Tollwood: My Favorite Festival in Munich

Tollwood Winter Festival Munich

Tollwood Winter Festival Munich

Tollwood Winter Festival is my favorite festival in Munich.

It is held twice a year and in winter held in the Theresienwiese, the same field as Oktoberfest, but I find it much more interesting than Oktoberfest.  Tollwood is an eclectic combination of  a Christmas market/exhibition of cultural, political and scientific events and a hip hangout with live music and entertainment – all with an environmental focus.  I’ve already been to Tollwood four  times and have plans to return at least twice more.  It’s huge and to experience everything you need to go more than once.

Art at the Tollwood Winter Festival
I love the artistic displays found at Tollwood like this one.

The “Weltsalon Tent” (World Salon Tent) is host to a variety of scientific, political and cultural events.  I attended a “Abenteuer Ozean” (Adventure Ocean) report from the talented photographer and videographer David Hettich which I thoroughly enjoyed. I returned a few days later for a viewing of the “Unsere Ozeane” (Our Ocean) film, which was also good. I returned the following  next week to see a film on Jane Goodall (famous primatologist who studies chimpanzees).  I was also  the  successful bidder of a rather large chimpanzee photo by Frans Lanting. I love it.  It’s now hanging in my staircase.

There’s also a Theaterzelt (Theatre Tent) where a variety of productions are held including four Nouveau Cirque performances which are described as “young, modern, different”.  These words perfectly captured Jean-Baptiste André’s “intérieur nuit_” (from France) performance which I recently saw in 2011.  It was one of the most unique performances I have ever seen!  It blended dance, digital image technologies and electronic music.  It featured two walls and André’s attempts to escape over the walls, while the camera was tipped over making the floor become the wall.  Although it wasn’t my favorite style of performance,  I appreciated the artistic endeavour and originality.  The performances change every year.  Tickets can be purchased directly from the Tollwood website.

Tief im Wald Tent
Tief im Wald at Tollwood is the coolest bar I’ve ever been to and has live free music everyday.

I’m also a big fan of  the Tief im Wald Bar (Deep in Forest Bar), the coolest bar I’ve ever been to!  It comes complete with a forest atmosphere and live free music with different musicians each night.  It’s a great hip alternative on a chilly night to standing around drinking Glühwein outside, although that is also possible at Tollwood.

Tollwood Christmas market
Tollwood also features a Christmas market with unique items from around the globe.

The Christmas market at Tollwood is huge and is held in two large tents, a nice alternative to other Christmas markets in Munich that are held outside.  I’ve seen more unique items at Tollwood than I have at other Christmas markets.  I recently purchased a one of a kind  handcrafted coffee table from a farmhouse dating back to 1807. I did reluctantly pass on the didgeridoo from Australia though.  Tollwood is a great place to find unique Christmas gifts as well.

Be sure to check out my Munich City Guide for how to make the most of your precious travel time.

For more info visit the Tollwood Winter Festival website.

See more places to visit in Germany

Cafe Katzentempel in Munich: My At Home Getaway

Cat at Cafe Katzentempel in Munich, Germany

Despite having two cuddly cats of my own, Cafe Katzentempel (Cat Temple) remains one of my favorite places in Munich. I always leave in a better mood than when I entered. It’s my place to go to get away from it all.

Cat at Cafe Katzentempel in Munich, Germany
Ayla one of the resident cats who was especially cuddly on my recent visit.

I’ve been a little stressed lately, too many things to do all at the same time. But that’s not a bad thing when you’re an entrepreneur.  In fact it’s actually quite a good thing, definitely preferable to the alternative. But still, sometimes I need to take a break – even if it’s just for an hour or two. That’s what Cafe Katzentempel (a place where you hang out with the resident cats, while sipping your coffee or munching on your veggie burger) is for me, an at home  getaway. You can read all about the Cafe Katzentempel here.

And isn’t that a large part of why many of us travel, to get away from it all?

Ayala, one of the resident cats at Germany's first Cat Cafe in Munich.

I know it certainly is for me.  It’s not the only reason of course.  I also love immersing myself in new cultures,  seeing new places, trying new activities and cuisines as well, but a large part of traveling for me is to unwind, to slow down, to stop thinking, to immerse myself in a really cheesy book with a no-think plot.

But even despite being a travel blogger, I can’t always be traveling, and nor do I want to be.  I like being at home.  I LOVE what I do for a living. I want to spend time with my husband and friends….while still getting away from it all.

I think the key, for me at least, is to find ways of replicating the getting away from it all  feeling you have while on vacation, even if you’re not.

I met a friend at Cafe Katzentempel recently and it was her first visit.  I loved seeing the surprise on her eyes as she noted This is a cafe….with cats everywhere.  Yep, that about sums it up I thought  as I shooed Ayala, a bundle of fur away from my cappuccino.

I entered stressed, but left blissed out between our uplifting conversation and from interacting with the cats. I’ve found my at home getaway!  Where’s yours?

I found out recently that I was lactose-intolerant.  Fortunately Cafe Katzentempel offers soya milk.  You may also want to check out this post about other cafes in Munich with lactose-free and soya milk options.

Be sure to check out my Munich City Guide for how to make the most of your precious travel time.

See more places to visit in Germany.

Oktoberfest by the Numbers

Munich Germany Oktoberfest facts

Oktoberfest by the Numbers

If you’re heading to Oktoberfest, be sure to check Everything You Need to Know about Oktoberfest and Practical Stuff You Need to Know About Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. If you’re a woman, you’ll want to know these 5 Oktoberfest Tips for Women.

You can also skip the line, get a guaranteed seat in the fun Löwenbrau Tent, a walking tour of the Oktoberfest grounds and 2.5 litres of beer with this tour.

Here’s how to make your visit to Oktoberfest happen

  • Avoid standing in lines with this Oktoberfest tour. Get the details here.
  • Or extend your Oktoberfest time with this four-day tour. It includes camping where the party continues.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for? You’ll find more Oktoberfest tours HERE.

Remember there’s more to Munich than Oktoberfest. Check out our Munich Travel Guide here.

Munich City Guide: How to Make the Most of Your Visit

View of Marienplatz in Munich, Germany

Why You’ll Want to Visit Munich

Munich is most famous for Oktoberfest, the largest festival in the world. The city consistently ranks as one of the world’s most livable cities making for an enjoyable visit. Most of its iconic sites are located within the medieval city gates making them easy to explore either on foot or by bike. You’ll also want to experience the beer gardens. There are hundreds, including the largest beer garden in Europe. Many of the beer gardens are family friendly with playgrounds so that the whole family can enjoy themselves.

There are numerous cycling and walking paths to explore in this gorgeous green city. Not to mention the 100+ museums and galleries for the culture lovers. A highlight not to be missed is the  German afternoon tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen, coffee and cake!

Recommended Munich Sightseeing Tours

Altbau (old buildings) in Munich, Germany
Gärtnerplatz in Munich

While I prefer to explore on my own when I visit a new city, I almost always do at least one city tour when I arrive to help familiarize me with the city. Here are a few that I recommend:

Munich Highlights: 2-Hour Bike Tour: Munich is an incredibly bike-friendly city. You’ll see a lot of the main sights in Munich on this tour in a short amount of time.

Third Reich & WWII Tour Walking Tour: I did this tour when I first moved to Munich.  You’ll explore Munich’s dark side and visit the sites of mass rallies and WWII sites and learn about Hitler’s rise to power. While this isn’t an uplifting tour, history buffs will find it fascinating.

Munich City Tour Card: While not a tour, the Munich City Tour Card gives you free public transportation and discounts (although often quite minimal) on tours, museums, attractions and eating out. The biggest advantage of the card, in my opinion, is the free public transportation. To get the most from the card, have it delivered to your home address before your trip, or purchase it at the airport. That way, you’ll get free transportation from the airport which normally costs €12.80 for a day ticket. Investigate before you purchase though. It will be of value to some, not all travellers, depending on how much you plan to use public transportation and which attractions and museums you’ll be visiting.

Scary Munich: ghost walk through the old town I’m a huge fan of these type of tours in any city I visit. And yes I know that they’re often cheesy. This one is no exception. If Halloween is one of your favourite holidays, you’ll enjoy this tour.

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Munich

Munich Residenz is one of the most opulent palaces in Europe
Munich Residenz is much more impressive inside than it is from the outside.

1.Climb the tower of St. Peter’s Church. You’ll climb – 299 steps for an incredible view over Marienplatz and beyond! Alternatively, you can take an elevator from the New Town Hall and get a similar view with far less effort.

2. Visit the Munich Residenz. While it doesn’t look like much from the outside, it’s one of Europe’s largest and most opulent palaces. On your self-guided tour, you’ll learn about  400 years of history and visit 130 rooms (at your own pace). You can see photos from my visit to the Munich Residenz here.

3. Admire the River Surfers. While surfing probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Munich, there’s a 1-metre high standing wave in the Eisbach River in the south end of theEnglish Garden. Surfers are there year round, regardless of the temperatures. You can see photos of surfing in Munich here. You can observe them from Prinzregentenstraße, just west of the National Museum and Haus der Kunst (House of Art).

4. Eat and drink at 2 beer gardens or more. Beer gardens serve as an outdoor living room for locals in good weather. Each one has its own unique flair. By visiting at least two of them, you’ll be able to see and feel the differences despite the similarities. See suggestions below in the Where to Eat in Munich section.

5.Visit Nyphemburg Palace. In contrast to the Munich Residenz, this palace has an immediate wow factor with its extensive and opulent gardens. You can even go for a boat ride in the canal! The inside is OK – not nearly as impressive as the interior of the Residenz in my opinion. It’s worth visiting the outside alone – just wear good walking shoes as there’s a lot to explore.

Where to Stay in Munich

While many visitors choose to stay in the conveniently located City Centre, which is a good choice, I also recommend:

  • Haidhausen, known as the “French Quarter” of Munich
  • Schwabing, one of the trendiest if not the trendiest neighborhoods in the city
  • Neuhausen, where you’ll find Schloss Nymphenburg.

All three areas are close to the city center and easy to reach. They each have gorgeous architecture and Altbau (“old buildings” technically built before 1950, but generally accepted as being built between 1850 and 1920). In addition, you’ll find ample cozy cafes, restaurants, beer gardens and local shops. You can either stay in a hotel or an Air BnB, which is my preference for stays of two nights or more.

Where to Stay in the City Centre

The city centre is a great choice if you’re looking for a convenient location and want to explore the city on foot. These hotels are within walking distance of the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), Marienplatz and many other sights.

Bayerischer Hof – This five-star hotel is a hot spot for celebrities and heads of states when they visit Munich. It’s conveniently located close to the Bavarian State Opera and Marienplatz. It’s a great choice if you’re seeking luxury. The rooftop bar (open in summer) has some of the best views of Munich.

Rocco Forte The Charles Hotel – This elegant hotel overlooks the Old Botanical Garden providing an oasis even though you’re in the heart of the city, just steps away from the Hauptbahnhof. It’s also home to the longest indoor pool in Munich. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a larger hotel room.

Anna Hotel – Munich’s first design hotel has beautiful aesthetics with attention to details like lamps and textiles carefully thought out. Located right at Stachus (Karlsplatz) you’re right in the heart of all the attention. If you’re interested in design and architecture, you’ll love staying here.

Where to Stay in Haidhausen

Located just east of the city centre and still central, Haidhausen is one of the prettiest districts in Munich and is known as the “French Quarter.”  It’s a great choice if you want to mingle with locals yet still be close to the sights most of which are reachable on foot or a short train ride away. You’ll find plenty of locally owned cafes and restaurants.

Hotel München Palace – A family-run 5-star luxury hotel with a mix of contemporary and classical furnishings. It’s located steps away from the Isar River and the Museum Villa Stuck.

Living Hotel am Deutschen Museum by Derag – Located on a quiet street but just a 5-minute walk from Rosenheimerplatz and all its quaint shops, restaurants and cafes, this is a good choice if you’re looking for reasonably priced accommodation.

Where to Stay in Schwabing

Schwabing is one of Munich’s most bohemian district and is a magnet for locals with all its bars and restaurants and proximity to the English Garden. It’s a desirable and expensive place to live. It’s a good choice if you want to be where locals hang out and don’t mind being a short train ride from some of the sights.

Frederics München City Schwabing – These self-catering apartments are perfect if you want a bit more space and want a fully-equipped kitchenette. They’re located in the heart of Schwabing close to Hohenzollernplatz where you can also catch a train.

Hotel Vitalis by Amedia – The highlight for this hotel is the spacious rooms. You’ll find lots of cafes and restaurants nearby and Hohenzollernplatz is just a few minutes walk away.

Where to Stay in Neuhausen

The most famous site in Neuhausen is the baroque Nymphenburg Palace. It’s set in a sprawling park and there’s also a botanical garden. The area is known for its handsome late-19th-century buildings on tree-lined streets. You’ll find lots of restaurants and cafes. It’s also a short train ride from Olympic Park, where the 1972 Olympics were held and to the BMW Museum.

Leonardo Hotel Munich City Olympiapark – This luxurious 4-star property is located near the BMW Museum. It’s a bit north of the city centre but you can easily reach it by bus or train.

Mercure München am Olympiapark -This is a 3-star superior hotel underwent a renovation in 2018. It features a historical facade with modern rooms on the inside. It’s just a 10-minute walk from Olympic Park.

New Orly – This boutique hotel is located in a quiet location but within walking distance to Rotkreuzplatz and just a quick train ride from all the sights.

Another great, and often cheaper option to finding a place to stay while in Munich AirBnB

If you’re new to AirBnB click on this link to get €25 in travel credit when you sign up.

What to Eat and Drink in Munich

Coffee and cake is a tradition in Germany
Coffee and cake is a tradition in Germany

The typical Bavarian “diet” is anything but a diet. Large portions of meat (with lots of pork), potatoes, and bread. It will likely some of the best bread you’ve ever tasted.  A local specialty is  Weisswurst, a traditional Bavarian white sausage usually served with a pretzel and often with a beer. It used to be served at breakfast but can now be eaten anytime. I’m personally not a fan but it’s worth trying at least once. You’ll also want to try Schweinsbraten, the most popular dish in Bavaria. It’s slices of pork slices covered in gravy and served with Knödel (dumplings). You’ll find it on the menu of every beer garden or traditional Bavarian restaurant.

For vegetarians, your best choice is Käse Spätzle, which I like to call German macaroni and cheese. You’ll also find it in other parts of Germany and Austria. Although it’s not distinctly Bavarian it frequently appears on Bavarian menus.
One of my favourite traditions in Germany is the afternoon tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). Most Germans don’t do this every day but perhaps once a week. But hey you’re on vacation so feel free to indulge as often as you choose.
 

Where to Eat in Munich

The chinese Tower is a popular beer garden in Munich, Germany
The Chinese Tower is Munich’s second largest beer garden.
Hofbräuhaus While not my personal favorite, almost every visitor wants to visit Munich’s best-known beer hall.  It was founded by the Duke of Bavaria in 1589 and is one of the oldest beer halls in the city. It gained notoriety in the U.S from after World War II from American soldiers who were stationed in Munich and brought home beer mugs with the “HB” logo. It’s now the number one tourist attraction in Munich.
Hirschgarten This is the largest beer garden in both Munich and in Europe and can seat up to 8000 people. Despite its size, it still retains a cozy feeling. What I love best about this beer garden are your dining companions. They’re  deer – a nod to the previous royal hunting grounds.
Chinese Tower Beer Garden Munich’s second largest beer garden is located in the famed English Garden and situated around a large pagoda. It makes for an ideal place for Brotzeit (a small snack) while hanging out in the English Garden. Note: the site is only in German.
Cafe Luitpold Prepare to be blown away upon entrance. You’ll  see a 10-metre long display of cakes, tortes, tarts and strudels, and pralines. While there is a regular menu as well, the desserts are the star of the show. This traditional cafe dates back to the 1800s but retains a modern upscale feel. Unlike other places in Munich, you order your dessert at the counter and it will be served at your table. Note: the site is only in German.
Cafe Katzentempel This is Germany’s first cat cafe. Be sure to keep your eye on your cappuccino, as your dining companions are rescued cats. A portion of all the profits goes towards animal causes. The cafe serves vegetarian and vegan food for breakfast and lunch as well as a selection of desserts. If you miss your cat while on vacation this is the place to be. I’m a regular. You can find out more about Cafe Katzentempel here.

Best Neighbourhoods in Munich to Explore on Foot

Weinerplatz in Haidhausen Munich Germany

Wiener Platz in Haidhausen has a fresh daily market.

  • The Altstadt (Old Town). You’ll find many of Munich’s most famous sites from Marienplatz, Viktualien Market, to the Munich Residenz, the three remaining city gates and the Hofbrauhaus all in the Old Town.
  • Haidhausen. Also known as the “French Quarter” because of both its layout and because many of the streets are named after French cities. You’ll find lots of interesting cafes, restaurants, beer gardens, restaurants and Weiner Platz, a daily food market. You’ll also find the Müller’sche Volksbad – the oldest public indoor pool in Munich where little has changed in 100 years. It’s Munich’s most elegant swimming hall and one of the finest in all of Europe.
  • Schwabing. This is one of the trendiest if not the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. The streets are lined with cafes, restaurants and small shops. It’s adjacent to the English Garden so it’s easy to combine the two.
  • Neuhausen. In addition to cafes, restaurants, and shops you’ll also find Schloss Nymphenburg and Schloss Blutenburg – a much smaller castle that hosts a museum but not tours, with its lovely grounds for a walk or a bike ride.

Munich’s Best Green Spaces

Isar River in Munich, Germany
The Isar River is a popular spot for runners and cyclists.

English Garden. Larger than Central Park in NYC, it’s over 12 km long from north to south. If you want to see the entire park you’ll need to rent a bike. Alternatively, you can just choose to visit a part of the park on foot and then relax at one of the four beer gardens in the park. My two favourites are the Chinese Tower and the Seehaus, which is located right on a lake. Both also have restaurants.

Isar River. This river flows through Munich from north to south. It’s a popular spot for cyclists, runners and for going for a walk. You’ll find different kiosks and beer gardens along the way where you can reward yourself for your efforts. You can also swim in the river in some places. Locals also love to bring their grills to selected locations along the river for a BBQ. There’s even a section for nude sunbathing. Note: please be respectful and don’t snicker or take pictures.

Schlosspark Nymphenburg (Castle Park).  You’ll find flowers, an ornamental pool and a forest in this classical English-style palace park. It’s a local favourite for going for a run, or simply soaking up the sun on a gorgeous day.

Olympia Park. This park was constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics. You’ll find a swimming hall, arena for sports and concerts and the Olympic Tower which offers a fantastic view over Munich. What I love most about the park is the lookout hill. It’s made of rubble left over from WWII.

Munich’s Cultural Hotspots

Check out the Das Kunstareal – The Art District. It’s home to many of Munich’s best museums and all within walking distance of each other. The most famous is the Alte Pinakothek. It opened in 1836 and contains masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the end of the Rococo period. It’s one of the oldest and most important galleries in the world.

The Neue Pinakothek is also a good choice and if you like modern art check out the Pinakothek der Moderne. If you’re planning to visit more than one of the Pinakotheks, you can purchase a one-day pass for €12 which gives you access to all three plus the Museum Brandhorst which features modern art. You’ll also find the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus – Municipal Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Glyptothek, Staatliche Antikensammlung – State Antiquities Collection and the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst – Egyptian Museum.

You’ll also find the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus – Municipal Galerie in the Lenbachhaus, Glyptothek, Staatliche Antikensammlung – State Antiquities Collection and the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst – Egyptian Museum.

If you only have time to check out one then I’d recommend the Alte Pinakothek followed by the Neue Pinakothek.

Another famous museum in Munich is the Deutsches Museum. It’s a science and technology museum displaying 28,000 items from 50 different fields of science and technology. They also have some interactive exhibits making it a good choice if you’re travelling with children.

Finally, there’s the BMW Museum for car lovers. Housed in a distinctive futuristic silver bowl it makes an immediate impression. The exhibition takes you on a time travelling journey through the technical feats of pioneering – from historic BMW cars right up to the future. If you’re not a car lover you can give this a miss but it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Munich.

Best Day Trips from Munich

neuschwanstein_castle_in_germany the cinderella castle
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffwilcox/95436233/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Neuschwanstein Castle Day Trip Many travellers will know Neuschwanstein as the Fairytale Castle, or the Disney Castle. It’s an easy day trip from Munich if you go on a tour. Otherwise, the logistics can be complicated to organize if you do it by yourself. You can check out my Neuschwanstein Guide for further information.

Dachau Concentration Camp Half-Day Tour In contrast to the lighthearted visit to the Fairytale Castle, this takes you to a very dark time in history. It’s worthwhile going but it will bring you chills. It’s definitely not suitable for children.

Day Tour to Berchtesgaden and Obersalzberg: Berchtesgaden is one of two national parks in Bavaria. It’s one of the most breathtaking places in the German Alps with its rugged peaks and lush green valleys where cows with bells spend their days soaking up the sun. The Königssee (lake) is my favourite lake in Germany. This is a region that I keep returning to.

Salzburg Day Trip While Salzburg is in Austria, it’s just over an hour by train from Munich. This gorgeous city is Mozart’s hometown and well known for scenes from the cult classic film, the Sound of Music.

Further Information on Munich

You can find further information on what to do in Munich here and articles on travel in Germany here.

Munich city guide Munich city Guide

Photojourney to Oktoberfest Parade

Photojourney to Oktoberfest Parade

Photojourney to Oktoberfest Parade

The Oktoberfest Parade, officially known as the Costume and Rifleman’s Parade in Munich was going to start in a couple of hours.  But as I woke up to the pitter patter of rain on my roof, a dreary sky and a German husband who suggested we could just watch the parade on TV and stay dry, I pondered, “Was it really worth getting out of bed, getting wet and going to the parade in the rain and being there at 10:00 am?”  I decided “yes” and was glad I went.  Here’s why:

I decided “yes” and was glad I went.  Here’s why:

oktoberfest parade, munich, bavaria, germany

Oktoberfest Parade Costumes:

oktoberfest parade costumes, munich, bavaria, germany
Traditional costumes from the Black Forest.
oktoberfest parade costumes, munich, bavaria, germany
Love these hats!
oktoberfest parade muenchen kindl, munich, bavaria, germany
The Münchner Kindl (Munich Child) is the symbol on the city’s coat of arms and appears all over Munich.
oktoberfest parade costumes lederhosen, munich, bavaria, germany
Lots of lederhosen was on display at the Oktoberfest Parade.

The Official Oktoberfest Breweries Bringing the Beer to Oktoberfest, well traditionally anyway.  As Oktoberfest starts the day before the parade, I’m pretty sure the beer is already there.

oktoberfest parade beer
Parade Procession:   Germans don’t do floats as they’re done in North America, but the result is no less interesting and often leaves me scratching my head. I’m sure there’s a reason that a bed is in the Oktoberfest Parade, but neither my German husband nor I had any idea why.

parade float

parade floats
Anyone hungry?

There’s nothing like live music and colorful costumes to wake you up on a Sunday morning and we were lucky enough to find a cover under one of the high end stores found on Maximilian Street (stores are closed on Sundays in Germany so we couldn’t go inside).

I enjoyed the Oktoberfest Parade and would recommend it anyone in Munich at that time, but as much as I enjoyed it, I will confess that we only stayed for an hour because of the rain.

To find out more about Oktoberfest check out the Bier and Oktoberfest Museum in Munich.

Would you be interested in going to the Oktoberfest Parade?

You can also skip the line, get a guaranteed seat in the fun Löwenbrau Tent, a walking tour of the Oktoberfest grounds and 2.5 litres of beer with this tour.

Be sure to check out my Munich City Guide for how to make the most of your precious travel time.

Here’s how to make your visit to Oktoberfest happen

  • Avoid standing in lines with this Oktoberfest tour. Get the details here.
  • Or extend your Oktoberfest time with this four-day tour. It includes camping where the party continues.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for? You’ll find more Oktoberfest tours HERE.

Remember there’s more to Munich than Oktoberfest. Check out our Munich Travel Guide here.

Munich Christmas Market: One of the Oldest in the World

While Munich has many Christmas markets (I’ve counted 17), the Munich Christmas Market, is THE original!

Not only is it the largest and oldest in Munich, it’s also one of the oldest in the world! According to the official Munich Christmas Market site, it was first mentioned in the town records in 1642, but according to Wikipedia, it’s the second oldest in the world, dating back to 1310. Only the Vienna Christmas market is older (1294). Regardless of its exact age, it retains its original essence with 150 wooden huts selling Glühwein (mulled wine), traditional sweets, Christmas ornaments and toys.

OK, now it’s time for a confession. While I believe it is by far the most beautiful Christmas market in Munich, it’s also not my favourite. Don’t get me wrong, I still go several times a year, but it’s busy. I mean crazy busy, especially in the evenings when its lit up and at its finest. It’s also by far the most popular Christmas market in Munich with tourists. And I don’t do crowds. I prefer the smaller, albeit less impressive Christmas markets that attract less people.

Having said that I still recommend going to see it and experience it. Join me on a photo-journey through the Munich Christmas Market and you’ll see why I still recommend going:

My favourite place in the entire Munich Christmas Market is at Sternenplatzl (Star Platz) at the Rindermarkt.

It’s just steps away from the more popular Marienplatz, but feels worlds away and the stars hanging from the trees give it a whimsical feel. Sternenplatzl is a highlight of the Munich Christmas Market in Germany.

Christmas pyramids are usually much smaller and used for decorative purposes inside, but I love this oversized one that serves as a Glühwein stand at the Sternenplatzl. It’s thought that Christmas pyramids were the predecessor to the Christmas tree, so perhaps the medieval Christmas markets had more of them!

Christmas pyramid at Sternenplatzl, Rindermarkt, Munich, Germany
Traditional Christmas pyramid at Sternenplatzl (Star Platz) at the Rindermarket in Munich.

The Munich Christmas Market runs the length of Kaufinger Strasse, a pedestrian shopping street, that is one of the longest in Germany.

The Munich Christmas Market runs the length of Kaufinger Strasse, a pedestrian shopping street.Christmas markets are much more impressive at night than during the day, as the photo below shows, but they’re also busier. If you’re there to shop, go during the day. If you’re there for the atmosphere and to drink Glühwein, then go in the evening:

A Glühwein stand that is a replica of the Frauenkirche (church) and in front of it at the Munich Christmas Market.
A Glühwein stand that is a replica of the Frauenkirche (church).
The Frauenkirche Glühwein stand at the Christmas market isn't nearly as impressive during the day.
The Frauenkirche Glühwein stand at the Christmas market isn’t nearly as impressive during the day.

The other unique aspect of the Munich Christmas Market is the Kripperlmarkt (Manger Market). It’s toted as being “probably” the largest manger market in Germany.

The largest Manger Market in Germany can be found in Munich.

What is “probably” the largest Manger Market can be found at the Munich Christmas Market.I’m not in the market for a new manger, but even I can appreciate the craftsmanship of some of the wood carvings.

Life-size hand-carved manger scene from a craftsman in Oberammergau, a region in Bavaria, Germany

Life-size hand-carved manger scene from a craftsman in Oberammergau, a region in Bavaria.There’s even a skating rink at Stachus (Karlsplatz). This is well thought out as there’s a Glühwein bar overlooking the skating rink – a win-win for both parents and kids…or kids at heart!

Münchener Eiszauber (Munich Ice Magic) offers skating at Stachus (Karlsplatz) in Munich, Germany

Münchener Eiszauber (Munich Ice Magic) offers skating at Stachus (Karlsplatz)If you go to a Christmas market and only try one thing, let it be Kaiserscharrm. Named after the Austrian Emporer (Kaiser) Franz Joseph I of Austria, it has royal roots. It’s a fluffy cut up pancake that is sprinkled with icing sugar and usually served with a side of applesauce. My German and foreign friends alike both go nuts for it. Being Celiac (gluten-allergy) I have to skip it, but you can try it at the Munich Christmas Market on Kaufinger Strasse.

Kaiserschmarrn is a must-try at the Munich Christmas Market in Germany

Kaiserschmarrn is a must-try at the Munich Christmas Market.

So you can see why I think a visit to the Munich Christmas Market is worth braving the crowds.

After you’ve seen it, then check out my recommendations of the Most Beautiful Christmas Markets in Munich.

Know Before You Go to the Munich Christmas Market:

  • Entrance is free.
  • It’s open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday to Saturday and until 8:00 pm on Sunday.
  • There’s live music every evening at 5:30 pm sung from the balcony of the Town Hall at Marienplatz.
  • Check for special events like the Krampus Run (happening from 4:00 to 5:00 pm on Dec. 20th, 2015).
  • Santa makes an appearance everyday between 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
  • The market runs until 2:00 pm on Dec. 24th.
  • Visit the official website for further info.

Check out my new book, Bavaria’s Top Castles and Christmas Markets, now available on Kindle for just €2.99.

Alternatively, you can read it for free by signing up here to get your Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial. It gives you access to unlimited reading from over 1 million books. I’m a big fan.

guide to castles and Christmas markets in Bavaria, Germany

Be sure to check out my Munich City Guide for how to make the most of your precious travel time.

Mulled Wine: The Most Popular Drink at German Christmas Markets

gluehwein (mulled wine), a popular holiday drink in Germany

Mulled wine is the most popular holiday drink at German Christmas Markets.

gluehwein (mulled wine), a popular holiday drink in Germany I had only vaguely heard of mulled wine (Glühwein in German) while living in Canada and I associated it as a drink that only old people drink.

Then I moved to Germany and everything changed.

gluehwein (mulled wine), a popular holiday drink at German Christmas markets
Some people collect the various Gluewein mugs from the various German Christmas Markets.

It’s red wine served warm with a dash of cinnamon, cloves, orange and sugar added.  Social events revolve around Glühwein during the holiday season.

Friends bundle up and catch up over a mug of Glühwein at one of the many Glühwein stalls found at My Favorite 3 Christmas Markets in Munich or My Favorite European Christmas Markets.

The German Christmas Markets just started last week and I’ve already lost track of the number of Glühweins I’ve consumed.

Although never more than one or two at a time.  Glühwein is to be consumed slowly and the intense flavours savoured.

It was not a love at first taste for me and Glühwein, I found it assaulted my taste buds, but with one Glühwein season under my belt, I have acquired a taste for it.

 

Just don’t ask me to choose between Glühwein and a Starbuck’s Gingerbread Latte.

First Impressions of a Carnival Parade in Germany

carnival parade flowerguys

Carnival Parade Flower Guys in Germany

There’s no carnival in Canada so I was excited to attend my first carnival parade in Germany and see for myself just what carnival was all about.

We choose the Swabian village of Grosselfingen, a village of just over 2000 inhabitants about an hour south of Stuttgart.  It was a somewhat random choice, based on the fact that there was a parade on the day we wanted to go and it wasn’t too far from Stuttgart.   It was the Sunday before Old Women’s Day, when carnival really gets started in Germany.

The Poor German Children
Almost immediately as soon as the parade procession started I felt sorry for the children.  Only small amounts of candy were being handed out sparingly during the carnival parade, and in its place bakers were handing out pretzels and buns while butchers were handing out sausages.  I found this beyond hysterical and when I questioned J.P. he got rather defensive and asked me “Why would a baker hand out candy when they can hand out their own bread?”  Touche, I didn’t have a good response but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the poor German children, I mean come on, what kid would rather have a sausage or bun over a piece of candy?  Or perhaps a German child would?

Bakers handing out pretzels and buns during the carnival parade.
Bakers handing out pretzels and buns during the carnival parade.

Are People in the Carnival Parde Drunk or Just Acting Silly?
It was difficult to tell at first whether  the rambunctious guys in the crazy costumes were under the influence or just acting crazy.  Halfway through the parade, we got the answer as two of them cracked open a bottle of schnapps and starting downing shots in the middle of the parade.  I actually felt relieved to see that they were drunk as they were a strange bunch.

Clearly having a good time at the Carnival Parade in Grosselfingen
Clearly having a good time at the Carnival Parade in Grosselfingen

How Nice to See Germans Having Fun and Acting Silly
Germans appear very reserved in public, even though they can be quite different in private, so it was nice to see what appeared to be most of the village come out , let loose and have a good time.   Everyone was there from babies to grandmothers and seemed to enjoy themselves.  I know we did.

Dancing, laughing, an overall jovial atmosphere at the Carnival Parade in Grosselfingen.
Dancing, laughing, an overall jovial atmosphere at the Carnival Parade in Grosselfingen.

Germans Have an Odd Sense of Humor
Following the carnival parade the chief or master of ceremonies (I’m not sure what to call him) started to give a speech.  I caught words here and there, but felt better when J.P. said that even he was struggling to catch everything since they were using a lot of Swabian slang.  The gist of it was the chief was telling everyone the rules of the village.  I asked J.P. if this was serious or just for fun.  He stared at me in disbelief and said “Of course it’s for fun.”   Perhaps only Germans would find reviewing a list of the village rules fun.  The concept was definitely lost on me, but perhaps it’s also because humor does not translate well.  On the other hand, none of the Germans were laughing either.

The chief giving an extensive list of all the rules of the village
The chief giving an extensive list of all the rules of the village (for “fun” of course)

Why Are There No Women in the Carnival Parade?
This was just one of  many questions I had about the Grosselfingen Carnival Parade.   Unfortunately J.P. wasn’t much help since each village has their own traditions and costumes so if you want to get behind the meaning of everything you need to be a local or know your history.  The carnival in Grosselfingen dates back to 1439 so there’s a lot of history there but I think it will be fun to find out more.

I would love to know what these boy’s mothers had to do to get them in these costumes. None of them seemed too thrilled with their Carnival Parade attire.

Today we’re off to another Carnival Parade, a much bigger one this time that attracts 50,000 people.  I’m looking forward to seeing the differences.  Have you been to a carnival parade in Germany?  What were your first impressions?

Dachau: A Christmas Market that Will Make You See Another Side of this City

The Advent Calendar in Dachau is the largest in Bavaria.

Dachau is most famous for its concentration camp.  More than 200,000 people were imprisoned and 41,500 were murdered here.

But there’s also a lighter side to Dachau,  including the Dachau Christmas Market located in the beautiful Altstadt (old town).

Of course, it’s important to remember the darker side of Dachau and it’s certainly not forgotten with the Dachau Memorial Site receiving 600,000 visitors a year.  I visited it a couple of years ago, but never wrote about it since every time I tried, it came across as trite.

Of course a visit there is heart-wrenching, depressing, and sad, but these words don’t even begin to capture it. And at a loss of how to do so in a meaningful way, I chose not to share my experience at all.

Having said that I do recommend visiting it – even if I choose not to write about it.  Here’s the official homepage for the Dachau Memorial Site for further information.

But in addition to visiting the Memorial Site, I also highly recommend exploring the historic Alt Stadt (Old Town), or having a coffee in the Dachau Palace!

Dachau Christmas Market
The entrance to Dachau Christmas Market

Despite there being more to Dachau than its dark side, most people don’t know anything else.  I challenge you to name one other thing you know about Dachau besides the concentration camp.

When I posed the same challenge to myself, I was stumped, and I live in Germany. Imagine how that must feel for the residents who live there, when the only thing people know about your city, is a horrible one entrenched in tragedy.

I had visited the Old Town and the Palace before, hence my recommendations above, and so, when the opportunity presented itself through one of my hiking clubs to hike to Dachau and finish at the Christmas market I jumped at the chance to visit a Christmas market in what seemed an unlikely place and see a different side of the city.

In all honesty, the Dachau Christmas Market is very similar to a lot of other Christmas Markets in Germany.  It’s cozy, i.e. small, but I loved the homey atmosphere!

Despite seeing numerous tourists getting off at Dachau to visit the Memorial Site,  I didn’t hear a single person speaking English at the market.  This seemed like such a shame to me, since I think it’s important to not only experience the bad, but also the good.  Most people leave Dachau only having seen the Memorial Site.

My favourite part about the Christmas Market was the huge advent calendar in the Rathaus (Town Hall) windows.  Not only is the Advent Calendar in Dachau huge, it’s actually the largest advent calendar in all of Bavaria! Next to advent calendars with chocolate, ones in windows are my second favourites!

The largest advent calendar in Bavaria, can be found in Dachau.

The advent calendar in Dachau is the largest in Bavaria.I saw people lining up to buy a ticket for a raffle, which I stupidly ignored. I found out later that it was for a daily draw from the Advent Calendar.

Each day, someone wins the prize shown in one of the windows and all proceeds go to charity! Next time, I’m buying a ticket! Even better they only cost €1.00!

Dachau Christmas Market
Locals keeping warm over mugs of Glühwein (mulled wine) at the Christmas market.

There was also a stage where music programs are regularly held. I didn’t time my visit accordingly, but the schedule of programs is available on their official website.

As I sipped my Glühwein (mulled wine) and eavesdropped on conversations nearby, I couldn’t help but get the sense that Dachau is a really close and connected community.

Perhaps tragedy has made its citizens closer, or perhaps I want to find the brighter side, too hastily drew my own conclusions.

Regardless, I left feeling contented.  I had seen a different side of Dachau, a happier, lighter side, present-day Dachau, one that helps shape my perceptions beyond the negative, and that’s definitely worth writing about!

Dachau Christmas Market runs until December 23rd.  Dachau can easily be reached from Munich with the S2 train.  The journey is direct (no changing trains) and takes 25 minutes from Marienplatz.

An Expat’s Response to “Germany is the least funny country in the world”

An Expat's Response to "Germany is the least funny country in the world"

I read Germany officially the world’s least funny country in The Telegraph a few days ago in which a survey of 30,000 people from 15 countries were polled to find that “Germany is the least funny country in the world.”  I was floored, I mean seriously, even Russians, who came in second last, are funnier than Germans?  Certainly not the few Russians I’ve met!  I found myself feeling like an over protective sister for my adopted country and apparently misunderstood country.

I will admit that Germans may not be the best joke tellers, but in their defense jokes do not usually translate well.  If  you tell a German a joke, they may not laugh, but neither would many people from other countries either.  Many jokes rely on a play on words and that can be difficult even for someone who speaks excellent English, but who is not a native speaker.  As an experiment, I decided to try a “Knock-knock” joke on J.P. While he didn’t exactly laugh, he did groan – which is a typical response for most “knock-knock” jokes, regardless of whether you are a native speaker or not.  And to be fair, when he has translated a joke from German into English, I didn’t laugh either.  But perhaps that’s because we Canadians aren’t very funny either (coming in the 10th least funniest country in the world.)  I prefer to blame it on the fact that a lot of times the humor gets lost in translation.

While Germans may not be known for their joke telling skills, they still do have a sense of humor.

Germans also have a strong distinction between their public and private lives and in their private lives.  As a tourist to Germany, you will likely only be seeing the public side of Germans.  It may not appear all that funny, but stay a little longer and you will get a glimpse into the private lives  and see a whole different side – a side of them that is witty, playful and yes even funny.

But even as a visitor here, you can still catch little glimpses of humour here and there.  Open any newspaper and you are likely to find a satire of some politician, similar to as you would in Canada or the U.S.  I laugh at these, even with my limited German.

If you want to see humor at play in the office all you need to do is hang out by the water cooler after a big game to hear the teasing that occurs towards someone who rooted  for the team that lost.    Germans can trash talk with the best of them.

And if you’ve ever seen one of the huge sausages sticking out of a really tiny bun, you’ve got to see the humor in that.

And at the very least go to Oktoberfest and witness for yourself silly folk songs being belted out by men in lederhosen and women in dirndls with braided hair.   All while jumping up and down on a bench pretending to be a tiger (watch the video and you’ll know what I’m talking about). In my observations, Germans for the most part are happy drunks who enjoy a good party.

So to the 30,000 people who responded that “Germany is the least funny country in the world” I say you haven’t spent enough time  here.

What do you think about the survey results?  FYI – Britain, the United States and Canada were also all in the 10 least funniest countries in the world.