From Marienplatz, the central square in Munich named for the column featuring a golden statue of St. Mary, Munich is an easy city to walk around by yourself.
The square, which doubles as a sort of meeting place for locals and tourists alike, is central to the Alstadt, or old town, and is easily accessible by both the U-bahn and S-bahn. This means that you can use it as a jumping off point for visiting most of the major sites in “downtown” Munich, which is exactly what I did!
As with most city breaks, I started my adventure off with a (free) walking tour. Starting in Marienplatz (under the Marien column) this tour took me around most of the major sites, including the new town hall, old town hall, Church of St Peter, Höfbrauhaus (the famous beer hall), Feldherrnhalle, down the gilded Odeonsplatz, National Theater, and stately Residenz (though not in that order).
TIP: If you’re new to any city, I always recommend taking a free walking tour. Bigger cities will often have several options to choose from, and they’re a fantastic way to get the lay of the land–and learn some history– in a short amount of time. In Munich, I went on one of the tours hosted by Sandemans, who also have tour guides in many other cities throughout the world.
The tour also stopped in the Viktualienmarkt, a 200-year-old farmers market with stalls selling an assortment of produce, meat, cheese, flowers, and souvenirs.
Viktualienmarkt is also the home of Munich’s Maypole. My favorite story from the tour was about the maypole, which was apparently stolen in 2017 as part of an old German tradition, and was held for “ransom” by some farmers. The ransom price? A hearty meal and German beer. Paid in full by the Munich government for the safe return of the maypole.
But outside of the walking tour, my favorite part of Munich was visiting the Englischer Garten, Munich’s answer to Central Park. Really, I only explored a tiny portion of the park, but it truly felt like a little oasis from the city. Plus, there are surfers!
Yes, I said surfers. Watching them glide back and forth on the man-made wave near the edge of the park– on what was actually a fairly cold day– was a sight I never expected to see in a major city.
Now, usually, whenever you go to a city, it’s worth checking out some of the top museums. In Munich’s case, one of the things recommended by my guide book was the Residenz, the former royal palace. The book touted gorgeous rooms that were formerly owned by the royals and a free guided tour with your ticket. Now, on a normal day, I don’t normally spring for palaces, but by my last day there, I’d already eaten all the food I could possibly fit in my body and it was starting to rain, so I decided to give it a shot.
What I didn’t realize was that most of the rooms in the palace were reconstructed after the second World War, so much of the tour was spent listening to descriptions of what the rooms used to look like, but are now filled with stand-in period specific furniture. Not exactly the most thrilling material. There were a couple of rooms that were interesting, but for the most part, the palace was a major let down.
Also on the must-list is the Olympic Park, but sadly I didn’t get to visit it or see much outside of the Alstadt.
And while I found central Munich to be a very easy city to get around as a solo traveler, it wasn’t the most exciting visit. But perhaps the time of year impacted my experience– it was late fall, but not quite time for the famous Christmas markets to be open.
Overall, I enjoyed visiting the parks and markets, doing a bit of shopping, and exploring, but I’m also not sure I am in a hurry to go back any time soon. There are a few too many other places to see first.