6 Must-Dos in Munich, Germany for the Thrifty Traveler
If you’ve heard anything about Munich, it has probably been something about Oktoberfest: a celebration when people from around the world come to dress in lederhosen and drink beer. However, Munich is a gorgeous city to visit any time of the year. Check out my top six recommendations for things to see, eat, drink and do on your next trip to Munich, Germany.
Get a Beer at Hofbrauhaus
Likely the most famous beer hall in the world, Hofbrauhaus is a must-see while in Munich. This beer hall was founded in 1589 and originally brewed beer for the royal family. Hofbrauhaus has a bit of a dark past: in 1920, Hitler and the Nazi party held their first meeting in one of the rooms upstairs. Hitler gave his infamous speech denouncing Jews in the Festival Room, which can be found on the top floor.
Today, Hofbrauhaus is Munich’s top tourist attraction and a place where all can gather for a traditional Bavarian Biergarten experience. When you enter from the street, you will walk through the first serving area, with spectacular painted ceilings and rows upon rows of wood benches and tables. Here, strangers sit together: both because it is often packed to capacity, and also to strike up a conversation over a mug.
Outside on the first floor, you’ll find the biergarten. You can access the second floor patio seating from outside as well. Floors two and three have similar seating: rows and rows of benches and tables, meant to serve family- (or stranger-) style.
Waiters do provide table service here but don’t expect fast service. This beer hall is massive, and anything other than beer doesn’t come quickly. I recommend just getting a beer of beer here, and then moving on to another local beer hall for a traditional German dinner.
If you’re feeling snacky or need something to eat with your huge pint of beer, flag one of the ladies wearing traditional dirndl dress and carrying a basket of pretzels. Expect to pay around $5 for a pint of beer and about $2 for a pretzel.
See the Glockenspiel On a Free City Tour
It’s a little touristy, but you’ve gotta see it. The Rathaus-Glockelspiel is located in the main square of Munich, called Marienplatz. This mechanical clock was part of the second construction of the New Town Hall, built in 1908. The glockenspiel is home to dancers and jousters (puppets, of course) that put on daily performances. You can catch these performances at 11am, noon, and 5pm (no evening performance in winter).
Get to Marienplatz a few minutes before the performance to score a spot in the crowd. You can’t miss it: everyone will have their heads turned to watch! The performance lasts 5-10 minutes and has some surprise actions by the figurines, so keep watching until the end.
If you take advantage of the Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tours in Munich, you’ll meet your tour guide in Marienplatz square at 10:45am and watch the glockenspiel show at 11 before setting off around Munich. Remember, all free walking tours in Europe run on tips, so leave your guide $5-20 for the 3 hours they spend touring you around the city.
Grab a Pretzel at Viktualienmarkt Outdoor Market
Ready for a snack after your free walking tour of Munich? Head to Viktualienmarkt, just a few blocks south of Marienplatz. Viktualienmarkt is an outdoor market that has much to offer: fresh fruits and vegetables, wine and beer, sausages, pretzels, and other Bavarian snacks. The pretzels are massive and so delicious!
If you go on the free walking tour, your guide will point out the famous Maypole, which is also within Viktualienmarkt grounds. There is biergarten-style seating outside with rows of benches and tables, so take a break from walking here and enjoy the Bavarian atmosphere.
See the Surfers in the English Gardens
The English Gardens are a must-see in Munich that you won’t be introduced to on the free walking tours. These beautiful city gardens are a 15-20 minute walk from the heart of Munich at Marienplatz, but well worth it. The gardens are quite large: it would take you over an hour to walk from end to end. Luckily, the best attraction to see is on the end closest to the city.
Spend some time walking around the beautiful gardens, but definitely make your way here to see this spectacle. Named Eisbachwelle in German, this artificial surfing wave is a landmark in the English Gardens. Surfers will line up on either side of the river and wait for their turn to ride the wave. Each surfer that hops on will spend about 30 seconds showing off their moves and tricks, and then fall (purposely or actually) into the wave and make room for the next surfer.
Crowds of tourists and locals alike gather around the banks of the river to watch each surfer take their turn on the wave. We probably spent over an hour here, just sitting and watching locals surf in the middle of a park. A must-see.
Grab Some Traditional Food at Augustiner
If you’re looking for traditional German food during your stay in Munich, you’ve got plenty of great options. However, the locals working at our hostel and our Busabout crew guide recommended eating at Augustiner. Augustiner is one of the local favorites when it comes to brewpubs. The Augustiner Bräustuben (brewhouse) has two other restaurants around Munich, so take your pick. We ate at Augustiner-Keller and enjoyed a delicious Bavarian meal.
I ordered the Grosse Würstlpfanne, seen above: a combo plate with different sausages, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut. It doesn’t get much more German than that! My brother got the pork knuckle, which was equally delicious. If you’ve got a large group of 6 or more, you may want to make a reservation. Otherwise, it’s bierhaus-style seating just like Hofbrauhaus. Grab a spot at the table and meet some new friends.
Day Trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle
On our last day in Munich, we decided to do a day trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle. During our trip around Europe, we used the GetYourGuide phone app to book our day trip excursions. This full day trip was $67 and included transportation to and from the castle (about 2 hours each way from Munich) and a tour guide. Entrance to the castle tour was an extra $16. It’s not necessarily a cheap option, but we were dying to see this castle, and it was worth the price.
The Neuschwanstein Castle is popularly recognized and known as the inspiration behind the appearance of the Sleeping Beauty castle and the Disney Castle. The classic movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was also filmed here.
Besides starring in some major films, the castle has a fascinating history. The Mad King Ludwig became king at the young age of 18. He grew up in isolation in a yellow castle not even a mile away from Neuschwanstein. Ludwig had no friends to play with and became obsessed with old German sagas and operas. He didn’t enjoy his duties as king, and began to retreat more and more from the real world.
Ludwig decided to make his imaginary world real by building this castle. Ludwig spent 8 million dollars in the early 1870s to build this masterpiece. However, only 1/3 of the castle is finished, as Mad King Ludwig died a tragic death, about which many have created conspiracy theories. You’ll hear more about the fascinating life of King Ludwig and the complexity of his time spent in the castle.
Upon arrival on our tour, we had an hour to walk around the area and grab a bite to eat before heading up to the castle.
Thrifty Tip: Pack your lunch on your tour of the Neuschwanstein Castle. If your tour has a similar timeline to ours, you’ll get about an hour to eat before heading up to the castle. There are a few restaurants at the base of the attraction, but prices are steep for the tourists coming in, and can often be very busy.
There are three options for getting up to the castle: you can walk, take the tram, or take a horse carriage. The tram was around $2 to ride to the top, but we opted to walk with our tour group. The walk is a pretty consistent incline the whole way up, but the roads are paved nicely. This is also the road that the horse carriages take, so watch out for carriages coming up from behind, and the occasional droppings. Horse carriage rides are pretty pricey, and more of a tourist trap than anything.
Our guide gave us breaks along the 45-minute walk up to the mountain to tell the story of Mad King Ludwig. At the top, our guide gave us our entrance tickets for the interior tour. Only 1/3 of the castle was finished in the king’s lifetime, so the tour is only 30 minutes long, but the interior is definitely worth seeing.
After the tour of the castle, make your way to the Marienbrucke bridge, just a short 20-minute walk from the top of the castle. This bridge provides a spectacular view of the castle with the countryside in the distance.
The bridge can be very crowded with tourists, but most just stop at the beginning of the bridge to snap a photo and leave. Walk to the other end of the bridge and you’ll have plenty of space for a selfie and to enjoy the view.
Where to Stay
On our Europe trip, we stayed almost exclusively at hostels. In my opinion, hostels provide amenities that you don’t always get with a hotel or Airbnb. See my articles on the benefits of staying in hostels and how to use the Hostelworld booking platform.
We stayed at the Wombats City Hostel during our stay in Munich. Rated at a “Superb” 9.2 stars, Wombats is a great option if you’re looking to try out a hostel. A bed in a 6-bed dorm room at Wombats Munich will cost you about $25. If you’re looking for a more private option, private rooms sleep two and cost $100.
The hostel has full amenities, including a gorgeous lounge area, a full kitchen an open fridge for cooking, a bar with live music, TVs, billiards, drink specials, a breakfast served for cheap, and maps and recommendations for tourist attractions in Munich.
How to Get There
We used the Busabout Hop-On Hop-Off bus to get from Prague and Cesky Krumlov. Book a Busabout Hop-On Hop-Off pass for as short or as long as you like and make your way around their European route map. Check out my article to learn more about how Busabout works. Use our Busabout promo code THRIFTY to save 10% on your booking.
Munich is a gorgeous city with a unique Bavarian culture, delicious traditional German food, and a big pint of beer. Make sure to check out these six must-see attractions during your next trip to Munich.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.