I recently went to Munich for the very first time. It wasn’t my first visit to Germany, so (like any “expert traveler” tends to think), I thought I knew exactly what to expect. It turned out out that my expectations were completely wrong – and that I really need to stop thinking so highly of myself.
Unlike Frankfurt (the only other German city I’ve been to), I found Munich to be extremely interesting. There was a wider variety of interesting architecture, and getting around was extremely easy.
I’m glad I got to experience it. Otherwise, Germany would have remained low on my list of places that I wanted to return to.
What I consider to be the 6 most important things to know about visiting Munich for the first time
Before going any further, I just want to say that what you are about to read are my opinions only. I’m just telling you what I experienced, that’s all.
1. The metro /subway system is extremely easy to use
As someone who was raised in the midwestern United States (where anything other than freight trains don’t exist), I tend to clench up at the mere thought of having to go somewhere by train. The mishmash of lines and schedules tend to
confuse me freak me out, so more often than not, I’d rather just walk. Or drive.
The metro system in Munich (U-Bahn and S-Bahn) is exactly what a proper metro system should be. Yes, it’s extremely complicated at first glance with many lines going in every possible direction, but I found it extremely easy to use.
And yes – all instructions (and signage) are in both German and English, so it just makes perfect sense for uneducated Americans such as myself.
2. The city core is relatively small
Although Munich is interesting enough to walk and explore aimlessly for days, the central part of the city (which I found to be the most interesting) covers a relatively small area.
Seeing the sights in Munich won’t take long on foot. You can walk from one attraction to the next without working up too much of a sweat – unless it’s the middle of July of course. In that case you’ll be sweating buckets.
3. April is a really nice time to visit
I was a bit apprehensive about going to Munich in April, as one look at the weather charts seemed to apply that winter isn’t quite over at that point. However, I found the cool(ish) temperatures to be absolutely perfect for walking around.
Yes, it can get a bit chilly if you’re just standing still looking at something, but you’ll be able to walk from one destination to the next (with purpose) without breaking a sweat.
I would advise bringing an umbrella. There’s nothing that’ll ruin a European vacation faster than being stuck outside in the cold rain. That happened on my last trip to Paris, and it sucked.
4. English is spoken everywhere
You’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about if you can’t speak a lick of German other than “Volkswagen.” Nearly everybody within the central part of Munich speaks some English, and most signs and menus are in English as well.
That said, it would be rude of you to not make an effort to say common words such as “please” and “thank you” in German. It doesn’t matter if you think you sound like an idiot doing it – the people you’re talking to you will appreciate the effort.
5. You have to pay to use public toilets
Actually, paying to use public toilets is common throughout all of Europe. I just thought it was worth mentioning since I can tell you how much it sucks to really have to use the bathroom when carrying nothing but a credit card.
Heck – even cash wouldn’t have helped me. Public toilets accept coins only.
6. It’s OK to stay at the airport
If you’re on a somewhat tight time schedule, I highly recommend staying at the Hilton connected directly to the Munich Airport. It’s extremely nice (probably the best airport Hilton I’ve ever stayed at), and getting to the city center is extremely easy via the train. FYI, trains depart every 10 minutes, it costs €13 per person, and the journey takes 35 minutes.
I know. Staying at the airport isn’t anywhere near as cool as staying somewhere in the center of the city. However, the convenience alone is worth it if you’ve got an early flight out. Screw what everyone else thinks!