Munich’s Old Town has a rich history and there’s SO MUCH to see and do here. This guide shares the best attractions, restaurant recommendations, and more!
Whether you find yourself in Munich for Oktoberfest or are in town another time of year, there’s SO much to do and see in the city’s beautiful Old Town. From historic churches to an expansive palace complex to pretty squares, there’s a little bit of everything in this area.
I recommend spending at least one full day in the Old Town, but you can easily fill two days just exploring the historic buildings and taking in the sights.
There are more sights and museums to visit in the Old Town, but this list encompasses my personal favorites that you absolutely have to make time for!
Table of Contents
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A (Very) Brief History of Munich’s Old Town
Officially founded in 1158 by the Bavarian Duke Henry the Lion, Munich has a long and interesting history. The name “Munich” comes from the German word for “monks,” which is in reference to the original settlers of the area — a group of Benedictine monks that are thought to have lived on the land as far back as 750 CE.
Exploring it today, you’d never know that Munich’s Old Town was pretty much reduced to rubble in WWII. It was rebuilt leading up to the 1972 Munich Olympics, and the city did an excellent job restoring the buildings.
However, keep an eye out for the “Wunden der Erinnerung,” or Wounds of Memory, on the buildings. As the Old Town was rebuilt, the “scars” left by Allied bombs were kept on display both as a means of remembering those who lost their lives in WWII and also to showcase that the city remembers its Nazi history.
With that brief history lesson over with, let’s dive right into the best things to do and see in Munich’s Old Town!
Top Things to Do & See in Munich’s Old Town
No Munich itinerary is complete without spending at least one full day in the Old Town! Below are the must-see attractions in Old Town Munich.
I’ve visited each site mentioned in this post, and I’m always so happy to return to Munich and revisit my favorites. Leave me a comment at the end of this post with any questions or comments you have!
This pretty square is officially called Karlsplatz and is named after Elector Karl Theodore. He made extensive renovations to this area in the late 1700s in an effort to create more room for the expanding populace.
Locals at the time didn’t like him, though, so they started calling this square “Stachus” after the Beim Stachus Pub that used to sit near the New House Gate (pictured above).
The New House Gate dates back to Medieval times and was one of Munich’s four main gates. Today, it’s just for decoration but it’s a reminder of the city’s unique history. Beyond the gate is a lovely fountain, called Fountain Boy.
Karlsplatz is one of my favorite photo spots in the Old Town, but it’s also a major transportation hub so I recommend coming first thing in the morning to enjoy the fountain and scenic Medieval-esque backdrop before the crowds arrive.
Arguably the prettiest square in Munich’s Old Town, the Marienplatz (“Mary’s Square”) has historically always been the center of Munich. The original marketplace founded by the Benedictine monks by order of Duke Henry the Lion was located at Marienplatz. The square got its name from the patron saint of Munich, Mary.
In the center of the square is the Mariensäule (Virgin Mary Column). It’s considered the official center of Munich. Fun fact: if you use Google Maps to determine the distance from Munich to another city, it will be measured starting at the Mariensäule!
On the edges of the Marienplatz, you’ll find the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) and the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). They make a beautiful backdrop for this historic square!
Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall)
Munich’s Neues Rathaus is stunning! After 40 years of construction work, it was completed in 1905. The Neues Rathaus is famous for its Glockenspiel. Each day at 11am, noon, and 5pm (in the summer), the Glockenspiel plays a 15-minute song.
As the song plays, the figures underneath the clock spring to life! They tell the story of a jousting tournament held in the 1560’s as part of the wedding celebrations for Bavarian Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine. Additional figures below the jousting tournament show the dance of the coopers. They did a special dance to celebrate the end of the plague in 1517.
The inner courtyard of the Neues Rathaus is a pretty photo spot and has an open-air restaurant. I visited Munich during the usual Oktoberfest period and a lively oom-pah band was playing in the inner courtyard while people ate. It was so fun and festive!
For an unparalleled view of the city, you can pay a couple Euros to go up the bell tower of the Neues Rathaus. Unfortunately, the town hall building itself won’t be in the photo since you’ll be standing on it, but the rest of Munich looks gorgeous!
Churches in Munich’s Old Town
When visiting Munich, know that you’re in Catholic country! Catholicism runs deep here, so Munich never converted to Protestantism, unlike most other parts of Germany. There are more churches in the Old Town than I listed below, but here are my particular favorites that I saw.
Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our Lady)
Munich’s soaring Frauenkirche is impossible to miss! The cathedral’s towers loom 325 feet overhead. The massive towers were built to make a statement; as I mentioned above, Munich is one of the few Catholic cities in Germany. The Frauenkirche is a symbol of the people’s faith and the power of the Catholic church.
What I found fascinating about the Frauenkirche is that it was completed in 1488 after just 20 years of construction work. 20 years! That’s awfully quick for a cathedral of this size, wouldn’t you agree?
Legend has it that the cathedral’s architect made a deal with the devil in order to complete the project in the agreed 20-year time frame. The devil said he’d help fund the building project, but only if no windows were added to the cathedral.
Spoiler: the architect secretly added windows to the cathedral! When the building was complete and the devil realized he’d been tricked, he stomped his foot on the floor in anger. To this very day, you can see the “Devil’s footprint” at the entrance of the Frauenkirche.
I should note that the Frauenkirche was mostly destroyed in WWII. The towers miraculously survived, but the rest of the cathedral didn’t, which is why it looks so plain inside.
Alter Peterskirche (St. Peter’s Church)
Given that Peter was Jesus’ first disciple, it’s fitting that the oldest church in Munich be named after him. St. Peter’s Church has been damaged and rebuilt many times since it was founded (it was actually founded before Munich even became a city, it’s so old!).
Today, you can climb the 306 steps up the church’s bell tower for another beautiful view of the city. The benefit of climbing this tower versus the town hall’s tower is that you’ll actually get the town hall in the photo! However, it’s best to get to the church early since there’s always a long line of people waiting to go up the tower.
If you don’t want to waste money on a pretty view, the church itself is still worth going into. As you can see in the photo above, St. Peter’s is incredible. It houses the remains of Saint Munditia, who’s patron saint of single and unmarried women.
Asamkirche (St. Johann Nepomuk Church)
I won’t lie, I couldn’t decide whether I thought the Asamkirche was gorgeous or hideous. Its official title is the Saint Johann Nepomuk Church, but no one calls it that. It got the name “Asamkirche” because it was built by the Asam brothers in the 1740’s.
The church is a mere 30 feet wide but is decked out in opulent Baroque fixtures and frescoes. The Asam brothers were a sought-after pair of artists and architects who built the Asamkirche as a showroom church to advertise their skills. The brothers actually lived next door to the church and supposedly could see the high altar from their bedroom windows!
Theatinerkirche (Theatine Church)
The brightly colored mustard facade of the Theatinerkirche is impossible to overlook. The church was built by Elector Ferdinand in honor of Saint Cajetan of Theatine. Ferdinand and his wife weren’t able to produce a male heir for 10 years. Desperate for a son, he promised to build a church in honor of Saint Cajetan of Theatine if the saint blessed them with a child.
The church opened its doors in 1674, but it wasn’t fully finished until 1765. The interior was built in the Italian high-Baroque style, but the mustard facade is in the Rococo style.
Michaelskirche (St. Michael’s Church)
St. Michael’s is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. Like most buildings in the Old Town, it was severely damaged in WWII. Much of its interior stucco work is missing, but I actually think it’s the prettiest of all the churches I’ve shared!
While in St. Michael’s be sure to visit the royal crypt. It’s the resting place of 40 Wittelsbach royals, including “Mad” King Ludwig II.
The Munich Residenz was the seat of government and home to the royal family from 1508 to 1918. Over the centuries, each new ruler added his own suite of rooms and personal touches to the palace, which explains how it became the sprawling complex it is today.
A tour of the Munich Residence includes access to over 100 (!!) rooms of the palace — which is a mere sampling of the palace as a whole.
My personal favorite parts of the Residence were:
- The Antiquarium: A 66-meter long Renaissance banquet hall with ceiling frescoes and antique sculptures lining the walls.
- The Court Chapel: Built in the 17th century for the court and royal family to worship.
- The Green Gallery: A stunning picture and mirror gallery with 70 pieces of art on display.
Looking at it today, you’d never know that much of the Residenz was damaged during WWII. It’s been meticulously restored and is one of the most beautiful, well-planned palace tours I’ve taken!
When visiting the Residence, give yourself at least 3 to 4 hours to see everything! The audio guide is very detailed, and there’s a lot to look at.
Located in the same complex as the Munich Residenz, the jaw-droppingly beautiful Cuvilliés Theatre was built by François Cuvilliés the Elder 1751 to 1755. It was built as the “new opera house” for Elector Maximillian Joseph III.
The building housing the original theatre was destroyed by an Allied bombing raid in 1944. Luckily for us, all of the original woodwork was moved to a safe location beforehand so what you see in the theatre today is mostly original.
You only need 15 to 20 minutes to look around the theatre, so the 5 Euro admission may seem a bit steep. It’s so worth it though!
The Hofgarten (“Court Garden”) was formerly part of the Munich Residenz. The garden was built in the 17th century in the style of Italian Renaissance gardens. It’s the perfect spot to relax on a sunny day, as it’s still within the boundaries of the Old Town but is far enough from the city center that not as many come here.
Viktualienmarkt (Victuals Market)
What began as a small farmers market in the 1700’s is now Munich’s main market. There are lots of stalls selling local meats, cheeses, and all the fresh produce you could possibly need. In the center of the Viktualienmarkt is a beer garden, which is packed during the warmer months.
If you’re traveling on a budget or simply don’t feel like eating in a restaurant, come to the Viktualienmarkt for picnic supplies! There are also plenty of stalls selling pre-made meals like soups, bratwurst, and so on. The market is open every day but Sunday and everyone is very friendly.
There are six main breweries in Munich, but the Hofbräuhaus (“Royal Court Brew House”) is the best known. When the beer hall opened in 1607, only the royal family and their guests were let inside.
In the 1820’s, King Ludwig I opened the Hofbräuhaus to the public as part of his wedding celebrations. Each year after that, Ludwig continued to host anniversary celebrations for him and his wife and is the origin of Munich’s world-renowned Oktoberfest.
However, the Hofbräuhaus has a dark history as well. It was here that Hitler and his associates founded the Nazi party in 1920.
Although more tourists than locals can be found at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich’s Old Town, it’s still a fun place to visit and sip on a liter of beer (yes, I said liter!). The food here is pretty good, and the lively atmosphere makes for a memorable evening.
Where to Eat in Munich’s Old Town
Munich’s Old Town is packed with places to eat, so this list is by no means extensive. However, here are my two cents on some good places to eat in the area.
- Hofbräuhaus — Overpriced, but the atmosphere and history makes up for that.
- Haxnbauer — One of my first ever (cringey) blog posts was a review of the Haxnbauer. If you’ve never tried crispy pork knuckle before, this is the place to get it!
- Viktualienmarkt — Great for cheaper, grab and go type lunches. All of the fruit I bought here during my stay in Munich was perfectly ripe and the prices were fair.
- Victorian House — Pricier, but a great spot near the Old Town for afternoon tea. It’s beautiful inside!
- Cotidiano — Hip cafe with great breakfast. The lunch bowls aren’t worth the price, in my opinion, but you can find lots of healthier options here if you’re craving something fresh.
- Dean & David — Don’t judge me since this is a popular sandwich and salad chain that you can find all over Germany. But for non-Germans I wanted to mention it since I know how good a crisp, veggie-laden salad can taste after a week of traveling and eating rich restaurant food.
FAQs About Munich’s Old Town
How much time is needed to see the Old Town?
If you don’t plan on visiting any museums and are okay being on your feet for a longer period of time, you can tour the Old Town in one day. However, I split up my explorations over the course of several days since I stayed in Munich for eight days.
Can the Old Town be seen on foot?
Yes! Many of the shopping streets are pedestrian-only, and it’s easy to get everywhere on foot.
What are the best shopping streets in the Old Town?
The area around the Rindermarkt has some good stores, as do Maximilianstraße and Sendlinger Straße.
What else is there to do in Munich?
The Old Town is only one tiny part of the city of Munich, and there’s so much more to do and see here! I have an entire post about the best things to do in Munich, so check that out if you need additional recommendations.
Even more fun things to do and see in Munich include:
- 20+ Free Things to Do in Munich
- 10 Easy Day Trips From Munich (by Train!)
- 3-Day Munich Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
Map of the Old Town’s Attractions
Is Munich’s Old Town Worth Visiting? Yes!
I hope this guide to the Old Town in Munich has inspired you to visit. It’s one of the best Old Towns in Germany and has lots to see and do.
If you have any questions about visiting Munich in general or the Old Town in particular, drop me a comment down below so I can help you out!