Munich: Germany’s Secret Capital
One of my favorite parts about traveling is when a destination exceeds my expectations. In retrospect, I am not sure why I did not have high expectations for the Bavarian capital. Who would not love visiting a city teeming with history and culture, authentic food and delicious beer? Combine that with an efficient transportation system, clean streets and a strong Bavarian identity and Munich should fly to the top of any traveler’s list.
My previous journey to Germany had been eight years prior and since I had skipped Berlin, I was determined to make it there this time. My boyfriend, Max, had suggested adding Munich as well and he was spot on! Munich ended up being the first leg of our five city journey and in our opinion, exceeded Berlin.
It is easy to see why many call Munich “Germany’s Secret Capital.” The history and culture of Munich radiate from the heart of the city, the Marienplatz. Flanked by the New Town Hall, Old Town Hall and St. Peter’s Church, this is a great area to begin exploring Munich. Our first trip to the Marienplatz was during the early hours of a Sunday morning when the square was quiet and shops were closed. The square gets busy during the day so getting an impression of it without it bustling with people was great.
However, the best views of the Marienplatz are not from the ground, but from above. The observation deck at the top of St. Peter’s Tower is worth the 306 winding steps to the top. Even on a cloudy morning, the views are great.
As pretty as the views were, the history of Munich is one of the true draws of the city and we were eager to learn more about it. There was no better way to get our bearings than the SANDEMAN’S free walking tour. Although some people are skeptical of the quality of free tours, I cannot endorse them enough. Since most guides do not get paid by the company and are working exclusively off their tips, there is more of an incentive to provide an informative and engaging tour. After meeting our tour in the Marienplatz and discussing the importance of the square and the surrounding buildings, we set off on a three hour walking tour.
The tour covered a great deal of ground, including some of the highlights of the Residenz, Frauenkirche and Odeonsplatz. We stopped for a substantial amount of time at the Odeonsplatz, which has a fascinating history and a great deal of significance in the events leading up to World War II.
The tour proved to be a great way to capture history and culture of the city and afterwards we decided to explore some of Munich’s greener spaces in the Englischer Garten. As one of the world’s largest urban public parks (it is larger than New York City’s Central Park), there was plenty to explore. The entrance of the park has an artificial stream and many surfers spend their days here. They attract a large following and are entertaining to watch.
Further into the park, we stopped at the Chinese Tower for a beer. I would not have even known that this beer garden existed if we had not stumbled upon it. Filled with outdoor tables and a large Chinese Tower (hence the name), it is a great spot to take a break.
Continuing down towards Seehaus, we found paddle boats just before sunset.
Munich surprised me with its charm from day one and left me excited for what the rest of the trip entailed. It is easy to see how people fall in love with this “secret capital”. Often overshadowed by Berlin, Munich can hold its own with fascinating history, delicious beer and a rich culture. Yes, Munich, you far exceeded my expectations and I could not be happier about it! And I have not even touched on the beer halls yet…
With so much to see and do, stay tuned for more on my restaurant picks, favorite beer halls and more great experiences in Munich.