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Things to Do in Bavaria

With its roots in the sixth century, Bavaria is a mountainous land in the southeast of Germany rich in history and culture, where Oktoberfest—an annual festival featuring beer, sausage, and lederhosen—draws droves of revelers. The festival is held in Munich, the Bavarian capital, which boasts some of the finest architecture in Europe. But Bavaria is a vast area with much to offer outside Munich, from the walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber to King Ludwig II's unfinished island castle of Herrenchiemsee. With so much to see, tours that link several sights are often the best way to experience the region. Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle, can easily be combined with the villages of Oberammergau and Hohenschwangau on a day trip from Munich. Private tours take visitors into the Bavarian wilderness, from the high mountains to the deep lake of Berchtesgaden National Park and into the area’s dense forests, where a local guide is your best bet for exploring. For sports enthusiasts, the Bavarian Alps offer ski resorts that are cozier and less expensive than those in neighboring countries. And many visitors choose to see sights like Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site on a guided tour, which provides insight on a dark chapter in German history.
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Marienplatz
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Marienplatz serves as Munich's city center with a variety of historic town hall structures and shopping markets. At the center of the square, the Mariensaule, the column of St. Mary, exhibits a statue of the Virgin Mary and the "four putti" symbolizing the city's triumph over war, pestilence, famine, and heresy. Visitors flock to Marienplatz at 11 am, 12 noon, and 5 pm each day to watch the famous animated Glockenspiel (carillon) in the New Town Hall made of 43 bells and 32 figures. The best views of the show can be found on the top floor of the Hugendubel bookstore and the Cafe Glockenspeil.
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Hard Rock Cafe Munich
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Munich’s Hard Rock Café was the second to open in Germany, and the 3,000-square-foot space has hosting late night parties and live concerts with enough seating for hundreds of guests, plus plenty of standing room, since 2002.

The cafe mixes typical Bavarian elements with its modern decor and light installations. The Munich location has more than 150 exhibits on music history in its memorabilia collection, which features local artists, as well as international celebrities like Madonna and Freddie Mercury.

Along with classic American dishes like spare ribs and the famous Legendary Burgers, guests can also order dishes like the Hard Rock Pizza. Bavarian variations on certain dishes can also be found on the menu, such as in the Obatzda Burger, which is topped with Bavarian cream cheese. In addition to food, guests can enjoy a wide variety of cocktails.
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Beer and Oktoberfest Museum
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Housed in the oldest town house in Munich, the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum features permanent exhibitions on topics ranging from the history of beer to the Bavarian monks’ purity laws and the unique quality of Munich’s beer. As for the story of Oktoberfest, on the upper floor of the museum you’ll learn about its beginnings as a national festival for the 1810 wedding of King Luis to Princess Teresa, right through to today’s celebration — it’s the largest beer festival in the world attended by some 6 million people every year.

You’ll see photos and illustrations, exhibits of brewery and beer-related memorabilia, including original beer mugs from the early years of Oktoberfest. A 12-minute documentary on the evolution of Bavarian beer-making also plays in the small cinema. And as you make your way round the exhibits, check out the building’s original wooden beam and restored murals — they date all the way back to 1340.

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Odeonsplatz
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Located at the western entrance to the exquisite Hofgarten gardens, the Odeonsplatz is one of central Munich’s largest public squares, notable for its distinct Italian-style architecture. Taking its name from the 19th century Odeon Concert Hall that once stood at the head of the square (the remains of the building now form part of a government office block), the space still retains its creative streak, hosting a number of annual concerts, parades and city celebrations. At the top of the list is the Odeonsplatz Classical Evening, a grand open-air event held each July and drawing crowds of over 16,000 to watch performances by the prestigious Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and other world renowned classical acts.

Even if you don’t catch the square at its most atmospheric, the Odeonsplatz still offers a dramatic starting point to city walking tours.

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King's Square (Königsplatz)
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Königsplatz was initially built to serve the urban notions of King Ludwig I, who wished to integrate culture, administration, Christianity and Bavarian military in one massive green space. The king opted for a European Neoclassic style based on the Acropolis in Athens. He even had two museums built in the same style; first was the Glyptothek, where he could house his sprawling collection of Greek and Roman sculptures, and second, the Bavarian State Collection of Antiques, which contains Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts. King Ludwig I also commissioned the Propylaea, an imposing and austere gate which served as a memorial to his son, the Bavarian prince Otto of Greece.

Despite this architectural and urban prowess, the square is now infamous for being the place where the Nazi party held marches and mass rallies during the Holocaust. In fact, the national headquarters of the Nazi party, the Brown House, was located on Brienner Straße just off the square.

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Munich Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus)
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Enclosing Munich's central square Marienplatz, the Old Town Hall, Altes Rathaus in German, serves as the center for city council activity for the historic city. The Old Town Hall is also known for its architechture style change from Baroque to Gothic after the structure was bombed during World War II.

The interior is a masterpiece of medieval design with golden stairs, decorated beams, and a frieze of Munich's multiple coats of arms. The Grand Hall is decorated with the figures of Erasmus Grasser's Marisco Dancers. The tower of the Old Town Hall is now home to the Toy museum, a childhood collection by Ivan Steiger.

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Theresienwiese
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Oktoberfest is possibly the world’s most famous beer festival, taking place in fall in Munich, Germany. Around one million partygoers pour into the city between mid-September and the first Sunday in October for 2.5 weeks of serious carousing and drinking; the epicenter of the merrymaking is Theresienwiese (‘Wiesn’ for short) festival ground just to the west of the Altstadt (Old Town). Here local Bavarian breweries sponsor 14 gaily decorated tents – each accommodating up to 6,000 beery revelers – with their own theme and local beer to sample in one-liter (2.2-pint) glass steins. As the hours pass by, the vibe ramps up and singing and dancing become the order of the day.

But Oktoberfest is not just for drinkers; there are fairgrounds for kids, costumed parades through the streets, an abundance of Bavarian folk costumes – dirndl skirts and leather shorts – to be admired, brass-band concerts and horse-and-trap rides.

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House of the Arts (Haus der Kunst)
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The House of the Arts, or Haus der Kunst in German, is an art museum in Munich that was originally founded by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1937. It originally housed Hitler's vision of what great German art was, and the exhibits were folk art displaying Nazi ideals. The museum's purpose has changed several times since the end of World War II, but since 2003 the museum has been dedicated almost exclusively to contemporary art. The Archive Gallery, the museum's permanent exhibition, displays art, photography, and other items that explore the museum's turbulent history.

Other exhibitions in the museum come from contemporary artists whose works include painting, drawing, photography, video, installations and more. Aside from the exhibitions, the museum also focuses on education and research. The House of the Arts holds special events, kids' and youth programs, and tours.

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Munich Residence (Residenz München)
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The former royal palace of the Bavarian monarch, the Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is open to visitors to see its spectacularly adorned rooms and royal collections. The complex of buildings in the Munich Residenz contains 10 courtyards and the museum displays 130 rooms. The three main parts of the Residenz are the Königsbau, the Alte Residenz, and the Festsaalbau, which is also home to the Cuvillies Theatre.

Get a feel for palace life in the Residenz museum which features the collections of porcelain, silver, paintings, and classical antiquities amassed by the Wittelsbach monarchs. The Antiquarium's Renaissance collections is especially breath-taking. Step outside the elaborately decorated rooms to the beautiful Court Garden or check out the Treasury (Schatzkammer) for a display of the royal jewels, gold objects, and ivory.

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Hofgarten
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The former court garden of the Residenz Palace, Munich’s Hofgarten was originally laid out in 1613, characterized by its mulberry tree-lined walkways, ornamental fountains and fruit orchard. A large portion of the formal gardens were restored or redesigned post-WWII, but the central pavilion survived, a domed temple designed by Heinrich Schön the Elder in 1615 and topped with a bronze figure of Tellus Bavarica, the symbol of Bavaria.

Today, the Hofgarten remains one of the city’s most tranquil spots, providing welcome respite from the sightseeing trail and making a popular picnic spot for both locals and tourists. Flanked by 19th century arched arcades, the garden retains much of its Italian Renaissance style, with colorful flowerbeds, manicured lawns and painstakingly restored water features.

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More Things to Do in Bavaria

English Garden (Englischer Garten)

English Garden (Englischer Garten)

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The Englischer Garten, German for "English Garden", is one of the world's largest urban parks - even larger than New York's Central Park. Named for the English style of landscape gardening, the park is popular with locals and visitors alike who come to lounge on the meadow grass, cycle the winding paths, or even surf the man-made waterfall created by a bridge over the Eisbach stream on Prinzregent Strasse. The English weren't the only ones to have an influence in Munich's park, the Japanese Teahouse and Chinese Tower are also popular attractions in the Englischer Garten. Have a bratwurst and a beer at the Biergarten at the foot of the Chinese Tower while listening to traditional German music played by men in Liederhosen. There is another Biergarten located in the park, Seehaus, where you can also rent a paddle boat and take a spin around the lake on warmer days.
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Eisbach Wave (Eisbachwelle)

Eisbach Wave (Eisbachwelle)

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When thinking of places to go surfing, Germany's landlocked city of Munich is probably not the first to come to mind. But interestingly enough, surfers have been riding the waves in the city's Isar River since the 1970s.

A man-made arm of the Isar, the Eisbach (German for 'ice brook') flows for 1.25 miles (2 km) through a large city park known as the English Garden (Englischer Garten). Just past the bridge near the House of the Arts (Haus der Kunst) art museum, the Eisbach forms a standing wave of over three feet (1 meter). Surfers have rigged the wave by building a system of ropes and planks to channel it into something so surfable, it's home to an annual surfing competition and has hosted world-class surf legends such as Kelly Slater and Jack Johnson. Travelers visiting in summer can see surfers queued up waiting patiently for their turn to shred.

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Field Marshals' Hall (Feldherrnhalle)

Field Marshals' Hall (Feldherrnhalle)

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Feldherrnhalle, or Field Marshals' Hall, is a monument in Munich that was built between 1841 and 1844. It was built in an Italian style and modeled after the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. It is located on Odeonsplatz at the former site of one of the city's main gates, Schwabinger Tor. The monument was built as a tribute to the Bavarian army that fought in the Franco-Prussian War and features bronze statues of some of the most important generals of Bavaria. In addition there are two lions on the steps. One is growling towards the Residenz Palace, the other is keeping its mouth shut towards the church.

In 1923, Hitler supporters began an illegal march down Ludwigstrasse towards Feldherrnhalle to start a people's revolution against the Bavarian state. Police ordered them to stop, and when they did not, the police opened fire killing 16 marchers as well as four police officers. Hitler was arrested and served a short term in prison.

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Deutsches Museum

Deutsches Museum

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Munich’s gigantic Deutsches Museum is the kind of museum that begs for multiple visits and as one of the world’s largest science and technology museums, you could easily spend an entire weekend taking in its vast permanent collection. Opening its doors in 1925, the museum sits on a specially constructed river island, reached by bridge from the mainland.

Famous for its interactive exhibitions, inventive displays and impressive collection of artifacts, the Deutsches Museum succeeds in its quest to make science fun and accessible to all ages and interests. Exhibitions cover topics like transport, communication, energy and natural science, with interactive elements including a series of giant musical instruments to play, model coal and salt mines, glass-blowing and paper-making demonstrations and an authentic space laboratory. There’s even a Kid’s Kingdom, where a child-sized mouse wheel and a real fire engine will keep the kids entertained.

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Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady (Frauenkirche)

Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady (Frauenkirche)

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Which landmark particularly stands out in Munich's skyline? That would be the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady or Frauenkirche, the church featuring two onion-shaped domes on top of twin towers that reach 99 meters (325 feet). But it's not just the church's architecture that makes it stand out, by law no other tower can be taller or obstruct the view of this symbolic Bavarian building.

Near the entrance of the catherdal is the famous "devil's footprint". According to legend, the devil stomped his foot at this spot when he thought the architect had forgotten to put any windows in the church, before realizing the illusion. Enjoy panoramic views from the south tower and the art of Erasmus Grasser, Jan Polack, and Hans Krumpper that decorate the interior of Frauenkirche.

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Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds

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The site of six of Hitler’s infamous Nazi Party rallies sits southeast of Nuremberg city center, a vast tract of land covering 4.2 square miles (11 square kilometers) lying virtually untended a short, lakeside walk from the Nazi Documentation Center. The massive parade grounds and mammoth Modernist stadium, with its central focus on the stern, austere Zeppelin Grandstand, are slowly crumbling into dilapidation, and the German government is torn between knocking them down or preserving them as a reminder of the horrors of the Third Reich.

Built by Nazi architect Albert Speer in 1933, the stadium was designed as a “cathedral of light” with floodlight reaching up to the sky. It became a backdrop for some of Adolf Hitler’s most notorious speeches, when millions of Hitler youth and Nazi sympathizers attended his political rallies and were whipped into a frenzy of hatred against the Jews, leading to the passing of the notorious Nuremberg Laws and ultimately to the Holocaust.
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Imperial Castle of Nuremberg (Kaiserburg)

Imperial Castle of Nuremberg (Kaiserburg)

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Towering over the Altstadt (Old Town) north of the River Pegnitz, Nuremberg Castle was once the most important in Germany, as it was the seat of the Holy Roman Emperors who virtually ruled over Europe for hundreds of years from medieval times. Begun in 1120, the castle has been extended, abandoned, remodeled and blown to pieces over the centuries before being completely restored to its original Romanesque and Gothic grandeur following Allied bombing in World War II.

The castle complex straddles the top of a low hill and resembles a small city behind its fortified walls, comprising several separate half-timbered palaces, towers, stables, chapels, underground cellars and courtyards all built of mellow sandstone and topped with red brick tiles. Of these, the Romanesque chapel and Imperial Apartments should be visited first as they are ornately decorated and contain a permanent exhibition on the Holy Roman Empire.

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Old Stone Bridge

Old Stone Bridge

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Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt)

Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt)

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Where can you find the best gourmet Bavarian delights? Munich's Victuals Market, Viktualienmarkt in German, is the place to find exotic fruits, fresh vegetables, artisan cheeses, delicious hams, honey, and truffles.

Many of the market stalls in the Viktualienmarkt have been family-run for generations, and although the gourmet food featured here also means gourmet prices, you would be hard pressed to find better quality culinary delicacies. While in Munich, the Viktualienmarkt is the best place to shop for delicious Bavarian food to make for a picnic lunch at a nearby park.

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Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg)

Nymphenburg Palace (Schloss Nymphenburg)

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Built as a summer residence for Bavarian kings, the Nymphenburg Palace, or Schloss Nymphenburg, is a magnificent structure artistically shaped by the various Electors over its history. Exhibiting both baroque and rococo styles, the rooms are decorated with fantastic frescos and tapestries. The Gallery of Beauties is lined with portraits of 38 local women Ludwig I found pleasing, and the court stables exhibit ancient carriages in the Marstallmuseum including the Paris Coronation Coach of Emperor Charles VII. There is also a legendary porcelain factory that creates handcrafted products of the highest quality.
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Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper)

Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper)

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The Bavarian State Opera is one of the world’s leading opera houses, with over 400 performances and 600,000 visitors yearly. Its history spans over three centuries and helped shape Munich as we know it today, a culture-savvy metropolis with unparalleled elegance and flair. Thanks to a controversial yet deep friendship with King Ludwig II, Richard Wagner himself premiered many of his music dramas (including The Valkyrie, The Master-Singers of Nuremberg, The Fairies, The Rhinegold, and Tristan and Isolde) at the Bavarian State Opera, which at the time – and arguably still is to this day – was considered the limelight of music in Europe. Nowadays, over 30 different operas, recitals, ballets, and concerts are staged every season in the splendid original Rococo Cuvilliés-Theater, the largest of its kind in Germany and perhaps the most spectacular in all of Europe. This is also where the Munich Opera Festival, the most important and acclaimed opera festival in the world, takes places.

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Old Pinakothek (Alte Pinakothek)

Old Pinakothek (Alte Pinakothek)

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An art museum in the Kunstareal district, the Old Pinakothek, or Alte Pinakothek, is one of the oldest galleries in the world. It houses famous collections of the old master paintings from the 14th through 18th centuries. More then 800 works from the premier European painters, German, Italian, and Dutch alike, are all on display in the galleries. One gallery was specifically designed to showcase Rubens's masterpiece, Last Judgment - one of the largest canvases ever painted.

Explore the development of painting from the Middle Ages to the Rococo era, compare artistic styles, or simply admire the masterpieces at the Alte Pinakothek. This museum boasts quite an impressive list of artists under its roof, from Dürer to Raphael, Botticelli to Titian, and Rembrandt to Velasquez, the Alte Pinakothek could have an art history book devoted entirely to its vast collection.

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Allianz Arena

Allianz Arena

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Home to the city’s two leading football teams, FC Bayern and TSV 1860, Munich’s Allianz Arena is one of Germany’s largest and most iconic sports stadiums. The award winning building, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, was created as a vision of the future and its unique appearance has been likened to a giant inflatable boat or a huge white car tire. Most spectacular is its extraordinary façade, crafted from illuminated air cushions that change color to reflect the team in residence and create a striking visual in the night sky.

The 66,000-seat stadium opened in 2005 and quickly earned itself acclaim within the international football community, hosting events like the 2006 World Cup Opening Ceremony, the 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-finals and the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. As well as attending home games and international matches at the stadium, fans can also tour the arena, gaining access to the dressing rooms and Players’ tunnel.

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