To be clear, you’ll need far more than a day to scratch the surface of Munich. But if a day is all you have in this great city, here is a day’s itinerary (with alternative options) — all within a 20 minute walk of Munich’s central square.
Visit a Museum
My pick for this would be the Alte Pinakothek, a terrific collection of paintings spanning the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Here you can see Brueghel and Bosch, Rembrandt and Rubens, and so many more of the Old Masters.
The Alte Pinakothek is about a 20 minute walk from the Marienplatz, and you can swing through a garden or two on the way if you’d like.
Of course, Munich has many great museums to choose from. You could get a bit more contemporary with nineteenth-century art at the Neue Pinakothek, or jump straight to the modern art world at the Pinakothek der Moderne. For exhibitions, there’s the Kunsthalle Munich. For mummies, there’s a world-famous Egyptian museum. You’ll even find a toy museum …
… and a museum of hunting and fishing.
If you have only a day, you’ll probably have to pick just one of these — but you can’t go wrong.
Munich is chock-a-block full of stores of all kinds, from international chains to tiny hole-in-the wall antique dealers. If you want the kinds of stores you won’t find anywhere else, a few fun places to seek out include Manufactum Warenhaus (for everything from fancy soap to high-end garden seeds to leather bags), Holz Leute (wooden toys, games, and kitchen items), and the venerable Dallmayr. Here you can buy chocolates, all sorts of desserts, and beautiful breads and cheeses (the crème chèvre is worth every penny).
Also make sure to find time for the Viktualienmarkt, an open-air food market that has been around since the 1800s. The produce here is a sight to see!
Don’t try to shop on a Sunday, though — pretty much everything will be closed for the day of rest. So if shopping is your thing, hope that you’re in Munich on one of the six other days of the week.
It feels like you can’t walk without stumbling upon a church in Munich, each one more beautiful than the next. You can easily pop into (clockwise from top left below) the flat-faced Peterskirche, the fantastically yellow Theatinekirche, the double-towered Frauenkirche, and the king-bedecked Michaelskirche — just for starters.
One of my favorites is the Heiliggeistkirche, or Church of the Holy Ghost, which boasts stunning Rococo frescos:
If you’re lucky, you might catch a concert or a bit of organ practice (here, at Michaelskirche):
Eat, Drink, & Watch the World Go By
This is weather dependent, of course, but there’s nothing quite like sitting outdoors and having a glass of something lovely.
There are plenty of fairly generic places to do this near (or on) both Marienplatz and the Viktualienmarkt. They’ll all run you a pretty penny, and they’re all fairly touristy — but if you’re only here for a day, why not?
Of course, for many people, a trip to Munich would not be complete without a trip to a beer hall like the famed Hofbräuhaus:
But if it’s a beautiful day, you might want to grab a picnic and do your people-watching at Max-Joseph-Platz or on the lawn outside of the Alte Pinakothek.
If it’s rainy or cold, you can always duck into a cafe for a lovely cup of hot chocolate — just don’t forget to ask for whipped cream on top.
Stroll in a Garden
This is another weather-dependent activity, but on a sunny day, you can strike out for the Alter Botanic Garden, the Hofgarten, or the Finanzgarten. The giant English Garden (Englischer Garten) is a bit further on, but it’s worth the walk.
This is the capital of Bavaria, so it follows that walls of all sorts are painted with fairy tales, folk scenes, religious iconography, trompe l’oeil, and more. If you’re trying to find new and interesting things to see in Munich, you’ll never have to look very far.
If you time it right (11:00 and noon every day), you can stand in the middle of Marienplatz and wait for the ringing of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel.
This giant-music-box-on-a-tower has been around since 1908. Built to recount stories of the 16th century, it features life-sized knights, musicians, dancers, and a happy couple on their wedding day.