Munich, while distinctively known as the city of all things beer, is also full of history and has several great stories to tell. Originally the home of monks, Munich transformed into the capital of Bavaria, the kingdom of fantasy-focused kings, the home base for Hitler’s regime, and is the best place for a cold Augustiner’s beer.
A friend and I spent about three days in Munich in the wintery off-season, making it difficult for us to get to the real heart of the local’s view of the city or visit any of the warm-weather parks and beer gardens.
We did however, have time to go on some great tours. So if you’re in the city, perhaps for a quick weekend or an extra day pre-Oktoberfest, consider investing in Munich’s tourism industry and your own historical knowledge.
Tour One: SANDEMAN’s General “Free” Walking Tour of Munich
Duration: 3 hours
Free walking tours are popular new modes of getting a general overview and orientation to a city. With the idea of letting the tourist tip the guide based on their value of the tour, free tours are not intended to be completely free. This often means they work twice as hard in giving you a meaningful, informative and fun introduction to the city. Consider starting your journey with a free tour to get your footing and decide which sights you would like to explore further.
While there may be many variations of the free tours you can choose from, the general free tour focused on the center of the city surrounding Marienplatz.
Tour Two: King Ludwig II’s Linderhof and Neuschwanstein Castle
Duration: 8 hours
Cost: approx.€70 per person
The “Fairytale” King of Bavaria from 1864-1886, King Ludwig II was a reclusive man who stepped onto the throne at a young age. Plagued by the stress of ruling, Ludwig spent the majority of his life trying to avoid strangers and his largest responsibilities. His escape route? Building luxurious palaces and castles in the mountains of Bavaria where he could spend time alone.
In total, King Ludwig II built three different castles throughout Bavaria, only finishing Schloss Linderhof, a smaller castle in the mountains where he spent most of his time. Linderhof, though small, is set in picturesque mountains with a stream running by and well-groomed gardens and hiking trails. The castle itself deserves the 20 minute tour, as it is ornately decorated with paintings and subtle details that pay homage to the age of King Louis XIV of France.
Schloss Neuschwanstein, known as the castle that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, is also situated in the mountains of a quaint village in the Alps. This castle, however, is much larger and was never finished. Perched on the mountains and overlooking the town, the castle seems darker and more medieval that Linderhof. Inside, the décor is darker featuring more wood and stone, but you can still see some fascinating peculiarities of Ludwig, such as a manmade grotto, grand throne hall and frescoes that highlight the work of Ludwig’s friend and composer, Richard Wagner.
The last castle, Herrenchiemsee, was not available on our tour due to distance. However, a visit to the two castles gives you a full day of King Ludwig II’s life, castles and fantasy world.
Tour Three: Dachau
Duration: 4 hours
Cost:€25 per person
Dachau is one of the first concentration camps set up by the Nazi’s and a prototype of those to come. The camp is a solemn reminder of the terror of the Nazi regime and its victims. As it was in-use for nearly 12 of the 13 years of the Third Reich, the camp’s history reflects the changes in treatment of prisoners within concentration camps throughout Hitler’s rule.
It cannot be stressed enough the importance of a passionate, knowledgeable guide when touring Dachau, or any other concentration camp. These tour guides are often extremely passionate about the stories they tell and have their own connections to victims and their families with differing sets of stories to tell. As a visitor, it can make the difference between solemnly walking around for an hour and spending three hours fully understanding the camp and its impact.