In August 2017, I was lucky enough to spend three days on the continent for my birthday. Flying out to Munich, I spent 2 days in the German city and also had a day trip to visit my parents, who were holidaying just across the Austrian border in Salzburg. Similarly, to the post covering my visit to Zurich, this blog post will have multiple parts with both destination reviews of Munich and Salzburg, along with the obligatory AvGeek review of Munich Airport’s viewing terrace. With the three-day trip, I spent the day I arrived at the airport’s viewing area, my one full day in Salzburg and most of my departure day exploring Munich itself.
Munich is what I would describe as a ‘pick and mix’ city, due to the fact that, as with a lot of German cities, it was heavily bombed during World War 2. Munich’s Hauptbahnhof, as well as it’s immediate surroundings, is unfortunately a 1960s concrete monstrosity and worryingly reminded me of London’s Euston station, albeit more efficient. The Hauptbahnhof is approximately a 45-minute train journey from Munich Airport, although unfortunately the shuttle bus journey from my ‘Airport’ hotel added 20 minutes onto this.
Just five minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof is Markplatz which is home to one of the three remaining gates of Munich’s city walls. You can take Munich’s metro system around the city although, as with London’s Covent Garden & Leicester Square, it is probably quicker to walk between the Hauptbahnhof and Markplatz than get the train.
In the centre of the city is Marienplatz, or Mary’s Square, home to the impressive architecture of the Neues Rathaus (new city hall) and Frauenkirche. The square has been the city’s main square since the 12th century and plays host to a large part of the city’s Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in December each year. Marienplatz is named after the Mariensäule, a column topped with a golden statue of the Virgin Mary. This column was erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the 30 years war.
As with many cities I visit, I took the opportunity to take one of the sightseeing buses around the city. I find these are a great way to see the city and find out lots of history and random facts about the main sights. As a bonus, due to their ‘hop-on, hop-off’ nature, they’re a great direct way of getting between the main sights once you have your ticket. I booked my ticket for the sightseeing bus through British Airways as part of my package (and to get the Avios points!), and so had a ticket for the ‘CitySightseeing Munich’ tours.
At the time I travelled, CitySightseeing Munich had two bus tours included in my ticket, an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’ tour. The inner tour covered the main sights within the city centre, including Marienplatz, Königsplatz, the English Garden and the Viktualienmarkt (more about this last one later!) The outer tour includes sights such as the Nymphenburg Palace, Olympic Park, BMW World and Allianz Arena. With the limited time I had in the city, I headed back into the centre and to the Viktualienmarkt which had perked my interest as we passed on the bus tour.
The Viktualienmarkt is a food market that has developed over time from an original farmer’s market. The name Viktualienmarkt, or Victuals Market, comes from the Latin word victuals, meaning food. There are over 140 stalls offering products ranging from flowers, exotic fruit and juices to game, poultry and fish. Although on the day I visited there was just the market, various other cultural events are hosted in the square throughout the year. These range from the opening of the asparagus season to the dance of the Market Women on Shrove Tuesday.
Munich is a wonderful city and there are plenty of things to do. Since my visit in August 2017, I have returned to the city and visited the Technology Museum (on an Island in the river Isar) and the Flugwerft Schleißheim, both of which are part of the Deutsches Museum. Munich is also home to Oktoberfest, something which is on my to-do list for future years. If you plan on visiting Munich, I’d recommend allowing at least a long weekend dedicated to the city, although you certainly can get a taste for the culture of the city in a day!
Salzburg was a pleasant 90-minute rail journey from Munich, through southern Bavaria and passing through several small but charming towns en route. Operated by private German rail firm Bayerische Oberlandbahn, under the brand name Meridian, the journey was comfortable with my return ticket costing just over 50 euros. Salzburg is a city full of history and culture, famous as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and for the Sound of Music, as well being a UNESCO world heritage site due to its abundant baroque architecture.
Between 2009 and 2014, Salzburg’s Hauptbahnhof was very tastefully modernised and rebuilt, maintaining the historic station frontage and trainshed whilst improving passenger facilities and providing a more efficient track layout. As would be expected given Salzburg’s location, the station is a meeting of the German and Austrian rail systems and prior to the Schengen agreement was the point at which border control was carried out.
Approximately 15 minutes’ walk from the station is the city’s Altstadt, a UNESCO world heritage site and the city’s 900-year-old fortress, Festung Hohensalzburg. The fortress towers above the city and is accessed via a funicular railway, allowing amazing views over the entire Salzburg basin. Throughout its history, the fortress has only once been besieged (in 1525 during the German Peasant’s war) and has never successfully been taken by force. The only time it the fortress has been held by an enemy force being when the garrison surrendered to Napoleon in 1809.
Unfortunately, my visit to the city on this occasion was only for six hours, which allowed a quick exploration of the old town and fortress. I was lucky enough to return to Salzburg in the summer of 2018 and saw more of the old town, along with visiting Red Bull’s Hanger 7 at Salzburg Airport. I would certainly recommend the city for a visit and advise allowing plenty of time to explore.
Munich airport’s viewing area is located centrally on the roof of terminal 2 and is free of charge to use. The location of the viewing area provides good views of apron 2 (used by Lufthansa and Star Alliance airlines) and the approach to runway 26L, however provides no views of aircraft parked at Terminal 1 or the approaches to runways 08R and 08L. Unfortunately, this means, depending upon the runways in operation, some aircraft using Terminal 1, or the Cargo Terminal can be missed entirely.
The viewing area is open air, however, has a large glass window and awning allowing for use in poor weather. Unfortunately, this isn’t great for taking photos and the glass is not particularly clean and can cause glare. Facilities wise, the viewing area has a small restaurant and toilet facilities, however obviously many more facilities are located within the terminal.
Munich is Lufthansa’s second main hub (after Frankfurt) and an excellent ranger of the German carrier’s aircraft can be seen, ranging from CRJs to A340s and the airline’s relatively new A350s. There is also a fair amount of traffic from the usual international carriers including ANA, Thai Airlines and LATAM.
One bonus of Munich airport is that there is also an interesting mix of more ‘exotic’ carriers (well, at least to me!) Munich is an operating base for Air Dolmiti and has services provided by airlines such as S7 Airlines and Arkia amongst others. In conclusion Munich was a refreshing change from my usual British Airways filled Heathrow and further proof that that viewing areas can be provided without compromising security. Unfortunately, the viewing area was let down by the limited views of a large part of the airfield.
Viewing location 2* Charge (Free) 5* Variety of Traffic 4* MUC Overall Score 3.5*