Some brave and easy-going people literally pick their next travel destination to visit by closing their eyes and sticking a pin in a map. Others might scour budget airline offers for last-minute flights and go with whatever is available.
If you want to enjoy a little bit of an adventure, immerse yourself in a new culture for a bit, and enjoy a change of scenery, but you’re not quite that laid-back, though, some research will be required.
European city getaways are almost always perfect — offering a whole buffet of options that can be fun, exciting, sporty and adventurous, cultural, or relaxed.
If you’ve already decided to head for the Germanic world, or somewhere thereabouts, Vienna and Munich are two of the best city vacation options to consider.
What’s the difference between Vienna vs Munich, though? While the absolute best way to determine that would be to visit both, we’ve got you covered if you need some starting points.
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Where Is Vienna? Where Is Munich?
Let’s start with the basics!
Vienna, the capital of Austria and (surprise, surprise!) also the country’s largest city, is nestled in the North East of the country at the eastern extension of the famous Alps.
Home to over two million people, and more in its wider metropolitan area, Vienna makes a great destination for travelers who love the atmosphere of sprawling cities with rich historical elements as well as plenty of modern architecture and activities.
Vienna has an oceanic climate with four distinct seasons.
Those who choose to visit the city at the height of summer are likely to enjoy a pleasant 20 °C (69 °F) or a few degrees more or less, though temperatures as high as 39 °C (103 °F) have been recorded.
In winter, you’ll likely be met with temperatures that hover around freezing, and though it does dip way below sometimes, you’re not in the right place in Vienna if you’re actively hoping for Siberian weather.
Munich is also a capital city — of the German administrative district of Bavaria, rather than a whole country. Munich is located in the very South of Germany, fairly close to Austria, Czechia, and Switzerland.
Weather-wise, Munich’s climate is very similar to Vienna’s, but with summers being just a notch warmer and winters a tad colder.
The city’s central location and the fact that the Alps are so close by means that Munich’s weather is rather changeable and unpredictable; something not all tourists will appreciate.
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The Difference Between Vienna and Munich: What Cultural Content Can You Look Forward To?
Anyone planning an urban break will want to know what they can do once they arrive at their destination — and so often, cultural offerings come to mind first. What is better to visit: Vienna or Munich?
The museums, famous buildings, musical heritage, and religious history in Vienna vs Munich may just help you make your mind up.
Both Vienna and Munich come “equipped” with plenty to see and do, so take a look at what appeals to you more.
Vienna is home to:
- More than a few famous and truly opulent palaces, including the Schönbrunn Palace, Belvedere Palace, Hofburg Imperial Palace, and the Palais Schwarzenberg, almost define Vienna culture and are Austria’s most famous historical landmarks.
- Plenty of cathedrals and churches that are worth seeing. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, both huge and intricate, is just the beginning. Also check out the Gothic Votivkirche, the Church of the Jesuits, and Peterskirche.
- Lots and lots of museums, from the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Beethoven Museum to Albertina Modern. Lots and lots of Klimt. Plenty of other famous artists, too, including Monet and Picasso. Many of Vienna’s (almost) countless museums are right in the museum quarter, making it easy to see lots of art in a single day.
- Just to prove that Vienna is not all palaces and history, one of the modern marvels you should definitely see is the Hundertwasser House, a deeply colorful building that emerged from the imagination of an architect who wanted a project without straight lines.
- The Vienna State Opera, the oldest opera house in the German-speaking world, in case you wanted to catch a show.
Munich has similarly impressive itinerary possibilities:
- The beautiful medieval Blutenburg Castle, the majestically Baroque Schleißheim Palaces, the Nymphenburg Palace (among the largest in Europe!), and the Munich Residence, which was transformed from a much smaller castle to a sprawling estate in the 14th century.
- The many places of worship that are also architectural wonders are another good reason to visit Munich. Your options include Ulmer Münster, the tallest church anywhere in the world, the unique Bürgersaalkirche, and Dom St. Stephan, which conceals Europe’s largest organ with nearly 18,000 pipes.
- Museums that should definitely be on your to-visit list if you end up in Munich include the ultra-modern BMW Museum, the Deutsches Museum, a hub for all things science and tech, and the Pinakothek der Moderne, which is an awesome destination for kids, too, with its scavenger hunts. The Jewish Museum is also unmissable.
- Not only is there an Oktoberfest and Beer Museum, if you go to Munich at the right time, you’ll even be able to attend the famous beerfest. Beer is an essential part of Munich culture, and if you take a trip to the city, you can’t fail to notice that!
- The National Theatre Munich, a wondrous opera house, is worth a visit even if you aren’t able to experience an opera.
Oh, you wanted to see full-blown castles? In that case, you will need to travel a little further afield to marvel at Prunn Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle, or Burghausen Castle, among many other options.
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Vienna vs Munich: Parks, Nature, and Wildlife
While exploring the history and culture of the city you visit is pretty much inevitable, plenty of tourists would also love to see the natural world.
Which is better for parks, nature, and wildlife — Vienna or Munich?
We can’t decide for you, but we can help you out a little. Both cities have excellent options, but because they’ll be radically different by definition, you are bound to feel more excited about the parks and nature in either Vienna or Munich.
In Vienna, a visit to the Lainzer Tiergarten — a huge wildlife preserve, much of it covered in woodland — is a good bet, especially if you are visiting Vienna with kids in tow.
Within it lies Hermesvilla, a smaller palace, which visitors can reach via (yes!) horse-drawn carriage.
You could also check out Kurpark Oberlaa, with varied natural marvels that range from a Japanese garden to green meadows, and even an outdoor adventure park for children. Or head for the Wine Hills, and enjoy a wine tasting!
If you have the chance to go on a day trip, Hallstatt village, which can be toured by boat, is a must-see. If salt mines count as nature (they certainly get you down to earth), tours are available.
In Munich, you will have the chance to visit the Munchener Tierpark Hellabrunn, a beautifully designed modern zoo with an impressive variety of inhabitants.
The English Garden is another popular choice for tourists.
As impressive as it is, you might prefer the Botanischer Garten (botanical garden) Muenchen-Nymphenburg if you would prefer an experience that is more unique to the city itself.
SEA LIFE Munich opens up a whole different, aquatic, world, but those who are hoping to see more of the great outdoors can instead enjoy a relaxing walk, or even a swim, at Flaucher.
As you can see, both Munich and Vienna have high-quality nature and wildlife content, so tourists can be attracted to so much more than historical buildings, beer, and art.
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Vienna vs Munich: Where Will You Get Better Food?
We’re sorry to have to disappoint you. The restaurants and food scene can be an important consideration when you decide where you should travel next, in this case, where should you go — Vienna or Munich?
Both cities offer an excellent array of choices, and they’re not dissimilar enough to really make one stand out over the other.
Vienna is, of course, famous for its coffee houses, magnificent pastries, Mozart balls, and delightful beer.
Since the Austrian capital is also, obviously, a modern and very much lived-in metropolis, you will be spoiled for choice even if you are not planning to focus your culinary experience there on the traditional offerings Vienna is so well-known for.
Munich is, as the capital of Bavaria, mainly known for its excellent meat. Pork and duck dishes are considered high on the list of must-try meals for tourists, and you definitely can’t forget about the beer in Munich either.
The Viktualienmarkt is home to everything from farmers’ market stalls to beer gardens and street food choices, so if you do end up in the city, it’s one of the best places to go. If you’re vegetarian, though, you have no cause for concern either.
Munich, too, has a well-established foodie scene that includes vegan restaurants.
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Vienna vs Munich: What About Transportation?
When you’re choosing Vienna vs Munich, airport choices aren’t going to be much of a consideration.
As both cities are served by state-of-the-art modern airports that take arrivals from all over the place. Both low-cost carriers and traditional airlines fly to Munich as well as Vienna.
Should you decide to head for Vienna, you should, if you are going to stay for more than a few days, get a TravelCard that gives you access to Vienna’s well-designed U-Bahn transit system without having to buy tickets individually all the time.
You could also take a scenic tram tour. Vienna’s city center is extremely walkable, however, so as long as your hotel is in that area, you may find yourself relying on public transportation less than you anticipated. Check out these best hotels in Vienna to make the most of your stay.
In Munich, you have access to an impressive public transit system made up of trains, buses, and trams as well.
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Where Should You Go? Vienna or Munich?
What is better to visit, Vienna or Munich, once you take everything you now know about these two cities into account?
Deciding on Vienna vs Munich is a deeply personal and ultimately subjective choice.
Honestly, you can have a great time either way, but before you book your tickets, book accommodation, there are a few more things to look at.
Munich is objectively smaller than Vienna, although not by that much, more than that, it feels smaller.
Many people who have been to Munich multiple times even go so far as to describe the city as a small town dressed up as a large city.
That is, in large part, thanks to that famous Bavarian hospitality.
In Munich, it’s easy to connect with people and to soak up the warm and friendly spirit — if that’s what you’re after.
Munich also boasts such varied offerings that it’s incredibly easy to find things to do that are fun for the entire family. If you are taking a European city trip with children, Munich is easily the better choice.
Vienna’s long and impressive Imperial history, as the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, makes it majestic, looming, elegant, and decadent.
It is most definitely the better city to visit if you are deciding between Vienna vs Munich if you want to revel in the sights of some of Europe’s most famous and impressive art.
Those people who are only staying for two or three days might end up feeling more satisfied with Munich — they can make a fairly relaxed itinerary of the best sites and end up being able to see and do everything on their list.
If you’re staying for longer, however, Vienna will ensure that you never run out of things to see. That’s true even if you choose to spend literally all day in its many museums.
Vienna and Munich are both wonderful, so you really can’t go wrong, whichever city you visit in the end.