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Munich, the capital and largest city of southern Germany’s Bavaria, is famous for fine architecture and cultural attractions, and is probably best known for its annual Oktoberfest beer festival, an event which draws 6.5 million visitors each year from around the globe. The city itself is wonderful to visit, yet independent exploration to some of the surrounding Bavarian attractions should not be missed. A trip to Neuschwanstein castle in the foothills on the Alps is made easy by Germany’s well-developed autobahn network.
Who to Book With
There are tons of car rental firms to choose from in Munich, including top firms Avis, Enterprise and Sixt. Germans are in love with the motor car, and you will usually have a selection of Mercedes or Volkswagen to choose from. It is always best to book online in advance to secure the best deal from the widest range of vehicles.
Best Time to Go
Munich is a huge organic city so visiting at any time of the year is possible. The global phenomenon of Oktoberfest takes place for a fortnight at the end of September and the first week of October, so book in advance if you don’t want to miss out. The European summer is a particularly pleasant time to visit Munich, although the city gets crowded during the summer months.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car, you must provide the following documents:
- A current EU driving licence or a valid International Driving Permit
- Secondary photo ID alongside your licence
- Credit card information
- A record of booking, such as a print out
Driving around the centre of Munich is not recommended since traffic is usually bad, particularly during peak hours, and parking is scarce. In addition, many touristic places you will probably want to visit in the inner city are on streets that are closed to traffic, so you will need to park further out and then use public transport to get in.
To drive within the city limits, you will need to purchase and display a green-coloured Umweltplakette, due to EU law, or you will be liable for a fine. The Umweltplakette zone covers all areas within the middle ring road which is known as the Mittlerer Ring. In addition to this urban expressway, there is an inner ring road known as the Altstadtring, or for routes out of town head for the A99 motorway.
Munich has a useful public transport system consisting of underground U-Bahn and overground suburban S-Bahn rail systems, modern and efficient trams, and a thorough bus network that reaches places the other transport systems don’t cover. Fares are reasonable if you take up a day ticket that covers the zones you want to travel in.
All public transport services are operated by MVV. It is worth buying an all-day ticket if you are planning on taking at least three single trips. The current cost is £5 for inner city zones or £9.70 to travel across the entire network. You can view the zone map here.
Trains and Metro
Munich has four different grades of railways: trams, U-bahn, S-bahn and regional trains. The tram system is useful for getting around the urban centre and has a highly modern fleet of electric carriages to whizz people around the city. You can check the network here. For reaching destinations slightly further out, an underground system was built, called the U-Bahn. Check the route map here. The S-Bahn is a suburban overground rail system that reaches further-out city destinations, and then there is regional rail for rapid transit to other areas in Bavaria or to connect with the national network. Check the rail route map here. All four rail types interconnect in the city centre.
Munich boasts a great bus network and you can use your ticket from MVV to combine journeys. The routes are extensive, radiating from the city centre to the surrounding suburbs. You can check this map to plan your route. Note many buses interconnect with tram routes. There is also a useful night bus system for journeys after 01:00.
There are certainly plenty of taxis around Munich, although given the wide choice of reasonably priced public transport options, taxis seem expensive in comparison. All taxis are licensed and run on a meter. You can hail them from the street or pre-order by calling +49 89 19410.
Munich city centre is best explored on foot since most of the streets are pedestrianised. However, to discover the true wonder of the surrounding Bavaria region, you should take to the open road in your own car to visit a choice of key attractions within just a couple of hours’ drive from Munich.
Neuschwanstein - This is that ‘fairytale’ castle that Disney World theme park based its castle on. Built for King Ludwig II during the Romanesque revival of the 19th century, the castle features white stone walls and turreted roofs that provide an encapsulating vision. Visiting during winter - with the snowy peaks as the backdrop to match the colour of the castle - is wonderful. To get here, head southwest on the A95 towards Fussen for around two hours.
Dachau - Visitors here can pay their respects to the lives’ lost during the Nazi atrocities at this former concentration camp just outside Munich. From the city centre, get onto the B34 trunk route for about 30 minutes.
Chiemsee - This is Bavaria’s largest lake, and in the centre is an island where another romantic castle built by King Ludwig II (of Neuschwanstein fame) during the Romanesque revival of the 19th century is situated. This time, head southeast out of town on the A8 motorway for about an hour to reach the lake.