Bavarian beers, Christmas markets and fairytale castles | Munich

With Christmas just round the corner, planning a trip to one of the world’s best Christmas markets is a must

11 November 2016, 11:13am
When you think of a holiday in Munich the first things that comes to mind are fat Germans in lederhosen clutching great tankards of beer at the Oktoberfest
When you think of a holiday in Munich the first things that comes to mind are fat Germans in lederhosen clutching great tankards of beer at the Oktoberfest
When you think of a holiday in Munich, the first things that comes to mind are fat Germans in lederhosen clutching great tankards of beer at the Oktoberfest. And while this is a great source of amusement – and merriment – for beer lovers and avid travellers alike, there is so much more to this German city than Bavarian beer. With Christmas just round the corner, planning a trip to one of the world’s best Christmas markets is a must. 

Christmas market

With Christmas soon with us, any trip to Munich will have to include a visit to the Christekindl Markt, their Christmas market in the heart of the Old Town. The first market was held in 1642, though it has seen a surge in popularity since 1972. 

If the 160 decorated booths selling Bavarian wood, traditional toys, bees’ wax candles and chimney sweep figurines made from almonds and plums don’t put you in the Christmas spirit, then the 30 metre tall Christmas tree lit by 2,500 candles surely will. Gluhwein (German mulled wine), bratwurst, gingerbread, sugared almonds and baked apples will keep you warm through the winter chill. 

There are free Christmas concerts on the balcony of the Town Hall and inside a Heavenly Workshop for kids where they can do arts and crafts and bake Christmas cookies. 

For a glimpse at the darker side of Christmas, take part in the sinister Krampuslauf, Krampus Run, where the counter to Santa Clause – Krampus – runs through the streets scaring both children and adults.

Gluhwein, bratwurst, gingerbread and a giant Christmas tree lit up by 2,500 candles are enough to put anyone in the Christmas spirit
Gluhwein, bratwurst, gingerbread and a giant Christmas tree lit up by 2,500 candles are enough to put anyone in the Christmas spirit
Marientplatz

Marienplatz, or Mary’s Square, is the heart of Munich. Dating back to the 12th century this was where you’d find all the medieval markets, celebrations and tournaments. Today it is a meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. 

While you’re here be sure to see the New Town Hall, almost 100 metres tall and elaborately decorated with hundreds of statues, turrets and arches. Be sure to be there at 11am or noon when the 100-year-old carillon in the Glockenspeil – the tower in the New Town Hall – chimes. 32 life-sized figures re-enact historical Bavarian events, with a golden bird that chips three times to mark the end of the show. 

On the other side of the square, the Old Town Hall which dates back to the 14th century but was rebuilt after it was completely destroyed in the Second World War now houses a toy museum with a collection of unique, historic toys from Europe and the USA. 

The golden statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the Mariensaule was erected in 1683 to mark the end of the Swedish invasion after the 30 Years’ War and dominates the centre of the square. 

Although the New Town Hall looks like it dates back to the Middle Ages it was built between 1867 and 1909 in Flanders Gothic style
Although the New Town Hall looks like it dates back to the Middle Ages it was built between 1867 and 1909 in Flanders Gothic style
Dachau concentration camp memorial

Ten miles north of Munich is Dachau, one of Nazi Germany’s first concentration camps, which would later serve as a model for all camps throughout the Third Reich. Built in 1933, it was operational for 12 years and saw 200,000 people from 30 countries imprisoned there, more than 43,000 of whom died in the camp.

You can expect to walk the “path of the prisoner”, from the iron gate with the cruel inscription Arbeit Macht Frei which translates into work will set you free, to the shunt rooms where prisoners were stripped of their belongings as well as their identities.

You will see the original prisoner baths, barracks and the crematorium as well as extensive exhibitions and a monument by Yugoslav artist and holocaust survivor Nandor Glid.  

Ten miles north of Munich is Dachau, one of Nazi Germany’s first concentration camps, which would later serve as a model for all camps throughout the Third Reich
Ten miles north of Munich is Dachau, one of Nazi Germany’s first concentration camps, which would later serve as a model for all camps throughout the Third Reich
Deutches museum

The history of science and technology has a home on an island in the river Isar that runs through Munich’s city centre and sees 1.5 million visitors every year. You can see the first electric dynamo, the first automobile, and the laboratory bench where the atom was first split. Other highlights of the museum include exhibitions on astronomy, transportation, mining, printing, and photography.

Kids will also have a great time in this museum. At Kids’ Kingdom they can sit behind the wheel of a real fire engine, fly in the air or play a giant guitar. 

Englischer Garten 

Englischer Garten, the English Garden, is Munich’s answer to Central Park – it’s just bigger. Munich’s green lung is the perfect place to get away from the city without actually leaving the city. Great for picnics in the summer and walks in the winter, this is the perfect place to get a lungful of fresh air and even some quality local food. 

Neuschwanstein

Take some time out of your city trip to be drawn into a fairytale. The castle of Neuschwanstein, which was the inspiration behind the Cinderella castle in the Disney world, was the refuge of the shy King Ludwig II. Made king at just 20 years old, King Ludwig II suffered a crushing military defeat just two years into his reign. Instead of facing his disappointments head on, the king immersed himself in a world of fantasy, building a number of castles and culminating in Neuschwanstein on the rugged hilltop with a stunning backdrop of the Alps where he withdrew from public life. Seven weeks after his death, this castle in the sky – at 800m above sea level – was opened to the public and now sees some 1.4 million visitors a year. 

The castle of Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle
The castle of Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle