Munich is very much the modern city you would expect. Yet the German metropolis does an excellent job of mixing old tradition with new style; qualities which comprise my top five list of things to do while in Munich.
If you’re planning a visit to Munich, go in late September to experience Oktoberfest. The city lives and breathes for the annual event, and it puts you in direct contact with locals. You will run into plenty of Australians and Irish, but the German people take several days of vacation during the 16-day festival to celebrate their heritage. Read more about my Oktoberfest experience in a previous blog post.
The night before Oktoberfest, have dinner at Spatenhaus. The classic Bavarian food is some of the best, and the traditional setting gets you in the mood for beer slinging the next day. It is also located in the center of where old town meets high-end shopping in Munich, so the people watching is top rate.
After a day or several days at Oktoberfest, you might not want to leave the party cold turkey. Enter Hofbrauhaus. Located in the building where Hofbrauhaus beer was originally brewed, the beer hall now holds up to 1,300 people, and there is additional space in a lovely beer garden behind the building. Touristy? Yes. But the live music and spontaneous dancing are a sight for anyone who wants to do Oktoberfest on a smaller scale.
If you are searching for Munich’s more refined side for some quiet time, look no further than the city park. Englisher Garten or “English Garden” is a large park located near the center of Munich. In fact, it is larger than New York City’s Central Park, spanning just under 1.5 miles. The park has much to see, including a waterfall, Japanese garden, over 100 bridges, an open-air theater and stone structures. Be aware that nude sunbathing is permitted between the Japanese garden and the stone structures of Monopteros if you are strolling through the grounds. I was not visually prepared to see two men playing naked frisbee early one Sunday morning.
The hidden gem in Englisher Garten is, you guessed it, a beer garden. Regularly voted one of the best in the city, Seehaus Beer Garden is a terrific spot to watch the old men of Munich play chess, bantering back and forth. If you place the city park on your “must see” list, visit on Sunday. Live bands play throughout the day from the 82-foot Chinese pagoda that watches over patrons.
Pinakothek der Moderne is everything old Munich is not. After beer and dancing, it’s nice to step into a contemporary world of art, architecture and design from the 20th and 21st centuries. The modern art museum is a fascinating look at German artwork, and its contribution to cars, furniture and even computers. There is a rotating gallery as well as an active schedule of cultural events held at the museum each week.
There is enough sightseeing, shopping and “festing” in Munich to occupy yourself for many days, but I do recommend you take time for a variety of things to get the best sense of the people and culture of Munich.
What do you recommend?