Cultural Weekend Getaway to Munich
There’s a lot more to Munich than the Oktoberfest beer festival and a legendary football team –this city of 1.5 million people is one of Europe’s most important cultural centres, while also boasting a very complete menu of entertainment and recreational options, every day of the year. Here are a few proposals for a weekend getaway to this liveliest of German cities.
Amongst it many attractions, Munich is easy to get to and to get around in, thanks to its huge international airport, excellent rail connection, and the super-modern public transport systems serving the city and its outskirts. Most of the key places for sightseers are concentrated in a relatively small area, and the city is thronged with visitors all year round. Keep in mind that the Alps are nearby, and the city is a staging point for skiers in winter and for climbers, hikers, mountain bikers, and paragliders in summer.
The city’s cultural life is intense, and no tourist should neglect to visits the cluster of three classical art museums collectively known as the Pinakothek –a show of El Greco is now in progress in one of them and will remain open until 12th April. Not far away is the Brandhorst museum of modern art. On the bank of the Isar river is the fascinating Deutsches Museum of science and technology. It has a branch in Schleissheim to the north of the city that specialises in airplanes, and another in Theresienhöhe dedicated to every imaginable type of land transport vehicle. You may also enjoy the recently opened ZNT, New Technologies Centre, with its focus on nanotechnology and biotechnology. Car aficionados will love the BMW Welt museum –BMW is a Bavarian brand, afer all! To learn more about Munich itself, and its long and curious history, check out the Stadtmuseum, and don’t miss the permanent “Typically Munich” exhibition. For insights into the Bavarian people, there’s the incredible Residenz, the old palace of the Bavarian royal family, located in the city centre, and Germany’s largest urban palace. Today it is one of Europe’s leading museums of decorative arts, and its richly furnished and adorned spaces evoke many centuries of history under the Wittelsbach dynasty (1180-1918). At a short distance is the dynasty’s first Munich home, the Alter Hof, later used as law courts, and now the site of the Bavarian Museums Information Office and of a small museum devoted to the Wittelbachs, whose most famous king, Ludwig II, was born in the Nymphenburg castle standing in the western part of the city, next to the entrance to the Nymphenburg park. But just two hours southwest of Munich is one of Germany’s most celebrated castles, Neuschwanstein, at the foot of the Alps, which was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the castle in the cartoon classic Sleepìng Beauty.
Munich, by the way, has three top-ranked orchestras, numerous music festivals in many genres, and dozens of concert halls.
Design is something else Munich is famous for, and this is evident in the way people dress –in style and good taste, like the people of Milan. The city centre is the best place to shop for designer clothes and decorative items, for antiques, and for books. For luxury goods, jewellery, silverware, etc., look for shops labelled as Königlich Bayerischen Hoflieferanten, or “suppliers to the royal household of Bavaria”.
A Bite to Eat, Sports…
It’s almost impossible not to eat well wherever you go in Bavaria, and Munich’s dining is unrivalled for quality and variety. Local specialities include the famous Weisswurst or veal sausages, accompanied by a salty soft or crisp pretzel and sweet mustard; a ration of pork or beef with mash; and a spicy Obatzder cheese sauce with black bread. When it comes to eating, the locals prefer the biergärten –especially in summer—and the friendly beer halls found throughout the city.
For the sports-minded, we recommend a tour of the Olimpiastadion stadium where the main events of the 1972 Olympic Games were held, a milestone in stadium architecture, and still in almost continual use, as is the Allianz Arena, built for the 2006 World Football Cup, and now home to FC Bayern -a team with five Champions League titles to its credit- and the less well-known TSV 1860.
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Photos: Deutschland Tourismus, Haydar Koyupinar/ Museum Brandhorst
Two days in Munich
The Englischer Garten is the biggest park in the city and as the weather was fine we decided to spend the morning there, along with what seemed to be most of the residents of Munich. At the entrance to the park there is a bridge over the River Eisbach on which surfers take advantage of the strong current and resulting waves to practice their sport. It’s great fun watching them, seeing how they organise themselves, waiting for their turn to jump in and do their balancing act.
The park has huge boulevards and other areas full of trees criss-crossed by streams so it’s very relaxing to going for a walk around and crossing the bridges. In the middle of the Englischer Garten you find the Chinese Tower Biergarten. People can take their own food along to the beer gardens but as we didn’t take anything we bought sausages from a stall.
We carry on walking through the park and head for one of the side exits. There we find another small biergarten that caught our attention because they had put a ski lift cabin on their terrace in which you sit to have your coffee. We thought it was a really original idea.
We took Hohenzollernstraße; we wanted to go to a place we’d been recommended by Laurel Robbins on monkeysandmountains.com. This is a restaurant in which they serve potatoes with more fillings that you could possibly imagine.
You can find all types of shops in Hohenzollernstraße: fashion designers, antique shops, shoe shops… The Lili & Milou shop window is full of really original children’s clothes and games.
Unfortunately Kartoffelhaus was closed, more than likely because we had spent too long wandering in the park. We were still not used to German eating hours and the time at which we arrived was probably far better suited to having dinner rather than lunch.
Luckily, we found a place very close by that we really liked, the Schwabinger Wassermann at No. 82 Herzog Street. The idea of being in a street dedicated to the Munich director and producer Werner Herzog also really appealed to us because we’re huge fans of his films. This man drove his entire team mad as a result of his strong character. For the film Fitzcarraldo, he had a 320-ton steamship hauled up a hill rather than resort to special effects.
As we didn’t really know what the German words on the menu meant, we ordered a Thai dish by pointing to what the girl at the next-door table was eating. It looked really tasty and the end result was really hot but incredibly tasty.
The photo shows the dish we were served garnished with red chilli pepper. One thing we will remember the next time we eat something with chilli in it is to make sure we don’t rub our eyes after handling it. The sting in the eye is just the same as on the tongue with the inconvenience that you can’t have a drink to relieve the pain.
Next day, we decided to pay a visit to the centre of the city. The Marienplatz square stands at the heart of Munich with its impressive City Hall, the Peterskirche and the Frauenkirche with their characteristic green cupola adorning the church towers.
The Viktualienmarkt market is very close to the historic centre and its spectacular colours make you stop at each little stall. On one of the side streets are butchers selling all sorts of German sausages and delicious smoked meats. Stalls are distributed all around the maypole in the square offering attractive displays of fruit, vegetables, cheeses and Christmas decorations.
The most popular stall in the entire market was a small log cabin where they served Glühwein Haferl, hot wine with cinnamon and lemon served in little Christmassy china cups. Hand on heart we have to admit that the first sip didn’t go down too well but the taste grows on you as you drink more, apart from the fact that it also warms you up.
We continued on our way to Vits in Rumfordstraße 49, a delicious coffee shop recommended to us by Laurel. They say they serve the best coffee in city here and they aren’t wrong!
Of all the bars in Munich, the recommendation had been not to visit the famous Hofbrauhaus; it’s the one the Germans don’t go to because it’s too touristy. However, as we passed the door – to be honest by chance – we could not resist the temptation of going inside. Sitting at one of the shared tables near the door, we watched groups of tourists going into a small room in which regular clients left their beer glasses, kept under lock and key. When these clients went to the bar, they collect their glass and give it a rinse. It’s easy to tell who the regulars are as they generally come decked out in characteristic Bavarian hats and lederhosen.
In the Odeonsplatzse we found the Tambosi coffee shop, one of the oldest in town. The weather had already turned chilly and on the terrace, where a classical music concert was taking place, people were sitting outside wrapped up in red blankets.
They say that if you touch the noses of the lions on the door of the Münchner Residenz, the former royal palace of the kings of Bavaria, you will have good luck, but only if your touch is light, almost a stroke. If you touch them for too long, you will get the opposite effect. Normally these types of superstitions are usually only observed by tourists, but we can assure you that in this case, the people of Munich themselves are the most rigorous followers of tradition.
Munich was home to the Olympic Games in 1972 and it’s worth paying a visit to its Olympic Village, the Olimpiastadion with its irregular-shaped glass canopy.
Apart from being a sports venue, the Munich Olympic Stadium hosts lots of concerts and many of the artists that have performed there have left their signatures in the cement, just like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can find signatures from Metallica, REM, Kiss, Genesis, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, Carlos Santana and Roger Waters just to name but a few of those that we can remember. It’s a walk through the history of music.
By Mónica Hidalgo on seriebcn.net
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15 food hot spots in Munich
By Laura Conde
You have three days off, and some money saved up. You’ve already visited the major European capitals and, although you would love to return to London or Paris, you just can’t afford to pay €4 for a cup of coffee right now. What to do then? Book a flight to Munich? We’re here to help and to answer your question. We took a flight to Munich to spend three days discovering the wonders of the third largest city in Germany after Berlin and Hamburg, the capital of Bavaria, where people say goodbye with a cheerful “ciao”, have beer and sausages for breakfast, and worship both Guardiola and Duke William IV, who back in 1516 passed a law that would change the course of German history – the so-called Purity Law – which established that only water, hops, yeast and malt could be used to make beer. Why did he do that? Apparently, William IV was losing many of his subjects because they were drinking lethal homemade beer that contained all kinds of preservatives.
Drinking beer, as we can see at Oktoberfest, has always been and always will be a deeply-rooted tradition in Munich, which is one of the cities where the popular biergarten (beer gardens) appeared: they are outdoor gardens with long tables to share, and Bavarian music playing in the background; places where you can bring food and spend all day drinking beer. When the weather is fine, the biergarten fill with locals and tourists, but they are usually closed in winter. Beer lovers must come to the city during the Starkbierfest, the so-called “strong beer festival”, from 21 March to 6 April. It’s a kind of Oktoberfest, not as busy but just as fun, when the locals take to the streets with the same purpose in mind: to drink lots of beer!
Another famous William in the history of Bavaria was William V of Wittelsbach, whose huge wedding celebration was unique in the city, and it led to the creation of one of Munich’s largest attractions: the famous Glockenspiel in the Town Hall, which can be seen twice a day and is a really interesting event. That festive spirit from 16th century Munich, where everyone stopped working in order to devote themselves to that wedding, is still pleasantly alive today, in a beautiful and surprisingly lively city, where the locals are kind and cheerful. We walked through the city’s historic quarter, the trendy neighbourhoods and those new districts that are enjoying a boom thanks to the gentrification that increasingly affects the outskirts of wealthy cities, and we found what we think are Munich’s 15 hot spots. And after this, you won’t need to think twice: You have to go!
THE TRENDY MUNICH
1. Brunch at Cotidiano
In Gärtnerplatz, the trendy area in Munich par excellence, and one of the most bustling areas in the city, we can find this busy place, which is ideal for Sundaybrunch or just to spend the afternoon enjoying a large mug of coffee (which is actually served in a bowl!), and taste one of the sandwiches, homemade cakes or salads. Other things not to be missed in the square include the range of salads and other dishes that are available, which look absolutely delicious. The large window that looks onto the street is delightful on sunny days, which are unfortunately not very common in winter. But that’s part of Munich’s charm. There is no Wi-Fi in the café.
2. A stop to shop for clothes at Kauf Dich Glücklich.
Very close to Cotidiano we find a very interesting shop selling men’s and women’s clothes. Inside there is a small bar where they serve coffee. Outside there is a sort of terrace with a few recycled tables and chairs, and this shop is the ideal place to stop and purchase sophisticated, urban, stylish and affordable clothes.
Oderberger Straße 44
3. XXL cake at Kochspielhaus.
The size of absolutely everything in this café in the centre is incredible. Their idea of a portion is nothing like ours, so tourists who like to eat well will not be disappointed. Kochspielhaus, however, is not one of those tacky places where they serve huge portions of food and people talk in a loud voice: it’s a beautiful café, with impeccable decor, similar to Cotidiano, with a bakery inside. It’s full of young professionals, many of them accompanied by their dogs (if there’s a city that’s dog friendly, it’s Munich), where everything is gorgeous as well as huge. When you walk in, you find a selection of large and delicious cakes, that you can combine with an enormous latte, or a gigantic glass of fruit juice. The café is covered in wood and is a must if you want to discover the coolest side of Munich.
4. Italian dinner in Sarfati.
We weren’t sure about visiting an Italian restaurant because after all, we are in Munich, and here people have beer and sausages for breakfast (we’ve seen it with our own eyes), and when you’re really hungry you can have pork knuckles. But there is such a strong Italian influence in this Bavarian city that you wouldn’t think that this colourful restaurant, Sarfati, situated in the hipster part of Munich, is an international restaurant. Many people in Munich speak Italian and any restaurant in any neighbourhood includes Italian dishes on the menu – tiramisu, salads or pasta, for example. In this context we find this restaurant/wineshop that puts a lot of work into its pasta dishes: all the ingredients come from Italy (you should order “burrata” if it’s on the menu), the pasta is handmade with excellent raw materials, and there is an interesting selection of wines. The house wine, an Italian Asinoi, is delicious. And you can eat excellent food for €25 each.
5. Any time of day at Café Marais.
This is probably our favourite restaurant in Munich, both for the quality of a simple and delicious menu that is available all day, and for the fairy-tale decor, in a small area surrounded by small and charming boutiques selling clothes by local designers. It’s not very far from Sarfati, and it’s a friendly café with large cakes and tables to share, full of vintage details and an authentic atmosphere between retro and naive. Looking out the window while it snows outside is an amazing experience. Bear in mind that there is no Wi-Fi here.
6. Brenner, Germany’s largest indoor grill.
As we were saying, the Mediterranean influence in general, and Italian especially, is ever-present in Munich. We can see this in one of the fashionable restaurants in the city: Brenner. It’s a large and busy restaurant situated in an old stable, and the average price on the menu is less than €25, while it is sophisticated and stylish. Mediterranean-style cuisine with a clear Italian influence and interpretations of traditional German dishes is what we find in a restaurant where you have to order meat, which is served with vegetables, and is cooked instantly on the largest indoor grill in Germany. They offer a wide selection of cakes, perfect for the sweet-toothed. There is no Wi-Fi, either.
7. A coffee with the children at San Francisco Coffee Company.
It’s a very pleasant café chain, and we chose the one that is next to the amazing Verkehrszentrum, the transport museum, to stop for a drink, and at last! – we were able to use their Wi-Fi and boast a bit about our trip on Instagram (there aren’t many restaurants with Wi-Fi in Munich). Delicious coffee and cakes in a modern, attractive and child-friendly place – it was full of families with children, and there was even a play area.
Check where the cafés are at: www.sfcc.de
THE TRADITIONAL MUNICH
8. A litre of beer at Hofbräuhaus
This is a very interesting place: Hofbräuhaus. Don’t leave the city without coming here. It’s a large brewery, established in 1589 by… guess who? Yes, William V, the same man whose wedding lasted one whole week and produced the Glockenspiel in the Town Hall. This place is a paradise for tourists, a large temple of beer, served by the litre and drunk like water, while eating an XXL pork knuckle with potato dumpling at 5 pm. Hofbräuhaus is like Munich’s version of “Cheers”. It’s a place full of interesting characters, ranging from large blond men with bushy moustaches, wearing the typical Bavarian costume, to waitresses wearing the same traditional costumes. Look out for one thing: the knot on their dresses. If it’s on the right, they are married; if it’s on the left, they are single; and if it’s at the back, they are widows.
9. Bavarian dinner at Augustiner.
One of the most popular beers in Munich, also known as the champagne of beers, has been brewed since the 14th century in a monastery in the city centre. It has an amazing restaurant where you can taste high quality Bavarian food for dinner, in an equally traditional setting, but less informal than the previous brewery and also less touristy. Although they serve a large range of Bavarian dishes, we also find international cuisine.
10. Wasabi cheese (and more) at the Viktualienmarkt biergarten.
The Viktualienmarkt is one of Munich’s hot spots and it is worth flying to the city just to see this place. It’s an enormous outdoor market selling fresh produce and top quality food, and in summer a biergarten is set up here, which is very popular with the locals, who usually buy food at the market and eat it at the biergarten, washed down with a large beer. Although the biergarten is only set up in summer, the market is open all year round. As well as the outdoor market, the Viktualienmarkt has a large indoor area full of fresh produce where we can find many shops and food stalls.
11.Souvenirs from the Milka shop.
In the indoor market – where we don’t recommend stopping to eat, although everything there looks delicious, we can guarantee – we find one of the most popular souvenir shops in the city: the Milka shop. When we got to the till, a friendly shop assistant, in perfect Italian, convinced us to leave behind some badges we were going to buy, telling us they were too expensive and that why would you spend all that money on them (“troppo caro, amici”). It was probably just then, or maybe just before, that we fell in love with this place full of all kinds of interesting objects, from Milka-purple Bavarian dresses to slippers, chocolates, or one of our favourites: a 4.5 kg Toblerone!
12. Beer by the litre at Oktoberfest.
It happens once a year but you remember it for the next eleven months. Marquees are erected next to the river, offering many places to enjoy beer exclusively, which is apparently drunk by the litre. Everyone in Munich, together with a large amount of visitors, takes to the streets to enjoy the pleasure of drinking beer: families with children, elderly couples, groups of students, businessmen, etc. It starts off early in the morning, so by midday the merriment is at its height in every corner of the city, the shy become bold and people strike up friendships that will last at least until the end of Oktoberfest.
13. The spring Oktoberfest: Starkbierfest.
Two weeks to celebrate strong beer, in several places in Munich, which locals usually call “Oktoberfest with no tourists”. The main venue for the festival, boasting plenty of beer and Bavarian music, is Paulaner, a brewery in Nockherberg, where apparently the first starkbier (strong beer) was made, called Salvator, which helped monks to endure their partial fast during Lent.
ART & SNACKS
In the modern art museum, the Lenbachhaus, situated in the so-called “art district” with all the most important museums, we find a beautiful café with large windows that serves international food, especially Italian. It’s worth visiting just to take a photo next to its attractive seventies-style sign, although we do recommend visiting its collection of paintings by 18th and 19th century Munich-born artists, too. There’s more to it than just food!
WITH A MICHELIN
15. Star-quality traditional dinner at Pfistermühle.
Munich has several restaurants with a Michelin star. Some of them serve international cuisine, like the interesting and prestigious Japanese restaurant, Toshi, but we decided to stop at Pfistermühle, situated in an old 16th century ducal mill, to taste star-quality food, for less than €60. It’s right in the city centre and in fairy-tale surroundings, and especially offers interpretations of Bavarian specialities.
Staying at the Schiller 5.
We chose this 4-star hotel in the centre for several reasons: it’s close to the station, which makes it easier to get to the airport; five minutes from the Marienplatz square, also in the centre; and in an area full of hotels, so there were restaurants open all the time, and all kinds of services in general. The hotel is sober, modern and comfortable, with a kitchen in the room, and the owner, a friendly elderly gentleman, goes round the tables at breakfast to ask guests if they are happy at his hotel.
A must (especially with the children): Deutsches Museum
Apart from all our food recommendations, we advise you to visit the most popular museum in Germany. The best way to get there is by walking along the river, which has a good place for swimming, very busy in the summer. It’s one of the most important science and technology museums in Europe, and has a section on transport (ships, aeroplanes and all kinds of motorised contraptions), space, musical instruments, ceramics, pharmacy, metal, physics, etc. We would need about eight days to visit it all! A good place to have a cup of coffee is the café inside the shop.
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At the end of September, when summer is over, one of Europe's biggest festivals takes place in Munich. We're talking about Oktoberfest, the most important festival in Germany, which every year gathers millions of people who have one thing in common: a love of beer!
Why is it so popular? What should you do there? Here are a few of the most important aspects of this busy event, just to make your mouth water...