Having already dragged my boyfriend around all of the Christmas markets in Scotland, Yorkshire and everywhere in between – this year I convinced him to see the real deal with a December trip to Munich to enjoy a traditional German Christmas market. As a Christmas fanatic, the promise of a good Christmas market alone is reason enough for me to hop on a plane anywhere – and combined with beer, food and football, Munich made the perfect destination to suit both myself and my boyfriend’s short break needs. If you’re planning a last-minute Christmas break, here’s seven reasons to head to Munich.
1. Christmas markets
Nothing quite gets you in the Christmas spirit, like the festive feel of a good old Christmas market – and Munich is not short on choice, with over 20 Christmas markets to explore. Our favourite was the original Christkindlmarkt in the main town square, Marienplatz – which dates back to the 14th century. The market stalls fill the entirety of the main square and the adjoining streets, selling decorations, chocolates, candles, toys and other treasures. A short stroll from Marienplatz, you’ll find the Christmas Village at the Munich Residenz – a smaller, quaint market held in the courtyard of the Royal Residence – a perfect set-up for soaking up the festive atmosphere. At night, we visited the Tollwood Winter Festival which also claimed a top spot on our rundown of best Munich Christmas markets. The Winter Festival is a mix between a carnival, a Christmas market and a modern art exhibition. Circus, dance and theatre productions take place in tents dotted around the festival, while stalls sell food and drinks. After making a round of the stalls we stumbled upon a headphone disco in one tent, which was the perfect way to round off our day of Christmas markets.
2. Christmas shopping
With the array of hand-painted Christmas baubles, classic German beer steins and traditional wood-carved toys, you could easily pick up unique Christmas gifts for the entire family at the Munich Christmas markets. If you’re looking for something flashier, Munich city centre has plenty of shopping malls, high street stores and designer boutiques to choose from, including the popular Fünf Höfe shopping centre on Theatinerstrasse and the exclusive shopping boulevard of Maximilianstrasse, filled with luxury couture. The shop windows around the city are elegantly adorned with Christmas lights and decorations, which set alongside the buzz of the Christmas markets leaves you feeling as though you have stepped straight into the set of a Christmas movie.
3. Beer Halls
I’m not typically a big beer drinker, but when in Germany… The Bavarian capital is renowned for its beerhalls and steins, so I was happy to hang up my cocktail glass for a few days to enjoy the local specialities. On our first night we headed to Hofbräuhaus, one of the oldest beer halls in the city, having been founded in 1589. Long tables, busy with the buzz of excited chatting and cheersing; a brass band of middle-aged men dressed in Lederhosen; barmaids dressed in Dirndls, and beer steins bigger than me (almost) – it was exactly what we’d imagined from a Munich beer hall. We ventured around a few other beer halls within the city centre, plenty within easy walking distance from Marienplatz – some of which you may prefer if you’re looking for something more understated. However, on our last night we couldn’t resist heading back to Hofbräuhaus for another two pint beer stein to round off our trip in a traditional Munich fashion (well, minus the Lederhosen).
Beer isn’t the only traditional drink of choice for winter in Munich. When wandering around the Christmas markets it’s somewhat of a ritual to purchase a Glühwein (mulled wine) to keep you toasty as you wander around the stalls. And it’s not only Glühwein on offer, you can find a hot version of almost any alcoholic tipple being served around the city’s market stalls and pubs. As caipirinha connoisseurs since we first discovered them on holiday in Portugal, we were particularly excited to find hot caipirinhas to be a popular option around Munich. We also tried Heisses bier (hot beer) and Feuerzangenbowle – a traditional German drink made from red wine, rum, fruit, cinnamon and sugar. Best of all, drinks tend to be served in souvenir mugs and glasses – so leave plenty of room in your luggage for taking them home!
5. Hearty food
Bratwursts alone would have made for the perfect foodie break in Munich, but there is so much else on offer too. On our first night we wandered to the Marienplatz area to explore the choice of restaurants, where we found Haxnbauer – a fab choice if you’re looking for some traditional German grub in a traditional German setting. We shared a platter of meats, cheeses and pretzels, which alone could have quite easily filled us up for the night, but when we saw our main meals arrive we suddenly found our appetites again. I plumped for goulash with traditional German Spätzle, while my boyfriend had veal. Both were good but it was fair to say I won in the food-off that night. Trying to emulate my success the next evening – at the equally excellent restaurant choice of Zum Spöckmeier – my boyfriend ordered the goulash. It was good, but I once again trumped him with my choice – pork fillets in a creamy mushroom sauce with cheese Spätzle. We were stuffed, but we did find room again the next day for two bratwursts (each) for lunch – one with sauerkraut, one without. We didn’t love the sauerkraut personally, but if like us you like to try all of the local delicacies, it’s worth giving it a go. I’d also recommend a side of Kartoffelsalat (potato salad), and if you’ve still got room after that, the bruschetta on offer at many of the market stalls is also a must-try.
6. Sweet treats
Munich doesn’t only excel in tummy-warming savoury grub, but also in sweet treats. Wandering around the city centre the sweet smell of waffles, apple strudel and gingerbread fill the air, creating continuous temptation which is hard to resist (we didn’t manage). Our favourite was the apple strudel we (I say we, technically it was my boyfriend’s) had in Zum Spöckmeier, topped off with a yummy lemon custard. If, like me, you prefer chocolate over puds, Munich has plenty of chocolate shops to tickle your tastebuds. Family-run Elly Seidl, located across from the Theatinerstrasse tram stop, is an idyllic little chocolate shop to handpick a selection of pralines, liquers and truffles to treat yourself or your loved ones.
Ok, when I plan a short break football isn’t exactly top of my agenda, but my boyfriend is a big football fan and when he discovered (totally by chance and not through avid Google searching of course) that there was a game on at the Allianz Arena, he was excited by the prospect of seeing a European football match. ‘Oh Bayern Munich?’ I asked, ‘No, 1860’ he said. If you knew which football team my boyfriend supports, it wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that he didn’t want to see the Premier League team, but instead the local underdog. But at only 20 euros a ticket to see a European match at a world-renowned stadium, even a football novice like me thought it sounded like a good plan. The stadium was easily accessed by the U-Bahn, and the impressive 75,000 seater arena was quite a change from my boyfriend’s local haunt. Unfortunately the score wasn’t too different from what he was used to, with 1860 losing, but we had a great time regardless. If you’re a footie fan, or you’re travelling with one, it’s definitely worth checking out what’s going on at the Allianz Arena if you’re in Munich during the football season.
This season, FC Bayern Munich play newly promoted Hannover 96 at home on the first weekend in December and host the mighty 1.FC Koln two weeks later in their penultimate game before the winter break.
Once proud 1860 were relegated from the 2nd tier of German football but failed to gain a licence to play in the 3rd league so instead will compete in the 2017-18 Regionalliga Bayern. Their sad demise means they will play at home (at the Grunwalder Stadion) on the 1st of December against SV Schalding-Heining.
After three days of eating, drinking, shopping and forcing my boyfriend to take Instagram selfies, we headed back to the UK feeling festive, and a few pounds heavier (and I’m not talking about our souvenir-packed suitcases).
Have you been to Munich on a Christmas break? Comment below to let us know what you loved most about the city.