World ? Europe ? Germany ? Munich

Munich: Frommer's Favorite Experiences

  • Socializing at the Biergarten: If you're in Munich anytime between the first sunny spring day and the last fading light of a Bavarian-style autumn, you might head for one of the city's celebrated beer gardens (Biergarten). Our favorite is Biergarten Chinesischer Turm in the Englischer Garten. Traditionally, beer gardens were tables placed under chestnut trees planted above storage cellars to keep beer cool in summer. Naturally, people started to drink close to the source of their pleasure, and the tradition has remained. It's estimated that, today, Munich has at least 400 beer gardens and cellars. Food, drink, and atmosphere are much the same in all of them.
  • Enjoying Munich's World-Class Music: The city is home to outstanding classical music; notable are the Bavarian State Opera and the Munich Philharmonic. Prices are affordable and the selection is diverse. The season of summer concerts at Nymphenburg Palace alone is worth the trip to Munich.
  • Nude Sunbathing in the Englischer Garten: On any summery sunny day, it seems that half of Munich can be seen letting it all hang out. The sentimental founders of this park with their romantic ideas surely had no idea they were creating a public nudist colony. Even if you don't want to take it all off, you can still come here to enjoy the park's natural beauty.
  • Exploring the Zugspitze: There is no grander and more panoramic Alpine view in all of Bavaria than that which is enjoyed by ascending the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain peak in Germany, separating the German and Austrian frontiers. A playground for hikers in summer, the mountain range becomes a snowfield for winter skiers, who enjoy slopes beginning at 2,610m (8,563 ft.). Once you've scaled the heights, you'll feel on top of the world.
  • Snacking on Weisswurst: Munich's classic "street food" is a "white sausage" made of calf's head, veal, and seasoning, about the size of a hot dog. Smooth and light in flavor, it is eaten with pretzels and beer -- nothing else. Weisswurst etiquette calls for you to remove the sausage from a bowl of hot water, cut it crosswise in half, dip the cut end in sweet mustard, then suck the sausage out of the casing in a single gesture. When you learn to do this properly, you will have become a true Mɒnchner.
  • Getting Away from It All at the Hirschgarten: For a glimpse of what Munich used to be like, flee from the tourist hordes and traffic to the Hirschgarten or "Deer Meadow." A "green lung" between Donnersberg Bridge and Nymphenburg Park, the area has been a deer park since 1791. In 1890, the largest beer garden in the world was built here, seating 8,000 drinkers. The Hirschgarten remains Munich's most tranquil retreat, a land of towering oaks, chestnuts, and beeches, attracting those with a love of the great outdoors -- and especially those who like to pack a picnic lunch or enjoy an open-air game of chess.
  • Exploring Trendy Haidhausen: Visitors rarely venture into this district on the right bank of the Isar River. For decades it was known as a blue-collar and low-rent sector of Munich. In the 1970s, however, hippies and artists created a cross-cultural scene that made Haidhausen, not Schwabing, the hip place to hang out. Today, it is the place to see and be seen -- especially if you're a Schicki-Micki (a club-going Bavarian yuppie), a person who dresses only in black, or one of the Mɒeslis (European granolas). The place to go is one of the bars or cafes around Pariser Platz or Weissenburger Platz. Take the S-Bahn to Ostbahnhof or Rosenheimerstrasse and get with it!
  • Attending Oktoberfest: It's called the "biggest keg party" in the world. Mɒnchners had so much fun in 1810 celebrating the wedding of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen that they've been rowdying it up ever since for 16 full days between September 21 and October 6. The festival's tent city is at the Theresienwiese fairgrounds, and the Middle Ages lives on as oxen are roasted on open spits, brass bands oompah you into oblivion, and some 750,000 kegs of the brew are tapped. There are even tents where Bierleichen (beer corpses) can recover from drunkenness, listening to soothing zither music.
  • Seeking R&R at Olympiapark: Site of the 1972 Olympic Games, this 296-hectare (731-acre) park and stadium is a premier venue for various sporting events and concerts. You can swim in one of the pools, and you'll find all the jogging tracks and gyms your heart desires, even an artificial lake. To cap off your visit, take the elevator to the top of the Olympiaturm for a panoramic view of Munich and a look at the Bavarian Alps. In summer, free rock concerts blast from the amphitheater, Theatron, by Olympic Lake.
  • Going from Vie de BohȲme to Schicki-Micki in Schwabing: In fin de siȲcle (end of the 19th c., or Belle Epoque) Munich, Schwabing was the home of the avant-garde. Artists, writers, poets, and musicians of the era, including Thomas Mann, called it home. Jugendstil (Art Nouveau), the Blue Rider painters, and Richard Wagner made this area the cultural capital of Europe before 1914. A revival came in 1945, as new cultural icons such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder arose. Schwabing lives on, although today it's gentrified and populated by fashion editors and models, along with what have been called "swinging aristocrats." Although you might come here to walk in the footsteps of Wassily Kandinsky or to see where Paul Klee or Rainer Maria Rilke lived and worked, you'll also get exposure to Schicki-Mickies. Walking, strolling, shopping, and people-watching are the chief activities today.
  • Soaking Up the Wittelsbach Lifestyle: Just northwest of the city center lies Nymphenburg Palace, begun in 1664, an exquisite baroque extravaganza surrounded by a 200-hectare (494-acre) park dotted with lakes, pavilions, and hunting lodges. It was the summer home of the Bavarian rulers. We prefer to visit in either summer, when outdoor concerts are on, or spring, when the rhododendrons are in bloom. Go inside the palace for a look at the painted ceiling in the Great Hall. In such works as Nymphs Paying Homage to the Goddess Flora, Bavarian rococo reached its apogee.
  • Spending an Afternoon in the Botanischer Garten: If you're not a plant lover, you'll be converted here. Laid out between 1909 and 1914 on the north side of Nymphenburg Park, it's one of the most richly stocked botanical wonders in Europe. You can wander among the 22 hectares (54 acres) and some 15,000 varieties of plants; a highlight is the Alpine garden with rare specimens. In late summer, the heather garden is a delight.
  • Checking Out Market Day at Viktualienmarkt: The most characteristic scene in Munich is a Saturday morning at this food market at the south end of the Altstadt. Since 1807, Viktualienmarkt has been the center of Munich life, dispensing fresh vegetables and fruit from the Bavarian countryside, just-caught fish, dairy produce, poultry, rich grainy breads, moist cakes, and farm-fresh eggs. Naturally, there's also a beer garden here. There's even a maypole and a statue honoring Karl Valentin (1882-1948), the legendary comic actor and filmmaker. Even more interesting than the market produce are the stallholders themselves -- a few even evoke Professor Higgins's "squashed cabbage leaf," Eliza Doolittle.
  • Rafting along the Isar: Admittedly, it doesn't rival the Seine in Paris, but the Isar is the river of life in Munich. If you can't make it for a country walk in the Bavarian Alps, a walk along the left bank of the Isar is an alternative. Begin at HɆllriegelskreuth and follow the scenic path along the Isar's high bank. Your trail will carry you through the RɆmerschanze into what Mɒnchners call "The Valley of the Mills" (Mɒhltal). After passing the Bridge Inn (Brɒckenwirt), you will eventually reach Kloster SchȨftlarn, where you'll find -- what else? -- a beer garden. After a mug, you'll be fortified to continue along signposted paths through the Isar River valley until you reach Wolfrathausen. Instead of walking back, you can board a raft made of logs and "drift" back to the city, enjoying beer and often the oompah sound of a brass band as you head toward Munich.
  • Taking a Dip at Mɒller's Public Baths: Mɒllersches Volksbad, at Rosenheimer Strasse I (S-Bahn to Isartor), is one of the most magnificent public baths in all of Germany. This is no dull swimming pool but a celebration of grandeur, fin de siȲcle style. Karl Hocheder designed this Moorish/Roman spectacle between 1897 and 1901, an era of opulence. When the baths opened, they were hailed as the most modern baths in all of Europe, surpassing anything but those in Budapest. Completely renovated, the baths today have a "gentlemen's pool" with barrel vaulting and a "ladies' pool" with domed vaulting. There are also sweat baths and individual baths for those who like to let it all hang out -- but in private. Alas, the Zamperlbad, or doggie bath, in the basement, is no more.
  • Spending a Night at the HofbrȨuhaus: Established in 1589 by Duke Wilhelm V to satisfy the thirst of his court, the HofbrȨuhaus is not only the city's major tourist attraction but also the world's most famous beer hall, seating more than 4,000 drinkers. In 1828, the citizens of Munich were allowed to drink "the court's brew" for the first time, and it turned out to be habit forming. A popular song, "In Mɒnchen Steht ein HofbrȨuhaus," spread the fame of the brewery. To be really authentic, you drink in the ground-floor Schwemme, the historic beer hall considered the heart of the HofbrȨuhaus. Here, some 1,000 beer buffs down their brew at wooden tables while listening to the sounds of an oompah band. More rooms, including the Trinkstube, a restaurant for 350, are found upstairs, and in summer, beer is served in a colonnaded courtyard patio with a lion fountain. The waitstaff, in Bavarian peasant dress, appears carrying 10 steins at once. Pretzels are sold on long sticks, and white Radis (radishes) are cut into fancy spirals. The HofbrȨuhaus is where the good life of Munich holds forth.
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