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Munich

GERMANY

City description

Modern metropolis and urban village. Laptops and lederhosen. Trends and traditions. Munich is a city of contradictions – and that’s precisely what makes it so fascinating. Berlin is the only city in Germany that attracts more visitors than Bavaria’s capital. Munich entices guests with its stellar culture, museums, architecture, history, cuisine – and its beer.

Beer is considered the ultimate expression of the Bavarian way of life. It’s enjoyed everywhere and at any time of day, in beer gardens or in historic breweries like the Augustiner Bräustuben or the Schneider Bräuhaus. At long polished tables, students sit with professors, shop assistants with lawyers, all enjoying the amber fluid and each other’s company. Probably the most famous pub in the world is the Hofbräuhaus, where beer was still brewed on the premises up until 1896. Even though it can get a little busy at times, the Munich City Guide recommends at least a short tour to take in the colourfully painted vaulted ceilings, beer mugs, brass band instruments and the exhibition on the 400-year history of the Hofbräuhaus.

From the Hofbräuhaus it’s only a stone’s throw to the Viktualienmarkt, a paradise for gourmets since 1807. Nowhere else is the range of delicacies as vast, or as temptingly displayed, as it is here – from meat and fish, fruit and vegetables to cheese, bread and spices. If your stroll has made you hungry, you can take a break at one of the beer gardens adjoining the market, or stop for a quick refuel with a Schmalznudel – a golden, deep-fried sugared pastry – from the iconic Café Frischhut.

Traditions are taken seriously in Munich, especially during the Oktoberfest. For 16 days from mid-September every year, the world’s largest beer festival attracts six million visitors to its colourfully decorated beer tents and fairground rides, ranging from sedate to breathtaking. The first Oktoberfest took place in 1810 in honour of the wedding of Ludwig I to Princess Therese, who gave her name to the festival’s venue, the Theresienwiese. The marriage produced nine children – but that didn’t hamper the king’s appreciation for the beauty of other women. To express his admiration, he had portraits painted of 36 Munich ladies, including his lover, the dancer Lola Montez. Today the paintings hang in the Schönheitengalerie (“gallery of beauties”) in Nymphenburg Palace, the royal family’s former summer residence. 

Ludwig I was an aesthete at heart, and it was under his rule that the classical buildings which define the cityscape were erected. Among these are the monumental loggia, the Feldherrnhalle, the Siegestor triumphal arch, the imposing square, Königsplatz, and the Alte Pinakothek art museum. The latter, together with the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne, houses one of the world’s greatest art collections, with works spanning the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century. Lovers of modern art also head to the Lenbachhaus museum, famous for the world’s biggest collection of works by the “Blaue Reiter” group – including Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee – which was founded in Munich in 1911.

The most-visited museum, not just in Munich but in the whole of Germany, is the Deutsches Museum, dedicated to the natural sciences and technology. Situated on an island in the River Isar, it’s so vast that seeing all of its exhibits – including the mining shaft and the submarine – would take several days. Technology lovers are also drawn to the BMW headquarters and main production plant near the Olympic Park – also home to BMW Welt, where the auto manufacturer’s entire range is presented in a futuristic building. Next door in the BMW Museum, the focus is on historic cars and motorbikes.

Another architectural eye-catcher is the Allianz Arena, where FC Bayern Munich plays its home games. On days when no matches are being played, tours offer a glimpse behind the scenes of the stadium that resembles a landed spaceship. In the FC Bayern Erlebniswelt visitors can explore the history of the illustrious football team, and then kit themselves out with souvenirs in the fan shop.
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