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Expats can expect an exciting yet balanced lifestyle in Munich. Whether they're foodies, shopaholics or fitness fanatics, the city has a broad range of activities to suit all tastes and preferences.
New arrivals are likely to spend a fair amount of time getting to grips with the tourist attractions such as the Nymphenburg Palace, Alte Pinakothek and Hofbrauhaus. But the fun doesn't stop there, and on top of the city's multitude of annual events, expats will find countless activities to keep them busy.
Shopping in Munich
Shopping in Munich includes trendy upmarket boutiques and antique stores, as well as high-street labels in its shopping malls. Shoppers can feast their eyes on top fashion merchandise by strolling down Maximilianstrasse and the adjoining Theatinerstrasse.
Those who enjoy finding unique items should visit one of the city's numerous markets. The Viktualienmarkt, in particular, is a colourful maze of stalls, with everything from fresh flowers to mouthwatering street food. Elisabethmarkt is another great option for those looking for fresh produce.
Nightlife in Munich
Munich’s nightlife scene is as eclectic and diverse as everything else in the city. As a major centre for the arts in Germany, Munich hosts top quality live music and theatre performances. On any given night, residents can choose from having informal drinks in a traditional beer hall, dancing the night away at a contemporary club or spending an evening immersed in the works of great German classical composers.
Münchener Freiheit in Schwabing is the most famous nightlife district in Munich. It's packed with bustling bars, quaint cafes, sophisticated jazz venues and hip dance clubs. More nightlife options can be found in Gärtnerplatz and Glockenbachviertel. Expats who are interested in alternative music should head to Haidenhausen, while those with more cultured tastes should pay a visit to the Goethe Institut.
Eating out in Munich
Munich has a wide variety of first-class restaurants. Expats may be hard-pressed to ignore the intoxicating pull of the beer gardens, but they should also sample the extensive delights of the restaurants in Munich.
The city has multiple Michelin-starred dining options, and many of its eateries are opulent and sophisticated. Connoisseurs can indulge in first-class cuisine at these international culinary hot spots, or explore the Schwabing district’s bohemian flair.
Sampling some of Munich's specialities – like its wurst sausages, meat dishes, Knödel dumplings and pretzels – is a must. And there’s nothing like washing down these hearty Bavarian flavours with a lager in the comfortable sun of summer at one of the city's many beer gardens.
Sport and fitness in Munich
Despite Germany’s status as the second biggest consumer of beer in the world, expats will find it quite sobering that most of Munich’s population retains a healthy physique, and a passion for sports and fitness.
While many people prefer to run or cycle to keep trim, many enjoy the social atmosphere of a club or gym – and Munich has no shortage of these. At the same time, come rain or shine, outdoor sports are by far the most appealing activities for expats. With warm summers and freezing winters, the climate plays host to scores of contrasting sports that keep residents entertained and active all year round. And with the Alps only a one-and-a-half hour drive away, skiing and snowboarding are, understandably, at the top of the list.
See and do in Munich
It's easy to be intoxicated by the heady beer-hall scene, but new arrivals soon realise that there’s plenty more to see and do in Munich. The charming Bavarian capital combines old world allure and modern flair, and its numerous attractions are enticing. Below are a few of our favourites.
The Hofbräuhaus has been a Bavarian institution since 1605, whose atmosphere is defined by the local brand of friendliness and joy known as gemutlichkeit. Getting enthusiastic about the beer that's been brewed here for four centuries is easy, and the food is good too.
This historic Munich square harbours some of the city's most appealing architecture. The Neo-Gothic Town Hall features a Glockenspiel that chimes three times a day, while its clockwork figures act out parts of the city’s history. Visitors can also explore the toy museum in the Old Town Hall and the Frauenkirche, Munich's cathedral, dating back to the 15th century.
Nymphenburg Palace was initially the summer home of the Munich aristocracy. Just five miles (8km) from the city centre, expats can spend the day at its sweeping grounds, and take in its villas' uniquely crafted fittings and frescoes.
Alte Pinakothek is Munich’s premier art museum and features work by some of Europe’s greatest painters from the 14th to 18th centuries. The gallery itself is a stunning Neoclassical building with two floors and dozens of rooms, and expats are sure to be enthralled for hours.
This museum is a must for all petrol heads. Located close to Olympiapark, the museum documents the history of the famous German automobile manufacturer. The museum has been drawing crowds since it opened in 1973.
What's on in Munich
There's always something going on in Munich. In addition to the myriad activities they can do on a daily basis, expats can expect plenty of annual festivals and events. Here are some recommendations for not-to-be-missed annual events.
Fasching marks the period before Lent and is celebrated with parades, masked balls, street parties and elaborate costumes. The carnival season peaks on Shrove Tuesday when what seems like the whole city turns up at Viktualienmarkt in fancy dress costumes to eat, drink and dance the night away.
Munich Ballet Week (May)
This week-long festival showcases the talents of the globally recognised Bavarian State Ballet. They're joined by international guest ensembles, while modern and classic dance exhibitions are scheduled to wow spectators.
Munich Opera Festival (June)
The Opera Festival is the most important event of the city’s music calendar and it's been held every summer since 1876 in one of the world’s most beautiful opera houses, the Munich National Theatre. Enthusiasts from around the world gather to listen to the Bavarian State Opera with a programme of about 70 different performances.
Oktoberfest in Munich is a two-week celebration that transforms the city into a joyous beer hall. Bavarian breweries set up massive makeshift beer gardens on the Theresienwiese meadow (the size of 20 football fields) and prepare themselves to engage in the revelry that tourists and locals have come to expect.
Munich Marathon (October)
Brave expats can join thousands of runners from across the globe to take part in the annual Munich Marathon. The 26.2-mile (42.2km) course sees participants huff their way through the Old Town, loop through the English Garden before high-tailing it to the Olympic Stadium for a spectacular finish.
Christmas Markets (late November/December)
For many of its residents, December in Munich means just one thing: Christmas markets. These are a German institution and expats shouldn't miss the chance to drink warm and spicy Glühwein while searching the stalls for the perfect gift for their loved ones back home.
"By all means, mix with other expats at the beginning (I have made a lot of friends that way), but don’t stop there. Learn the language and mix with locals as much as possible. Germans can be distant at the beginning, but are great, fun people once you get to know them. Just don’t, whatever you do, make the same mistake I did and actually marry one. Let alone a grumpy one."
Read more of Phil's (a New Zealand expat) thoughts on expat life in Munich
Are you an expat living in Munich?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Munich. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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