No understatement. München is Wunderbar and more. Munich holds pretty prestigious titles as the capital of Bavaria, the richest state in Germany and also actually, as the richest city in the country.
Its wealth is of course not the only aspect Munich’s inhabitants are blessed with. Since it rests on the banks of the Isar River and north of the Bavarian Alps, enjoying the perks of the city and the breathtaking landscapes of the countryside in the same day is very possible.
Upon my semester abroad in München, I got to know the city reasonably well and would love to share some of its highlights with you and encourage you to pay a visit to this wonderful town.
1.- The English Garden
With an area of 3.7 km2 the Englischer Garten is bigger than the iconic Central Park in New York and one of Europe’s largest urban public parks. You’re probably thinking, why would I go to an English Garden in Germany though… because it is beautiful and entertaining that’s why 😉 , and because the name really just comes from the informal landscape style originated in England. Trust me, taking a stroll here does good to everyone.
Now I’d say there are 3 main reasons people visit the garden besides it being a huge park in the middle of the city.
1.- They heard there is a naked zone, and people want to go and see if it is true. – It is, but it also consists pretty much of old men and I think it’s a safe bet to say that is not what you were looking for. And also, it is pretty impolite to just wander around the naked zone if you are not naked yourself I’d say. This is part of the Freikörperkultur (FKK) a German movement whose name translates to Free Body Culture and which looks at nakedness from a natural point of view and not a sexual one.
2.- People surfing in the middle of the city. – Yup, there’s an artificial stream flowing through the Englischer Garten, producing a permanent wave where many surfers attempt to test their skills without the need to go all the way to the sea. Munich is pretty much in the middle of Europe so it’s not that close by. Being a complete surf virgin I was in no condition whatsoever to try those waves myself, something I must stress, really is for skilled surfers. Watching them is pretty fun though.
3.- It is a great place to spend a chill day. – This is of course true, many beer gardens are scattered across the green landscape, among them, areas like the Chinese Tower, a lake front Beer Garden and a couple others with really good food. Plus there is the possibility of bringing all your groceries to the park and making a picnic and go for a swim in the river (quite clean and safe and fun ).
This beautiful park was expressly constructed for the 1972 Summer Olympics. And nowadays continues to be a gathering point for cultural and social events.
The total area of the park, along with the park itself, comprises a beautiful lake, male and female olympic villages, student headquarters known as Olympiadorf, the Olympic Stadium and one of the best lookout spots in the city : Olympia Tower. The top floor is at 181 m and holds a revolving restaurant. Considering the location, and the city you are visiting, the prices are not so bad at Restaurant 181 and for a romantic view, well worth it.
3.- Visit a Bräuhaus and a Beergarden
The concept of shared wooden tables, traditional food and smiles accompained by big flasks of beer flowing was originated in Munich in the 19th century and has spread all over the world since. Beer Gardens. Commonly featuring an open, grassy area, and an anex hall or pub that is called a Bräuhaus . I think not everywhere businesses are so willing to follow the German way of being allowed to bring your own food to the table as long as you buy the beer, so it’s worth to try it in its original splendour.
It is unknown which Munich brewery opened the first Biergärten, but it was likely one of Munich’s big six: Löwenbräu, Hofbräuhaus, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten. Afternoon is probably the best time but I encourage you to try the famous Bavarian breakfast,which consists of Weißwurst (white, herb sausage), Brezen (soft pretzels) Senf and süßer Senf (mustard and sweet mustard) and Weißbier (wheat beer) – Yes,sir. That is correct- beer for breakfast. Welcome to Germany!
Also know as the Prince’s Lake, Germany’s fifth largest freshwater lake is located 25 km southwest of Munich ( I should know thank you very much*). Lake Starnberg is a popular recreation area for the city and the small town of Berg is famous as the site where King Ludwig II of Bavaria was found dead in 1886.
*Now why should I know… having fallen asleep on the train back home, a couple of friends and I rode all the way to Starnbergsee, got off the train and attempted to go back only to realize- that had been the last train running. Then we were stupid enough to attempt to go back walking, which resulted in a very cold, wet and impossible journey.In the end we waited for two hours for the next train outside one station (we were not allowed to wait inside). Bright side speaking, the start and moon reflecting on the lake are gorgeous and we saw the sunrise on our way back home. I guess in the end it was funny.
5.-Allianz Arena ( The inflatable boat)
I am not the biggest fan of football, euphemism for I care absolutely nothing about it. So when you see a stadium making my list, you know it’s probably worth a visit.
The stadium is not only an engineering work of art as the first stadium in the world with a full colour changing exterior. It is also the home of the acclaimed FC Bayern Munich and since 2012 hosts the club’s museum: FC Bayern Erlebniswelt. The staff explain a lot of interesting details about the history of the stadium, games that have been played and astonishing prices that have been payed for watching them from some of the private areas.
The central square since 1158. Still today, Marienplatz is a lively reunion spot both for tourists and locals.The New City Hall (Rathaus) is the center of attention and a beautiful setting for photographs, concerts, festivals and original pieces of music performed byt the many artists around the square and on the adjacent streets.
Any street crossing Marienplatz is worth taking to discover tiny wooden clock shops, irish pubs and upscale fashion stores. Many mornings and evenings alike I spent wandering around the streets near the square, eating ice cream or drinking mulled wine, shopping for the perfect dress or in search of fresh white asparragus at the start of the season. Or even just wandering aimlessly, stopping to hear a particularly good violin interpretation.
The nice view in the photograph below can be aquired by taking your camera up the stairs of St. Peter’s Church. It costs about a euro, and is very small, hence crowded, but offers a nice view of downtown you couldn’t get from the Olympia Tower Observatory.
7.- BMW Museum
Located near the Olympiapark with the much newer BMW Welt, and with a stylish and modern construction. Again, much like the forementioned Allianz Arena, I am not a fan of cars. And yet again, I was marvelled by the interesting and engrossing exhibits BMW World has to offer.
The Time Horizon model of museum takes you through the whole company’s history, from the cutesy 50’s Isetta with its iconic front door that took up the entire front of this top-selling microcar to the newest models of electric sports cars… think bmw i8 ❤
When it comes to Churches I always lean towards Gothic, with Castles i’m a sucker for Medieval, and Palaces I have to go for Baroque. Nymphenburg; or the Palace of the Nymphs is a beautiful model of the perfect king’s residence, the main style is baroque, with a mix of neoclassical and rococo in later constructed rooms. Definitely one of the most famous sights in Munich and the birthplace of the iconic Swan King, Ludwig II; extravagant ruler and the “designer” behind the creation of Neuschwanstein Castle – also known as Disney’s castle.
The main building alone has more than 300,000 visitors per year; and an additional sum for the many small museums within the grounds and the sweet gardens both at the front and behing it.
Go early and go hungry. This square in downtown Munich is a Gourmet Farmer’s Market’s dream. It covers 22,000 m2 and consists of 140 stalls and shops selling flowers, exotic fruit, meat, fish, spices, cheese, bread, wine and so on. There is also a Beergarden in the middle of the Market Place and some very nice Soup and Sandwich stalls.
Monday to Saturday, safest time to go from 8:00 to 18:00, some stalls may close later but to be on the safe side and to get the freshest food it is best to swing by mid-morning. It makes for quite an entertaining trip too because it is not uncommon to see traditional and folkloric events taking place, or one of Munich’s many festivities. Asparagus season maybe? Or the first Mulled Wine during winter.
10.- Deutsches museum
The German Museum holds today the title of the world’s largest museum dedicated to Science and Technology. With approximately 1.5 million visitors per year and about 28,000 exhibited objects from 50 fields of science and technology. The museum sure shows some pretty good numbers.
Since its foundation in 1903, the museum has attracted scientists, skilfull engineers, technology developers and the common folk (raise your hand if you’re with me in this one), to its thourough collection of wonders. I believe it must have something of interest for everybody; I loved the old cameras, maps and ships exhibits. You will surely find something to goggle over too 🙂
11.- Dachau Concentration Camp
The first Konzentrationslager in Germany, was never meant as an extermination camp, but it was equiped with gas chambers anyway… It was built in 1933 to hold political prisioners but ended up hosting a variety of prisioners from Jews to ordinary Germans. It is located about 16 km northwest of Munich and easily accesible by train and bus.
The Dachau camp system became famous for its extensive array of protections and grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or “Arbeitskommandos,” and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated on 29 April 1945.In the postwar years the Dachau facility served to hold SS soldiers awaiting trial. It was finally closed for use in 1960.
The iron gate entrance became the symbol of this camp and of many to follow as it reflected perfectly the Nazi ideal that masked concentration camps as labor and re-education camps for the people that strayed, directed in principle to young germans, so they would adopt this Nazi ideology as their own.
The prisoner’s entrance was secured by an iron gate with the motto “Arbeit macht Frei”… a statement as false as the pretty picture Nazi propaganda painted their youngsters, and so; living by the motto “Work will make you free” people died and died again working behind those gates.
12.- Beer Festivals
The Oktoberfest is the world’s largest and most famous Beer Festival. Prices on accommodation sky-rocket and the city is packed, people come from everywhere to cross this crazy festival from their Bucket Lists and to enjoy Bavarian Culture to its fullest.
For Germans though, the crowds have beat the appeal it once had and the german crowds prefer to save their livers for 2 other very important beer festivals in the city: Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) and Starkbierfest (Strong beer festival). Both of which are awesome btw. But I am not saying ‘don’t go to Oktoberfest’, actually, if there are some germans reading: if you feel like it, then go! When you are a local you tend to feel certain sights or activites are “only for tourists”, and we miss out on a lot.
So first things first: the Oktoberfest doesn not take place in October. It usually starts from mid or late September and lasts around 16 days, so to the first weekend in October.
Second things second (yeah I know that’s not an actual expression): Whichever beer festival you decide to attend I can assure you, you will have a blast! I couldn’t go to Oktoberfest during my time in Deutschland but I did go to Frühlingsfest and Starkbierfest and some of my best memories come from those nights. Not only can you enjoy the locally brewed beer, but also numerous attractions, amusement rides and games. Once the folk band starts playing everyone stands on the benches and starts dancing and you won’t resist the urge to join in the fun.
So there you go, booking your flight yet?