What to see in Munich in 3 days – the top tourist attractions and highlights in one compact itinerary
Munich is a truly amazing city and should be part of any road trip through Germany. The city has a visible history of more than 1,000 years and is the perfect mix between old traditions and new technology. There are just so many things to do in Bavaria’s capital you could easily spend a whole month here. Since most tourists don’t have that much time, 3 days in Munich is perfect to see all the top highlights and maybe a secret insider tip along the way.
I have been living in Munich (München or Minga is how the locals call it) for the past 20 years and spend most of my time exploring my beautiful hometown. So, I know exactly what you should see, which places are overrated and where you’ll find some hidden gems. I want you to have the best possible experience and not rely on a travel guide written by a blogger who merely spent 24 hours in a city to shoot some pictures (But talking about pictures, make sure to check out my list of the best photo spots in Munich).
Munich is a very walkable city, but you’ll be using public transport quite a bit as well. Especially for day three, where you should consider getting the MunichCard (buy it here) for free public transport and discounts on entrance fees. There are also some amazing guided walking tours you should be aware of, but you can easily organize everything yourself as well if you don’t like groups or try to be frugal.
Definitely also check out my guide on how many days you need for Munich. 3 days is quite ideal, but it’s not the only option you got.
Note: I earn a small commission for purchased made through GetYourGuide & booking.com links in this post
Day 1: Exploring the Old Town
On your first day in Munich, you will be covering all the top tourist attractions in the old town. It’s basically what you would see if you were only staying one day in Munich. Most of the attractions are in easy walking distance, so you depending on the location of your hotel, you might not even need a day ticket for public transport! If you do, then the Munich Card would make sense, as you will have to pay a couple of entrance fees.
- 8:30 am: Start at Odeonsplatz and visit the amazing Theatiner Church
- 9:00 am: Walk towards the Munich Residenz Palace (do the short tour but buy the ticket for the amazing treasury vault to see afterward).
- 11:50 am: Head towards the central square (Marienplatz), enjoy the Glockenspiel at noon & then climb Alter Peter for the best views of the city (or do it after lunch depending on how fast or slow you were))
- Noon: It’s time for lunch. Check out the Viktualienmarkt and buy some snacks. It’s a good location to sit down in the beer garden to enjoy a stein of local beer (or maybe two). In winter, the beer garden is closed, so rather go to the Ratskeller below the Old Town Hall.
- 1:30 pm: Walk down the pedestrian area towards the Church of our Lady
- 2:30 pm: From here, walk or take the subway from Marienplatz to marvel at Königsplatz where the Art Quarter starts.
- 3:00 pm: The Alte Pinakothek is probably the most famous museum in Munich, but if you don’t like Old Masters (Da Vinci, Raphael, etc), pick the Neue Pinakothek for modern art and some amazing architecture. Here is a list of the 20 best museums in Munich, for some further alternatives.
- 5:00 pm: Take bus #100 towards Ostbahnhof and get out at Haus der Kunst. From here it’s only 100 meters to the famous Eisbachwelle – surfing spot right in the middle of the city
- 5:30 pm: Time to take a walk through the adjacent Englische Garten. Walk past the Monopteros temple and check out the lively beer garden at the Chinese Tower (note: in winter the beer garden is closed and it would be too dark anyways; In December there is a lovely Christmas market here, though)
- 7:00 pm: Head towards Hofbräuhaus. There’s usually live music, excellent traditional food, and of course Bavarian beer. Stay as long as you like. You could also eat your fill at the Chinese Tower and skip this depending on the weather.
Alternative with guided walking tour:
If you decide to book a guided walking tour because you love to learn a bit more about Munich while you explore the old town, then you have to reorganize this itinerary. In this case, start at the Residenz Palace as soon as it opens (you’ll only have 90 minutes tho!), then head to the meeting point of your walking tour. In the afternoon, do the Alte Pinakothek and then head to Englische Garten.
Most guided tours start around 10:45 am because the first show of the Munich Glockenspiel will be at 11 am. If you want to start at different times, you’d have to book a private tour (like this one).
Also, in summer a lot of locals also enjoy swimming the River Isar, which could be a lovely option for a particular hot day.
Day 2: Day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle
There are more than 20 amazing day trips from Munich. I really urge you to consider staying a day or two longer and use Germany’s third-largest city as a home base to explore fantastic UNESCO World Heritage sites in the vicinity. The most popular (and probably also the most rewarding) day trip is from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle.
You will need a full day to see it. There are some offers for half-day trips, but considering it takes 2 hours to get there, I feel a bit of an eyewash. Besides, there is another castle right next to Schloss Neuschwanstein called Hohenschwangau, so you’ll have plenty of time to fill that day with excellent sights.
I really recommend booking a guided tour by bus to see the “Sleeping Beauty Castle”? Why? Well, first of all, it’s the easiest and fastest way to get there. But most importantly, the official bus tours also visit Schloss Linderhof, another amazing fairy tale castle.
It is impossible to see both castles using public transport. Which means you have to rent a car or book a tour. The tour has the bonus of being more relaxed, more comfortable and the guides will add some historical depth to your day trip.
- The most popular bus tour to Neuschwanstein castle (I tested it again recently and it’s still very well organized & good)
- This is the luxury version of the same tour company (mainly bigger seats and free snacks and drinks)
- If you want to see the UNESCO World Heritage site “Church of the Wies” instead of Linderhof castle, then book this combination tour with Neuschwanstein castle
Here is a more detailed guide on how to get to Neuschwanstein Castle from Munich.
Day 3: The North of Munich
There are 5 castles and palaces in Munich: The Residenz (which you visited on day 1), Alter Hof (which will be part of every walking tour), Schloss Schleissheim, Blutenburg, and Nymphenburg Palace. The latter was the summer residence of the Bavarian Kings and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Munich. If you are staying 3 days in Munich, then absolutely make sure to visit one of them, they are worth it!
The morning: BMW World & Museum
Subway line U3 will get you straight to the Olympiazentrum. In summer 1972, the Olympic Games took place in Munich and this park was built to host them. 30 years later it is still in use and counts as one of the prime examples in the world how such a mega event can change a city for good. If you want, take your time and stroll through the park a bit, it’s quite lovely.
Right next to the subway station, you will find the outstanding BMW Welt, which is one of the best addresses for car lovers on this planet. The architecture is quite fascinating as well, so photographers will love this place as well.
If you walk across the street (right below the impressive bridge) you’ll find the BMW plant and right next to it the BMW museum. Here, you can explore more than 100 years of car history. It’s quite great and one of many attractions that make Munich so special compared to Berlin, Frankfurt or other big cities in Germany.
If you want, you can use the remainder of the morning to walk towards the Olympic Tower. Buy a ticket for the elevator to the top and enjoy a breathtaking view of Munich. There is a restaurant at the top, so you could even stay here for lunch!
The afternoon: Nymphenburg Palace & Bavarian National Museum
Bus 180 will get you to Nymphenburg Palace. You will have to walk the last 500 meters, but that’s because Nymphenburg is surrounded by a park and there are no bus stations right in front of it.
First, do the tour of the castle itself. It’s quite beautiful inside, especially the mighty Steinerner Saal (Stone Hall) which is about the most luxurious and extravagant hall in Munich. You’ll also see the apartment where King Ludwig II was born (the monarch who built Neuschwanstein Castle).
After that, it’s time to explore the fantastic park of Nymphenburg. It’s actually even more beautiful than the Englische Garten in the city center. Apart from many artificial lakes and channels, you’ll also find 4 smaller palaces hidden away in the forest: Amalienburg, Badenburg, Pagodenburg, and Magdalenenklause. If you bought a ticket, you can go inside (it’s worth it!).
From here, you got a couple of different options: You could either decide to explore the rest of Nymphenburg. There is a fantastic botanical garden right next to it (there’s a connecting gate in the north right behind the Magdalenenklause).
There is also an outstanding carriage museum, a museum dedicated to the world-famous Nymphenburg porcelain, and a natural history museum for kids.
Instead, you could also, head back to the city and explore the Bavarian National Museum. It will close at 5 pm, so you would have to leave Nymphenburg not later than 3 pm. This Bayerische Nationalmuseum is my personal favorite museum in Munich and it’s nothing short of outstanding. It’s an art & design collection with a strong focus on bavarian artwork from the last 1,000 years.
Seeing all of Nymphenburg, the BMW World & museum, the Olympic Tower, and the Bavarian National Museum in one day will be a very tight itinerary. So, decide for yourself where you might want to walk through a little faster. If you skip the tower or the National Museum, things will be easily doable, though.
- 8:30 am: head towards BMW World
- 10:00 am: Explore the BMW Museum
- 11:00 am: Time to walk towards the Olympic Tower and enjoy a lovely view + lunch
- 0:30 pm: Take the bus to Nymphenburg and explore the palace & park
- 3:00 pm: Take the tram 17 to the city center and change into bus 100 at Hauptbahnhof to the Bavarian National Museum
alternative ways to play your Munich 3 day itinerary
If you got the time, it’s easy to spend 5 days in Munich – there are just so many places to visit in my hometown. Munich is so much more worth visiting than almost every other town in Germany. I tried to incorporate the top tourist attractions most visitors would love to see into one 3 days itinerary. That being said, there are plenty of alternatives.
If you don’t want to see a different castle each day, you could use the other half of the third day to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp. It’s a very popular half-day trip and one that will let you explore the darkest chapters of the Third Reich and the Nazi regime.
Recommended tour: Dachau Memorial Half-Day trip.
Related Blog post: Visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial
If you are more the technical guy or girl, then you could also visit the Deutsche Museum instead. It’s the biggest and most visited technical museum in the world and could easily occupy you for a day, though you can see most of it in 4-5 hours.
All in all, there are 60 museums in Munich. Which means you got endless options to adjust your personal Munich 3 day itinerary. Here’s the list of the 20 most popular museums.
What to do in Munich at night
Munich has quite the active nightlife and there are many clubs in the city. If you like bars, then the Glockenbachviertel, especially Müllerstraße will be your first address. For clubs, Sonnenstraße until Maximilliansplatz will be your best bet. Most clubs are rather posh and expensive though (like the rest of Munich)
You should also know, that Munich is home to one of the top 10 opera houses in the world. If you are interested, you could try to score tickets for one of their evening performances. Here is the website of the Bayerische Staatsoper. There are also some outstanding theaters (like Residenztheater, Gärtnerplatztheater, Kammerspiele, and Deutsches Theater) but you’ll probably have to understand German to make the most of it. The opera has subtitles.
In summer, beer gardens are favored by the locals, but there are also quite a lot of beer halls. I already mentioned Hofbräuhaus, but the Augustinerkeller or the Löwenbräukeller are excellent alternatives.
There are also nightwatchman torch tours through Munich. This could be a very special way to end your day in Bavaria’s capital. Book it here.
And just in case you were worrying, Munich is safe at night! Perfectly so!
Where to stay in Munich
Munich is an expensive city, especially when it comes to hotels. I recommend you to stay in the immediate city center so you can experience the nightlife, but be prepared to pay a premium for that opportunity. Staying near Marienplatz also makes exploring the city easier and reaching your bus/train for a day trip. Nothing is worse than wasting half of your time on public transport just because you wanted to save 20 euros on accommodation.
Here are my tips for hotels with good value for your money:
Luxury hotels in Munich’s city center:
budget hotels in the city center
Best time to visit Munich
After all these options and alternatives to spend your 3 days in Munich, you are probably wondering about the best time to visit. Well, generally speaking, summer is the best time to visit Munich. This means June, July, August, and September. Long days and warm temperatures make it excellent to experience the Bavarian culture. It’s also the most crowded time.
In recent years, summers have also been incredibly hot. Since very few places are air-conditioned it can be a bit too sweltering. All other months, especially March, April, October, and November usually have a high chance for rain and mixed weather. Still, the many museums will be just as pretty then, big promise
Oktoberfest in the last two weeks of September is a very popular, but also incredibly expensive, time to visit Munich. If you don’t mind the crowds and the premium, then I’m sure you will have the time of your life drinking beer from a 1-liter stein at biggest folk festival in the world.
In December, the whole city turns into one big Christmas market. I am not even joking, because there 25 (!!) different ones throughout Munich you can visit.
January and February are usually the least crowded months of the year. When it snows, Munich may be cold, but it will also transform everything into a winter wonderland (if you are lucky – otherwise you end up with grey mush lining the streets).
Last but not least, the weekends are always very busy as a lot of local tourists come shopping in Munich. Most public museums are closed on Mondays, so that is definitely something to consider before you visit.
1 thought on “3 days in Munich, Germany – an itinerary for first time visitors”
Thanks very, very much for putting this together. I’m going to print it and give a copy to each of my family members for my trip. It’s going to really help me in my planning stage.