Spring and summer are great times to visit Munich as the warmer and dryer weather mean you can take advantage of the many beer gardens and parks dotted around the city or even do a little river surfing in the Englischer Garten. September too sees floods of visitors arrive in the city for the annual Oktoberfest. But what about in the winter months?
The city definitely doesn’t quieten down in the colder months. If anything I’d say December is one of the busiest times of the year in Munich with the many Christmas markets, the Tollwood Festival and everyone partying away the festive season. It’s a great time to visit as there is little chance you’ll be bored and you can avoid the cooler weather by heading indoors to the city’s fine museums, art galleries and cafes.
Munich’s Christmas Markets
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.
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 at Tollwood.
Not far from the main train station you’ll find many of Munich’s most well-known museums and art galleries. These are conveniently located within a few minutes walk of each other in what’s known as the Museum Quarter.
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 its works by Rubens including 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 from the day I visited, Edvard Munch’s ‘Woman in Red Dress’.
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.
Shopping in Munich
Munich has always been one of my favourite places to go shopping in Germany and shopping can be one of the best things to do in Munich in winter when the weather turns bad.
You’ve got all the popular chain stores between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz, more upmarket shops at the Fünf Höfe shopping centre and window shopping only (at least for me) at Maximilianstraße.
Smaller and cheaper shops are found in Sendlinger Straße and Schwabing. One of my favourite shops for browsing is Manufactum which has an odd mix of gourmet food, clothing, office and gardening products. I don’t quite get it but it’s a fun place to walk around.
Eating Out in Munich
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 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 where you can get a just out of the fryer doughnuts. It’s a Munich institution and not to be missed. Basically, you order a hot doughnut that you dip in sugar that is provided at the table. You can have more or less sugar depending on your taste.
If you’re feeling particularly touristy you could always eat at the famous Hofbrauhaus beer garden but once was more than enough for me.
Where to Stay
I’ve stayed at a few different hotels in Munich but my current favourite is 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 a kitchen) so if you want to shop at Schrannenhalle and eat in your room you can. As a bonus, they have a free mini bar.
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 something new to see. Winter and December also mean Christmas and Munich has some of the best Christmas markets in Germany as well as the huge Tollwood Winter Festival.
What would you recommend doing in Munich if visiting during the winter months? Or would you prefer to visit a winter sun destination?