In December I decided to spend my birthday in Munich, Germany.
I’ve always wanted to spend time in Germany at Christmas time. When I think of traditional festive films and cards, they always feature cute little towns full of wooden market stalls, selling gingerbread and mulled wine, so I wanted to experience that first hand.
My initial intention was to travel to Hamburg but owing to good old Ryanair cancelling the majority of its flights, we had to rebook so decided on Munich – Bavarias capital. Munich tends to be famous for Oktoberfest – my husband had his stag outing there last year so I was keen to experience it as a couple (at a time where there were less drunken groups of lads).
We flew on 8th December. To make the trip more of an occasion we booked our parking through holiday extras and stayed at the Radisson Blue hotel the night before. Hotel and parking deals through holiday extras are cheaper than you think and it takes away the stress of getting to the airport on the day. A city break is always full on too so having a good nights sleep before the weekend kicks off is lovely.
We flew from Stansted at lunchtime so spent a few hours in the Escape lounge. From £15 you can relax here before the flight and have complimentary food and drink. I sat back with a prosecco and full English while charging up all my devices ready for the off.
Return flights to Munich with Ryanair were around £80 which isn’t bad. Much like the rest of Germany, Munich airport screams efficiency and their rail service lives up to this stereotype. We hopped straight onto a city train and were in the centre within 30 minutes for a couple of euros – cheaper and easier than queuing for a taxi.
Where we stayed
Our hotel Marc Munchen was a stones throw from the train station. Most of the hotels are in and around this area, which means you’ll be around a 15 minute walk from the city. We paid around 80 euros a night. The Marc was a modern hotel with beautiful personal touches from pillow spray on our beds to water and chocolates as a leaving gift.
On our first night we wandered towards the more traditional markets in the Oktoberfest district. These opened until 2am and seem to be the place to hang out for dancing and drinks at a weekend. In the markets there were stalls selling every traditional German item you could imagine – gingerbread, hand crafted decorations, home-made schnapps and more. Food and drink stalls were the most plentiful with mulled wine and various types of sausage and schnitzel aromas assaulting your senses at every turn.
Our first meal was spent in the traditional beer Augustiner Beer Keller eating schnitzel, sour kraut, chips and drinking huge jugs of beer. These are loud, jolly places where you sit on long traditional wooden tables with other guests. You are served by staff dressed in traditional costume, who work so hard, defying physics by balancing plate upon plate of food in their arms. A word of warning : most of the food in Munich is both beige and meat based so as a veggie you may struggle. I loved that every meal is served with big baskets of pretzels everywhere you go – salty pretzels and beer is my new taste combo sensation! Augustiner is more expensive than some as it is located on the main shopping strip with an average dish costing around 12 euros.
Day Two – Sightseeing
On the second day we decided to hop on a red bus tour to get our bearings on what there is to do in the city. We learned that so much of Munichs history is centred around WWII during which time so much of it was destroyed. If I’m honest, I found the bus tour pretty boring as it was very focused on political history and the government buildings. I would have liked a more balanced tour illustrating the art and culture along with some facts and anecdotes.
After the bus we decided to wander into the old town to see the Marienplatz square and the famous Rathaus (town hall) which has a popular glockenspiel show where figures act out stories from the 16th Century. The hub of the Christmas markets are around here and they look beautiful against the neo gothic backdrop of the aforementioned buildings. People bustled around drinking mulled wine next to heaters, children begged their parents for lebekuchen (iced German spice biscuits – my favourite) and strains of ‘Feliz Navidad’ could be heard at every turn.
We had planned to go to a posh restaurant that evening but after having a few beers in a cosy traditional pub, we settled in there and ordered pizzas instead before bowling back to our hotel for an early night.
Day 3 – the bonus day
We were due to return to the UK on the following day but the heavy snow meant all flights were cancelled. After sorting another night in our hotel, we were ready to enjoy our bonus day. I’ll be honest, by this point we were bored of Christmas markets. We’d pretty much done them all three times by this point, gone around the shops and done a tour, making e recommend to anyone that two full days is all you really need in Munich unless you plan to travel to any neighbouring cities.
So, what does a British person when snow bound? We find an Irish bar and watch the Manchester derby of course!
One awesome bonus of our extra day was seeing the Krampus. These are 300 scary looking people dressed as monsters that run around the markets frightening tourists. The Krampus are a 500 year old tradition. They are thought to be an assistant of Saint Nicolas who maraud around the city rattling their chains to draw attention to naughty children. It’s an amazing sight to behold.
When we finally flew back to the UK I was glad to leave Munich. I found it a struggle to find things to do once we’d exhausted the markets. It’s definitely worth a visit, but you can easily take in everything you need within 48 hours and feel satisfied. Despite it lacking the cool vibe of Berlin, it was reeking in Bavarian tradition. It really made me feel festive and cosy and that I’d stepped back in time.
A great break with a group of mates where you can stay up late in the beer kellers putting the world to rights or as a cosy romantic weekend with your significant other.