For many people Munich is synonymous with Oktoberfest, a centuries-old two-week festival that starts on the third Saturday of every September.
However, Münchners are tired of only being known for Oktoberfest, and are at pains to point out the city’s many other attractions. And they are right to do so: for the remaining 50 weeks of the year Munich is a progressive German city where residents sip lattes, not steins, and wear jeans rather than lederhosen.
Oktoberfest, an important part of the Bavarian culture, and is one of the most famous events in Germany. During the Oktoberfest, six million visitors descend on 14 beer tents to guzzle seven million litres of beer, eat 120 roast oxen and devour half a million chickens. But there’s much more to Munich than this 200-year-old cultural festival. Of late, many other cities across the world also hold celebrations modelled after the Munich event.
But there’s much more to Munich than this 200-year-old cultural festival. Today, Munich is Germany's number-one place for art, having been the birthplace or home of many famous writers, artists, architects and musicians. Furthermore, its location - less than 50km from the northern edge of the Alps – ensures it welcomes numerous visitors keen to experience some of the finest scenery Germany has to offer.
Munich is a city of art and culture, with innumerable monuments and more museums than any other German city. In fact, within the ancient city walls there are so many treasures that it requires several days to fully absorb its sights and character.
Begin your tour at Marienplatz, the heart of the Altstadt. On the north side of the square is the 19th century Gothic New Town Hall. At least once a day, at appointed times, the Glockenspiel on the façade stages an elaborate performance with enamelled copper figures moving in and out of the archways. To the right is the Old Town Hall, with its plain Gothic tower which was reconstructed in the 15th century after being destroyed by fire. Not far from here is the city’s oldest church, St. Peter's Church.
To the north lies Odeonsplatz, Munich's most beautiful square. A short stroll away is the opulent Residenz Palace and the twin-domed Frauenkirche church. Running west from Odeonsplatz is the shopping avenue, Briennerstrasse, which leads to Königsplatz. Flanking this large Grecian square are three classical buildings constructed by Ludwig I - the Propyläen, the Glyptothek, and the Antikensammlungen.
Munich is also home to one of the most significant art collections in Europe: nearly one thousand paintings (many thousands more are in storage) are on display in the Theresienstrasse’s Alte and Neue Pinakothek galleries. Just minutes away is the one of the world's largest museums devoted to the visual arts of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Munich has several Michelin-star rated restaurants, and the city is known for its sophisticated dining scene. This is where Münchners indulge in Edelfresswelle, or ‘high class gluttony’; visit ‘minimalist-chic’ restaurants in Haidhausen and Maxvorstadt for the full effect.
International options abound, and the city counts Afghan, French, Indian, Irish, Lebanese, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish and Turkish restaurants amongst its offerings. Head to the old artists' quarter of Schwabing for late-night Chinese, Italian, Mexican or Greek food.
Munich also features many Bavarian restaurants, featuring specialities such as Weißwurst. This breakfast sausage is made from herb-scented veal and is accompanied by sweet mustard and chewy pretzels. Other local delicacies include Schweinsbraten (pot roasted pork) with Knödel (potato dumplings) and Kraut (cabbage), or Leberkäs, a baked sausage loaf served with potato salad. These heavy, hearty meals are best washed down with a litre of foaming Weizen (wheat beer) in the Altstadt’s wood-panelled taverns.
Munich's nightlife varies with the weather, and as the temperature drops Münchners move from vast beer gardens to cavernous indoor beer halls. The venues – of which there are more than 400 – tend to empty out around midnight as patrons begin making their way to the clubs of Haidhausen and Schwabing.
Just 16km north of Munich is the medieval town of Dachau. Unfortunately the town is known less for its stunning 18th century castle than for being the site of Germany’s first concentration camp. The site of the former Konzentrationslager Dachau is now a memorial site and makes for a fascinating, if sobering, day trip. After your tour, visit the town itself. Its historic centre, 18th century castle and 11th century Dachau Palace will help you remember Dachau for happier reasons.