It was two weeks before Christmas
when we boarded a plane,
scratching our itch
to get out of Spain
Our hostel was booked
with our passports in hand
hoping the markets of Munich,
would meet all our demands.
With three days to spend,
Plenty of bratwurst and beer
We said “Guten Tag!”
Christmastime is here!
Last weekend, my friend Alex and I landed in Munich, Germany, to get our fill of charming German Christmas markets, drink all the glühwein and beer that we could handle as well as consume as much hearty German food as our arteries would allow. We had three full days to make the most of our time in beautiful Bavaria, just in time to spark up the holiday spirit.
This is the main square in Munich. It is also the location of a massive Christmas market, which sprawls out through the square and down the side-streets. All of the vendors have beautifully decorated stalls, selling everything from decorations to candles to a wide variety of German foods. The building pictured above also has the glockenspiel, a “tourist attraction” that chimes everyday at 11AM.
St. Peter’s Renaissance Tower
Located right in the Marienplatz main square, this is an excellent way to spend 2 euros. Starting with a hefty hike up to the top of the church tower and ending with a beautiful 360° view of Munich that gave a glimpse of the outline of Alps in the distance.
Tollwood Winter Festival
Sometimes, in travel, minor mistakes can lead to huge headaches, wasted money and excessive drama. Other times, however, they can lead to pleasant surprises, new discoveries and fulfilling adventures. Fortunately, the latter is what occurred for us when we were in search of checking off all of the sights on our Munich “to-do” list.
I made a mistake and thought that the church with the impressive tower views was St. Paul’s; not St. Peter’s, and led us a bit off the tourist track towards Theresienwiese Park. It was not a far walk from our hostel at all, just in the opposite direction of the main square. The church (St. Paul’s), we soon realized, had little to nothing to offer for tourists, definitely not a tower with panoramic views, but the park that was right next door was brimming with an exciting winter festival. Another Christmas market excursion? Yes please!
The theme of the Tollwood Winterfestival was “Clean is Keen” which was clear in the inspiration for a lot of the sculptures and artwork; drawing attention to excessive consumerism and inspiring mindfulness about what we throw away with the famous “Trash People” statues by HA Schult.
On TripAdvisor, the English Gardens come in at #1 on the list of sights to see in Munich. I believe that poll was conducted in the summer. We went on a leisurely walk through the extensive gardens, but in the wintertime, the trees are bare and the expanse of grass is grey and soggy. I would love to see a music festival in the park in the summertime, but if you are visiting Munich in the winter and are crunched on time to see everything, I would skip it.
There was, however, a small Christmas market held in the plaza of the Chinese Tower “attraction” in the center of the park, making our stroll through the gloomy field worth it.
Nymphenburg Palace/Schloss Nymphenburg
This was another site I would save for a rainy day if one had sufficient extra time in Munich or for the summer when the gardens and fountains are in full use. It is a massive expanse of different art expositions and museums, and entry cost around 10 euro for adults. To get there, one can take the #16 tram from its stop near the main square, in the direction of Arnulfstraße and get off at Schloss Nymphenburg.
This was not something we expected to stumble upon during our stay in Munich. Krampus is a Bavarian tradition during the holiday season coming from Alpine folklore. The Krampus is a figure who punishes naughty children during the holiday season, in contrast to Santa Claus who rewards the good children. There are parades of hundreds of people dressed in elaborate Krampus costumes, and they swing birch sticks at spectators and even pick up children and young women to incite playful fear. We found ourselves in the midst of a parade in Munich by mistake, and it was quite the creepy but interesting experience.
Food & Drink
A state-owned brewery with international fame and reputation, Hofbräuhaus is a must-see for anyone passing through Munich. The space is massive, with waiters carrying massive steins of beer and platters of German food all throughout the building, women in lederhosen selling pretzels and musicians keeping a lively atmosphere for the crowd. While it is definitely a touristy spot, the beer and food is a reasonable price and it is a nice spot to warm up and rest after hours of walking around the city.
Like Hofbräuhaus, this is another famous name seen in restaurants throughout Munich. Augustiner-Braü is the oldest independent brewery in Munich and the brewery is available to tour. In addition to the main brewery campus, the company has beer halls throughout the city, and we opted to have dinner in the hall in the main square.
We were told this was the place to go to experience mind-blowing, German schnitzel, so of course we went without hesitation. This restaurant is not located in the main square, and was actually a bit of a walk to get to, but it was completely worth it once we arrived.
For just over 10 euros, one gets a massive plate of schnitzel with french fries, as well as a good sized salad to start. I wasn’t able to finish mine, it was so massive! Delicious and a great price, definitely an experience not to miss. It was a small restaurant as well, and not very crowded when we went for a late dinner.
Mulled white wine with spices and mango made this drink both mine and Alex’s favorite hot drink that we had while in Germany. It was so delicious, with the warming effect of the classic glühwein without the boozy bite. We could only find it at a special stand in the Tollwood winter festival, for the rest of our time in Munich we didn’t see it at any stands.
Definitely worth a try if you are looking for a hot beverage and a break from glühwein. Apple and white wine, mulled with spices and served hot is a great combination!
Mulled wine is very popular in Germany at Christmastime and stands in every Christmas market all throughout Munich were selling it. Germany is very eco-friendly and environmentally conscious, and thus the wine is served in ceramic, reusable mugs, with generally a 2 euro deposit.
Sour cream or applesauce? That is ALWAYS the question. These were some of the best potato pancakes I have ever had, just from a stall in the Marienplatz Christmas market.
Euro Youth Hotel
I would highly recommend this hostel to anyone looking to stay in near the city center in a place with an inviting atmosphere. The hostel bar has great drink specials, and we were even given three tokens for free glühwein from reception. The staff were extremely helpful and would give us clear directions on how to travel to all of the major sights we wanted to see. It was clean and a good place to stay, and even though we were in a shared dorm, the other guests were respectful of quiet hours and we didn’t have many problems sleeping.