An Ode to Munich, including arguably its best day trip
Munich. Munchën, as the locals (or anyone who speaks German) call it. As the beating heart of Bavaria, it offers travelers many of the most quintessential German experiences: from Oktoberfest, to the food, to the city’s hidden gems, to the food, to being a great base for day-trips, to the food. I don’t think I mentioned the food? Here are some of our well-travelled tips and tricks for getting the most out of Munich!
Lederhosen or dirndl on the bod is a must. Good walking shoes are recommended. A stein of beer in each hand is likely. Or, if you’re like me and can’t stomach beer: firstly, why are you at the world’s most famous beer festival? (Just kidding!) Secondly, they also offer steins of many other alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) drinks - don’t worry; your penchant for gin and tonic is safe here.
Essentially a big Bavarian-style fairground for adults (mostly), Oktoberfest is home to an abundance of rides ranging from dodgem cars to “why is this the third time in under a minute I’m upside down?!”. The best piece of advice here is to save the majority of your steins of choice until after the latter.
Once you’ve adrenaline-d yourself out, head to one of the many beer halls to periodically chime in “PROST!!” with everyone else in the room, and to eat your weight in bratwurst and sauerkraut. Drawing a truly international crowd, you may find yourself knocking steins with a Brit; or lady-and-the-tramp-ing a head-sized pretzel with a Chilean. Tip: To get a truly Instagram-worthy snap of any of the beer halls, make sure to book a table in advance for one of the balcony dining areas. There’s nothing like watching a few hundred people simultaneously spill beer everywhere!
Oktoberfest being a big part of Munich culture, after-hours locals will take the chance to don some truly gorgeous Bavarian wear and either flock to the festival itself, or frequent local pubs, beer halls and eateries. There are too many of these to count in Munich, so the best tip anyone could give is to find a little out-of-the-way local pub you like the vibe of and just…soak up all that Bavarian goodness. Watch the young men lightly flirt with elderly ladies while they dance to a one-man-band playing an accordion! Eat all the potato dumplings! Everything is wood-paneled, and somehow you think this is a good idea!
Food and beer aside – I can’t believe I just said that – Munich does have a whole bunch of hidden gems scattered throughout the city. One that definitely should not be missed is The Residenz. The largest city palace in all of Germany, the Residenz was used as lodging for royals, officials and diplomats visiting Munich from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Now though, it’s just really damn extra in the best possible way! The best description one can give of these truly uniquely stunning interiors is Versailles-meets-Sistine Chapel-meets-seashells. No, really. The first room you walk into features murals comprised of seashells covering every surface. The second room you walk into has a fresco ceiling to rival the Sistine Chapel – may be slightly less iconic, but definitely just as stun-your-socks-off. The rest of the building is a maze of gild, art, hallways and ex-royal artifacts (see: how much gold is too much gold?). It’s also right in the middle of the city, so a post-culture apple strudel at a nearby café is always a good idea.
Surrounded by mountains, a few hours by coach from Munich, there’s a little town named Schwangau that has everything: Bavarian food, a beautiful lake, murder, mystery, horse-drawn carriages, and not one but two castles including, of course, the one and only Neuschwanstein Castle. There really is nothing like it – in fact, it’s so enchanting that it was used as Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle! Definitely nab a day tour with a guide for this one so you get the full history. Who doesn’t love a good unsolved murder-suicide? Mad King Ludwig II (that’s mad as in clinically insane) was essentially a Bavarian castle developer – think The Block, but just one guy in nineteenth-century Bavaria - but boy does Neuschwanstein take the cake! Aside from the iconic as hell exterior, inside each room takes inspiration from a variety of operas written by Wagner, King Ludwig II’s number one crush. Ironically, Wagner never saw the castle. Neuschwanstein was never completed despite seventeen years of construction, which came to a halt when King Ludwig II died.
True crime buffs (hello!) will enjoy (sort of) the mystery surrounding his death – mere days after being dethroned (no, that’s not as fun as it sounds) for reason of insanity, King Ludwig II was found dead in a lake, along with his psychiatrist. This is where we all gasp and say “Murder!” in a voice Agatha Christie would be proud of. The truth is, and will probably always be, unknown; but hearing the story while staring up at the Castle, hidden in fog (thank you, German autumn!) gives a little eerie, a lot of intrigue to the whole experience.
While the tour inside the castle itself only takes about fifteen no-photos-allowed minutes, take a moderately strenuous stroll further up the mountain to Marienbrucke Bridge for The! Best! View! The bridge may be a little rickety, and more than a little crowded, but man, what a time to be alive! The dark green forest, the fog, the castle standing strong against a background of the village and the lake…if there weren’t fifty other tourists there trying to take selfies it would be beautifully atmospheric. What am I saying? It still is!
Hands down the most intriguing part of Neuschwanstein’s story, though? King Ludwig II was a total doppelgänger for Timothée Chalomet.