Nuremberg, Germany is a super cute town (well, on the larger side for a “town”) in southern Germany, about an hour train ride from Munich. Dan and I, as well as our friends Tinh and LaKenya, visited Nuremberg for a fun Fall weekend before hitting Oktoberfest earlier this year. Nuremberg was pretty, interesting, and a convenient place to explore before diving into Oktoberfest!
As you probably know, the Hofbräuhaus is one of Munich’s (and one of Bavaria’s) most famous tourist destinations, especially for beer drinkers, and its name is recognized worldwide. In fact, it dates back to 1589, is one of Munich’s six breweries, and its now owned by the Bavarian state government. In my experience, the Hofbrähaus is a great place to visit as a tourist, especially for first-timers! I always take first-time Munich travelers to the Hofbräuhaus on one of the first nights!
I’ve come and gone through Munich’s train station a number of times over the years, and even stayed in the area out of convenience, and every single time I struggle to find a decent place to eat! Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of restaurants near Munich’s main train station, but most are of the fast food and budget quality. While this isn’t always the worst, I wanted to find a nice, non-budget restaurant near the train station for my trip to Oktoberfest this year (as I was staying nearby at the Aloft on points!). After lots and lots of searching, results steered me toward Geisel’s Vinotehk!
Just in time for Dan and my third Oktoberfest, here is my take on the greatest beerfest in all of the world! We will be there the second week and are also attending the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart! Prost!
The second stop on Eurotrip2014 was Munich, Germany (or München, in German) for Oktoberfest, and just because we love Munich! Munich is the capital and largest city in the State of Bavaria in the South of Germany. Munich (and the whole of Bavaria) has a very specific culture, and is very proud of that culture. Think beer, leiderhosen, pretzels – that’s Bavarian! This was my third trip to Munich, and I was very excited to hit a few places that have long been on my wish list, but that I had not previously had time to visit.
Visiting Munich during Oktoberfest is a beast in itself. Munich is extremely crowded and much of the city is focused on Oktoberfest – meaning some attractions will be closed all together, such as tours of the major Munich breweries, or on certain, unspecified days (to allow its employees to enjoy Oktoberfest with family & friends). Weekends are the most crowded. When we visited, we got stuck walking to our hotel for about an hour while the Costume and Rifleman’s Parade passed. It was cool to see, but very unexpected. Most attractions, aside from the brewery tours, will be open for most of Oktoberfest, so if you keep a flexible attitude you will be fine. Also, hotels book up extremely early (AT LEAST 6 months in advance). We booked our hotel in February. Be guided accordingly. You DO NOT want to be stuck at Oktoberfest without a place to stay! I also recommend confirming the opening hours of all must see attractions, tours, etc. before leaving home and buying transportation before arriving in Munich. Trains, planes and buses book up, too!
Enough warning, Munich is a great city anytime, and especially during Oktoberfest! Per usual, our first stop was the Hofbräuhaus for lunch and beer! Hofbräu is one of the large six breweries in Munich (along with Löwenbräu, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Paschor and Spaten), and certainly the most famous in the US. Dan is a big fan of the Hofbräuhaus because they have a lot of pork dishes that are not very expensive. Actually, none of the food at Hofbräu is very expensive – its a solid budget option.
We had planned to go shopping after lunch, but all of the shops were closed on Sunday (take note – all shops in Munich are closed on Sunday). Instead, we checked out another famous beer hall, Augusinerbräu, which is also one of the big six Munich breweries. This was my first visit to Augustiner and I really enjoyed it. Augustiner had an atmosphere similar to Hofbräu, but was decidely less touristy. We drank beers, listened to the band and made some new friends. After Augustiner, we went to bed to prepare for Oktoberfest!
Our other non-Oktoberfest day in Munich was dedicated to the city and its history. First up was one of my favorite places in Munich, the Viktualienmarkt. The Viktualienmarkt is a huge, open-air market in the center of Munich. Its open everyday and contains stalls selling crafts, food, wine, beer, candy, you name it. We shopped around for a bit and lunched on traditional Bavarian food & fancy focaccia sandwiches. The Viktualienmarkt is free to visit and it makes for great souvenir shopping and eating!
After lunch, we had a busy afternoon, two tours and the Residenz…ready, set, go! First up was Sandemans Free Walking Tour, which is a free, three hour tour of Munich that hits all the highlights, including Frauenkirche (inside & outside below, including the Devil’s footprint!), and gives a very decent historical overview. I did this tour on one other occasion and it was good both times. You can make reservations online. Also, you should tip your guides!! We tipped €10/person, but thats up to your discretion.
We left the tour after about an hour and a half to tour the Residenz Museum. The Residenz museum is the former palace of the wealthy Wittelsbach family, who ruled Munich for many, many years (huge influence!). There are many rooms and gardens to visit, and you could really spend hours here! We walked through the palace rooms, but regrettably did not see the Cuvilliés Theater or the Treasury. I guess that will have to wait to 2016! My favorite rooms were the Ancestral Gallery and the Antiquarium (below). I also enjoyed the outdoor gardens, which are free!
After rushing through the Residenz, we had a second tour at 5:00 with Mike’s Bike Tours (adjourned from Sunday due to rain…). The tour started at 5:00, lasted about 2.5 hours and visited a few places that I had been wanting to see, namely the Munich surfers and the English Garden. I had heard a lot about this tour, and was really excited to take it, but it was not that great and I do not think I would recommend it or take it again. The surfers were really cool, though!
Pryor loves bike tour guides…
We ended the evening at the Residenz Weinstube, as recommended by our Mike’s Bike Tour Guide. A good choice for inexpensive Bavarian fare!
Here are some final, favorite pictures of Munich. See you in 2016!
Note – this post only pertains to Munich during Oktoberfest – not the actual Oktoberfest. Stay tuned for my Oktoberfest post!
Have you been to Munich? What were your favorite things to do and eat? Any great day trips?