Munich. Leisure Guides.

 

There’s more to Munich than beer fests, lederhosen and oom-pah bands. German efficiency meets Alpine romanticism in this sophisticated Bavarian metropolis, often dubbed ‘the secret capital of Germany’ for its world-class museums, galleries and restaurants, and its vibrant nightlife.

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Getting around

Munich is surprisingly compact and easy to explore on foot or by using its highly effective public transport network, which comprises two urban railways (the underground U-Bahn and the suburban S-Bahn), buses and trams. Trains stop shortly after midnight, when a limited service of night buses and trams operates until around 4am. Licenced taxis (typically cream-coloured Mercedes) can be hailed in the streets or from stands throughout the city, but are an expensive option.

Purchase a Munich CityTourCard (available as a one-day or a three-day single or partner ticket) for unlimited travel on public transport, plus discounts on many museums, attractions, restaurants and city tours. Munich also boasts over 200 kilometres of cycle paths. Look out for red-and-white ‘DB’ bikes for hire in bike stands throughout the city. If you buy a Bike Day Pass, they can also be taken on U- and S-Bahns (outside rush hour). 

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Hotels

Munich has its full quota of deluxe hotels, but it also offers more authentic Bavarian accommodation for those in the know. For the ultimate in Bavarian luxury, stay at the traditional landmark hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München (Maximilianstraße 17) at the hub of the city’s shopping district. The super-chic Le Méridien Munich (Bayerstraße 41) is also centrally located, with sleek designer interiors and a sumptuous indoor pool and spa.

More moderately priced Hotel Torbräu (Tal 41) provides comfortable, modern rooms at the heart of the city. The newly opened Four Points by Sheraton Munich Central (Schwanthalerstraße 111), part of a mid-bracket German chain, also offers contemporary, streamlined accommodation, just a stone’s throw from the Oktoberfest. Don’t be put off by the bland exterior of the Creatif Hotel Elephant (Lämmerstraße 6) near the main station – its simple, brightly decorated bedrooms count among the best affordable deals in town. 

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Nightlife

From foaming litres of beer in the beer cellars to trendy cocktails in some of the nation’s most sophisticated nightspots, Munich’s night scene appeals to all tastes and budgets.

Schwabing, focal point of Munich’s fashion scene by day, becomes a riot of lively cafés and bars by night, while the Gärtnerplatz district offers some of the city’s trendiest bars, clubs and a lively gay scene. Schumann’s (Odeonsplatz 6-8) has long been the city’s number-one bar, while clubbers head for P1 discotheque (Prinzregentenstraße 1), to rub shoulders with the local glitterati, if they can get in – it’s always been the toughest door to enter in town.

Münchners are the world’s largest consumers of beer. The city is considered the beer capital of the world, and its many beer cellars play a major role in the locals’ social life. Among the most popular are the centrally located Augustiner-Keller (Arnulfstraße 52) and Max-Emanuel-Bräuerei (Adalbertstraße 33), famed for its folk music. 

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Restaurants

Munich is the gastronomic heartland of Bavaria. Eating out is a major pastime, with eateries ranging from market snack-bars to sophisticated gourmet temples. Check out the refined Alpine restaurant Schuhbecks in the Südtiroler Stuben (Platzl 6) for Michelin-starred regional cuisine, or top-notch Tantris (Johann-Fichte-Straße 7), one of Germany’s finest restaurants, for exquisite French nouvelle cuisine.

Those on a mid-range budget will enjoy the game specialities at Schwabing’s cosy Georgenhof (Friedrichstraße 1), or the hip fusion food served in ultra-chic Lenbach (Ottostraße 6), designed by Sir Terence Conran around the theme of the Seven Deadly Sins. The beer cellars serve hearty Bavarian specialities at long, communal tables. The tiny rustic Nürnberger Bratwurst Glöckl (Frauenplatz 9) is also a favourite with both locals and tourists, with a warm, friendly atmosphere, and some of the best sausages in town – grilled over a beechwood fire and served with a hearty helping of sauerkraut. 

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Shopping

Munich has a surprisingly impressive array of shops worthy of any European capital. The principal shopping streets are centred around Marienplatz and its surrounding pedestrianised streets, Maximilianstrasse with its haute couture houses, and in the fashionable university district of Schwabing, the former bohemian quarter, with its trendy galleries and funky boutiques.

Munich’s upscale department store, Ludwig Beck, is a must for shopaholics, while Bogner Haus (Residenzstraße 15), founded by former Olympic downhill champion Willy Bogner, sells trendy fashions and sports clothing. For traditional Bavarian gifts, Loden Frey is the world’s largest store specialising in national costume, and the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein (Pacellistraße 6-8) boasts the best selection of upmarket handicrafts, from puppets and pottery to jewellery, glassware and textiles. For food and drink, it’s hard to beat the exclusive Dallmayr (Dienerstraße 14) delicatessen, a veritable city institution, the Viktualienmarkt, the city’s premier outdoor market, or Schwabing’s more intimate Elisabethmarkt (Elisabethplatz).      

Munich has a surprisingly impressive array of shops worthy of any European capital. The principal shopping streets are centred around Marienplatz and its surrounding pedestrianised streets, Maximilianstrasse with its haute couture houses, and in the fashionable university district of Schwabing, the former bohemian quarter, with its trendy galleries and funky boutiques.

 

Munich’s upscale department store, Ludwig Beck, is a must for shopaholics, while Bogner Haus (Residenzstraße 15), founded by former Olympic downhill champion Willy Bogner, sells trendy fashions and sports clothing. For traditional Bavarian gifts, Loden Frey is the world’s largest store specialising in national costume, and the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein (Pacellistraße 6-8) boasts the best selection of upmarket handicrafts, from puppets and pottery to jewellery, glassware and textiles. For food and drink, it’s hard to beat the exclusive Dallmayr (Dienerstraße 14) delicatessen, a veritable city institution, the Viktualienmarkt, the city’s premier outdoor market, or Schwabing’s more intimate Elisabethmarkt (Elisabethplatz).      

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Top 10 sights

Top 5 sights for first-timers

Marienplatz

The main square, Marienplatz, is where Munich’s heart beats loudest. Its pavement bars and restaurants are perfectly placed for people-watching. Hub of the city’s shopping scene, it is flanked by the grandiose neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), famed for its Glockenspiel (chimes at 11am daily, also noon and 5pm in summer), and the turreted Altes Rathaus (New Town Hall) with its quirky toy museum.

Marienplatz

Münchner Stadtmuseum

Make the Munich City Museum your first port of call to study the city’s history from medieval times to the present day through maps, models and before-and-after photographs. Collections of weaponry, musical instruments and marionettes reflect Munich’s unique and eclectic personality.

Saint-Jakobs-Platz 1
www.stadtmuseum-online.de

Hofbräuhaus

Admittedly a tourist honeypot, but no trip to the Bavarian capital is complete without a visit to the world’s most celebrated beer hall, with its communal tables, dirndl-clad waitresses and jolly yodelling.

Platzl 9
www.hofbraeuhaus.de

Residenz

Nowhere is Munich’s grandeur and beauty better reflected than in the impressive state rooms and antiquities of the glittering Residenz, the former palace of the powerful Wittelsbach dynasty – five centuries of Bavarian dukes, prince-electors and kings. The tiny Cuvilliés Theatre within, the world’s finest rococo theatre, is just one highlight.

Residenzstrasse / Max-Joseph-Platz
www.residenz-muenchen.de/index.htm

Deutsches Museum

A museum of superlatives: Munich’s most famous, German’s most visited and among the world’s first and biggest museums of science and technology. If you spent just one minute at each exhibit, it would take you 36 days to see everything.

Museumsinsel 1
www.deutschesmuseum.de

Top 5 sights for old hands

Bayerisches Nationalmuseum

One of Europe’s leading folk art museums, the Bavarian National Museum provides a real taste of local life and customs in bygone years in its maze of rooms featuring traditional furniture, glass, pottery, woodcraft, Trachten (traditional costume) and a world-renowned crib collection.

Prinzregentenstrasse 3 
www.bayerisches-nationalmuseum.de

Frauenkirche

The cathedral of Southern Bavaria, this massive, brick-built late-Gothic church symbolises Munich more than any other building with its distinctive green onion domes.

Frauenplatz 1
www.muenchner-dom.de

Pinakothek der Moderne

The Modern Picture Gallery counts among the world’s largest museums devoted to the visual arts of the 20th and 21st centuries. Together with the adjacent Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) with its acclaimed old master paintings, and the Neue Pinakothek (New Picture Gallery) of 19th- and early 20th-century art, this trio of galleries forms a unique museum complex, the Kunstareal (Art District), spanning art from late medieval times to the present day. 

Barerstraße 29
www.pinakothek.de

Schloss Nymphenburg

Five generations of Bavarian royalty were involved in the construction of this vast, gleaming white baroque palace. Set in magnificent parkland, just a short tram ride from the city centre, it is one of Munich’s most beautiful recreation areas. 

Schloss Nymphenburg
www.schloss-nymphenburg.de

BMW Welt

BMW World is a must-see for its architecture as much as its cars. Its futuristic, torqued glass-and-steel edifice contains the company’s latest creations. Marvel at the developments in transport technology over the past century in the gleaming silver, windowless half-sphere BMW museum, then book a tour of the production plant.

Olympiapark 1
www.bmw-welt.com  

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Top 5 activities

Beer gardens

Nothing beats an afternoon spent drinking a Maß (litre glass) of cool beer in the shade of chestnut trees in one of Munich’s celebrated beer gardens. Where better to lap up the Münchners’ joie de vivre and passion for the great outdoors? Before long, you will find yourself linking arms with total strangers at the communal trestle-tables, and singing along to the band.

Peterskirche

Climb the 306 steps of St Peter’s church tower (just off Marienplatz) for a brilliant bird’s-eye view of the city centre.

Viktualienmarkt

Taste the local specialities – including Leberkäs (meat loaf); Bratwürst and Weisswürst (varieties of sausage); and Weissbier (a type of wheat beer) – at Bavaria’s largest and best-known open-air food market.

Englischer Garten

Munich’s beloved ‘green lung’ counts among the world’s largest urban parks, and ranks highly on every local’s list of favourite haunts for walking, cycling, jogging, sunbathing, picnicking and boating. A park for all seasons: toboggan and drink glühwein (mulled wine) in the winter months; skinny-dip in the river in summertime.

Opera

Get tickets for the opera at the Nationaltheater, one of the world’s leading opera-houses.  Alternatively, take a tour for a rare and fascinating glimpse backstage. 

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Top 5 events

Fasching

A Catholic pre-Lenten Carnival celebrated in Munich with several days of flamboyant processions, street parties and fireworks, and climaxing in an extravagant fancy-dress party at the Viktualienmarkt on Shrove Tuesday.

Date: Prior to Lent
Venue: Various

Starkbierzeit

Beer plays an unashamedly important role in Munich life, and the Strong Beer Festival is one of many celebrations. It takes place during the three weeks leading up to Easter and is best celebrated at the Salvatorkeller am Nockerberg.

Date: February/March
Venue: Various beer halls and cellars 

Sommerfestival

Munich’s largest summer festival: 25 days of outdoor theatre, live music, culture from around the globe, world cuisine, fireworks, family fun and environmental friendliness at the Olympiapark (1972 Olympics venue).

Date: June/JulyVenue: Olympiapark 

Oktoberfest

The world’s most famous beer extravaganza, with beer halls, brass bands and kaleidoscopic fairground thrills. 

Date: Third Saturday in September to early October
Venue: Theresienwiese

Christkindlmarkt

At Munich’s magical Christmas Market, tiny snow-capped wooden huts sparkle with lights and sell seasonal gifts, Christmas decorations, mulled wine, roast chestnuts and gingerbread, as well as the beautifully carved cribs that are so famous in Bavaria.

Date: Late November to Christmas Eve
Venue: Marienplatz

Written by World Travel Guide

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