If there's such a thing as the German dream, MUNICH (München) embodies it. Germany's third – and favourite – city often tops surveys to find the most liveable city on the planet, and it's easy to see why, with lakes and mountains on its doorstep, a fine roster of historic and cultural sights, glittering shops and the air of confidence that comes from being the home of BMW and Siemens. For all Bavaria's conservatism, it's also relatively liberal. If there's a fault, it's perhaps in the very lack of a flaw: with little grunge to offset it, Munich's well-groomed bourgeois perfection can at times seem a little relentless.
Founded in 1158, Munich became the seat of the Wittelsbach dynasty in 1255, but for much of its history it was outclassed by the wealth and success of Augsburg and Nuremberg. Finally, as capital of a fully-fledged Kingdom of Bavaria, established by Napoleon in 1806, it witnessed a surge of construction as Ludwig I and his architect Leo von Klenze endowed it with the Neoclassical monuments commensurate with its status. The turn of the twentieth century brought intellectual kudos: Der Blaue Reiter group of artists flourished, and a young Thomas Mann completed Buddenbrooks in the bohemian district of Schwabing. War changed everything, and in the chaos after World War I the city gave birth to the Nazi movement, which ultimately brought disaster upon it.
After World War II, Munich assumed Berlin's role as Germany's international metropolis, the haunt of VIPs and the leisured rich. The 1972 Olympic Games should have crowned this golden age, but the murder of eleven members of the Israeli team shocked the world and overshadowed all other events.
Berlin reasserted its old role post-reunification, but Munich has not rested on its laurels: the Fünf Höfe shopping complex, Pinakothek der Moderne and Allianz-Arena have all added lustre to the city in recent years. And, of course, there's always the beer: whether in a historic Bierkeller, shady Biergarten or in a vast tent at the Oktoberfest, Munich's tipple of choice is a world-beater.
Germany's most popular tourist destination, Munich, is also—according to opinion polls—the city that native Germans would most like to live in. Its popularity is easy to understand. Located within eyeshot of the snow-capped Alps, Munich is sophisticated, wealthy and elegant, a city of broad boulevards and baroque facades; a thriving media and high-tech metropolis, but with a small-town flair and endearing rustic charm. It is also home to the raucous Oktoberfest, the colorful Fasching carnival and a vivacious way of life which is best savored in one of its many beer gardens, beer cellars or just out and about on the town.
Munich's historic city center lies between Karlstor , Isartor , Sendlinger Tor and Odeonsplatz. Splendid neo-baroque buildings stand in the shadows of futuristic glass and steel constructions. For an excellent view of the city, climb to the top of Alter Peter (St. Peter) , affectionately known by locals as "Alter Peter," or "Old Peter." The historic center also boasts numerous other churches, including the Asamkirche , Theatinerkirche and Dreifaltigkeitskirche, as well as the city's most distinctive landmark, the twin-towered Frauenkirche . Street performers entertain the crowds at Marienplatz , but everyone's attention is immediately drawn to the show on the town hall's bell tower when it begins to chime. Unarguably, the jewel in the crown is the Residenz , the former royal palace on Odeonsplatz, complete with the stunning Hofgarten . Visitors could also take a stroll around Viktualienmarkt .
The Countess of Revenlow once said that "Schwabing isn't a place, it's a state of mind." Once home to colonies of artists, bohemians and other alternative types, Schwabing is now teeming with affluent young professionals. But don't be fooled, this part of town has many different faces. Visitors can admire the regal magnificence of 19th-century Munich on Ludwigstraße , home of the university and numerous Bavarian government ministries, while the ultra-modern, high-tech city is clearly visible in the area behind the Siegestor . Leopoldstraße, lined with cinemas, bars, restaurants and shops, is the place to see and be seen. The splendid art nouveau buildings in many of the side streets are a mecca for architecture lovers and a feast for the eye. The alternative and revolutionary atmosphere can still be felt in the area around Münchener Freiheit; and if you fancy visiting a museum, then look no further—this is where the majority of Munich's museums is located.
Haunt of the rich and beautiful. Well, the former at least. Beginning at the Friedensengel on the River Isar, Prinzregentenstraße leads into the heart of Bogenhausen. With ostentatious streets lined with ornate villas, this part of town simply oozes wealth. The area around Arabella park in the north of Bogenhausen has become a symbol of the German economic wonder: mammoth futuristic fifties constructions make you feel positively lilliputian.
Otherwise known as the "French quarter," Haidhausen is the personification of continental savoir vivre. With its variety of architectural styles and patchwork of multicolored, multicultural and multi-talented individuals, this district is brimming with creative spirit. It is also the perfect place to embark upon a culinary trip around the world. Don't overlook the Müllersches Volksbad, a beautiful Roman-style swimming pool.
If you haven't fallen in love with Munich yet, then you will when you see the English Gardens . The lush lawns, romantic hideaways and boisterous beer gardens offer something for everyone. Sun worshipers can improve their tan at the Eisbach, tea lovers can take part in a traditional tea ceremony at the Japanese tea house, while others may prefer to savor that inimitable "Munich feeling" in the beer garden near the Chinese Tower. The view from the Monopterus —a former haunt of the flower power generation—is well worth seeing. This inner-city oasis is a must for visitors with a bit of time on their hands.
Tired of the hustle and bustle of city life? Then it's time to visit Schloss Nymphenburg , a picturesque castle with Parisian-style gardens and ponds full of water lilies, graceful swans and well-fed carp. A favorite meeting place for lovers and families alike, it's also worth wandering around the streets to admire the traditional town houses. A drink or two in Cafe Palmenhaus is the perfect way to round off the day.
A typical industrial area, Sendling is also "Munich's belly," housing the legendary fruit and vegetable market, one of the largest in Europe. The market begins at 5a and is well worth a visit. But if that sounds like an unreasonably early start, you could check out the fascinating Jewish Cemetery which contains eight centuries-worth of tombs and gravestones.
Under the watchful gaze of the statue of Bavaria, hundreds of thousands of revelers meet here every September for the world-famous Oktoberfest, when the autumn air is filled with the aroma of pretzels, sausages and, of course, beer! This unmissable event has a certain unifying force: with tourists and Bavarians, punks and business people all swinging their beer glasses, swaying to the beat of the oompah bands and dancing on the tables. Quench your thirst with a quart of beer and flaunt your Dirndl and Lederhosen!
Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the Olympic complex initially aroused a great deal of controversy but is now an integral part of Munich's cityscape. Crowned by the magnificent Olympic Stadium—former home of Bayern Munich FC and their lesser-known local rival 1860 Munich—this part of town is southern Germany's undisputed center of sport and entertainment. As well as a variety of sports stadiums, the complex also includes a vast entertainment center, the Olympiahalle , venue for big-name concerts by the likes of U2 and the Rolling Stones. Shortly after the 1972 Games, the Olympic Village was converted into a colorful student residence, and now accommodates some 9000 students on the cheap.
No German city is better known for relishing the culture of eating and drinking than Munich. Spending hard-earned cash on culinary extravagances has become second nature to the locals.
The city boasts many restaurants ranging from the good to the very good, however it should be noted that the quality of the cooking is not the only thing that is high, the prices are fixed accordingly. Restaurants are mostly located in the inner city areas: City Center, Schwabing, Maxvorstadt and Isarvorstadt.
Those who fear the tourist crowds of the famous Hofbräuhaus should head for the Andechser am Dom , where they serve beer brewed by monks at the Andechs Monastery , 50 kilometers outside Munich. For those who have had their fill of Bavarian beer, there are always the fine wines of the Pfälzer Weinprobierstube . Of course Munich is not without its share of traditional Bavarian cooking and is famous for its roast pork, dumplings, cabbage and white sausages. Traditional dishes from Upper Bavaria, prepared in the good old-fashioned way are available at Weißes Bräuhaus.
Maxvorstadt and Schwabing
International cuisine is served at Hunsinger's Pacific , which offers "Fusion Cooking" and a luxurious ambiance, at the higher end of the price scale. Some consider Munich to be "Italy's Northern-Most City," which is confirmed by the sheer number of Italian restaurants. Try the pizza at Bei Mario and the traditional Italian cooking at Osteria Italiana .
The Spanish taste for fish has also left its mark on Munich, in cozy restaurants with a relaxed and laid-back feel to them, such as Casa de Tapas . The Asian influence can also be felt, with restaurants like Man Fat serves traditional Chinese cuisine in a comfortable atmosphere.
Those who relish a skillfully prepared fish dish should try one of the Japanese restaurants - their numbers are increasing rapidly in Munich as Sushi becomes more and more popular. Tokami is a good place to try some great food.
Young people congregate in the fashionable Tex-Mex bars such as Enchilada and Tijuana . Specialties from the African continent are to be had at the Blue Nile . Those who have tried and tested it all should perhaps head for the land down under at Outland , which offers the exotics of Australian cuisine.
The flagship of Munich's gastronomical community is Tantris, which has won several awards by the Michelin Guide critics. Munich's luxury restaurants also includes small and intimate places with a loyal regular customer base; such as Boettner , which has remained true to its elegant tradition for generations, as well as Kleinschmidtz , which has in recent years successfully transformed itself from a stylish French bistro into a popular venue for those in the know. Interview , an Italian restaurant popular among Munich's elite can be found here, across the street from the Gärtnerplatztheater . Pacific Times serves pan Asian dishes with plenty of fresh seafood and vegetables. Pimpernel is a hip gay bar that is frequented by straights, and which serves light bar food until the early hours.
Munich has a lot of diversity to offer. The old part of Munich, the Altstadt, is extremely elegant and is well worth exploring; however, food options for a small budget are rare. From Karlsplatz to the Isartor , Munich's various culinary facets should be explored, as well as the beautiful architecture dating back centuries.
Karlstor From the Karlsplatz , which the natives call "Stachus", you walk through the Karlstor , which was once part of the city wall that Ludwig the Bavarian built at around 1300. Today, only two towers can be seen, the main tower was demolished following concerns about its structural safety. If you now walk into the Neuhauser Straße, which is the city's main pedestrian zone, you will see the church of St. Michael to your left. This 16th-century church was built for the Jesuits. From the outside, it looks big but not particularly impressive, but don't be fooled. Its interior is picturesque and the domed ceiling is second only to St. Peter's in Rome. Should you feel hungry, the exclusive Restaurant Vue Maximilian located inside the Kempinski Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten has a variety of delicious dishes to offer all cooked with regional and seasonal ripened produce.
Frauenkirche Turn towards the Frauenplatz: this is where the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) stands, which is the city's cathedral. Covering an area greater than the average football pitch and with its distinctive twin towers, Frauenkirche is widely regarded as Munich's most prominent landmark. On entering this late Gothic structure, be sure to look at the floor where you will see a large footprint, said to be that of the devil. From the Frauenkirche, you should now walk towards the heart of the city, the Marienplatz . This square is dominated by the New Town Hall ( Neue Rathaus ), whose carillon attracts hundreds of tourists every day - 38 figurines dance to the tune of the bells at 11a and 5p. Once you have left the church, carry on walking along the pedestrian zone until you reach the German Hunting and Fishing Museum ( Deutsches Jagd und Fischereimuseum , which is housed in what used to be the Augustinian church. Special features here are the skillfully made hunting sledges. For a light Mediterranean meal in surreal ambiance, visit the Garden Restaurant at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof .
St. Peter, Isartor and Viktualienmarkt Karl Valentin was the city's most famous comedian and a museum dedicated to him can be found in the Isartor , which was once Munich's Eastern gate. For those that favor a more cozy atmosphere, there is always the Turmstübl which is part of the Valentin Karlstadt Musäum . End your tour with a coffee, an apple strudel, some sausages or some other typically Bavarian dish in the museum's cafe which is at the top of the Isartor. One of Munich's highlights is located approximately 50 meters (160 feet) next to the Isartor: St. Peter , Munich's oldest parish church. Climb the 302 wooden steps of "Old Peter" (Alter Peter) and admire a view of the city from above. On a clear day, you can see forever, well, to the Alps at least! The surrounding buildings of St. Peter are also a treat. Many gothic buildings haven't been destroyed by World War II. To the South of St. Peter's is the Viktualienmarkt , which is an open-air food market. Stop and have a beer in the beer garden if you feel like it.
Olympiapark The Olympiapark is located about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) north of the Altstadt. Beautifully integrated into the landscape of Oberwiesenfeld, the park was originally built for the 20th Olympic Games 1972. Today, it is a major attraction for locals and tourists alike. Enjoy the breathtaking view across Munich and the Alpine scenery from the 287-meter (950-foot) tall Olympiaturm or watch the most famous rockstars perform at the Olympiahalle . During the summer months the Sommerfest Olympiapark attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy good music and fantastic food. At the Theatron , located near the picturesque Olympiasee (Lake Olympia) you will be able to listen to the latest Rock- and Jazz bands that Munich has to offer.
Englischer Garten The Englischer Garten (English Garden) is Munich's most famous park with numerous options to enjoy some relaxing peace and quiet. One of the architectural highlights of the park is the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). The tower was built in 1789 and mainly used for music events, and to have a good view of the park from above. The nearby beergarden invites to a hearty supper, the obligatory Maß (a liter of beer) included, of course. Close to the tower lies the Monopteros , resembling a Greek temple, which was built by King Luis I. In the 1960s the Monopteros was the local hangout of the hippie community. Cafe Monopteros offers coffee and cake for those who prefer something sweet for once. At the south end of the park, you will find the Japanisches Teehaus (Japanese Tea House), which was built because of the Olympic Games 1972. Come for the traditional tea ceremonies, a very relaxing treat.
Guided Tours Verliebt in München (+49 89 64 25 64 86 / http://www.inlovewithmunich.de/) Stattreisen München (+49 89 54 40 42 30 / http://www.stattreisen-muenchen.de/) Weißer Stadtvogel (+49 89 - 29 16 97 65 / http://www.weisser-stadtvogel.de/)
Bus Tours City Tour (www.autobusoberbayern.de/) City Tour (http://www.citysightseeing-muenchen.de/)
Culinary & Art Tours Schlemmerreisen (+49 89 89 40 79 02 / http://www.schlemmer-reisen.de/) Kunst Tour (+49 89 36 10 10 83 / http://www.kunst-tour.de/)
Bike/Rickshaw Sightseeing Spurwechsel München (+49 89-692 46 99 / http://www.spurwechsel-muenchen.de/) Radius Tours & Bike Rental (+49 89 55 02 93 74 / http://www.radiustours.com/) Rikscha Mobil (+49 89 242 16 88 0 / http://www.rikscha-mobil.de/)