Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the best-preserved medieval towns I’ve ever been to! It’s an 800-year-old town on the Romantic Road situated approximately halfway between Munich and Frankfurt.
The defence towers and city wall that encloses much of the city makes it feel like you are stepping back in time. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the epitome of medieval romance.
I loved Rothenburg ob der Tauber when I was there in April a couple of years ago. And was excited to return to visit its famous Christmas market, the Reiterlesmarkt (Rider’s Market). The Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a long tradition dating back more than 500 years. Its name comes from a messenger riding a horse.
In medieval times it was believed that otherworldly messengers would appear and float through the skies carrying with them the souls of the dead. Not a very Christmasy thought! Fortunately times have changed and today the mystical messenger is now considered to be a friendly messenger and is welcomed. The messenger makes his appearance on the first day that the market opens (at the end of November). I missed this by a week, but locals tell me it’s worth seeing.
Also not to be missed is a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt, which is self-described as “the most exceptional Christmas specialty store in the world.” It just may be with its 30,000+ assortment of Christmas decorations on offer! I was certainly impressed with all the monkeys on display:
Upon entering I heard one American teenager declare “This is the coolest store I’ve ever been in.” Even if you’re not there to buy, it’s worth a look with its Christmas village illuminated with over 130,000 LED lights:
Later on, I overheard an elderly English lady declaring it to be “Christmas heaven”. It’s definitely enchanting! There’s also a Christmas museum upstairs, which takes visitors through the history of Christmas. Käthe Wohlfahrt and the Christmas Museum are both open year round, but really get into full swing come December.
What really makes the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas market alive is its atmosphere. I feel like I’m slipping back in time a few centuries as I sip my white mulled wine (different from the usual red mulled wine that you find at other Christmas markets) so be sure to try it.
The only difference is that as I head back to Hotel Rappen Just outside the Würzburger Tor (one of the city gates), I fortunately don’t see any criminals left to hang as their punishment for their crimes, as I may have seen in medieval times.
I turn up the heat and crawl under my cozy covers, shivering at the very thought of how cold it would have been back in the middle ages when there was no heating.
Perhaps there is no time to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber like the present – when I can have the best of both worlds!
Prien am Chiemsee is famous for Schloss Herrenchiemsee (Herrenchiemsee Palace).
It’s King Ludwig II’s largest palace and is based on the Palace of Versailles. In my opinion Neuschwanstein has nothing on Schloss Herrenchiemsee! It’s incredibly ornate, and even on its own island – don’t worry, there’s a boat so you don’t have to swim over. Schloss Herrenchiemsee is one of my favorite castles in Germany and I highly recommend checking it out (more details coming in an upcoming post).
Seeing as how I had previously visited Schloss Herrenchiemsee on several occasions, I was eager to see what else I could do in Prien am Chiemsee. Electronic-biking (e-biking) seemed like a great option for exploring the country side. E-bikes still require you to work, but they give you a little extra oomph. You decide how much help you want by adjusting your settings. My husband and I rented our bikes from additive bike and had a choice of two different models.
We stored our water in the specially designed additive bags, which are basically like a backpack for your bike and off we went through the rolling country side around Prien am Chiemsee.
Several hours later we returned famished for our picnic lunch. It’s been years since I’ve had a picnic but there are so many perfect picnic spots around the lake, like the Prienavera Beach. We promised ourselves that we will do this more often.
Bellies full, it was off to Kletterwald (Climbing Forest). I’ve done different versions of this in Italy and in Austria, and LOVED it. It was J.P.’s first time and he was intrigued. There are a total of 13 different courses, each course having several challenges. They vary in difficulty, starting from courses that are low to the ground and aimed for children as young as 4 years old and up. Watching 10 year olds move through the courses was like watching monkeys – they were fearless and fast moving.
Being just “slightly” older than 10, I moved somewhat slower and less gracefully. And while I consider myself to be reasonably athletic, two hours and four courses later, my arms were shaking in exhaustion. Each of the courses we did was challenging with the Tandem Course (where you have to work with your partner) being one of our favorites. The Climbing Forest had kicked my but AND I hadn’t even done the two toughest courses – yet I couldn’t help smiling. It was daunting but exhilarating to look at a challenge and think “I can’t do it” to “I’ll try” to “I’m doing it” to “I did it!”
Now that my arms have stopped shaking, I’m thinking about the two toughest courses that I have yet to conquer….and hiking the Kampenwand, the most picturesque peak around the Chiemsee – without the help of a gondola of course.
Prien am Chiemsee is only 90 km south from Munich, but we felt like we were miles away. It was the perfect getaway from Munich.
Know Before You Go to Prien am Chiemsee:
Prien am Chiemsee is easily reached by train or auto.
The Nuremberg Christmas Market is Germany’s most famous and one of it’s most traditional markets.
That also means it’s a popular attraction, drawing in over 2 million visitors from Germany, Europe, and even Japan!
I went to the Nuremberg Christmas Market for the first time last year. I thought it was nice, but overcrowded (avoid going on a weekend if possible). I went again this year and really enjoyed it, in large part because I went with locals who showed it to me through their eyes and I really enjoyed it!
Here’s What To Really See and Do at the Nuremberg Christmas Market:
Visit the International Christmas Market
Besides the regular market there’s also an international one with 14 of Nuremberg’s sister cities. Cities are represented from Nicaragua, Czech Republic, Italy, and from all over the world. My favorite was the Cuba stand where we were treated to an impromptu salsa demonstration! Any guesses which city/country this wooden booth belonged to?…
Christkind was the traditional giver of gifts. Not surprisingly children love meeting the Christkind. I had the opportunity to meet her as well and she was lovely. Maybe we’ll even be BFFs. Then again, she might be kinda busy at this time of the year. The Christkind first appeared at the Nuremberg Christmas Market in the 1930s. She now appears at other markets throughout Germany as well. Children can visit her every afternoon at Hans‑Sachs Platz at 2.30 (arriving on the main market square at 3 o’clock).
Meet the Prune People (Zwetschgenmännle)
The Prune People are some of Nuremberg’s most famous residents and can be found going about their daily life. Locals have a saying “If you want someone in your life who doesn’t cause you any trouble, get a prune person!” Good advice! Prune people are for sale at many vendors.
Children’s Christmas Market
This is one of only a few in Germany. Even as an adult I loved it. There are rides including an old-fashioned carousel and it’s even interactive! Children can make candles or decorate Nuremberg’s famous gingerbread cookies!
Eat What is Quite Possibly the World’s Best Gingerbread
Nuremberg has a long-standing history with gingerbread. You can read about it at A Medieval Treat from Nuremberg. It’s such an interesting story that I wrote a whole post on it.
Nativity Scene Exhibit
On the way to the Children’s Christmas Market is a nativity scene exhibit on the left side, hiding behind the wooden stalls. Many people miss it, but it’s worth a quick look. I loved this one with all the animal figurines.
Take in a Concert
All the churches have frequent concerts during the Christmas market and there’s a stage set up in front of the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) where school choirs and big bands perform.
Drink from the World’s Largest Feuerzangenbowle
Feuerzangenbowle, according to Wikipedia, is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine. All I know is that it is some seriously strong stuff! I’ll stick to my mulled wine!
Tour Nuremberg in a Stage Coach
This was so much fun and surprisingly comfortable! The stage coat is a 1939 replica that takes guests through Nuremberg’s cobble stone streets. I felt like I was stepping back in time even without a lady in waiting waiting for me. Tours last about 10 minutes and leave from across from the fountain in the main square.
Learning more about the history of the Nuremberg Christmas Market really brought it to life for me and made it meaningful, much more so than when I walked around clueless last year. And besides, it’s not everyday that I get to be BFFs with Christkind…even if it is only in my imagination.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval towns and also one of the key attractions along Germany’s famed Romantic Road. The Romantic Road follows a medieval trading route leading through medieval towns and villages and rolling hills landscape peppered with fields and forests. Similar to the medieval towns of Maulbronn and Schwäbisch Hall, I believe that Rothenburg ob der Tauber is best explored by foot.
For me, the allure of exploring a medieval city is experiencing the city itself. I am quite happy to wander through a town knowing the gist of the town’s history and on most occasions do not feel the need to know every little detail about every single historic building.
Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Rothenburg ob der Tauber so much. It’s a walled town and you can walk the entire circumference of the wall which is interspersed with watch towers at frequent intervals (the Town Hall Watch tower offers the best view in all of Rothenburg ob der Tauber). We only walked part of the cities walls since I was still on crutches from knee surgery, but it was still easy to entertain ourselves with one of the numerous cafes, gelato shops and restaurants that line the historic cobble stone streets. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also famous for Schneeballen – large balls of dough covered in sugar powder. I like to think of it as the German version of an American donut, but not as tasty and more filling. I left Rothenburg ob der Tauber very full, but very satisfied.
If Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks familiar to you even though you haven’t been there, it may be because have seen it in a movie theater. The village shown in the Walt Disney movie Pinocchio is based on Rothenburg ob der Tauber and parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, were filmed here as well. The city can also be seen in a popular Japanese animated film, just to mention a few of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s cinematic claims to fame.
Despite my preference for just experiencing a city, we did sign up for the 90 minute tour in English which is offered at 2:00 everyday starting in the Market Square, and did a good job of bringing the town’s walls to life. I particularly enjoyed learning that in medieval times the town gate closed each night and if you were on the outside of the gate you were sleeping outside the gate – cold and unprotected. Unless of course you pleaded your case to the Night Watchman, who then contacted city officials to decide your fate for the night. There is also a tour with the Night Watchman offered everyday at 8:00. Both tours run from April 1st – October 31st.
After our tour, we stopped by the Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalteriches Kriminalmuseum), but unfortunately they just closed the doors as we were about to enter. It turns out the entrance closes 45 minutes before the museum’s closing time. Our condolence prize was the Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weichactsmuseum) – 0n Easter Sunday. The irony was not lost on me and perhaps that’s why we were the only ones in the Christmas Museum, although the Christmas store located in the same building was surprisingly quite busy. I quite enjoyed the Christmas Museum, much more than the Easter Egg Museum we had visited last week, although J.P. (my German fiance) thought it was “kitschy.” I found it was informative and the exhibits well presented as they explained the history of Christmas traditions (in both German and English signs).
We visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber on Easter Sunday and it was packed. Surprisingly a lot of the shops were open as well, which even surprised J.P. since normally everything would be closed, tourists or not. Despite it being touristy, I still really enjoyed it and Rothenburg ob der Tauber is popular for a reason – it is the best preserved medieval city in all of Germany. The city is not really close to anything so unless you happen to be traveling the Romantic Road, you have to make a bit of an effort to get there, which I personally like. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is 150km northeast of Stuttgart, or 240km northwest of Munich. The nearest city is Nuremberg, just over 100km east of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber has other museums and St. Jacobs Church is a must stop for many tourists. Besides being a massive church dating back to 1311, it is also famous for the Holy Blood Altar (Heilig Blut Altar) named after a relic, a drop of Christ’s blood, which turned the town into a pilgrimage in medieval times. As interesting as this is, for me the real highlight of Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the walled town itself and well worth a 150km drive from Stuttgart.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 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.
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 Costumes:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.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)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.
So you can see why I think a visit to the Munich Christmas Market is worth braving the crowds.