From museums and shopping to beer and festivals, Munich is a beautiful fun and accessible Barbarian city with something for everyone
By Barbra and Jim Twardowski, R.N
There’s a charm to Munich one doesn’t expect to find in a cosmopolitan city.
Perhaps it’s the friendliness of the people, the time-honored Bavarian traditions or the walkable city center filled with world-class sights that make Munich a popular destination.
Located in southern Germany just 30 miles from the Bavarian Alps, Munich was founded more than 850 years ago. The city of almost 1.5 million people lies on the
banks of the River Isar and much of it is wheelchair accessible.
The busiest tourist months are June and August. Finding a hotel room can also become more difficult during major annual events such as Oktoberfest.
What To See
Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square)
Begin with a visit to Marienplatz in the heart of Munich.
In the 12th century, the square was home to medieval markets, tournaments and festivals. The Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is a neo-Gothic, 300-foot long building dominating the northern side of the square. Every day at 11 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. (the 5 p.m. performance is omitted November through February), life-size figurines depicting stories from Munich’s history twirl to the sound of 43 chiming bells.
The Glockenspiel (carillon) performance lasts 12 to 15 minutes depending upon which songs are selected. An elevator takes visitors to the top of the Rathaus’ 225-foot tower and an observation deck.
Frauenkirche (Cathedral of Our
The double onion domes of Frauenkirche, a Gothic cathedral originally built in 1468, is one of Munich’s most recognized landmarks. No other building is allowed to be taller.
Severely damaged during World War II, the church was rebuilt. A footprint at the church entrance is rumored to be the devil’s.
Munich has a diverse culinary scene
Take in a bird’s-eye view of Munich from the 330-meter high tower.
Visitors ride an elevator to the top and explore an observation deck. Open 9 a.m. to midnight, the ride is less than 5 euros (about $5.35 U.S.).
BMW Welt & BMW Museum
Using a pedestrian bridge that crosses the autobahn, you can roll from the Olympic Park to the BMW Welt and BMW Museum.
Housed in a futuristic silver building with a glass roof that appears to be a floating cloud, the wheelchair-accessible building has several shops and restaurants. More than 100,000 BMW owners have picked up their new vehicles inside the company’s corporate headquarters. The museum features nine decades of automotive history.
A sprawling 900-acre public park with ponds, streams and winding gravel paths beside lush meadows.
In the southern edge of the park, there’s a river where surfers ride the waves.
Art lovers could spend days in Munich’s museums.
Classic pieces can be found at Alte Pinakothek, contemporary at Neue Pinakothek, and modern at Pinakothek der Moderne.
The museums are wheelchair accessible, and audio guides are available. Expect crowds on Sundays when admission is 1 euro (about $1.08 U.S.).
The Fünf Höfe (Five Courtyards) is a stunning upscale shopping center with retail stores and restaurants and was designed by the same architects who created the Olympic stadium in Beijing.
Don’t miss the sparkling “ice tunnel,” or the 30-year-old Kunsthalle München, a wonderful, wheelchair-accessible art gallery with changing exhibits.
For high-end shopping visit Maximilianstrasse — a street planned by King Ludwig I. Need a German soccer shirt? The Münzinger store is the place for sporting apparel and shoes. Munich’s oldest store is located in the historic Marienplatz.
Where To Eat
Many of Munich’s restaurants serve traditional Bavarian food.
With seating for 1,300 people, Hofbräuhaus München is known around the world for its beer. The ground floor is accessible and there’s a large outdoor courtyard (with a steep step). Live bands perform on a small stage.
Some of the house specialties include: roast pork with crackling, goulash, sauerbraten and Wiener schnitzel. Munich is a diverse city with an array of ethnic restaurants.
Shandiz is a small Persian restaurant (one step up to the entrance) serving delicious skewers of grilled lamb and chicken with saffron rice.
The newly opened Eataly, housed in a 50,000-square-foot historic building, is a delight to the senses. The completely wheelchair-accessible Eataly has a family restroom on the second floor. Have a glass of wine and enjoy dinner at La Piazza.
If you have a sweet tooth, sample the doughnut-like stritzerl at Cafe Frischhut (the doorway is narrow, and there are steps at the entrance). Viktualienmarkt is an outdoor food market with 140 stalls containing wine, cheeses, meat, fruits, vegetables, spices and more. It’s also a beer garden with rows of picnic tables. The terrain is hilly and covered in cobblestones, but it’s worth the climb.
The cobblestone sidewalks and streets can make for a bumpy ride, especially for manual wheelchair users. Sidewalks can become quite crowded, especially during festivals. Knowing the German words for “excuse me” (entschuldigen sie bitte) is helpful.
Although Munich doesn’t have wheelchair-accessible taxis, it does have an excellent public transportation system. Private cars can be booked in advance. We hired Münchner Rollstuhltaxi to drive from the airport to a city center hotel. The cost was 85 euros (roughly $90 U.S.), approximately 20 euros more than a standard taxi.
Almost all of the buses are wheelchair accessible. Press the red button on the middle door of the bus to board, and keep a safe distance from the curb. Ramps extend 1 meter. Typically, wheelchair users board after other passengers. Buses have either manually folding ramps or electromechanical ones. The doors of buses with electromechanical ramps momentarily close before the ramp extends. The incline of the ramp varies from stop to stop. The maximum weight load for a ramp is 550 pounds.
Approximately 85% of the S-Bahn (urban rail) stations are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair users need to flag down the conductor at the front of the train to indicate assistance is needed. A ramp, stored on the train, is manually set up by staff. Seating for wheelchair users is at the front (behind the driver) and at the back of the train. Information regarding the working condition of station lifts (elevators) is available by calling +49 (0)89 / 1308-1055.
Munich’s 100 underground subway stations, known as U-Bahn, provide barrier-free access from the street to the platform. There’s a slight gap between the platform and the train. The floor of the train is typically 1 or 2 inches higher than the platform. Wheelchair users board the front car. Call +49 (0)89 / 21 91 33 33 to determine if the station lifts are operational.
Nearly all of the city’s trams have been adapted to meet the needs of disabled passengers. There are 148 tram stops and 126 are accessible.
Eurostars Book Hotel (eurostarshotels.co.uk/eurostars-book-hotel.html) is a modern hotel near many of Munich’s favorite attractions. Guests enter the property through a large revolving door. The hotel’s theme is books. Passages and titles from well-known tomes are painted on the walls and ceilings throughout the hotel.
We checked in to a non-smoking, wheelchair-accessible guest room. Sunlight was streaming into the room, which had bleached wood floors, a plus for wheelchair users. Amenities included: coffee/tea service, mini bar, robes, flat-screen television and complimentary Wi-Fi.
The well-designed roll-in bathroom had several handrails and a shower bench, which could be folded out of the way when not needed. The trendy bar on the ground level is an inviting spot to unwind in the evening, and seating is wheelchair accessible.
Courtyard Munich City Center (marriott.com/hotels/travel/muccy-courtyard-munich-city-center) offers wheelchair-accessible guest rooms with a roll-in shower, a large work desk, mini fridge, microwave and flat-screen television.
Unlike many European hotels, this one had a king size bed, and roll-away beds are available for a child or companion. Guests who book with Marriott and are members of the brand’s loyalty program receive complimentary Wi-Fi.
Beside the lobby is a 24-hour market with bottled water and other items weary travelers might need. The hotel’s restaurant, Oléo Pazzo, serves a Mediterranean-inspired menu, as well as an excellent breakfast buffet.
Located directly across the street from Hauptbahnhof, Munich’s main train station, is the new Aloft Hotel (aloftmunichhotel.com). The Starwood brand caters to the tech-savvy traveler who enjoys loft-like accommodations.
Our huge wheelchair-accessible guest room with a roll-in shower was modern with a 42-inch flat-screen television, in-room safe, coffee maker and bottled water. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel and guest rooms. The room also came with a bedside call button in case of an emergency.
The smoke-free property is a great choice for travelers who like to socialize. Four nights a week, local bands perform live in the hotel lobby, which includes a bar, pool table and plenty of seating. There’s also an accessible outdoor courtyard where you can get some sunshine and enjoy your coffee.
For more information on planning an accessible trip, visit germany.travel/en/index.html.
Jim and Barbara Twardowski cover the travel industry writing about baby boomer and accessible travel, accommodations, culinary/cultural offerings and destinations.