I’m a shy person who does a decent job of pretending to be outgoing. It takes a little extra self-motivation to go out by myself and try new things, or even ordinary things like eat dinner. When you combine that with being in a foreign country where English is not always understood, the room service menu of my hotel starts to sound very appealing.
You can’t let that nervousness keep you from experiencing a new or exciting destination. I recently traveled solo to Munich, Germany for work and came across the best places to eat, drink, and explore without feeling awkward.
1. Create a personal picnic in Viktualienmarkt
Viktualienmarkt is a daily food market in the center of the city with vendors selling everything from cheese to olives to coffee to flowers. It’s also an unintimidating spot to curate a unique lunch, complete with a stein of beer and a giant pretzel. I opted for seasoned olives, fresh cherries, and obatzad cheese to dip my pretzel in, naturally. Park yourself at a picnic table and enjoy the sun and people watching.
2. Capture the best views of the Glockenspiel from St. Peters Church
For the best views of the Glockenspiel and the city of Munich, it will only require 3 Euros and 299 steps to the top of St. Peters Church. The 360-degree views are certainly worth the effort up the narrow and wooden steps. This also a great solo activity because everyone is making their way up at their own pace, taking in the views, snapping photos–you won’t feel awkward or alone on this adventure.
PS. The inside of St. Peters Church is gorgeous and worth a visit as well. Other notable churches in Munich are the Gothic Frauenkirche and the small yet elaborate, Asma’s Church. It’s so small you might pass right by without knowing it.
3. Tour the Residenz Munich
Visting the former Bavarian royal palace is a leisurely way to spend the morning while you’re waiting for your team in California to wake up and begin the business day. The Residenz is the largest palace in Germany, complete with lavish ballrooms and gardens to tour. Once you purchase a ticket, you pick up a handheld speaker that looks like an old-time telephone. As you roam from room to room you can listen to the history of each area. You’ll see every visitor walking around quietly, listening to their own speaker, which is what makes this an awkward-free solo activity.
4. Drink and people watch from up above at Rischart: Cafe am Markt
I love outdoor seating when I’m traveling alone. It makes me feel like I’m part of the action happening around me. If I’m being perfectly honest, there is nothing terribly special about the food and drinks at Rischart, but the elevated, outdoor seating area provides excellent views of St. Peters Church, Altes Rathaus, and the Viktualienmarkt. Being perched one story above the crowd also ensures unobstructed people watching.
5. Eat dinner with locals at Augustiner am Platzl
While the Hofbräuhaus is the most well-known spot to grab a beer and a brat, it’s not the most welcoming spot for a party-of-one. Although, I do recommend taking a lap around and checking out the vibe. I did, and a group of guys in lederhosen tried to get me to join their party. In my best German, I said, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” (I don’t speak German). They all laughed at my horrible American pronunciation of the phrase, and I kept going with my self-guided tour of the beer hall.
Instead of eating there, I recommend going across the street to Augustiner am Platzl. They have outdoor seating, but when I went it was full. Instead, I sat at a long table near the bar that faced the open windows. Two locals ended up joining me, and they were excited to find I didn’t speak German so they could practice their English! We enjoyed dinner, a few beers, and they taught me about the difference between Bavarian German and formal German.
6. Take a group tour
If you have a free day or if your work trip spans a weekend, I highly recommend taking a small group tour to check out a site just outside Munich. There are many companies to choose from–I had a great experience with Radius Tours. My first choice would be the Neuschwanstein Castle tour, especially if you’re looking to be transported into a real-life fairytale. If your goal is to check another country off your bucket list, they also offer a day trip to Salzburg, Austria–a city so special they named it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re looking for a more sobering experience, I recently took their Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial tour, which I couldn’t imagine doing solo. With a group and our knowledgeable and respectful guide, we received a more human experience rather than the audio guide.
On my last day in Munich, I heard someone on the street say, “I thought Munich was a dead city.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Munich is beautiful and vibrant with beautiful and vibrant people to match. Go out and enjoy it!