Germany’s ‘secret capital’ – and the actual capital of Bavaria – boasts a contrary combination of high and hip culture, cosmopolitan style and folkloric charm, with shops to rival Paris and Milan, some of the world’s best galleries, museums and sporting arenas, and a raucous traditional beer hall for every decorative church.
Nestling at the foot of the alps on the River Isar, it originated around 1158 when a bunch of monks built an abbey there, and is now home to 1.3 million inhabitants – as well as BMW, the world-famous Olympiapark (which might win the Winter Olympics in 2018), a burgeoning media scene and it’s own beer festival, Oktoberfest. Not forgetting, of course, the ubiquitous Weisswurs (white sausage) and giant pretzels…
5 PLACES TO VISIT
Englischer Garten (Giselastraßse)
Five square kilometres of urban parkland (that’s bigger even than Central Park) which is home to famous classical buskers, an artificial ‘permanent wave’ where surfers entertain the crowds on even the coldest days, and three beer gardens.
Bavaria-Filmstadt (Bavariafilmplatz 7)
Over 850 acres of cinema history (Welles and Hitchcock both worked here) including the set of Cabaret, characters from ET and the submarine from Das Boot.
Alte Pinakothek (Barer Straße 27)
One of the world’s most famous art galleries, packed with old European masters.
Residenz (Max-Joseph-Platz 3)
Five centuries’ worth of Bavarian kings lived in this sprawling palace, where you can visit the treasure house, the celebrated Rococco Cuvilliés-Theater, the medieval wall paintings of the Five Halls of the Nibelungs, and a grotto lined with crystal.
Munich’s central space, with its two town halls and historic Marian Column, is a great place to get your bearings. Get there for 11am to see (and hear) the Glockenspiel, whose 32 life-sized wooden figures dance the ritual ‘Schalffertanz’, once performed by barrel-makers to mark the end of the Plague.
5 FAMOUS BAVARIANS
The most celebrated German footballer in history and current outspoken member of FIFA’s exec committee was born in Munich.
The racing driver and Red Bull DTM team member was born in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim.
The film director of Bad Lieutenant, Grizzly Man and Fitzcarraldo fame was born in Munich and once made a three-week journey from there to Paris on foot (documented in his 1978 diary Of Walking In Ice).
The American jeans manufacturer was actually a Bavarian immigrant who sailed to the US in 1847 and is still commemorated by a museum in Buttenheim.
The car manufacturer has given Munich much of its prosperity, as well as one of its most distinctive landmarks: look out for the four-towering cylinders of the Headquarters building, designed to look like an engine.
5 BEST BANDS
Munich’s biggest musical success story of the last 10 years, these indie rockers penned the 2006 German World Cup theme, 54, 74, 90, 2006. What do you mean you don’t know it?!
Germany’s answer to the Sex Pistols, who recorded their first single in 1977 in a former WWII bunker.
Santeria and the Porn Horns
Twelve-piece famous in Bavaria for their blend of ska, dub and punk-pop and spontaneous stage antics.
Politically-charged hip-hop quintet (four MCs, one DJ) with a great live rep who will be playing live at the Olympiapark.
Two Japanese ukulele players playing tweely tropical takes on international numbers, including the odd Bavarian folk song.
5 BEST CLUBS
An alternative music club, live venue and beer garden all in one.
Atomic Café (Neuturmstraße 5)
Join the retro scenesters dancing to Hendrix, The Smiths or one of the regular hip live acts.
Muffathalle (Zellstr 4)
Former art nouveau-style power station right by the Isar River, now a massive, esoteric venue popular with hip-hop fans.
P1 (Prinzregentenstraße 1)
The place to rub shoulders with models and footballers, this Matteo Thun-styled institution boasts video screens, water fountains and door staff rumoured to be so exclusive they once turned away Princess Stephanie of Monaco.
Rote Sonne (Maximiliansplatz 5)
One for lovers of electronica and minimal dance, with international DJs on the weekends.
HOW TO SPEND…
Try a local beer at one of Munich’s famous beer halls. Hofbrähaus is the best known and consequently attracts the most tourists. Opt instead for the much more authentic Augustiner-Grossgaststätte (Neuhauser Strasse 27) for vaulted ceilings, secluded courtyards and stuffed animals aplenty. If you’re peckish, grab a Currywurst – sausage smothered in curry sauce – at Bergwolf, the local’s favourite outlet for their number one fast food (Frauenhoferstr 17).
Visit the Allianz Arena (Werner-Heisenberg-Allee 25). Built for the 2006 World Cup, and set to host the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, this flashy stadium holds nearly 70,000 and is known for its multi-coloured lighting system – which shines red when Bayern Munich play. For a little over €50 you can catch a Bayern match (they play FC Kaiserslautern on January 22), while €25 will get you on the new 120-minute VIP tour of the stadium, from the coaching dug-out to bubbly in the executive suite.
Its proximity to the Alps and excellent public transport links make Munich the perfect base for a ski trip, so if Red Bull Crashed Ice has sparked your passion for snow sports then take a picturesque train 90km out to Zugspitze, the highest and most avalanche-safe mountain in Bavaria. Less than three hours after setting off, you could be sailing down the 2,100m glacier.