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'World's largest village': How foreigners in Germany feel about Munich

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
'World's largest village': How foreigners in Germany feel about Munich
Shoppers walk through Munich's historic Altstadt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Munich was recently ranked one of the most disappointing places to visit in the world, but what do foreigners who live there think about Bavaria's scenic capital? We asked our readers to tells us - and got some rather mixed reviews.


When you think of a German city that splits opinions, the first that would come to mind would likely be Berlin or Frankfurt.

Some say the capital is grimy and chaotic, some love it for its laid-back atmosphere and shameless hedonism. Many people appreciate Frankfurt for its big expat community and lively atmosphere, others say it's too stuffy and corporate. 

But when it comes to the picturesque city of Munich, there isn't too much to disagree on, right? Wrong.  


When The Local conducted a survey of readers back in February, we were surprised to find out just how divisive the city was. People praised its public transport system, safe atmosphere and proximity to the Alps, but they hated its underwhelming nightlife and perceived closed-mindedness. 

"Overrated, expensive, culturally bland and sterile," was one reader's verdict. "Except for people who love the mountains and can afford a car to get there on a regular basis."

"It's expensive, dirty, shuts early, and it's quite a boring city," another fumed, adding that it was only really worth a weekend visit. 

On the other end of the spectrum, several respondents lavished praise on Bavaria's capital and said they felt they'd found their forever home there. 

"Maybe it is a bit overrated to visit but it is not at all overrated to live," one reader told us. "In fact I feel it is by far the best city to live not just in Germany, but in Central Europe - and that includes Paris, Berlin and Milan."

So, what are the key things that draw internationals to Munich - and what compels them to jump on the next ICE train to Berlin? Here's what you had to say. 

READ ALSO: Why Munich is the only city I've ever really felt at home

Metropolis or small town? 

One aspect of Munich life that came up time and time again was the fact that the Bavarian capital is technically a city but in many ways feels like a small town.


For Mauricio Cardoso de Souza, who previously lived in major cities like New York and moved to Munich last summer, this was part of its undeniable appeal.

"Munich is a big city with small town atmosphere," he said. "You can find truly everything here - it is really fun - and there are different attractions every season, which keeps the city moving."

READ ALSO: REVEALED: 10 of the best hiking day trips from Munich

Runners look out over the Munich skyline at sunrise.

Runners look out over the Munich skyline at sunrise. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Another reader pointed out that Munich's small-town vibe also comes with another benefit: being greener and healthier than many other metropoles.

"It's rare that a city this big is not polluted," they said. "It's actually healthy to live here. We have one of the biggest parks in the world and it's like a big village." 

For others, Munich's village atmosphere was much more of a disappointment than a draw. 

"Munich is in my opinion the largest village in the world," said one local resident, who added that the city was good to live-in but not really worth a visit on its own. "Sure you can find almost everything one could hope for in a city - but none of these are particularly special. The nightlife is just average. Bars, restaurants, and cafes are not terrible but also not really top of the line."

A former Munich-dweller had even stronger words for the Bavarian capital: "It's a small village pretending to be a city," they said. "The most boring place with 1.5 million people in Europe - or perhaps the world."


Rents, rents, rents... 

Munich has a reputation for being expensive - particularly when it comes to rents - so it's no wonder that a major theme for internationals living in the city was the eye-watering cost of living. 

For Narasimha Murthy Keshav Prasad Gubbi, who lives in the city, the safety, infrastructure and public transport are great in Munich but the housing crisis makes it a hard place for internationals to live.

"I wouldn't recommend a foreigner live in it due to the extreme housing crunch and incredibly expensive rents," he said, adding that housing was something that desperately needed to be improved.

READ ALSO: It's not impossible: How to find housing in Munich

Flats in Munich Altstadt

Flats in Munich's historic city centre. Photo: picture alliance / Matthias Balk/dpa | Matthias Balk

"The rents are too high," said Nabeel Sheikh, who praised Munich for its cleanliness and high quality of life. "Living, in general, is expensive here - and shops have to close by 8pm." 

Another reader who lives outside of Munich also felt the city was unaffordable and told us it was impossible to find a flat. 

And it wasn't just rents that people felt were too high. Out of 83 survey respondents, around a quarter mentioned just how pricey the city was.

Asked what they'd improve about the city, Munich resident Meli told us: "Make it easier and less expensive to get an apartment, make the city more affordable in general," adding that there should also be more events that cater to an international crowd. 

READ ALSO: How the population of Bavaria is changing due to migration

Safe, scenic and a little bit sleepy 

For a city that has the third largest foreigner population in Europe - and the second largest in Germany - many of our readers felt the city was a little too culturally homogenous. 

Bavarians were described as "closed-off", "rude" and "conservative" by some respondents, while one reader complained that restaurants served "watered down versions of authentic cuisine to match the limited palate of locals".

Asked what could be improved about the city, one reader said there should be "more English-speaking companies and more services for non-German speakers". 

Once again, however, it's all a matter of perspective - and a handful of readers praised the city's beer garden culture and traditional Bavarian charm. 

Chinese tower in Munich's Englischer Garten

The Chinese tower in the heart of Munich's Englisher Garten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

If there could be said to be a consensus, it was that Munich is a beautiful city with great access to the outdoors and plenty of attractions for sports enthusiasts. 

People mentioned the delights of unwinding next to the Isar on a sunny day, strolling through the historic Altstadt or Englischer Garten and enjoying coffee and cake from a local cafe. 

'Safety' was a word that came up constantly to describe the city's gentle, family-friendly atmosphere - but on the flip side, that may not always result in a wild night out.

"Munich is too quiet and calm," one resident told us. "After living there for a while, you feel like you have aged a decade: you start behaving like an old person." 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket


The two sides of the city - and two ways of viewing it - were summed up by reader Meli. 

"It is too expensive, overcrowded, conservative and boring and its inhabitants are quite unfriendly," she said. "On the other hand it is very safe and green, so it also depends also on who is asking and what is their goal.

"Munich is good if someone prefers calm and quiet places, but not for someone who actually still wants to have some fun."

In short, if you're a 'Party Mensch', you may just be better off in Berlin. 

Thank you so much to everyone who completed our survey. Although we weren't able to use all the responses, we read them all and they helped inform our article. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

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Sandra 2023/03/27 08:25
Hello, Nice article. It keeps both opinions represented. I just want to ask, are there sources to the opening statement that Munich is ranked one of the most disappointing cities? Best Sandra

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