The following is a guest post by Varsha from Varshastravel360 who is a family travel blogger based in Munich. She likes to explore nature destinations and historic sites.
Munich is a cosmopolitan German city in an ideal geographical location. It’s well-known for the annual Oktoberfest celebration that takes place and the peak season to visit is during summer and this period. However, don’t write off visiting Munich in winter!
It is only about 1 hour from Austria and about 2 hours from Swiss and Czech Republic borders. Being the capital of the Bavarian state of Germany, there are lots of cultural and historical things to do. At the same time, the city has the number one Technical University in Europe and is a hub for modern auto industry. In short, Munich is a perfect place for all types of travellers with lots of things to do, even during the quieter winter season.
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Munich in winter
As Munich is located on the planes at the base of German Alps, the winters here can be chilly and cold with considerable snowfall. If you’re looking for a white Christmas, then this is the place to be! Temperatures can be in the range of -8 to 0 degrees but sometimes it can reach around -18 degrees. Make sure you pack for winter with plenty of warm clothes and layers!
The winter days are short with mostly grey skies and only a few hours of sunshine. One can experience intermittent chilling winds as well. Having said all of that, Munich in winter is still enjoyable even in such adverse conditions.
How to get to Munich and get around
Munich is well connected with other cities within Germany by high-speed trains, bus, and Autobahn (highway). It also has a good international flight and train connectivity. You can easily reach Munich from USA, Africa, Asia, and various European cities. Frankfurt and Zurich are other nearby international airports which can be reached on Germany’high-speeded ICE train in about 2.5 hours.
Travelling around Munich is quite convenient due to well planned public transport. There are frequent metro, local trains, buses, and trams. If required, there are taxis also which are safe to ride in for solo female travellers also. If you want to bring your own car, make sure your hotel has parking available and note that diesel vehicles are banned in the city centre.
What to do in Munich in winter
Most people prefer to travel to Europe during the summer, however, there are many reasons to visit Europe in the offseason. The key is to be prepared for the weather as it can be cold and at times dull. Fortunately, Munich has a lot of options to cheer up your visit and travelling to Munich in winter means you get to enjoy some specific things like the Christmas markets. There are both outdoor and indoor activities to keep you entertained during your stay.
Visit the Museums in Munich
Munich has some fantastic quality museums that are worth visiting, and mean you can spend some time indoors. The Deutsch Museum, Bavaria Museum, BMW World and Museum are the most popular. There is also the unique toy museum that you don’t need to be a child to enjoy! All of the museums in Munich are well connected by public transport and can be a good option for warming up during the winter months.
Ride the Christmas tram
Do you want to explore the city during the festive season but you’re not keen on walking around? An old style Christmas Tram is the best way to explore the Christmas decorations and markets. This circular tram route starts and ends at Sendlinger Tor. You can enjoy the ride with festive music and a glass of ‘Gluhwein’, of course.
Browse the Christmas Markets
From about one month before 25th December, the Christmas markets in Munich begin at various places around the city. Some of these markets are historical and have typical wooden hut-like shops selling wooden crafts, decorations, traditional food, and drink. Must-visit markets include the Medieval style Christmas market at Odeonsplatz, Theresienwiese market, and the one at Karlsplatz.
Treat yourself at a Spa
Winter is the perfect time to pamper your body in hot water baths and with aromatic oil massages. Various baths in Munich offer mineral water thermal indoor baths and sauna experiences. It can be a perfect option for couples to relax and spend some time together during a trip to Munich in winter.
Enjoy the English Garden
This large park in the middle of the city is blanketed in snow during winter in Munich. Many families head there to go sledding, or you can visit the small beer garden or Japanese Teahouse. It’s also where you’ll find the Isar river where people go surfing all year round on the waves. Yes, seriously!
Ice-skating is such a fun activity to do during winter time. You can enjoy ice-skating right in the city centre of Munich at Karlsplatz. For almost the entire winter season an ice-skating ring is available for public use. From children to elderly people, everyone gathers here! If you come here during Christmas markets, you can spot Santas skating too.
Explore Nymphenburger Palace
During winter the gardens are not open for viewing, although you can still visit the Palace of course. The canal is frozen and transforms into a popular outdoor sports area for skating, skiing, and sledding.
Visit the Zoo
Hellabrunn Zoo is well maintained and can be a fun experience for families. Children enjoy visiting the aquarium and the play area in the zoo. One can spend about half to full day in here.
The Marienplatz area (around the Town hall) hosts all sorts of shopping. Galeria Kaufhof is a large department store selling a variety of products like clothes, kitchen utensils, home furnishings and you can find all the usual European clothing shops too. It’s also the location of the biggest Christmas market. Go at 11 am to watch the Glockenspiel, and you can also enjoy views over Munich from the New Townhall’s tower.
What to eat in Munich
Being a cosmopolitan city you can find all different cuisines around the world in Munich — Chinese, Thai, Mexican, English, Mediterranean etc. Apart from these, during winter time, you can get to taste some special dishes which are otherwise not easily available.
During winter, you’ll find lots of stalls around the city selling roasted chestnuts, caramelised almonds, and other nuts and chocolate coated fruits.
The popular winter specialties include various types of meatballs, potato pancakes, Maultaschen (large ravioli with different fillings), Kaesespatzle (tiny noodles with cheese).
If you missed the famous October beer festival, no worry! Munich has a number of well-known breweries and beer halls which are open all year round.
People like to gather at such brewhouses with friends and family to enjoy specialty beers, local food and to chit-chat. For travellers looking for social and local experiences, brewhouses are the best place.
As well as beer there is, of course, the seasonal specialty, Gluhwein. It is warm wine spiced up with things like clove and cinnamon.
If you don’t drink alcohol, there are numerous cafes with various themes to satisfy different tastes. Europe’s cafe culture is popular and winter is no exception!
Day trips from Munich in winter
During an extended trip to Munich in winter, one can visit the nearby destinations.
This fairytale castle is the most famous site in Germany. You can reach it in about 2-3 hours from Munich so it makes a popular day trip year round. The castle is indeed worth the visit but the surrounding views from there are also amazing.
Note: Start early from Munich to avoid rushing and a long waiting time.
Nuremberg is a small town situated about 2 hours from Munich. If you come here around Christmas, the medieval markets are a must visit. Apart from this, there is a castle and a zoo as well.
These twin cities are popular for having Germany’s highest peak – Zugspitze. You can enjoy winter sports there or just appreciate the mesmerising views from the top. The twin towns have a very typical Bavarian feel with dark brown wooden buildings in the town are surrounded by snow-covered high rising mountains. Garmisch-Partenkichen gives a taste of culture and nature paradise.
Like the Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the Berchtesgaden area is a popular scenic destination. Koenigssee and the surrounding mountains remind us of Norway’s fjords. Enjoy the breathtaking views on a boat tour or walk along various nature trails. Just check winter availability!
Located only about 15 min or so from Koenigssee are salt mines, where you can take a guided tour through an amazing underground tunnel system.
Munich is surrounded by rolling hills which offer perfect skiing spots for families with children. If you are already good at skiing, head straight towards German Alps like Zugspitze, Berchtesgaden area or in the Bavarian forests. At all skiing slopes, you will find well-maintained resorts with all required facilities.
Where to stay in Munich
Munich is a big city with lots of accommodation options in the city centre and in the suburbs. The neighbourhoods are safe and well connected to the city centre by public transport.
To save on travel time, I would suggest you stay near the main train station, the Schwabing area or the Maxvorstadt area. These areas have lots of hotels to choose from, multi-cuisine restaurants and utility shops, but they are more middle-range to expensive places to stay. Check out some of the other nearby suburbs if you’re on a budget.
Munich is the most expensive city in Germany and the cost of living is more than many other European destinations, which can make accommodation a large part of your budget. But at the same time, Munich is a safe and clean city with a quality lifestyle. It is a balanced mixture of old and new with something for everyone.
There’s no getting away from the fact that visiting Munich in winter means it will be cold and likely snowy. However, it’s still an exciting city in wintertime and has some beautiful sights to see. Pack for the weather and you’ll have an amazing time exploring Munich in the offseason!
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