Approximately 6 million beer enthusiasts venture to Munich for the annual Oktoberfest at the end of September and, over the course of 16 days they guzzle almost 7 million litres of booze. But what if beer isn’t your drink of choice?
There are still plenty of things to do in Munich during Octoberfest for those who are not fans of the brew. You can uncover the city’s other highlights such as castles, parks, museums, restaurants, and markets. And you can hire tour guides in Munich to ensure that, beer or no beer, you enjoy your trip to Germany’s capital. If you’re traveling to Munich while the world’s largest beer party rages on, check out the sites below and hire a guide. After all, they’re guaranteed not to leave you with a hangover.
One of the upsides to not being a beer-drinker is that you save more in the calorie-bank to spend on food. And boy will you be glad to have those extra calories to spend when you’re faced with an array of German delicacies ranging from pork knuckles (Schweinshaxe) to giant pretzels (Breze) and grilled fish on a stick (Steckerlfisch) to potato pancakes (Reiberdatschi). For unique dining experiences, head to Welser Kuche, a popular restaurant that transports diners back in time to a traditional 16th century banquet, Hundskugel, a winning dining spot that serves the likes of roasted pig and regional sausage in the city’s oldest inn that dates back to the 15th Century, and Lamms, a popular off-the-beaten track late-night hangout and cellar restaurant that serves some of the best spare ribs on the planet (though be prepared to wait 30 minutes for them!).
To experience some of charming England in the heart of Munich, frolic in the Englischer Garten, German for “English Garden,” a public park created in 1789 that is larger than New York’s Central Park. Here, enjoy the informal landscape gardening that was popular in Britain from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century, as well as a Japanese teahouse, small, wooden Greek style Apollo temple, Chinesischer Turm
(“Chinese Tower”), open air amphitheater and man-made lake. Above all, don’t miss surfing: in one of the Englischer Garten’s artificial streams, there is a standing wave produced by the water pumping mechanism, a wave large enough to surf on!
Go sledding…no matter what the time of year!
Ride down Blomberg mountain in a sledge, and panic not: you can control the speed, taking the 1250-meter-long descent and 17 steep curves as fast or slow as you’d like. After courageously completing the bob run, spend the day exploring the mountain’s trails, and once you regain your appetite, head to Blomberghouse located right there on the mountain to enjoy some traditional German fodder. Rest assured that if the bob run zapped you of energy, you can scale the mountain by lift.
Pretend you’re royal at Nymphenburg Palace
With a name that translates to “Castle of the Nymph,” who wouldn’t want to visit Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace, the main summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria? While the stunning Baroque-style Palace is open to the public, a part of it is also home to Franz, Duke of Bavaria. Explore the rooms that have maintained there original look, or explore the expansive gardens; no matter what you choose to do at Nymphenburg Palace, you will be met with beauty, serenity, and deep sense of connection to Munich’s past.
Make your way to Brandhorst Museum
To marvel at some of the world’s most interesting modern art, head to Brandhorst Museum, the colorful exterior of which is worth visiting in and of itself. At Brandhorst Museum, you can enjoy famous works by the likes of Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol.
Race around at the BMW Welt and Museum
Even the most car-oblivious people will enjoy a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes at Munich’s BMW plant. Here, you can touch 120 of the most significant and attractive original BMW models and learn about how they came into being. You can also test drive simulation cars in the interactive museum!
Marvel at the animals at Munich’s Geo-zoo
You may not experience the fabulous oompah music at Hellabrunn that you will at the Oktoberfest, but that’s one small loss considering all the exhibits at the zoo. Hellabrunn was founded in 1911 as the first Geo-zoo worldwide, meaning the animals live according to their geographic distribution in complex communities. In this sense, Hellabrunn is more of a nature preserve than your classic zoo. Owing to the extensive array of ditches and the natural landscape design, the animals are easy to see. At the end of the fiscal year 2013, Hellabrunn had 19,132 animals comprising 752 different species living at the zoo, making it the most diverse zoo in Europe!
The Olympiapark (Olympic Park) was constructed in Munich for the 1972 Summer Olympics, and now it is open to the public to explore. Don’t worry, swimming lengths in the stunning olympic-sized pool is not mandatory; instead, you can play mini golf or hire a row boat, to name just to leisurely activities. For the more energetic, Olympiapark is a great place to go running or ice skating, or to play tennis or soccer. Bonus: the park’s artificial hills provide fantastic views of the city.
Shop for local goodies at Viktualienmarkt
In the center of Munich, there’s a daily food market called Viktualienmarkt, which has developed from being a simple farmer’s market to one that supplies many delicacies that gourmets fawn over. The 140 stalls sell everything from flowers and exotic fruit to spices, cheese, fish, and juices. Inevitably, you’ll find fun little gifts to take home.
Nourish your mind, body and soul at Saint Peter’s Church
While the Oktoberfesters keep busy drinking beer from steins the size of a sumo wrestler’s head, you can do the opposite to your body and take care of it by climbing up the 306 steps of Munich’s oldest church, “Alter Peter” (Old Peter). The parish church of Saint Peter is home to a 91 meters high tower, and the church is said to be the originating point for the whole city. Tip: Pay the few extra Euro to climb to the top of the tower; from there, you will get the best possible view of Munich.
Going to Dachau Concentration Camp may not be the happiest of alternatives to Oktoberfest, but learning about this piece of history is important. Marcin Wright
and Adam Martin
, two highly qualified guides based in Munich, are passionate about taking a hard look at the relevance of past history to the world around us today, and, from describing the daily life of the prisoners inside the concentration camp to guiding you around the gas chamber and crematorium, they will make your trip to Dachau that much more eye-opening.