Poised and picture-perfect, Munich tends to attract those who want to party, particularly during the annual Oktoberfest. Beer-swilling merrymaking aside, Munich is a very cultured place, with a cache of attractive architecture and world-class museums. Castles, lakes and mountains can be found on its doorstep.
In the pedestrianised Altstadt (Old Town) area, where many of the main sights are concentrated, walking is the way to go. Elsewhere, the city is served by an excellent public transport network of U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains, trams and buses. Taxis can be picked up at ranks or hailed on the street. Extensive, well-kept cycling lanes make biking a breeze.
The Altstadt is Munich’s pedestrianised old-world centre, an impossibly picturesque quarter full of medieval spires, neo-Gothic frontages and neoclassical buildings – all lovingly rebuilt after the city was decimated by WWII bombs. Marienplatz, with the turreted Old Town Hall and the busy facade of the New Town Hall, takes centre stage.
Outside of the compact town centre, four wide royal avenues – Ludwigstrasse, Brienner Straße, Maximilianstraße and Prinzregentenstraße – are lined with grand neoclassical buildings now occupied by luxury shops, galleries, restaurants, offices and museums.
Munich has plenty of parks, and almost every resident has access to glorious green space. The city’s’ premier patch of green is the sprawling Englischer Garten (English Garden), which hides unexpected delights among the grassy lawns, including a beer garden, a Japanese teahouse and a Chinese-style folly. Strollers in the park often stop to watch surfers practising on the permanent wave of the Eisbach creek.
For fresh food, head for the city’s oldest farmers’ market, Viktualienmarkt. This is where both chefs and amateur kitchen enthusiasts come to fill their bags with fruit, vegetables, spices, slabs of fresh meat and plenty more besides.
Despite being located within the tourist-friendly Altstadt, the Deutsches Jagd- und Fischereimuseum (Museum of Hunting and Fishing) doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. Though its taxidermy mounts are interesting, the real appeal lies in its dioramas depicting wolpertingers, a mythical rabbit-world hybrid that commonly features in Bavarian folklore.
To see Munich’s edgier side, head to the bohemian hangout of Gärtnerplatz where the cool kids congregate. If you want a break from the urban centre, escape to the cobbled streets of historic Landshut, northeast of the city, where colourful, dinky buildings create the appearance of a toy town.
Bavarian meals are hearty affairs, usually based around the holy trinity of meat, potato and vegetables. Other popular options include Wursts (sausages), which come in at least a dozen variations, among them Bratwurst (seasoned pork) and Weisswurst (minced veal and pork). Sausages are typically paired with potatoes or dumplings as well as mugs of foaming beer.
When it comes to beer, there’s no lack of choice: ordering ein Helles will get you a relatively weak light beer, while ein Dunkel should yield a darker pour. Weissbier is wheat beers and Radlermass (which translates to mean a ‘cyclist’s litre’) is a half-beer, half-lemonade mix.