There are lots of good reasons that Munich is most commonly associated with beer and sausages. Oktoberfest is certainly one reason, and its hundreds of beer gardens are another, with people gathering there every day to spend time with friends and, well, drink beer and eat sausages.
But Munich is so much more. The capital of Bavaria, it’s a sophisticated center for art and history, it’s filled with luxury hotels, shops and Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s actually a great place to get in touch with nature.
Here are 10 must-see sights that will totally change the way you view Munich. Although you should still stop for a beer at Hofbrauhaus, where you can sit down with the regulars, and a white sausage (trust me) at Viktualienmarkt, the city’s famous outdoor market.
The Eisbach Wave
Yes, Munich is a great spot for surfers! River surfers, that is — Photo courtesy of Muenchen Tourismus/Sigi Mueller
Be prepared to do a double take when you see surfers catching a wave – okay, the wave – in the English Garden, the lovely 900-acre park in the middle of the city.
"How can that be?" you ask, since Munich is landlocked and there’s no ocean around for hundreds of miles. Well, this little channel of the Isar River has a standing wave that was once illegal to ride but, over the past 40 years, has become sacred to Munich’s top surfers.
Because there’s only one wave, surfers queue up on both sides of it, taking turns one at a time. They’ve got it down to a science, and it’s a joy to watch. As numerous signs warn, though, this wave is for experienced surfers only. It’s ice-cold, and the current is fast, strong and dangerous.
For most of us, surfing the Eisbach Wave should just be a spectator sport.
Der Verrückte Eismacher
Matthias Münz is better known as "The Crazy Ice Maker" — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
The name of this popular shop translates to "the crazy ice maker" and, boy, is that an accurate description!
In his magical Alice in Wonderland-themed setting, Matthias Münz creates some of the most jaw-dropping – and delicious – ice cream flavors you could ever imagine, plus many you never would. For example, there’s beer (surprisingly refreshing!), Schwangerschaftstest (which means "pregnancy test" and is made with pickles and Nutella), white sausage, pizza and guacamole. Remember, this is not a dinner menu. These are all ice cream flavors!
Of course, there are also lots of fruity flavors, and choices like vanilla and chocolate for the less adventurous. Even if you opt for one of those, be sure to accept a complimentary taste of something like sweet mustard or spaghetti. Yes, they are crazy – crazy good.
There's so much great street art in Munich, like this piece by Erase — Photo courtesy of Martin Arz
You can learn a lot about a city from its urban artists, and one of the biggest surprises in Munich is turning a corner and running into an area filled with street art.
In fact, there’s so much of it, you can even take a private street art tour with Martin Arz, author of Munich Walls. "When it comes to street art, few people think of the clean and rich city of Munich," admits Arz. "But there is a very lively scene with some truly great artists."
Due to the temporary nature of street art, don't be surprised when the piece you admired last week has been replaced with something completely different.
Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art
MUCA Munich is bringing street art inside and elevating its status as an art form — Photo courtesy of MUCA Munich
There are more than 80 museums in Munich but one of the most unique is the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art. Germany’s first museum of urban art, MUCA is dedicated to elevating street art and giving it the recognition it deserves.
Through an eclectic variety of exhibits, lectures and guided tours, the museum celebrates the art form and makes it accessible to all. It has featured everything from calligraffiti (the fusion of graffiti and calligraphy) to magazine art to urban fine artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey.
By placing it on the interior walls of a museum rather than the exterior walls of a building, MUCA is having a real impact on the way people view street art.
10 reasons you'll want to get delayed in the Munich Airport
10 reasons you'll want to get delayed in the Munich Airport
Michael Jackson Memorial
A statue of Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus has been transformed into a Michael Jackson memorial — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
After Michael Jackson died in 2009, the base of this statue of Franco-Flemish Renaissance composer Orlande de Lassus was transformed into a makeshift shrine dedicated to the King of Pop.
Years later, the monument – located across the street from the iconic Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where Jackson reportedly stayed while visiting Munich – still attracts fans from around the world. Although the unofficial memorial could be removed at any time, the city tends to turn a blind eye, proving that music really is a universal language.
Mandarin Oriental Munich
The rooftop at Mandarin Oriental Munich offers breathtaking views of the city — Photo courtesy of Gerrit Meier
This boutique hotel with just 48 guest rooms and 25 suites is conveniently located in the city center, yet it feels like a hidden gem, tucked away on a side street. MO, as it’s affectionately known, is such a comfortable home base, you’ll wish it were your own residence.
With impeccable service and gorgeous, yet homey interiors, the Mandarin Oriental Munich is home to Chef Nobu (yes, that NOBU) Matsuhisa’s highly-acclaimed first restaurant in Germany. You can also take in some of the best views of the city from the hotel’s beautiful rooftop Terrace.
It’s an easy walk from the hotel to Marienplatz, Munich’s lively main square, and to The Residenz, the largest city palace in Germany.
Check out past, present and future cars at BMW Welt — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
For car lovers, BMW Welt is a must-visit. The luxury brand’s headquarters have been based in Munich since 1922, and you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the plant as well as a preview of upcoming models, along with a history of the company and its highly-coveted cars.
You’ll learn all about BMW brands, including Mini and Rolls Royce, and you can even rent a BMW to drive yourself for a few hours. There are a handful of restaurants and cafes, so you can take a break before giving into temptation and splurging on one of the irresistible cars.
Picking up a new BMW here is, to many, a religious experience and is only amplified by the complex's cathedral-like architecture which is deserving of reverence itself.
Climbing to the top of the Olympic Stadium at Olympiapark is a gold medal-worthy experience — Photo courtesy of Muenchen Tourismus/Christian Kasper
The site of the 1972 Summer Olympics, Olympiapark is still an important venue, holding a wide variety of concerts and sporting events all year-round.
Test your own athleticism by climbing to the roof of the Olympic Stadium, where you’ll get a breathtaking view of Munich and you’ll learn about the stadium’s architecture and construction. You can even experience the zipline. We bet you’ll give it a high score.
So SPA by Sofitel Munich Bayerpost
So SPA by Sofitel Munich Bayerpost is a beautiful place to relax — Photo courtesy of Stephen Huljak
After running around Munich all day, treat your feet – and the rest of you – to an indulgent treatment in this luxurious hotel spa.
With its heated spiral shaped pool, steam bath, sauna and softly-lit rooms built out of stone and tile, you’d never guess the Sofitel Munich Bayerpost used to be the Bavarian Royal Post Office. All you’ll know is that, when it comes to pampering, they definitely deliver.
Tributes to the Resistance
The White Rose memorial pays tribute to a group of students who distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Munich played a major role in the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, and the city acknowledges its tragic past with a number of powerful memorials.
A flurry of bronze pamphlets embedded in the pavement in front of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität pays tribute to a group of student rebels known as the White Rose. Led by brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl, they distributed anti-Nazi leaflets until they were arrested by the Gestapo and executed in 1943.
Another group of resisters is honored by a path of golden cobblestones leading through the Viscardigasse. This narrow alleyway provided an alternate route for Germans who refused to give the mandatory Nazi salute when passing the monument commemorating the Nazi sympathizers who died during the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. We can all follow in their footsteps.