Munich (München)

In 13 words: A city of many charms and attractions, even at times other than Oktoberfest.
For your first visit you need about three days to be able to fully appreciate the city and all of its major sights while keeping pleasantly unhurried pace.
Distances are walkable to a degree; München is a big city and some attractions will require use of public transport.
Don’t miss: Having a beer-and-sausages breakfast at Viktualenmarkt.
Worthy attractions: Altes Rathaus and Neues Rathaus [did not venture inside]; Frauenkirche with its twin onion towers; Viktualenmarkt; Theatinerkirche; Alte Pinakothek; Hofbräuhaus.
Left for another visit: Neue Pinakothek; Residenz; Deutches Museum; Bürgersaal; Asamkirche; Stadtmuseum; Theresienwiese [for Oktoberfest].
Recommended Day Trips: Bavarian royal castles, such as Schloss Neuschwanstein and Schloss Linderhof.
Last visit: May 2005.

Theatinerkirche and Feldherrnhalle
München, the southern Germany main metropolis, is one of the grand cities of Europe, with architectural and cultural attractions on par with many other top destinations on the continent. For our money, it is considerably more agreeable than Berlin.

Things to See

The heart of the city is Marienplatz ♥♥♥, a lively square presided over by the grandiose building of Neues Rathaus ♥♥. The new town hall actually looks older than the nearby Altes Rathaus ♥. The latter may warrant venturing inside, which we did not do. The former, besides its fascinating collection of statues and gargoyles, boasts the Glockenspiele ♥, a high clock tower with a musical clock that presents a few mechanical figure performances every day. A bit drawn-out, but still curious.

There are always various street performers on the square, some of them quite good at what they do.

Near and around the square are several interesting churches, of which we visited Heilig-Geist-Kirche ♥, which has unusually pink-colored interior, Michaelskirche ♥, and the distinctive Frauenkirche ♥♥. The latter is one of the biggest Gothic structures in Germany, able to accommodate up to 2,000 people. Other churches in the vicinity that we only saw from the outside are Dreifaltigkeitskirche, Bürgersaal, Asamkirche and Peterskirche (where you should be able to climb a tower for a great view of the surrounding squares and buildings).

St Peter’s Church stands on Viktualenmarkt ♥♥♥, the main city marketplace for the last couple of hundred years. Browsing its stalls and shops is a must in experiencing the “real” Munich. Many shops are famous for offering stuff that cannot be found anywhere else and many are passed from generation to generation within the same family. The storage cellars are built right underneath the shops.

Having a breakfast of traditional white sausages, pretzels and weissbier in an eatery on Viktualenmarkt is as an authentic experience as you can get ♥♥♥.

A few steps away from here is the Stadtmuseum which we will be sure to visit when next in München.

Also within a stone’s throw from here is Hofbräuhaus ♥, a tourist trap if there is one, but still probably worth a look. You certainly need to experience the biergarten atmosphere while in Munich in an environment that is not souped-up for foreign tourist consumption. Hofbräuhaus cannot provide that. However, as an example of a tradition beer hall, with painted ceilings on the ground floor and a barrel-shaped vault on the first floor, this is a definitive stop. And you’ll never get bad beer when in Bavaria, so the beer here will be just as excellent.

For anyone interested in culinary superstores, stepping into Dallmayr ♥ shop on Dienerstr. will prove an utter delight.

One of the most magnificent churches in München is Theatinerkirche ♥♥ (also known as St Cajetan). Its bright-yellow façade is almost blinding, and the interior, whitewashed with stucco decorations and rich Baroque furnishings, is resplendent. In the absence of any decorations of gold or other colors, the church appears extraordinarily bright.

Next to St Cajetan is Feldherrnhalle ♥, which is not open to the public because of its association with Hitler’s Beer-Hall Putsch of 1923. Its Odeonsplatz façade was modelled after Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and contains several monuments to Bavarian heroes.

The large Residenz complex, the former palace of Bavarian kings, is one of the major points of interest that we could not fit into our schedule, opting only for a short respite in the pleasant Hofgarten ♥ in front of it.

One other church that warrants a look is Ludwigskirche ♥, a 19th-century twin-tower Romanesque wonder. We only walked by it, forgoing the chance to see its Last Judgement fresco that reportedly rivals in size Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

There are three museum “clusters” in Munich, and on our visit we eventually decided to only visit one single gallery. Alte Pinakothek ♥ is among the most famous art collections in the world, housing works by many old masters. Nearby Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne complement it with works from 19th and 20th centuries, respectively, but we did not have time for those two.

Not far from these, on Königsplatz, the Neo-Classical Propyläen ♥ gateway “connects” two museums of antiquities. And in another part of the city center, Bayerishes Nationalmuseum and a great collection of German paintings at Schack-Galerie stand next to the Prehistory Museum.

The spacious Englischer Garten ♥ is a popular park in the central city area. Sit on a bench, watch ducks and geese, or hire a catamaran on the boating lake.

On our walks, we strolled along the bustling Leopoldstraße ♥, with almost unending row of cafés and restaurants, and the quiet streets of nearby Schwabing residential area ♥, with its many pretty houses.

Not too far away from central Munich (but not within walking distance) is Schloss Nymphenburg, a nice 17th-century palace surrounded by a beautiful park. There are several standout rooms inside the palace and a couple of moderately interesting pavilions tucked away in the various parts of the park, but our overall impression was that it was rather middling.

Olympiapark is a sports complex that is frequently used for popular events in addition to the sporting ones. We went there primarily for a view of the city skyline and the Alps in a distance from the high hill.

Deutsches Museum, one of the largest and oldest museums of technology and engineering in the world, is another attraction that we left for a future visit.

We were in München in spring, not during the Oktoberfest, so we did not go to Theresienwiese, which is nothing more than a vast meadow within city boundaries for 10+ months of the year. Our good friend, who lived in München for many years, took us for a real biergarten ♥♥♥ experience to Hirschgarten, at the edge of Schlosspark. You don’t truly catch on with the Bavarian spirit until you pick your glass jug from a pile and wash it yourself at the trough. Hirschgarten is the biggest biergarten in the city. As with any establishment of this kind, you can bring your own food along if you want, but you have to buy drinks on the premises. We got food on premises as well, opting for pretzels and pork ribs. Next to the biergarten is the royal deer farm, for those who want to diversify their food and drink with watching animals.

If you fly out of München, make sure to at least get a look at the airport brewery. It is not often that an airport has its own establishment of this sort.

Transportation

München’s metro is frequent and mostly convenient, both for central areas and for excursions further afield. The lines of city U-bahn are well integrated with the commuter S-bahn network.

The important thing to remember is to actually buy tickets and validate them in the ticket machines. Neither turnstiles nor gates impede the entrance to the stations; however, absentmindedly getting on a train without a valid ticket can lead to a hefty fine; ticket checks occur with enough regularity.

Places to Eat

All places last visited in Spring of 2005.

Restaurant Hackerhaus ♥♥, on Sendlingerstr. in the city center, is a frequent recommendation by the guidebooks, even though we came across it quite arbitrarily. It is large and busy, with waitresses in traditional Bavarian garb moving around at high speed. Popular with tourists, but that does not take away from the quality of the food. Among the local dishes that we had there were chicken soup with liver meatballs and mixed grille of different kinds of pork meat, under the accompaniment of kellerbier. Our damage: €42.

Our friends recommended Wirtshaus Zur Brez’n ♥♥, on Leopoldstr., and it did not disappoint. Great food, prompt service. Our damage: €44.

We did not record the name of the café on Viktualenmarkt where we had breakfast one day, but I suppose that any of the establishments there would do. The important thing is to order the white sausages (they spoil very easily, so you can only have them for breakfast), pretzels and wheat beer.

Hirschgarten ♥♥♥ was mentioned above, as it is both an experience and a place to eat. The food, as would be expected, is quite rustic, but you wouldn’t come to a biergarten in search of a fine cuisine, surely.

Lodging

As in any large city, the options for a hotel or an apartment are nearly endless on major online platforms. Any location in Altstadt will put you within no more than 15 minutes of walking to most of the points of interest, but the excellent metro network makes staying somewhere outside of city center workable as well.

Day-tripping

München is located within easy day-tripping distance to a number of Bavarian destinations, foremost of them royal castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof, discussed in more detail in the article on Bavarian Alps.


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