The old town Munich can easily be explored on foot from Munich Central Station and this free Self-guided Munich Walking Tour includes all the fun & free things to do in Munich. Some of the suggested places may be payable and still 1.5 to 2 Euros are totally worth it.
Munich is huge enough to need public transport for its complete exploration. And the best way is to opt for a day pass that allows you to get into any form of public transport, be it trams, buses or metros. I prefer trams as it is easy to board on from any tourist attraction and you can easily see your destination. Especially, if it is your first visit, I would recommend you to go for trams in Munich. You will get trams for every corner of the city right outside the main gate of the station. The Tourism desk is also available to your help near the same gate.
Free Self-guided Munich Walking Tour
Start from Karlsplatz Stachus
Developed by a controversial leader named Charles Theodore Karl, this place is one of the happening places in Munich. A Fountain in the summer and a skating rink in winter, this square is equally frequented in every change of season. The main highlight is the sturdy New House Gate or the Karlstor which takes you to a pedestrian zone leading straight to Marienplatz and to Asam Church on the right. The gate is built in Gothic Style and was one of the 8 main gates that once marked the entrances of Old Town Munich. Initially, it was built as a tower and then was converted into a gate protecting the double-walled city of Munich. Theodore Karl demolished the walls to expand the growing city. The newly formed square and the gate, which had a facelift, were thus named after Theodore Karl.
This place is locally famous as Stachus owing to their disliking for Theodore. The locals didn’t want to use the name of the creator whom they disliked. ‘Stachus’, which is derived from the name of a bar on the same square, became popular.
The place is certainly the best way to get the trade town Munich’s first glimpse on this free Self-guided Munich Walking Tour.
Head to Asamkirke and Sendlinger Gate
Asam Kirche is located on another shopping street in Munich. In appearance, it looks like a beautified tunnel due to its lesser width. It was built by the two architect brothers knows as Asam Brothers. The stucco paintings and the Rococo art make it look like an ornate palace of God. Among all the renovated buildings on the street, the beautified façade of the building makes it stand out. It is also an epitome of honesty and Integrity as it is dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk. The saint preferred death over revealing the secrets which he had promised to keep. The Ruler of Prague thus threw him off the Charles Bridge for not telling him the secrets.
The interior also has an unusual brass creation which shows a skeleton representing death chopping off a human head representing life. The artist wished to convey the inevitability of death. For an Art and Architecture lover, this church is a must-visit among the ‘free things to do in Munich’.
If you would walk further on the same street, you will reach one of the other busiest gates named Sendlinger leading to Sendlinger Road. The Road was an important trade route between Italy and Munich. If you wish to watch any latest movie then Sendlinger Tor Theater built in 1913 is a perfect place to enjoy a local movie in a heritage building.
Explore Rinder Market
Rinder Market was once the city’s main cattle market and was also a source of water provision. A 7 storied tower called “The Lion Tower” still exists and manages the provision of water to the nearby gardens in the city. The main Bull fountain is an iconic place in the market. The streets of the market still hold the old-world charm. Though most of them were restored after the World Wars, many of these buildings showcase old pictures of the restored buildings. This is the most appropriate place to see the impact of the Wars. Even the buildings around Viktulian market are the witness of the tragic era.
During the city-expansion process, this cattle market was also expanded creating space for new buildings and homes for wealthy merchants. One of the wealthiest merchants to build a house right next to the Sendlinger Tower was Johann Ruffini. The Sendlinger Tower was also popular as Ruffini Gate. The house is a merger of 3 different styles of houses built for 3 families sharing the same courtyard. The artistic Façade makes the huge “Ruffini House” shine among the other buildings. The current design of the house is the result of a restoration competition held in the 1800s to give a reformed look to the house.
St. Peter’s Church for a Mummified Saint
This is another one of the unusual free things to do in Munich. The Church is more of a religious art gallery exhibiting the ancient artefacts. The Main attractions are:
- The most curious of all, a smiling skeleton of Saint Munditia decorated with a crown, gems and a rich attire. It is on the left corridor of the church.
- Also, do not miss the painting showing the crucifixion of St. Peter on Vatican Hill in Rome.
- Climb the tower for the panoramic view of the city. Cost: 1.5 Euros
Most of the paintings here had to be restored after World War II.
- The first wooden building of the chapel was built in 700s which is centuries before the official establishment of the city in 1158. It was then just a settlement of the monks.
- The current Church building was built after the first wooden building burnt off in a fire accident.
- The later construction could survive the World Wars except for the bell tower where the city’s first clock was put up.
- The current Viewpoint at the top is the renovated version of the destroyed towers. And in place of just 1, 8 clocks are put up in all directions.
- It is the origin or say the birthplace of Munich. The name Munich itself means ‘of the monks’.
New Rathaus, the New Town Hall
Another crowded area of the city besides Viktuliean Market which you must visit for a lunch break in this Free self-guided Munich walking Tour, is Marienplatz or the Market Square as known formerly. Apart from the Marienplatz square even the restaurants and beer gardens in the Rathaus courtyards are very popular. Marienplatz is the same area where the monks were given permission to start the trade, marking the establishment of this great city.
There are three main things which you much observe here.
- Façade of the Rathaus
The hall is a Gothic architecture with elaborate carvings of the historic events, dragons, flowers and a multi-floored 280-feet tall clock tower in the centre. Surprisingly, the Town Hall survived the WW2 and the original carvings remained intact. At the top of the clock tower sits the ‘Munchner Kindl’ or a child monk which is the symbolic representation of Munich.
- The Virgin Mary Column
A Column facing the Rathaus is topped by Virgin Mary, the patron of Munich as declared by the leader Maximilian. She was declared as a protector of Munich as it is believed that she helped Munich get over its worst times of Swedish war, Bubonic Plague and a famine. The column base is crafted with 4 warrior structures fighting against the worst times of Munich, representing its victory.
War, represented by a lion, plague, by a rooster-headed creature, famine, by a dragon, and a difference in religious opinions by a serpent.
- The Glockenspiel Performance
Glockenspiel in the tower of the Rathaus is one of the biggest in Germany with 43 bells. Till date, it is manually operated. The figures of the king, Queen, warriors, carnival troop show the victorious events of Munich History. Some of the events shown by the carnivals are: The Crown Jousting Tournament as a part of a festival during the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V with Renata. Procession of the bride, the lower part of the troop dances to mark the end of the horrible plague killed many in Munich. As per a Folklore, the plague in Munich was spread by Wurmeck Dragon and thus a direct canon shot by the guards at the dragon marks the end of the plague in this dramatic performance of Glockenspiel.
Right beside the Rinder Market is a sprawling open square flanked with a number of tables and farmers’ store. The farmers sell their fresh produce in their green market on this square since 1700 but it soon grew into this busiest foodies’ market. This is one of the best places to try free samples before choosing your food. So, logically it is also one of the cheapest places to eat. The stalls sell a variety of dips, bread, pasta, salads, tofu, sandwiches and burgers. The Fish lovers also have the famous seafood eatery on this square. Once you buy your food and drinks you can take any of the unclothed tables that are free to use on self-service. Or else, take a bench under the trees canopying the Beer Gardens.
While enjoying your food don’t forget to take a look at the tallest pole in the market. It is one of the pre-Christian beliefs to keep a decorated pole to bring good luck and prosperity. It is called “ Maypole” which can be found at most of the places in Germany and Austria. The events and celebrations are held around it on May 1st which marks the arrival of the spring. The Maypole at the Viktuliean Market is decorated based on a season or a theme. The best one is during Christmas where people compete to climb the pole and win the gifts hung at the top. You can call it a European version of pole climbing sport.
The market can be visited specifically during the lunch/dinner time. If you have started this Free Self-guided Munich Walking Tour in the morning then you shall arrive here after seeing the Glockenspiel show at 11 am at the New Rathaus.
Cathedral of Our Lady – Frauenkirche
If the huge 2 bell towers are catching your attention from everywhere while Walking the Old Town of Munich then understand that you are seeing the 325-feet tall twin towers of Frauenkirche. The cathedral built in 1458 is so grand and huge that during the construction the builder himself ran short of money due to much expenditure. The project was quite important for Munich as it was emphasizing on its Catholic status through this gigantic building. Though the towers today are quite plain, the original plan was to make it as grand as the cathedral in Cologne and St. Stephan’s in Vienna. The then Pope helped Munich run the project in time.
The most interesting of all is the Devil’s Foot in this cathedral. It is said that the builder had to please a devil who agreed on a deal to give money only if the builder didn’t build any window. Though the builder agreed and finished the construction of the building, the devil realised it very late that he was fooled. He banged his foot on a marble tile showing his anger and since then the mark remains a funny mystery for the visitors.
Hofbrauhaus – The Public Beer Hall
Formerly, a Royal Beer Hall, Hofbrauhaus was opened for public by King Wilhelm V. It was a matter of celebration for the public who suffered a loss due to the burning of their old beer hall. Till now, the regular customers of Hofbaruhaus come here dressed as men and women of Bavarian Kingdom and raise a toast in the name of the king. The Beerhall serves quite interesting German food in a traditional manner. Apart from drinking and eating, you can also take a look at the glass cellar, the festival hall where Hitler addressed his Nazi Party which is now a platform for Bavarian Dance Shows and the traditionally dressed barmaids selling pretzels all for free.
The Theatre at Max-Joseph Platz
This grand theatre is a restored version of the destroyed building in WW II. Though opera shows here can be quite heavy on the pocket, an hour of a guided tour in the theatre can be taken if you are keen on exploring the architecture. The theatre as you can see from its columnar look is built in Greek Style. Greek Gods and Goddesses are the main components of this Greek styled building. The elaborated sculptures and ornate décor is worth visiting for 7 Euros, daily at 2 pm.
If you are not too keen on taking a tour, move towards the direction of the 2 yellow minarets which is the Theatiner church.
Apart from an interesting Italian structure in the whole of Germany, this church also has a story behind its origin. The Elector Ferdinand married to an Italian princess and could not meet her till a year as the marriage took place through a state representative. For a decade they did not have any child and even the princess kept falling sick. They prayed to the lord and promised to build a church in the name of Saint Catajen of Theatine. And thus is the name of the church. You can also see the sculpture of the saint on the left pillar on the entrance. The interior is soothing white with intricate designs.
Diagonally opposite to the Theatiner Church is the entrance the Royal Garden and the Residence. The residence is accessible on paying an entry fee and the garden is free for exploration.
Royal Garden and the Englishier Garden
The Garden was once in use only by the Royal Family but now a public cycle route passes through it. The garden is now an open public space to relax, chill and have some beer. IF you are tired of walking the old town Munich, you must take a stop here. The premises also contain a few other buildings with National library being the prominent one. Moving further if you cross the gate and the bridge, you will reach the famous surfers’ spot Eisbach at English Garden.
English garden is probably one of the biggest parks in Europe. It is even bigger than the Central Park in NYC. Even a whole day would be short if you decide to stroll around the garden. Start with the surfers’ spot called Eisbach and then follow the water channel. On the way, you will find many kids enjoying the wavy flow of the river. If you know swimming, you can jump in on a sunny day, but be sure that it is too difficult to go against the forceful flow. The park is also famous for nude sunbaths. You can take a place near the channel and enjoy the nude sunbath too. Further ahead, the Chinese Tower is also an interesting place in this German City.
Eisbach – The River Surfing Spot
Isar and the Nude Island
The river Isar has a number of islands located right in the city of Munich. The river was once an important form of inland water transportation. Heading straight towards the river from the bridge over the Eisbach would bring you to one of the interesting structure Friedensengel, “The Angel of Peace”. It is a tall column with a golden angel at the top. The monument also has a viewing deck which is the best sunset point in Munich.
Keep moving along the Isar and you will reach an interesting building of Bavarian Parliament which is now a museum. It is a witness to many historic events of Bavarian Kingdom. The architecture in the pale yellowish red stone itself is an amazing sight. It stands right on the river bank and creates a circular path for trams and other vehicles.
You can enter the river garden from the right side of the parliament. Keep walking straight and you will reach the busiest of the river islands for a nude sunbath on a shiny day. Along your way, you can also have a glimpse of the houses of famous personalities and scientist on both the sides of the river.
Attractions that can be visited by public transport/cycle
Nymphenburg Palace Garden
Even though you don’t wish to spend on seeing the paintings and other royal artefacts in the Museum, it is worth devouring the sight if the palace for free. It is a huge garden area with a fountain-pond in the centre. The reflection of the palace in this lake is one of the most beautiful sights in the morning.
You can reach Nymphenburg Palace garden by Tram 17 from Karlsplatz or Munich Central Station.
BMW Welt and Museum
The museum is for the BMW lovers who wish to see the inventions of the company since its establishment. The museum exhibits engines, aircraft, turbines and motorcycles. These are their actual models as well as the futuristic possibilities or imageries of cars and motorcycles models. It is indeed exciting to witness some of the BMW research projects that might be a reality in near future. There is also an audio-visual where the BMW technologies are explained to you. Besides this, the circular vertical tunnel-like building itself is an architectural marvel with a base of cone-shaped pillars and the hanging floors. Almost 250k people visit this museum in a year.
View of the BMW Museum, Olympia Tower and the Stadium from Olympia River Park
If you are focusing only on the Free Things to Do in Munich, then BMW Welt is a perfect place for you. You can ask for a guide app that can be downloaded in your phone and it would guide you depending on your location in the Welt.
You can reach BMW Museum by Train S8 and bus 54.
Ever thought of walking on the slant and slippery roof of a stadium? Well, that is what the Olympia Park of the famous Olympic village of Munich offers. Rooftop walking ( Of course, it is not free of cost 😀 ) with proper safety along with a guide who explains you the construction of the stadium is really interesting.
The enormous park is spread over the two sides of a highway connected by a foot-over bridge. The park is free for exploration while most of its complexes remain closed for the visitors. You can walk around the stadiums and arenas for different Olympic Sports. The Olympia River or lake passes through the other side of the park. You can click the picture of the park map right outside the U-Bahn station.
You can reach Olympic Park by Train S8 or Tram 20/21. Both BMW Welt & Museum and Olympic gardens are located in the vicinity. So you can do a combined visit to both the places.
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