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Munich on a Budget

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Munich's quaint Marienplatz

Welcome to Munich:

This is not really a story about what to see and do in Munich. It is an attempt to get you around this popular city without destroying your budget. As with most tourist meccas, Munich offers plenty of easy ways to pay top dollar for things that won't really enhance your experience. Get a National Geographic Destination Map of Munich.

When to Visit:

If you're interested in Oktoberfest, plan on arriving in September, when festivities begin. Also plan on higher prices and huge crowds. It's best to allow yourself an escape plan--perhaps Salzburg or Vienna--during those crowded times. If you don't mind the cold and dark of winter, you'll enjoy lower prices and very short lines. Snowfall here is generally greater than other parts of Germany. Find flights to Munich.

Where to Eat:

Munich hosts Germany's largest student population (about 100,000), so you know there is plenty of affordable food available in the university districts. The city's many beer gardens serve up hendl, an inexpensive and tasty roasted chicken. Many beer gardens will allow you to bring your own food if you buy drinks. As with any European city, there is an abundance of cheese, fresh bread, and other picnic staples available at the market. Many times, these items are cheaper than in North America.

Where to Stay:

As with food, the more expensive rooms are located closest to the city center. Still, it is possible to locate smaller bed and breakfast establishments (sometimes called "pensions") in those areas that will offer up hospitality and even tourist tips along with a comfortable bed. Look for the "I" sign in train stations and other public places. People here can find you a reasonably priced room for a nominal fee. Generally, a full breakfast is free with the price of a room in Germany.

Getting Around:

The Munich U-bahn is an economical way to see the city. If you'll be in town for a few days, consider buying Mehrfahrtenkarte, which means "multiple trip tickets." Blue tickets are for adults, and red for children. Tageskarte or "day tickets" offer unlimited travel for 24 hours. Munich's main train station is about a 15 minute walk from the Old Town and Marienplatz. Consider a car rental for out-of-town trips to the Alps.

Munich Nightlife:

For years, Schwabing was Munich's artistic district that beckoned would-be actors, painters, or revelers. Many say it has lost some of its charm, but it's still a popular spot after dark. Trendy nightclubs and restaurants abound. There is not the variety here that you'd find in Berlin or Amsterdam, but there should be enough to keep you busy for a while.

Top Attractions:

The Marienplatz is the heart of Munich's Old Town. Adjacent to these cobblestoned treasures is Frauenkirche or Church of Our Mother, painstakingly restored after World War II damage. To the south, through the Isar Gate lies the giant Deutsches Museum. It's the world's largest science and technology display. From there, it's a short distance to Tierpark and the zoo. Go north to the Olympiapark U-bahn stop to see the site of the 1972 Olympics and the BMW World Headquarters.

More Munich Tips:

  • Concentrate on a section or two of the Deutsches Museum. This place is huge. You could easily spend two full days here and not see everything. It's better to choose the areas that interest you the most, and save the others for another trip.

  • Be patient and alert at Oktoberfest. Public intoxication en masse is an ugly thing, and there are those who descend on Munich to take advantage. Keep valuables stowed securely.

  • Learn a few words of German. The words Sprechen Sie Englisch? will go a long way in the realm of politeness and diplomacy. Germans usually appreciate attempts to respect their language, no matter how poorly you butcher it! There are places where the German-language menu items are cheaper than the English version, so it doesn't hurt to learn the names of some food items.

  • Munich is a great "home base" for other explorations. Salzburg, Austria is a short train ride from Munich, and makes a wonderful daytrip. The popular "Romantic Road" trip can be done in a day, beginning and ending in Munich. You can explore the medieval walled city of Rothenburg, which was virtually untouched by war. EurailPasses are good for the bus trip through this region, with a return rail trip from Wurzberg. On a less pleasant but highly significant note, the Dachau concentration camp is a short trip north from Munich and remains a sobering reminder of Germany's Nazi past. Learn more about making Munich a hub.

  • Realize Munich and Bavaria are distinct from other German cities. Munich revels in the Lederhosen image that most tourists have of Germany, but most other cities outside of Bavaria do not. Enjoy the region's attractions, linguistic differences, and rich history.

    Step by step tips for visiting any large city on a budget

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