A stop worth your time
With so much to do at Munich Airport – and in the city – you might find yourself wishing for a longer stopover
Recently ranked the fourth-most-liveable city in the world on the Mercer Quality of Living Index (one of the most comprehensive global city rankings), Munich is more than a just great place to put down roots. The same criteria that make it so pleasant for residents also make the Bavarian capital a great layover hub, with attractions that go far beyond Oktoberfest and Christmas markets.
With nearly a third less passenger traffic than Frankfurt, Germany's busiest airport – and the largest in the world, based on destinations served – Munich is a smaller, less hectic option for Canadians connecting on to European destinations. And with frequent direct flights from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Air Canada or Lufthansa codeshare partners, or from Halifax on the discount carrier Condor, it's no less accessible. The city itself is equally organized and friendly – so much so that Germans refer to Munich as "Millendorf," village of a million people, and English-speaking expats call it "Toytown."
Covering 1,575 hectares (compared with Frankfurt's 2,300), two-thirds of which are green space, Munich Airport consists of two terminals – each with departure gates no further than a seven- or eight-minute walk from security. The airport also has an environment-friendlier satellite terminal (carbon dioxide emissions per square metre are about 40 per cent less than the main terminal) that opened in 2016 and is accessible from Terminal 2 via a 60-second train ride. Both Terminal 2, which was awarded the world's best airport terminal at the 2017 World Airport Awards, and its satellite terminal are dedicated to Lufthansa and Star Alliance carriers, with a combined nine lounges serving Star Alliance Gold passengers.
" Napcab sleeping pods also have private working areas and free WiFi if you need a quiet spot during your layover to get work done or take a conference call," says Evelyn Pschak, Munich-based travel writer.
If you have three hours
From regularly changing local art exhibits near the Lufthansa check-in counters, to a high-tech Audi showroom, there's so much to do at Munich Airport you might find yourself wishing for a longer layover. Shopping and dining options are extensive, including Airbrau, a brewery and beer garden with live music located near Terminal 1, and a marketplace in the Terminal 2 satellite building modelled after Munich's open-air food market, Viktualienmarkt.
While you may not be able to actually feel the wind in your hair, the virtual-reality experience at myAudi Sphere, a 700-square-metre facility located between terminals 1 and 2, might be the next best thing for car lovers: Using virtual reality, guests can configure their dream car and even take a "seat" inside. This being an airport, there's also lots for lovers of aerial transport, including dedicated kids' activities and tours of the airport, the fire brigade and an A380, all of which leave from the Visitors Park and are bookable in advance via the airport website (munich-airport.com; scheduled tours are conducted in German, but English-language tours may be arranged with advance notice).
If you have enough time to leave the terminal and clear security again, the Visitors Park offers fun for all ages, from a playground with experiences themed around five continents, to mini golf and a viewing platform of the runways atop an observation hill. The airport also has several kids' play areas within the terminals.
If you have six hours
Munich has been ranked tops in all of Germany for traffic jams, but S-Bahn trains S1 and S8 run every 10 minutes and will get you into the city in about 40 minutes. Get off at Marienplatz, which has been Munich's main square for nearly 900 years.
Taking up a full city block, the sight of the intricately ornamental exteriors of Munich's neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) is practically worth the trip into town; if you can time your visit to 11 a.m. or noon (or 5 p.m. between the months of March and October), you'll get to witness one of the city's best-loved spectacles, the Glockenspiel, a nearly 15-minute-long show in which automated figurines atop the town hall's clock tower enact popular Munich folklore to the tune of the clock's bells. Once the show is over, stroll over to the Viktualienmarkt, an outdoor food hall and market that's also home to a large beer garden. Though some traditional Bavarian dishes are on offer at the on-site food stand, it's also totally acceptable to stock up on cheeses and sausage from the market vendors and wash them down with your pilsner.
If you have 12 hours
Home to more than 80 museums – many within walking distance of the downtown core – Munich offers literally something for everyone, from art and history buffs to music and car lovers. One of the newest is the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, a private facility built in a former power plant that focuses on artists such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey, as well as emerging art forms such as calligraffiti. About 15 minutes from Marienplatz by car or subway, Munich's Olympiapark, the site of the 1972 Olympics, is where you'll find the futuristic BMW Museum and small, quirky Rock Museum, home to artifacts such as Jim Morrison's poetry and a collection of signed guitars.
For a bit of fresh air before you head back to the airport, stroll the quaint streets and neo-Bavarian boutiques of Old Town or head over to the Englischer Garten, a nearly 230-year-old urban greenspace that's larger than Central Park and is home to 78 kilometres of walking and jogging paths, a Greek temple (that offers great views of the city), Japanese teahouse, and one of the city's largest beer gardens, situated right below a Chinese pagoda.