Munich City Guide
Spend a couple of hours wandering around the Bavarian capital and you might wonder how a city so liberal in its beer consumption manages at the same time to seem so healthy. The truth is, a year-round drinking calendar seems to not deny Munich residents from tucking into a regular diet of exercise. Gym memberships are incredibly good value, and Germany’s budget supermarkets also vend a good supply of healthy produce from the continent. The truth is, Munich isn’t only awash with fantastic beer – its infrastructure for running, cycling and swimming is robust and accessible.
To make the most of this guide, note a few patterns and features. Facilities are broken down into categories according to their running, cycling or swimming focus, with a separate section highlighting quality gym facilities in Munich. Exact hours aren’t indicated unless very restrictive, and prices are also omitted in the knowledge that no listed facility charges more than €20 for day access. Instead, a full directory of telephone numbers is provided in the final Directory section, so you can call ahead to confirm your intended training time. The place names in Directory link directly to the venue’s Google Maps profile – click on the venue’s name to generate directions. Finally, an Accommodation & Eating section towards the end of the guide provides an insight into good places for sleeping and fuelling during your time in Munich.
Orientation & Logistics
Munich is dissected by the Isar, a brilliantly clear river that runs from south to north through the city with the medieval old town on its western bank. Though seven inner city bridges reach over to the east side of the river, the major balance of Munich’s sports facilities happen to have developed around the historic side of the waterway. This land and most of Munich’s metropolitan area is almost entirely flat with natural and artificial escarpments diving down to the river level.
Working your way around town with public transit is a pleasure, with spacious U-Bahn trains providing a good foundation for the slower tram and bus networks that operate on the surface level. Thanks for Munich’s compact layout and restrictive approach to residential development, it rarely takes more than 25 minutes to get anywhere, especially if you’re a walk away from the city’s hub at Marienplatz and Hauptbahnhof, a godsend in a town that isn’t favourable to ride hailing services. Grab a multi-stamp ticket (Streifenkarte) with ten sections, making a note to stamp multiple times on entering the system if you are making more than four stops. There is no requirement to stamp on exit.
Munich’s climate brings warm, dryish summers and wet winters that can means streets are iced or snowed over for weeks, with horrible black pellets scattered along the road to irritate any road cyclist with skinny tyres. Daylight saving hours from the last Sunday of October to the last Sunday of March mean that the streets get dark by 4pm in mid-December, though you’ll still be able to get a short run in before work. For an idea of the darkest day of the year: the sun rose at 8:01am on the 2017 Winter Solstice (December 21st), setting just over eight hours later, at 4:22pm.
The strict conservatism of Bavarian administration also means the town has retained a number of parks from development. Though you’ll have ample parkland routes and reason to track the Isar, athletics tracks and hills are hard to come by.
The first place for any runner to explore is the resplendent Englischer Garten, Munich’s most expansive park, parcelled into two sections connected by a footbridge. This pair of lungs is sliced by hard-packed gravel with a major loop wide enough to create a two-way road, and other narrow paths occasionally blocked in the summer by numerous rickshaw drivers trying to entertain tourists. The northern section is less trampled, circumnavigated by a swift 7.5km loop, while the southern lap is a snug 2.5km pincered by Haus der Kunst.
Englischer Garten is bordered on one side by the Isar, so running the river south on a tarmac river path is possible. Continue as far as you like and either double back on yourself or jump in the U-Bahn at Thalkirchen.
In the west of town at Nymphenberger and Thereisenwiesen. Arrive at Theresienwiesen with enough padding around Oktoberfest and the massive and quite bleak portion of land that normally hosts stadium-sized beer halls is available for intervals or a 2.7km loop.
Athletics tracks are hard to access in Munich, an unfortunate side effect of the cities over-extended insurance priority. A number of tracks are located within the city, but getting on them without club access is tricky unless you visit during evenings when the playing field is in use.
The top three tracks to look out for are both in the north of the town centre. Dantestadion is home to the illustrious Munich Cowboys American Football team, who continue to play on a grass surface looped by a wonderful 400m athletics track. Half a mile to the east is a track in Olympiapark which can be accessed via Werner-von-Linde-Halle, an indoor track facility that is used regularly by club bookings. Nearest the town centre within a 3-minute walk of Mailingerstraße U-Bahn is a track opposite Städtisches Adolf-Weber-Gymnasium, open regularly for sports practices but normally only available to the high school.
The good news is Olympiaberg is always accessible, one of the rare pieces of hilly terrain in town and accessible from three directions. A good 400m interval called Olympic Hill West Interval Leg can be routed on the northern side of the hill, along a steady 6% incline with an road name Martin Luther King Weg (the hill itself is the result of post-WW2 bombings clear-up). Hook back on yourself at the circular manhole cover to continue a shorter, steeper pitch to the top of the hill along Munich Olympic Hill Sprint (200m at 10%).
When you start out the hill interval at the intersection of Martin Luther King Weg and Rudolf Harbig Weg, you may spot some brave individuals running up the steep West side of Olympiaberg. This is grassy but so steep that you’ll need trail shoes for the c. 120m straight line to the top of the hill – the incline has been engineered to a tough 20%.
What Munich’s cycling terrain lacks in excitement, it makes up for in brilliant infrastructure with smooth tarmac and wide cycle lanes guiding routes out of town. The general direction to head out is West, upstream along the Isar for three miles before you can break out out onto the road.
Once you get out of town, look toward Starnberger See (Lake) via Forstenrieder Park. You can either ride there on tarmac or traverse the gravel roads that slice through the forested land itself. Loop clockwise around the lake, stopping to grab a refreshment at in the village of Starnberg itself. See route mapped on Strava.
A shorter ride that hugs the city can be made by routing via the zoo (Tierpark) then down a straight and smooth stretch of non-motirised tarmac through Perlacher Forest. Peel off where you feel comfortable, or complete a 50km / 500vm loop.
If you’re looking to hook up with a group ride, Bikedress is absolutely the right gateway. Their cycle cafe and retail store on the south bank of the Isar is also the launchpad for group rides, published on their website under Monaco Velo Club. Return to the cafe to watch the latest races on a mounted television screen.
Alternatively, use the Rapha Clubhouse at Frauenstraße 8 where you can also rent from their fleet of premium road and gravel bikes when you sign up for a RCC membership.
Some determined cyclists take on Olympiaberg for hill intervals, including the top section of cobbles into their workout. There’s 13% to be had over a 200m, which is as good as it gets until you go beyond the city limits. 10 kilometres out of town gets you to 900m / 7% and 1.5km / 5% which could also make a good point a good out and back loop with as many hill intervals as you like.
What Munich lacks in running tracks, it makes up for in bodies of water, from brilliant swimming pools to freshwater lakes and the occasional plunge pool in a local spa or river tributary.
For lap swimming, head to Olympiapark or Dantebad, each large swim facilities with pools within the same northern part of town. Dantebad’s facility includes a 25m pool which is cooler and open in the summer, while its main 50m stainless steel tub is throughout the winter and bordered by a large jacuzzi-like whirlpool area. Olympiapark’s 50m indoor pool is undergoing maintenance until at least May 2018, so has broad but slightly limited opening times 10am to 10pm, with some periods of entire closure until renovations are complete.
Summer visits should certainly include some open water swimming in Munich’s nearby lakes. Starnberg is a 20-minute train ride from the city centre and hosts a race in the summer, and Feldmochinger See can be reached in a short bus ride, actually located within the city limits. There is a 4km swimming race on Starnbergersee around August each year (complete race entry here), crossing the lake and returning back again.
At another swimming facility, Nordbad, you can find a very good spa with a plunge pool and an indoor 25m pool, for less athletic days. The spa’s sauna is an absolute event, complete with towel-whipping in a large, 24-person sauna. Jumping in the Eisbach at the southern end of Englischer Garten is a year round ritual for runners who believe in the power of cold water immersion. The river moves fairly fast, so this isn’t one for swimmers, but rather the small tribe of fitness enthusiasts under bootcamp group Eisbach Fit (Instagram says it all).
Munich’s gym prices are extremely affordable at the subscription level, but harder to come by on a drop-in basis. Within the city centre is a decent Fitness First who offer day passes for €30 – not the cheapest membership so try to make the most of the full day of access by putting in two sessions – free towel service is available. Fitness First do allow you to arrange a trial for a single session (pre-registration required).
Another series of gym venues can be found within the body + soul family. As well as having your regular weights setup, six of the body + soul venues in Munich have indoor 25m swimming pools as well as extensive sauna and steam facilities.
Sleeping & Eating
Munich’s proximity to Italy has ensured hundreds of years of influence from the gourmet nation, roughly sweeping out domestic cuisine for the sole enjoyment of true Bavarians. The pioneering advance of Erdinger’s Alkohlfrei beer has done enough to connect beer-sloshing with effective nutrition and coffee, with the cosy quarters available for centrally located accommodation.
Within half a mile of Englischer Garten is LAX Eatery, a popular spot among the cool Schwabing crowd. Californian imports include staples including huevos rancheros and a quinoa bowl decorated by tacos. Pre-prepared smoothies are grabbable, so think to use LAX Eatery after sessions on the bike or run. One of the best coffee spots in town is around the corner at Standl 20, or find the more recently laid doorstep of Man Versus Machine on Shellingstraße.
Just the other side of Königsplatz two miles from LAX Eatery is Gym Cook, perhaps the most explicit venue for athletes looking for healthy nutrition in Munich. Beyond its caloric menu, complete with bowls and smoothies, the venue also includes some ornaments to remind you of your gymnastic strength training days.
Further out of town but entirely with reach is Occam Deli, notable for its unique crockery, healthy brunch menu and entire frontage laden with cakes. Though this impressive eatery is located within a two-minute walk of Münchner Freiheit U-Bahn station, it’s best worked into something athletic near to Englischer Garten. You can also link Coffee Espresso Baristas into something athletic at Dantebad, Dantestadion of Olympiapark. Man Versus Machine Coffee Roasters have another location, the original Mullerstraße address.
New for May 2021 is Schwan Locke, from UK-based hotel brand Locke Hotels. Their 151 bedrooms are a stone’s throw from Theresienwiese, also good for winter visits with on gym in the basement. Athletes will appreciate the self-serve laundry machine, located in the basement of the hotel within a few strides of the barbells. Check into room #507 for the a rooftop terrace and conjoining room for groups – sensation spot to make the most of Munich.
Within a mile of Schwan Locke is Fugazi No. 15, one of the more popular pizza venues that can be weaved into the end of a run. gangundgäbe is the coffee shop to point your toes to when you’re staying at Schwan Locke. As for breakfast, Schwan Locke’s portions are tiny and not worth starting on. Instead, cut further into town towards Marienplatz and go join Hotel Cortina for their €25 buffet breakfast. Their royal spread is extensive – bircher, chia, quinoa and overnight oats are staples, with traditional white sausage, pancakes, beetroot and carrot accompanying.
Dantestadion: (no number)
gangundgäbe: (no number)
Man Versus Machine, Mullerstraße: (no number)
Man Versus Machine, Schellingstraße: (no number)
Starnbergersee: (no number)
Header photo: Thomas Klinger