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How to Spend a Day in Munich: 1 Day Itinerary to Maximize Your Time & See the Highlights

How to Spend a Day in Munich: 1 Day Itinerary to Maximize Your Time & See the Highlights

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After spending a day in Munch, you will leave with that quintessential Bavarian feel that many people associate with Germany.

If you’re short on time or maybe have a 24 hour layover in Munich, you can squeeze a whole lot into one day to experience the best of this traditional German city.

I took a road trip through Germany starting in the Black Forest and ended in Berlin, and didn’t have that much time to spend in Munich.

However, we made the most of our tight schedule, so I’m sharing my 1 day itinerary for Munich that’s realistic! Best of all, most of these things to do in Munich are free or cheap! 

While I always recommend a couple days in a new city, one day in Munich is enough to cover the highlights. With this itinerary, you will be able to see the neo-gothic architecture in the city center, get a bird’s eye view of the city from St. Peter’s Tower, drink with the locals at a beer hall, experience a biergarten, stroll through a Bavarian palace and watch people river surf in the English Garden park.

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Munich 1 Day Itinerary

Most other itineraries you’ll find online will tell you to start your day at the Marienplatz. But I disagree.

When you only have one day to experience Munich, you should visit the main square at midday when it produces the best show of the day (you’d miss it if you visit first thing in the morning).

So, after starting your day with a traditional breakfast of bratwurst and sauerkraut, your itinerary starts in the city’s largest park.

1. The English Garden (Englisher Garten)

This is one of the largest city parks in the world, and is way bigger than Central Park in New York City.

I recommend starting your day with a stroll through this park, because it’s one of the most famous spots in Munich and is the perfect introduction to the city’s vibe.

Now, this park is massive, so you won’t be able to see it all. Start somewhere closer to the southern end of the park and work your way south (towards the city center).

The park itself is full of walking paths, green spaces, monuments, water features, picnic areas and outdoor beer gardens. Locals and tourists alike gather here all day long.

As I strolled through, I saw a group of friends who had brought a full-sized ping pong table and were clearly set up to stay all day.

Another thing you’ll notice here, is the ‘textile free’ lifestyle. In the southern half of the park, many spots are open for clothing-free sunbathing and swimming. It’s just part of the culture here, so don’t be alarmed. 

A good starting point would be the Chinese Tower, as it’s a beautiful monument and has one of the largest beer gardens in the park. Of course, I highly recommend stopping at one of the beer gardens for a litre beer and a pretzel the size of your head!

2. Watch the River Surfers at Eisbachwelle

Another one of the most famous attractions in Munich is to watch surfers ride the never ending wave on the Eisbach canal.

It’s a really cool spot to watch for a few minutes (we stayed for 30 minutes because it was so fascinating).

There’s a concrete block under the bridge that creates the perfect, continuous wave for the surfers. Watch as they line up on either side of the water waiting their turn.

The best part is no matter what time of day you’re visiting, you should be able to catch the surfers.

They surf all year round, and most hours of the day. This is why I recommend going in the morning, as you’ll catch the die hards crushing a few waves before heading to work at the office! 

A word of caution – after a few minutes of watching, you’ll probably want to try it out yourself!

You can book a local guide (and experienced surfer) who will meet you at the river, provide you with a wetsuit and surfboard, go over the rules and show you the technique.

3. Experience the Energy of the Marienplatz

Glockenspiel on the Munich city hall

Located in ‘Old Town,’ the Marienplatz is the central square of Munich and has been here since the 12th century. The late gothic architecture is like nowhere else and is one of the main images associated with Munich.

Unfortunately, much of Munich was destroyed in World War II, but the city has restored many buildings to their original state.

Inside tip – If you’d love to learn more about the history of WW2 in Munich, book this awesome guided tour by a local historian. You’ll also pass by many of the main tourist attractions, so it’s a great option if you’re short on time. 

Make your way through the tight streets and admire the history that’s exuded from every building and cobblestone pathway. Eventually, find your way to the Glockenspiel, the famous clock tower.

Be here for when it rings at either 11am or noon, which is the best show of the day. It’s a traditional puppet show, almost like a giant cuckoo clock production. 

Honestly, don’t plan too much other than just enjoying the atmosphere, maybe stopping for a quick break at one of the restaurants to enjoy a coffee or a beer.

4. Wander through Old Town (Altstadt)

Plan to spend a couple hours scooting around this historic area, as there are many photo opportunities and stunning buildings to see.

I suggest wandering around and getting lost (in a good way) in this historic part of the city.

In addition to the Marienplatz, here’s a quick list of the places I recommend checking out in Old Town:

New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) 

Alter Hof 

Fish’s Fountain

St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)

Lion’s Tower 

Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market)

Of all the places to visit in historic Munich, I highly recommend climbing up the narrow stairs to the top of the tower at St. Peters Church, the oldest in Munich.

It only costs a few Euros and will leave you breathless – both literally and figuratively (it’s about 13 stories high). Not only do you get 360 views of the entire city, but on a clear day you can even see the Bavarian Alps mountain range in the distance. 

At the Marienplatz, the neo-gothic architecture of the New Town Hall will transport you back in time. The intricate detail is fascinating. Don’t miss walking through the gates to get into the courtyard. You can also buy a ticket for 4 Euros to go up the elevator to the top of the tower. 

Alter Hof is another must see if you’re keen to do sightseeing in Munich. One of the most elegant buildings in the city, as it was lived in by Bavarian emperors. Come here for free tours of not only this residence but great insight into the history of the city. 

Finally, I suggest taking a gander through the Viktualienmarkt which is essentially a permanent farmer’s market that’s been around since the 1800s.

You’ll have tons of fun browsing all the traditional vendors and shops. Here you can find fresh and authentic food and the perfect place to look for souvenirs.

5. Get Rowdy a Traditional Beer Hall

You can’t leave Munich without grabbing a drink at a beer hall. I mean, Munich is the birthplace of Oktoberfest afterall.

Now, if you’re only in Munich for a day, the best beer hall to visit is Hofbrauhaus. It’s located in Old Town and is the most famous and popular beer hall. It’s been around since the 1500s.

You will definitely get your fill of Oktoberfest vibes all year long.

However, the Schneider Bräuhaus München is another beer hall located in old town (not too far from Hofbrauhaus) is just as rowdy but much more authentic and less touristy than Hofbrauhaus.

You’ll find more locals here, and the food menu is awesome if it’s time for a hearty meal. 

Visiting Munich to get a taste of Bavarian culture, sights and beer halls? Make it easy by booking this fun City Tour with Beer and Dinner!

For 3 hours, your local guide will show you all the main attractions, and goes in depth about the importance of beer in the city’s deep-rooted history and culture. 

6. Munich Residenz

Now a museum, this was once one of the most famous palaces in Germany where Bavarian rulers lived.

Experience the hundreds of rooms that can only be described by pure extravagance. The gold, porcelain, and chandeliers are a glimpse into a fascinating royal past.

The massively detailed dining hall is worth a visit alone. The palace gardens, Hofgarten, are equally stunning and not to be missed. 

If it happens to be raining on your day trip to Munich, visiting the Residenz is a great indoor activity, as you could easily spend a couple hours here. 

7. Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg)

Many tourists miss this spot, but i think it’s a beautiful area to finish your day in Munich if you have time at the end.

Here, you will find a stunning palace in late-Baroque architecture, manicured grounds and swans! It’s almost like a mini-Versailles.

You can even tour the inside of the palace and view the gold ceilings and porcelain museum upstairs. 

Most notable of all, it was a former concert venue for Mozart. Today, you can still experience classical concerts here, dinner included. 

While this is a beautiful spot, if you’re short on time in Munich, choose to visit the Munich Residenz instead of the Nymphenburg Palace.

Where to Stay in Munich

To maximize your short stay in Munich, I recommend staying as central as possible to make the most of your time. 

Hotel Torbräu is a 5-minute walk from the Marienplatz, so you’ll be in the heart of the action. It’s also across the street from the S-Bahn station, making it the perfect hub for day trips if you’re staying for a few days. 

A more budget-friendly option is the Leonardo Boutique Hotel Munich which is a 10-minute walk from the English Garden. 

Or grab one of the highest rated AIrbnbs in the area – this apartment is located right near a train station and a 12-minute walk to the old town district. It also comes complete with everything you need to make your own meals, including a Nespresso. 

Tips for Visiting Munich in One Day

Now if you only have one day to explore Munich, I would recommend avoiding Sundays or local holidays.

Sunday is Ruhetag (day of rest) in Germany and many places will be closed, even touristy places. 

Also, Munich is somewhat expensive, but not as expensive as other popular European cities like Paris. Still, it’s not the cheapest city.

But did you know that you can bring your own food to the beer gardens (biergarten)? It’s a long standing tradition that as long as you buy beer, you can bring any food and stay as long as you want.

We often saw people who brought large picnics and playing cards and probably stayed for hours!

So if you can prepare your own food at the Airbnb you’re staying at, or find a cheap takeout sandwich, you can enjoy the biergarten atmosphere for cheap!

Another tip – you don’t need to drink a full litre of beer, you can always ask for a half litre! 

Day Trips from Munich

Many people wonder how many days you need to see Munich. What’s great about this city, is its proximity to so many amazing places all over Bavaria.

While Munich is a fascinating city, if you only have a few days to spend in the area, I would recommend that your itinerary includes one full day in Munich and then another 2-4 days seeing taking day trips.

The most notable things to see and do within a couple hours from Munich are:

Dachau Concentration Camp 

Neuschwanstein castle

Berchtesgaden and The Eagle’s Nest (Das Kehlsteinhaus)

Prost! Enjoy your time in Munich!

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