I like Germany. I like the culture, the society, the colorful cities, the Christmas customs, and many more. But I admit: I don’t like the language, it’s so freakin’ hard and complicated to learn! Having these in mind, spending a few days in Bavaria, during the winter season, sounds like a good idea. Why? Well, here are some reasons: you can wander around for hours in the small streets of the altstadt (old town, many German cities have them amazingly well preserved), do some shopping, enjoy the traditions, drink beer and eat sausages. Not enough? Wait, don’t leave. I’ll tell you more below.
I have encountered a bummer right from the beginning: the trip took place after Christmas, so all the famous German Christmas markets were already closed by that time. Still, it was totally worth it. And it was probably the only bummer I’ve encountered.
My experience started in the capital of Bavaria: Munich. I wonder if there is anyone who hasn’t heard of Oktoberfest so far. Fun fact: the largest beer festival in the world attracts each year 6 million people…that’s more than four times the population of the city! There are six big local beer brands (some of them well-known all around the globe): Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten. But it’s not the time to talk about Oktoberfest and beer, because this cosmopolitan city offers so much more.
For those who don’t know, Munich is the powerhouse of Germany from many aspects. It’s there in the top in terms of quality of living, and not only in Germany, but also worldwide. Art, high-tech, finance, culture, business, tourism are just a few of the activities for which the city stands out from the rest.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Munich City Center (Hochstrasse 3), which is definitely not a budget hotel. But I wanted to stay close to the city center and avoid the area around the central train station, which is not that friendly. A parking spot costs €20 per day, while if you want breakfast, be prepared to pay €25 per day. It’s not worth it, from my perspective. There are a lot of nice bakeries on the way to the city center, where you can enjoy a sandwich, sweet pastries and a hot drink for €6-7.
Guide to Munich
- Start the journey in the heart of the city, Marienplatz, and admire its most impressive building, which hosts the local government: the Neues Rathaus. The level of details on its facade is incredible. And each day, at 11 a.m., you can enjoy one of the local free of charge spectacles, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. It consists of two stories from the 16th century, using life-sized figures. It’s really fun to watch.
- Using an elevator after paying a €6 fee, you can go on top of the Rathaus tower and enjoy the city panorama, but I personally suggest to try the nearby St. Peterskirche, if you are up for climbing stairs for about 5-10 minutes. It costs €3, but by doing this, you will have a better view of the Neues Rathaus building. Tip: do it at 11 a.m., to watch the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
- On the east side of the square, you can see the Altes Rathaus, which used to host the city government in the past. The building was badly damaged during WWII, so it had to be rebuilt. But it still looks pretty awesome.
- If you’re into shopping, then Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauser Strasse are the place for you. Actually, all the streets converging into Marienplatz are burdened with shops. So enjoying the atmosphere of the old city and doing some shopping in the same time…Sounds nice!
- To sum up a bit: the old city has a lot of impressive buildings, from churches and museums to former royal palaces: Peterskirche, Frauenkirche, Theatinerkirche, Feldherrnhalle, Bayerische Staatskanzlei, Residenz (former residence of the monarchs of Bavaria), Hofbräuhaus (the oldest brewery in Munich, dating from the 16th century), and the list can go on and on. So it’s a must to spend some hours in the city center.
- If you’re a car enthusiast (and even if you’re not), in the northern part of the city you will find the BMW Headquarters, along with the BMW Welt and Museum. The buildings are quite unique, as the tower resembles the shape of four engine cylinders, while the museum represents a cylinder head. As a BMW fan, it was heaven on earth.
- Nearby, there’s the Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Summer Olympics. Nowadays, the location is still used for sporting events, as a concert venue and, of course, for recreational purposes.
- The Englischer Garten deserves a visit, for sure. It’s one of the biggest urban parks in Europe and, if you’re lucky, you will spot surfers on the Eisbach (a small man-made river), even in the winter.
- Don’t leave Munich until you have had local sausages, pretzels and beer or tried their famous dessert: hot apple strudel with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream. There are a lot of traditional restaurants in the old city to choose from. I’ve tried Bratwurstherzl Am Viktualienmarkt (Dreifaltigkeitsplatz 1).
day trip from Munich
But the beauty of Bavaria is not represented only by Munich. Its rural side is breathtaking, and I couldn’t miss that. So while driving towards Austria, I took a detour to visit (or actually to see it from the outside, cause it was fully booked for that day) the famous Neuschwanstein Castle. “Huh? What castle?”, you would ask. Well, it’s the one that served as inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle:
Now you probably know what I’m talking about. It looks pretty old and historically significant, but it was actually built only 130 years ago and has no real history. Sure, it’s still impressive. But I guess that most people are probably coming just to search for the Sleeping Beauty. Tip: book in advance, if you want to visit it.
The village itself is pretty nice, with many traditional houses and a second castle, the Hohenschwangau Castle (which is probably visited only by the people who can’t find a ticket anymore for Neuschwanstein). It’s also pretty crowded all the time, there are many tourists, but don’t worry in case you want to eat, because there are enough restaurants serving traditional food, like currywurst/weisswurst with fries.
Before calling it a day and end my Bavarian adventure, I was lucky enough to enjoy the following scenery, with the Zugspitze in the back, the highest peak in Germany, at 2,962 meters. The photo is made from Austrian soil, close to the border:
My Bavarian experience lasted for two days. Was it enough, was it too short? Well, I don’t want to complain, in the end. I’ve seen a lot and walked a lot, as usual. It was not my first visit to this German state, but it was, by far, the most intense. One thing is for sure: Bavaria never disappoints! That’s why it’s Germany’s number one holiday region.
Author: Marian Bulacu
Live. Love. Travel. Make a difference.