Known for Oktoberfest and festive Biergartens, you might not think of visiting Munich, Germany in winter. But with airfares and hotels offering cheaper off-season rates and smaller crowds, you may want to consider a wintertime visit. On my latest Munich adventure in late March, I didn’t know what exactly would be awaiting me. Here’s an overview of what you can expect (and not expect) when visiting Munich in winter.
In German, the word Gemütlichkeit is often said to not translate into English. It’s a special kind of warmth, coziness, hospitality. Munich in winter is full of Gemütlichkeit, from warm fires to friendly faces.
So much of the Munich lifestyle is outdoor living. Drinking beers at picnic tables, hanging in parks or by the Isar River, sipping coffee and tea in outdoor cafes are on the top of every self-respecting Münchner’s to-do list. But what is the city like in winter?
I ventured in March — late winter and early spring — to Munich. And the most important fact I learned was to expect the unexpected with regards to the weather! Despite it being early spring and flowers slowly emerging, there was a week’s worth of below freezing bitter cold temperatures. And while it snowed every single day for a week, there was only minimal accumulation. A fact that might, at least in part, have to do with the fact that German roads have deep foundations below the frost line.
I had never experienced Germany in winter before. With as much as I enjoy Munich’s outdoor lifestyle, I thought I might be disappointed by being indoors so much. But once you see the city covered in a fresh coat of fluffy white snow, it becomes a magical experience. There’s a saying that there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. As long as you come prepared for the temperatures and accept that this isn’t summer, you’ll have a special experience. I thought I wouldn’t want to see Munich in winter again; now I’m not so sure!
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Munich’s Winter Weather
Munich’s average temperatures for December through February are around freezing. By March, temperatures are starting to rise somewhat with an average of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or 5 degrees Celsius. Admittedly days are short with little sunlight.
What to Expect Visiting Munich in Winter
First and foremost, in the colder months there are quite simply fewer tourists in Munich. This means airfare and hotels tend to be cheaper. However, you will still likely see large tour groups.
Visiting Palaces & Fountains
Across Munich and much of the region, you will find most of the water fountains drained and the sculptures and statues boarded up for protection. This includes public sculptures throughout the city as well as at palaces like Nymphenburg. If you didn’t already know where a sculpture or statue was, it would be easy to be confused by the wooden huts that have popped up everywhere.
Experiencing Munich’s Winter Traditions
Early in winter (late November and December), you can expect Munich to be in its Christmas finest. This includes countless Christmas markets across the city.
Likewise, when winter is at its peak and temperatures are their coldest, you can expect ice skating and other winter sports. If there’s snow on the ground you can be sure there are children sledding.
In late winter (February and March), there is the first Munich beer festival of the year. The city’s breweries celebrate Starkbierfest. Each brewery has its own small Oktoberfest-like festival with a type of beer that’s unique to the celebration. Likewise, each brewery also has its own schedule for its festival so be sure to research your favorite brewery or breweries. My husband and I visited Paulaner’s Starkbierfest at Nockherberg and it was really fun and great experience.
Winter Food Specialties
Throughout the pedestrian shopping areas downtown, you can expect to see stands selling freshly roasted chestnuts, almonds, and other nuts. Elsewhere you’ll find stands and some restaurants selling Glühwein, or mulled wine, to keep you warm and get you a little toasty.
Biergartens & Cafes
For many (myself included) Munich’s outdoor dining is a favorite part of experiencing the city. There are some biergartens that close for the entirety of winter. There are others, however, that if there is good weather you can be sure will be open to tap a keg or two.
Although the temperatures were below freezing, I found the Biergarten at Chinesischer Turm to be open and serving food and drink during my visit. The Biergarten was absolutely empty and the staff didn’t even require a Pfand, or deposit for the glass beer mug to make sure you return it when you’re done.
Similarly, cafes with outdoor seating are ready to go at a moment’s notice. Many set warm blankets out for diners to use. Some cafes even have heat lamps that are extremely effective in keeping you warm.
Wondering what Munich is like during the spring? I’ve put together a guide of what to expect visiting Munich in spring!
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All opinions, as well as all photos, are my own.