24 Hours in Munich, Germany
Leah Walker April 6, 2014

Is 24 hours really enough time to discover a city? If that city is Munich, it certainly is.

Settle down all you Bavarian lovers. There’s no need to get all bent out of shape. What I discovered from my 24 hours in Munich is that I absolutely need more time in the city.

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As my first time in Germany outside of the Frankfurt airport, I used Munich as the gateway for my Best of the Alps adventure. I’ll freely admit that the only thing I knew about the city is its legendary Oktoberfest celebrations. I had no expectations and did no research. For my night in Munich, I figured I’d just wing it.

Stay

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So, I didn’t completely go off the cuff—a leopard can’t change his spots. Accommodations are something that must be solidified before departure, especially since I’ve become so fastidious. When looking through the possibilities, my eye was immediately drawn to the Mandarin Oriental. I have to say that given my recent experiences in Hong Kong and Paris, I’ve developed a little crush on the luxury brand. Knowing that MO likes to weave a bit of its Asian tradition throughout its worldwide properties, I was curious as to how they would meld that with German heritage.

Set on a peaceful side street, this grand hotel is perfectly located in Munich’s old city. Just around the corner from MO is one of the city’s four royal roads, Maximilianstrasse, which now is home to finest designer shopping. Perhaps even more important is the hotel’s location next door to Hofbräuhaus, a beer hall and one Munich’s oldest breweries. Besides shopping and beer, there are plenty of cultural and historical offerings at MO’s doorstep.

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With only 73 rooms, the MO feels intimate. However, the grandiose lobby with its columned balconies and sweeping staircases make the hotel feel much larger. An open floor plan, the lobby seems like a living room filled with both visitors and locals. Here’s where you’ll find the Mandarin Bar, BistroMO, and Rum Club, a divine cigar lounge. I don’t smoke, but I considered taking up the habit just to hang out in this swanky place.

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For the night, I stayed in a Mandarin Room, the largest in the hotel. The ceiling, which must have been close to twenty feet in height, only added to the sizable feeling. Parquet floors were covered in Oriental rugs, and Asian-inspired art hung on the walls. Otherwise, the room was classic European.

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The bathroom was covered in marble and quite sizable, especially compared to many found in Europe. A soaking tub was inviting, but I’m a shower girl, especially one with a rain faucet, which this room had. Toiletries by Red Flower were new to me, but I’m now a fan. I also thought the small bottle of bath oil and orchid found on my pillow from turn down service was a lovely touch.

Frankly, the best thing about my stay at Mandarin Oriental was the staff. The front desk was swift, helpful, and accommodating at check in, and the concierge staff was resourceful by finding black duct tape to repair my broken camera. However, it was Max, the Mandarin Bar Supervisor, that went above and beyond. Not only did Max map out a walking tour of Munich, but he also suggested a dinner location and then escorted me there. Cheers to Max. I’d say that after staying at Mandarin Oriental Munich, my little crush might now be a full-blown love affair.

Eat & Drink

As the capital of Bavaria, Munich is known for its beer, but it also has a reputation for great food. No, it’s not just pretzels and tafelspitz. Munich actually has twelve Michelin-starred restaurants, which surprised me.

BistroMO

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Located in the lobby of Mandarin Oriental is BistroMO, a relaxed brasserie. Michelin-stared Executive Chef Simon Larese of MO’s fine dining restaurant, Mark’s, also directs BistroMO. With a revolving menu, chef Larese utilizes in-season ingredients to create his themed dishes that range from American to Asian.

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For lunch, I chose two courses from chef Larese’s weekly changing menu: Lobster bisque with pan-fried cauliflower and entrecote with beans and roasted potatoes. Talk about a welcome gift! After a trans-Atlantic flight, this meal is exactly what I needed to sustain my day of sight seeing. My only regret is not getting dessert. The apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and rum raisins was so enticing. I did, however, indulge in a glass of Champagne. It would just be wrong not to.

Zum Dürnbräu

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For dinner, I didn’t want anything touristy. I craved real Bavarian food with people from Bavaria. When I asked Max at the Mandarin Oriental for a dinner suggestion that was casual and uniquely German, he mentioned Zum Dürnbräu {and then walked me there}.

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Around since 1487, I’d say that Zum Dürnbräu is as historical and uniquely Bavarian as it comes. The restaurant was filled with German being spoken, and I even had to request an English menu. That’s usually a sign that I’m going to like a place. This hunch was confirmed when a basket of pretzels and radler, a mix of German beer and lemonade, was delivered to my table by a waitress wearing a dirndl.

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Knowing that the wiener schnitzel is a specialty of Vienna didn’t deter me from ordering it. I just couldn’t help myself. If you like the butter-fried veal filet, then this is a great one to try. Also, the tafelspitz, beef strips served in broth with vegetables, looked delicious as well.

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Beer Gardens

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A tradition dating back to the 19th century and the rule of Bavarian King, Maximilian I, beer gardens are synonymous with Munich. Perhaps the most well known {and somewhat clichéd} is Hofbräuhaus am Platzl that dates to 1589. The massive hall with a vaulted, fresco-painted ceiling is filled with wooden benches and tables. There’s a band clad in lederhosen playing traditional German music, while women in dirndls fill steins for thirsty tourists. It’s worth a stop, but it’s one of those places I can check off having seen.

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Viktualienmarkt, also known as a farmers’ market, is a place where more locals can be found, especially after work. Surrounded by stalls with fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and cheeses, there’s plenty of picnic tables for an afternoon drink. Buy some freshly baked bread, Gherkins, sausage, cheese, and a pint of beer {in a real glass mug}, and enjoy this area in the heart of Munich. Check out the maypole in the center of the square for the day’s beer selections.

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Experience

Delving into the heart and history of any place is difficult given 24 hours, but even more so in a city like Munich. To get a taste of this Bavarian city in a short amount of time, I suggest setting out on foot. The city center is not very large, and it’s nearly impossible to get lost.

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Make sure to see the Marienplatz, which houses the old and the new town halls, Glockenspiel, Fischbrunnen, and Mariensäule. An iconic image of the city is Frauenkirche, a Gothic-style Lutheran cathedral that shouldn’t be missed. St. Peter’s Catholic Church is the oldest in the city and offers a great view from the top. As the former home of Bavarian monarchs, the Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany. If the weather’s nice, take a stroll through the English Garden, one of the largest urban parks in the world. Munich’s second largest beer garden is also located in the park.

With so much to see in so little time, I can’t help but feel as though I’ve slighted Munich. My 24 hours was just a tease. I want to cross Oktoberfest off of my to-do list in the fall and peruse the Christmas markets in the winter. I want to sit in the sunshine with a pint of Augustiner in the summer and watch as the gardens bloom in spring. I want to experience more of the history, culture, food, and the beer.

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Especially the beer.

I was a guest of Mandarin Oriental Munich. In no way was I swayed to write a positive review based on their helpful staff, heated bathroom floors, or really delicious cocktails. As always, opinions are mine.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

23 Comments

  1. I too used Munich as just a transit area on my way to Austria. I definitely need to return and explore Bavaria!

  2. We visited Munich in our past life as a football (soccer) journalist in the UK. Reporting on two separate CL matches involving Bayern. The first time we ended up discovering the nightlife with some Italian basketball fans in town for a tournament. Our return saw us enjoying some Weissbier with some friendly German journalists. Next time we go, we’ll follow the Leah Travels route of appreciating the city.

    1. Wow that’s an awesome way to enjoy the city, via sports. I always wonder how different travel is when it’s related to work. Coming to a city with purpose (work or an event) does take some pressure off as every other experience on top of that is really just a bonus. My München experience was playing full court basketball with locals by the courts near Olympiapark. I also stumbled on a Parkour social meet so I joined in on that.
      I love uniting with other sports fans like you did with the Italian hoopsheads. I know Leah has had a sporting past, I’m always secretly wishing she showed that side of her more in her travels 😉

    2. Ahhhh….but the fact that you remember your time there so vividly {or perhaps in a beer cloud} says something as well. I love meeting people when I travel sometimes better than checking out the historical stuff.

  3. Hey Leah !

    We only went to Munich for a day trip (we were based further south in Fussen) but absolutely loved the feel of the city. The carnival was on when we went and there was beer all around (I think that would have been the case even if there was no carnival ;)). Our favourite bit about the city was the communal Beer Gardens and how everyone just sits together in a big open space and enjoys beer and meat loaf !

    1. What I thought about Munich in my short time is, “Wow, this is a very livable city!” Seriously, I think I could live there. The communal beer gardens don’t hurt the city’s case, as I know you agree. 😉

  4. Is 24 hours really enough time to discover a city?

    No, you must need to increase the time of hours, then your trip will be great for you always and feel all should be perfect at Munich.. In munich, there is a lot of things to do such as “BMW Welt” “Deutsches Museum” “Cirque du Soleil” “Heliflieger” “Theatinerkirche St. Kajetan” favourite better place to visit at the time.. i will still hatsoff the Beer @ Gardens.. Cheers!!! 🙂

  5. Hi Leah

    great article about my hometown Munich – always great to read what visitors think about the city and how they discover it. Just want to let you know that the “Hofbräuhaus” near the Mandarin Oriental is actually not a brewery, it is probably the biggest beer hall of the world with a beautiful beer garden, one of Munichs main tourist attractions.
    However “Hofbräu” is one of 6 Munich based breweries. These 6 breweries are exclusively allowed to sell beer on the Oktoberfest. Its an easy mistake to mix “Hofbräuhaus” and “Hofbräu”.
    Cheers,
    Mirco

    PS: will follow you on twitter from now on 🙂

    1. Thanks for the clarification on Hofbräuhaus. I’ve made note of it in my post. Also, thanks for the follow. I’ve returned the favor!

  6. Nice to stay at the Mandarin-Oriental :-). (We stayed at their sister property in Bangkok – you can’t beat the hotel group for luxury.) You can take in quite a bit in Munich by walking all day (and night). Looks like you hit the highlights! (especially with the beer)

    1. Indeed, MO is always lovely. I particularly love their Asian locations, though I’ve not been to Bangkok. Added to my loooong list of hotels to visit.

  7. This brought me right back to 2006, when I visited Munich with my family. Time was limited, as we were on our way to Croatia, and we spent less than 24 hours there, but we made sure to visit the Beer Gardens. The beer and food were delicious, although I always say that if I had to pick my least favorite place in the world, it’s Germany. I know that I barely had any time there, so I must get back one of these days. That pretzel and those beers may just be my motivation! 😉

    1. I’m really surprised to hear you say that about Germany. I’d be curious to know how you feel after a return visit. We can go together and discover the rest of the country!

  8. Mmmm….beer! That’s the main draw to Munich for me. But having gotten a little taste of Germany while here in Berlin, I really want to see more of the country. The Christmas markets would be the perfect reason to come back.

    1. I’ve loved watching your trip to Berlin. It’s certainly on my list of places to see when I get back to Germany. I’ll be sure and get your tips when that happens.

  9. I’d rather spend two hours in a unique city like this than no time at all. So I’ll happily take 24 hours. Sure, I’d like to visit during Oktoberfest, but I’d be just as happy in a less-crowded time. I’ve been thinking that a Christmas trip to experience markets in Europe would be fun. Maybe Munich in December?

  10. I loved the beer feast in Munich many moons ago and traveling around Germany, met some great people, had some amazing food and of course the beer.

    Nice story and photos, thanks for sharing.

    regards, fileeep!

  11. OK I have a little bone to pick with Munich – my family lived there when I was a teenager, but I did not! Not sure how that happened… I have visited the city a few times since then, but never stayed long enough. Still, I know so many places there just from stories that the city feels really familiar. And my best layover ever was there (think winter, snow, holiday lights, BIER). I do plan more trips to Germany, so your guide should come in handy.

    1. Oh, I’d love to see Munich during the holidays. It’s certainly a place in Europe I could see myself living {if Paris won’t take me}.

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