Rejoice, holiday seekers! We can finally travel overseas for leisure without the need for quarantines and stay-home-notices.
Granted, the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) is only limited to a few countries (for now), but one of which is a truly exciting destination you’ll want to check off your bucket list: Germany. What this means is that fully vaccinated Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents who meet the VTL eligibility criteria and required health measures are able to enjoy quarantine-free travel between Singapore and Germany. Before you start planning your trip, read our articles to find out everything you need to know for your VTL getaway to Germany, and how you can stay connected during your trip.
Unfortunately, Oktoberfest - the world’s largest beer festival - has been called off this year due to concerns revolving around the pandemic. Face masks and social distancing would not have been practical during the festival, where crowds would typically gather en masse under traditional beer tents.
But fret not! Beyond partying like a local at the Munich Oktoberfest, the city remains as one of the world’s most beautiful places. . Here’s a list of the best places to visit in Munich.
1. Explore Marienplatz’s marvellous architecture
No holiday in Munich is complete without a visit to Marienplatz. It’s hard to miss anyway since it’s been the city’s main square since 1158. Located in the heart of the city that has been used to host medieval tournaments, it also boasts several monuments that are the perfect representation of the city’s moving history.
While it’s a popular meeting point for tourists to shop and sightsee, it’s not all vacationers here. Since the Marienplatz is well-connected to the rest of the city and the airport, locals also use it as a transportation hub.
Stand in awe of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), a Neo-Gothic monument dating back to 1867 with picturesque decorations such as statues, turrets and arches. In fact, the entire square is absolutely steeped in cultural richness filled with both vibrant colour and majestic European architecture.
The spectacle of Neues Rathaus, however, is the huge Rathaus-Glockenspiel mechanical clock. When the clock strikes 11:00am and 12:00pm daily (and 5:00pm between March and October), it will kick off a miniature play that re-enacts stories from the 16th century, including a royal wedding, knights engaging in a horseback joust and a rousing traditional dance number. In other words, the perfect place to go with kids and the ideal time to whip out your digital cameras and mobile phones.
For more historical snapshots, the middle of the square stands Mariensäule, a column erected in 1638 to mark the end of the Swedish occupation. Atop it is a golden statue of the Virgin Mary, while the four corners of the column’s pedestal are statues of winged angels battling different beasts. Nearby, the Fischbrunnen (or Fish Fountain) is a popular spot for photo opportunities too.
Those on the lookout for good deals can look out for the primary shopping avenue of Kaufingerstrasse, located within the square. Come Christmas, the Marienplatz turns into a dazzling market with numerous stalls offering festive treats such as mulled wine, as well as Christmas decor and knick-knacks. While Christkindlmarkt on Marienplatz has received the green light to take place from November 22 to December 24 2021, do note that things can always change so check the website for the most updated information.
Hungry for a local meal? Within the Neues Rathaus is the popular Ratskeller restaurant, which offers Bavarian classics such as roasted pork knuckle, weisswurst, pretzels and more.
Address: Marienplatz, 80331 München, Germany
How to get here: The best way to get to the square is by train — all of Munich’s S-Bahn and U-Bahn network service Munich Marienplatz station.
2. Good food and good vibes at Viktualienmarkt
Munich’s most popular open-air market, Viktualienmarkt, is located a few steps away from Marienplatz. Funnily enough, it used to be located in the Marienplatz central square, but it grew too large and King Maximilian I had to issue a decree in 1807 to have it moved.
It is where both tourists and locals can soak in the atmosphere of Munich’s food culture. Open from Mondays to Saturdays, the farmer’s market is where patrons can purchase fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables, meats, seafood, European cheeses and countless other delicacies. It’s a good place to look for unique souvenirs as well, including local patisserie, chocolates and bespoke tools crafted by Munich’s residents.
Typically, what locals would do is tour around the market first and buy a bunch of Bavarian delicacies — including sausages, Leberkas (freshly baked bread rolls filled with ground beef and pork), pickles and fruits — before bringing the bundle of foodstuff to the beer market. Here, complete the meal with fresh beer directly tapped from the barrel, or fresh fruit juices if you’re looking for non-alcoholic beverages.
Depending on the season, the market also hosts various traditional events — one of which is the carnival celebration of Fasching, where everyone is encouraged to don silly costumes in a time of merrymaking.
Address: Viktualienmarkt 3, 80331 München
How to get here: It’s an easy four-minute walk southeast from Munich Marienplatz train station to Viktualienmarkt.
3. Have a drink or ten at Hofbräuhaus
Don’t let the lack of Oktoberfest stop you from indulging in the city’s finest beers! As one of Munich’s oldest beer halls, the Hofbräuhaus is both a historical monument and one of the most famous taverns in the world.
Erected in 1589, legend has it that the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, ordered his royal court to find a solution to improve the beer quality of Munich. As such, a brewery was built using original recipes handed down by the duke. Today, it’s still brewing a variety of beers that utilise the recipe and the Hofbräuhaus is known to be the cradle of Bavarian tavern culture. The atmosphere extends to the Bavarian traditional music being played live nearly every day.
The brewery sticks to the Bavarian Purity Law enacted in 1516, which enforces that the only ingredients that can be used in the production of beer are water, malt, hops and yeast. The beer hall is so old that it has over 100 active groups of regulars who’ve been holding on to their own tables in the tavern for as long as 70 years. So don’t be surprised if you see Munich residents both young and old mingling with out-of-towners here over some good ol’ Bavarian brew.
Address: Platzl 9, 80331 München
How to get here: From the Munich Marienplatz train station head toward Burgstraße — look for Sparkassenstraße and find the tavern via Münzstraße.
Opening hours: Opens daily from 9:30am to 12:00am
4. Soak in the grand greenery of Englischer Garten
If you ask any of the locals of Munich, the best place to find some peaceful respite (or walk off the buzz from the beer and hearty pork knuckles) would be Englischer Garten, or The English Garden. Stretching all the way from the city centre to the northeastern city limits, Munich’s largest park is said to be even larger than New York’s famous Central Park - a must-visit if you appreciate the vast outdoors of the likes of Singapore’s most unique parks.
In case you’re wondering why it’s an ‘English’ garden, the name is derived from the British landscaping style that rose in popularity in the mid-18th century. Plus, the fact that it was created in 1789 by a British physicist who worked as a government administrator in Munich.
Though it’s where one can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, there's still plenty to do and see at this quaint getaway. Grab a couple of bottles of wine and champagne, and have a private picnic. Or explore the vast green lawns by foot or bicycle and enjoy a panoramic view of the city from atop Monopteros temple, a hill-top structure. Rent a paddleboat for an intimate cruise in the Kleinhesselohe lake and circle around its three little islands. The trip should take about half an hour to finish, depending on how fast you can pump those legs. Insiders would know to visit the river Eisbach — where strong currents flow through the park — to try their hand at surfing or just watch the pros do their thing.
It wouldn’t be a fully German experience without stopping by the many beer gardens, of course. In Englischer Garten, there are four that you can visit, including Asian-influenced establishments: the 82-feet high Chinese Tower. Just in case you’re on the lookout for something a bit closer to home.
Some folks would also know that there’s a lawn in the park called Schönfeldwiese, a lawn where nude sunbathing has been officially allowed since the 1960s. Just remember to lather yourself up in suncare, and play it cool and not whip out your cameras when you come across the sunbathers.
Address: Englischer Garten 80538 München
How to get here: The park is huge enough to enter via several entry points by train, bus or tram. The easiest way is by taking a train from the Marienplatz city centre and stopping at Giselastraße station. From there, it’s a straight four-minute walk to enter Englischer Garten.
5. Astounding automobiles at BMW Museum & Welt
All for the magic of museums? If you’re a fan of snazzy automobiles, be sure to cross this one off your bucket list. The BMW Museum in northwestern Munich is more than just a car showroom — it’s an actual gallery of history that charts the development of the world-famous vehicle manufacturer.
The spectacle kicks off outside the grounds, where one can see that BMW’s head office building resembles the shape of four cylinders in a car engine. Within the museum complex itself, visitors get to witness full-fledged models of retro cars, motorcycles and hundreds of other exhibits — including the BMW Z8 featured in one of the James Bond movies.
Even if you’re not a gearhead, patrons can appreciate the art and science that goes into designing these magnificent vehicles while also learning about the history of the auto industry. At the end of the visit, there’s always a chance to get some nifty souvenirs from the BMW Museum Shop, including sporty accessories, unique merchandise and model miniatures that would look nice on any shelf or desk.
Down the road is BMW Welt, which is basically a giant showroom featuring the company’s latest car models fresh off the production line as well as super-futuristic concept cars that look like something you’d see in a sci-fi flick.
Those looking for a truly local experience can rent any BMW production model they like and take it for a spin around the city and take in the sights and sounds at their own pace.
Address: Am Olympiapark 1 and 2, 80809 Munich
BMW Museum: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00am to 6:00pm (last admission at 5:30pm)
BMW Welt: Monday to Saturday from 7:30 to 12:00am; Sundays and public holidays 9:00am to 12:00 am.
BMW Welt: Single ticket price: €10 (S$15.80)
Entry to BMW Welt is free
How to get here: If you’ve just flown into Munich, use the Munich S-Bahn line from the airport. Take the S1 service line and change at Marienplatz onto the U3 line towards Moosach. Get off at the Olympiazentrum station. Take a five-minute walk to the BMW Welt and Museum.
6. Go on a global safari journey at Tierpark Hellabrunn
Opened to the public in 1911, Munich Zoo Hellabrunn is the world’s first Geo-zoo. What this means is that it resembles less like a zoo and more of a nature preserve that replicates the animals’ geographical origins.
A trip into Hellabrunn would be like a safari journey across the entire world. The animals live in natural communities inside vast enclosures that are divided up according to continental habitats, such as the Arctic, Asia, Australia, Africa, and more. So don’t be surprised to see capybaras, Greater rheas and anteaters roaming around together in their designated enclosure.
With over 750 exotic and local species, the zoo prides itself in its animal conservation efforts with an emphasis on biodiversity and breeding species threatened by extinction, such as the silvery gibbon. With regular tours, animal shows and feeding events — on top of a variety of bistros and a beer garden — it makes for a wholesome day out, even for kids.
Address: Tierparkstraße 30, 81543 München
Opening hours: Opens daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm*
*Opening hours are set to change in 2021, so be sure to check their website for more details.
Entry fee: Adults: €15 (S$24)
How to get here: Via the Munich U-Bahn, take the U3 service line and get off at the Thalkirchen stop. Take a three-minute walk to the entrance of Tierpark Hellabrunn.
Things to note while travelling in Munich
- As different regions within Germany hold different coronavirus regulations (which are updated often), do regularly check the website of the relevant federal state for the latest information especially if you’re visiting multiple cities in Germany. For Munich, refer to the website here.
- Masks aren’t required outdoors, but they will have to be worn in enclosed areas and on public transport. Contact tracing applies when dining at restaurants or visiting places of culture, such as museums, cinemas, theatres, botanical gardens, castles and events.
- Pay close attention to Munich’s ‘hospital signal light’ warning level, which indicates the number of infected people in the city’s hospitals. The state has currently relaxed the order on mandatory mask wearing outdoors, but once the ‘hospital signal light’ reaches Level Yellow, you’ll have to don FFP2 and N95 face masks (cloth masks don’t cut it) everywhere, except when eating and drinking or within private accommodations. When things turn to Level Red, the state government will decree additional measures.
- Munich employs something called the “3G rule”, a set of rules that applies to indoor activities. Only those vaccinated ("geimpft" in German), recovered ("genesen") or currently tested ("getestet”) have access to events, theatres, restaurants, and other recreational facilities. Which shouldn’t be an issue if you’re eligible for VTL travel. More information here.
The timing of the Singapore-Germany Vaccinated Travel Lane would have been perfect for a visit to Munich for the city’s famed Oktoberfest celebrations, but alas, safety comes in first. But as we’ve shown above, there’s more to Munich than just the world’s largest beer festival. You’re travelling to Germany anyway; you don’t need an excuse to indulge in the country’s national beverage! Looking for an alternative destination? Check out what you can while in Frankfurt too!
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Best time to visit
The best time to visit Munich is during the summer (roughly from May to August) when the weather is sunny but cool enough to be comfortable. Those looking to visit during the fall will have to pack some warm clothes to enjoy the outdoor festivals that mark harvesting season. While it gets cold, the Christmas season turns Munich into a winter wonderland.
You’ll be relying a lot on the Munich rapid transit network: the tightly integrated U-Bahn and S-Bahn. The U-Bahn underground network gets you everywhere within the city centre, while the S-Bahn transports commuters in and out of the city, including a stop at the airport.
The currency used in Germany is the Euro. While payments can be made by card in many places, most Germans still prefer to use cash — even in Berlin, you can see “Cash Only” signs hanging in front of shops and restaurants across the city. If in need of cash, ATMs are called Geldautomat, and can normally be found inside or outside bank branches.