Spring and summer are great times to visit Munich as the warmer and dryer weather means you can enjoy the many beer gardens and parks dotted around the city or even do a little river surfing. September too sees floods of visitors arrive in the city for the annual Oktoberfest but what about in the winter months?
My three days in Munich last month were extremely hectic so the city definitely doesn’t quieten down in the colder months. If anything I’d say December is a very busy time with all the Christmas markets, the Tollwood Festival and everyone out Christmas shopping. It’s a great time to visit because there is no chance you’ll be bored and you can avoid the cooler weather by heading indoors to visit any of the many museums and art galleries.
Tollwood Winter Festival
The Tollwood Winter Festival is more than just a Christmas market. It has more of an international flavour and there is entertainment like circus acts and a special New Year’s celebration. There are themed tents depending on what you want to do and these are the best places to keep warm on a wintry day.
The main Christmas market in Marienplatz is a nice place to wander around but you might want to avoid visiting on the weekends when it can get very, very crowded. A better option would be to stick to the smaller markets which still have a lot to offer but you don’t have to worry about pushing your way through the crowds. I particularly liked the small market off Odeonsplatz and the medieval style Christmas market at Wittelsbacherplatz.
From Wittelsbacherplatz you could cross the road to enjoy coffee and cake at the historic Cafe Luitpold.
Not far from the main train station you’ll find many of Munich’s most well known museums and art galleries conveniently located within a few minutes walk of each other. For €12 you can get a day pass to the 3 Pinakotheken (Alte, Neue and Moderne) and the Museum Brandhorst.
The Alte Pinakothek (Old Masters Gallery) is particularly well known for it works by Rubens including the The Dying Seneca where philosopher Seneca is forced to commit ‘suicide’.
At the Neue Pinakothek (New Picture Gallery) there are a huge number of popular works by Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and my favourite that day, Woman in Red Dress by Edvard Munch.
I particularly liked the Pinakothek der Moderne (Modern Art Museum) for its design museum which includes computer design through the decades (Apple is well represented) and a great section on furniture and product design.
Munich has always been one of my favourite places to go shopping. You’ve got all the popular chain stores along pedestrian street Kaufinger Straße, more upmarket shops at Theatinerstraße and Fünf Höfe and window shopping only (for me) at Maximilianstraße. Smaller and cheaper shops are found in Sendlinger Straße and Schwabing. One of my favourite shops is Manufactum which has an odd mix of gourmet food, clothing, office and gardening products. I don’t quite get it but it’s fun to walk around.
Normally I would recommend going to Viktualienmarkt to pick up picnic supplies but obviously that’s not a good idea in the middle of winter. Instead, I’d suggest heading next door to the recently opened Schrannenhalle which is an indoor market where you can pick up gourmet food to go or sit and eat at the informal tables. This has quickly become one of my favourite foodie places in Munich.
Across from Schrannenhalle is one of my favourite cafes of all time, Cafe Frischhut. It’s a Munich institution and not to be missed.
There are a million other places to eat in Munich so I might have to go back just to research the best places to eat. If you’re feeling particularly touristy you could always eat at Hofbrauhaus but once was more than enough for me.
Where to Stay
On this trip to Munich I stayed at the Schiller5 Hotel. The location is perfect as it’s walking distance to the main train station, Marienplatz, the Tollwood Festival and the museum area. The hotel itself is very modern, spotlessly clean and with large apartment rooms (with kitchen) so if you want to shop at Schrannenhalle and eat in your room you can. Read my full review of Schiller5 here.
Munich in Winter
I don’t think there is ever a bad time to visit Munich. It’s a big city where there is always something going on and always something new to see. Hopefully this year will be the year I finally get to go to Oktoberfest but if not I will happily return any time.