Munich airport is incredibly easy to navigate, making it the perfect place to arrive in Germany. Clearing immigrations was a non-event and catching the S-bahn to our hotel was equally easy. After quickly dropping our bags off, we decided to make the most of our day and dove right into the city atmosphere.
We spent the remainder of our first morning wandering through the Viktualienmarkt, and had a great time observing the different food stalls and local customs. It was a great place to get a mid-morning snack, as you could decide based on what looked (or smelled!) good rather than simply ordering off a menu. The sun was shining, and the fresh air really helped us wake up and adjust to the new time zone.
We made our way over to the Marienplatz in time for the 12 noon clock showing. I couldn’t believe the crowds, but we were able to get a great view of the clock. Frankly, it was kind of overrated – we were there at the right time, and as such it was nice to see, but I’m not sure I would plan my schedule around ensuring you are there for a clock “performance”. The Marienplatz itself is quite beautiful to look around, especially if you have read a little history on the buildings there. We chose not to enter the nearby St. Peter’s church or Frauenkirche, and instead joined Lenny’s Bike Tours for a 12:30 bike ride.
Normally we like to find our own way through a city, but neither one of us was having an easy time navigating through Munich. Between jet lag and lack of sleep on the airplane and only a sub-par map, we had trouble figuring out where we were at any given time. Unlike home, streets are not laid out in a grid-like pattern, so roads come in at every angle, do not necessarily travel in a straight line, may change names after just two or three blocks, and street names are not always prominently displayed. Thus, a guided tour seemed the perfect way to acquaint ourselves with Munich. Our bike tour was fantastic, with just the right amount of information (both historical & cultural) and the right amount of entertainment. For only 10 euro, we went through the Marienplatz and other historical squares, by the Hofbrauhaus, to the Residenz, and through the Englischer Garten. We loved our stop at the Chinese Biergarten – it was nice to have someone explain how things worked there, and we had fun talking with the other people on the tour while enjoying our very first German beer and pretzel.
After the tour, we continued through Munich on our own, this time on foot. We really had no destination, and chose just to wander. We love to walk through areas, taking in the neighborhoods and sights, and trying to soak in a local feel. We accidentally found ourselves at the Oktoberfest grounds at one point, but didn’t dawdle too long there (we’d return the next day!) and then after asking directions, we made our way from there to the Augustiner Keller biergarten. This was a fantastic place for dinner and a drink – relatively affordable, outdoor seating on a beautiful night, and a fun crowd.
On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped in the Hofbrauhaus (we got turned around a few times before finding it, again perhaps due to jet lag, or more likely…a liter or two!). After walking through, and realizing that everyone spoke English, we decided instead to call it a night. We didn’t want to ruin our traditional biergarten experience with a touristy evening, and figured it was probably about time to go to bed anyway. We spent the night at the Holiday Inn (City Centre), which was a nice place to stay, especially considering we were able to redeem free nights from frequent-stay points. Otherwise, accommodation in Munich is sky-high during Oktoberfest!
Like I mentioned previously, it has always been on my husband’s bucket list to attend Oktoberfest, but what I didn’t mention before is that it was not on my list whatsoever! I’m not a fan of crowds or loud places or parties, so Oktoberfest didn’t seem like a logical way to spend a day. Our original plan was for my husband to head to Oktoberfest for the day, and for me to visit Dachau first thing in the morning and then join him in the afternoon inside the tent, but after seeing the Oktoberfest grounds the night prior, we decided it would be far too difficult to find each other halfway through the day, especially given an open-ended meeting time and a tent that holds thousands. Instead, we decided to go to Oktoberfest together for the entire day.
To be perfectly honest, we had a late start to our day, and by the time we had dressed, eaten breakfast (at a lovely bakery not far from the hotel), and walked to the fairgrounds, it was 11:30am. Never fear, there were plenty of open tables. Throughout the day, we had different groups join us and we enjoyed talking with our tablemates who were Germans, Italians, and Canadians. Half the fun was meeting new people. I ended up (surprisingly) having a fantastic day, thoroughly enjoying the traditional brass band, plenty of beer drinking (Paulaner), and of course: people-watching!
A few things surprised me about Oktoberfest. First, that it never got loud. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly wasn’t quiet…but certainly not as loud as I expected a tent of thousands of beer-drinkers to be. I never had to yell to talk to someone, which was a pleasant surprise. Another surprise was a full menu – I expected perhaps 5-10 food choices, and 2 drink choices (beer or water). Instead, there were several pages of foods to choose from, and even a full bar available. A huge shock to me was how many tables (entirely full tables that were unreserved) were open when we arrived at 11:30. In fact, full tables seemed open until at least 1:00, and seats for small groups (2-3 people) easily available until 4-5pm on a Sunday. The last surprise was no wait for the bathrooms! Perhaps the only public restroom getting that much use in Germany and still being able to adequately handle a large number of patrons.
Around 6:00, I decided we had had enough fun (i.e. beer), and so I begrudgingly led my husband out. We said goodbyes to our new friends and continued our Munich adventure with a dinner not far from the Marienplatz at a small beer hall, the Jodeler Wirt. We seemed to be the only tourists there, which was fine by us. This ended up being a great find, with good food at reasonable prices and a really fun accordionist. Highly recommended.
Our last morning in Munich was an early start, partially due to our early turn-in the night before, and partially due to having a scheduled rental car pick-up at 9am. We decided to walk to the Marienplatz for a hearty breakfast. We had seen several restaurants earlier in our visit on the square itself, but there was one in particular near St. Peter’s Church that was raised up a level so you could overlook the market and some other areas…and we were hoping to enjoy some people-watching from above with our meal. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that full-service restaurants do not seem to open early on weekday mornings! We hadn’t given it a second thought, assuming that since IHOP & Denny’s at home are open at 6am (or earlier!), that of course restaurants in Munich must certainly be open by 7:00. After a good thirty minutes of aimless wandering, we only saw one closed restaurant after another, and as such, claimed defeat and ended up back at the hotel for a large (and expensive) buffet.
Happily stuffed with German cuisine, we headed off to our rental car pick-up and then into Bavaria…