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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Davide Mainardi

The 9 best attractions in Munich

Keep the biergartens for the evenings and fill your days in Munich with these amazing attractions

Written by
Huw Oliver
Eliza Apperly
Katherine Lovage
Danielle Goldstein

The best attractions in Munich represent everything that makes this city such a thrilling visit, from its outstanding art museums to delicious food markets. Munich is famous for its beer gardens and for good reasons, but the best things to do here will offer you plenty of distractions to keep you out of the booze tents – for a while at least. When you come to Munich, you often come for the infamous beer scene, but leave with memories of museums, gardens and glistening mountain spas. So, if it's the best of the best you're after – the cream of the crop, the top table – you've come to the right place, because we've rounded up our favourite Munich attractions.

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Best attractions in Munich

  • Attractions
  • Public spaces

Kick off at Munich’s most famous food market, as excellent for people-watching as it is for fine regional produce. Relax with a drink at one of the numerous stands – no shame in a Radler (beer and lemonade) if you need to take it easy – and set about sampling the array of fresh regional produce, with specialities including bread, speck and Schweinshaxe (ham hock), the love-it-or-hate-it Weißwurst, as well as locally foraged mushrooms. If you’re in town in late November or December, the Viktualienmarkt hosts an annual Christmas market, Alpenwahn, complete with carols, homemade cards and gifts, and generous cupfuls of Glühwein (mulled wine).

Haus der Kunst
  • Museums
  • Art and design

An enormous and imposing sight nestled alongside the picturesque Englischer Garten, Haus der Kunst is one of Munich’s many spectacular art galleries (we’re talking 100 plus). This interdisciplinary space aims to represent all that’s good, exciting and cutting-edge in the world of contemporary art. But this neoclassical building comes with a troubled backstory, too – it was built in 1937 to house Nazi-approved art. Of course, this is no longer the case, but as you wander around you’ll find the Kunst regularly acknowledges, contemplates and engages with its propagandist heritage. When you’re done, head over to the adjoining Goldene Bar to slurp on vibrant cocktails (try the Goldene Bartini – a mouthwatering mix of gin, Lillet Blanc and lemon) in a blindingly sleek, shiny setting. 

  • Attractions
  • Monuments and memorials

Like a smaller Brandenburg Gate, the triple-arched Siegestor stands as a monument to victory and a reminder to peace. King Ludwig I commissioned it in the 1850s based on the ancient Roman Arch of Constantine, however, it sustained so much damage during the Second World War that much of it had to be restored over a 30-year period, including the quadriga of Bavaria and her four lions. To see it in the flesh, venture down tot he point where Ludwigstrasse and Leopoldstrasse meet. The ornate frontage is a visual wonder, but the blank back is a powerful statement about the things war takes away, accompanied by the words: ‘Dem Sieg geweiht, von Krieg zersört, zum Frieden mahnend’ (‘Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, urging peace’).

Museum Brandhorst
  • Museums
  • Art and design

The Brandhorst Museum in the north-eastern corner of Munich’s Kunstareal art district is impossible to miss. With its striped 23-shade exterior, this dazzling addition to Munich’s art scene displays around 200 modern works from the collection of Anette Brandhorst and her husband Udo Fritz-Hermann. Big hitters include Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly. The polygonal room above the foyer was designed expressly for Twombly’s ‘Lepanto’, a breathtaking 12-canvas sequence depicting a fiery 16th-century sea battle between the Ottomans and the so-called ‘Holy League’ of European forces. The Brandhorst collection also boasts one of the most comprehensive holdings of Picasso-illustrated books.

Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism
  • Museums
  • History

Compared with other German cities, Munich has taken a long time to confront its Nazi history, perhaps precisely because of its particular importance, and responsibility, in the ascent of Hitler’s genocidal regime. It was in Munich, the ‘Capital of the Movement’, that the rise of the National Socialist movement first began, that Hitler enacted his attempted putsch of 1923, and where he later found influential and prosperous patrons. It’s here, too, that Goebbels called for a nationwide pogrom against the Jewish population. An intentionally stark and striking white building, the Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism sits on the former site of the Brown House, the party headquarters, and sets out to interrogate the association between Munich and the Nazi regime in unflinching detail. 

Wellness Hotel Kranzbach
  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels

The scenic landscapes around Munich are just as seductive as the ever-popular city centre. To escape for an action-packed weekend of hiking, skiing and Alpine spa-ing, journey across to Kranzbach, an idyllic spot only an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Munich. At the foot of Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, the area is densely surrounded by protected meadows and fragrant pine forests. The Wellness Hotel itself is a magnificent stone building dating to 1915, offset with an opulent interior courtesy of design aficionado and ‘Elle Decoration’ founding editor Isle Crawford. Whether you’re looking to bust some yoga stretches, detox with the aid of Ayurvedic treatments, or simply soak up mountain views from within the fluffiest of robes, you’ll find restorative bliss – and an effortless way to turn your city break into a break from the city.

Die Pinakotheken: Alte and Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne
  • Museums
  • Art and design

Across the square from the Brandhorst Museum, Munich’s Pinakothek trio (the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne) span European art history from the Middle Ages to the present day in blockbuster style. Albrecht Dürer’s Self-Portrait with Fur-Trimmed Robe (Alte Pinakothek), with its Christ-like gaze and textural richness, is the star of the show, but there are abundant treasures here, not least the Pinakothek der Moderne’s line-up from the Blaue Reiter, Munich’s home-grown Expressionist movement.

Englischer Garten
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

When strolling the rolling hills of Englischer Garten, you'd be forgiven for double checking you're not in Britain. Landscaped in the eighteenth century for Prince Charles Theodore, this verdant land spans almost 1,000 acres and is among the world's largest inner-city public parks (bigger than Hyde and Central Parks). With space like that, you can imagine just how much it has to offer. Most people come to picnic, jog, dog walk and sunbathe (often naked), but there's also a number of biergartens to visit. Plus, for extreme sports lovers, there's Eisbachwelle – a man-made wave that runs continously all year round for surfers who don't mind being oggled while they ride the waves. There's also Monopteros, a fake Greek temple atop a hill that was built in the nineteenth century for King Ludwig I, and (after a short trek) provides the perfect spot to watch the sun going down.

Kunstfoyer der Bayerischen Versicherungskammer
  • Museums
  • Art and design

In an unprepossessing building by the Maximiliansbrücke, the Kunstfoyer VKB keeps a much lower profile than the museums of the Kunstareal enclave but is well worth checking out if you’re into your video art or photography. With a focus on socially and politically minded artists, plus the interaction of still and moving pictures, previous Kunstfoyer shows have included Gordon Parks, Margaret Bourke-White, Sebastião Salgado and the fantastical set designs of Ken Adam (think iconic Bond and Kubrick). There are striking views on to the impressive Maximilaneum, one of Munich’s most prominent buildings, and likely the most palatial student residence ever.

There’s more to this city than just beer...

The 12 best bars in Munich
  • Bars and pubs

With the world’s biggest beer festival, beer cellars galore and the best beer gardens on the planet, Munich has an enviable reputation for… well, yes, that drink we call beer. There is, however, so much more to the city’s bar scene than that.

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