Berlin vs. Munich for vacation?
July 11, 2010 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Berlin vs. Munich for vacation?

We arrive in Frankfurt this coming Tuesday morning to meet up with my friend who lives there. We were originally planning to do three days in Berlin and three days in Munich. But we are now questioning this two-city plan and are considering cutting out one city. (This is mainly because of the costs of train travel and also the time it takes to get from one city to the other.)

I want to do Berlin for three to four days but my friend wants to do Munich instead.

For those who live there/vacation there, what would you do and why? Please take into account day trips that are feasible from each city.
posted by anthropoid to Travel & Transportation around Germany (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
To clarify, there are two of us coming from NYC and meeting up with a German who lives in Frankfurt. Depending on where we go, he will join us.
posted by anthropoid at 6:35 PM on July 11, 2010

Never been to Munich but Berlin is absolutely awesome. It's worth going for the museums alone--the Jewish Museum, Dali Museum, DDR Museum, Natural History Museum...then there's boat rides down the Spree, strolling through the Tiergarten, the Holocaust Memorial, and so on. Check out the Circus Hotel for decent prices and a great location.
posted by tetralix at 6:38 PM on July 11, 2010

Ooh, forgot to mention Checkpoint Charlie and what's left of the Berlin Wall. Honestly, you'll take the coolest photos of your life in Berlin. Also, you could easily do a day trip to Dresden, which is something I wish I'd done when I was there.
posted by tetralix at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2010

Both worth visiting. You might consider applying what you would have spent on a hotel on a sleeper train. Very comfortable, and has an in-cabin shower. We left Berlin at 22:14 and arrived in Munich at 6:42.
posted by found missing at 6:45 PM on July 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I lived in Berlin for a month back in the 90s. Very nice, very green city. Not green as in Berliners recycle (though I'm sure they do), but green as in it's like a city in the middle of a forest, with buildings poking up here and there to break the canopy. Ok, maybe that's extreme, but in summer at least it's nice. The Tiergartern in the middle of the city is absolutely massive. There's enough to do and see in Berlin if you explored every day for a month, much less 6 or so days. Never been to Munich so I can't say anything, other than I know people who went there and loved it. You'll probably do good choosing either city.
posted by zardoz at 7:05 PM on July 11, 2010

Berlin rules!
posted by Hurst at 7:14 PM on July 11, 2010

Why not ask the friend you're visiting in Germany what he thinks? I'd assume that either he's been to one or both, or that as someone living in the country, he knows the reputation of each city and what y'all will like.

Do both of you want to visit each city equally? If you've Always Dreamed of visiting Berlin, whereas your friend just thinks it would be kinda neat to go to one of those old beer halls and see people dressed in leiderhosen (or whatever the main draw for Munich is), then the choice should go to you. If you read about Berlin's hip art scene in a magazine last year, but your friend's grandfather was from Munich, you should let your friend have Munich. If your level of interest is about equal, why not just flip a coin? They both seem like pretty cool cities to visit.
posted by Sara C. at 7:18 PM on July 11, 2010

I've never been to Berlin, but many times in Munich. Munich is great. Especially for Oktoberfest. But I think Berlin might be better and more unique.

When I've been in similar situations I'd work with my travel companions why they want to go to their choice (Berlin). At the same time you have the ammo as to why your choice (Munich). I'd also rope in your German friend to be a tie breaker.
posted by birdherder at 7:23 PM on July 11, 2010

I've been to Berlin, and the museums are fairly amazing. The nuclear bunker under the Museum Of The City Of Berlin was an experience.
posted by The Whelk at 7:37 PM on July 11, 2010

I've been to both cities, but not since 1987. At the time I went to Berlin, the wall was still there, which was an interesting experience in its own right - going to East Berlin was certainly much different than going to the unified city today, I'm sure. But in any case, the two cities are very different, and both worth your while. I'd second the sleeper train recommendation above.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:45 PM on July 11, 2010

If you want to immerse yourself in the sights and traditions of a classic old-style Germany, then Munich is the place for you. The Munich Rathaus has a giant Glockenspiel, basically a cuckoo clock that has dozens of different figures and components and actions. It goes off a few times a day in summer. I went to Oktoberfest one year and had an absolute blast. (Even if you aren't there during Oktoberfest, you can get a taste by going to the HofbrÀuhaus). There is excellent Bavarian-style cuisine and art museums like Alte and Neue Pinakothek. There is also a baroque palace outside of town called Schloss Nymphenburg, and in Dachau there is a concentration camp memorial. One thing I saw there that I have never seen in my life before or since was a huge line of people surfing (one at a time) on a river where there is some sort of updraft causing one continuous, stationary wave.

If you want to really see both the recent history of Germany come alive (think 20th century) and see where Germany is headed, then Berlin is the place for you. You can see the former path of the Berlin wall made in bricks along the ground. You can see Checkpoint Charlie and the last remains of the Berlin wall, right next to the former location of Hitler's bunker. You can see the Brandenburg Gate which was once sitting lonely in the middle of no-man's-land between East and West. You can see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church which was bombed during WWII, left in disrepair as a memorial to that time. You can also see the cool Reichstag (parliament) building that was revamped after German reunification -- it has a clear dome you can walk inside of and see parliament down below.

At the same time, there are tons of cool neighborhoods, shops, places with nightlife, the famous zoo (home of Knut the polar bear), the DDR Museum (a favorite of mine), other great museums (e.g. Pergamon). Berlin also has its own palace outside of town (in Potsdam), called Sanssouci.

There is just so much more cool stuff to do in Berlin it is really hard to sell these two evenly, but I really had a great time in both places.
posted by kosmonaut at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2010

I went to both cities in January- liked Munich, loved Berlin- better museums and better nightlife. I also thought it was pretty cool to see the remnants of the wall and East Berlin.
posted by emd3737 at 8:18 PM on July 11, 2010

Berlin is where the kids & artists hang.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:23 PM on July 11, 2010

Both very interesting cities and quite different. Summarizing travel experiences into broad stereotypes, Munich has a more old-world feel... gardens, old german culture, etc. Berlin is more stark, especially East Berlin.

I personally would try to split time between the two. If pressed, I think I'd go with Munich. More relaxing, sitting in green parks, and drinking beer. But then again, as a foodie, if I missed a trip to KaDeWe in Berlin, I'd be pretty upset.

Can you be more specific about the kind of activities you'd like to do? Are you going for culture or for joy? If culture, do you like to see it or feel it? If fun, what makes a good afternoon/evening for you?
posted by Suciu at 8:57 PM on July 11, 2010

I think Kosmonaut really hit the nail on the head. To add a few more thoughts:

Berlin is edgy, hip, Bohemian. It's definitely grittier. There's a lot of cool weird urban culture, there's a whole squatting scene apparently, there are buildings that still have bullet holes in the walls, there's the Berlin Wall and all of that. I was only in Berlin briefly, but I think Berlin feels very connected to the modern (by which I mean both the present and the last few decades). Of course, to break that up there's the Pergamon, which is just amazing.

Munich feels more... it sounds silly to say about a city, but more comfortable. Maybe a little more relaxed, a little less youthful and more old-timey, a little cleaner. I haven't yet found a bullet hole in Munich (and I lived there for a year). There are the palaces, the old walled town, the Rathaus. Munich is a place to think about Bavaria as it was centuries ago. (Although I must add that there is a concentration camp easily accessible from the city center where you can confront the realities of the Holocaust, and relevant modern museums, and also very fun hip areas of town. It isn't just old dudes in Lederhosen by a long shot.) Munich has wonderful art museums, and Bavarian culture and food. And beer garden culture is just the best in the summer. (If you do go there, MeMail me for beer garden recommendations!)

I adore Munich, but I am so not objective. They are both really cool, cosmopolitan cities with great museums, great art, great food, great nightlife, great history and sights and parks, etc. I think that what splits Berlin vs. Munich lovers is the sort of feeling they enjoy in a city.
posted by mandanza at 11:15 PM on July 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, a P.S. since I just realized you asked about day trips: from Munich you can take day trips to the Alps by train and do some nice hiking. Tegernsee and Garmisch-Partenkirchen are good choices. The castles of King Ludwig are good day trips (Neuschwannstein, obviously, and Herrchiemsee is great too). In Murnau am Staffelsee (Murnau on Lake Staffel), you can visit the place where Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Muenter lived and see some great art. Salzburg is also a 2 hour train ride away and easily done in a day.

I don't know as much about day trips out of Berlin since I spent very little time there, but if you go there you should definitely visit Dresden - the Frauenkirche there is not to be missed. Potsdam is not far from the city center and has cool palaces. The concentration camp Sachsenhausen is about 20 miles out from Berlin. I can't remember how easy it is to get there but it can't be too hard.
posted by mandanza at 11:31 PM on July 11, 2010

I would definitely avoid Berlin unless you know someone who lives there: you will get the most from your trip if you know where things are going on.
posted by devnull at 12:47 AM on July 12, 2010

I have not been to Munich but Berlin was one of the best places I went to in Europe. We were planning to be there for a few days and stayed a week. The walking tours are really interesting (if you are into that kind of thing) and there are lots of different, easily accessible areas of the city with different restaurants and, for want of a better word, scenes. It may be that devnull is correct about all that I missed (having not known anyone) but what I enjoyed was pretty spec nonetheless!
posted by jojobobo at 2:35 AM on July 12, 2010

Berlin is a thousand times better - much more culture and history. Amazing arts scene, great food, some of the best nightlife and museums in Europe. Also, great day trips very nearby: start with Potsdam and Sachsenhausen.
posted by turkeyphant at 3:11 AM on July 12, 2010

Berlin Berlin Berlin... 1000x Berlin. I have been to both (twice) and Berlin is by far more interesting. Munich is a nice city, but not incredibly interesting, I would say.
posted by ryanbryan at 3:55 AM on July 12, 2010

Thank you everyone for your answers. We've decided to do three days in Berlin and two days in Munich. My friend gets to see her beer garden and Disney castle and I will get to see Dauchau. :)
posted by anthropoid at 6:16 AM on July 12, 2010

Recap: Berlin for youth culture excitement, Munich for relaxation.

Berlin for going to late-night discotecques playing cutting-edge electronic music then morphing into possibly having drug-fuelled trisexual encounters with possible space aliens.

Munich for daytripping mad-prince Ludwig weddingcake castles, then going to pleasant breezy beirgartens to listen to brass-oompah and drink massive quanities of bier (the big Stein is called a 'Mass', and when you pick it up in your puny paw it hefts like something from out of the Flintstones).

Both are fun, but I prefer Munich.
posted by ovvl at 8:35 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

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