Germany. Bavaria. Munich.
Somehow, when thinking of Munich, the first things that come to mind are beer, Oktoberfest, and iconic Grimm fairytale castles and forests.
The beautiful capital of Germany Bavaria is a mix of history and forward-thinking innovation. An artsy cultural hub thrives on traditions while enjoying festivals and fun activities. Might seem a bit contradicting but it always seems to work out perfectly. You could say there’s much more to Munich than meets the eye at a first glance.
But do you know the best thing about being a first-time tourist somewhere new? It’s the “never been there before” part! And Germany has a lot of cool destinations to show off! You can read all about them on Framey: for example, see Berlin. But for now, I really want to get back to sharing the 30 Best things to see in Munich for first-time visitors and start discovering!
Marienplatz is iconic! This is the perfect place to start discovering Munich, whether you’re a regular globetrotter or this is your first encounter with the beautiful city of Munich.
It feels like a special place. The fairytale vibe is everywhere, especially here in the heart of the city. Marienplatz is located in the Old Town and its multi-century history goes back to the late 1150s. And of course, WWII took its toll, but the entire area was carefully rebuilt, bringing it back to its former glory and appearance.
Stand in the middle of the square and have a good look around! And if architecture is something you are interested in, this is the place that has it all: Neues Rathaus, Altes Rathaus, Glockenspielpiell, the Fischbrunnen fountain, restaurants, and boutiques.
Just imagine this place at Christmas or for the Fasching carnival with dragon Narren-Lindwurm dancing over the square.
My oh My! Such splendor and grandeur at the former Royal Palace. The Residenz used to be Bavaria’s Wittelsbach monarchs’ royal house.
In a word: it is huge! The largest Palace in the city and Germany. And though the second world war destroyed a big part of it, it was accurately rebuilt and restored to its former glory.
The beautiful Residenz museum takes you through history mixing different styles from Renaissance to Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassicism. Each and every room has something to show you so make sure to reserve a few good hours for the museum, as you do not want to rush out of the royal atmosphere.
3. Allianz Arena
Do you know your football? If you do, there is a great chance that you already know what Allianz Arena is. But for the non-connaisseurs let’s just say that this famous Munich landmark is home to the even more famous football team FC Bayern Munchen.
It is such a cool place to check even if you are not into football: it is impressive in size and the first stadium that completely changes its exterior color. So fun to watch!
Food and Munich go hand in hand. Whether it be for festivals or simply that you are a gourmet eater, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Located close to the Marienplatz, the Viktualienmarkt started out as a farmers’ market. What is it today? It turned into an A-List spot for gourmet tourists and locals alike.
You can find anything from fresh food to traditional German specialties to international ones, so be prepared for a feast of tastes!
Speaking of tastes and local flavors, the best way to experience Munich and its more joyous fun traditions is Oktoberfest. Beer wagon parade, music, traditional foods, folk costumes, and, dances!
And when I say that it is a huge celebration it means 6 million people come to Oktoberfest each year.
6. BMW Museum
If you are into fast, great cars here is yet another iconic landmark to hit: the BMW Museum. And it is ironic indeed. The building looks like a four-cylinder tower and the museum is housed in the adjacent bowl-shaped building.
Engines, the first BMW vehicle, and motorcycles all are part of BMW’s legacy in innovation.
The BMW Museum is not the only modern-style architectural wonder in Munich. You can check Framey’s The New Architecture of Munich collection for more inspirational destinations!
7. Alte Pinakothek
One of the oldest art museums in Munich, the Alte Pinakothek covers art during the XIV – XVIII century. And it covers it all so well. There are more than 700 paintings by Rembrandt, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, and Durer.
Like most of the buildings in Munich, the Alte Pinakothek was also damaged in the second WW. But the renovations here were more like repairs than restoration works, so the war effects are much more visible out there in the open.
8. Munchener Tierpark Hellabrunn
Munchener Tierpark Hellabrunn is actually the Munich Zoo and it is the first Geo-Zoo in the world. In a Geo-Zoo the animals live in their natural habitat. Following the icons, you get to travel around the world and see how animals live in different habitats much more like in a natural reserve than your typical Zoo.
It is one of the best experiences you can have in Munich, one suited for the entire family and it will make for an unforgettable encounter with the wild in a modern space.
9. St. Peter’s Church
Great architecture with spectacular views is your thing?
Well, then head for St. Peter’s Church. The Alter’s Church Tower or Old Peter, as the locals affectionately call it, offers some of the best views you will get off the Marienplatz, City Hall as well as the beautiful Frauenkirche. You just need to climb the 300 steps to the viewing platform.
What else is special about this place? The church itself is the oldest parish church in Munich. Historically it is the first tower clock in the city and it also has the oldest bells. A lot of first and records with this landmark. But it is not only the exterior that is spectacular, as inside you get another treasure, one of Munich’s gems, a 300-year-old Baroque high altar with a golden figure of St. Peter.
10. Neues Rathaus
Marienplatz is clearly beautiful and for sure the perfect place for what is one of Munich’s most impressive buildings, the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus). To be honest you can not really miss it. It’s big and it’s beautiful in its Neo-Gothic style with its famous Glockenspiel and the panoramic views you can get from climbing the Tower.
The Asamkirche in Munich is one of the most beautiful late Baroque buildings. But trust me, this is one of the most beautiful surprises you will get in Munich.
It is just breathtaking with all its sculptures, detailed art, and frescoes. I will say no more but trust me, this will make the top three top of the most beautiful churches in Europe.
12. Deutsches Museum
The Deutsches Museum or the German Museum is yet another experience you should not miss. This is one fun experience for small kids and the big kid (hiding inside), alike. Being one of the largest natural science museums in the world, you get to discover how the laws of nature work and learn about technologies and science.
Let your curiosity get the best of you!
13. Olympic Tower
Would you like some spectacular views that go all the way to the Alps? Or are you afraid of heights? The 291 meters Olympic Tower is emblematic in itself, but the views from here are just incredible. And if you are lucky and the sky is clear, you can see all the way to the Alps from the observation decks. Take the elevators up all the way to the platforms and stay a while. By the way, there is a great restaurant as well, in case you want to stay a bit longer.
14. Old Town Hall – Altes Rathaus
The Eastern entrance of the Marienplatz, the Old Town Hall, or Altes Rathaus is like a fine-aging lady. The building doesn’t really show its real age. And, you might be even tricked into thinking that it’s newer than the Neues Rathaus. But don’t let her fool you!
The Old Town Hall has been around since 1310. It changed a lot so nowadays ceremonies and celebrations are held here, while another part of the beautiful building houses another type of museum, a toy museum. Enjoy!
15. Angel of Peace
The beautiful golden statue of the Angel of Peace shines on the Isar river. The statue symbolizes the victory of peace over war, a tribute to the 25 years of peace that followed the French-German war of 1870 -1871. The monument also includes a beautiful fountain and the staircase that lead to the statue. A beautiful ensemble that is oddly not so crowded!
16. Chinesischer Turm
The beer garden Chinesischer Turm is located in the largest park in Munich, the English Garden. Imagine 417 hectares of green spaces, larger than London’s Hyde Park or Central Park in New York. The proximity to the university makes the Chinesischer Turm beer garden so popular and crowded. And for sizing, just imagine that the Chinesischer Turm beer garden is not even the largest beer garden in Munich, but the second! Cheers!
17. St. Michael’s Church
The Jesuit temple is one of the finest examples of Renaissance style in Bavaria. And it’s good that it turned out this way as its founder William V had torn down no less than 87 houses, for the Church and the college to be built.
But in all fairness, the façade impresses with its bronze statues of the Bavarian dynasty family tree but mostly with the Archangel Michael’s representation, while the church’s splendid inside decorations will leave you in awe.
Munich’s Eastern City Gate, Isartor, is arguably the best preserved of the three medieval gates.
The Isartor’s colorful frescoes tell the story of Emperor Ludwig’s triumphal victory in the battle of Ampfing, while the inside houses one of the most particular museums in Munich, dedicated to comedian Karl Valentine and its twisted sense of humor.
And what better way to celebrate that than by a museum that shows quirky features and a tower clock that turns counterclockwise?
The Rathaus-Glockenspiel is one of the main attractions in Marienplatz.
The famous clock is something you do not want to miss. Every day at 11 o’clock and noon, the Glockenspiel activates and starts its 8-minute show. There is an extra show at 5 Pm that only takes place between March to October.
Don’t miss the jolly performances in the beautiful Marienplatz as they are unforgettable!
Mariensäule or the Column of the Virgin is the centerpiece of Munich, the starting point that leads to other directions.
The golden statue of Saint Mary, Bavaria’s protector, was built to celebrate the end of the Thirty Years’ War. It shows Mary standing on a crescent Moon with four cherubs surrounding the column and fighting different beasts.
Little sister to Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Feldhernhalle looks almost identical. Considering that King Ludwig 1st was both passionate about ancient Greece and Italian style and art, it’s no wonder that the structure is so similar.
Tourists and locals alike enjoy the beautiful alley year-round, but especially in July when the Feldherrnhalle transforms into an open-air classical music event in Odeonsplatz.
If Isartor is the Eastern gate into the city, the Karstor is the Western border into the pedestrian zone.
Somehow, these medieval gates into the past fit perfectly into Munich’s present image. The 14th-century fortification was initially built as a secondary line of defense. Severely damaged during the Second World War, the reconstruction transformed it into a much-simplified form, but an emblematic one, nonetheless.
The Munich Theresienwiese is like Oktoberfest ground 0. But to be fair, the worldwide famous festival space is not home just for the major events in Munich but also the place where you can admire the 18-meter statue of Bavaria and St. Paul’s Church.
Long ago, the Theresienwiese was nothing but a grass field until 1810 when it turned into a horse race meadow for the wedding celebration of Princess Therese. And, as the following year brought along a follow-up race, the tradition of Oktoberfest started.
On the banks of the Isar river, you get to see one of the most important and impressive buildings in Munich. This building is three times great and not just for its architecture.
For one, it is where the Maximilianeum foundation for gifted students is housed.
Secondly, it houses the Bavarian Parliament.
Thirdly, it’s one of the best places to get romantic sunset views in Munich!
The English Garden has tucked away a lot of charming great spots. One of them is a round Greek temple replica, the Monopteros.
You would not guess that the Temple sits on a man-made hill. No one, including King Ludwig I who commissioned the temple, could have imagined what an iconic symbol of cosmopolitan Munich it would turn into. Monopteros is nowadays the meeting place for free-thinkers, intellectuals, hip, and non-conformists, while back in the ‘80 it was the place where the nudists would meet. Imagine that!
There is something incredibly charming about the entire area of Haidhausen. The little streets with small shops and cozy cafes make you feel like you are roaming a little village in the middle of the big city. But it’s not just the charming century-old inns and lovely cottages restored that make this place so great. The best thing is the community here, stronger than anywhere in Munich!
27. Bavarian National Museum
There are a lot of museums worth seeing in Munich, some quite very specific. But the Bavarian National Museum feels a bit different. It’s mostly because the museum’s collections take you on a two millennia-journey of discovering European and Bavarian history.
The architecture of the museum is equally fascinating. It’s a mixture of all styles: Romanticism, Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance. There is nothing else left to do but enjoy this exquisite trip down history lane with a Framey collection dedicated entirely to Munich’s museums: Best Museums in Munich.
The irregularly shaped little square Platzl is in Old Town Munich. And it’s simply stunning. Located very close to Marienplatz, the historically significant Square is also one of the most photographic areas in the city. You have incredible buildings all around the Platz, architectural jewels like the Hofbrauhaus tavern, or the elegant House of Orlando. A very Bavarian Munich vibe here!
29. St. Luke’s Church
A walk on the bank of the Isar river will get you to another place you will fall in love with.
Located between the Maximilien and the German Museum, St. Luke’s Church silhouette is so distinguishable and such a landmark! The high, majestic dome shows its strong character and architectural dominance. And it is the largest protestant church in the city!
The blend of religious and laic historical buildings in Munich is just so incredible to discover. And if it is Munich history that you are interested in, you can also learn more in Framey’s collection: Best historical Buildings in Munich.
Grab a cup of coffee and stroll through little paths in Hofgarten, as all of them converge to the central piece of the garden, the Dianatempel. The striking twelve-sided pavilion honors the Roman goddess of the hunt- Diana, and it is one of the most idyllic places in Munich. Don’t be surprised if you get to a piece of impromptu music or dance performance so just enjoy the moment!
Munich is the kind of destination that you never just visit once!
It’s rich and colorful and full of wonders. And it’s always hard to choose where to go first or what to see. That’s why I had a hard time choosing the 30 Best things to see in Munich for first-time visitors, but I do hope you enjoyed the eclectic selection as much as I did!
And if you need more travel ideas, there is always the Framey App that you can count on! Your social travel app is available both on Google Play and App Store so download away and start traveling!