After a very quick–and sleepless–overnight flight, we finally landed at our main destination: Munich! We landed at about 6:30 am, with plenty of time to get in a day’s worth of sights.
After the usual mess of how do we get SIM cards, U-bahn cards, etc., we headed into the city to drop our bags off and try and pull it together for the day ahead. On the train in we got our first taste of Oktoberfest. Two bierleichen—literally “beer corpses”—were passed out on the train. A good samaritan woke them up to make sure they got home!
We stayed at Hotel Carlton Astoria in the Maxvorstadt neighborhood, right between the Universitat and Odeonsplatz stops on the U-bahn. The main historic area/downtown was within walking distance (about 15-20 minutes). Considering we were going during prime Oktoberfest, it was well-priced too.
The rooms were fairly large, with huge showers in the bathrooms. It’s a little bit of an older hotel, but you can’t beat the location.
Refreshed and caffeinated, we joined a walking tour of Munich through Sandeman’s. The tour began at Marienplatz, named for Mary’s Column right in the middle.
Imposing itself over the whole square is the new town hall, or rathaus, famous for its glockenspiel, which rings every day at 11 am. When it chimes, figurines enact dancing and jousting scenes.
We walked out of the platz and over to St. Peter’s Church, the city’s oldest church. It’s the likely site of where the monks who founded Munich (“Munchen” means “by the monks”) in 1158 lived. Unfortunately much of it, like many sites in Munich, was destroyed in World War II, but since the Nazis took photos of all of the sites before the war, it was able to be rebuilt and restored afterwards. You can climb its tower to look out over the city.
From there we went to the main market, the Viktualienmarkt with its huge maypole. Many Muncheners get their breakfast here, traditionally poached white sausages with mustard and a pretzel, a sight we would see often. The market is full of little shops and stalls, and has its own beer garden.
Pretzel disclaimer—if you want a hot one you better get it in the morning! After that, they get left out all day and grow cold. We learned the hard way at dinner one night when we wanted one and the restaurant had in fact run out—and would have been reluctant to sell us a cold one anyways.
The tour also took us to the Residenz (the palace of Munich’s royal family, the Wittelsbachs), Odeonsplatz (if you go behind the loggia on Odeosplatz, walk though the “golden alley”–where citizens would sneakily walk to avoid saluting a Nazi statue installed on the side of the loggia during World War II), St. Michael’s Church, and the Hofgarten. It was a great tour–comprehensive and interesting–and best of all, it was free!
The tour ended conveniently on the edge of the English Garden, Munich’s version of Central Park, so we strolled through on the way to our first beer garden at the Chinese Tower.
Chinesischer Turm is an outdoor beer garden allll the way almost to the north end of the English Garden. You snag a table and walk up to the food and beer stall to order. We got our first Hofbraus and pretzel, schnitzel, and what we thought was the best chicken of all of the half-chickens you’ll find at the beer halls.
An interesting facet of the beer gardens is if you see a tablecloth–then there is table service and you can be served food. If there is no tablecloth, you can either walk up to the counter and buy it–or bring your own! Many families bring entire meals and spread–including fancy candles and glassware–to the beer gardens.
We wandered back down through the English Garden, where you may notice an interesting sight–a field full of nudists. There’s much fewer of them since the 60s and 70s, but they are there, enjoying the sun like everyone else!
We backtracked through the city center and down through the all the platzes until we reached Platz’l, home of Munich’s (maybe the world’s) most famous beerhall–Hofbrauhaus. As expected during Oktoberfest—it was mobbed. We happened to be there during what is called the “Italian weekend,” when apparently Italians who can’t handle beer come to Munich and get destroyed.
We got a table off to the side. Signposts above different sections designate seating areas for regular groups.
Just like at Oktoberfest, beer is only served by liter.
We ordered a little of everything–some weiner sausages with potato salad, roast pork with a potato dumpling, and spaetzle with cheese—this was definitely the best of all spaetzle we had!
Hofbrauhaus is definitely touristy, but it’s worth at least going inside and getting one beer! It is also cash only. If you’d rather be surrounded by more locals, go to the beer garden in Viktualienmarkt or Augustiner’s beer hall–the local favorite.
Cash disclaimer: we have never had an issue with using our cards in Europe, but in Munich the majority of places we went were cash only. So take more euros out than you might think at the beginning of the trip to avoid taking more out and paying the fees later on.
Filled with pork and potato products, we finally made our way back to the hotel and collapsed—becoming corpses ourselves.