Although it is best known for beer, Munich, the capital of Bavaria, offers much more. True, there are hundreds of beer gardens and cellars, as well as Oktoberfest, but it is also a world class cultural center with easy access to the Bavarian alps.
The most famous beer hall, Hofbräuhaus am Platzi, seats 4,500, while the Augustinerbrau claims to be the oldest. Oktoberfest runs for 16 days the end of September to the beginning of October and is host to 7 million people in a tent city a 15 minute walk from the main train station. There are many types of beer available in Munich. Dunkel is dark beer; Helles is pale. The traditional accompaniment is weisswurst, a white sausage, pretzels, and mustard.
Most of the major sights are located within the Altstadt, “old city”. The Marienplatz, the large central square, is home to the Old (Altes) and New (Neues) Town Halls (Rathaus). On the tower of the New Town Hall is the Glockenspiel. Crowds gather at noon, as well as at 11:00AM and 5:00PM in the summer to watch the 32 animated figures act out historical events to the accompaniment of a symphony of bells. You can take an elevator to the top of the towerof the New Town Hall for a sweeping view of the city.
To house the myriad of artworks in the city, there are three major museums. The Alte Pinakothek features works of the masters from the 14th to 18th centuries, the Neue Pinakothek the 18th and 19th centuries, and the Pinakothek der Moderne the 20th century. The Bayerisches National Museum features art and folklore collections while the Deutsches Museum is the museum of science and technology. There is even a museum of hunting and fishing located within the Altstadt.
The most well known church in Munich is the Frauenkirche, home of the Archdiocese. Other churches include the renaissance Michaelskirche, the baroque Theatinerkirche, and the Peterskirche whose tower also offers a view of the city. A smaller, but don’t miss church is the Asamkirche with its ornate rococo interior.
The Residenz palace was the official residence of the royal family from 1385 to 1918. Completely restored since World War II, it is a complex of architectural and decorative styles, museums, collections, and gardens. Here also is the treasury of the royal family.
Maximilianstrasse is the busy but very fashionable shopping street. Other popular shopping areas are Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauserstrasse in the pedestrian only zone. Munich is reportedly second only to France forthe number of Michelin 3 star restaurants. A not to be missed dining experience, however, is at the Viktualienmarkt adjacent to the Altstadt. There are numerous stalls and shops selling a variety of foodstuff, produce, flowers, and some crafts. Large communal tables are set up where you can enjoy your weisswurst and a beer. In the area of food, another not to miss place is the historic Dallmayr delicatessen. The downstairs is a gourmet’s delight; the restaurant is upstairs.
Most of these sights are within walking distance, but there is a good public transportation system consisting of the U (underground) bahn, S (suburban train) bahn, trams and buses. Stripe tickets are available at a discount, as well as day passes. Tourist offices are located at the main train station and in the Neues Rathaus.
Schwabing in the northern part of Munich once known as the Bohemian section and home to the likes of Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Klee, Henrik Ibsen, and Wassily Kandinsky is now popular for its restaurants, nightlife, and the Englishcer Garten, the largest park in Europe. Schloss Nymphenburg, the summer palace, with its park is about 20 minutes from the center of the city. It is also possible to visit Olympic Park, site ofthe 1972 Olympics. The BMW museum is near Olympic Park.
A very moving excursion from Munich is to KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau, the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial site about 10 miles north of the city. An audio tour guides visitors through the grounds and museum which provides a very comprehensive historical perspective.
Side trips south of Munich include Garmisch, Oberammergau, Mittenwald, and Neuschwantein. Berchtesgarden resort is about 100 miles from Munich, just under 3 hours by train.
Regensburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Danube, is 65 miles north of Munich and well worth the trip. The first capital of Bavaria, Regensburg dates to Roman times. The Altes Rathaus houses the tourist office, as well as dungeons and a torture chamber which can be toured. Churches of interest include the towering gothic St. Peter’s Cathedral (Dom) and the Baroque interior St, Emmeram with its adjacent Schloss Thurn und Taxis palace. The medieval Stone Bridge across the Danube is picturesque itself; walk across it for a a memorable view of the city. Boat rides are available on the quay. The historic Wurstküche on the river by the stone bridge is said to be one of the oldest eating establishments in Europe, its founding dating to the 12th century. Today, it offers a limited menu of sausages and outside seating.