Guest Post by Our Family Passport: The Best Things to do in Munich in 5 Days

I have loved connecting with other traveling families via blogging and Instagram. One of the most inspirational families I’ve come across is the Smith Family from Our Family Passport. They are a multi-generational family that travels together all over the world. I just love how they make it a priority to travel together. They know a lot about keeping many different personalities and ages happy and fulfilled through their adventures. Enjoy reading below about their favorite things to do in Munich!

After first arriving in Munich or München as the Germans say (Beckham loved to try and say “München”) we immediately knew we were going to love it! It quickly turned into a favorite family European destination, and we know we will have to get back to Bavaria soon! While most people think of Munich and “Oktoberfest” as synonymous, we found it to be extremely family-friendly and we had a wonderful time participating in all of the family-oriented activities  Munich has to offer. To help with your Munich vacation planning, we put together our family-friendly itinerary for our favorite things to do in Munich in 5 days!

The Best Things to do in Munich in 5 Days

DAY 1 – ALSTADT, VIKTUALIENMARKET, MARIENPLATZ, AND THE BEST GERMAN PRETZELS 

We had a wonderful private tour by Big Hat Tours of the Altstadt (Old Town). This is a great way to get a layout and overview of the city. The starting point should be the top of the Oberammergau street and end at the super adorable and picturesque Viktualienmarkt for some Bavarian treats. On the first day of your trip, we suggest taking your time and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the old town. To us, it is a fairytale and there is something adorable and charming on every corner.

Our Old Town Munich Walking Tour Recommendations:

Marienplatz

Munich’s Neo-Gothic Square is home to the famous Glockenspiel. This square is DARLING! It was partially rebuilt and reconstructed after the bombing in WWII which explains the new architecture adjacent to the old. However, today this visual history adds to the charm and allure of this square. There are often street musicians and a crowd of people eager to see the clock built in 1908 chime and retell a Bavarian story at 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM every day. Honestly, the only person who was impressed by the chiming of the Glockenspiel was the 4-year-old (he thought it was the coolest haha). It may be overrated, but we think it is worth doing one time.

Frauenkirche

This cathedral is impressive in scale and the little onion-shaped domes can be seen from various points in the city. It isn’t our most favorite interior. However, the panorama from the top of the towers is fabulous! On a clear day, there is a beautiful view of the Bavarian Alps.

Hofbrauhaus

This is the beer house of all beer houses-and this is coming from people who don’t drink beer! HAHA. Historically it is steeped in importance and infamy. Vladimir Lenin was once a regular and this is where some of the first National German Workers Party (Nazi) meetings were held. Today it teems with tourists and locals alike. When you go, don’t forget to sneak back to see the lockers where the locals can clean, and lock up their own unique beer mugs. It is a classic!

Viktualienmarkt

Okay, CUTEST STREET MARKET EVER! Like, ever! And guys, the food here. Think fresh pesto, divine cheeses, and soft pretzels the size of your face. We could have wandered this market endlessly. Make sure to try the Baerlauch Pesto and don’t forget to stop at Karnoll’s Back Und Kaffeestandl and have one of their pretzels. We were told by several people that these were the best pretzels in Munich and we were not disappointed! Go early, they often sell out later in the day.

 

best pretzel in Munich

Other fantastic places to see in the Altstadt

  • Asam Church
  • Saint Peters
  • Ohel Jakob Synagogue

DAY 2 – NEUE PINAKOTHEK AND DACHAU 

This is a mood swing of a day here, but no matter what you do, Dachau is going to be heavy. So we suggest pairing the horrific remnants of the Nazi’s first concentration camp with a morning of pleasant easy going viewing of world-class 19th-century art.

Neue Pinakothek (New Picture Gallery)

Out of all of the museums in Munich, this was our favorite! If you are going to go to any museum in Munich, in our opinion, this is the best. While we enjoyed the Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) I thought the overall works in Neue were superior. However, the Dürers in the Alte are out of this world! But, if you only have time for one museum, we would suggest the Neue.

In the Neue, there are some fantastic works by van Gogh, Degas, Turner, and a lovely gallery upstairs that was empty. We took our time and went through the whole museum.  It is definitely worth a visit!

*Note that the layout of the museum is a little confusing. It is almost organized by rectangles within rectangles. If you are not sure where you are going, ask a docent or a museum employee. In our experience, they were all very helpful and accommodating.

* Also, in almost all of the museums in Munich you have to check your bags and some of the bag checks require several euros in coins.

Dachau

There is so much information about visiting Dachau that we decided to write about it in a separate post. We cover the best way to see it, our reactions, and answer the question if you should/could take young children to Dachau. See our Parents Guide to Dachau here

DAY 3 – DAY TRIP TO THE ROMANTIC ROAD

Rothenburg de Tauber and Dinkelsbuhl

Day trip to the Romantic Road with stops at Rothenburg de Tauber and Dinkelsbuhl. You could go to the Harburg Castle as it is an easy stop combined with the two, but we would suggest skipping Harburg Castle altogether and spending more time in Rothenburg and Dinkelsbuhl.  These are two of the cutest, fairytale German towns! While both are touristy, if you get off into the back roads there are some amazing shops and sights.  I don’t think two villages could be any more picturesque. Allow time to stroll, get a snack, and enjoy the charms.

DAY 4 – NYMPHENBURG PALACE, MUNICH RESIDENZ, AND THE ODEONSPLATZ

Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace is a really quick taxi ride out of the main city center of Munich and it is splendid and grand. It is a great place to be able to get some background on the Bavarian kings and the history of Munich. We had read that spending a whole day there was a must and while we thought it was super cool, we were ready to leave before lunch.

Our favorite things about the palace were exploring the riding stables (this requires an additional ticket – and it is SO worth the couple extra euros), the palace grounds and gardens, the main ballroom, and the delivery room of the “mad” King Ludwig II.  You can also pay extra to visit the Porcelain Museum, but in our opinion, it was a snoozer. If we could do it again we would bypass it.

Interior of Nymphenburg Palace, one of the many things to see in Munich

Munich Residenz

Okay, so the Munich Residenz is SERIOUSLY cool but be prepared for opulent overload. Like almost on the level of Versailles, overload. We honestly didn’t have many expectations for this (I am not sure why) but totally ended up thinking it was so awesome.

This palace is the largest palace in Germany and it makes the interior of Nymphenburg Palace look … eh. Expect some crowds but once you get through the coat check and ticket area the crowds seem to thin a little. About halfway through the palace, you will have an option to take the long way through the palace or the short way. We chose the short way and still spent over 2 hours visiting the complex. So, if you have a little one with you when visiting the Residenz bring plenty of snacks and point out all of the cool details. There is a whole room made out of seashells, unexpected hidden pathways and tunnels, and some cool swords.

Munich Residenz Extras

Like Nymphenburg, you can pay extra to see additional things at the Residenz. In our opinion the additions of the Opera House and Wittelsbach Crown Jewels should not to be missed. The crown jewels are housed right in the palace and you can walk two seconds from the crown jewels to the beginning of the palace tour. To visit the Opera House you must walk about 5 minutes to it’s location in the palace complex. When we visited, there was NOBODY there!  We had the whole theater to ourselves and it was exceptionally lovely.

interior shot of the Munich Opera House

THE WITTELSBACH CROWN JEWELS

We thought the crown jewels here were more impressive than … are you ready for this… the British Crown Jewels. The diamonds weren’t actually bigger but the collection on display was really impressive and some of the pieces dated back nearly a thousand years. I usually hate audio guides but the audio guide for the crown jewels was wonderful and even Beckham loved it.

Odeonsplatz and Surrounding Area

Just a couple of steps away from the entrance to the palace is the gorgeous and picturesque Odeonsplatz square which houses the exceptional Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall’s Hall) and the famous lions of Munich.  What was so gripping about this square was that while we were in Berlin we visited the Topography of Terror Museum and they had a huge image of a massive Nazi rally right on the Feldherrnhalle and today it is a peaceful and charming area where children and other tourists rub the feet of the lions and snap selfies.

For me, it was a strange dichotomy to see what a span of 70 years can do. This is so cheesy, but I found myself wishing that I could listen to the stories that those lions have to tell.

This area was one of my favorites in Munich. I could have wandered the streets for hours and thought the pastel facades of the buildings and the view of the onion domes of the Frauenkirche in the background made for a perfect evening.

Image of a mom and child in odeonsplatz to show best things to do in Munich

DAY 5 – NEUSCHWANSTEIN AND THE BAVARIAN ALPS

The Bavarian Alps and Neuschwanstein

By far, and I mean BY FAR, our favorite thing was visiting the Bavarian Alps! I don’t think it gets more stunning than the exterior of Neuschwanstein juxtaposed with the background of the alps, tall pines, alpine lakes and foggy clouds. This was a place that we had been dreaming about for a decade, and it totally measured up to our expectations. Even the drive there was so beautiful!  Be ready for the crowds and be prepared to fight your way onto the bridge to snap some good photos. Trust us, it’s worth it.

neuschwanstein castle in the fall foliage to show best things to do in Munich

Neuschwanstein Interior

However, that being said don’t expect too much from the interior. It is largely unfinished and the areas that are finished are strange and feel inauthentic. We anticipated it being totally over the top and kitschy, and that was exactly what it was. But, it gives a fantastic glimpse into poor Ludwig II’s life and some of the best views are from the inside of the actual castle.

TIPS FOR VISITING NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
  • Expect crowds, just do.
  • There is a driver that comes to the base of the hill and will take you to the top for 2 euros p/person. Do it.
  • Have a ticket beforehand. If you miss your ticket time, you are out of luck.
  • Allow at least an hour before and after the tour of the castle to wander around and view the castle from different vantage points.
  • Go to the bridge adjacent from the castle – OUT OF THIS WORLD beautiful!
  • Following the conclusion of the tour, walk down to the cafeteria and go out to the balcony and you will get a stunning view of Hohenschwangau castle and the Alpsee and Swansea lakes. Most people don’t even know you can go out on the balcony and get pictures.

Other things near Neuschwanstein that should not be missed

  • Linderhof Palace (absolutely beautiful) and the grounds are SO much fun! Beckham could have played here for ages.
  • Oberammergau village
  • Hohenschwangau Castle
  • If warm weather permits visit either the Alpsee or Swansea lake

MUNICH FOR KIDS-BECKHAM’S FAVORITE EXPERIENCES 

Our little man LOVED Germany! We found it to be so kid friendly and there were so many things that captured his imagination and attention.

  • Visiting the toy shops in Rottenburg de Tauber
  • Feeding the ducks and swans at Nymphenburg Palace
  • Running and playing on the grounds of Linderhof Palace
  • Throwing sticks off the bridge at Neuschwanstein (Dude was obsessed!)
  • Rubbing the feet of the huge lions at Odeonsplatz square
  • Eating pretzels and feeding the birds at Viktualienmarkt
  • Listening to the performers at Hofbrauhaus
  • Waiting for and watching the Glockenspiel

Back shot of Nymphenburg Palace and Gardens to show a place for little kids to play

OUR MUNICH RECOMMENDATIONS

Where to Stay In Munich

We stayed at the Charles Hotel and it was family friendly, ideally located, and had wonderful amenities. It was perfect for us and our little horde. The restaurant there is also fabulous as is the indoor swimming pool and spa area.

Our Favorite Schnitzel in Munich (as recommended by Big Hat Tours)

Schnitzel, oh how I need you in my life!! The turkey schnitzel salad at Opatija is what dreams are made of. This place deserves a visit .. or two .. or three haha.

Where We Ate the Most While in Munich

Aside from the yummy restaurant at the Charles Hotel, we ate several times at L’Osteria near Karls Gate and Karlsplatz. It was Italian and I know eating Italian food in Germany seems pretty stupid, and maybe it was, but we had a little man who was dying for pizza and the food was delicious. It is also really well priced. My recommendation would be the carbonara pasta and the turkey caesar salad.

How to Get Around

We used public transportation with one of our guides and it was clean and efficient. Our German is less than stellar however and the instructions in English are almost nonexistent, so we also used taxis and found them to be reasonably priced and super easy to use. We downloaded the MyTaxi app on our phones and scheduled taxis from our phones. So easy and user-friendly!

OVERALL

Needless to say, we LOVE München and can’t wait to get back!

Don’t forget to pin this and visit Our Family Passport for the full post and more destinations!

 

Guest Post by Our Family Passport-2

 

A Little About Our Family Passport:
“We are an average family living in a crazy busy world, trying to juggle work, school, and family responsibilities. As a multi-generational family, we are always growing and changing. We have found that traveling all together with our family of 10 from the Grandparents on down to the little Grandbaby, provides a “time-out” where we can reconnect with the ones we love the most without daily interruptions or distractions. We have been to 6 continents and over 45 countries together! Our family adventures are tremendously educational and most of all, fun! It is our goal to encourage other families to take a “time out” together and go explore our amazing world!!!”
You can find them and their travel itineraries, tips, and hacks on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and of course their blog www.ourfamilypassport.com!

our-family-passport

 

Top 3 Things to Do in Slovenia

Slovenia was a true gem to visit. We spent a few days here last summer as the first stop on our Balkans adventure. Flying into Slovenia was exciting, we could see green mountains, castles, and beautiful churches. It truly looked like a fairy tale. Our brief time there would only reinforce those feelings. Between exploring the modern yet charming capital city, hiking river carved gorges, and relaxing at picturesque Lake Bled there’s something for everyone. Here’s our top 3 things to do in Slovenia!

Ljubljana

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Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. It is a very clean, walkable, charming city to explore. We loved strolling through the old town admiring the candy colored buildings. In the center of the town are three bridges crossing the river. The dreamy pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation makes a stunning backdrop. There is also a castle looking over the city. Don’t forget to visit Ljubljana’s iconic dragons at the dragon bridge. We were in Ljubljana on a Sunday when there was a flea market going on. It was full of treasures, if you’re able to drive to Ljubljana you may find something special here to take home. Tivoli Park is also a great place to spend some time. There are wide open spaces for kids to roam, gardens, playgrounds, and a lakeside cafe. 

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Vintgar Gorge

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About 45-50 minutes outside of Ljubljana is Vintgar Gorge. It is part of Triglav National Park and a beautiful place for a hike. The hike we did was an easy out and back walk along a beautiful river-carved gorge. The hike was easy enough to do with kids and toddlers. You just have to keep a close hand on them for some portions without protective rails. Once you reach the halfway point, you can stop and buy a snack and a drink from the little snack stand, sit down and enjoy the view. There are also bathrooms at this point. Then you can decide to head back, or keep hiking. We chose to head back because of time constraints but a longer hike would’ve been enjoyable too!

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Lake Bled

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Just about 10-15 minutes away from Vintgar Gorge is Lake Bled. The beautiful turquoise blue lake has a fairytale castle perched above it. Bled Castle has a wonderful view of the lake. Don’t miss their outdoor restaurant where you can dine on gourmet food while taking in the breathtaking view. You can also tour the interior of the castle, which we did not do only because we didn’t have enough time. Once you hike back down to lake level, you can wander the perimeter of the lake or hire a rowboat (or row yourself) to the island. On the island is the Assumption of Mary Church where you will have to climb up 99 steps to visit it! We walked around the lake looking for fish, checking out the shops, and enjoying some gelato.

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We loved our time in Slovenia and would love to return to explore more. Is Slovenia on your travel list? Have you been there before? I would love to hear about what others have enjoyed there!

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Chateau Villandry

These pictures were actually from our stay in Caen, but I forgot to post them in that entry…oops!  I had to share though because I’ve never seen anything like this.  We went to eat at an Italian restaurant, and Hubby ordered a pasta dish with some sort of cheese sauce.  When they brought the food out, they brought a whole butler’s cart with the pasta in a pan and a giant wheel of Parmesan cheese.  The chef put some sauce and the pasta right onto the block of cheese and stirred it around on there for 5 minutes or so.  While he was making it the cheese was melting right into the pasta.  It was amazing!

OK, back to our last chateau.  We decided to visit Villandry because it was known for its gardens.  The gardens were my favorite part about Versailles so I thought it would be fun to see this place.  The gardens were pretty impressive, though after you see Versailles, not much can compare to that.  But we had a nice afternoon at Villandry walking around and enjoying the grounds.

That was it for our trip to France!  We had a wonderful time, and our little girl has been such a good traveler so far.  She’s made it very easy on us.  We love being able to bring her with us wherever we go!

Chateau Chenoceau

The next morning, we set out in the rain again to see the 3rd most visited chateau in France after Versailles and Fontainebleau.  This chateau is so unique because it spans across a river.  Chateau Chenoceau was given by King Henry II to his mistress.  Upon his death his wife Catherine de Medici (of the famous Florentine family) took it back from her.

The beautiful hall that spans the river.

The whole time we were down in the kitchen and the servants’ quarters, I would hear a bunch of foreign mumblings then a “Mr. Bates” or “Mrs. Patmore” dropped every once in a while.  I guess they were all thinking what I was thinking, that it reminded me of Downton Abbey!  If you haven’t watched the show yet, you need to start…so good.

Our girl was such a good little baby, she slept the whole time we were touring the chateau.  It was a bummer that the weather wasn’t cooperating.  There are some really beautiful pictures of this chateau online, but unfortunately our pictures have the brown muddy looking river instead of the gorgeous blue river.  Oh well, can’t win ’em all.  We had time for one more chateau to visit, so it was back in the car and on the road again for us!

Chateau Chevreny

The weather turned south on us by the time we got to the next chateau.  But, we couldn’t let a little rain stop us!  This chateau is actually still a residence for a French viscount and his family.  Not too shabby!

What makes this chateau special is that it is also home to over 100 hunting hounds.  Everyday there is a bit of a spectacle when the dogs are fed.  The dog trainer enters the pen where all the dogs are barking and milling around and shouts a couple commands.  Within seconds the dogs are trampling over each other to go up onto a balcony that overlooks the main pen.  The trainer locks the door and starts to clean the pen.

Dogs “patiently” waiting to be fed.

 Once it’s all clean, the trainer lays out a line of chickens, then pours dog food on top.  Some of the dogs are so anxious for the food, they are gnawing on the metal bars.  The sound was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Chickens and kibble-yum.

Then the trainer opens the gate and all the dogs come down, but they aren’t allowed to eat just yet.  The trainer cracks a whip if any of the dogs get too close to the food or get out of line.  Once he finally shouts the right command, the dogs descend on the food and they go crazy.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

After we saw the dogs eat, we toured the rest of the chateau.  Again, it’s so surreal that a family actually lives here.  Can you imagine living in a place that’s open for the public to tour?

Someone was exhausted after all the touring.

More chateaus to come…

Chateau Chambord

We left the beaches of Normandy for the chateaus of the Loire Valley.  We drove several hours and through lots of tolls, until we finally arrived at Chateau Chambord.  It’s the largest in the Loire Valley with over 400 rooms, almost 300 fireplaces, and 80 staircases.  It was a “hunting lodge” originally for King Francios I.

Famous double spiral staircase, rumored to have been designed by Leonardo DaVinci.
Fancy-pants bedroom.

Dangerous tripod set up…anything for a family photo.

We enjoyed our time exploring the chateau.  This would’ve been a great place to bring a picnic lunch and hang out on the grass. Next up, we headed up the road to another chateau with some famous furry residents.

Versailles-Day Trip from Paris

Our morning started out fairly early to get out to Versailles, which is just about a 30 minute train ride outside of Paris.  I never really knew what Versailles was before moving here, so for those of you like me, it’s a massive palace and grounds that was home to Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette up until the French Revolution forced them out.  When you arrive at the train station you just start following the hoards of people speed walking.  You round the corner and then you’re greeted with your first glimpse of the palace and it’s sprawling line.  It looked like the crowds you would see in front of Disneyland.

A statue of Louis XIV greets you upon arrival.
First views of the palace.

So we thought that because we had so smartly purchased and printed out our tickets that we would get to walk right in.  Haha, nope.  This giant line is for security.  Apparently when Rick Steves says be there at 9:00 when it opens, he means 9:00 sharp, not get off the train at 9:15 and leisurely stroll over to the palace.  Oops, lesson learned.

Huge snaking line you have to stand in, the little gray structure in the back left is the gate to get in.
Patiently waiting.

Finally up to the beautiful golden palace gate.

We decided to go ahead and do the palace tour first to get it out of the way.  It was a little bit of a nightmare because of how crowded it was.  In some rooms you could barely move, not my fave.  The palace itself was beautiful, extremely ornate, and huge!  It blows my mind that people actually lived here.

King’s bed in the King’s room.
Bad shot through the crowds of the queen’s bed in a separate bedroom.
The size and grandeur of the rooms was impressive.
Hall of Mirrors.
Catching a glimpse of the gardens.

We made it out of the madhouse and into the gardens.  The gardens are enormous.  There is so much to see, that it’s hard to see it all.  In the small lake behind us you can rent rowboats.  You can also rent bikes to ride between the main gardens and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, the Grand Trianon (mini palace), and Petit Trianon.

There are fountains all over the gardens.  They only run at certain times of day, but when they do there’s also classical music playing to really give you a royal feeling.

One of many fountains on the property.
Swans in the fountain.

So we rented bikes, and rode over to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet.  Bikes was a great idea because it cut out a ton of walking, and gave us much more time to see the different areas.  So, “what’s a hamlet?” you might ask.  Apparently to keep herself entertained, Marie Antoinette had a farm and a few English cottages built on part of the property.  She would dress up as a peasant and go to the hamlet to get away from her life in the French court.  It had a fully functioning farm and vegetable gardens.  Pretty interesting that she wanted this built and that she would come to it to basically pretend she was someone else.

Goats in the shade.
Bravely feeding a donkey.
I’m considering petting the donkey, but scared he will bite me at the same time.
Cows on the farm.
The main cottage.
Pretty roses growing near the cottage.
Fish fighting for food, and the duck who just sits right on top of them.

We also rode over to the Grand Trianon, which as I said before was like a mini-palace with it’s own gardens.  It is so hard to put into words just how big the whole area is.  After exploring those areas, we rode back to the main gardens to check out the fountains and music in action.

At 5:00 the gates close, and everyone has to leave.  We were STARVING by this time.  My hubby had looked up a restaurant nearby that had great reviews, so we started walking over there.  By this time we were tired and hungry, not a good combo.  When we made it to the place, it was closed and I thought my mom might cry.  So we wandered until we found a nice little square with lots of restaurants, and we happily stuffed our faces with pasta and gelato.  This was just a little break for us, because we were headed back to the gardens for the night show.  In the summer on the weekends, the gardens are lit up, and each fountain has something special happening in it, and the  night ends with fireworks over the lake.  The experience was amazing, we loved it!  I would say it’s a must if you have the opportunity.

Even more beautiful at sunset.

Sun setting over the gardens.
There was a “fire show” choreographed to music on the main lawn.

Pictures can’t tell the full story, but you can see some of what was happening at the different fountains in the gardens.

Green lasers projected onto the mist from the fountains.
Color and music coordinated fountains, like at the Bellagio in Vegas.
This one was like a circle of waterfalls that were all lit up.
And some fireworks to end the night!

This was a jam-packed and exhausting day, but definitely one of my favorite things we’ve done in Europe so far.  If you go to Paris, you have to make the trip out to see Versailles.  It’s really beautiful and has plenty to see to keep you entertained all day long.