48 Hours in Munich
After spending our first few weeks in Italy, we headed to Munich, Germany to start our tour of central Europe. At the end of January, the Bavarian capital was the coldest city we stayed in but also the most modern. Our Airbnb apartment was just outside the main square, Marienplatz, which we explored on our first day in town. Its focal point is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, a world-famous clock perched on the side of the New Town Hall. The clock chimes every day at noon while its tiny figures re-enact a Bavarian wedding and joust. We just happened to walk into the square at noon on our first day, and the show was an entertaining way to start off our tour of Munich!
After walking through Marienplatz, we moved right on to the iconic Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, the city's most famous beer hall. It's about a five-minute walk from the main square and is a MUST-DO for anyone visiting Munich. Hofbräuhaus epitomizes Bavarian culture, and its menu features traditional dishes-- we ordered pork knuckle and roasted chicken!-- as well as German wheat beer.
Hofbräuhaus is constantly packed, so be prepared to pull up a seat at a table filled with strangers. That seems to be the custom in the beer halls throughout the city: seating parties by open CHAIRS and not by TABLE. At one meal, we ate at a small, circular table with three other couples, none of whom knew each other! While the Hofbräuhaus band played traditional Bavarian music, we marveled at the locals throughout the hall. At the table next to us, a group of large-and-in-charge German men were all dressed in felt Alpine hats and drank out of personal, ceramic beer steins.
From there, we walked 20 minutes to the Englischer Garten, or the English Garden, which is Munich's large public park in the northeastern part of the city. While the gardens were massive and dotted with all sorts of monuments, they were a bit hard to enjoy in the 30-degree weather. This is just one of the many reasons why we feel Munich might be better enjoyed during the summer or Oktoberfest. The highlight of our walk through the park, however, was the Eisbach river, which contains a manmade wave used for surfing year-round! We stood for 15 minutes on the side of the river just watching the surfers ride the meter-high wave!
After that first day, we also ducked into a small church on the main drag in downtown Munich. Sandwiched between two modern buildings, the Church of Saint Johann Nepomuk is ornate and opulently filled with gold molding.
On our second day in Munich, we decided to take a day trip to Hohenschwangau to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, which served as Walt Disney's inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Built by King Ludwig in the 1800s, the palace is nestled on a hill in the Alps and overlooks the Alpsee and Schwansee Lakes. Our biggest tip for traveling from Munich to the castle? BUY THE BAVARIA ONE-DAY TRAVEL CARD. Otherwise known as the Bayern ticket, it is easily purchased on the self-service machines at U-Bahn stations and is only €13 per person. It allows you to travel anywhere in Bavaria using ANY form of public transportation, which results in HUGE savings on the trip to Neuschwanstein as opposed to buying single-person train and bus tickets. We got the suggestion from an article written by Ami Price at Entouriste, which we followed to a tee for directions to and from Munich. Side note-- YOU MUST BUY YOUR TICKETS TO THE CASTLE THE DAY BEFORE!
The town below Neuschwanstein Castle is quaint and quiet, and when we arrived, it was 19 degrees and covered in snow. You can choose between a horse-drawn carriage up the the mountain or a bus that costs less than €5 per person roundtrip. From the bus stop, you also have a great view of the neighboring Hohenschwangau Castle, a smaller and much brighter 19th century palace.
The bus drops travelers off about 15 minutes from the castle, right next to the path leading to Marienbrücke, or Marie's Bridge. The bridge offers stunning views of the castle in spring and summer, as evidence by this photo provided by Wikipedia:
We, however, were at Neuschwanstein in January. Walking out onto that bridge, we couldn't help but laugh at the epic FAIL of a view we got. The fog was so thick that afternoon that we couldn't even see the waterfall beneath our feet, let alone the castle in the distance. But hey, we got to see more locks!
The left picture below was our view from the bridge. Womp womp.
Unfortunately, there was no photography allowed inside the castle, so all I managed to get were these two foggy shots from the outside. Can't you see the resemblance to the Wikipedia photo from before?!
Because we only had two days in Munich, Neuschwanstein Castle was our last stop in the city. Overall, the weather really played a role in how we perceived our visit, so we would highly recommend skipping Munich if you're touring Europe in the winter. We'll be back for Oktoberfest, though! Onto Vienna!