Munich, the Bavarian capital and one of the largest and most historic cities in Germany is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling through Europe. But is this a city that can actually be visited on a budget?
With one of the highest costs of living in Germany – higher even, than Berlin – and with peak season travel in both summer and over Christmas pushing prices for accommodation and transport up throughout most of the year, it would at first glance seem that Munich could never be a cheap travel destination.
But there are ways to save costs and to stretch your hard-earned cash further when it comes to exploring Munich. Travel outside of peak season, and avoid Oktoberfest and the Christmas Markets, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference in costs. There are also many free tourist attractions, and you can find cheap eats and accommodation if you know where to look.
To inspire your trip to Munich, here’s our budget travel guide to Munich!
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How to get around Munich on a Budget
Munich is a sprawling city that’s made up of countless suburbs, towns and villages that have been absorbed by the Bavarian capital’s expansion. With much of the cheaper accommodation outside of the city centre, that means that you’re going to need to use public transport to get around on a budget.
Luckily though, you’re in Germany, and if there’s one thing the Germans do better than the rest of the world, it’s public transport. Munich has an excellent and extensive public transport system that will get you anywhere, and it’s all totally integrated.
In the city centre, you have the U-Bahn, or the metro, as well as countless tram routes which connect those harder to reach destinations. Stretching into the suburbs, you have the S-Bahn, essentially an overground rail system, which will get you further afield. The cheapest way to get around, if you are making more than one journey in a day, is to buy a day pass, which gives you unlimited access to the network. If you’re staying longer, then you can also buy great value, multi-day passes too.
You will be able to pick up a detailed public transport guide listing the routes and connections at stations and from hostels and hotels.
Once you’re in the city centre or the Old Town, then it’s very pedestrian-friendly. You can cover the major sights by foot or on walking tours. Munich is also very bike-friendly, with a great network of cycle paths too, and in summer, this can be an excellent way to see the city.
Budget things to do in Munich
The most important destination in Munich, is the central Marienplatz, the main square in the city centre. The square dates far back to the 12th century, and it has for many hundreds of years been the centre of life in the city.
You’ll find plenty of statues and monuments around the square, including a column dedicated to St Mary, for whom the square itself is named. From here, you can access all of the Old Town, and easily walk to the best historic attractions in the city centre.
The Neues Rathaus, or the New Town Hall, is one of Munich’s most recognisable landmarks. This grand, historic building is located in the heart of Marienplatz, and it forms an integral part of the Old Town’s skyline. Constructed in a distinct Neo-Gothic design in the 19th century, the architecture of the New Town Hall is mesmerising.
You can stroll into the courtyard, or wait for the iconic Glockenspiel to play through the day, a unique show involving mechanical figurines emerging onto the balcony. You can take a trip to the top of the tower, but you’ll need to buy a ticket for that.
Another of Munich’s most iconic landmarks, is the undeniably grand Frauenkirche. This is one of the most important churches in Bavaria, and you can’t miss the rising shapes of the two distinctive towers built high above the cathedral.
There has been a church in the same location since at least the 13th century, but the current form of the Frauenkirche began to take shape in the mid 15th century. It’s totally free to enter, and you can even climb to the top of one of the towers for superb views over Munich.
The Frauenkirche might be the most famous church in Munich, but it’s far from being the oldest. Peterskirche, or Peter’s Church, dates back to 1180, and can be found standing proudly in the heart of the Old Town.
Hundreds of steps lead to the top of the observation tower, which offers a superb panorama of the entire city. There’s an entrance fee for the tower but it’s well worth it for the photographs and the views.
To escape the hustle and bustle of Munich’s ever popular Old Town, then take a trip to the city’s Botanic Gardens. Located in the Nymphenburg suburbs, it’s a great chance to see a different side of Munich.
The Botanic Gardens were created in the early 1800s, and have since grown into a truly impressive display of flora from across the world. It’s not free to enter, but with tickets costing just 5.50 Euros, it really won’t make too much of a dent in the travel budget.
While you are in Nymphenburg visiting the Botanic Gardens, then make the most of the journey by calling into the splendid Nymphenburg Palace too.
The vast grounds and elegant buildings are a testament to the extravagant wealth and power of the Bavarian monarchy who began construction of the palace in the 17th century.
Formerly a countryside estate, the palace has since been swallowed by the city, but it does today still make for a wonderful way to escape the urban chaos.
If you’re interested in royal relics, then take a trip to the Residenz, a former seat of royal power that’s well worth the small entrance fee.
The Residenz is a resplendent palace that can trace its origins back to a medieval castle that stood here hundreds of years ago. For centuries, right up until the end of World War I, the Residenz was the residence of many of Bavaria’s monarchs and members of the royal family.
Beer Halls and Beer Gardens
Despite all the historic attractions, Munich is still best known for beer, but you don’t need to be here in Oktoberfest to make the most of the great beer halls and beer gardens.
In fact, for the best prices you’ll want to be here anytime but Oktoberfest, although the infamous beer festival is well worth it if you can afford it.
Beer halls and beer gardens are a Bavarian institution, serving up great beers and great value food to their never ending lines of patrons.
The Bavarian State Opera
Okay, so you wouldn’t normally expect the Opera to be in a budget travel guide, especially one for a German city, but the Bavarian State Opera is one of the cheapest in the world.
Tickets to world renowned performances can be had for as low as 10 Euros per person on some nights, making this a wonderful cultural attraction for the budget minded lover of the arts.
A Munich attraction that is entirely free to visit though, is the Olympia Park. Munich was the host of the 1972 Olympics, an event which was unfortunately mired in sorrow because of attacks on the Israeli national team.
Today, it’s a more serene place than it perhaps was in 1972, and you can walk, cycle or jog around the many paths leading through the park. There are many sporting and cultural events which are held in Olympia Park throughout the year too, as it makes for a great venue in the city suburbs.
You can also call into the BMW Museum which is found near Olympia Park to learn more about one of the world’s most famous car manufacturing companies.
Where to stay in Munich on a Budget
Munich has a great range of accommodation, but the most important thing to remember when booking your trip is that to get the best deals you can’t travel in peak season. Accommodation prices shoot up more than anywhere else in Germany over summer, and even more so before, during and after the three weeks when Oktoberfest is in full swing. Avoid the festivals, and the Christmas Markets, to get the best deals.
One of the best hostels in Munich is the Wombats City Hostel, a hostel with an excellent reputation amongst budget for travellers. Located close to the train station, the location couldn’t be better, because you can walk to all of Munich’s best tourist attractions.
The YMCA Youth Hostel is another well known name that has a branch in Munich, and again, you’ll be in walking distance of both the train station and the city centre.
You can get some great deals on AirBnB apartments if you’re in a group and don’t mind staying in the suburbs, but most hotels will be out of the price range of budget travellers.
If you’re here in summer, then many camping grounds pop up all over the city. These are the cheapest places to stay during Oktoberfest too, and many will even offer great deals that include a pre-pitched tent, so you’ve less to carry and worry about.
Budget Eats in Munich
Munich has some great food, so when you’re visiting the city it’s important that you save some of your budget for eating out. It doesn’t have to be expensive though. Stay away from the Old Town and the tourist attractions, and you’ll find plenty of great value restaurants offering great local fare.
A local Bavarian favourite is, of course, the Bratwurst, and you’ll find that these are for sale all over the city. They are usually great value too, and make for a great lunch or light dinner, especially given that your average Bratwurst is generally quite enormous. You’ll also find plenty of Currywurst stands around selling the famous Berliner fast food that has made its way across the country.
There are countless supermarkets across Munich too, and they offer excellent value if you are on a really tight budget. Just make sure that your hostel or accommodation has cooking facilities and you can prepare your own Bratwurst and Sauerkraut using authentic ingredients from Aldi or Lidl, the two top supermarket chains in Germany.
If you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience though, then head to the iconic Viktualienmarkt in Munich. This classic marketplace has been here for countless years, right in the centre of the Old Town. You can find an abundance of cheap local eats, and there are plenty of sausages to go around.
Cheap tours to do in Munich on a budget
Free Walking Tours
The best way to explore Munich city on the cheap is to join a free walking tour. There are several companies offering free walking tours, and these usually run all through the year, even in the quieter seasons.
The concept is simple. You’re guided around, and at the end of the tour, you only pay as much as you can afford to or as much as you feel the tour was worth. It’s totally up to you, and you can pay as little or as much as you want, while at the same time enjoying the sights and attractions of Munich.
Munich Hop on Hop off Bus
If you’re not down for a walking tour, then don’t worry, because you can get around Munich using the Hop on Hop off Bus. The tickets, while not as cheap as using the public transport of course, are still great value
You’ll not only have transport directly to all the most important tourist sites, but you’ll learn about the history and culture of the city through the onboard Munich travel guide as you cruise in comfort from point to point.
Dachau Concentration Camp Tour
Munich had a darker past during the Nazi era, which is often not so visible in the city today. One of the most important historical sights in Bavaria is the infamous Dachau concentration. This was the first concentration to be built by the Nazis in the 1930s.
Located outside of the city, the best way to get here cheaply is by joining a tour group. The tours are actually incredibly good value, because you will be given guided commentary, and learn much more about this dark tourist site than you would otherwise.
Recommended Budget tours in Munich
- Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site Tour from Munich by Train
- Bavarian Beer and Food Evening Tour in Munich
- Munich Bike Tour
- Neuschwanstein Castle Day Trip with Hohenschwangau Castle from Munich
- Nuremberg Third Reich and Roman Empire Historical Day Trip
- Munich Super Saver: City Bike Tour plus Bavarian Beer and Food Evening
- Salzburg Sightseeing Day Trip from Munich by Rail
- Munich Like a Local: Customized Private Tour