collection of Graphic Design).
A journey around the world: Munich’s Tierpark Hellabrunn zoo was founded in 1911 and is the world’s first geological zoo. Animals have been living in Munich’s Tierpark Hellabrunn since 1928, with some of them now living together in natural communities inside large enclosures. The zoo puts on a number events at different times of year, offering fascinating insights into the natural habitats of the Isar conservation area. Animals roam free in large enclosures without fencing and cages, providing an optimal venue for learning about animals and environmental protection.
Munich Oktoberfest, called the "Wiesn" (meadow) by locals, is the world’s largest folk festival. First held in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, the festival has now become one of the top highlights of the Munich calendar. More than six million guests from all over the world flock to Munich every year to attend the two-week festival on the Theresienwiese. Opened on the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest in 2010, the Oide Wiesn (Old Wiesn) is the perfect place to experience a traditional Oktoberfest as it was once celebrated on a separate, adjacent site.
One of the world’s most celebrated opera houses, the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) in Munich is steeped in 350 years of history. Elector Ferdinand Maria had a theater built in the Herkulessaal (Hercules Hall) of the royal residence in the 17th century, where the first Italian opera performances were staged for courtiers. After relocating to the newly-built National Theater on Max-Joseph-Platz in 1811, the Bavarian State Opera has now become Germany’s largest opera house, enjoying enormous success with more than half a million visitors per year and some 450 performances.
German “Gemütlichkeit” and traditional beer drinking rituals are paramount at the Hofbräuhaus on the Platzl in Munich. The regional cuisine, music, folk dances, waiters in costume and historic atmosphere draw thousands of Munich natives and visitors from all over the world every day. Although locations have been opened in Las Vegas and other cities, the imposing Neo-Renaissance building on the Platzl square in Munich remains unique. The interior has space to serve up to 3,000 guests, and additionally up to 400 seating places in the open-air beer garden outside. Doors open every day at 9 am, and Hofbräuhaus is open 7 days a week. You can even get a beer and sample Bavarian delicacies on Christmas Eve.
Where once emperors resided, visitors today can shop or attend wine tastings. When you walk down Burgstrasse from Marienplatz, strolling past the façades of the magnificent town houses, you’ll pass through a gate that takes you to the Alter Hof (Old Court). Although many parts of the building are now just reconstructions, its appearance will instantly transport you back centuries as you pass into the pedestrian-only courtyard. Until the 15th century, the court was the seat of the Wittelsbach dukes. When the new Munich Residenz was built in 1385, the Alter Hof became increasingly less of an important venue, ultimately going on to house financial authorities. Visitors can find out more about the history of the Kaiserburg (Emperor's castle) in the vaulted cellar at the free permanent exhibition.
Viktualienmarkt is Munich’s largest market and a hub for the city’s foodies. Spread across 22,000 square meters, it features a huge range of fresh produce with much more than just fruit and vegetables: Bakers, butchers, fishmongers, delicatessens and flower stalls have turned Viktualienmarkt into a Munich landmark for more than 200 years. The best thing: entry to the market is free. It also features food stalls and a comfy beer garden, complete with an authentic Bavarian Maibaum (Maypole).