Being the history nerd that I am, I knew that I had to visit Munich, Germany during my time in Europe. Bavaria, regional home to Munich, has so much history to explore that you could spend much longer than three days in the area sightseeing. The three days we did spend, however, were filled with a considerable amount of exploration & excitement.
Munich was the second major city that my mom and I explored during our European rail adventure, traveling with Rail Europe from Paris to the German metropolis of Munich. Frequently traveling via train was perhaps my mom’s favorite aspect of European travel, since metros & subways are in just about every city and rails connect every major town, and even minor ones. Train travel is affordable & simple, and is something that I recommend to everyone who travels in Europe. All you need to do is check out the tickets available on their website, and purchase the one you need. You also have the option of purchasing tickets upon arrival to the station, which is what we did during our trip from Munich to Salzburg. Super convenient. Once you have the tickets, you simply get them scanned by station personnel, and hop on to find your assigned seat – a much easier process than flying, might I add.
The train from Paris to Munich moved pretty quickly, topping out at around two-hundred and fifty miles per hour. It was still such a smooth ride, and gave us outstanding views of the countryside while we relaxed with books and snacks we bought in Paris.
When we arrived in Munich, we quickly hailed a cab & went to our hotel. The hotel, LetoMotel Muenchen Moosach, was a bit outside of the city, but much cheaper than a city-center hotel. Our location happened to be perfect because it was just a block from the Moosach metro station, the stop that took us right to Marienplatz, the main square in Munich. From Marienplatz, we could walk everywhere we needed in the city. The hotel wasn’t fancy or extravagant, but it had good A/C, super-comfy beds with fluffy comforters, a nice attached bath, & enough room for our suitcases which was really all we needed. It was the perfect location to travel both to the city & outside of the city, both of which we planned to do. I would definitely stay there again.
Munich is the perfect city to explore in & out of! History overflows in Munich, art is abundant, food & drink are cultural staples, and grassy hills & bustling streets create a best-of-both-worlds atmosphere. There is so much to do, but here are my musts:
This might sound like a given, but since it’s so touristy some people tend to stay away from the bustling city-center. I absolutely love this gem of a square! It was the perfect starting point for shopping, dinner, or just exploring. Many walking tours begin out of Marienplatz, too. I had a delicious Wiener schnitzel & refreshing beer on the terrace of the cutest restaurant. I’m almost too ashamed to say this (almost is the key word, here), but one night my mom and I were wandering through Marienplatz, saw the cutest bakery & decided to take a peek at their goods. We ended up taking huge rolls & pastries home, along with a giant sleeve of fresh cherries, and munched on these treats for dinner. No shame. In addition to delicious food, there are numerous fountains & gardens to explore just outside of the square, too, so take your time & explore all that Marienplatz and its surroundings have to offer.
This nineteenth-century castle is just too good to be true. Rumor has it that it’s the castle that Walt Disney based his Sleeping Beauty castle from, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case. It has towering walls of stone, turrets rising from the roofs, and a history that will make your head spin. Our trip to Neuschwanstien was made even more memorable by our energetic tour guide, Frank, who was a bit of a conspiracy theorist when it came to the castle’s history – as well as Bavaria’s! We partnered with a travel company who specializes in one-day tours for this adventure, and it was worth it simply because of Frank. As we traveled via train to Füssen, he gave us his lesser-known version of the castle’s history which we were able to contrast with the history the castle’s guides gave during the tours of the palace itself. Having known little regarding the castle before my trip, having these two contrasting views was interesting and inspired me to conduct my own research after I returned home. You can read up on the castle here.
The architecture of the castle is simply breathtaking. It looks like something from a movie as you enter through large gates into a courtyard, surrounded by stone walls & grand precipices. Walking into the castle is equally as awe-inspiring as its nearly overwhelming exterior. Bookcases & wooden paneling & majestic furnishings make up the interior of Neuschwanstein.
Spend some time in the vicinity of the castle but not in its immediate locality, if you will. There are so many pleasant & remarkable things to see in its outskirts. You can get an impeccable view of the castle from a nearby bridge that overlooks Neuschwanstein’s hill as well as an incredible waterfall & view of the mountains. Also nearby is a smaller, yellow castle called Hohenschwangau which looks miniature & delightful in the wake of Neuschwanstein.
Behind Hohenschwangau is a series of lakes that inspired Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake: the Alpsee, Schwansee, & Constance. Talk about a fangirl overload. I am obsessed with all things musical & ballet & Russia, so seeing this unexpected gem was such a treat. It is easily seen from some of the trails leading to Neuschwanstein & you can even sometimes catch a glimpse of the swans who often inhabit the lakes – real life Swan Lake!
Füssen is the small village directly below Neuschwanstien Castle, full of charm, colorful buildings, and quaint shops. To get to Füssen, you simply board a train (after purchasing a ticket, of course!) and journey to the village. This is typically where people who want to explore Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, & the lakes begin their explorations.
Venturing through Füssen was so relaxing. The streets were narrow & cobbled, the shops bright & cheery, and the atmosphere was serene. We stopped in a couple of the shops to eye cuckoo clocks. To my dismay, we weren’t able to buy one but that didn’t stop me from window shopping! Perhaps my favorite part of German villages is the signage for shops. The doors all have quaint little signs hanging above them with cartoon-like logos & shop names broadcast on them… a scene from a dream.
Walking Tours of the City with Munich Walk Tours
If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll love the abundance of walking tours in and around Munich. A company that I recommend is Munich Walk Tours. They have several related directly to World War II that I recommend. You get to see sites such as Adolf Hitler’s personal apartment, Nazi party meeting places, and mass rally points.
There are also other tours with Munich Walk Tours – if you’re not such a history know-it-all – that include brewery tours, Christmas market tours, food-tasting walks, & city overviews. Check out Munich Walk Tours’ website here. If you want more tour options, check them out here and here.
Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau
Visiting a concentration camp memorial is, simply put, an experience every person should have. I visited KZ Dachau, but I imagine that every memorial will give visitors the same sense of lost humanity and injustice. This visit is a humbling experience that I discussed in greater detail here.
KZ Dachau is a short train & bus ride from the Munich city center. Although it is an extremely melancholy place to visit, I think it’s a tremendously important landmark. You can’t fully understand what Europe went through under one-hundred years ago during the Holocaust until you see what happened inside the barbed-wire fences of a concentration camp. Definitely humbled & open-minded after my seeing the memorial first-hand.
Go ahead and get the giggles out. I know I’ve already mentioned this, and I also know that it’s not necessarily a “thing to do”, but I’ve gotta give it its own section in this post. I had my first Wiener schnitzel experience in Australia of all places, but when I went to Germany it was everywhere. I kid you not, I ate probably five schnitzels while I was in Germany – remember, I was only there for three days – and most of them were Wiener. If you’re not familiar with schnitzel, it’s a very thin, tender piece of pork or chicken or other meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. I’ve had schnitzel fried & served with mushrooms over French fries, baked & served with rice & gravy, and a assortment of other ways. Wiener is a particular style of schnitzel (which happens to be my favorite, if you couldn’t tell) that is fried and super good. It’s served with fries most of the time, but I’ve had it with a type of mushroom sauce and it was equally as good. If you go to Germany and don’t eat Wiener schnitzel, just know I am personally insulted. ;)
I can’t wait to get back to Europe & experience some of the culture that I’ve grown to love so much. Where’s your favorite European destination?
Hi, I'm Madeline
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