Bursting with Bavarian charm, Munich exemplifies Germany’s beer-drinking, sausage-eating, Lederhosen-wearing reputation, and while the rest of the country may resent this image, Munich proudly embraces its unique, vibrant heritage.
Although Munich is one of the most expensive cities in Germany, visitors need not turn their money purses inside out to have a good time; there are plenty of free activities to fill up your trip and give you a taste of the history and culture of the Bavarian capital.
Relax in the English garden
Munich’s Englischer Garten is one of the biggest and best urban parks in the world, and is easily accessible from the city center. The park provides the perfect retreat from the city, and locals flock here in the summer to get away and relax in the sun. But don’t worry: it’s easy to escape the crowds in this vast oasis of greenery which covers an area of 2.3 square miles.
From its Japanese teahouse, Chinese pagoda and hilltop Greek temple, to the picturesque boating lake and tranquil beer gardens, the park offers its visitors a whole range of activities, meaning you can easily lose a whole day wandering around the park and discovering something new around each corner.
Marvel at the Eisbach surfers
Munich may be a landlocked city, located almost 500 miles from the sea, and yet it has become a popular destination for surfers all over the world. The river Eisbach provides the setting for this unusual spectacle, with crowds of surfers clad in wetsuits queuing along the bank to take their chances on the rolling wave created by the formation of the rocks and the speed of the current.
Taking to the water may only be for highly experienced surfers, but spectators can gain a unique and powerful view of surfing: normally, it’s not possible to get so close to surfers, but here the river creates something like a water treadmill, providing us with a mesmerizing view of this fascinating sport.
Go on a free walking tour
There’s no better way to get a true sense of a place than exploring it on your feet, and Sandeman’s New Europe free tour of Munich will provide you with an excellent overview of the city’s rich history as you visit some of the best sights Munich has to offer. Each tour is completely free, although most people do tip their guides at the end of the tour.
Your guide will share with you all of the weird and wonderful stories and myths that you would miss out on if you were exploring the city alone. From the story of Hitler’s rise to power, to tales of how the devil helped to build the seemingly windowless Frauenkirche, your guide will keep you enthralled for the entire tour.
Enjoy the show at the Munich Glockenspiel
Marienplatz, Munich’s central square, is home to the neo-Gothic Neues Rathous (New Town Hall) which was finished in 1908. Near the top of the tower is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel where you can watch the show for free at 11am and noon every day.
The top level of the Glockenspiel depicts a jousting match held in honor of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine, while the bottom level shows the Schäfflertanz, the coopers' dance, recreating the dance performed by the city’s coopers to cheer Munich’s citizens during a time of plague. The show lasts about 12-15 minutes and the end is signaled by the crowing of the golden rooster perched at the very top of the Glockenspiel.
Reflect on the past at Dachau
Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp, has been preserved as a haunting memorial to the hundreds of thousands of prisoners that suffered within its walls between 1933 and 1945. The site is an important reminder of Germany’s past and, as the setting for Hitler’s first political coup, Munich provides the perfect location to understand Germany’s descent into Nazism.
While Dachau is not a fun place to visit, it is an important place to visit. Amidst the despair and horror, you will uncover stories of compassion and courage that will remind you of the spark of hope and humanity that remains even in the darkest of circumstances.