München (no, not munchkin...)
Munich (München) is truly the capital of all things Bavarian. It's a heady mix of worldclass museums, historic sites, cosmopolitan shopping, exhausting nightlife, trendy restaurants, roaring beer halls, vast parks and, of course, Oktoberfest.
Navigating and enjoying all of this blueand-white-checked fun (the colours of Bavaria) will take a few days. The efficient public transport system can whisk you around town – although if you stay above ground you might be surprised at how walkable the centre really is. Against all this urban life is the backdrop of the Alps, peaks that exude an allure that many locals – and visitors – find inescapable. No visit to Germany is complete without at least some time spent in this storied city.
Munich didn't really achieve prominence until the 19th century, under the guiding hand of King Ludwig I. In the aftermath of WWI, the city became a hotbed of rightwing political ferment. Hitler staged a failed coup attempt here in 1923. WWII brought bombing and more than 6000 civilian deaths. Today it is a growing city with a diversified economy.
The huge Residenz (Max-Joseph-Platz 3) housed Bavarian rulers from 1385 to 1918 and features more than 500 years of architectural history. Apart from the palace itself, the Residenzmuseum has an extraordinary array of 100 rooms containing no end of treasures and artworks. In the same building, the Schatzkammer (separate admission but same details as Residenzmuseum) exhibits jewels, crowns and ornate gold.
A veritable treasure house of European masters from the 14th to 18th centuries, the Alte Pinakothek, a stroll northeast of the city, includes highlights such as Dürer’s Christ-like Self Portrait and his Four Apostles, Rogier van der Weyden’s Adoration of the Magi and Botticelli’s Pietà.
Immediately north of the Alte Pinakothek, the Neue Pinakothek contains mainly 19th-century works, including Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and sculpture.
One block east of the Alte Pinakothek, the Pinakothek der Moderne displays four collections of modern art and architecture in one suitably arresting building.
An enormous science and technology museum, Deutches Museum celebrates the many achievements of Germans and humans in general. Kids become gleeful as they interact with the exhibits; so do adults. Take the S-Bahn to Isartor.
Tracing the lives of local Jews before, during and after the Holocaust, the Jüdisches Museum offers insight into Jewish history, life and culture in Munich. The Nazi era is dealt with, but the focus of this recently opened museum is clearly on contemporary Jewish culture.
North of the city, auto-fetishists can thrill to the newly expanded BMW Welt, adjacent to the BMW headquarters. Take the U3 to Olympiazentrum.
One of the largest city parks in Europe, the Englischer Garten, west of the city centre, is a great place for strolling, especially along the Schwabinger Bach. In summer, nude sunbathing is the rule rather than the exception. It’s not unusual for hundreds of naked people to be in the park during a normal business day, with their clothing stacked primly on the grass. If they’re not doing this, they’re probably drinking merrily at one of the park’s beer gardens.
The Marienplatz is a good starting point for historic buildings. Dominating the square is the towering neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus, with its ever-dancing Glockenspiel (carillon), which performs at 11am and noon daily (also at 5pm from March to October), bringing the square to an expectant standstill (note the fate of the Austrian knight…). Two important churches are on this square: the baroque star St Peterskirche.
Munich is one of the cultural capitals of Germany; the publications and websites listed in the Information section can guide you to the best events. For tickets, try Munchën Ticket (Tel 5481 8154; http://www.muenchenticket.de/).
(Tel 2185 1920; Max-Joseph-Platz 2) Home of the Bavarian State Opera (http://www.bayerische.staatsoper.de/866--~Staatsoper~bso_aktuell~aktuelles.html) and the site of many cultural events (particularly during the opera festival in July).
Eating and Drinking
Clusters of restaurants can be found anywhere there’s pedestrian life. The streets in and around Gärtnerplatz and Glockenbach- Viertel are the flavour-of-themoment. You can always do well in and around Marienplatz and the wonderful Viktualienmarkt.
Viktualienmarkt, just south of Marienplatz, is a large open-air market open daily except Saturday afternoon and Sunday. You can put together a picnic feast to take to the Englischer Garten. The fresh produce, cheese and baked goods are hard to resist. Or relax here under the trees, at tables provided by one of the many beer and sausage vendors. This is the place to see the German’s love of all things organic.
Outside of the beer halls and gardens, Munich has no shortage of lively pubs. Schwabing and Glockenbach-Viertel are good places to follow your ears. Many serve food.
Alter Simpl (Türkenstrasse 57, Maxvorstadt) Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse used to knock ’em back at this legendary thirst parlour, which is also a good place to satisfy midnight munchies as bar bites are available until one hour before closing time.
Trachtenvogl (Reichenbachstrasse 47, Gärtnerplatzviertel) At night you’ll have to shoehorn your way into this buzzy lair favoured by a chatty, boozy crowd of scenesters, artists and students. Daytimes are mellower at this former folkloric garment shop.
Jazzbar Vogler (Rumfordstrasse 17, Gärtnerplatzviertel)This intimate watering hole bringssome of Munich’s baddest cats to the stage.You never know who’ll show up for Monday’s blues-jazz-Latin jam session.
Kultafabrik (Grafingerstrasse 6) There are more than 25clubs in this old potato factory that youcan sample before you end up mashed orfried. Electro and house beats charge upthe crowd at the loungy apartment 11, the Asian-themed Koi and at the small red cocktail cantina called Die Bar. It’s close to the Ostbahnhof station.
Atomic Café (Neuturmstrasse5) This bastion of indie sounds with funky ’60s decor is known for bookerswith a knack for catching upwardly hopefulbands before their big break.
(Tel 294 662; Rumfordstrasse 17, Gärtnerplatzviertel)This intimate watering hole bringssome of Munich’s baddest cats to the stage.You never know who’ll show up for Monday’s blues-jazz-Latin jam session.
(www.kultafabrik.de; Grafingerstrasse 6;h8pm-6am or later) There are more than 25clubs in this old potato factory that youcan sample before you end up mashed orfried. Electro and house beats charge upthe crowd at the loungy apartment 11, the Asian-themed Koi and at the small red cocktail cantina called Die Bar. It’s close to the Ostbahnhof station.
(Tel 228 3054; http://www.atomic.de/; Neuturmstrasse5; h10pm-4am Tue-Sun, opens 9pm onconcert nights) This bastion of indie sounds with funky ’60s decor is known for bookerswith a knack for catching upwardly hopefulbands before their big break.
Gay & Lesbian venues
Much of Munich’s gay and lesbian nightlifeis around Gärtnerplatz and the Glockenbach-Viertel. Our Munich and Sergejare monthly guides easily found in thisneighbourhood. Another good resource i sMax&Milian (p472).Morizz (Tel 201 6776; Klenzestrasse 43) This modart deco–style lounge with red leather armchairsand mirrors for posing and preening goes for a moneyed clientele and evengets the occasional local celebrity drop-in.Packed on weekends.
Pedal power is popular in relatively flat Munich. Radius Bike Rental (Tel 596 113; http://www.radiustours.com/; Hauptbahnhof near track 32; h10am-6pm May-Sep) rents out two-wheelers from €15 per day.
Munich’s excellent public transport network (MVV; http://www.mvv-muenchen.de/en/home/index.html) is zone-based, and most places of interest to tourists (except Dachau and the airport) are within the ‘blue’ inner zone (Innenraum; single ride/ day pass €2.30/5). MVV tickets are valid for the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams and buses, but must be validated before use. The U-Bahn stops operating around 12.30am Monday to Friday and 1.30am Saturday and Sunday, but there are some later buses and S-Bahns. Rail passes are valid only on the S-Bahn.