One day in Munich, you say? Can it really be done?
Yes, it can and I tell you how in this epic one day in Munich itinerary.
Munich is not exactly a small city. And there’s so much to do in the city of “art and beer.” Munich is beginning to rival Berlin as Germany’s cultural capital.
But chop chop, prepare for a busy day.
Here is a one day in Munich itinerary that will kick your butt.
I give you a whirlwind tour of this great European city. You’ll explore all the best things to do and see in Munich — the city’s top must visit attractions, historic landmarks, beautiful churches, and amazing museums.
If you have more than 1 day in Munich, I also have a 4 day itinerary for Munich.
A Short History of Munich
But first! A short history of this famous Bavarian city. Munich is located in southern Germany. It just two hours north of the Austrian border.
To most people, Munich is synonymous with Oktoberfest and beer gardens. But its medieval German name, München, actually stands for “Home of the Monks.”
Drawn by proximity to Catholic Italy, Benedictine monks settled in what is now Munich in the 8th century. For centuries, the monks conducted much of the trade activity in Munich and effectively governed.
But in 1255, Munich passed into the hands of the House of Wittelsbach. They would would rule Bavaria as monarchs until 1918.
Under the Wittelsbachs, Munich expanded. The Wittelsbachs built magnificent palaces.
Mad King Ludwig II went on a frenzy of castle building. He built the world famous Neuschwanstein Castle, sometimes called the “Cinderella Castle.” Munich sported monumental architecture and wide Italianate boulevards.
But Munich suffered during both world wars. Itss chocolate box scenery was leavened with darkness.
During WWI, the city was practically starved to death. Afterward, the city saw the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party. During WWII, Munich was heavily bombed and largely destroyed.
After WWII, Munich was painstakingly reconstructed. Architects and developers preserved Munich’s original street plan.
They re-created its medieval steeples, Neo-Gothic facades, and Neo-Classical buildings. They created Europe’s first pedestrian zone at Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauser Strasse.
Munich transformed itself into both a cultural and technological powerhouse. It’s now an elegant and cosmopolitan big city with a small town feel.
Today, in Munich, well-heeled power dressers mix with lederhosen clad beer drinkers. Munich’s been nicknamed the “City of Art and Beer,” “Millionendorf” (village of a million people), and “Toytown.”
How To Spend One Perfect Day in Munich
But back to our quickie tour of this elegant city. With only 1 day in Munich, begin your whirlwind tour by heading straight to the famed Marienplatz.
You may want to book a small group walking tour to get oriented.
1. Marienplatz and the Neues Rathaus, Munich’s Iconic Town Hall
Marienplatz has been a popular meeting place and hub for Munich since the 12th century.
The centerpiece of the grand square is the majestic city hall, named the Neues Rathaus. The city hall is the top attraction in Munich.
Its gaudy Gothic facade is festooned with gargoyles and statues. Often, the Rathaus is dressed with bright red flowers. Inside, you’ll find a toy museum.
You can take an elevator 85 meters to the top for views. Just stop in at the Tourist Office in the building and purchase your 4 euro ticket.
The Glockenspiel sounds at 11 am, noon, and 5 pm. For 12 minutes, motorized figures dance, joust, and twirl around the inside of the tower.
If you’re hungry and want to watch the performance, settle in at Cafe Glockenspiel. The cafe boasts an outstanding view over Marienplatz.
2. St. Peters Church for the Best View
If you want an amazing view of the Rathaus and Marienplatz, you’ve got to hike up the tower in St. Peters Church. It’s the oldest church in Munich.
The church itself is nothing special. But the 360 views at the top can’t be beat.
But, be forewarned, it’s a cramped and steep experience. There’s no room to move at the top. You’ll shuffle inch by inch along the narrow terrace.
3. Munich Residenz
Nothing beats wandering around Munich’s Altstadt or historic old town. You can’t miss the massive Munich Residenz.
The Residenz is the city palace of the Wittlesbach dynasty. It’s located on Max-Joseph Platz.
Much of the palace was destroyed during WWII. But it’s been meticulously restored over the years to its former glory.
With only 1 day in Munich, you likely don’t have time to tour the interior. But you should at least walk around the palace and admire the different facades.
If you want to head inside, it’s entirely possible to whiz through in an hour or. You’ll get a sense for how the royals lived.
And the Residenz is one of the only palaces in Germany where you can actually take photos! Here’s my complete guide to the Munich Residenz.
If your heart pines for more Wittelsbach architecture, take a 20 minute tram ride from the city center Nymphenburg Palace. The palace was the swishy summer home of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Here’s my complete guide to Nymphenburg Palace.
It boasts a grand Stone Hall, a Gallery of Beauties, and captivating garden follies. If Nymphenburg’s not on your 1 day in Munich itinerary, carry on with your tour of Munich’s old town.
Max-Joseph Platz is also where you’ll find Munich’s National Theater. It’s a photogenic spot, with its dashing Neo-Classical Facade.
If shopping is on your agenda, head to Maximilianstraße for the swanky brands. At the end of the street is the Maximilianeum, home to Bavaria’s state parliament. If you’d like your shopping more affordable, head to Kaufingerstrasse.
4. Munich’s Iconic Churches
As you’re strolling through old town, you can take in some of Munich’s iconic churches, which are mostly clustered together.
The green onion domes of the Frauenkirche are a symbol of Munich and important landmark. Like so munch in Munich, the church was heavily damaged in WWII. But it lovingly restored over 50 years.
A quirky feature of the Frauenkirche is the “Devil’s Footprint” inside. Legend holds that a devil funded the church’s construction.
He handed over the requisite dollars on the condition that the church be an ode to darkness. Upon touring the finished church, the devil allegedly spied a window. In a snit, stamped his foot on a tile. Or so they say …
The mustard yellow church in Munich is the Theatinerkirche, commanding a place of respect on the impressive Odeonsplatz. It’s a divisive building apparently, or so I’ve been told.
But I approve of color in buildings, so liked it. It has a pristine white interior with beautiful ceilings.
Another beauty is the Asamkirche, a tiny Baroque masterpiece. Built in 1746, it’s a treasure trove inside. Every inch of the interior is covered in gold and marble.
If you’re a fan of Mad King Ludwig II and his romantic castles are on your Bavaria itinerary, stop in at 16th century St. Michael’s Church (the exterior is currently under renovation) to pay your respects.
It’s a damp crypt and modest tomb. But it’s typically swathed in flowers in appreciation of the poet-architect king.
If you’re planning a longer vacation to Bavaria, I have the perfect 10 day Bavaria itinerary. Along with some essential tips for visiting Germany, which has some quirky customs of which you should be aware.
End your stroll around Altstadt at the Odeonsplatz. Dating from the 19th century, it is still largely unchanged.
Nowadays, the loggia is the site of festivals and beer drinking.
But, historically, it’s a very important place. The loggia was the site of the infamous 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. The putsch was Hitler’s failed coup d’etat, when he tried to take over the government of Bavaria.
The putsch actually put Hitler and the fledging Nazi Party on the map. Hitler wound up imprisoned. While in jail,, he wrote Mein Kampf. Later, Hitler rose to power and used the Loggia dei Lanzi as the site of Nazi rallies.
6. Viktualienmarkt: the Perfect Spot For An Alfresco Lunch
It’s lunchtime (or later). So wander over to Viktualienmarkt for some gourmet sustenance.
It’s Munich’s delightful outdoor food market. It’s crammed to the gills with produce, prepared food to go, and a bustling beer garden.
Victualienmarkt also makes an ideal place to buy German souvenirs. Pro tip: If you buy something to eat, you can actually bring it right into the beer garden.
You can book a 2 hour guided food tour that includes Viktualienmarkt.
6. Munich’s Vaunted Museums
Munich has some absolutely world class museums. They’re honestly a good reason to stick around for more than one day in Munich.
The museums are clustered together in the Kunstareal or museum district. With limited time, you should pick just one of the many museums. I’ll walk you through your choices.
Munich’s most touted museum is the Alte Pinakothek. There, you’ll find a couple rare Leonardo da Vinci paintings, Albrecht Durer’s mysterious Self Portrait, and other old master treasures.
Click here to book a 2 hour tour of the pinakothek.
I also liked the Pinakothek der Moderne for cutting edge modern art.
The Neue Pinakothek showcases wondrous modern art. It starts where the Alte Pinakothek leaves off, displaying works by art by Degas, Cézanne, and Monet.
The Neue Pinakothek is currently closed for structural renovations. But an exhibit of its best pieces is on display in the Alte Pinakothek.
Munich also has a hip new museum, the Lenbachhaus. The museum has been generating excitement in Munich. The stunning gold museum has a soaring atrium which glitters with a whirl of colored glass and steel.
The new three story wing was designed by Norman Foster. It houses an incredible collection of Expressionist works, including pieces by Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Paul Klee.
Expressionism thrived in Munich. This is literally the best collection of that period anywhere in the world.
If you’re a fan of sculpture, head to the Glyptotek Museum. The Glyptothek owes its existence, like so many other lovely things in Bavaria, to Mad King Ludwig II.
The king envisioned Munich as a “German Athens.” Each gallery houses works from different time periods. They illustrate the evolution of sculpture over the centuries.
7. Hofgarten and the Englischer Garden
Located behind the Munich Residenz is an opulent Italian Renaissance garden you’d expect from royals, the Hofgarten. It’s a public garden and so is free to access.
The Diana Temple in the center is a 12 sided gazebo. It was used as a filming location for The Three Musketeers movie in 2011.
From the Hofgarten cross the street to the Haus der Kunst. It’s an art gallery and building that was an early example of Nazi architecture.
Right nearby, you’ll find wet-suit-clad river surfers in the Englischer Garden. They surf on a standing wave, the Eisbach Wave, no matter what the weather conditions are. It was in the 50s when I witnessed their stunts.
The English Garden is a truly massive park, bigger even than Central Park in New York City. You can’t really tour it fully in your 24 hours.
Here’s the abbreviated version. If you’re there in the summer, aside from the surfers, you’ll likely see nude sun bathers.
The Chinese Tower Beer Garden is a popular hangout in the garden. If you’d like a more local vibe, head to the nearby Seehaus Beer Garden.
If you want to end your quickie park visit with a sunset, climb Olyberg, a large hill that overlooks the park. it has a nice vantage point over the city. Alternatively, the Olympic Tower also has an epic view.
8. Dinner Time
Head back to the old town. You’ve got oodles of dining options.
If you want some traditional bavarian food, try Augustiner Klosterwirt, near the Frauenkirche, or Bratwurstherzl. If you must try Munich’s pork knuckle, stop in at Haxnbauer.
Munich is also known for its Italian food scene, a scene of which I wholly approve. On my last visit, on a Friday night, I had dinner at Limoni.
It’s located on a quieter street in a trendy neighborhood. And it was quite divine.
Another good Italian option is Guido al Duomo. You’ll need reservations at both.
9. Beer Gardens: the Classic Munich Experience
After your highbrow one day of art and culture in Munich ends, you should — like most good Germans — retreat to a beer hall. Munich’s beer halls are a cultural institution in their own right.
Munich’s most iconic beer garden is, of course, the Hofbrahaus. Serving beer since the early 1800s, it’s now mostly serving beer to tourists.
But it’s an iconic place, and was home to the likes of Mozart. It was also where Hitler gave his first speech to the Nazi party.
Waiters dressed in Lederhosen serve massive beer steins to hordes of people, while a band plays drinking songs.
If you want to get a little more off the beaten beer garden path, check out this list of alternatives.
If you’d like to book a food and beer tour in Munich, click here.
How To Get To Munich
Munich is one of the easiest cities in German to get to. It’s well connected. The international airport is the second busiest in Germany.
The S-Bahn connects the airport to the city center, with trains leaving every 10 minutes. The ride lasts about 40 minutes.
You can also grab a cab. Or you can also book a private transfer to your hotel.
How To Get Around Munich
If you’re staying in the city center, you can walk to the main sites in Munich. If you’d like to book a 3 hour tour of Munich’s historic sites with a local expert, click here.
You can also get around using the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn. Buy tickets at the station and validate them before you get on.
As I found out because I was staying off center, taxis are expensive.
Where To Stay In Munich
Munich has some greet places to stay. With only one day in Munich, it makes sense to stay in the old town.
The Mandarin Oriental is a boutique property with an Eastern-influenced aesthetic. It’s in old town right next to the famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall.
The Louis Hotel is a design hotel in the historic old town. It has a nice rooftop terrace that overlooks the Victualienmarkt.
The Hotel Bayerisches Hof is in the Neo-Classical Montgelas Palace. The luxury hotel oozes sophistication and has a Michelin star restaurant for foodies.
Roomers Munich is a sleek boutique hotel with an Asian kitchen and secret watering hole called the Hidden Room. Another popular boutique hotel is BEYOND by Geisel. It has an amazing location on the Marienplatz.
More Than One Day In Munich?
If you have more than one day in Munich, you can follow my 4 days in Munich itinerary.
You might also consider some day trips from Munich. Some options are:
- a 10 hour guided day tour to historic Nuremberg
- a half day guided tour to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial
- a full day tour to the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle
- a full day tour to Berchtesgaden and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest
- a full day tour to Salzburg Austria
I hope you’ve enjoyed my one day in Munich itinerary. You may enjoy these other travel guides and resources for Germany:
- 10 Days in Bavaria Germany
- Guide To Germany’s Romantic Road
- Guide To Neuschwanstein Castle
- Prettiest Towns in Germany
- Landmarks in Germany
- Tips For Visiting Germany
- Guide To Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- Guide To Fairytale Castles in Bavaria
If you want to spend one day in Munich Germany, pin it for later.