Spring and summer are great times to visit Munich. The warmer weather means you can take advantage of the city’s many beer gardens, picnic in pretty parks, or even do a little river surfing in the Englischer Garten. September also sees floods of visitors arrive for the annual Oktoberfest.
But what about Munich in December and during the winter months?
Munich in December
Munich is not one of those cities that closes down in the colder months. If anything, I’d say December is one of the busiest times of the year in Munich.
The festive season brings a unique energy to the city, which is reflected in the bustling streets and busy shops.
Every Munich neighbourhood has its own Christmas market, and there are many worth visiting in the city centre.
These markets are often more than just shopping venues; they become social hubs where people gather to enjoy hot drinks and seasonal snacks. Particularly after work and on the weekends.
This includes the fun Tollwood Winter Festival, one of the most popular winter events taking place in winter at the huge Theresienwiese showgrounds. This is also where the annual Oktoberfest is held.
Tollwood is distinct from the Christmas markets, being an eclectic mix of art, culture, and international cuisine.
It gives an alternative way to celebrate the season, attracting a diverse crowd looking to experience something a bit different. Tollwood runs for all of December.
Things to do in Munich in Winter
Although January and February can be very cold and wet, there are still many things to do in Munich at this time of year.
After visiting Munich several times over the years, I think this list of things to do in Munich should keep you busy for at least a few days.
If this is your first time in Munich, you might like to take a walking tour to give you an overview of the city and its history and culture.
This is the most popular walking tour in Munich that is run by a local tour company.
1. Munich Christmas Market
If you’re visiting Munich in December, I suggest visiting the Christmas markets as an introduction to the city. Get yourself a mulled wine, enjoy the festive atmosphere and take your time planning the rest of your stay.
The main Christmas market in Marienplatz is a stunning place to wander around. It’s the most lively and busiest of the Christmas markets, and it’s well worth visiting.
You can find handmade crafts and gifts, Christmas decorations, toys and all the classic Christmas foods.
If you’re crowd-averse, then you might prefer to visit one of the smaller Christmas markets. These still have much to offer but are considerably calmer, particularly if you visit first thing upon opening and during the week.
I particularly liked the small market off Odeonsplatz and the medieval-style Christmas market at Wittelsbacherplatz.
After the Wittelsbacherplatz Medieval Christmas market, you could cross the road to enjoy coffee and cake at the historic Cafe Luitpold. Order from the huge display of small cakes or pick up some handmade chocolates.
Cafe Luitpold has a cultural calendar full of interesting events centred around music, philosophy and writers. It’s advertised in German, but anyone can go.
If you want to take part, I suggest emailing them ahead of time to see what might be suitable for English speakers (unless you speak German, of course).
2. Tollwood Winter Festival
The Tollwood Winter Festival is more than just a Christmas market. It has some quirky stalls and events and an international flavour.
Entertainment includes circus acts, live music and a special New Year’s celebration. Themed tents direct you towards your interests, so I suggest reading up before you go and plan what you want to do.
Tollwood is a mix of indoor and outdoor events. Stay warm in the tents or head out to the open-air music shows.
Sustainability is key at Tollwood, so if you’re looking for lower-impact winter events, this is the best place to go in Munich.
3. Museum Quarter
You’ll find many of Munich’s most well-known museums and art galleries near the main train station. These are conveniently located within a few minutes of each other in what’s known as the Museum Quarter.
For €12 you can get a day pass that enables you to visit Munich’s Pinakotheken. The day pass includes access to the Alte Pinakothek, Pinakothek der Moderne, Museum Brandhorst and Sammlung Schack.
There’s also a 5-day pass if you think you’ll want to spend a lot of time here. Both of these passes are only available at the museum.
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 exhibition. This includes computer design through the decades (Apple is well-represented) and an excellent furniture and product design section.
You’ll also find the Museum Brandhorst in this area. This is another modern museum and gallery that houses more than 1,200 works from 1950 until today.
4. Munich Residenz
The Residenz is the historic seat of government in Bavaria. It might not be obvious from the exterior, but inside is an incredibly opulent palace.
Much of the Residenz was carefully reconstructed after the war; today, it’s the most important museum complex in Munich and all of Germany. Don’t miss this.
If you’re particularly interested in history, this historic walking tour is a great opportunity to learn about the Third Reich and WWII in Munich.
5. 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 when the weather turns bad in winter.
You’ve got all the popular chain stores between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz, more upmarket shops at the famous Fünf Höfe shopping centre and window shopping only (at least for me) along Maximilianstraße.
Smaller independent stores 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 the connection, but it’s a fun place to walk around or pick up some holiday gifts.
6. Eating Out in Munich
Normally, I would recommend going to Viktualienmarkt to pick up park picnic supplies, but obviously, that’s not the best idea in the middle of winter.
Unless of course, you want to have a picnic in your hotel room, which is actually a great idea and something I often do when travelling.
In Germany, they have a thing called abendbrot, which literally translates to evening bread. It’s when you make a simple dinner with sliced cheese, pickles and some kind of spread on bread.
It’s an easy, delicious and budget-friendly meal, and I do recommend making a trip to the famous Viktualienmarkt to get supplies for an evening when you don’t feel like eating out.
There’s also an Eately next door if you can’t find everything you need at the market.
Taking a food tour in Munich is a great way to experience some incredible Bavarian food while learning about the city. This particular tour takes you through all the great stalls at the market.
Across from Viktualienmarkt is one of my favourite cafes of all time, Cafe Frischhut, where you can get a just-out-of-the-fryer doughnuts called schmalznudel. It’s a Munich institution and not to be missed.
How it works is you sit down, order the doughnut of your choice and wait 3 minutes for it to be cooked and served. You then dip it in the sugar provided at the table. You can have more or less sugar depending on your taste. Whatever way you like it, it’s delicious.
You could always eat at the famous Hofbrauhaus beer garden if you’re feeling particularly touristy. It’s an absolutely classic Bavarian experience.
I highly recommended going there at least once, just for the fun of it.
Where to Stay in Munich
I’ve stayed at several hotels in Munich, and there are many great places to choose from.
In winter in Munich, I recommend staying at DO & CO Hotel for its central location around the corner from Marienplatz and the Christmas market.
There are more affordable hotels, but these are generally near the main train station. There’s nothing wrong with this area; in fact, I would normally recommend the Schiller5 Hotel near the train station, but in winter, it can be a bit cold to walk the 15 minutes to Marienplatz.
This list of boutique hotels in Munich has more places to stay in both the Old Town and near the train station.
Those are my tips for things to do in Munich. If you’re on an extended visit, you might like to take a Bavaria road trip to explore more of the region.
Responsible Travel Tips
Here are a few ways to travel sustainably or with a lower impact while in Munich:
Stay in a hotel that uses renewable energy: Look for a hotel that uses renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to reduce its carbon footprint. This is currently difficult to find in Munich, but hopefully, there will be more options in the future.
Minimise food waste: When eating out or shopping for a picnic, try only to buy what you need and can consume. This can help reduce waste and the associated greenhouse gas emissions from food production and transportation. Trying all the wonderful Bavarian food can be tempting, but it helps to keep food waste in mind when ordering.
Take public transportation: Munich has an extensive network of public transportation options, including the metro, bus and tram. These options are often more sustainable than driving or taking a taxi because they use less energy and produce fewer emissions.
Rent a bike: Munich is a bike-friendly city with dedicated bike lanes and plenty of places to rent a bike. Your hotel might have a bike available for free. Biking is a great way to get around the city, and it’s also good for the environment. If the weather permits, consider travelling by bike.
Support local businesses: Choose to eat at locally-owned restaurants and shop at local stores to support the local economy and reduce the environmental impact of transportation. This is fairly easy to do in Munich as they have so many incredible independent restaurants and shops. Try some places that I’ve mentioned here.
Support the arts: If you’re looking for indoor activities to stay warm in Munich’s harsh winter, go to a music concert, see an art exhibition or see a show at a small theatre.
Use local guides: Consider using local guides and tour companies for tours and activities. Local guides often have in-depth knowledge of the area and can provide unique insights into the culture and history of the region. Supporting local guides supports the local economy. I’ve mentioned several excellent tours here.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Munich, Germany. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.