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Updated: July 17, 2021
The Best Areas to Stay in Munich
Munich may be best-known for its annual beer extravaganza Oktoberfest, but the city is a great place to visit any time of year: whether you’re into Bavarian kitsch or modern art, Munich has it all. It is a fairly big city, but there is one area you absolutely should not miss: Altstadt, the historical and geographical center of the city. Originally a medieval walled city, the Old Town is packed with historic buildings, squares, museums, stores, and markets; you won’t need to venture out to keep yourself occupied if you’re only on a short vacation. Absolute must-sees are Marienplatz, the city’s main square with its two town halls; the Residenz palace; the Viktualienmarkt food market; and absolutely do not leave without having a pint and a pretzel at the Hofbräuhaus. The main benefit of staying in Altstadt is that you can walk anywhere within the old walled city within 20 minutes and, along with the sights, it has the best shopping and the most historic beer taverns.
However, as the city is so easy to get around, thanks to its fantastic public transport, you will not regret booking somewhere a little farther out either. The second most popular area to stay is north of Altstadt in the neighborhoods of Maxvorstadt and Schwabing. Maxvorstadt is often known as the Museum Quarter for its abundance of world-class galleries and museums, while Schwabing is thronging with students and is known for its beautiful Jugendstil (art nouveau) architecture. The latter also has the benefit of running north alongside the Englischer Garten: the largest inner-city park in the world. North of Maxvorstadt is the wonderful Olympiapark, which has been well integrated into the city since the 1972 Olympic Games were held here. There’s loads to do in Olympiapark, including Seaworld and the BMW museum, but the highlight is its needle-like tower, which has the highest viewing platform in the city (620 ft) with views of the Alps.
If you’re into shopping and food, make sure to factor in spending at least half a day wandering the streets south of Altstadt, in the area known as Glockenbachviertel (Glockenbach Quarter). The neighborhood centers around the lively Gärtnerplatz and forms the heart of the Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt borough. It’s the trendiest part of Munich, packed with hip bars, independent stores, and awesome restaurants. The only real tourist attraction is the incredible Deutsches Museum, on an island in the River Isar. One of Germany’s biggest and best museums, it’s a national temple to science and technology with some of the coolest interactive exhibitions of any museum anywhere, including a realistic mine, an aviation hall, and a planetarium.
Just east of Altstadt, across the Isar on the other side of the Deutsches Museum, are the neighborhoods of Au and Haidhausen. Of the two, Au is the more residential, but it’s worth exploring thanks to its charming cobbled backstreets and characterful old houses that run alongside little streams. To Au’s north, Haidhausen has a totally different feel; as soon as you cross over the river, it feels bustling thanks to the cluster of restaurants and cafes around the Gasteig (one of Munich’s most important cultural hubs and home to the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra). Don’t miss the historic Wiener Platz, surrounded by fairytale houses, which hosts daily food stalls and has one of the city’s best beer gardens.
Many visitors become familiar with the area west of Altstadt, often referred to as Westend, as it is home to the enormous Theresienwiese open space, aka home to Oktoberfest. The world’s largest folk festival, held over three weeks in the last two weeks of September and the first week of October, draws millions of visitors to the city each year, making accommodation scarce and prices soar. Outside of this time, the area south of the Hauptbahnhof (main station) is still worth a visit for the majestic statue of Bavaria, peaceful Bavariapark, and for the transport wing of the Deutsches Museum, the Verkehrszentrum. Further out west, around 30 minutes by public transport, is Schloss Nymphenburg, a palace with beautifully preserved buildings and perfectly manicured gardens, which dates as far back as 1664 and makes for a lovely day trip. Another day trip, important for anyone wanting to understand Germany’s dark past, is the concentration camp at Dachau in the northwest of the city, which is easily reached via the subway.
The Best Places to Stay in Munich
- Best Luxury Hotels in Munich
Mandarin Oriental • Bayerischer Hof • Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski
- Best Boutique Hotels in Munich
Flushing Meadows • Louis • CORTIINA • JAMS Music Hotel
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels in Munich
Buddy Hotel • Ruby Lilly • Mio by Amano • Wombats Hostel
Best Areas in Munich for…
- Best Area in Munich for Sightseeing: Altstadt
There are so many sights packed within a 20-minute walk of each other that you are spoiled for choice. Start in Marienplatz, Munich’s showstopping main square (named after the Virgin Mary), whose most famous sights are the two town halls. The newer of the two, the 19th-century Neues Rathaus, dominates with its wonderful Glockenspiel clock that chimes at 11 am, noon, and 5 pm daily, while the 14th-century Altes Rathaus on the eastern side of the square is arguably more beautiful, with its stepped roof and pedestrian walkways running underneath. One street south is the church known as Alter Peter (Old Peter, St. Peter, or Peterskirche), which has a great viewing platform. Just off Marienplatz to the east is the Viktualienmarkt, a sprawling market for produce, Bavarian specialties, and crafts; to the north is the Residenz, home to the rulers of Bavaria from 1508-1918 and the nearby Odeonsplatz and Hofgarten; and to the west is the Dom Zu Unserer Lieben Frau (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady), nicknamed the Frauenkirche, with its distinctive twin spires. If you have any energy left after all that, you could stroll along the distinguished Maximilianstrasse or the Fünf Hӧfe mall, both full of luxury stores, or visit the excellent museums in Sankt-Jakobs-Platz.
- Best Area in Munich for Cocktails: South of Altstadt
The streets around the Gärtnerplatz offer endless possibilities to find great bars, live music, and club nights, but one recent trend Munich’s in-crowd has taken to with aplomb is mixology. Among the best are The High, a petit, minimalist bar specializing in highballs; Niederlassung, whose sofas are exactly what are needed after a few of their well-priced drinks; The Flushing Meadows, whose roof terrace just about gets views of the Alps; and Zephyr, whose creative concoctions will make your eyes pop. Other notable places to get a good cocktail include Schumann’s in the Hofgarten, Die Goldene Bar at the Haus Der Kunst, and Blitz in Haidhausen.
- Best Area in Munich for Food and Restaurants: Altstadt
Glockenbach has the trendiest restaurants, Schwabing the classiest, and Haidhausen the best foreign food (including a whole French Quarter), but Altstadt just pips them all to the post thanks to the draw of its taverns, the Viktualienmarkt, the world-famous gastronomic department store Dallmayr, and some outstanding Michelin-starred joints that just keep performing. On top of all the Bavarian delicacies served in the Wirtshaus (see below), notable eateries include: Restaurant Pfistermühle which is set in a 16th-century mill covered in vines, the 3-Michelin starred Atelier, and Michelin-starred vegetarian fine dining at Tian. In the Viktualienmarkt itself, do not miss the schmalznudel made freshly for you at Cafe Frischhut. And do as the locals do: grab cheese, meats, and radishes from the market, sit in the central beer garden, and have a picnic with your pint.
- Best Area in Munich for Traditional Taverns: Altstadt
You cannot come to Munich without experiencing a traditional tavern (Wirtshaus). Expect wood paneling, hearty food, and lots of beer. Many are centuries old and related to the city’s oldest breweries. Look out for features such as lockers for patrons’ Steins (beer mugs) and Stammtischen (tables reserved for regulars). All serve reasonably-priced ($-$$) draught beer and traditional Bavarian food; some are closed on Sundays. Standouts include: Hofbräuhaus – arguably the most famous tavern in the world, complete with traditionally-dressed waitstaff, oompah band, and space for 3,000 people; Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl am Dom, which has welcomed luminaries as varied as Walt Disney, Ingrid Bergman, John Huston, Ted Kennedy, and Karl Lagerfeld to its dark-wood paneled dining room right by the Cathedral; and Zum Augustiner, the Augustiner brewery’s flagship tavern on the pedestrianized Neuhauser Strasse with its multiple salons and Italianate beer garden.
- Best Areas in Munich for Families: All over
Whether it’s close to the Englischer Garten, Olympiapark, the Deutsches Museum, or the medieval Old Town, there is something for everyone in Munich. What can be trickier is finding truly family-friendly accommodations as there is a shortage of places to stay in general in Munich, and small rooms are common. Notable places include: Harry’s House Hotel, which is part of Kinder Hotels; the Hotel am Viktualienmarkt, which has a four-bed room and an apartment for five; the Laimer Hof near Schloss Nymphenburg; and the brand new Augustin in Westend, which is aimed at young people and families, with six-bed dorm rooms can be rented whole as family rooms as well as four-person suites. See also: Best Hotels for Families in Munich
- Best Area in Munich for Art & Culture: North of Altstadt
In the center of the Maxvorstadt neighborhood, between the grandiose Königsplatz and Theresienstrasse, is the area known as the Kunstareal, an area with 18 museums and exhibition halls and over 40 galleries, all within walking distance. Start by determining what you want to see in the major art galleries, collectively known as Die Pinakotheken. The Alte Pinakothek represents some of the best stuff from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including works by Dürer, Raphael, Leonardo, Titian, El Greco, Rubens, and Rembrandt; it currently has the best works from the Neue Pinakothek, too, which is closed for refurbishment until 2025. The Pinakothek der Moderne focuses on art from the 1960s onwards, as well as architecture and design, while the Brandhorst focuses on contemporary art with an outstanding collection of the work of Cy Twombly. Other standout museums and galleries include the Lenbachhaus, which has the world’s best collection of works from the Blue Rider Group (Kandinsky, Klee, et al), and the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, which gathers together many Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian treasures in two museums around the Königsplatz. Also on the plaza is the NS-Dokumentationszentrum, a center to learn and understand more about Munich’s past.
- Best Area in Munich to Stay for First Timers: Altstadt
Other than some of the city’s mega-galleries, Altstadt just has it all. From fairytale Bavarian architecture to museums, palaces, graceful parks, best food and drinks, and endless shopping possibilities, Altstadt is where anyone who’s never been to Munich needs to go. Orientate yourself by spending some time on the viewing platform of either Alter Peter or the Neues Rathaus, then just wander around. Other than all the aforementioned tourist sites, such as the Residenz and the Viktualienmarkt, there is so much more to explore, from all the medieval gateways to the endless shopping zones, the National Theater, and remnants of the city’s Nazi history.
- Most Romantic Area in Munich: Englischer Garten
Munich’s “English Garden” in Schwabing is the largest inner-city park in the world and provides ample opportunity for romance. Spanning the Isar, there’s a lot to explore, including a Chinese pavilion, woodland areas, hiking trails, taverns and beer gardens, fields for nudism, a boating lake, and an area for surfing (it has to be seen to be believed), to name just a few attractions. The leafy riverside extension, the Maximiliansanlagen, starts opposite the Deutsches Museum, while the main park starts in the northeastern corner of the Hofgarten (another romantic park). Start or finish your date at Die Goldene Bar, a fabulous bar-restaurant dripping in gold leaf in the contemporary art gallery, the Haus der Kunst, on the southern edge of the main park.
- Best Area in Munich for a Local Vibe: East of Altstadt
Everything feels less touristy as soon as you cross over the Isar to the borough of Au-Haidhausen, even though you’re still a 10-minute walk from Altstadt. Of the two neighborhoods, Au is the more residential, but it comes to life during the Auer Dult folk festival (held every four months in the Mariahilfplatz). It’s one of Au’s top draws and specializes in ceramics and pottery stalls with traditional Bavarian entertainment. To the north of Au, Haidhausen feels much more bustling thanks to the cluster of restaurants and cafes around the Gasteig (one of Munich’s most important cultural hubs and home to the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra). There are also some great squares to explore, like Max-Weber-Platz, Weissenburger Platz, and Rosenheimer Platz, but don’t miss the historic Wiener Platz, surrounded by fairytale houses, which hosts daily food stalls (the fish hut is outstanding) and has one of the city’s best beer gardens. Haidhausen is also known for its concentration of French restaurants and is often referred to as the French Quarter. There’s also the eastern extension to the Englischer Garten here, known as the Maximiliansanlagen, which has lots of riverside trails as well as the majestic Maximilianeum, home to the Bavarian state parliament.
- Safety in Munich
Munich is generally very safe for tourists. The biggest threats come during Oktoberfest, where alcohol abuse makes people’s judgments less than sober and the large crowds can draw pickpockets.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Munich for Tourists
There are so many sights packed within a 20-minute walk of each other that you’re spoiled for choice. Start in Marienplatz, Munich’s showstopping main square, named after the Virgin Mary, whose most famous sights are the two town halls. The newer of the two, the 19th-century Neues Rathaus, dominates with its wonderful Glockenspiel clock that chimes at 11 am, noon, and 5 pm daily, while the 14th-century Altes Rathaus on the eastern side of the square is arguably more beautiful, with its stepped roof and pedestrian walkways running underneath. One street south is the church known as Alter Peter (Old Peter, St. Peter, or Peterskirche), which has a great viewing platform. Just off Marienplatz to the east is the Viktualienmarkt, a sprawling market for produce and Bavarian specialty food like leberkäse and schmalznudel, or visit the excellent museums in Sankt-Jakobs-Platz.
To the north of Marienplatz are two great squares, Marienhof and the Platzl. On the former, don’t miss the gourmet department store Dallmayr; on the latter, the Hofbräuhaus is the main draw. Then a little further north is the Residenz, a series of adjoining grand buildings and courtyards which together made up the home of the rulers of Bavaria from 1508-1918. Next door to the Residenz is the Odeonsplatz – a square whose architecture is uncannily Italian – and the Hofgarten: a gorgeous green space – grab a cocktail at Schumann’s to recharge or wind down. Walk up and down Maximilianstrasse and Brienner Strasse if you want a taste of the high life; they are home to Munich’s most luxurious shops and eateries. To the northwest of Marienplatz is the Dom Zu Unserer Lieben Frau (Cathedral of Our Dear Lady), nicknamed the Frauenkirche, with its distinctive twin spires that took their inspiration from Arabic architecture.
3. North of Altstadt: Maxvorstadt & Kunstareal
There are so many museums in Maxvorstadt that for culture-hawks, it’s worth staying nearby so you can walk to them all. The streets around Theresienstrasse and Josefsplatz provide you with the best sense of the neighborhood – Augustenstrasse is especially buzzing – but anywhere north of the Hauptbahnhof or north of Altstadt is within easy walking distance. In terms of museums, the top picks are known collectively as Die Pinakotheken and feature art from the 13th century right up to modern-day. Try to get to grips with how the Nazi Party rose to power amid the epic architecture of the Königsplatz, the site of many Nazi rallies, and the National Socialism learning center nearby.
4. North of Altstadt: Schwabing & Englischer Garten
Staying in Schwabing is great not only for the studenty atmosphere (and cheap as well as fun drinking and dining options that come with that) around the university, but also for seeking out pristine Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture. The area also has fine art prestige (the likes of Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and their colleagues lived and worked around here), and there’s interesting history around the anti-fascist White Rose resistance group to be sought out. The draw for many, however, is the enormous Englischer Garten. Make sure to factor in at least half a day in the park and allow yourself to wander, but do not miss the unbelievable sight of the Eisbach surfers riding their artificial wave in the fast-flowing river.
5. South of Altstadt: Glockenbach
Glockenbach (sometimes called Glockenbachviertel or by the wider borough name of Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt) is the trendiest part of Munich, packed with hip bars, stores, and restaurants. The lively Gärtnerplatz is the heart, but don’t miss the stretches along the Isar and the Deutsches Museum. Another lovely place to wander in this neighborhood is the old cemetery, the Alter Südfriedhof, and around.
6. East of Altstadt: Au-Haidhausen
Venture across the Isar and you’ll be rewarded with delights such as cool ethnic restaurants, a mini Viktualienmarkt at Wiener Platz, some of the best music in the city (classical at the Gasteig, jazz at Unterfahrt, contemporary at Blitz Club), and some cutesy cottages and cobbled streets to explore. Don’t miss the Jugendstil beauty of the Müller’sches Volksbad, the majestic Maximilineum, and the Hofbräukeller’s massive beer garden on a sunny evening (pure heaven).
7. West of Altstadt: Oktoberfest
The area southwest of the main station is where most of the Oktoberfest action takes place, on the vast Theresienwiese field in the Westend neighborhood, but if that were your only impression of Munich, it would be a shame indeed. Abutting the Oktoberfest site is the majestic statue of Bavaria, which you can climb to get a wonderful panorama of the site. Behind Bavaria is the Ruhmeshalle, a tribute to Bavaria’s most famous citizens. Just to the west is the sweet Bavariapark, which provides locals with a quiet place to relax, and the excellent Deutsches Museum outpost – the Verkehrszentrum – with its enormous hangar-like rooms filled with cars and other forms of transport through the ages, which are a must-see if you’re nearby.
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