Bavaria is Germany’s largest federal state, and a favorite source of joy and pride for many natives—in fact, 3 out of 4 Germans would love to live there. Not surprising, since it is one of the most beautiful and prosperous regions in Europe. Furthermore, Bavaria represents the quintessential German essence for many foreigners who fall in love with its enchanting atmosphere. It is interesting to note that Bavaria has had, since time immemorial, its own regional personality and culture: it is a Catholic region in predominantly Protestant Central Europe, quite conservative and maintains a political structure that, at times, differs, radically, from the rest of Germany.
Munich, a city of 1.3 million inhabitants is the capital of Bavaria. It is Germany’s third largest city, after Berlin and Hamburg; there is much to see in this bustling metropolis, established over 850 years ago. The welcoming German spirit is evident in their appreciation of outdoor living, a peculiar trait in Munich, despite the intense cold that pervades much of the year given its proximity to the majestic Alps.
Munich offers an interesting social and cultural life for its citizens as well as the many tourists who visit its historic center, strolling along spacious green areas, visiting monuments and museums, tasting the traditional weisswurst, a white sausage, which is usually accompanied by a savory bagel called bretzel, or drinking a large, refreshing beer in one of the amazing breweries that abound in the city. Some travelers have dared to call Munich “the northernmost Italian city.”
There are many beautiful areas to visit while in Munich, beginning with Marienplatz square, which marks the heart of the city. A silent witness to major events, the emblematic square, was originally a street market. Tourists and residents still flock to its beautiful buildings, especially the elegant Peterskirche Frauenkirche, the oldest church in the city. During the Christmas holidays, a wonderful time to visit Munich, the square holds a lovely Christmas market, and nearby a skating ice rink is installed outdoors, with booths where one can enjoy the famous mulled wine that warms soul and body during these very cold days.
Nearby you will find Augustinerbräu, the city’s oldest brewery founded by the Order of Saint Augustine, which is already mentioned in documents produced in 1328. Its spacious hall is representative of Munich’s restaurants prior to World War One. Other important meeting points are the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), a portentous 19th century building whose facade is decorated with sculptures that recall historical events and Bavarian legends, and its tower, crowned by the Münchner Kindl (Munich child), an enduring symbol of the city. Throughout the day, the famous clock sounds its 43 bells while mechanical sculptures of beer coopers dance and celebrate the end of the plague that devastated the city in the 14th century.
The two main shopping streets are Neuhauser Strasse and Kaufinger Strasse, two consecutive boulevards that connect most of the luxury department stores and fashion boutiques, which end in Marienplatz. There are charming craft and souvenir shops around the square where tourist can buy the iconic beer mugs or the traditional Bavarian costumes, which are still proudly worn by the people of Munich during special holidays. Before leaving the square, we should take some time to view the Mariensäule (the column of Holy Mary), carved in the 17th century by Hubert Gerhard and the Fischbrunnen, a medieval fountain where traders kept their fish alive for sale. A few meters from Marienplatz we will find the Frauenkirche, the Cathedral of Our Lady, a stunning Gothic building, whose green domes tower over the entire the city.
The northern part of the old town boasts modern shopping streets and beautiful palaces and churches from the 17th and 18th centuries. To the east is the Graggenau district, where the Alter Hof (Old Quarter) is located, with its medieval buildings like the Hofbräuhaus, Munich’s most famous brewery, and don’t miss the incomparable beauty of the great Maximilianstrasse, a fine example of 19th century urban layout.
A worthwhile visit, which will take you away from the city center, is the famous Olympiapark, where the 1972 Summer Olympic Games were held, as well as the modern BMW complex. Art lovers should not miss the museum district, Maxvorstadt, centered on Briennerstrasse, with its famous Pinalothek der Moderne, one of the world’s largest modern art museums, the Alte Pinakothek, or the Neue Pinakothek, boasting an excellent collection of masterpieces from the 19th century.
Soccer fans will enjoy a visit to Allianz Arena, located further north in the Fröttmaning district. The magnificent stadium, inaugurated in 2005 for the European Football Cup, has become one of the modern symbols of the Bavarian capital.
Towards the northeast, your best bet, will be to take a walk through the Englischer Garten, one of the world’s largest parks designed in the style of the early 18th century English gardens. It extends through a vast expanse of forest in an area dominated by a lake with numerous attractions such as the Japanese teahouse or the Chinese tower. It is the most popular location in town when the weather is mild. And if you still have enough energy left to continue sightseeing, make a visit to the stunning Nymphenburg Palace, the former residence of the royal house of Wittelsbach, the National Theatre, or the German Museum of Science, which will not disappoint.
If you travel to Munich in late September, you will intensely enjoy Oktoberfest, the world’s premier beer festival, which for a couple of weeks, each fall, draws between six and seven million people to the Bavarian capital. The allegorical feast dates from 1810 as a celebration of the wedding of of Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxony and Hildburghausen.
Munich is known worldwide for its famous breweries where local and foreigners eat and drink to their heart’s content, but the city also has many excellent first class restaurants, serving the best international cuisine. One of the most recommended for its sophisticated, impeccable service and exciting fusion of Asian cuisine is the two-Michelin-star Tantris restaurant, located at Johann-Fichte-Str. 7.
Luxury accommodations abound in Munich. One of the most beautiful and unique hotels in the city is the 5-star Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski, located in a beautiful 19th century building that was once a royal guesthouse. It boasts sumptuous rooms, a cigar lounge, spa, piano bar and the beautiful Nymphenburg Lounge, used for private events and banquets where the food is presented in stunning handmade tableware from Nymphenburg.
Munich has many charms: it is a warm, lively and welcoming city that will surprise its guests for the perfect combination of modernity and tradition and the festive social environment that permeates its streets. And at the slightest chance, do not let slip the opportunity to lift a cool pitcher of beer, smile widely at the people around you and say loudly and clearly: Prost! ■