We chose to begin our family gap year with a one-week stay in the city of Munich and we are glad we did. Munich provided just the right amount of family-friendly activities and a bit of down time to help us adjust to a new time zone.
These were our favorite activities in Munich:
Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt)
Just steps away from Marienplatz, this large open-air market is the life blood of Munich. On offer is a great variety of produce, baked goods, cheeses, wine, meats and much more. You can either stock up on foods to cook at home or purchase ready-made items to eat right away. In the center is a biergarten that frequently has live music on summer evenings.
One great thing about Germany is that each season is celebrated. In contrast to American supermarkets where you can buy pretty much any produce item any time of the year, German markets and restaurants prominently feature in-season fruits and vegetables. During our June visit the featured items were spargel (white asparagus), cherries, radishes and strawberries.
Our kids were eager to shop and picked out some cherries and radishes. They quite enjoyed the cherries. The same can’t be said for the radishes; the flavor of these was quite intense (almost more horseradish than radish!).
Deutsches Museum & Deutsches Transportation Museum
The Deutsches Museum has a great variety of exhibits, primarily focusing on subjects relating to science, technology, engineering, and math. The kids enjoyed making their way through the extensive mining exhibit featuring life-sized examples of mining techniques through the ages.
The physics hall is an excellent way for young scientists to get hands-on demonstrations of physics concepts including conservation of energy and angular momentum. In another exhibit, the kids learned how flywheels store kinetic energy.
The Deutsches transportation museum (Verkehrszentrum) is in a separate location from the main Deutsches Museum and it is also worth a visit if your schedule permits. The main hall is expansive and full of historical examples of all sorts of transportation modes from motorcycles to buses.
We particularly enjoyed the large exhibit of historical bicycles. The kids were interested to see and learn about the penny-farthing that well-to-do aristocrats used to ride around on.
Mike’s Bike Tour
A bike tour is a great way to get some exercise, see the major sites, and learn a little history. Mike’s Bike Tours was able to equip each member of our family with an appropriately-sized bike, including a tag-along bike for our youngest son who is not yet riding confidently on his own.
The tour covered all of the notable central sites and our guide gave us a fun and informative history lesson from the origins of the city (apparently it was founded by a group of monks that split off from another group due to a dispute over beer brewing) to present times.
There was extensive discussion of the dark Third Reich era including how the Nazis came to power and the fate of some of the brave Germans who dared to resist the movement.
BMW Welt & BMW Museum
BMW Welt is worth a visit for anyone with at least a passing interest in cars, especially since it is free. For kids and adults who are really into motorcycles and automobiles the BMW museum (modest admission fee) provides even more to see.
Biergarten, for kids? It might seem strange, but most biergartens are very family-friendly and many even have playgrounds where the kids can play independently while the parents enjoy adult conversation. This is something we’d really like to bring back home with us from Germany!
Our favorite biergarten was “Zum Flaucher,” located on an island in the Isar river. This was a relaxing place and with a sizable playground.
Biergarten menus are usually somewhat limited but there’s typically someone on offer to satisfy everyone, from the huge crusty pretzels to sausages to salads.
Munich Zoo (Tierpark) Hellabrunn
The Munich zoo is on the leafy banks of Isar river. If you walk there from the underground station in the summer as we did you’re likely to see Munich residents grilling and relaxing on their “beach.”
Strolling around the zoo feels like walking in the forest, and the animal exhibits have been designed to be as natural as possible. When you need a break from the animals there’s (surprise!) a biergarten with a great playground (including a huge slide with a climbing structure) right inside the zoo.
That wraps up our week in Munich! Check back soon to hear how we fared in the Bavarian Alps!