What to eat in Munich, Germany
Munich is home to everything quintessentially Bavarian. Munich is especially well-known for the Münchner Weisswurst, a veal-based breakfast sausage that is traditionally eaten as a late breakfast with a Brezn (prezel), sweet mustard and a Weissbier (‘white beer’, which outside Bavaria usually goes by the more descriptive name Weizenbier, ‘wheat bier’) and has traditionally been available in restaurants all day long.
The Bavarian meal often starts with a soup, of which there are many varieties. Staples include Leberknödelsuppe (soup with round dumpling containing liver), Grießnockerlsuppe (soup with semolina dumplings) and Pfannkuchensuppe (pancake soup). Main dishes are typically meat-based. Some examples, which you should taste, are Schweinsbraten (roasted pork), Schweinshaxe (roasted pork knuckle), Spanferkel (roasted suckling pig), Brathendl or simply Hendl (roasted chicken) or Bauernente (roasted duck). Those are usually served with gravy and Knödel (large round poached or boiled potato or bread dumplings) or Späzle (egg noodles). There has always been a close exchange with neighboring Austria. Hence, the Wiener Schnitzel is also a staple on Bavarian menus. Typical desserts include Bayrische Creme (a pastry cream served with fruit or jam), Dampfnudeln (made from yeasty dough and served with vanilla custard) or the Austrian import Kaiserschmarrn (light caramelized mix of small pancakes and raisins eaten with apple sauce).
If you only fancy a snack, almost every butcher sells Leberkässemmeln, a white roll filled with a thick warm slice of “Leberkäse”. Which, despite its name contains absolutely no liver nor cheese, but consists of a mixture of veal, pork, spices and a hint of lemon zest baked in an open pan and traditionally served with a sweet and grainy mustard. They tend to be very cheap, quite delicious, and filling. You can find some of Munich’s best Leberkässemmeln in one of the numerous butcher shops at the western edge of Viktualienmarkt. If you want something even more filling between your bread roll slices, then try a Schweinsbratensemmel (a white roll filled with roasted pork), preferably also from one of the butchers at Viktualienmarkt. They will cost you a little bit more, but they’re worth every cent. Depending on the store/salesperson you may have to ask for a slice of crust, a little bit of sauce and salt and pepper, but usually they ask you themselves if you want it (yes!). The meat from these butchers is much more juicy and flavourful than what you would find in franchised butcher shops – and they know how to make a crispy crust, something that is sadly not nearly as common if you don’t buy in the truly traditional shops. An alternative that can be had are rolls with Fleischpflanzerl, which a patties of mixed ground pork and ground beef eaten with spicy mustard. Another local option are Bratwurstsemmeln. The kind of Bratwurst most often sold at Munich sausage stands and butcher shops is of a typical medium-sized and mildly seasoned variety, basically like you expect a quintessential Bratwurst to be. Another abundant snack in a roll is Schnitzelsemmel, which is quite popular amongst children, but don’t expect the meat (almost always pork, not veal) to be like high quality Schnitzel meat.
Do not miss out on some of the truly marvelous Bavarian/Austrian style pies and cakes by the slice in any of the countless bakeries and cafes. Regardless of where you enjoy them, they are all traditionally made with high quality all natural ingredients. The same applies for the amazing range of bread which can be bought at any bakery.
If Bavarian food does not sound appetizing, you are in luck because Munich is host to plenty of other international restaurants including, among others; Afghan, Chinese, Ethiopian, French, Indian, Nigerian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Greek, Lebanese, Kenyan, Serbo-Croatian, Pakistani, Spanish and Turkish, as well as the typical American fast food.
Due to the proximity to Italy and as a result of Italian immigration in the 1960s, there is a plethora of Italian restaurants, osterias, trattorias and pizza places in all price ranges distributed throughout the city and essentially every Munich resident has her or his favorite Italian restaurant around the corner. If you need to cool down in the summer months, you can also enjoy delicious gelato at one of the many ice cream places mostly run by Italians.
Most restaurants serve vegetarian food options and indeed there is an increasing number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Munich. Munich has numerous fresh markets, which can be a tasty, expedient and inexpensive alternatives to restaurants (see the Buy section for market listings). There are also numerous small booths throughout the pedestrian area selling fresh fruit, snacks, ice cream in spring and summer and chestnuts during fall and winter.
If asked for things typical German, many people will have beer on top of their mind. And no other city symbolizes German beer culture as Munich. There are six major Munich breweries: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten-Franziskaner. On top of these there are plenty of breweries in the surrounding area – even the Munich International Airport has its own brewery called Airbräu. Munich breweries offer many varieties of beer. On all menus of Munich restaurants and bars you will find Helles (a light-colored lager), Dunkles (a malty dark beer), Weissbier (light-colored wheat beer), Weissbier Dunkel (dark-colored wheat beer) and in many cases a Bock beer. Seasonal specialties are the hefty Starkbier, a dark doppelbock brewed during the lent, and the Oktoberfest-Märzen, which is a stronger, malty lager brewed for Oktoberfest.
If you happen to be unfortunate enough to miss Oktoberfest, you can still experience Bavarian beer culture at its best in one of Munich’s many beer halls and beer gardens as well as restaurants and bars. Beer halls can best be described as giant restaurants serving Bavarian fare and often owned by one of the Munich breweries. The Hofbräuhaus may be the most famous (and certainly the most touristy) beer hall, but there are countless more beautiful beer halls scattered throughout the city.
A summer alternative to beer halls are beer gardens. Beer gardens are a large outside area, usually located under large horse chestnut trees (Kastanienbäume) for shade. There normally are rows of fold-away tables and self-service. If you see tablecloths on some tables those tables are served by waiters. In a traditional Bavarian beer garden, you are allowed to bring your food along with you, if you are sitting at the self-service tables. Only beverages (usually one liter mugs of local beer (called a Maß) or Radler which is a half and half mix of beer and sprite) are to be bought at the beer garden. Many locals still cling to this custom, though food is available as well. Try Riesenbrezn (big pretzels) and Steckerlfisch (cured fish). Beer gardens are usually visited by a mixed crowd of people (locals and tourists, families, younger and elderly, straight and gay, blue and white collar etc.), from which the special atmosphere of a beer garden arises, though people normally do not go there alone. If you cannot find a free table, do not hesitate to ask if you may join someone. No local would refuse this request, if there is a spot left. Beer gardens are family friendly, with children playgrounds on site. Well-behaved dogs are welcome, too. Beer gardens are a Bavarian cultural institution and can be found everywhere in and around Munich, e.g. there are two large beer gardens in the Englischer Garten. It is probably fair to say that you have not fully experienced the Munich spirit without having spent a few hours at a beer garden.
Munich also has a strong coffee culture with numerous cafes scattered throughout the city. Many of these cafes have larger or smaller outdoor seating areas. Indeed, enjoying an espresso or a cappuccino in the sun while watching the crowd pass by is as essential for Munich residents as drinking beer under the chestnut trees of a beer garden.
These places are also very popular meeting spots for professionals after finishing work. At this time coffee cups are often replaced by glasses of wine, prosecco, Aperol Spritz or Hugo, the latter two being wine/prosecco-based cocktails, which have become the staple aperitifs in Munich.
You have to be at least 18 years old to get into most clubs and discos in Munich. Always have your passport or ID card with you, and a driver’s license may be okay, too. Some clubs have “Ü30-Parties”, where you should be over 30 to get in, but usually you have no problems if you are over 25. In most places, it is ok to wear jeans and sneakers. Popular nightlife districts are the city center (Altstadt-Lehel with the so-called Party Banana), Maxvorstadt, Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt, Haidhausen, Berg am Laim (remains of the former “Kultfabrik” club and party area in the Werksviertel borough), Schwabing, and the subcultural nightlife spots in the northeast of Sendling. The locations of clubs change quickly, so best to check on the internet for upcoming events (e.g. in-muenchen.de is one of the nightlife guides).
Munich has thousands of bars, pubs and restaurants within city limits. Bars ranging from alternative to hip, inexpensive to pricy can be found throughout the inner city. The number of students living in Maxvorstadt has resulted in plenty of bars and cafes in Maxvorstadt and Schwabing, which are of course not only frequented by students. Also popular destinations for bar-hoppers are Haidhausen and Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt, where you also find most of Munich’s gay bars and clubs. Since there are always new bars popping up and others shutting down it is best to check the internet for the latest recommendations.