It’s not always about the Frauenkirche, Englischer Garten or Nymphenburg Palace. Here are ten alternative attractions that are real hidden gems.
Also in the Altstadt, but not nearly as well known: while the Asamkirche in Sendlinger Strasse is beloved as a tourist favourite among Munich’s churches, the Dreifaltigkeitskirche on Promenadenplatz doesn’t have much of a spot in the limelight – even though it is a few years older than its celebrated counterpart and was actually the city’s first Late Baroque church. The Asam brothers were involved in the building of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche as well, completing the frescoes on its cupola. Another special thing about the building is that it was the only church in Munich’s city centre to survive the destruction of the Second World War.
The palace complex in Schleissheim is no less beautiful than Nymphenburg Palace, but it attracts significantly fewer visitors. The two palaces even look a little similar at first glance, though Nymphenburg Palace park was modelled on Versailles, while Schleissheim was designed in the Italian villa architectural style. Lustheim Palace and the Altes Schloss (Old Palace) in particular instantly transport the observer to Italy. In Schleissheim’s extensive park you can wander endlessly and without interruption, with opportunities to visit the various pavilions and palace buildings before enjoying the delights of the Schlosscafé Oberschleißheim or the Café zum Schloss. The park complex remains one of the most outstanding European Baroque gardens to this day.
Beautiful summer days and peaceful Sundays invariably draw Munich locals to the Isar river – and it can be tricky to find a quiet spot for yourself in this popular area. If you long for a quiet dip when the weather is hot, you should head to the Würm instead. It flows through the city just as the Isar does, but has its source at Starnberger See lake – meaning that the water is excellent for bathing. The best spots to jump in and go with the flow are at Pasing, Gauting and Stockdorf. If you prefer a little more infrastructure at your bathing sites, head to Wellenbad Planegg or Sommerbad Gauting instead. There are also many fabulous walks along the banks of the Würm – for example at Blutenburg Palace or one of the routes through the city park at Pasing.
Munich’s Englischer Garten – the largest and probably also the greenest park complex in the world – is popular with locals and visitors alike. Even with its generous proportions it can sometimes get a little crowded there, especially between the Chinesischer Turm, Monopteros and the Eisbachwelle river wave. If you need something a little more peaceful, you will find sanctuary in the Westpark in Munich’s Sendling district. You can relax in one of the park’s two beautiful beer gardens, enjoy a wonderful walk, lie in the grass and even have a barbecue at one of the designated spots. The park’s east Asian gardens, which include the Thai Sala pavilion, Nepalese pagoda and a Japanese garden, are another highlight. Or you might simply sit in the colourful beer garden at Café Gans am Wasser and indulge in a spritzer on the banks of Mollsee lake!
The Viktualienmarkt food market is part of Munich in the same way that grabbing a Fischsemmel from Fisch Witte is part of any local’s Saturday afternoon routine. Munich’s largest food market is the place to go for tasting, shopping, gossiping and beer gardening, and it is particularly busy at the weekend. To experience the Munich market atmosphere without the crowds, you would be better advised to get your Fischsemmel at the market at Wiener Platz – a mini Viktualienmarkt, as it were. This market is much more tranquil, with less hustle and bustle; and you can get your beer gardening done here too, as the Hofbräukeller is right beside it. Locals also do their shopping at the alternating weekly markets or at the market in Pasing and the Elisabethmarkt in Schwabing, but the latter is currently being renovated.
There are so many beautifully planted squares and plazas all over the city: why everyone seems to choose Gärtnerplatz as a meeting point is a mystery to many locals. Karolinenplatz in the Maxvorstadt district is almost identical to the popular square in Munich’s Glockenbachviertel district, as are Maximiliansplatz, Shakespeareplatz and Kaiser-Ludwig-Platz. There is one place that really could take the title from Gärtnerplatz someday though – not least because it enjoys such a central location in Haidhausen. Located near Rosenheimer Platz, Weissenburger Platz also boasts a fountain for visitors to relax beside, as well as park benches from which to watch the world go by, not to mention stunning flowers to photograph. If that weren’t enough, the square is also quieter than its buzzing counterpart.
Reichenbachbrücke bridge enjoys a very central location in Munich’s Glockenbachviertel, and is also home to the Reichenbachkiosk, which is virtually always open. These are just two reasons why there is always something going on at this bridge over the Isar, situated close to the Fraunhoferstrasse U-Bahn station – for a more scenic experience, you can also take the number 15 tram to the last stop on its route. You can enjoy a beautiful walk here and even take a dip in the Isar before returning to grab a coffee and some cake at the Isarfräulein café, not far from the bridge. If you’re after a hearty meal and a beer to wash it down, you should head for the Waldwirtschaft beer garden.
Although around 20 streams flow through Munich, most of them are underground and therefore go unnoticed. The best-known of the city’s streams is the Eisbach, which runs through the Englischer Garten, atteracting hordes of spectators to the Eisbachwelle river wave, as well as crowds of swimmers in the summer. The picturesque Auer Mühlbach, which is fed by the Isar and was previously used to power water mills, offers a much more tranquil setting. The village-like nature of this area is still evident today – for example, in the pretty façades of the houses on Mondstrasse, which stand directly on the banks of the stream. If you want to go for a walk, you can start at the Fausto coffee roasting house in Giesing and follow the stream all the way to Haidhausen, where it flows back into the Isar.
The Frauenkirche on Marienplatz is a true emblem of the city – that is why it is so popular with visitors. If you have already visited Munich’s best-known churches and are looking for a hidden gem, we recommend the Catholic parish church of St. Maximilian in the Glockenbachviertel district. This pretty church appears in virtually every photo of the Isar taken from the Reichenbachbrücke bridge. Its two towers were once topped by spires, but these were destroyed during the Second World War, and the “Notdächer” – emergency roofs – which were added as a temporary solution still remain in place to this day.
The former Finanzgarten is located between the Hofgarten and Englischer Garten, a little hidden from view. It is known as the Dichtergarten, or poet’s garden, today because, since the 1980s, it has been home to a number of monuments and statues commemorating various creatives and writers, among them Heinrich Heine and Chopin. In contrast to the manicured Hofgarten, the Dichtergarten is rather woody and wilder in appearance. Here, amid the hills and the trees, you can simply enjoy peace and quiet, and find a little relaxation and romance in the heart of the city.