Germany shuts shop on a Sunday for a day of enforced relaxation so what does the restless tourist do? Fear not! Tamara Pitelen has devised this self-guided Sundays-in-Munich walking tour just for you.
The Germans are very serious about their Sundays as a day of rest. It’s illegal for people to do things like mow their lawns, wash their cars, or hang their washing out on Sundays.
Even the country’s biggest and most cosmopolitan cities like Munich, aka München, basically shut shop on the Sabbath. This results in hoardes of tourists wandering about the city centre dazed and confused. You can watch them peer into darkened shop windows and wonder how on earth they’ll fill the time with the option of shopping removed. Here are some suggestions…
1. Climb 299 steps to the top of the St Peter’s Church
Make your way to the Church of Saint Peter (Kirche St. Peter) in the centre of Munich. An opulent Roman Catholic church, this is also the oldest church in the district and a wrap-around viewing platform at the top of the tower provides a breath-taking, 360 degree view of the historic city. Before you climb those 299 steps though (for 3 euros), go inside this magnificent church, light a candle and take a pew for some reverential admiration of the gorgeous interior with its ornate gold statues of saints and angels.
Location: Rindermarkt 1, 80331 Munich
Fun fact: Rindermarkt is a market square in central Munich that was previously a cow market. Rinder is the German word for beef.
2. Have coffee and a giant pretzel at a pavement café
You’ve just climbed 299 steps so it’s time for a cuppa. Although all the shops and most of the eateries are shut on a Sunday, there are enough cafes bucking the trend for you to enjoy up one of the ubiquitous giant dough pretzels washed down with a coffee. Just Wander from Rindermarket over to Marienplatz, which has been Munich’s main square since 1158. Choose a café and stammer out something like ‘brezel unt caffe bitte…’ with the appropriate pointing and gesturing and they’ll get the message. Although most wait staff in Munich are multi-lingual so chances are they’ll answer you in English.
Location: Marienplatz 1, 80331 Munich
Fun fact: It’s thought that pretzels were invented by Christian monks in the early middle ages and the dough is folded to resemble hands in prayer. But no one’s really sure.
3. Visit the unofficial Michael Jackson shrine
There are some people in Munich who put the ‘fanatic’ into ‘fan’ when it comes to their devotion to the late Michael Jackson. Wander from Marienplatz over to Promenadeplatz and you’ll find the hotel where Jackson used to stay, the Bayerischer Hof. Opposite the hotel’s entrance is a small park where a statue of the composer Roland de Lattre has been turned into a makeshift shrine to Jackson by his stalwart German fans. It’s been there since the pop star’s death in 2009 and is still well maintained, the pedestal of the statue is festooned with photos of Jackson, flowers and candles. This shrine is controversial though. The Bavarian authorities would prefer it be gone but groups of Michael Jackson fan groups, known as MJ’s Legacy, and MJ Memorial Munich, insist it stays. The two groups have been fought amongst themselves, each accusing the other of monopolizing the shrine resulting in a scuffle and criminal charges.
Location: Opposite the Bayerischer Hof Hotel, Promenadeplatz
Fun fact: Jackson is reported to have stayed five times in the Bayerischer Hof while fans waited hours in the park for a glimpse of his waving gloved hand.
4. Beer and bikes in the English Garden
The Englischer Garten is a large public park in the centre of Munich created by the ruler of the time, Prince Charles Theodore. With an area of 910 acres, it’s one of Europe’s largest urban public parks and is larger than New York’s Central Park. You can wander around on foot or you can hire a bike but either way you might like to join the crowds who gather in the centre of the park by the Chinese pagoda for an alfresco snack and a beer – the latter is served in those enormous glass tankards. You either need to buy the glass or put down a deposit for it that will be reimbursed when you return the glass.
Location: In the centre of Munich. You can’t miss it.
Fun fact: The park’s name refers to its informal design style, which is associated with the English landscape architect Capability Brown.
5. Go river surfing in the city
Deserving a special mention is the unofficial river rapids surfing that happens at various locations on the river in the Englishcher Garten. There are rapids for the experienced surfer as well as other rapids for the more beginner surfer. For a short video of this, go to River surfing in Munich
Location: Along the river in the English Garden, central Munich
Fun Fact: This river surfing is done in front of signs that say swimming is forbidden.
6. Bikram Hot Yoga
If stretching and sweating is your thing, at 5pm you can take a hot yoga class at the Bikram Yoga Im Tal studio. There’s also a 12pm class on Sundays if that suits you better.
Location: Im Tal 9, 80331 Munich
Fun but fairly unhelpful fact: Devised by a man called Bikram Choudhary, this 90-minute class of 26 postures is done in a room heated to about 40 degrees.
7. Historic hops
You’ll have worked up a hunger and a thirst after that Bikram class so it’s lucky that one of the liveliest parts of town is a stone’s throw away. Platzl is a small square in the centre of Munich that has the Hard Rock Café and the Dubliners Irish pub but the most famous and historic drinking hole is the Hofbrauhaus Munchen, a three-storey beer hall dating back to the 16th Century.
Location: Platzl 9, 80331 Munich
Fun fact: Regular drinkers keep on site their own personal – and often valuable – beer glass, or stein, at the Hofbrauhaus. Competition for the limited number of stein storage spaces is intense.