You could spend your entire visit to Munich exploring its museums and still only scratch the surface. Covering everything from cars to contemporary art and of course Oktoberfest, Munich’s museums are great places to learn more about the city, see world-famous paintings, or explore the grand rooms of an old palace.
A good place to start your tour of museums in Munich is the Kunstareal art district. Located in the city’s student neighborhood, the area is home to many museums, galleries, and academic institutions, and is regarded as one of Europe’s most important cultural centers.
Here are the unmissable museums in Munich.
Visit the ultimate car showroom at the BMW Museum
Best museum for car enthusiasts
A brand synonymous with Munich, BMW has a large site in the north of the city. Visitors can get an insight into the history and workings of the company at the BMW Museum and check out some of the latest – and oldest – models at the ultimate car showroom BMW Welt.
Expect large futuristic buildings and a bit of a walk to see everything. Should you need to refuel, the area has several places to eat, including one of Munich's most prestigious fine-dining destinations, EssZimmer.
See modern masterpieces at Museum Brandhorst
Best museum for pop art
Covered in 36,000 colorful ceramic rods, the strikingly angular Museum Brandhorst is Munich’s hub for contemporary art. Inside you’ll find modern masterpieces from the 1960s onwards, including the largest collection of works by Andy Warhol in Europe and more than 170 works by the US artist Cy Twombly.
Museum Brandhorst is also great for families, with free activity booklets for kids available online and tours designed for those with babies in tow. Both children and adults will love Ballabeni, an excellent ice cream shop located opposite the gallery.
Explore science and tech at the Deutsches Museum
Best museum for kids
Sitting proudly on an island in the river, the Deutsches Museum is a key landmark in Munich. The museum encompasses 28 permanent exhibitions covering all things science and technology, so it’s wise to work out which ones you want to visit before you go.
Much loved by local families is the Kinderreich area. Designed for children ages 3 to 8, this section of the museum inspires young minds with giant building blocks, light experiments, and many other hands-on learning activities. The affiliated Transport Museum in the west of the city is also brilliant for kids.
Consider identity and culture at the Jewish Museum
Best museum for different voices
A freestanding rectangular building with a glass-fronted ground floor, the Jewish Museum in St Jakob’s Square is hard to miss. Forming part of the Jüdisches Zentrum (Jewish Center), which also includes the city’s main synagogue and a community center, the museum looks at the diversity of Jewish history, identity, and culture in Munich. After Berlin, Munich is home to Germany’s second largest Jewish population.
The Jewish Museum has a large airy bookshop and a branch of Coucou Food Market, serving healthy lunches and coffee from local roastery Man Versus Machine.
Be inspired by the mountains at the Alpine Museum
Best museum for adventurers
On an island neighboring the Deutsches Museum is a much smaller institution run by the German Alpine Club (DAV). The Alpine Museum transports your mind to the nearby summits and documents the timeless appeal of the mountains. You’ll soon be dreaming of potential trips.
Temporary exhibitions cover broader topics such as climate change and mass tourism, while the museum’s library and archive are great for planning and research. For a moment of tranquility without leaving the city, head to the secluded garden, ideally with a coffee from the cafe, and listen to the river running by.
Travel through art history at the Pinakotheken
Best museum for lovers of art and design
All located in the Kunstareal, the Pinakothek trio are among Munich’s best-known museums and together span several centuries and highlights of art history. Head to the Alte Pinakothek for European masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci, the Neue Pinakothek for French Impressionists, and Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, and Pinakothek der Moderne for four independent museums – covering design, architecture, art and graphics – all under one roof.
Celebrate graffiti at the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA)
Best museum for street art
The first museum of its kind in Germany, MUCA is dedicated to urban art. The space is a platform for expert talks, lectures and films, as well as exhibitions featuring big names such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Tucked away in a small side street close to Marienplatz, MUCA can be hard to spot – look out for the black-and-white exterior created by German street artist Stohead. Once inside, you’ll not only find cool art but also the Michelin-starred restaurant Mural.
Fans of MUCA should check out its project KUNSTLABOR 2, a new hub for art and culture located in former health offices that are set to be demolished.
Learn and remember at the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism
Best museum for modern history
Opened in 2015, the NS Dokuzentrum refers to itself as a place of education and remembrance rather than a museum. Built on the site of the Brown House, the former Nazi headquarters, the center examines the establishment and rise of national socialism in Munich. Using diverse media, the permanent exhibition aims to reflect on the city’s past and answer key questions, while special exhibitions address broader topics.
Marvel at riches in the Residenzmuseum
Best museum for grand interiors
Giant chandeliers, frescoed walls, and elaborate tapestries await at the Residenzmuseum, the former royal residence in the center of town. Germany’s largest inner-city palace was the seat of government and residence of Bavarian dukes, electors, and kings until the early 20th century.
The museum doesn’t offer official tours, but a detailed audio guide is available in several languages. Alternatively you can just explore the entire complex, from the treasury to the theater, from Renaissance to rococo.
Tour beer-based exhibits at the Bier- und Oktoberfestmuseum
Best museum for Munich cliches
Of course Munich has a beer museum. Packed into an old townhouse that dates to the 14th century, this museum has everything you’d hope for, such as a collection of kitsch beer mugs and Oktoberfest memorabilia. After climbing the creaky staircases and exploring the exhibits in rooms with original wooden beams, guests can grab a beer and traditional Bavarian snacks in the museum’s pub.
See contemporary pieces at the Haus der Kunst
Best museum for international exhibitions
Built in the 1930s, the neoclassical Haus der Kunst on the southern edge of Englischer Garten has a dark past. The Nazis’ leading art institution, it was used to showcase traditional and classic German artists, while modern works were displayed in a defamatory manner in a gallery nearby. Today, the focus on contemporary international artists and edgy installations offers a stark and deliberate contrast to those times. Don't miss the elegant Goldene Bar serving cocktails that can be enjoyed on a terrace overlooking the park.
Admire big-name artworks at Lenbachhaus
Best museum for German Expressionists
Lenbachhaus is known for its collection of works from Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Founded in Munich by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc at the start of the 20th century, the group was one of Germany’s most significant avant-garde movements. The museum is located in a large Tuscan-style villa with an eye-catching modern wing designed by architect Norman Foster. Both are yellow. It is in the latter that you’ll also find the museum’s restaurant ELLA.
Top tips for visiting museums in Munich
The Long Night of Museums in Munich
Every October, many of Munich’s museums stay open well into the night as part of Lange Nacht der Münchner Museen. Night owls can visit a huge selection of locations and participate in special events, guided tours, and installations.
Munich City Card
If you plan on visiting a lot of museums, the Munich City Card could be a cost-effective option. After paying a fee upfront, you can access around 45 museums free of charge. You can purchase the card for different numbers of days, with or without public transport included.
Many museums in Munich charge just €1 to visit on Sundays, and some museums are always free. If you want to spend only one day visiting museums, it might be better to opt for Sunday and skip the Munich City Card altogether. Other places, such as Haus der Kunst, have mid-week late-night openings with reduced prices or free entry. Check online for a full list of all the reductions and deals.
You might also like:
Everything you need to know before you travel to Munich
Munich’s best parks for exercise, history and – of course – beer
Visit Munich to enjoy festivals in every season