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Are you curious about how you can visit Munich sustainably? Munich is a wonderfully green city full of urban and wild parks, outdoor recreation, rich culture, local small businesses, extensive public transportation and bike trails, sustainable initiatives, and more! Despite all this, at first glance, it can be hard to know where to start with little information available to tourists. This sustainable city guide to Munich will help you navigate the city with a mindful approach so you can experience all the best the city has to offer while reducing your footprint.
Socio-Economic Sustainability Model Munich engages in an economic model that incentivizes long-term sustainable development over short-term gains. Their tourism model considers local businesses, residents, and sustainability for a well-rounded approach.
Cutting CO2 Emissions Munich aims to cut its CO2 emissions in half by 2030 based on 1990 numbers.
Green Energy Munich’s municipal utility company utilizes green energy with a goal of powering 100% of its Munich operations with wind and solar.
Munich Green City E.v Prioritizes pedestrians and bicycles over cars. Promotes green urban spaces.
Ban on Older Vehicles Older vehicles that do not meet certain environmental standards are banned from Munich’s city center. While you’ll notice some pollution, the air quality is better than in many other cities. Great public transportation allows those with older vehicles to park outside the city and commute in for work and errands.
Getting Around Munich – Green Transportation
One of the best parts of Munich is our excellent transportation, walking trails, and bike paths. Living near central Munich, I can walk to most places within 20 minutes. For those longer journeys, our public transportation is a relaxing experience. Download Google maps ahead of time so that you can access walking paths, bike trails, and transportation time tables.
Walking: My preference is to walk, and I highly recommend it for those with stable mobility and good walking shoes. Most areas have clean and wide sidewalks, so you can enjoy looking at all the little shops and small businesses as you travel from sight to sight. Most major sights and Munich’s alternative neighborhoods are all accessible from the city center by foot.
Bicycling: During your entire stay in Munich, I recommend renting a bicycle from Radius Tours at the main Hauptbahnhof or Mikes Bikes. Both will have great tips on fun ways to explore the city by peddling, but you can also use Google Maps bike routes. One of my favorite routes is to ride along the Isar and connect with the Englischer Garten. Munich has terrific bike trails that are safe, and you can ride with traffic to get just about anywhere. Get your online bike map. Here in Munich, we ride rain, shine, and snow. If you enjoy longer bike treks, then bike down to Starnbergersee for a day trip to the lake.
Public Transportation: Munich’s public transportation is fast, clean, safe, well-connected, and energy-efficient. You can take advantage of busses, trams, trains, and subways. Our city transportation company recycles, adheres to carbon reduction goals, operate modern energy-efficient vehicles, cuts noise pollution, use high-quality filters, reuses their braking energy, and utilizes heat pump energy to keep their environmental impact low. You’ll find similar environmental initiatives in public transportation around Germany. Grab a week-long City Tour Card for Munich and enjoy the sights with discounts to numerous places.
Visit Munich Should and Off-Season
Compared to other major European cities, Munich handles their tourism relatively sustainably with a well-developed plan bringing together local business owners, residents, and tour operators, to ensure healthy levels of tourism. However, there are times when the city experiences mass tourism, such as Oktoberfest and Christmas markets. I highly recommend experiencing cultural events, but I can also recommend visiting Munich off-season for a slower trip soaking in the city’s flavors. Munich is busiest at Oktoberfest, but summer is the busy season across Europe, and there are typically long lines for castles, museums, and other tourist attractions. Visiting shoulder or off-season, you’ll contribute to a healthy and sustainable year-long tourism economy.
Spring: Spring in Munich is lovely. Blooming cherry trees line historic streets. The weather is pleasant, and you can enjoy a leisurely exploration of the city without the crowds. If you visit toward the end of May, you’ll likely catch beer gardens as they open, so you can still enjoy the outdoor beer experience. You might even see Fruhlingsfest and Mayday celebrations.
Autumn:Munich in the autumn is beautiful. While Oktoberfest happens in autumn, if you visit just before or after the fest, you’ll find relatively low tourism numbers and fantastic weather. You can see the autumn colors as they explode through the Alps and enjoy hiking, biking, beer gardens, outdoor dining, and city exploration.
Winter: Many people don’t like visiting Munich in winter outside of the Christmas market season, but I love Munich in the winter! If you spend a few snowy days exploring Munich just after the new year, you’ll have an excuse to visit museums, the theater, visit the Alps for a ski trip, and as a bonus seeing a place like Neuschwanstein in the winter without the crowds is magical!
Ways to Reduce Your Waste in Munich
Munich is leaps and bounds ahead of some cities regarding its minimal waste and zero waste initiatives. Still, it’s important to remember to ask for no straw and bring your tote bag to avoid unnecessary plastic. Here are some of the cool plastic-free initiatives you can look forward to when visiting the city.
Munich operates a circular economy for their beer bottles and crates.
The Pfand System: You’ll likely encounter the pfand system at any of our beer gardens. Instead of using cheap single-use plastic cups, breweries serve drinks in high-quality reusable glass beer steins. To ensure you return these glasses, avoiding the landfill, you will pay an extra couple of Euros for the glass. The cashier will give you a pfand chip or token, and once you’ve finished your drink, you return the glass and the token for the Euro deposit you paid. While it is most common at beer gardens, you will likely pay a pfand at Christmas markets for gluhwein, plates at festivals, and even plastic or glass bottles from the supermarket. It’s a bit sad most tourists don’t know about this and throw away their beverage bottles, but I encourage you to take advantage of the system to reduce your waste.
Sustainable Tip: If you buy plastic or glass bottles from a supermarket, hang onto them. The next time you visit that same market during your stay, try to use the pfand vending machine-like return system to recycle the bottles and get a discount on your next purchase.
Plastic-free Supermarkets: Most supermarkets do not bag your groceries in single-use plastic or paper bags. Instead, you bag your groceries in your own travel tote or after buying a reusable tote from the supermarket. Most stores are phasing out plastic bags for fruit and veg. Instead, you can just put them in the bag with everything else like I do, and wash them in your BnB or hotel. If you want to experience the novelty of a zero-waste store in Munich, then stop by Ohne Laden. It might be challenging to shop there as a tourist, but they have zero waste toiletries if you forgot to pack yours. Plus, it might be fun to see how zero-waste stores in Europe operate.
Drinking-Water: All water in Munich is clean, safe, and ready for drinking. The city is slowly starting to put water bottle stations around the city, such as the one on Sendlinger Strasse, but they are hard to find. I recommend you fill up your reusable bottle from the sink before heading out for the day. Despite the tap water being such high quality, Germans love their bottled mineral water. If you go to a restaurant and ask for water, you will get a glass bottle of sparkling or still water. I often specifically ask for tafelwasser (tap water) and almost always receive a hard no and get a bottle instead. Why Germans do this, we will never know. You can take comfort in the fact that these glass bottles are part of a city-wide pfand system where the beverage company picks up the bottles and refills them and returns them to restaurants – so they aren’t single-use. However, if this bothers you, make sure you have your bottle stashed in your purse.
Munich’s Urban Green Spaces and Parks
Munich is home to one of the largest urban parks in the world, the Englischer Garten – and that is just one of the dozens of parks sprinkled throughout the city. The parks in Munich offer countless ecological benefits, including keeping the city cool on hot days, reducing air and water pollution, providing a home for small animals, recreation for residents, and prime real estate to escape the city’s bustle and connect with urban nature.
Englischer Garten: The most famous garden in Munich, this sprawling park runs from the city’s heart towards the airport. Some of the highlights include the Eisbach, a small channel of water running through the garden. It’s common to hop in and float down like a lazy river or watch the Munich river surfers that ride the waves. Otherwise, just stroll along the endless tree-filled paths, find a place to read a book, or stop for a beer at the Chinese Tower or Seehaus to see that pfand system in action. There are also some bike trails so that you can saddle up for an adventure too.
Isar Flaucher: The Isar is a river in Munich, and the city recently underwent a restoration project to rewild the river. The project removed the narrow channels from the river and opened up the river with wide gravel banks. Extensive nature surrounds the river. It’s a great natural space to exercise on the running and biking trails. Most locals also enjoy hanging out on the banks with a local beer in hand, watching the sunset.
West Park: This local hidden gem is an excellent escape from the English garden’s busier parts. Enjoy walking the circular walking trails and make sure to stop at the Japanese garden. Stop at Ganz Wasser, one of my favorite quirky beer gardens in Munich, for a refreshing drink and vegan food.
Luitpold Park: Munich doesn’t have many vantage points, but Luitpold park offers spectacular views of Munich’s skyline surrounded by nature. Just take a brisk walk up the hill and enjoy the sunrise or sunset over the city.
Schloss Park Nymphenberg: The castle park is more manicured than the others. It isn’t a park for picnics or relaxing. Instead, you can stroll the former royal gardens with beautiful trees, lakes, fountains, and birds. If you have extra time, you can visit the palace museum and spend time photographing the swans.
Urban Wildlife: Munich is a typical European city seemingly void of wildlife, but you’ll be able to spot plenty of birds and small critters if you keep your eyes peeled. Dozens of wild birds call Munich home, and if you head to any of the parks, you’ll likely spot plenty, making the area great for urban birders. Keep an eye out for squirrels, martens, hedgehogs, ducks, and swans. For a leisurely day trip from Munich to enjoy nature, visit the Murnauer Moos Nature Reserve.
Learn About Munich’s Culture and History
When most people think of Munich’s cultural highlights, they naturally think of Oktoberfest or the Christmas markets. Still, there are plenty of local cultural events in and around Munich that you can visit throughout the year to learn about Bavarian traditions and culture. One of the more meaningful parts of traveling is cultural exchanges and learning about the history and culture of your destination should be part of any sustainable itinerary.
Cultural Events in Munich
Volksfests are small, intimate events that happen around Munich, where you will find traditional food, beer, market stands, and rides. Don’t miss:
Auer Dulten dates back to the 14th century and happens three times a year, bringing together over 300 markets and food stalls.
City Founding Festival: Munich was founded in June 1158. For two days every June, the city comes together to celebrate with medieval markets, beer gardens, traditional dancing, folklore, and history lessons.
Magdalenafest has been happening in Munich since the 1700s and is an excellent option for families traveling to Munich in July with rides, food stalls, and vendor booths.
Beer Festivals: Beer is part of Munich’s cultural identity and is home to the world’s oldest brewery still in operation and some of the brewing industry’s biggest names.
Starkbierfest is a historic event that dates back to the 1700s when monks brewed strong dark beer to tide them over during lent. Join locals in traditional Tracht for beer, folk songs, food, and of course, Starkbier.
Fruhlingsfest is a spring festival with beer tents, rides, cultural events. It feels like a mini Oktoberfest for young locals.
Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world. Oktoberfest still has nods to tradition but is often visited by rowdy tourists that can take away from charm – depending on who you ask. Make sure to visit the Oide Wisen for a historical and more authentic experience, including music and folk dancing. The Agricultural Fair happens every 4th year and is a great cultural experience.
Almabtrieb is an alpine cultural event happening throughout Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. Farming towns dress up their cows with fancy headdresses as they bring them down from the mountains to winter in lower fields. Farmers wearing traditional lederhosen parade their cows down the streets ending at a small festival with traditional music, local craft beer, farm-fresh cheese, meats, and dance.
Christmas Markets date back to the 14th-century festive Christmas markets are synonymous with Munich’s holiday season. Enjoy traditional gluhwein, market foods, and hand-crafted vendors under the glittering Christmas lights of Munich city.
Fasching: Karneval, including Rose Monday and Fat Tuesday, signaling lent’s start, are important to German culture. Munich hosts events during Karneval week with traditional dancing, a parade, costume events, and the main stage with quirky Emcees.
Mayday is celebrated throughout Munich with the raising of traditional Maypoles. You can visit the Viktualienmarkt for the ceremonial raising of Munich’s central pole, or visit any major beer gardens for a traditional event and pole raising.
Museums and History
It is always important when visiting a new destination to learn about their history, the good and the bad. Munich has a pretty traumatic past, as the home of the Nazi regime. I encourage you to visit the Jewish Center of Munich at St. Jakobs Platz to learn about and support Munich’s Jewish history and community. Take a day trip to Dachau Memorial Camp (former concentration camp). You can also take a 3rd Reich Tour to learn about the city’s Nazi’s Past.
There are good things about Munich’s history too, like their history of science and engineering. The Deutsches Museum is the largest science and tech museum globally, and the BMW Museum offers a look at Munich’s ingenious car industry through the years. Most museums are discounted on Sundays, and you can enter ancient history, modern art, beer, and geology museums. Check out my Geek Guide to Munich for more ideas if you are interested in visiting museums as you travel.
Shop Local. Farmer’s Markets. Thrift.
Supporting local businesses is one of the best ways to prevent tourism leakage. By supporting local businesses and products and shopping sustainably your destination will be able to utilize the revenue to offset the negative impacts of tourism by mitigating additional emissions, building better infrastructure, and local small businesses will thrive.
Of ‘Kauf Lokal’ as we say in Munich. Look for the Kauf Lokal sign for local handmade artisanal products so you can directly support Munich’s local small business economy. For a full list of Kauf Lokal stores, you can visit Kauf Lokal. An easy way to use this guide is by entering the zip code of your hotel or accommodation to see what is around you or search by category. Supporting local businesses in Munich has never been easier with the handy guide created by a local entrepreneur. If you’re BIG into supporting local businesses, then visit during the Kauf Lokal expo in May where you’ll find all Munich’s local brands big and small under one roof.
Elle’Cee is a Black-owned clothing boutique in Munich. The woman who owns it is incredibly friendly and speaks fluent English. Stop in and spice up your wardrobe and support a local small business. While you’re there swing by Annam Grill, one of my favorite places for fresh Vietnamese food in Munich. We eat here at least once a week.
Makula is a Black-owned West African restaurant and serves some of the best food in Munich. The owner is hilarious and will often share some of his secret spicy booze with you after you’re full of flavorful vegan food. I also love Black-owned Cafe Omo for fantastic Ethiopian food – their flatbread and vegan sample platter for 2 are literal perfection.
Bellevue di Monaco is a cafe, restaurant, and community center where migrants work and gain employment skills. They have a ‘pay what you can’ system and the more money you pay for your food the more money goes back into helping the program helping migrants gain employment and afford basic housing.
If you shop around Glockenbachviertel at places like Eiscafé Eismeer or Kraftwerk you’ll be supporting businesses that are owned by members of, or support the LGBTQIA community.
Farmer and Flea Markets
One of the best ways to visit Munich more sustainably is by supporting local farmers and producers at markets around Munich. Look for labels that say products were grown or produced in Munich, Bavaria, or Germany.
Sustainable Tip: Remember always to bring your reusable shopping bag when shopping at markets for local products. This ensures you are visiting Munich as responsibly as possible.
Viktualienmarkt is the biggest market is the Viktualienmarkt. It is a great place to get the full immersive market experience with bustling flower stands, fresh mushrooms, local wine, meats, cheeses, olives, fruits, veggies, spices, honey… you name it and you can find it. This is a great place to stock up on food for a picnic in the Englischer Garten or get a little souvenir to take home. While you’re visiting, make sure to check out Munich’s May Pole at the center.
Market at Elisabethplatz is my favorite market and is a relaxing alternative from the Viktualienmarkt. You’ll find stands of fresh food, flowers, local products, and wares, one of my favorite coffee places, Standl 20. This is a great place to kill an hour or stock up on food to get you through the day.
Wiener Markt or Vienna Square is a charming and small market on the French Quarter’s outskirts. Located at the old intersection of the road connecting Munich Vienna, it was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt in 2002, giving it historical significance. This is a great launching point to explore Haidhausen, a charming neighborhood with lots of boutiques and cafes.
Wochenmarkts are weekly local markets that change locations daily. My favorite is Wochenmarkt Au, south of the Isar. The markets are humble, but you’ll find staples like cheese, bread, and other grocery items from local vendors. Search ‘Wochenmarkt’ in Google maps and you’ll find several locations. Make sure you check the dates as they are only open one day a week at various locations.
Thrifting is a great way to get clothing if you need to restock some staples while traveling or forgot to pack a windbreaker without contributing to the problem of fast fashion.
Pick n Weight is a store where you pay for your clothing by the Kilo. These stores have a vintage and eclectic selection of clothing, all categorized by color. Another great option is Oxfam, a practical everyday wear store if you’re on a tight budget or just don’t like consuming new clothing while you travel. If you’re looking for a previously used Dirndl, also called Wasch-Dirndl, check out Schwabinger Holareidulijö Trachtenladen or Lily´s Treff. I highly recommend this option if you visit for Oktoberfest and don’t want to buy a new Dirndl you’ll likely never wear again.
Flohmarkts, or garage sales, are really popular in Munich, especially in the summer. They range from massive outdoor markets in the Oktoberfest grounds, to night markets in lofts, to small neighborhood markets. My favorites are large annual summer events like the Night Bazaar and the Frühlingsfrest Flohmarkt. You can find all the dates and locations of the Flohmarkts,on this website.
If you’re looking for locally-owned boutiques, I suggest exploring Gärtnerplatz and Reichenbachstraße. I also recommend the roads Amalienstraße, Schellingstraße, and Türkenstraße in the university district. Here are a few highlights worth checking out.
MILK is a great place to shop in Munich since they do all the hard work for you by selecting clothing from small businesses, fair and sustainable labels, and clothing made from organic materials. Maloja Store A local Munich streetwear and athletic store typically uses all organic materials and sustainable methods for making their clothing. The interior of the store has a vintage upcycle feel. Bella Natura featureship European fashion trends sourced from sustainable materials at fair trade prices. Shop fair fashion from a local Munich-owned boutique. Grune Erde is a socially conscious, sustainable, organic, and eco-friendly store full of homewares, clothing, furniture, and more. If you’re looking for a sustainable souvenir from Munich, then swing by after visiting the Viktualienmarkt.
Vegetarian and Vegan Food
Munich isn’t all schnitzel and pork knuckle, a vibrant and emerging vegetarian and vegan scene is taking over the city. If you are a meat-eater, I recommend eating at Munich’s Gasthausen serving local Bavarian alpine meat, as the rest of them have a pretty unhealthy relationship with heart. But, challenging yourself to eat less meat or trying some of Munich’s vegan options has never been easier.
Where you choose to stay can make all the difference. If you opt for local hotels that feature local and sustainable products like food and soap you’ll be reducing the tourism leakage in the region and get a great night’s sleep to boot. These are a few of my favorite eco-hotels in Munich.
Soulmade is a vegan-friendly hotel made entirely out of wood. They have a strong statement against racism and homophobia and support children’s education and health in Germany. With a pocket park in the center, this is the perfect location for an extended slow stay in Munich.
LivingHotel – Living Hotels are a local German-owned sustainable and ethical hotel company. You’ll find locally grown and in-season food offerings at their restaurant. It doesn’t stop there. The entire German brand LivingHotels use 100% green energy, offset the carbon cost of travelers, donate to environmental projects, no longer use plastic cups, the paper is recycled, and commit to reducing dirty palm oil products. Some locations have bee farms on the roof, include electric car charging stations, and sell local zero-waste products. There are four locations in Munich to choose from, Viktualienmarkt, Deutsches Museum, Olympiapark, and Princess Elizabeth. I recommend the one at Viktualienmarkt for a great central location and view.
25Hours Hotel: The Royal Bavarian is located in the old post office, but revamped with royal Bavarian charm. 25Hours is a German-owned hotel chain with strong sustainability commitments, featuring local products. You’ll feel like you’re inside a living history lesson, as Bavarian culture and history are incorporated throughout the hotel. Their restaurant and cafe feature vegan food from an Israeli family-owned restaurant.
Sample Sustainable Itinerary
In order to experience the very best of Munich and the surrounding area, I recommend you spent at least two days in the city while budgeting 1-2 days for day trips. But – you know me, I’m always an advocate for slower travel and you could easily spend 5-7 days to really get a taste for the city.
Day 1 – While I often advocate getting away from the top 10 sights of cities, many of them do have significant cultural and historical significance and can be worth visiting. For day one, I recommend visiting all the major highlights of Munich. If you do this during the week, things will be less crowded. I’ll hand this over to my good friend Christina at Happy To Wander, as she has one of the best and most immersive 24-hour guides to Munich that I think covers the highlights, traditional food, and even some local hidden gems.
Day 2 – Get off the beaten path and explore the local neighborhoods and alternative haunts of Munich. Check out my hipster and alternative guide to Munich that will help you support small businesses, explore the alternative neighborhoods, and get a taste for local life in Munich. End the alternative day with beers by the Isar, where all the locals hang out to watch the sunset.
Day 3 – Day Trip to Nature – I think you can learn a lot about your destination by exploring local’s connections with nature. Munichites love spending time outdoors from nordic walking, skiing, hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, swimming, etc. I recommend heading out to one of Munich’s larger lakes – you can even bike there for a full day of outdoor goodness, the murnauer moos, go hiking in the Alps, or even just go for a long walk down the Isar if you want to stay in the city.
Make sure to share and save this in-depth sustainable travel guide so you can explore Munich with a mindful approach. What was something you learned that you are excited to implement on your next trip to Munich? Let me know in the comments. Let’s get curious about reducing your impact and saving travel in Munich, Germany.
Susanna grew up in small-town Alaska where the changing climate was always on her mind. Through traveling, she gained an interest in the power of sustainable and regenerative travel. She now attends a Master's program for environmental sustainability and bridges sustainable travel with environmental science.