Surrounded by magnificent Bavarian forests and mountains, home to six world famous breweries and birthplace of BMW, Munich would be forgiven for sitting back and taking it easy. But whether it’s creating an astonishing replica of an English Garden which ends up bigger than Central Park or having enough great pubs in one place to own the title ‘longest bar in the world’, Munich just can’t help but impress. And, even if you only spend a few days in the city, you can’t fail to be impressed by the results.
Munich at a glance:
- The capital of Bavaria and Germany’s second most visited city
- Hosts the legendary Oktoberfest beer festival every autumn and is also home to six major breweries – and many more smaller ones too
- Birthplace of Bayerische Motoren Werke aka BMW, one of the world’s most prestigious car brands
- Sports mad and home of the mighty Bayern Munich, the trophy-laden giants of European football
- A compact city centre and intriguing suburbs that are well connected by public transport means getting around is a breeze
Alstadt - the first stop drinking, culture, shopping and more drinking If this was the only part of Munich you ever saw, you’d go home happy. With over 260 pubs, bars, breweries and clubs, anything and everything related to drinking, lives here. Legendary Bolker is the most famous street and if you can’t find the booze you want here, it doesn’t exist. Alstadt’s mainly pedestrianized, which makes pub crawling easy and pulls vast crowds at the weekend. But it’s not just about drinking. This is where Munich keeps its major museums, galleries and venues. It’s also one of the main shopping areas. And if you want the widest choice of restaurants, Alstadt’s where to look first.
Shwabing - the glamorous face of bohemian Munich AKA the ‘Artists’ Quarter’, this is one of the most gorgeous residential parts of Munich and possibly the most glamorous and expensive face of ‘bohemian’ you’ll ever see. Most of the city’s nightclubs are concentrated in Shwabing, keeping good company with chic vintage clothing stores, independent booksellers, exclusive jewellers and tiny, seductive specialist shops. The area’s architecture is universally astonishing and only upstaged by the immense magnificence of The English Garden. Offering 910 acres of beautiful landscaping, The English Garden is bigger than Hyde Park in London or New York’s Central Park. A favourite local picnic spot and open air concert venue in summer, it’s perfect for a few stolen hours when the rest of Munich gets a bit too lively. You’ll also find beer gardens tucked away in here.
Neuhausen - beer gardens for those in the know For beer gardens, breweries and clubs with live music you want Neuhausen. Tourists often dismiss this area as strictly residential and avoid it. Good news for those that know better. Take your time and explore a bit, try local-loved beer gardens, go see Circus Krone or, if you’re around in winter, strap on your skates and take a turn on the ice by the Nymphenburg Palace – magical.
Oktoberfest - the original and best beer festival The world’s most famous beer festival spends more of its 16 days in September rather than October. But, whatever the dates, it’s amazing. There’s plenty of Lederhosen and Dirndls, every imaginable type of German beer and an enormous funfair which takes up half of the festival’s vast site. As popular as it is unforgettable, Oktoberfest is best booked in advancewww.oktoberfest.de
Feldmochinger See - enjoy the great outdoors within the city The largest lake within the city limits, Feldmochinger See is almost 170m² of crystal clear, swim-perfect, Bavarian water. Temperatures in summer are about 23°C and there’s loads of activities, a nudist area, an inn, snack bars and the swimming, of course.
Best bars and pubs in Munich:
Cohibar, Herzog-Rudolf-Straße 2 Cuban right down to the free Wednesday Salsa lessons, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of Cohibar’s fantastic cocktails are rum-based.www.cohibar-city.com
Eat the Rich, Heßstraße 90 Get here before 10pm to bag a space because Eat the Rich is justifiably popular for its great atmosphere and even better cocktails – the choice is wild.www.eattherich.de
Zest, Adalbertstraße 23 Locals love this bar and that’s always a good sign. Unusual variations on classic cocktails are a bit of a theme here and it’s very sleek and elegant.www.zest-muenchen.de
Nage & Sauge, Mariannenstraße 2 Very small but very cool, it’s worth waiting around for a rare seat to try one of Nage & Sauge’s famously intriguing cocktails.www.nageundsauge.de
Flushing Meadows, Fraunhoferstraße 32 Rooftop cocktails and amazing views make this just perfect for a warm summer evening. Speciality here is Munich’s own vodka and local liqueurs.www.flushingmeadowshotel.com
Augustiner Keller, Arnulfstraße 52 Cheese platters and pretzels plus an amazing range of beers have made Augustiner Keller a city institution. It’s been around since 1812 and is as good as ever it was. Go in summer for the beer garden, it’s huge and always mobbed but that’s what’s so wonderful about it.www.augustinerkeller.de
Kilians Irish Pub, Frauenplatz 11 Traditional pub food, ale and stout on tap, live music and loads of locals, it could only be an Irish pub. This is one to put in place right at the start of a pub crawl and begin as you mean to go on, brilliantly.www.kiliansirishpub.com
Augustiner Grobgaststätte, Neuhauser Straße 27 Authentic beer hall with all the trimmings and traditions – chandaliers, vaulted ceilings, trestle tables, big glasses. Good selection on draught and bottled and an excellent location for touring the competition close by.www.augustiner-braeu.de
Hofbräukeller, Innere Wiener Straße 19 One of Munich’s best known, best loved and biggest beer gardens is always happy for you to have a party. The food is made to soak up the excellent beer, it’s always busy and you can’t fault the crowd for friendly. Unforgettable on a summer evening when they turn on lights in all the trees.www.hofbraeukeller.de
Munich’s best nightclubs:
P1, Prinzregentenstraße 1 Tiny title for Germany’s most famous club. Superstar DJs, international celebrities and Munich’s beautiful people looking lovelier than ever, P1 is very smart, very chic and very expensive. But the two huge dancefloors, great sound mix and seeing who you can spot in the crowd is worth every single cent.www.p1-club.de
Pacha München, Maximiliansplatz 5 Munich meets Ibiza for a big sound and all-year-round event centred club. Guest DJs hit the decks here after a season on the beach and the energy is wild and young and not even living in the same century as controlled.www.pacha-muenchen.de
Food: eat like a local:
Sausage, dumplings and pretzels says it all really. Sure there are plenty of fine dining experiences in this super-cultured city, but when Munich goes drinking it likes to be sure and soak up the booze. Müncher Weißwurst is veal and pork sausage laced with onions and parsley, should be served with sweet mustard and plenty of beer. Pretzels are your best friend in Munich, they’re salty, seed covered and served as standard everywhere from bräukellar to bistros. Knodel potato dumplings are the traditional carb and any menu worthy of Munich has a variation on the theme.
Munich loves meat and its residents worship Brenner Grill (http://www.brennergrill.de) on Maximilianstraße 15. Always busy and quite expensive but if you want a treat make a reservation.
You can only go to a medieval banquet on holiday so head to Welser Küche (http://www.welser-kuche.de/index.php?lang=en) on Residenzstraße 27 take advantage of this three-hour feast and hey-nonny-nonny entertainment extravaganza while you can.
Der Pschorr (http://www.der-pschorr.de/) on Viktualienmarkt 15 offers a traditional German menu elevated and served with an amazing wine list. This is not a cheap-eat option but it works on so many levels it’s worth the expense. Gorgeous interior too.
Meanwhile, Bratwurstherzl (http://www.bratwurstherzl.de) on Dreifaltigkeitsplatz 1 sounds German and is German and that means big on sausages, schnitzel and gallons of beer. Locals like this place and it’s very reasonable so gets busy.
When to visit:
Summer in Munich is sunny and warm and dozens of lakes, forests and mountains round the city match the inimitable beer garden evenings under lamp lit trees. If you’re not going to Oktoberfest, avoid the city the last two weeks in September, it’s busy and very expensive. But if you want to experience one of the most famous beer festivals in the world then of course go at this time. This is Bavaria and winter is magical, think ice skating, Christmas markets and fairytale scenery.
Best view of the city:
The 80m high Neues Rathaus tower on Marienplatz is the ultimate viewing platform for the entire city and on a clear day you can see the beautiful Bavarian Alps in the distance.
If you don’t want to walk (best way to see Munich), the city’s public transport network is excellent. You can buy bus and tram tickets at stations or some hotels. Alternatively, try Grayline hop-on-hop-off bus tours, with 1–3 day passes for guided tours round most of the city centre – good to get your bearings.
Munich’s a safe city but take the usual precautions against pickpockets in busy tourist areas. There have been reports of drinks being spiked so don’t leave your drink unattended.
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