When exploring a new city in Europe, I usually start my first day simply wandering around or joining a walking tour to get an overall view and feel of the place. Especially in big cities like Frankfurt and Munich, being guided around by a professional guide would help you navigate the main attractions and must-know local places sufficiently. Here are seven of my favourite highlights of the InMunich free walking tour among over a dozen sites you will be guided through.
Marienplatz - the main central square (the starting point)
The 3-hour tour starts daily at 10:40 AM from Munich’s central square, Marienplatz or Mary’s Square - one of the oldest but most hectic and touristy areas of the city. You will be facing the Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall - the administration house of the city council and office mayors. Lying on the east side, the Altes Rathaus or Old Town Hall is the city council building today. A funny fact is that the Old Town Hall looks newer than the New Town Hall, as it was reconstructed after being almost completely destroyed during the 2nd World War. Every day at 11 AM (also at 12 noon and 5 PM), the world famous instrument of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel will automatically start playing from high above, and it re-enacts two stories from the 16th century with 43 bells and 32 life-size rotating figures . These stories are about the marriage celebration of Duke Wilhelm V from Bavaria and Renata of Lorraine from Lothringen, a Bavarian knight winning a jousting match, and the symbolic coopers’ dance through the streets of Bavaria. This performance only lasts 15 minutes, and you will be excited to hear more funny details revolving around these stories from the guide.
Frauenkirche - the cathedral with two famous towers
My next favourite stop about mysterious Munich during the medieval times is Frauenkirche, the cathedral of Our Dear Lady with its famous two towers dominating the city’s skyline. Besides the impressive Gothic architecture, with large white columns, and its large size that can hold up to 20,000 people during its Catholic Mass, Frauenkirche is also known for the Teufelstritt, or Devil’s Footprint. Legends say that the devil made a deal with the builder to finance the cathedral’s construction, only if it has no windows, but he got tricked as the windows were not visible from its standing spot and so he angrily left the building, leaving his footprint behind.
Viktualienmarkt - Munich’s biggest open-air fresh food market
For foodies, the next exciting stop will be Munich’s biggest food market - Viktualienmarkt. The guide will give recommendations on where to get local cheap-eats such as leberkäs (live cheese) and bratwurst (German sausage typically served with bread), low-budget traditional restaurants, and even stores for a quick hot chocolate. You will have 15 to 20 minutes to explore the market and the 140 stores surrounding its beer garden, and then return to the guide after this short lunch break. Munich is a city of meat and beer lovers, and it is, unfortunately, very limited in offering places for vegetarians and vegans. There is, however, an organic fast-food store right behind the meeting point.
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Hofbräuhaus - one of the world’s most famous beer halls
Famous worldwide for being the birthplace of the annual Oktoberfest, the largest beer and traveling funfair festival in the world, Munich attracts a large number of visitors coming to experience its significant beer culture in the Hofbräuhaus. This is a state-owned brewery, and its capacity can reach up to 2,500 guests in its beer hall. There are also additional rooms for guests, a beer garden and the large ground floor where local regulars can lock their beer steins (large glasses) in the cabinets. Though this is nowadays a crowded tourist attraction, Hofbräuhaus is still a must-visit for those wanting to experience the lively and fast-paced atmosphere of strangers drinking beer in a massive hall with live music playing, making eye contact, and saying ‘prost’ (cheers) to each other. To get cheap beer in Bavaria, come to Augustiner, Munich’s most popular brewery, where you can get a glass of beer for around 7 EUR or 8 USD. Augustiner-Keller is the third largest beer garden in Munich where you can bring your own food in addition to a serviced area like at most other beer gardens.
Munich State Opera House and Royal Residenz
Another significant massive square of Munich is Max-Joseph-Platz, the home of the National Theatre Munich and Opera House. This grand looking square is not also not very far away from the most expensive shopping streets of Munich, Maximilian. The Royal Residenz, the largest city palace in Germany, is also not very far away from here. It is the last stop of the tour.
End of the tour
At the end of the tour, be delighted to be given a free city map and answers to any questions related to the rest of your travels. Keep in mind to prepare a tip to give to the guide - something ranging from 5 to 10 EUR (roughly 5.70 to 11.30 USD) per person is a typical amount of tips for a free tour in Munich. Some tours in other cities usually require less tips, although you should consider that Munich is a rather expensive city in Germany and these few euros are only enough for a beer. Lastly, you are ready to explore the rest of the city on your own by either taking a short walk back to the city centre, walk for about 15 to 20 minutes to the closest beer garden, or stick around the less-known university area where young locals often hang out.
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