Germany’s third biggest city after Berlin and Hamburg, and the capital of the country’s largest and most populous state, Bavaria, Munich is the city of beer, Tracht (Lederhosen and Dirndls), and football, as well as the annual world-famous two-point-five weeks of chaos, Oktoberfest.
Living just a couple of kilometres from the Bavarian/Austrian border, and Munich being only 2 hours away by train (1.5 if you go for the more expensive option!), I’ve popped to the city a few times before; for the aforementioned Oktobermadness, a day trip with a friend, and to fly from the airport. However, I must admit, I haven’t really been a tourist in Munich before; living so close I probably take advantage of it.
So when my friend Hanna was researching coming to visit me, and flights to Munich were turning out to be considerably cheaper, which is often the case, we decided to make an occasion of it. Once again, Austria had a Thursday day off work, another Catholic holiday, so all the more reason to make the most of this Munich jaunt!
Rail travel within Bavaria:
Salzburg counts as a German train station, despite being in Austria, so the Bayern ticket system extends this far.
This is basically a ticket that allows unlimited access to regional trains, as well as inner-city public transport, on one day; it’s €23 for one person, €27 for two, and the price increases to include up to 5 travellers, provided they travel together and manage to figure out which trains they can and can’t take!
It’s a fabulous, efficient service if you get it right, especially as Bavaria is a huge state and extends halfway to Berlin. Each German state has a similar system.
I let Hanna take the lead on this one (I’m normally more stubborn!), and she went with The 4You Hostel right near the main HBF station, which turned out to be a strong choice! We paid around €15 a night for beds in an 8-bed dorm, a simple breakfast buffet included, and found the place to be very clean, safe and friendly. It’s a pretty big hostel and there’s a bar too (showing the World Cup, thank god!), so a social and international atmosphere. Free Wi-Fi too – always nice.
The location suited us really well, with great access to local and regional transport, though some may prefer to be a little more in the cultural centre – Marienplatz was a 15 minute walk or so away. There was a great bar around the corner, recommended to us by the guy on reception (see below!)
We were faced with a classic hostel problem though, one I’d never had such an issue with before, but this was extreme. As funny as it sounds now, a heavy snorer in your dorm is not ideal! I felt sorry for the guy, really, because his English wasn’t great, and he was woken up a couple of times by the least patient of the dormers, though all he would do is apologise, go back to sleep, and continue snoring as before, hideously loudly. It was a pretty unpleasant situation, so I’ll be sure to always take earplugs with me in future. Basics really, but now I’ve learnt my lesson.
We didn’t have long in Munich, so we were good tourists and decided to eschew the heavy night out, instead getting an early start and going on a free walking tour, the New Munich Tour, offered by SANDEMANs, who also run paying tours to concentration camp Dachau and the princess castle Schloss Neuschwanstein. I’ve done a ton of these free tours before and have never had a bad experience; the philosophy of tipping after the tour, based on how much you enjoyed it, rather than before, when you don’t know what to expect, is definitely one that sits well with me.
Our guide was India from New York, and the tour focused a lot on the old German monarchy and Nazi history, Munich being a significant location on both of these fronts. And I really enjoyed it, finding the whole thing really interesting! The sights are all pretty close together as well, so it’s not all that tiring, though there is a lot of standing around in the sun. And I’m not going to complain!
So there’s my big Munich recommendation #1!
#2 would have to be the surf wave in the English Gardens. Absolute missions from the coast, this is weirdly one of the finest river surfing locations in Europe; it’s a standing wave, and I have no idea about the physics of it all, but it makes for great viewing.
Aside from that, the English Gardens is a beautiful urban park, definitely worth a visit.
#3 is my single food/drink recommendation; Cafe Kosmos, just around the corner from the hostel. Customers were spilling out onto the street when we visited, and at €1.60 a beer, it’s no surprise!
And there we have it! I’ve done Munich now.