Munich is one of Germany’s most expensive cities to live in, and it certainly has its fair share of swanky restaurants and grand hotels, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit on a budget.

You'll need a decent stash of euros if you want to tick off all Munich's world-class museums, but there are plenty of bargains to be had if you know where to look. From making the most of museum deals to discovering the best places to go for a quick bite, here’s how to explore Munich without breaking the bank.

Introducing Munich, Bavaria & the Black Forest

Get clued up on museum deals

Many of Munich’s top museums reduce their entry fee to €1 on Sundays – great news for if you're looking for culture on a budget. The list of museums offering cheap Sunday entry includes Alte Pinakothek, Pinakothek der Moderne and Museum Brandhorst, although full prices normally apply for special exhibitions. A number of other cultural spots offer occasional free entry, including Haus der Kunst, which drops its entry fees on the first Thursday evening of the month. Arrive early to avoid a crowd.

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Take a city tour on public transport

You can easily swap those touristy open-top sightseeing buses for regular public transport in Munich. One easy option is the number 100 bus (also a double-decker), which runs from Munich’s central station to Ostbahnhof, passing many of the city’s main sights along the way. Stops include the grand squares of Königsplatz, Odeonsplatz and Prinzregentenplatz, as well as several of the big museums.

A single fare for the inner city (Zone M) costs €3.50, and the ticket is valid for two hours traveling in one direction, meaning you can hop on and off if you’re quick – long enough to snap some photos, but probably not long enough to tour any of the museums.

The grounds of Schloss Nymphenburg reflected in the river
There's a charge to explore Schloss Nymphenburg, but entry to the sprawling grounds is free © Alberto Masnovo / Getty Images

Skip the palaces and visit the grounds

Bavaria is home to a fine collection of castles and palaces, and several beautiful examples can be found within the Munich city limits. Although you have to pay to visit most of the buildings, access to the grounds is normally free and still gives you a great introduction to the city’s history. Don't miss the huge park surrounding Nymphenburg Palace in the west of the city, with its swans, canal and Venetian gondola service during the warmer months. 

Get excellent views of the city for a few euros – and a few hundred steps

For a low-cost grandstand view over the city, head to the city center and climb the tower of St. Peter’s Church. For the cost of €3 (US$3.40) and a small physical workout, you can visit the viewing platform at the top of its 91m (299ft) tower. The reward for scaling 300-plus steps is an incredible panoramic view of the old town, the surrounding city and –on a clear day – the distant Bavarian Alps.

Take your own food to a Munich beer garden

Most beer gardens in Munich allow you to take your own picnic-style food so long as you buy your drinks on-site. This rule dates back to a royal decree in 1812 that permitted breweries to sell beer directly to customers, but not food, to avoid conflict with local inn-keepers. Some people bring their entire Tupperware collection stuffed with side dishes, while others just bring a couple of dips to eat with a giant beer garden pretzel. If you’re hoping for a BYO meal, avoid places that look like restaurants or have table service.

Four friends with toasting with beer steins in a beer garden
Many of Munich's beer gardens let drinkers bring their own food © Kzenon / Shutterstock

Don’t visit during Oktoberfest unless you're here for the beer

Pulling in huge numbers of visitors every year, Munich’s world-famous beer festival has a dramatic effect on accommodation prices and availability. If you don’t intend to partake in the festivities, it’s definitely best to avoid the city at this time – come a few weeks earlier or later, and you can enjoy the city without the crowds or elevated prices.

Experience Oktoberfest-like vibes without the mark-up

While it's certainly the biggest Munich celebration, Oktoberfest isn’t the only folk festival in the city. The festival season begins in April and includes the locally popular Frühlingsfest (spring festival), held on the Oktoberfest site. You'll find a similar helping of beer tents, Bavarian outfits and fairground rides, but there are fewer international visitors and less risk of inflated hotel costs.

Stock up on local snacks for a wallet-friendly lunch on the go

Sampling some classic Bavarian snack foods can provide a cheap on-brand lunch. To track down local favorites, head to one of the city’s many butchers' shops for a leberkässemmel (meatloaf sandwich) or track down a bakery for a freshly baked butter pretzel. For a final calorie bomb, try a deep-fried schmalznudel (similar to a donut) from the much-loved Schmalznudel - Cafe Frischhut.

Join locals for a cheap evening beer by the river

When it comes to imbibing the good stuff, Munich has everything from sophisticated cocktail bars to traditional beer halls. But when the weather’s good, many choose to skip these pricy options and head to the Isar River with a few cold takeaway beers instead.

Spending an evening by the water is not only a great way to save money, it’s also a fun way to feel like a Munich local. As the sun sets, the banks fill up with people, many stopping for refreshments at riverside kiosks along the way; grab some take-out beer bottles from a grocery store and join them.

Spend a day in the park for free

It’s not just the river where you can spend lots of time outdoors for free. Munich is home to many expansive green spaces, including Englischer Garten, one of Europe’s largest urban parks, and Olympiapark, constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics. Both are excellent for exploring, exercising, picnicking or just chilling out on a blanket on the grass.

On the southern edge of Englischer Garten, you’ll find one of Munich’s most unique attractions: an artificial river wave complete with talented surfers showing off their skills. Spectating offers endless hours of free entertainment.

People watching ducks in a pond at Munich's Olympic Park
Munich's Olympiapark is a great place to unwind without burning through your travel money © Mariia Golovianko / Shutterstock

Investigate which transport ticket is best for you – and plan accordingly

Single fares on Munich’s public transport are relatively expensive compared to a one day travel pass or one week pass; download a fare chart from Münchner Verkehrs- und Tarifverbund (MVV) to compare costs. If you plan on doing three or more journeys in a day, it’s worth buying a Tageskarte (day ticket), which is valid until 6am the following morning – you'll pay €8.20 (US$9.25) in total for downtown rides, compared to €10.50 (US$11.85) 0r more for single fares.

It's also a good idea to plan your itinerary so you have times when you use lots of public transport and times when you get around on foot, so you don't need a transport day ticket for every day of your trip. Group tickets also offer good savings.

Check out alternative airports, but be aware of time and total costs

Some low-cost airlines fly to airports elsewhere in Bavaria, such as Nuremberg and Memmingen, as an alternative to flying to Munich. You can then reach the Bavarian capital using public transport or airport shuttles. However, both will add time and costs to your journey, which may cancel out some of the savings you've made by flying low-cost. It’s always worth calculating the total door-to-door cost before you book.

Daily costs in Munich

  • Hostel dorm bed: €15–30 (US$17–34)
  • Basic room for two: €100 (US$113)
  • Downtown public transport ticket: €3.50 (US$3.95)
  • Coffee: €3 (US$3.40)
  • Small pretzel: €1 (US$1.15)
  • 1 liter beer in a beer garden: €8–10 (US$9–11.30)
  • Dinner for two: €30–100 (US$34–113)

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The best things you can do for free in Munich
Your guide to Munich's best neighborhoods
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