Munich – The Bavarian experience

Munich the capital city of Bavaria and Germany’s third largest city, famed for its numerous beer gardens and beer halls, wonderful neo-gothic structures , home to BMW, Allianz Arena – the modern day temple for the football fanatics and memories which points to a troubled past, offers something for everyone.

As with any other European city in continental Europe the best time to visit Munich would be the summer months, when the sun is out and the days are long. However its also the peak season for tourists and hence planning your stay and travel in advance would be helpful. However I would also recommend the winter because of the lovely christmas markets that are set up from mid-november and in case you are lucky(depends how enamoured you are with the snowfall, as an Indian I find it fun), the white carpet, bright lights, christmas sale, Gluhwein and the festival spirit does lend a different charm to the city.

Now for a short note on the logistics of moving around in the city and to towns nearby, the transport service is efficient as would be expected of a German system. The metro that criss-crosses the city would take you pretty much everywhere including the suburbs. You could save some euros if you plan your trips wisely, since you need not travel to the outermost zone everday. The best way to get into the city from the airport is again the metro which again is a stone’s throw away from the airport.

The best place to begin your Munich tour would be the town centre known as Marienplatz (in german,chrome will help you). Within a kilometer radius you would find all that Munich embodies, architecture , food, beer gardens and cafes. Incidentally it also happens to be one of the liveliest parts of the city.  A major attraction is the Glockenspiel ( mechanical clock) on the new city hall which at specific times of the day has a lengthy chime performance which draws huge crowds, and makes finding your way through the crowd a miserable experience. In case you would like to watch the performance far from the madding crowd, then Cafe Rischart is the place to be, which is situated opposite the town hall. Some great pastries and sandwiches of the cafe would give you company, while you enjoy the show and the crowds.

Town Centre with New Town hall in the background
Town Centre with New Town hall in the background

From Marienplatz you could branch out in a couple of directions for short 2-3 hours walk , depending on what interests you. The Rathaus(town hall) is worth spending some time for its neo-gothic architecture. A walk inside the town hall is strongly recommended for its wonderful stained glass work as well as columns. From the Rathaus you could walk across to St .Peter’s Church, a church that was initially built in the Bavarian Romanesque style. The interior is richly decorated and definitely worth spending some time. From the church a short walk would get you to the Viktualienmarkt. A gastronomer’s delight, it has everything that you could wish for , beer park, fresh sausage stalls , seafood, fruits , vegetables, olives , jams, apple chips, the list is endless and what is equally delightful is that the prices are reasonable( especially if you happen to come from Amsterdam, as we do). There are small water wells which dot the market that are quaint and have some history attached to them, and might interest the history buff.

Inside Town Hall
Inside Town Hall
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Gargoyles on Town Hall

Once you are done with the market, if you are thirsty and would like to rest your tired legs a walk to the famed beer hall Hofbrauhaus would be the perfect solution. At the beer hall you could relax with some German beer, pretzels and of course sausages, and also experience the slow service which is often mentioned in various reviews. The slow service one would encounter in the evening when the place gets crowded, and honestly it is unfair to expect restaurant levels of service in terms of time. However one would enjoy the delay because it gives you a chance to converse with the people around you. We were lucky to have the local band that performs the Bavarian folk music share the table with us, which gave us some insights into how attempts are being made to revive the Bavarian folk music which had been relegated to obscurity after the world war, as a step to disown everything promoted by the Nazis.

Hoffbrauhaus
From the Hoffbrauhaus, you could walk to the Max Joseph Platz which is also home to the The National Theater. Close to the theater is the Residenz which is situated between Max Joseph Platz and the Konigsbau, which was commissioned by King Ludwig I. The Feldherrnhalle also known as ‘Field Marshals Hall’ – a monumental loggia is also situated nearby and provides opportunity for a few clicks.

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The other option for a walking tour would be to head out from Marienplatz towards Asam Church , a church built by the Asam brothers . Initially meant only for the brothers it is was subsequently opened up for the general public, and these days you can visit inside to see the intricate carving and ornate designs. A walk around the Asam church would also bring you to the muncher stadtmuseum and the memorial house built in the memory of Gunther Haus a 18th century Bavarian artist.

Asam's Church
Asam’s Church

Away from the town centre you could head out to the  Allianz Arena
A must visit if you are a soccer fanatic who supports Bayern Munich or TSV 1860 Munich. A tour of the stadium would set you back by 12 euros. If you happen to be in Munich on a match night, it would be worthwhile to visit the stadium at night when it would be clothed in red or blue light depending on the team playing. If its a face-off between Bayern and TSV, then the stadium would be clothed in a combination of both.

Allianz Arena
Allianz Arena

For the motor enthusiast the mecca of BMW Museum is a must visit. An extensive display of BMW cars , motorcycles, engines and loads of information about the genesis of various BMW design. The museum is high on presentation and information.
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For a day visit you could also plan a visit to the Dachau concentration camp, if WWII is of interest to you, and  if you would like to know how the concentration camps were built and operated.
Dachau I

This was the first of the concentration camp that was built by the Germans. It is a 30min train ride from Munich. Started by Himmler it was originally meant for political prisoners but later expanded to include war prisoners, jews, austrian criminals and foreign nationals from countries occupied by Germany.

Dachau III

The romantic would like to explore the Neuschwanstein Castle and made popular because of the replica that came up as the Disney Castle

Neuschwenstein Castle

Commissioned by Ludwig II as a retreat and as a tribute to Richard Wagner. Its located on a hill above the village Hohenschwangau near Füssen. The trip to Fussen would take around 2 hrs from Munich and its best to avoid the weekend if you

On the way to Fussen

happen to go in the summer, as the train gets awfully crowded, this is of course is based on the assumption that weekdays are better. To reach the castle at the top you could either walk up from the village or could try one of the horse carriages.

On the way to the castle
On the way to the castle

Famed for its food, Munich is a meat lover’s paradise. In Munich you would realize how less, as an Indian, our knowledge about the world of sausages is quite limited.

Cold Cuts and Sausages
Cold Cuts and Sausages

Beer gardens and halls  are a phenomenon that is synonymous with Munich and you are never far away from one near the city centre.  Hofbrauhaus is the star among them thanks partly to the history attached with this beer hall.

Hoffbrauhaus Ceiling
Hoffbrauhaus Ceiling

It is also the one that get mentioned in every tourist brochure, webiste etc so expect people from all around the world when you are at the brauhaus. Augustiner Keller, Ratskeller are some of the other popular beer houses.

If you are looking for some great breads, sandwiches on the go , or a hearty breakfast then Cafe Rischart is the place for you. The have quite a few outlets spread across the cit and we found one at the Munich central station which is quite handy. Another place that you could try for quick bite is the Viktualienmarkt .

Viktualienmarkt

Want to try out Bavarian breakfast that is different , head to Schmalznudel – Cafe Frischhut – for the fried pulled donut.

Pulled Donut

The place was suggested by a gentleman at the Viktualienmarkt and we enjoyed every bit of the experience. Would recommend a early morning breakfast or snack at this joint as you could walk off all the calories that you would have consumed.

When in Munich do not miss out on these essential Bavarian dishes – Red Cabbage, Sauerkraut, Roast Chicken,

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

Sausage with Sauerkraut
Sausage with Sauerkraut

Pretzel, Potato Dumplings, the sausages and of course the pretzel – You can’t leave Munich without having the pretzel, chances are that the pretzel will follow you wherever you go in Munich.

Where did we eat

Beer Hall – Augustine Braustuben Just a 5 min walk from where we had stayed
Hoffbrauhaus
Cafe Rischart
Schmalznudel – Cafe Frischhut
Viktualienmarkt

Other points of interest ( not mentioned above)

Science Museum
Alte Pinakothek
Pinakothek de Moderne
Bavarian National Museum
Lenbachhaus

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