One Day in Munich Itinerary: How To Spend An Epic 24 Hours in Bavaria’s Capital

view of the Neues Rathaus in Munich
view of the Neues Rathaus in Munich, with Frauenkirche on the left

One day in Munich, you say? Can it really be done?

I mean 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.

Nonetheless, a single day may be all the time you can allot. Especially if you’ve got plans to tour Bavaria or cruise down the Danube River.

I’ve done 24 hours in Munich several times and know it can be done. Full disclosure: I was just there again for 3 days and that’s certainly more doable.

one day in Munich itinerary

But chop chop, prepare for a busy day. Here is a 24 hour itinerary for Munich 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.

the Glockenspiel at the Neues Rathaus (Town Hall) in Munich
the Glockenspiel at the Neues Rathaus (Town Hall) in 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.

the imposing Munich Residenz, city palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty
the imposing Munich Residenz, city palace of the Wittelsbach dynasty

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.

 National Theatre and monument Max-Joseph Denkmal on Max-Joseph-Platz Square in Munich
National Theater and the monument Max-Joseph Denkmal on Max-Joseph-Platz Square in Munich

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.”

Marienplatz, Munich's lively main square. Here's where you should start your one day in Munich
Marienplatz, Munich’s lively main square

How To Spend One Perfect Day in Munich

But back to our quickie tour of this elegant city. With only 24 hours in Munich, begin your whirlwind tour by heading straight to the famed Marienplatz.

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.

aerial view of Marienplatz
aerial view of Marienplatz

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.

the Glockenspiel performance
the Glockenspiel performance

one of the many 360 views from St. Peter's Church in Munich
one of the many 360 views from St. Peter’s Church in Munich

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.

St. Peters Church, with the best view in Munich from its tower
St. Peters Church, with the best view in Munich from its tower with a tiny terrace
Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz

3. Wander Around Munich’s Old Town

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.

the Antiquarium in the Munich Residenz
the Antiquarium in the Munich Residenz

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.

Nymphenburg Palace outside Munich
Nymphenburg Palace outside Munich

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.

Cathedral Frauenkirche on a beautiful summer day
Cathedral Frauenkirche on a beautiful summer day

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 "Devil's Footprint" in Munich's Frauenkirche
the “Devil’s Footprint” in Munich’s Frauenkirche

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.

the ochre colored Theatinerkirche, an unmissable site in Munich
the ochre colored Theatinerkirche

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.

homage to the eccentric Mad King Ludwig in St. Michael's Church in Munich
homage to the eccentric Mad King Ludwig in St. Michael’s Church in Munich
Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshalls' Hall), a monumental loggia on the Odeonsplatz
Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshalls’ Hall), a monumental loggia on the Odeonsplatz

5. Odeonsplatz

End your stroll around Altstadt at the Odeonsplatz. Dating from the 19th century, it is still largely unchanged.

The focal point of the square is the Feldherrnhalle. It’s a covered exterior gallery copied from the famous Loggia dei Lanzi, which is on the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

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.

READ: Guide To Nazi Sites in Nuremberg

fresh produce at Victualienmarkt in Munich
fresh produce at Victualienmarkt in Munich

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.

Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar, 1941 -- on display at the Munich Pinakothek der Moderne
Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar, 1941 — on display at the Munich Pinakothek der Moderne

6. Munich’s Vaunted Museums

Munich has some absolutely world class museums. They’re honestly a good reason to stick around Munich longer than one day.

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.

READ: Guide To all of Leonardo da Vinci’s Paintings

gallery in the Alte Pinakothek, a world class museum that should b eon your one day in Munich itienrary
gallery in the Alte Pinakothek

Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight, 1500
Albrecht Durer, Self-Portrait at the Age of Twenty Eight, 1500

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.

Lenbachhaus Museum
Lenbachhaus Museum

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.

the Diana Temple in Munich's Hofgarten
the Diana Temple in Munich’s Hofgarten

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.

surfer on the artificial wave in the Englischer Garden.
surfer on the artificial wave in the Englischer Garden

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.

a beautiful caprese type salad that I had at Limoni in Munich
a beautiful caprese type salad that I had at Limoni in Munich

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.

the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich
the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich

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.

interior of the Hofbrahaus, Munich's famous beer garden
interior of the Hofbrahaus, Munich’s famous beer garden

I hop’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.

1 day in Munich itinerary
one day in Munich itinerary

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