12 Unique things to do in Munich (besides Oktoberfest)

by Paul Joseph  |  Published September 13, 2016

One of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Munich is a place of contrasts: a big city and also a province, a metropolis but with a distinct village feel, and a design and high-tech heartland but also renowned for its traditional costume workshops.

A view over the city of Munich (Photo: dorinser via Flickr)

In a nutshell, it is a cosmopolitan city with a big heart, full of art, culture and joie de vivre. Of course, the latter is best demonstrated each year at the iconic Oktoberfest, but there is so much more to this fabulous city.

Here we give you a diverse selection of alternative ways to enjoy Munich, ranging from restaurants, bars and beer gardens to museums, guided tours and design stores.

1. Dallmayr Delicatessen

Stopping off for a “nice bit of a cake” is one of the pleasures of city sightseeing, and in Munich there are no shortages of traditional tea houses in which to do so. But few can match the sheer kaleidoscopic variety on offer at Dallmayr Delicatessen. Germany’s most famous delicatessen, Dallmayr offers an incredible variety of sweets, cakes and other goodies, as well as a magnificent deli and gourmet food and drink departments, a first-class restaurant, café bistro and champagne bar.

Dallmayr Delicatessen

A mouth-watering selection of truffles at Dallmayr Delicatessen (Photo: Dallmayr Delicatessen)

2. John’s Bavarian Tours

With 35 years’ experience in Munich and Bavaria, there is no-one better placed to show you around the region than John B Wetstone. His company, Johns Bavaria Tours, offers personalised trips that are tailored to your specific wishes, with John himself serving as driver, guide and translator. Each guest is offered red carpet door-to-door service, and as you aren’t part of a large group, but on your own privately guided tour, you can enjoy the freedom to see and do what you want in a shorter period of time. As well as classic landmarks and attractions, John’s tours also take you off the beaten track to explore some of Bavaria’s hidden gems.

John B Wetstone in the centre of Munich alongside one of his tour buses (Johns Bavarian Tours Munich)

3. Beer and Oktoberfest Museum

In a city that produces about 56 million bottles’ worth of beer each year, it is only fitting for there to be a museum dedicated to the amber nectar. Of course, Munich is equally famous for its beer festival, Oktoberfest, and this museum serves to celebrate and honour both the city’s history as a purveyor of beer and as host to one of the world’s most famous festivals. Come here for a true education and learn about the role of migration had on beer production in Munich, as well asthe monasteries, the purity law, and the unique quality of Munich’s beer. There’s also an array of Oktoberfest memorabilia to enjoy.

4. ELLA Restaurant

The only restaurant in Munich offering a view of the magnificent classist architecture of Königsplatz square, Ella is more than just a restaurant – it is a veritable viewing platform to enjoy some of Europe’s finest craftwork of the 18th century. But when it comes to food, Ella doesn’t fall short either, meaning you can come and enjoy the superb vistas and depart with a satisfied stomach too.

DV8 Cellars

The windowside tables at ELLA Restaurant (Photo: ELLA Restaurant)

5. Deutsches Museum

A temple of technological achievement, the Deutches Museum celebrates the ingenuity of humankind down the years, showcasing the fruits of man-made endeavours such as sailing ships, models of atoms, windmills, space probes, diesel locomotives, industrial robots, organs, lifeboats, and much more. As you wander through the museum, machines hum, lightning flashes through the air and telescopes zoom in on star formations, offering an enthralling experience for the 1.3 million visitors who descend here each year.

Deutsches Museum

The imposing exterior of the Deutsches Museum (Photo: Deutsches Museum)

6. Filmtheater Sendlinger Tor

Combining tradition and modernity, the Sendlinger Tor movie theatre is not your typical cinema. Boasting neoclassical pillars and a dramatic balcony, the theatre oozes historical atmosphere and grandeur. But don’t be fooled, as when it comes to films, Sendlinger Tor is firmly rooted in the present, with the latest Hollywood blockbusters shown throughout the week.

7. Haus der Kunst

The diverse history of contemporary art is celebrated and explored at this exceptional museum. Having gone through more transformations than David Bowie over the years (including a foray into classical modernism) it has remained a significant cultural landmark, regardless of where its focus lies, and continues to attract art lovers from far and wide. As well as its array of art on display, the museum also hosts fellowships, visiting artists, curators, scholars and seminars, ensuring that whenever you visit, there’s certain to be something going on.

Haus der Kunst

Another dramatic building exterior, this time the Haus der Kunst (Photo: Haus der Kunst)

8. Das Jagd-und Fischereimuseum

Located in the former Augustinian church in the heart of Munich, the German Hunting and Fishing Museum offers an intriguing insight into the age-old practices that were once integral to human survival. Interactive elements, taxidermy, paintings, trophies, rifles and many other exhibits demonstrate the skill and precision required, as well as the impact these activities have had on the environment and culture down the years.

The beautiful Das Jagd-und Fischereimuseum (Photo: Simon Richard via Flickr)

9. Tollwood Festival

For three weeks each summer, Munich’s Olympia-Park becomes a township of tents and stages, with culinary delicacies from all over the world on offer, and international music and cabaret artists performed in front of a captive audience of revellers. Numerous tents devoted to musical acts, circus shows, and stage plays delight audiences, with spectators able to watch the majority of the performances free of charge. There’s also numerous stalls selling craft items, jewellery and bric-a-brac from all over the globe. During the Christmas period, another Tollwood Festival takes place, this time on the Theresienwiese, the same site that hosts Munich’s famous Oktoberfest.

Carriage and Western Art Museum

A performance by CirqueEloize at Tollwood Festival (Photo: Jim_Mneymneh)

10. Königlicher Hirschgarten

No visit to Munich is complete without enjoying a relaxed, food and drink-fuelled afternoon in one of its world renowned beer gardens. Named after the recreational park Hirschgarten, it has an eye-popping 8,000 seats under gigantic chestnut trees, making it officially the world’s largest beer garden. A deer park directly next door (‘Hirsch’ is deer in German) adds to the ambience, while patrons are invited to wash their own beer mugs – a tradition that would shock us in other parts of the world, but in Munich feels like it’s all part of the experience.

11. Weißglut Design

Munich is known as one of the design capitals of the world and nothing exemplifies this reputation more than the Weißglut Design concept store. Situated in the northern borough of Schwabing, the store began as a platform for young designers to showcase their products and has grown into one of the city’s finest destinations for cutting edge design across fashion, jewellery, home accessories and more, offering a true alternative to the homogeneity of the High Street retail landscape.

12. Bar Gabányi

This cool cocktail lounge tucked away on Munich’s Beethovenplatz square is one of the hidden gems of Munich’s nightlife scene. The basement bar is dark and moody, with old fashioned furniture adding to the retro-chic look and feel. But it is the eclectic drinks list that draws many patrons, with a dedicated team of mixologists on hand to concoct your wildest imbibing fantasy. It gets seriously busy, so expect a fair wait to be served, although the quirky medley of characters who make up the staff will keep you entertained while you’re waiting.

Bar Gabányi

The stylish bar at Bar Gabányi (Photo: Bar Gabányi)