Munich is Germany’s picture-perfect Bavarian city. From its red-roofed buildings to its soaring cathedrals and historic squares, it’s easy to see why this is one of Europe’s top travel destinations.
We spent some time in Munich during winter and fell in love with the way the city came alive with a new sense of wintertime excitement. Munich was made for the cold, and the city is brimming with all sorts of fun winter activities.
Some cities might hibernate during the colder months, but Munich shines bright. From exploring festive Christmas markets to discovering the city’s scenic squares, here are the top things to do in Munich during winter.
ⓘ TIP: You’ll get even more ideas of places to visit in Munich and the surrounding area in this book.
How to get to Munich
Munich is a very tourist-friendly city and offers a range of options for transportation. The city is linked to pretty much every other big city in Europe. Travelers can journey by train, plane or bus, and tickets are very affordable.
If you’re arriving in Germany from outside of Europe, Munich Airport is the second-busiest airport in Germany, after Frankfurt. The distance from the airport to the city center is 25 miles. This trip is easily serviced by the Munich Airport Bus and the train.
Once you’re in Munich, the best way to get around is on foot since many of the attractions are located close to one another. However, if the winter weather gets to be a bit too much, you can always hop aboard the city’s excellent public transportation system – the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram or bus.
ⓘ TIP: If you arrive at the Munich airport during the Christmas Market season (Mid-November – December 26th), visit the Christmas market at the airport to get your vacation started in style.
Getting around Munich
Munich’s public transport system is reliable, convenient, and very easy to navigate. It consists of a network of underground (U-Bahn) and suburban trains (S-Bahn), buses, and trams. These lines will take you anywhere you need to go in the city.
If you want to get out of town for a day, your options are to take public transportation or rent a car. If you’re on a budget, use public transport. If convenience is more importantx, rent a car in Munich instead. You’ll be able to travel according to your own schedule, stop when you want, and see more of Germany’s countryside along the way.
It’s important to mention that if you purchase a Munich Card or a Munich City Pass, you’ll benefit from unlimited use of Munich’s public transportation during your entire stay. To suit your travel needs, you’ll decide how long your ticket is valid for.
Munich Card vs. City Pass
The Munich City Pass offers great value for money. Once you purchase this pass, you’ll benefit from:
- unlimited travel on Munich’s public transportation
- free admission to many of Munich’s top attractions, including museums, tours, and other popular sites.
- additional discounts on shopping and restaurants.
The Munich Card is another great money-saver. You’ll receive:
- unlimited travel on Munich’s public transport
- discounts on many of Munich’s top attractions, including tours.
- Special offers on shopping and restaurants
Best attractions and activities for a Munich winter trip
We had the best time immersing ourselves in the local culture of Munich and discovering this Bavarian capital for ourselves. Here are the attractions and activities we visited. They highlight the city in winter and perfectly showcases German charm.
1. Visit the magical Christmas markets
As you might imagine, Christmas markets top the list of unique things to do in Munich in December.
Munich has a variety of Christmas markets, and each one is unique. We made it a point to visit as many as we could, and even went back to a few of our favorites.
Wittelsbacherplatz is a small square in Munich that really comes alive at Christmas. The square hosts an annual Medieval themed Christmas market.
The vendors really bring the theme full circle by dressing up in Medieval costumes. Stroll past the stalls and see a sampling of hand-crafted souvenirs and tasty holiday treats.
For another authentic German holiday drink, try a glass of Feuerzangenbowle. This alcoholic beverage is made using a rum-soaked sugarloaf that is set on fire and left to drip into mulled wine. It’s super sweet, but oh so delicious. #love
2. See Munich’s iconic Rathaus-Glockenspiel
After you’ve had your fill at Victuals Market, walk about 5 minutes to Marienplatz and see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
This magnificent attraction is Munich’s mechanical clock housed in a tower. Every day, at 11:00 am and 12:00 pm, 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures dance around and put on a show reenacting two scenes from Munich’s history.
The whole show lasts about 15 minutes. As a nod to the Biblical passion story, it concludes with a small golden rooster chirping three times. It’s quite entertaining and a must-see in Munich.
3. Warm up at Munich Hofbrauhaus
About 5 minutes from the Rathaus-Glockenspiel is Munich Hofbrauhaus. This 16th-century beer hall and Bavarian restaurant is a great place to warm up and grab a bite to eat.
We loved this restaurant for its upbeat atmosphere, traditional and tasty Bavarian food, and reasonable prices. Every little detail — from the traditionally dressed staff to the live band playing classic German music and the awesome selection of Bavarian beer — does a great job keeping the German vibe alive.
4. See a show at the National Theater
After you’ve enjoyed a tasty meal, head to the National Theater, home of the Bavarian State Opera, Bavarian State Orchestra and the Bavarian State Ballet. This historic opera house is one of the best places to go in Munich during winter.
The building is incredibly beautiful, the stage is large, and the performances are done to perfection. If the weather outside is frightful, you can warm up while watching a live, high-quality performance.
ⓘ TIP: If you’re visiting Munich in December, The Nutcracker ballet is regularly performed through the month. You’ll also find a nice selection of other performances throughout the year. Check their website for their full listing.
5. Spend some time in Max-Joseph-Platz
After you exit the National Theater, you’ll be in Max-Joseph-Platz. Munich seems to have plenty of squares with stunning architecture, and this particular square is no exception. The square contains different architectural styles that are evident among the buildings which enclose the plaza on three sides
The focal point of the landmark is the large bronze statue of the First King of Bavaria, Maximillian I. The surrounding area is full of cafes, restaurants and lovely high-end shops. We found this to be a nice place to wander around and soak in the atmosphere of artistic elegance in Munich.
6. Explore Odeonsplatz
Odeonsplatz is another large square in central Munich. Surrounded by stately architecture, it’s quite impressive in size. It’s easy to see why it has traditionally been used as an important site for parades and public events.
One of the most attention-grabbing buildings in the square is the Theatine Church. This impressive church is painted in a striking golden hue, so it’s hard to miss.
Odeonsplatz is a definite winter must-see in Munich. It has a quiet charm and there are plenty of inviting cafes just a stone’s throw away. Perfect for warming up in.
7. See the imposing Selinger Tor
Selinger Tor is a city gate at the southern end of the old town in Munich. It has a single-arched main gate and two flanking towers. It’s been restored, so it’s not hard to imagine how imposing it would’ve looked back in the day.
It’s in a great location of the city, surrounded by shops, restaurants, cafes, and pubs. It’s one of the most photographed landmarks in Munich.
8. Soak in the simplicity at Stephansplatz
Stephansplatz is a quiet square in Munich with charming cobblestone pathways that ooze old-world charm. Connected to the square is Saint Stephen Church. It may not be a grand or imposing church, but it fits in with the theme of the square: simple and classic.
What’s more, Stephansplatz is shaded by lush trees that look absolutely breathtaking with a light dusting of snow….
9. Stroll down the Rindermarkt
After you leave Stephansplatz, walk northwest until you reach Rindermarkt. This is one of Munich’s oldest streets.
It was originally used as a cattle market place – rinder is the German word for beef – and the iconic Rindermarkt fountain pays homage to this aspect of the square. The fountain displays a sitting shepherd watching over his three cattle. In keeping with the authentic German ambiance, we found many traditional companies and retail shops lining the street as well.
10. Tour the lively Marienplatz
The Rindermarkt leads straight to Marienplatz, Munich’s most famous square. We found Marienplatz had more of a lively vibe compared to Munich’s other squares, even in winter.
This area offers a full experience of Munich’s history and culture. The square has a wonderful ambiance and many picture-perfect buildings. After the first snowfall, the Marienplatz is coated in a blanket of white that exposes a new charm.
It’s a very touristy area, filled with shops, restaurants, cafes, and other attractions. If you are visiting during the holiday season, Marienplatz has a lively Christmas Market. This is definitely a Munich must-see.
11. Marvel at the stunning Munich Residenz
The Munich Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany, and one of the more popular Munich points of interest. This lavish palace is full of opulently decorated rooms and golden corridors.
Touring the palace will let you experience the lavish life of Bavarian royalty. The rooms are decorated head-to-toe with priceless objects, including sculptures, tapestries, and period-piece furniture. You’ll see a wide variety of styles, including Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical.
ⓘ TIP: For a more comprehensive experience, make sure to pick up the audio guide (included in the admission price). If you want to properly tour the palace and listen to the audio guide, plan to spend about 2.5 hours here.
12. Visit the Victuals Market
Known locally as Viktualienmarkt, the Victuals Market is your classic European market, full of excitement and local flavor. Start your day at the market with a cup of coffee and a German pastry.
This is a great place to take in the local culture. The stalls offer an impressive selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, bread and pastries, and much more. You’ll also find Bavarian specialties like sauerkraut, dumplings, pretzels, and Spätzle.
There’s a beer garden that features some of Munich’s best beers along with Glühwein (a hot spiced wine) during winter. Besides food, you’ll also find plenty of local hand-made items. For Christmas, the market kicks into holiday mode, selling handmade Christmas goods and delicious sweets.
13. Admire the enchanting Neuschwanstein Castle
A day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle comes highly recommended. In terms of castles, Neuschwanstein definitely has the wow-factor. In fact, it’s rumored to be the real-life inspiration for the castle in the Disney classic, Cinderella. We have to admit, the resemblance is quite striking.
Tour this towering German castle and take in every fascinating detail. With its white limestone facade, deep blue turrets, and a backdrop of the Bavarian Alps, Neuschwanstein coated with a dusting of snow is the stuff of travelers’ dreams.
ⓘ TIP: The tour doesn’t go completely to the castle entrance, so be prepared to walk a fairly steep grade. Or, opt for the horse-drawn carriage like we did.
Next, the tour continues on to Linderhof Palace. After visiting the imposing Neuschwanstein Castle, it was quite interesting to see this smaller sized palace. Nevertheless, we found it just as spectacular. Especially the large outdoor gardens that were designed to the smallest detail.
Lastly, you’ll finish up with a wander around the quaint little German town of Oberammergau. We loved everything about this charming day trip.
14. Tour BMW Welt
You don’t have to be a car lover to appreciate touring the BMW factory. The layout of their museum was designed to engage visitors and is thoughtfully organized. The factory walks you through the different stages of car production. You’ll even get to see a car being made from start to finish.
A tour of the factory will show you the highlights of this famous car manufacturer and provide insight into the automotive industry. We loved learning about the BMW in the country it originated from.
What to pack for Munich in winter
If you’re visiting Munich during the winter months, we’ve got an entire packing list for winter in Europe. Here is a taste of a few winter-weather essentials we recommend to help combat the cold:
- Boots – Munich’s scenery is gorgeous in winter, which means you’ll likely be spending a fair deal of time outdoors. Pack a pair of rainproof boots that will keep your feet warm, dry and happy.
- Wool socks – A pair of wool socks will provide you with an added layer of warmth and comfort and prepare you for any Munich activities you plan to enjoy in winter.
- Winter coat – Pack a coat made for freezing temperatures, preferably one with a hat attached. This will be your body shield against the unpredictable Munich winter temperatures.
- Touchscreen gloves – Touchscreen gloves let you take pictures and navigate through the city without getting cold hands.
- Scarf – Many people overlook the power of a good scarf in winter. But we’ve found that having a little more material to wrap around your neck makes a surprisingly big difference in preserving your body temperature.
Munich weather in winter
The winter months in Germany are from December to February. Winter weather in Munich varies a good deal, but you can expect some form of rain or snow about 13 days out of the month, on average. Plan for cloudy days. Here are the average temperatures to expect:
- December – Average high: 2ºC, low: -2ºC (39ºF / 28ºF).
- January – Average high: 3ºC, low: -3ºC (37ºF / 27ºF).
- February – Average high: 4ºC, low: -3ºC (39ºF / 27ºF)
Although all three months produce spectacular winter scenery, there’s nothing quite like Munich in December. The Christmas charm lights up the city and the atmosphere comes alive with holiday cheer.
Munich at Christmastime is especially enthralling, as the city lights up with festive sights and cultural and culinary delights. That said, Munich in January and February is also very delightful. These months aren’t considered peak travel time, so you’ll save money on accommodation. You’ll also beat the Octoberfest and summertime tourists crowds and see all the best things in Munich in relative peace.
Final thoughts about visiting Munich in the winter
If you’re planning a trip to Munich, Germany, winter is an excellent time to visit. The charm of the city is amplified when a dusting of fairytale white clings to its red rooftops and charming old town streets.
We were delighted to discover the beauty of this breathtaking Bavarian city. If you’re looking for places to visit in Germany in winter, Munich turns into a winter wonderland. One that’s impossible not to fall in love with.
ⓘ Need some more wintertime destination inspiration? If you’re an American, we’ve covered the best New England winter getaways, things to do in NYC in winter, warm winter vacations in the USA, and the top day trips from Orlando and Miami. For winter in Europe, read about the best European Christmas markets, Christmas in Crete, and places to visit in Europe in December, We also have cold-weather guides to Vienna, Munich, Salzburg, Hallstatt, Zagreb, and Ljubliana, as well as a winter packing list. We’re here to help you enjoy traveling in the winter!