Munich is one of the most celebrated destinations in Europe. From its raucous Oktoberfest and beer gardens to its colorful historic sites, this is a place to be savored. What follows are some money-saving tips designed to save your travel budget from stress and strain.
When to Visit
If you're interested in Oktoberfest, plan on arriving in September, when festivities begin. Also plan on higher prices and huge crowds. It's best to allow yourself an escape plan, and rail service connects the city with places such as Salzburg (90 minutes, sometimes less than €20) or Vienna (usually an overnight trip, about four hours each way, tickets starting at €29).
If you don't mind the cold and dark of winter, you'll enjoy lower prices and very short lines. Snowfall here is generally greater than other parts of Germany.
Where to Eat
Munich hosts Germany's largest student population (about 100,000), so you know there is plenty of affordable food available in the university districts. Neighborhoods such as Maxvorstadt border several campuses. It only makes sense for the restaurants in that area to offer low-cost food. Another area to try is Gärtnerplatz.
The city's many beer gardens serve up a number of affordable meals. Try hendl, an inexpensive and tasty roasted chicken plate.
Many beer gardens will allow you to bring your own food if you buy drinks. As with any European city, there is an abundance of cheese, fresh bread, and other picnic staples available at the market. Many times, these items are cheaper than in North America.
Where to Stay
As with food, the more expensive rooms are located closest to the city center. As you search Munich for accommodations, be aware that there are several types of rooms in Bavaria. Smaller bed and breakfast establishments here are called pensions. The owners frequently enjoy providing hospitality, good tour tips, and a comfortable bed. There are some variations in the definition of a pension, but generally, it means the place is short on amenities such as pools, spa treatments, and sometimes, in-room bathroom facilities.
Look for the "I" sign in train stations and other public places. People at these information kiosks can sometimes help find a room during busy periods at reasonable prices. They will charge a nominal fee. If you use the information kiosk at the city's main train station (Hauptbahnhof), you might not have to walk far. Many of the city's budget rooms are located in this area. The smaller pension-style places usually offer a full breakfast with the price of a room. I
It's sometimes possible to use Priceline or some other online bidding site to secure a business-class hotel room. Residence Inn chose Munich for one of its first European properties, and the hotel draws good reviews and offers a location on the public transportation lines but outside the city center.
A search of Munich's Airbnb.com inventory will turn up scores of budget options. A recent search showed 117 entries for less than $25 USD/night, and the selection multiplies quickly with a jump to $50-$75/night.
The Munich U-bahn is an economical way to see the city. If you'll be in town for a few days, consider buying Mehrfahrtenkarte, which means "multiple trip tickets." Blue tickets are for adults and red for children. Tageskarte or "day tickets" offer unlimited travel for 24 hours. Munich's main train station is about a 15-minute walk from the Old Town and Marienplatz.
For those spending longer periods, the S-bahn, U-bahn, and buses are tied together in what is called the MVV network. A weekly IsarCard costs €15 for two zones (called rings) and increases in price as you add a wider geographic area.
For years, Schwabing was Munich's artistic district that beckoned would-be actors, painters, or revelers. Many say it has lost some of its charm, but it's still a popular spot after dark. Trendy nightclubs and restaurants abound. There is not the variety here that you'd find in Berlin or Amsterdam, but there should be enough to keep you busy for a while.
Nightlife City Guide is a resource to consult for information about clubs, hours of service, and specialties.
The Marienplatz is the heart of Munich's Old Town. Adjacent to these cobblestoned treasures is Frauenkirche or Church of Our Mother, painstakingly restored after World War II damage. To the south, through the Isar Gate lies the giant Deutches Museum. It's the world's largest science and technology display. From there, it's a short distance to Tierpark and the zoo. Go north to the Olympiapark U-bahn stop to see the site of the 1972 Olympics and the BMW World Headquarters.
More Munich Tips
- Work larger museums in sections. The Deutsches Museum, for example, is so large that a visitor easily could spend two full days exploring and still not see everything. It's better to choose the areas that interest you the most and save the others for another trip.
- Be patient and alert at Oktoberfest. Public intoxication en masse is an ugly thing, and there are those who descend on Munich to take advantage. Keep valuables stowed securely.
- Learn a few words of German. The words Sprechen Sie Englisch? will go a long way in the realm of politeness and diplomacy. Germans usually appreciate attempts to respect their language, no matter how poorly you butcher it! There are places where the German-language menu items are cheaper than the English version, so it doesn't hurt to learn the names of some food items.
- Munich is a great "home base" for other explorations. In addition to Salzburg, the popular Romantic Road trip can be done in a day, beginning and ending in Munich. You can explore the medieval walled city of Rothenburg, which was virtually untouched by war. EurailPasses are good for the bus trip through this region, with a return rail trip from Wurzberg. On a less pleasant but highly significant note, the Dachau concentration camp is a short trip north from Munich and remains a sobering reminder of Germany's Nazi past. Learn more about making Munich a hub.
- Realize Munich and Bavaria are distinct from other German cities. Munich revels in the Lederhosen image that most tourists have of Germany, but most other cities outside of Bavaria do not. Enjoy the region's attractions, linguistic differences, and rich history.