It was somewhere in the second part of 2012 that one of my friends asked me if I would like to join her in December at a Christmas Market in Munich. That was way before starting working for a company that has its headquarters in Bavarian city and I had no idea about the place, especially about things to do in Munich in winter.
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Needless to say, my first reaction to the proposal was in the lines of “hmm..Munich…it doesn’t say anything to me” because for me Germany was not a holiday destination at the time. But in the end, I accepted the offer (as long as it involved traveling, new places, new people, why not?) and bought the tickets, a thing I never regretted doing.
Before you go, read my useful things to know before visiting Munich
Where to stay in Munich (hotels near Munich Christmas Market)
Since we were a group of 4 people, looking for cheap accommodation in an expensive town, we decided to get a room in a hostel – Jaeger’s Hotel/Hostel – right across the street from the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), on a street with different ethnic restaurants. The hostel turned out to be one of the cleanest, well located, warm hostels I’ve ever been to, it had free wifi, a really nice breakfast, and a bar where we could spend some time over a glass of, oh well..wine.
If you have a more generous budget, you can also choose one of the below hotels:
- Derag Livinghotel am Viktualienmarkt – located right in the heart of the city, in Viktualienmarkt, overlooking the beautiful busy market. Tip: if you get tired of German food, try the small Asian cuisine restaurant located next to the hotel, especially the Vietnamese soup and the coconut chicken curry. You won’t regret it!
- Mercure Hotel München Altstadt – I usually choose to stay at one of the Mercure hotels when I travel for work but am also going for the options closer to the office. Since you want to be in the heart of town, this one hotel is a good choice, blending in the good services of a chain hotel with a great location, you will be only a few steps away from Marienplatz.
- Hôtel du Train – this small affordable hotel, very close to the Ubahn Sendlinger Tor stop, will have you located just a small walk away from the main city square and Christmas Market. You will have the chance to wander around the shops guiding you towards Marienplatz, admire the Sendlinger Tor and the beautiful buildings.
- GHOTEL hotel & living München-City – not exactly in the heart of the city, but still very close by, in a great area if you’re visiting for Oktoberfest or the Christmas Market, 2 min away from the Ubahn.
Read my comprehensive list of the best places to stay in Munich, with neighborhood description, pros, and cons for each of them!
Getting to Munich
Getting there for the first time was definitely interesting since we did not choose to go the direct way from our hometown of Bucharest and we landed in Nuremberg.
Landing at the Nuremberg Aiport is definitely an option when flying low cost. From there, you can take the train to Munich – the ride lasts anywhere between 1h 15 min and 2 hours, depending on the train.
If you travel in a group you can buy the discounted Bayerischer ticket.
Other options to get to Munich are landing in either one of the 2 main airports in town.
It is worth knowing, especially when you go towards the airport, that the S8 train is faster than S1, and the ride lasts around 40 minutes (depending on the station you take the train from). The train ride by S1 lasts a little bit over one hour.
You can buy the strip ticket or the single ticket from the airport vending machine and validate it before hopping on the train, or you can order beforehand online the MunichCityTour Card.
If you have a lot of luggage or simply want to travel comfortably, book a private transfer from or to Munich Airport.
Flying to Memmingen Airport is a closer option if you are choosing to fly with Ryanair, and get to town by taxi (roughly 150 EUR), train (around 2 hours from Bahnhof Memmingen station, and 28 EUR), or bus (20 EUR one way). Check options here!
Munich is an important train hub both in Germany and in Europe, thus you will find it easy to get here by train.
The main train station (Munich Hauptbahnhof) is perfectly located minutes away from the city center. You can also take the U-Bahn (underground) directly from the train station.
Depending on the area you choose to stay in Munich, you can also get off at Ostbahnhof (the East train station), only 3 U-Bahn stops away from Marienplatz.
While I never came to Munich by bus, I have been on several day trips within Germany or Austria by Flixbus.
Munich’s main bus station is at Hackerbrücke U-Bahn and S-Bahn station, one stop away from the train station, thus very reasonably set close to the city center.
Let me start by saying that I now love Munich, I think it is a lovely city and I love exploring its streets and letting myself be seduced by its architecture and its coquette coffee places. But it took some experiences to get me to this point.
Since you will be spending some time in town, read about getting around Munich by public transportation
Is Munich cold during winter?
My first experience was awful. Looking at the pictures now, it all looks great, all fun and games, we have some beautiful pictures to remind us that it wasn’t all as dreadful as I maybe had the tendency to think about it. But I surely did not feel it like that back then.
It was cold. Very very cold. Most certainly not the time for a city break of walking around for up to 10 hours every day. Temperatures in Munich in December tend to get below 0 degrees Celsius and snow is expected as well.
It was so cold that on the third day we could not take it anymore and bought a bottle of schnapps to drink every now and then in order to get warm.
Of course, you can opt for the more low-key excursion, where you can stop every now and then for a warm chocolate/coffee. And, of course, after many years of going back I’ve learned there are plenty of things to do inside.
The average temperatures during winter in Munich are as follows:
- December – a high of 4 degrees C and a low of -2 degrees C
- January – a high of 3 degrees C and a low of -3 degrees C
- February – a high of 5 degrees C and a low of -2 degrees C
How long does winter last in Munich?
Officially, winter lasts between December and March. However, the weather is very unpredictable in Munich, and snow might fall even in late April, depending on the year.
Read also Best Things to do in Germany in Winter
Getting around Munich in winter
As I’ve said, Munich can get really cold during winter and you most probably won’t feel motivated to wander outside for a long time.
Public transportation in Munich is very good, and you can easily get almost anywhere by bus, subway, tram, or fast train (S-Bahn). However, it all comes with a price, and you can save more with a MunichCityTour Card.
The card offers you unlimited free public transportation for anywhere between 2 and 6 days, depending on the length of your trip to Munich. You can also choose the area covered – Munich is split into 5 areas: the city center and most museums and attractions are located in the inner area, while the airport is in the 5th area.
You can check out Munich’s public transportation map and areas here!
On top of that, with the card, you get discounts from selected partners, from museums to local businesses.
I think the card is worth buying especially when you plan to see a lot of the museums in town, and also get around by public transportation. Also, you won’t have to worry about having to validate your ticket every single time and risking forgetting about it. I must admit that once happened to me (I was under the impression I had chosen the ticket with the date on it, thus I didn’t bother to validate) and the train inspectors forgave me only because I was a tourist and I begged really hard.
I was lucky, but you won’t want to risk that!
Another great option for when you visit Munich in winter is the Munich City Pass. This card is more expensive but offers free entrance to 45 attractions and tours worth taking in Munich. See more here!
Munich Christmas Market 2021
The reason why most people head to Munich in winter, the Christmas Market usually opens in the last weekend of November and lasts until the 24th of December.
In 2021 you will have the chance to enjoy the charming stalls steaming with delicious flavors from the 22nd of November until the 24th of December.
One of the most famous Christmas Market around the world, there isn’t only one place you must see, and wandering around from one smaller market to the other is for sure one of the best things to do in Munich in December. From the most popular and largest Christmas Market in Marienplatz to the enchantment around the Chinesischer Turn in the English Garden, or the Tollwood packed with handcrafts and culinary delight in the Theresienwiese, Munich won’t disappoint.
Your Munich winter itinerary at a glance: what to see in Munich in winter
No matter how many days you choose to spend in Munich, I’ve put together a map with the most important winter attractions in Munich. It will be easier for you to plan an itinerary once you see them all laid down on “paper”.
Feel free to click on the map and open it in Google Maps so that you can see it better and start planning.
Top things to do in Munich in Winter
Getting back to the actual city, sightseeing, we ticked a lot of travel destinations off our list (even if it was so very cold outside).
Try Bavarian cuisine at the Christmas Market and beyond!
But the Christmas Market was stupendous! If you have a sweet tooth you will surely be overwhelmed by all choices out there: all the different sweets, gingerbread full of almonds and chocolate, the smell of hazelnuts in caramel, baked apples, meringues, and millions of other things.
And that’s not all, Christmas ornaments, mulled wine, freshly baked chestnuts, pretzels, sausages make it very hard to behave and you will feel like a child once again. And the whole city center is full of these little wood houses out of which all sorts of indulging smells come from.
We had 4 days to get to know the Bavarian city, to taste the world-renowned German cuisine (aka würst, bratwürst, Käse würst, schnitzel, and kartoffelsalat – cold potato salad) all accompanied by the local beer. To be fair, it was only a few years later that I got the chance to taste the ultimate blend of cuisine and culture: the curry würst! (even though it is rather a traditional dish from the Northern part of the country).
The English Garden (Englischer Garten)
A huge park in the middle of the city. The main points of interest would be the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) right next to a small beer garden where you can sit back, relax and sometimes listen to good Bavarian music; the guys surfing on the Isar river, no matter the season (we spent some time marveling at the view) or the Japanese Teahouse.
The whole area around the English Garden, and especially the Schwabing neighborhood is extremely beautiful and posh, and I would wander around these streets whenever I had the time.
Additionally, in the area, you will find countless of the best restaurants and cafes in town.
Marienplatz and the Rathaus (Town Hall)
This was the main hub for the Christmas Market and of course, the most crowded one, especially at 11 a.m. when the clock in the Glockenspiel is the main attraction. We actually went up in the New Townhall’s tower and admired the city from 85 meters up above. You should try that, just keep in mind that you will need to take an elevator to the 9th floor and pay 2.5 EUR/person.
Even though it is windy on the top of the building, the view you get is worth it! I’ve ever since been there several times and I would go again on the first occasion.
- Attend a Munich Residenz Concert – it’s inside!
We could not miss this and even if I
am not was not such a great car fan, it was really great fun! We spent a lot of hours around, both in the actual BMW museum (presenting the history of the car’s design and functionality) and – maybe even more – in the car gallery where we fooled around.
Are Munich beer gardens open in winter?
Unfortunately, beer gardens aren’t open during winter in Munich. However, almost all important places in town have also a covered restaurant where you can spend your time during cold days.
It is actually a food market in the center of the city, where you can find everything from meat products, local dairy products, flowers, fish up to mulled wine and snacks. We sat at a small booth and enjoyed some mulled wine and some finger food.
No matter the season, and after all these years, this is my top of the list when it comes to spending a chill weekend morning or even a fun rainy afternoon.
You can always choose to take a Viktualienmarkt 2-Hour Gourmet Food Tour.
A palatial building housing the state parliament since 1949. The view is very nice in all seasons from the bridge over the Isar river.
Even though you can opt only for a Palace tour since the beautiful gardens hidden behind the palace are closed during the winter season, you won’t regret getting there.
Since it’s very easily accessible (just take tram number 17 from Central Station and you’ll be there in no time) and still close to the city center, the Palace is huge and the entrance fee is only 8.50 euros from October until March.
Here are 2 options to take into consideration when you want to see the Palace in a special way:
Very close to Marienplatz, we chose to visit this museum because we thought it would be fun. Unfortunately, the only fun we had there was in the museum’s restaurant, where the guy serving us brought us some powder for nose relief (as I looked for that later and found out the thing is called snuff and since it is minty it is used for nose relief) and showed us how to use it.
I know it does not sound like much fun, but it was since the guy wasn’t speaking really good English and we weren’t speaking German.
Apart from that, the museum is rather boring (or at least that was my impression), but maybe you would find it more fun and interesting than me.
Go on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour
Another great way to spend a cold winter day in Munich, and also to get around from one place to the other, is by booking a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.
You will be inside, thus sheltered by the cold, while enjoying the magnificent sights of the city, and learning everything about the city’s architecture and history from the audio guide.
All of the above were the things we have managed to fit into our trip, but of course, this is not everything you can do and see in and around Munich. Fate offered me the chance to see the city in every season and eventually fall in love with it.
- Dachau Memorial Site Day Tour – I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t visited the concentration camp and memorial site, located so close to Munich. However, if you are passionate about history and want to step back in time, learn about WWII, it is worth taking a short trip to Dachau.
- Day Trip to Neuschwanstein & Linderhof Castles – see some of the most beautiful castles in Germany, and feel like in a fairytale.
- Olympia Tower – one of Munich’s imposing landmarks marking the skyline, also a place from where you can get a nice view over Munich from the above
What to pack for winter in Munich
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling to Munich so many times, is that you cannot trust the weather!
That’s why the best way to prepare for the cold winter days, snow, or rain, is to come prepared with many layers of clothing.
I also suggest bringing your heaviest jacket, gloves, wool socks, a scarf, something to cover your head, and your best boots. Don’t forget an umbrella and an easy-to-carry backpack that won’t keep your hands busy.
Where to eat in Munich during winter
Love it or hate it, bavarian food is certainly special and you must try some of the local products, but also some of the pretty and hip coffee and brunch places to visit in Munich in winter.
Here are 3 of my favorite stops whenever I am in Munich:
Cafe Luitpold – featured several times in the Michelin Guide, this is the place to go for a delicious coffee and some state-of-the-art chocolate.
Cotidiano – for all you brunch lovers out there. Choose between the 4 locations in Munich and spend some quality time in a great location, with delicious food.
Victorian Haus – another brunch place with 2 locations in the inner circle and another 2 very close by.
Don’t leave without trying these traditional Bavarian dishes:
- pretzel with butter – simple yet so satisfying! I absolutely love the german pretzel and I would always bring some back home to my husband who is another pretzel addict.
- all kinds of wurst – white sausage, blood sausage, or any other type of sausage, served with mustard.
- schnitzel served with sweet cranberry sauce
- bread or pancake soup
And also, here are a few things worth tasting at the Christmas Market in Munich:
- Glühwein or mulled wine will keep you warm and will enchant your taste buds with lots of winter spices – just bear in mind that you will be requested to pay a small deposit for the mug (roughly around 4 $), but you will get the money back once you return the colorful cup. You also have the option to keep the cup for the price of the deposit.
- Gingerbread – I must be honest and say the best gingerbread I’ve ever tasted was the one in Munich. At the Christmas Market, gingerbread comes in festive decorations as well, and you can choose one in the shape of Santa Claus or different decorations that can be hanged in your tree at home.
- Roasted nuts – once you approach Marienplatz a strong sweet smell will lure you towards the wooden houses only to discover the delicious roasted nuts.
- German fruit bread – a sweet bread filled with dried fruit, very similar to the panettone you must try when visiting Italy in winter.
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- Get your ultimate list of useful tips worth knowing before visiting Munich and everything you need to know about getting around Munich