Few cities in Germany are more popular than Munich. Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus, beer and lederhosen are just one of the many reasons foreigners love Bavaria’s capital. While restaurants are anything but scarce, you will quickly notice that few true locals (meaning people who live in Munich, as opposed to other German tourists) eat lunch or dinner in the tourist-packed centre. So, what and where do they eat? Here is your answer!
Germany has by far the best bread in the world. Not the French and not the Austrians, we Germans are quite certain. The most authentic thing to eat in Munich for breakfast is Semmeln (buns). There is an abundance of bakeries and most of them offer a selection of takeaway options. In fact, for breakfast or for lunch, most German workers will grab something up at a bakery on 5 out of 10 days.
As a tourist, coming from a country with less of a bread-culture, you might be tempted to buy one of the many German delicacies at the bakery you will literally find around every corner. While nothing really speaks against it, I would like to point out Backspielhaus runs by far the best bakeries in Munich. The so-called Hofpfisterei comes as a second and especially around Marienplatz (the central square) you will find Richardt, who is also quite decent.
Note: A lot of budget bakeries opened in recent years. They are extremely cheap (and certainly an option for frugal travellers), they will, however, not be able to deliver you the full German bread experience. We also got some bigger bakery chains (like Müller’s), with equally mixed quality.
Either way, I recommend you start your day with a good cup of German coffee and a selection of jams and fresh buns (no boiled eggs, we only eat that on Sundays). Plain butter pretzels are also a local’s favourite and probably the most authentic thing to eat in Munich.
You could also opt to stay at one of the luxury hotels in Munich, and enjoy your typical German brunch on the rooftop terrace of, say, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof (make sure to read my guide). Munich is a very posh city and a lot of my friends go there for brunch on the weekends. The view of the inner city is, by the way, fantastic and you could even go there without staying at the hotel itself.
Yes, a second breakfast is a thing in Germany, but especially so in Munich. It’s not a rare day that one of your co-workers of friends will invite you to enjoy some traditional Weisswurst. These white sausages can, so tradition dictates, only be served up until noon. Fresh pretzels, sweet mustard and a wheat beer (Weissbier) complement the little snack. Any traditional Bavarian restaurants will serve them. On Marienplatz, there’s a little tavern called “Zum Ewigen Licht”, where legend has it the Weisswurst was invented on February 22nd, 1857.
Truth be told, that’s not exactly a place you will find a lot of locals if any. We typically just grab them up at the butcher and eat them at home. Just don’t ask the locals which butchery has the best Weisswurst, as that will usually end in a very protracted debate and no result. 😉
If you don’t want Weisswurst, then Leberkäs is a perfect alternative and one you can grab up at almost any bakery or butchery. Leberkäs is a loaf of very finely minced meat, baked in a pan and usually served on a bun with sweet or medium hot mustard. It’s the perfect snack to go, except you are a vegetarian (but those will love our desserts and traditional cheese recipes).
Locals typically don’t eat any German food for lunch. Pizza & pasta is very high on the list, but so is sushi and the popular rest of pan-global cuisine. As a tourist, I’d recommend you skip this meal. If you are desperately hungry, then you will find a couple of traditional Bavarian restaurants in the centre.
At home, things are different. Typically, lunch is the only warm meal of the day served in most traditional Bavarian households. Think of pork, potatoes, and sauerkraut in a million different variations. A typical Bavarian dish you absolutely must try is Käsespätzle. It’s a very simple meal of melted cheese and short homemade noodles, typically served with fried onions and a little salad on the side. I just love it to death.
Sweets are also quite popular, and no visit to Munich is complete without having tried Kaiserschmarn. This is a very thick kind of pancake, torn apart, sprinkled with sugar & raisins, and served with a fruit sauce (plum or apple).
Brotzeit can be translated as bread time, but Bavarians actually call any small meal that isn’t breakfast, lunch or dinner “Brotzeit”. Now, you might get the impression that the Bavarians do nothing but eat all day, while in fact, the opposite is true. Bavaria was, for many centuries, a very rural region with little industry and a lot of hard working farmers.
They started out with dawn and stopped working at dusk. It comes as little surprise that they needed some refreshments in between. Even today, most workers will eat a quick second breakfast around 10 am.
As a tourist, you should not skip this meal, as it’s probably the most fun. Just visit any beer garden and they will usually offer you a wide selection of cold snacks (hams, cheese, radishes, pickled gherkins) and pretzels. I recommend you head to the Englische Garden, a big landscape park in the middle of Munich, and make a stop at the beer garden at the Chinesische Turm (Chinese Tower). The famous Hofbräuhaus also runs a second beer garden at the subway station near Max Weber Platz, which is usually packed with locals and few tourists (as opposed to the main branch in the city!).
Most beer gardens will be self-service and you are explicitly allowed to bring your own food (locals typically do that) and just buy the drinks. Don’t be shy and head to the counter and order a big stein of cold blond beer. If you are trying to make some local friends, seat yourself on one of the half empty benches and start chatting (as popular beer gardens are usually packed that’s usually your only alternative anyway). Just remember to ask, if it’s vacant before and don’t make the mistake of sharing a stein with your travel partners.
A typical dinner in Munich would be just bread and a wide selection of sausages and cheese. Maybe a beer, but most often just water or tea. Usually around 6 pm, so quite early. As this is probably not the most exciting way to end your day, I recommend you stay at the beer garden and order some proper dinner.
Again, pork variations are prevalent. My personal favourite is Schweinshaxe, which is nothing else but a whole grilled pork leg. Why do locals love it? Because the skin is so unbelievably crisp. A cold beer, some white cabbage salad, and the crisp skin of a Schweinshaxe is my private idea of heaven.
Obviously, there are tons of traditional restaurants as well, but these are, especially among the younger generation, not that popular. In winter, when the beer gardens are closed, this would be a decent alternative, even though locals will usually prefer foreign cuisine.
Know then, that people from Munich usually don’t eat out in the inner city itself. It’s so incredibly overrun with tourists and most of the restaurants not even all that good. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Munich has a very high restaurant standard, and I am pretty sure you will enjoy the food no matter where you go. Just use your common sense and maybe not follow that upraised umbrella and its attached tourists guide.
About Norman: Norman has visited more than 50 countries and looks back on over 30 years of travel experience. When he is not reclining in the pool of a fantastic luxury hotel or exploring one of the most remote corners of this planet, you will find him writing about his experience on his blog. You can also connect with him on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
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