Munich city guide

The Bavarian capital Munich (München in German) is best described by one word: “folklore”. München is deeply rooted in tradition and has this old, medieval tone to it. That’s the city centre; the further you get from that ground zero, the more city-like it gets, for better or worse. It is the so-called “secret capital” of Germany and in many international comparative studies the city is ranked as the one of the most desirable place to live. It is a clean and wealthy, with good public transport and other facilities, which make life in a big city more comfortable and pleasant. It is also a remarkable green city with many lush parks; amongst them is the Englisher Garten. It’s huge: the park stretches from the city centre all the way to the Northeast. It is not only by far the largest park of the country but even one of the biggest urban public parks in the entire world. Benedictine monks founded Munich; they scouted all the fertile land and took their chances. All that faith didn’t save Munich from a plague that hit it in the year 1349 and lasted for over 150 years. There’s an interesting tradition connected to those times; when the plague ended, barrel-makers danced to celebrate, they still do that dance once every seven years. I like how people still tend to their pagan/folk roots. Most historic sites are centred around the Old Town, the Altstadt, and the Royal Palace area, which is now filled to the brim with museums and galleries. Even if you are not into churches, do not miss the opportunity to see the Asam Church (Asamkirche and officially: St. Johann Nepomuk). It must be one of the smallest baroque churches in the world. Unlike most churches, the Asam Church isn’t a standalone building but its baroque façade is entirely integrated into the houses of the Sendlingerstraße. It does not really look as a church from the outside but once you are in you will be overwhelmed by the golden decorations and frescoes. Italy’s proximity also had a tremendous impact on Munich and its current form and you will encounter wide avenues similar to the ones in Milan or Rome.

Frauenkirche cathedral with at the backdrop the mountains around Munich

The city's cathedral Frauenkirche is depicted on almost every postcard of Munich

But despite some Italian flavours the city is typically German or better said: Bavarian, which is also expressed by the traditional Bavarian outfits (Trachten) the locals tend to wear at special occasions. When you say Munich, you say Oktoberfest. Especially during these legendary festivities many women will go in Dirndl and men put on a Lederhose. It is the world’s largest folk and beer festival running from mid or late September to the first weekend in October. The Oktoberfest attracts each year around 6 million people from all over the globe, and the number is yearly growing and even more million litres of beer are consumed in just 2 weeks time. Munich is a wealthy city; everywhere you see the newest models of BWW, Audi and Mercedes cars. Maybe it will increase your appetite for visiting the BMW Museum, dedicated to the history and success story of Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. The museum is together with the BMW headquarters, the BMW-factory and BMW Welt, a presentation and distribution centre, located in an area close to the Olympiapark in Munich. Even if you are not a car lover the area is definitely worthwhile the visit. This goes especially if you are into modern architecture. The BMW Museum opened its doors in 1972, just before the Summer Olympics in Munich started and is designed by Karl Schwanzer. This famous Austrian architect was also responsible for the 4-cylinder shaped building of the BMW headquarters. Due to its typical shape the museum it is also called by its nickname “salad bowl”.

Neuschwanstein Castle situated in mountains near Munich

Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich: a fairy tale palace built in Romanesque Revival style

If you have time for a daytrip to Munich’s beautiful backyard you should definitely visit Neuschwanstein Palace. King Ludwig the Second ordered its construction. Many famous landmarks were built during his regime and his teenage-like spending rampage almost resulted in a total bankruptcy. One of the most notable results of the spending sprees of Ludwig II of Bavaria is the iconic – or some will prefer to say: “over the top” – Neuschwanstein Palace. Its a major tourist staple and world famous symbol of Bavaria. It is completely understandable that even on your visit the castle looks familiar with you. It is the most photographed castle in the world and the primary source of inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Another historically interesting site, which you could visit from Munich, is the Berghof. This was Adolf Hitler's home in the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden where he spent more time than anywhere else during World War II. By car from Munich it should not take you more than 2 hours, when using bus or train you should count on 1 hour extra.

Also outside of the Oktoberfest period Munich is a good place to party and relax. Haidhausen is a residential district in the eastern part of the centre and also referred to as the "French Quarter" since most streets bare the name of a French city and the way they and the squares are arranged resembles even the French style. This is the area where you can find the renowned Kultfabrik. It’s a huge labyrinth of cafés, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, climbing walls and skate zones, that claims to be largest party and leisure complex in Europe. Biergartens, outdoor areas in which beer and local food are served, are spread all over the city centre. Have a seat, pick your favorite local beer brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law) and have a Currywurst, Bratwurst or salty Pretzel on the side. Cheers or as the Germans would say: Zum Wohl!

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