If you’re living in Munich, or just passing through, our expat city guide contains all the important information on the city’s history, sites, attractions and transportation.
Munich city guide
Capital of the southern federal state Bavaria, Munich is the third-largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg, and one of the country’s richest. As a rule, Müncheners tend to hold steadfastly onto their heritage and exhibit it with pride, so that much of what we think of as typically German (beer halls, Lederhosen, oompah bands) actually hails from Bavaria.
Unlike most German cities that were heavily bombed during the Second World War, reconstruction in Munich primarily focused on restoring the city’s traditional landscape and historic architecture. At the same time, however, the city also embraces modernity and innovation. Alongside classical architecture and beer steins sit high-tech cars, modern art, and one of the largest expat populations in Germany.
A short history of Munich
The city’s name derives from the Old High German term “Munichen”, meaning “by the monks”. This is a reference to the Benedictine monastery that stood on the site which would later become Munich’s Altstadt. Sometime in the 12th century, a toll bridge was established over the Isar River to profit from the passing stream of salt traders.
Capital of Bavaria
In 1506, Munich became the capital of a newly-reunited Bavaria and, as a devout Catholic city, the centre of the Counter-Reformation as well. During this time it flourished as a major European centre of arts, architecture, culture and science. While King Ludwig I worked to enhance the city’s architecture, the “Fairytale King” Ludwig II focused his energies on building whimsical castles in the Bavarian countryside.
The Beer Hall Putsch
Munich has an important place in the history of the Nazi party, so much so that Hitler referred to it as the “Capital of the Movement”: Hitler’s initial supporters were concentrated in the city, and it was here that the party staged their 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, a failed attempt to overthrow the government. In 1933, the first concentration camp, Dachau, was opened just outside the city
War & The White Rose
During the Second World War, Munich was subjected to heavy bombing and more than 90 percent of the city’s historic centre was destroyed. Although the city was largely a hotbed of support for the Nazi party, it was also the base of the White Rose, a student resistance group who distributed anti-Nazi leaflets. Many of its members, most of whom were in their twenties, were tried with high treason and executed in Munich in 1943.
After the war, Munich experienced strong economic growth as high-tech industries and scientific institutions established themselves in the city. It is now a major centre of business, technology and culture, hosting major international corporations like BMW, Siemens and Allianz. It also consistently ranks in the top 10 for quality of life in cities worldwide.
What to do in Munich: Sites & Activities
Anyone living in or visiting Munich needs to tick the following off their “to-do” list:
Visit the Hofbräuhaus
A trip to the world’s most famous brewery is non-negotiable. Originally established to put a stop to Munich’s reliance on imported beer from Lower Saxony, the famous Hofbräuhaus has been pulling pints since 1589. Order a litre-glass (known as a Mass), try some local Bavarian delicacies and dance to the oompah band.
Stroll through Englischer Garten
One of Europe’s biggest city parks, Englischer Garten is a 5-kilometre sprawl of pathways meandering through trees, lakes and beer gardens, complete with a Greek temple, Chinese pagoda and Japanese tea house. The south end of the park provides spectacular views over Munich’s skyline.
Soak up some art
Aside from beer halls, one of the things Munich does best is art galleries. It’s not called “the city of art and beer” for nothing! In the Kunstareal district in the centre of Munich, there are no fewer than six art galleries, covering everything from classical sculpture to 1960s design.
Taste some delicacies at the Viktualienmarkt
Dating from an 1807 ordinance from King Maximilian I, the weekly Viktualienmarkt market in central Munich is the perfect place to try and buy all kinds of weird and wonderful produce. Over 140 market stalls and delicatessen stands cover an area of 22.000 square meters and offer ingredients not available anywhere else in the city.
Take a day trip
Residents of Munich have the luxury of being only a few hours’ journey from some of Bavaria’s best sites, including Schloss Nymphenburg, the summer residence of the Bavarian kings, and the world-famous Schloss Neuschwanstein, “Mad King” Ludwig II’s fairytale palace. 14th-century throwback Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also well worth a visit.
Travelling around Munich
Annual events in Munich
The following regular events in Munich are not to be missed:
Forget Oktoberfest, its smaller cousin Starkbierzeit (“strong beer season”) in March is more deserving of your attention. It’s also a fantastic way to tide serious Oktoberfest fans over until the next September. The beers, traditionally brewed by monks to get them through Lent, start at 7,5% alcohol and were allegedly declared “undrinkable” by the pope. We’ll save you a seat.
Held three times a year in April, July and October, Auer Dult is one of Munich’s oldest markets. Take a stroll through the stalls offering a treasure trove of both antiques and junk (vintage dirndls, anybody?) As well as numerous food and beer stalls, there are puppet shows and rides for the children.
Corpus Christi Street Processions
A leftover from Munich’s historical connection to the counter-reformation, these lavish processions (Fronleichnamsprozessionen) were intended as a defiant display of Catholic belief. The Feast of Corpus Christi is a public holiday in Bavaria, so there’s no excuse not to soak up a slice of traditional Bavarian culture by watching the dressed-up horses, girls in white and priests as they pass by.
This free festival takes place over four weeks in July and August in Munich’s Olympia Park. The varied programme includes live music, sporting events, rides and food stalls. There is also a night-time flea market.
Jobs in Munich
Munich is a top destination among expats worldwide and has a wide variety of companies offering jobs for internationals. Although increasingly an outward-facing city, German is still the main language of business in Munich, so you may want to enrol in a German course as well.
Housing in Munich
Munich may well be the most expensive city in Germany, but the quality of accommodation is high. Take a look at our selection of housing in Munich.