When it comes to church bells and beer halls, Munich’s city center will certainly deliver, but it's the neighborhoods beyond its central core that offer a real insight into daily life. 

Thanks to Munich’s compact size and excellent bike and public transport network, it’s easy to include many of the most exciting districts into your trip. From village vibes to grand architecture, each area has its own flair and local crowd, as well as many different places to eat and drink.

Here are the must-visit neighborhoods on your trip to Munich.

A traditional shopfront in Munich, Germany
Stroll around Munich's neighborhoods for traditional shops and regional produce © Andreas Ringwald / 500px

Altstadt-Lehel

Best neighborhood for sightseeing 

No trip to Munich is complete without a stroll around the old town (Altstadt). Home to the iconic Hofbräuhaus beer hall, bustling Marienplatz, the two-towered Frauenkirche and Germany’s largest urban palace complex (Munich Residenz), it is in the Altstadt where you’ll tick the most Munich sights off your list. 

This neighborhood is also good for a spot of retail therapy, with big-brand names on busy Kaufingerstrasse, designer labels on exclusive Maximilianstrasse and regional produce at the open-air food market. A large selection of places to stay comes with the territory, as do tour groups and a few tourist traps. 

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Schwabing

Best neighborhood for restaurants  

The attractive northern neighborhood of Schwabing used to be the artistic hub of the city, and former residents include painters Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Today Schwabing is less boho and more BMW, with gentrification pushing up rents and pulling in a new demographic, but its creative appeal remains. Its grand streets are lined with some of the finest art nouveau buildings in Munich, many with elaborate designs and fun details to look out for.

This cosmopolitan area has a huge selection of dining spots, from traditional Bavarian feasts to fancy French fare. To-go options, such as burritos and bowls, are also plentiful, making for a great lunch in the adjacent Englischer Garten, one of Europe’s largest urban parks. Popular places fill up fast, so make a reservation ahead of your visit.

Bavarian cafes on the Wiener Platz in Munich
Wiener Platz in Munich is the place to go for good food and drinks © FooTToo / Getty Images

Au-Haidhausen

Best neighborhood for families  

East of the Isar River is the charming neighborhood of Au-Haidhausen. Popular with young families, the area is full of strollers and playgrounds, as well as coffee shops to fuel the sleep-deprived population. Many of these cafes can be found in the village-like French Quarter, along with a number of small shops and restaurants. On weekends, residents congregate at Wiener Platz for a fish sandwich from the market or a drink from the wine bar, everyone shuffling around as the sun moves across the square. 

Staying in Au-Haidhausen provides easy access to the city, on public transport or even on foot, and proximity to landmarks such as the Gasteig Cultural Center and the Deutsches Museum. You’ll find both boutique stays and large hotel chains. 

Interior of the Hofbrauhaus pub in Munich
No trip to Munich is complete without visiting one of its bustling beer halls © RossHelen / Shutterstock

Westend

Best neighborhood for Oktoberfest

Bordering the grounds of the city’s famous beer festival and home to the Augustiner Brewery, Westend (Schwanthalerhöhe) actually meets fewer Bavarian stereotypes than you’d expect. The up-and-coming area is one of Munich’s most diverse, with places serving eggs benedict and specialty coffee sitting alongside longer-standing Greek taverns, kebab shops and other international establishments.  

When the Oktoberfest infrastructure leaves the site, the huge expanse known as Theresienwiese is used by cyclists, skateboarders and dog walkers, all under the watch of the imposing Bavariastatue. A stroll around the grounds helps you understand the scale of the event. 

Blue hour on the north facade of Victory Gate in Munich, Germany
Maxvorstad is a modern art haven with world-renowned architecture © Westend61 / Getty Images

Maxvorstadt

Best neighborhood for museums

The former stomping ground of novelist Thomas Mann, painter Franz Marc and other intellectuals, Maxvorstadt is sometimes referred to as “the brain of Munich.” This vibrant neighborhood south of Schwabing is where you’ll find universities, libraries and other educational establishments. At its heart is the Kunstareal, a cluster of museums, art collections and cultural institutions including modern-art haven Museum Brandhorst and the world-renowned Pinakothek museums. 

The large student presence also makes Maxvorstadt a good spot for cheaper eats and relaxed drinks – it can get pretty lively on a Friday and Saturday night. 

Glockenbachviertel 

Best neighborhood for brunch 

Just south of the city center is one of Munich’s trendiest neighborhoods. Full of independent shops, bars and hip eateries, the Glockenbachviertel is the place to come for local designers, late-night cocktails and weekend brunch. The area is also a hub for the LBGTQI+ community and has a number of gay bars. Freddie Mercury used to party here in the early 1980s.

Staying in the Glockenbachviertel provides the best of both worlds, with walkable distances to many of Munich’s main sights and plenty of local hangouts to discover when you’re touristed out. 

Sendling 

Best neighborhood for outdoor adventures

Sendling is a real mix, with some highlights to explore. This neighborhood is where you’ll find some of Munich’s more unique social spaces such as Stemmerhof, Munich’s last surviving farm that’s been turned into a mini-complex of shops, restaurants and event rooms; and Alte Utting, a boat-turned-bar sitting on top of an old railway bridge. 

Locally, the southern parts of the Isar River are some of the most popular because of more relaxed rules and excellent opportunities to take a dip in the water. In summer, the banks and river channels here come alive with groups of people “getting away” from the heat of the city. Sendling is also home to Munich’s largest climbing and bouldering hall with indoor and outdoor walls.

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