I was looking forward to getting to Munich. Not just because I was looking forward to all the cool things there are to do in the city, but because I was also looking forward to spending four nights in the one spot. Moving every day or two is only sustainable for short periods of time for me, although with a rental car it was a much less onerous process that travelling my public transport.
One of the challenges though was finding reasonably priced accomodation where we could also have free parking and it was close to public transport to easily get into the city centre. We weren’t entirely successful at achieving this, but almost!
We stayed at Ibis Styles Munich East. I am used to staying at Ibis hotels and getting small rooms. They are always modern and minimalist, but comfortable and with everything we need. Usually a good budget option. The Ibis Styles brand can be slightly better, but not always. This hotel though, was definitely at the top end of the scale. The room we had was – by Ibis standards – huge! It was so nice to have just a little extra space to move around and relax, and somewhere other than the bed for me to sit and work on my laptop.
Our room included breakfast, which was a decent spread of all the usual European hotel breakfast dishes – cereal, yoghurt, eggs, pastries, cold meats, cheese, juices, coffee, etc. Definitely enough to keep us going for the day.
Car parking was available at the hotel at a cost of €10/day (which was a pretty good rate. Most hotels are €15-25) but there was also plenty of free parking available on the street so that paying really isn’t required. We parked in the carpark the first night, but once we realised that it was free to park on the street, we just did that for the remainder of our stay.
There is a bus stop almost exactly opposite the hotel from where it’s possible to get a bus to the train station, then a train into the centre of Munich. All up it took around half an hour. What we found was that it was often just as quick for us to walk to the train station as it was to wait for the bus, so in the end we did that instead (to help wear off all the delicious German food we were eating!).
Overall I really liked this hotel for a good budget option. The only downside was the distance from the city centre, but if you can live with that like we could, then this hotel would be a great choice.
Our first full day in Munich was starting with a free walking tour. We were again going with Sandemans who are usually our first choice when they are available. As we arrived in Marienplatz to begin the tour, the rain started too. We spent the next two hours dodging rain showers while learning about the history of some of the most significant sites of Munich.
The most distinctive building of the Marienplatz is the Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall. This neo-gothic building looks like it have been around forever, but in reality it’s not that old, at least compared with other similar buildings in Europe. This one was built in sections, with the first part occupied in 1874. The final sections were not completed until the early twentieth century. It was built because the previous town hall simply became too small for the growing city. Unfortunately the old town hall was destroyed in WWII so is no longer available to visit.
We visited two churches quite close to Marianplatz. St Peter’s Church was the first and most memorable, but not because it was beautiful, but because of the relic inside, the body of a woman who died about 300AD. The skeleton in now decked out in a net and jewel outfit that Madonna would have been proud of in the 80s, but really, it’s Beyonce she is channeling. St Mundita is the patron saint of single ladies!
The second church was the Frauenkirche. This church was almost completely rebuilt after WWII which ended with only it’s iconic church towers somehow remaining standing. The church is well known for the legend of the devil’s footprint on the floor – coincidentally right between the two towers so it was also not destroyed! Like all good legends there are a few different versions of the story, but they all seem to hinge around the devil coming to see the church when it was under construction and he was not happy for a variety of reasons (commonly it is to do with the existence of windows and therefore light) so he stamped his foot, leaving a mark which can still be seen today.
In the middle of the tour we came back to the Marienplatz to watch the famous Glockenspiel show at 11am. Three times a day the clock on the town hall has about a five minute little show where music plays and the figures dance and duel.
We continued to walk around the city visiting sites like the Munich Residenz, which is now the home to various museums. Formerly it was the home of the Bavaria royal family and it’s now possible to visit to see the extravagance of the time.
We walked towards Odeonplatz along Residenzstraße and checked out the lions. There are four lion statues that sit either side of two gates into the Munich Residenz. There’s a well known theory amongst locals that if you rub the noses of at least three of the lions then you will get rich. But if you rub all four, then you are just being greedy! Just in case I rubbed three of the noses, and I have to report, I haven’t yet seen any of these riches, but I am waiting patiently.
No tour in Munich would be complete without mention of the beer halls, and we finished our tour at the most famous of them all – the Hofbrauhaus. We considered having lunch there, but I’m not a fan of beer or pork, and Simon could see the signs for his beloved Hard Rock Cafe so we had to go in there and add it to his collection.
After lunch we walked to the Englischer Garten. This great big park is filled with towering trees, open meadows and babbling streams, so don’t expect manicured flowerbeds here, it’s more like open countryside. It’s also where you can find the Eisbachwelle, a man made surf break which the locals like to test their skills on – even on days when its freezing cold and raining.
Deeper into the park is the Chinese Tower. I expected this to be surrounded by a typical Chinese garden or some other Asian influences, but what was I thinking? This is Munich after all, of course it was actually surrounded by a bier garten. And they don’t do things by halves, this one seats 5000 people.
We made our way back towards Marienplatz, sticking our heads into a few of the churches we had seen in the morning tour from the outside. While we were at St Peter’s, we noticed the weather was almost the best it had been all day, so we decided to climb the fourteen flights of stairs up to the top of the clock tower for views over the city.
As our reward for all that effort of climbing stairs, when we descended we made straight across the road to the Viktualmarkt area, found a seat in the bier garten and ordered beer and pretzels. Okay, the beer was only for Simon, but I did have a tiny sip, just to say I drank beer in Munich. I still don’t like it!
We were tossing up then what to do next. It was a little early for dinner, but surely we could squeeze in a little dessert? Our walking tour guide had recommended we go to Schneider Bräuhaus and try Kaiser-oder Apfelschmarrn. OMG, if you ever see it on a menu, you have to try it! It can be found all over the city, but apparently this one is the best. (We did go on to try it elsewhere, and we agree that this was the best one we tried). Like all food here in Germany, the serve was huge and even though we were sharing, it was definitely enough! And since we were in a bierhaus, it of course meant we needed to have more beer (or wine in my case).
We had planned to stop and get some wurst for dinner at a place recommended by our guide (Augustiner am Dom), but the wine, beer and walking got the better of us (remember the smallest beer is 500ml). It was starting to get cold (even colder!) and dark, so we instead called it a day, grabbing some snacks for later from a supermarket and starting the trek back to our hotel. So we could say, we ended up having dessert for dinner that day!
The first stop on our second day in Munich was the BMW Museum. We decided to get there a little before opening time to see the BMW Welt too – basically just an over-the-top carsales showroom and delivery area. Not only are there plenty of fancy new cars on display here, there are also stores selling everything “BMW” you can imagine and a full restaurant that looked really impressive. The building is just stunning from the outside and the inside. In fact, the entire BMW complex has some pretty impressive buildings. It’s not just the Welt and the Museum here, but also a huge factory and the main BMW office building. After all, BMW does stand for “Bayerische Motoren Werke” (or Bavarian Motor Works) and this is the headquarters.
I’m not a huge car enthusiast, nor particularly a BMW fan, but I enjoyed seeing both places. The museum not only had plenty of cars, engines, motor bikes and other bits and pieces to look at, there were some really interesting historical displays about the company and cars in general. Many of the displays are interactive, and also come with audio. It took me a while in one room to figure out if I stood on the letter “E” in some parts of the room I would get a little spiel about what I was looking at in English. (There were also nearby “D” spots for German).
Next we caught a train and a bus to Nymphenburg Palace, the summer house of the Bavarian Kings. It is also the birthplace of King Ludwig II (yes, the king who built Neuschwanstein Castle). It’s kind of a mini Versailles, but without the crowds and the price tag. I felt like it was just enough to visit not only the house, but the gardens, the pavilions and the museum, without being totally overwhelmed. Of course as soon as we got deep into the gardens it started to rain, for our daily dose of “getting wet”!
A tram was next up on the public transport list, connecting again to a train to take us straight to the Frühlingfest, or the spring festival. This is basically a mini-Oktoberfest, held on the same grounds with the same attractions and beer tents and everyone gets out in their traditional Bavarian clothing and has a great time – although I imagine it’s bigger during Oktoberfest.
We enjoyed wandering around for a while, checking out the sideshows and admiring all the lederhosen and dirndls. It was just like hanging out in sideshow alley at one of our Royal Shows here in Australia, just with a Germany twist. No dagwood dogs here, it was yard-long wursts instead.
We had planned to head into one of the famous beer tents for some food and drinks for dinner, but the line ups were too much for us. It was cold and threatening to rain and I didn’t fancy waiting for ages. It also seemed that people were randomly being selected to enter rather than it just being a line, so who knows how long the wait would have been.
Instead we hopped on a train and went back to the famous Hofbräuhaus in the centre of town and had effectively the beer tent experience there. We ordered wurst and sauerkraut and schnitzel, washed down with beer for Simon and wine for me. So for all those wondering, YES, you can go to any of the Munich beer houses and not drink beer. There is also a small selection of wines and other drinks available.
I’m not a big souvenir person when we travel, in fact we pretty much don’t buy any souvenirs at all, but I just had to have one of the beautiful Hofbräuhaus menus. Not only did they list what could be ordered, it also gave a history of the bierhaus and talks a bit about the many different areas of the building. It was only a folded cardboard menu, so don’t worry, I didn’t take anything too fancy.
Our day ended with a comedy of errors that occurred because our train back to our hotel was not running from where we thought we would get it – the whole station was being renovated for the weekend. Okay, Google told me we could get on a tram instead. As we got to the tram stop, a tram was waiting and we jumped on. A couple of stops later I looked around. Hmmm….a quick Google Maps check confirmed we had jumped on a tram going the wrong way! Off we get, wait, get on one going the right way – only to find it stopped two stops short of where we were going! Had to get off and wait for yet another tram. The usual thirty minute trip (half of that walking from the station to our hotel) ending up taking about 90 minutes and we were so glad to get inside out of the dark, the cold and the rain.
The next morning we woke to constant rain. Urghh! This was starting to get very old. We were planning a day trip to nearby Regensburg, and a whole day of rain was not going to be fun.
Regensburg is about 125km to the north east of Munich. It’s on the banks of the Danube, and as we discovered, a popular stop on river cruises. It has a lovely old town and well worth spending a day exploring. Some of the churches are magnificent, and if you look beyond the surface there are some interesting stories too. How about a creepy grinning Archangel, or a bet lost between builders? Regensburg also has links to Oscar Schindler, Johannes Kepler, and the Illuminati!
I absolutely recommend visiting the Tourist Information Office in the centre of town because they had the best booklet I have ever seen to allow independent visitors to explore the town. Not only did it list the popular attractions, it gave information about them and included some of the local legends and stories. It made hunting down some of these things fun as we walked around town.
Even with all of the tourists in town, we found the places we had planned to eat were mostly closed because it was Sunday. We had read a lot about the famous Wurstkuchl restaurant which is possibly the oldest, continuously operating restaurant in the world, being here for over 500 years. We made a beeline there to taste their sausages and mustard, the thing you have to have, to find the restaurant was full and there were long lines for the take-away sausages. The restaurant is right on the banks of the Danube, and the wind was just bitter. In the end we gave up, and made our way back into the old town streets to warm up without tasing the sausages.
We ended up eating at a place called Alex. They are a modern cafe with all sorts of food. We had arrived at about 1pm on a Sunday, but we had to wait until 1:30pm to order because they have a Sunday brunch that goes until then. The brunch looks like a fantastic spread if you are interested in stopping in earlier and getting that though.
We left Regensburg mid afternoon to visit Walhalla, about 10km outside of town. This is a replica of the Parthenon in Athens, filled with busts of significant people to German history. Walhalla was built by King Ludwig and completed in 1842. It houses something like 130 busts, and also includes plaques for more people.
Some of the people commemorated include Wolfgang Mozart, Catherine II of Russia, Martin Luther, William III of Orange and Albert Einstein. The latest bust was added in 2003, and was of Sophie Scholl, who was an activist against the Nazi regime.
The inside of the building is pretty spectacular, but so is the outside and location. Walhalla is perched way up high above the Danube with great views across the river. We found many visitors were just sitting enjoying the views, some had even brought along a picnic to enjoy on the steps.
On our way back to Munich we detoured to the town of Abensberg to see Kuchlbauer’s Bierwelt. We were too late to go inside, but we were able to wander around outside looking at the fantastic buildings inspired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. We’ve seen his architecture before in Vienna (the Hundertwasserhaus is the most well known) and have always enjoyed it.
This was actually not 100% his design though. He originally designed a 70m tower, but it wasn’t built. Before it could be redesigned he passed away. The final design here was modified by one of his colleagues before it was built.
We arrived back in Munich just in time to grab a quick pizza in the hotel for dinner while we enjoyed our free welcome drink at the bar thanks to our Accor hotel membership. Just a small perk of having a membership and remembering to use the benefits.
In the morning we were moving on again, but it would only be a short driving day, so we were looking forward to a sleep in before getting on our way.
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.