Germany may have a reputation for stoicism. After all, it isn't the first country that comes to mind in an unofficial ranking of the funniest places in the world. But nobody who’s ever been to Munich can fight the smile that spreads across their face at the mention of the city.
If happiness can make an impact in a city’s economy, infrastructure, and longevity, Munich is a shrine to the concept; beer makes people happy, so it’s no surprise that the home of Oktoberfest would find itself in a perpetual good mood. But we think it runs deeper – there must be something in the water here.
Even the unlikeliest pairings work in harmony: some of Europe’s oldest architecture looks great next to towers of glass, the skyline somehow complements the mountainous surroundings, and tradition and innovation go hand-in-hand. And while most of the tourism in Munich is beer-fueled, there are a million reasons a trip here will make you smile.
Backpackers, groups of friends, fans of meticulous and magnificent German engineering, museum goers, history lovers, beer nerds
By Germany’s standards, Munich is an expensive place to find oneself, but it’s still more budget-friendly than cities like Paris and Rome. Vacation rentals are typically a little cheaper than hotels, unlike other European destinations, and accommodations generally needn’t extend beyond the $50-$100/night range. As for food, Munich is full of filling Bavarian delights like big pretzels, currywurst, and schnitzel, so a single meal can go a long way. On the whole, about $150 a day is what you can expect to spend here.
Like all big cities in Germany, Munich is a safe place to travel and relax knowing that hyper-vigilance isn’t a necessary means of thwarting any sort of crime. There is a nonzero rate of pickpocketing in the tourist-heavy areas of the city, but that’s more or less the extent of it; meanwhile, though Bavaria is mostly conservative—it’s been called the Texas of Germany—Munich is more liberal, and discrimination against BIPOC and/or queer visitors is rare. It’s also a safe bet for female travelers and families.
The Munich climate is, overall, relatively mild compared to elsewhere in Europe. Summers, from about June through August, are when the temperatures are highest. Historically, that still means the daily highs often don’t even reach 90F, though summers in Europe are getting hotter every year. Munich winters are as cold as you’d expect for a mountainous region.
Weather-wise, Munich’s shoulder seasons are spring (roughly March–May) and autumn (roughly September–November), with more moderate temperatures, but you’ll see in the next section why one of these is considered a high tourist season.
As mentioned, if you’re considering only the weather, Munich technically has two shoulder seasons. For travelers, however, the autumn “shoulder season” is absolutely a high tourist season for one gigantic reason: Oktoberfest.
Don’t let the name mislead you—Oktoberfest typically takes place from late September into early October, and it absolutely dominates Munich (and much of Germany). Accommodations sometimes fill up a year in advance of the festival, and room rates skyrocket. In other words, unless you’re specifically planning to attend Oktoberfest and you’ve made the appropriate arrangements, it’s probably best to avoid Munich in autumn.
The winter holidays are also extremely popular in Germany, thanks in large part to the festive Christmas markets, so you can expect larger crowds and higher prices on things like hotel rooms.
The spring shoulder season is an excellent time to visit, with milder temperatures and smaller crowds. As the days get warmer, the city’s lovely outdoor beer gardens start to open, too.
Schedule museum visits on Sundays. Some of Munich’s museums have free entry on Sundays, while others offer a reduced ticket price (including the Alte Pinakothek). Consult the museum website or signage at the entrance to confirm (and to double-check that they’re not closed on Sundays).
Get a Stripe Ticket. Public transportation in Munich is efficient and it’s cheaper than taxis. It’s an even better deal if you get a Stripe Ticket for shorter stays (or a day pass or weekly ticket for longer visits).
Get the “midday plate” at lunch. Look for “mittag teller” on local menus for that restaurant’s inexpensive (and filling) selection of meat, veg, and potatoes.
BYO. Most biergartens allow customers to bring their own meals, provided the drinks are purchased on-site. Before you head to the biergarten, then, visit a local grocery store or outdoor market to pick up picnic provisions.
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, and Bavaria is home to some of the world’s most beloved German foods—think brats, pretzels as big as a steering wheel, schnitzel, and, of course, the döner kebab that’s become an unlikely symbol of multiculturalism throughout the country. If you’re here for the beer, you’re also in great company, though there’s also a decent-sized slew of non-German restaurants and cocktail bars should you tire of the heavy national cuisine.
Tourism is a huge part of Munich’s economy, and there are accommodation options at all levels of luxury and cost. Some of the terms used might be unfamiliar, however, if you’re new to traveling in Germany. A “Romantik” hotel isn’t just for honeymooners—it simply means the property is unique, often in a historic building. “Fremdenheim” offer no-frills rooms in private homes, which is usually the least expensive lodging available.
Picking where to stay in Munich is entirely dependent on the nature of your trip. If you’re not here for long—perhaps you’re covering lots of ground on your trip, or it’s Oktoberfest that’s drawn you in—Aldstadt and Ludwigsvorstadt are good options (the latter is where Oktoberfest is centered).
If you’re planning to hit as many museums as possible, you may prefer Maxvorstadt. If you’ve come to Munich to take things a bit slower, or if you simply prefer to stick around hip locals rather than tourists, check out Schwabing and Isarvorstadt.
Walking is perhaps the most celebrated mode of transportation in Munich. Not only are many of the city’s sights close to one another, the streets and sidewalks are all well-maintained and a joy to explore. We don’t recommend renting a car, but anyone in a hurry or tired of walking can hop on the U-Bahn, which is an efficient and convenient way to get around the city center – and most everything, from the modes of transit to the attractions themselves, are considered accessible.
The Munich Airport (MUC) is the second-busiest in Germany, behind only Frankfurt, and among the busiest in Europe. It’s just under 18 miles from central Munich, and serves as a hub for Lufthansa as well as a focus city for Condor, Eurowings, TUI fly Deutschland, and Air Dolomiti.
Munich’s fantastic S-Bahn connects to Munich Airport via two lines—S1 and S8—and serves both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. The trip takes about 40 minutes, with trains leaving the airport about every 10 minutes. A special “Airport-City-Day-Ticket” covers all the travel zones between the airport and Munich’s city center for €13.20 and includes all public transit trips for the rest of that day (until 6am the following day).
There’s also the Lufthansa Express Bus, which departs from its Terminal 2 stop every 20 minutes and arrives at Munich’s main train station in about 45 minutes. Bus tickets start at €11.
Taxis are plentiful at the airport. There’s no fixed rate into the city, so you can expect fares to start in the €60 range. Uber is also an option.
>> Have a shorter trip? Read our layover guide to Munich
The much-loved 1980s German detective drama, Monaco Franze, was set and filmed in Munich. Another crime drama series, SOKO München, released its final season in 2020 after a whopping four decades of shows. Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood is a tale of rival Munich breweries in the early 20th century.
You’d be forgiven for not recognizing the Munich scenery in the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but the entire movie was shot in Munich. Bill’s Candy Shop was on Lilienstraße, while the Munich Gaswerks served as the exterior of Wonka’s factory. Munich was also one of the Bavarian filming locations for The Three Musketeers.
The alternately amusing and disconcerting Look Who’s Back, filmed partly in Munich, imagines what might happen if Hitler suddenly re-appeared in 21st century Germany. Two films that tell the story of an anti-Nazi resistance group in Munich are The White Rose and Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Scholl’s story is also told in the book, The White Rose, written by her sister Inge, and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, by Annette Dumbach.
The film Munich, however, was not filmed in Munich. It was shot in Budapest. The bestseller, The Book Thief, takes place on the outskirts of Munich during World War II.
In The Sound of Munich, by Suzanne Nelson, a young woman spends a semester in Munich checking items off her late father’s must-see list. Faye Kellerman’s Straight Into Darkness is a Munich murder mystery set in the 1920s, while John A. Connell’s Ruins of War places a Chicago detective in post-WWII Munich hunting for a murderer. In Risking Exposure, by Jeanne Moran, a young girl in Nazi Munich is a member of the Hitler Youth—until she contracts polio and becomes a target of the group she once loved.