Located in the German state of Bavaria is the city of Munich, which is also the state’s capital as well as one of the most visited cities in all of Europe. It’s easy to see why this is the case; Munich is known for its rich history, world-class museums, iconic architectural wonders and some of the best beers you will ever taste in your life! No matter your interests, you’ll surely enjoy spending some time in this vibrant city.
With its popularity, however, it’s no secret that Munich can be quite expensive; after all, it is the capital of Germany’s wealthiest state and a popular holiday destination in Europe. While it is true that the Bavarian capital isn’t exactly a bargain city, there are still plenty of free activities and hidden gems that won't break your bank.
From the Baroque architecture of the Asam Church to music and theatre to experiencing your first Oktoberfest, there is plenty to see year round in this exciting destination. Find Munich's museums with free entry or relax in Marienplatz Square. Drop your extra gear at one of our luggage lockers in Munich, hop on public transport and take the U Bahn or the S Bahn – you may even hear the popular glockenspiel as you tour. Browse an outdoor market, try to locate the oldest buildings – if you’re a budget traveler looking to make the most of your trip, don't worry – there are many free things to do in Munich!
People Watch at the Marienplatz
Established in 1158, the Marienplatz is the heart of Munich and the most famous square in the city. Located in Alstadt (Old Town), this lively square once hosted a range of spectator events, including jousts and even executions. At present, the Marienplatz is one of the top hangout places for both locals and tourists; the area is home to several landmarks, restaurants, shops and street performers. During the holidays, Marienplatz also hosts the Christkindlmarkt, where numerous vendors sell holiday gifts.
If you want to see one of Munich's most interesting traditions, you should time your visit during the performance at the Glockenspiel tower in the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) held daily. The 15-minute show involves 32 life-sized figurines portraying some of the most important events in Bavarian history.
Stroll Along Munich's Englischer Garten (Bigger Than New York's Central Park!)
One of the best free things to do in Munich is to explore the massive English Garden (known locally as Englischer Garten), which is the biggest public park in the city. Stretching from the city center up to Munich’s northeastern city limits, this public park is way larger compared to some of the world’s most popular parks, including New York’s Central Park and London’s Hyde Park.
Offering a quiet escape from city life, Munich's English Garden is home to running and cycling paths as well as a boating lake for visitors to use; other cool finds within the park include a Greek-style temple and a Japanese tea-house. If you fancy having a pint or two, check out one of the oldest and most popular Biergartens (beer gardens) in the city, located near the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower).
Check out the Selections at the Viktualienmarkt
In operation since 1807, the Viktualienmarkt is Munich's oldest market and a must-visit when in the city. Located in the Old Town, this vibrant outdoor market is extremely popular across Germany and is frequented by locals, tourists and even some of the city’s most renowned chefs.
The Viktualienmarkt has over 140 vendors and food stalls selling a range of products and delicacies, including sausages, artisanal cheese, fresh produce and more. There is also a biergarten attached to the market for those who need a drink after a long day of shopping. Although shopping in the Viktualienmarkt will obviously cost you a few dollars, roaming around, browsing through the products and trying some of the free samples given by the vendors will cost you nothing.
Explore the Amazing BMW Welt
The BMW is one of the most popular brands to come out of Germany, which is why it only makes sense to have a whole “world” dedicated to it in Munich. Hop on the train and head to BMW World (referred to locally as BMW Welt) is a space dedicated to the luxury car manufacturer. It is basically a giant showroom where you can see a massive collection of BMW’s car models – from race cars and electric vehicles to motorcycles.
The BMW World is also home to the BMW Museum, which gives a more in-depth look into the company’s history. However, there is an admission fee for the museum. If you are on a budget, you can simply explore the BMW World and admire the range of vehicles as well as the stunning contemporary architecture of the building itself.
Roam the Courtyards at the Residenz
In a city filled with incredible architecture, the Residenz stands out as one of the most stunning buildings in the city. Dating back to the 14th century, the Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and once served as a royal palace used by Bavarian monarchs. The building houses one of the best Munich museums, although you will have to pay a fee to get in. However, exploring the numerous historical gardens and lovely courtyards in the vicinity is completely free of charge.
Join a Free Walking Tour
Despite being a large city, Munich has a significantly compact city center that houses some of its main attractions and most notable landmarks. If you want to get an introduction to the Bavarian capital, consider joining one of the many free walking tours of Munich. There are a number of tour companies that offer this, the majority of which are led by guides that can speak different languages and have in-depth knowledge of the city’s history. Most of the free walking tours start at the Marienplatz Square and include highlights in Central Munich, such as the Old Town Hall, Munich Residenz and St. Peter’s Church. Walking is one of the best ways to get around Munich, after all!
Explore Munich’s Most Popular Churches
One of the main things that Munich is known for is its impressive collection of churches, all of which have their own distinct styles and features. One of the churches that you should absolutely visit when in the city is the Peterskirche, or St. Peter’s Church, located in the Old Town. Dating back to the 12th century, the Romanesque-style church is one of the oldest buildings in Germany and one of the main attractions in Munich.
Inside, guests can check out the church’s fantastic glittering altar and the jewel-bedecked remains of martyr, Saint Munditia. While the church itself offers free entry, you will need to pay a small fee to climb up the church's tower, where you will be treated to an amazing view of the Munich skyline. Other noteworthy churches to check out in the city include the Asamkirche, the Theatinerkirche and the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), all of which can be visited for free.
Experience the Massive Olympiapark
Originally built for the 1972 Summer Olympic Games, the Olympiapark now serves as one of the biggest parks in Munich and a hub for fun and activity. The enormous recreation center, which covers over 3 million square feet, boasts a number of facilities, including skating rinks, tennis courts, mini-golf courses, and, most notably, the impressive Olympic Stadium.
While visiting the inside of the Stadium will cost you, especially if there’s a concert being held, hanging out around the park is absolutely free of charge. The Olympic Hill is also one of the best spots in the area to listen to performances coming from the Olympic Stadium. Throughout the summer months, the Olympiapark hosts several outdoor performances and concerts from live bands across all genres.
Watch the River Surfers at Eisbach
If you want to witness one of the most bizarre and amusing things Munich is known for, head over to the Eisbach to watch locals go river surfing. Situated by the southern end of the English Garden, the Eisbach is a 2-kilometer long creek that flows through the park and is frequented by adrenaline junkies and daredevils who are looking to catch some waves.
The sport of river surfing became popular during the 2010s and has since become a worldwide phenomenon, with Munich even hosting the 2012 European River Surfing championship event. Because of the risks and dangers involved, the sport should only be attempted by professionals who have prior experience. For tourists with no clue about the activity, the best thing to do is head over to Eisbach to watch these surfers in their element.
See a Football Club Practice
As the winningest team in the Bundesliga, the country’s premier league, FC Bayern Munich is no doubt Germany’s most renowned football team. Hence, it’s no surprise that tickets to see them in action are hard to come by and will likely cost you an arm and a leg. If you are hoping to see the team play live while in Munich but are strapped for cash, then you’re in luck; FC Bayern holds several public training sessions at the Säbener Strasse, located about 6 kilometers outside of the city center. During these free sessions, you have the chance to see your favorite players and watch them do what they do best.
Wander the World’s Most Famous Beer Garden
As the home to the world-famous Oktoberfest, no visit to Munich would be complete without making your way to the Hofbräuhaus. Originally built in 1589, the venue is widely regarded as one of the most popular beer gardens in the world and features some of Bavaria’s most impressive offerings. While downing pints of beer will cost you money, it’s completely free to explore Hofbräuhaus. The beer hall also features a free historical exhibit in its gallery, which tells the different stories and significant events that took place within the building’s four walls.
Catch a Free Concert at Kulturzentrum Gasteig
From the outside, you would never guess that this simple and nondescript building houses one of the most impressive concert halls in the entire world. The Kulturzentrum Gasteig, which is world-renowned for its superb acoustics, hosts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and is a training ground for students who are studying classical music and theater. To share the talents of these students, the facility often hosts free concerts throughout the day, which are open for public viewing.
Join the Cool Crowd at Gärtnerplatz
Originally built in 1860 as a city square, the Gärtnerplatz is now widely considered as the trendiest area in Munich. Known for its Mediterranean flavor, Gärtnerplatz is the best place to go to people watch and meet some locals. The area is also home to dozens of bars and nightclubs if you’re looking to witness the nightlife scene in Munich. Spending an afternoon at the Gärtnerplatz is undoubtedly one of the top free things to do in Munich.
Visit the Historic Feldherrnhalle
Built during the 1840s, the Felderrnhalle (Field Marshalls’ Hall) is a historical monument that stands on the south end of the Odeonsplatz. Originally commissioned by King Ludwig II to honor the Bavarian army, the hall became notorious after the attempted coup by Hitler and his men to take over the Bavarian government. Nowadays, the steps of the Feldherrnhalle is a usual hangout spot for both Munich locals and visitors as well as a venue for outdoor concerts held throughout the year.
Explore the Gardens at Nymphenburg Palace
Although Munich is home to many palaces and castles, no other building comes close to the grandiose Nymphenburg Palace. A former summer residence for the Bavarian royalty, the palace boasts plenty of amazing features, including a scenic park and a canal that is used as an ice skating rink during the winter. The palace also has a botanical garden, where several plant species from different parts of the world can be found. Best explored on a sunny day, guests can roam around the grounds of the palace without paying entry fees.
Free Things to Do in Munich and More
Munich may seem like an expensive city but there is much to do even on a budget. If you know where to look, there are plenty of free attractions to visit and cheap things to do that can keep you occupied for the duration of your stay. Once you've built up your appetite, do plan on dishing out a little cash for one of the best brunches in Munich!