Germany's most popular tourist destination, Munich, is also—according to opinion polls—the city that native Germans would most like to live in. Its popularity is easy to understand. Located within eyeshot of the snow-capped Alps, Munich is sophisticated, wealthy and elegant, a city of broad boulevards and baroque facades; a thriving media and high-tech metropolis, but with a small-town flair and endearing rustic charm. It is also home to the raucous Oktoberfest, the colorful Fasching carnival and a vivacious way of life which is best savored in one of its many beer gardens, beer cellars or just out and about on the town.
Munich's historic city center lies between
The Countess of Revenlow once said that "Schwabing isn't a place, it's a state of mind." Once home to colonies of artists, bohemians and other alternative types, Schwabing is now teeming with affluent young professionals. But don't be fooled, this part of town has many different faces. Visitors can admire the regal magnificence of 19th-century Munich on
Haunt of the rich and beautiful. Well, the former at least. Beginning at the
Otherwise known as the "French quarter," Haidhausen is the personification of continental savoir vivre. With its variety of architectural styles and patchwork of multicolored, multicultural and multi-talented individuals, this district is brimming with creative spirit. It is also the perfect place to embark upon a culinary trip around the world. Don't overlook the Müllersches Volksbad, a beautiful Roman-style swimming pool.
If you haven't fallen in love with Munich yet, then you will when you see the
Tired of the hustle and bustle of city life? Then it's time to visit
A typical industrial area, Sendling is also "Munich's belly," housing the legendary fruit and vegetable market, one of the largest in Europe. The market begins at 5a and is well worth a visit. But if that sounds like an unreasonably early start, you could check out the fascinating Jewish Cemetery which contains eight centuries-worth of tombs and gravestones.
Under the watchful gaze of the statue of Bavaria, hundreds of thousands of revelers meet here every September for the world-famous Oktoberfest, when the autumn air is filled with the aroma of pretzels, sausages and, of course, beer! This unmissable event has a certain unifying force: with tourists and Bavarians, punks and business people all swinging their beer glasses, swaying to the beat of the oompah bands and dancing on the tables. Quench your thirst with a quart of beer and flaunt your Dirndl and Lederhosen!
Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the
Munich is a young town! Its founding is attributed to the Guelph Duke, Henry of the Lions, who gained the title Duke of Bavaria in 1156. Now a town of approximately 1.4 million inhabitants, the site was at this time only a small settlement characterized by a Benedictine monastery. A few kilometers away, the Salt Road wound past. This was a route along which the salt traders transported their goods. Their "white gold" was carried to Augsburg and further inland from the salt mines in Bad Reichenhall and Hallein. However, to follow such a route necessitated crossing the river Isar. The only possibility was a bridge, which was subject to tolling and lay in the territory of the Bishop of Freising. In order to reap the benefits of this toll system, Duke Henry demanded in 1158 that the old bridge near Oberföhring (today a part of the city of Munich) be destroyed and that a new bridge over the Isar be built on the site of the present Ludwigsbrücke. In the same year Emperor Frederick Barbarossa officially opened this new trade passage. The market and traditional currency of Freising was then transferred to the area: Munichen that was later to be Munich was born! The town Apud Munichen derived its name from the then existing monastery: Bei den Mönchen (meaning literally "amongst the monks"). At the site of this monastery today Munich's oldest parish church the Alte Peter is to be found. The salt road became the central axis on which the new town boundaries were to be based. It follows the course of the valley from the Isar Gate to Marienplatz.
On Duke Henry's refusal to lead the army for the Emperor he was placed under an imperial ban and subsequently lost his entire estate in 1180. Munich was placed in the hands of the Wittelbacher family. It is said that this family forged the city's history for the following 700 years (until 1918) and finally provided the region with rulers.
In 1214 Munich was for the first time described as a "town",—within the still small town walls (erected circa 1175) there lived at that time approximately 2,000 people. In 1239, the future town symbol first appeared: das Münchener Kindl (the child of Munich). This in fact depicted a young monk and later formed the basis of the Munich coat of arms. The town colors, gold and black, were conceived a century later. From 1324-1350 the so-called decorations of state, the insignia of power, were held at Munich and then the town was permitted to adopt the colors of the Empire.
In 1255, Munich became the official town of residence of the Duchy of Bavaria-Munich and the Alter Hof had to be expanded in order to accommodate this. A further town wall became necessary (built circa 1255-1290). Finally in 1271, the blossoming town was divided into two parishes, those of St Peter and St Maria.
Fires destroyed a large part of the town in both 1310 and 1327 and neither was it spared the wrath of epidemics (between 1349 and 1495 the people of Munich suffered twelve outbreaks of the black plague). As was the case in many other towns, the Jewish population was blamed for this misfortune. The first terrible anti-Semitic hate campaign followed. The string of fires meanwhile did not reach an end until well into the 15th Century.
Munich nevertheless succeeded in becoming a great center of trade and culture. The trade routes (not only trading in salt, but also fabric and wine) defined Munich life by prompting the opening of a daily market on the Schrannenplatz (today the Marienplatz) as well as the salt market, held at the Kreuzplatz (today the Promenadeplatz). After 1468, Jörg von Halsenbach built the Frauenkirche (the Ladies' church) which—as a result of the architecture resembling two Swiss-French ladies' bonnets—became a symbol of Munich.
In 1505, Munich was named the capital city of Bavaria. Under the orchestration of Duke Albrecht V, the new official residence was built. His descendants were to continue this construction into the 19th Century and King Ludwig the First finished of the palace, which was modeled after the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Italy.
From 1563 onwards, Munich developed into a hotbed of anti-reformation agitation. The Jesuits moved into Munich and the Michaeliskirche was built. The town stood next to Augsburg and Prague as a cultural center of the region. In 1623, Bavaria became an electorate. The town was occupied in 1632 by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty years war. As a mark of gratitude for the ensuing liberation the Mariensäule (pillar of Mary) was built.
In the 18th-century electoral Prince Karl Albrecht commissioned the artist of Rococo. The Amalienburg in Nymphenburg subsequently emerged in 1734.
In 1806, Napoleon declared Bavaria part of the Empire and as part of this train of thought dubbed Munich the main town of imperial residence. When crowned Prince Ludwig married in 1810, the first Oktoberfest was held. The town expanded out of its previous boundaries and Maxvorstadt arose.
The 19th Century brought Munich much that shaped its unique character: In 1826 it became a university town and in 1857 the first Weisswürst (white sausage, a Bavarian specialty) were eaten and the Neue Rathaus was built. The population increased rapidly: in 1945 there were circa 100,000 inhabitants. This had grown to almost half a million by 1900. Munich was as a result the third largest town in Germany.
In the confusion that followed the First World War the Munich Räterepublik (Soviet Republic) was exclaimed in 1919. Shortly after, the first meeting of the Nazi party took place. In 1923 Hitler ordered the march on the Feldherrnhalle. Between 1935-45 Munich stood as the main town of the Nazi movement.
On the April 30, 1945 American troops marched into a town that had been nearly 70% destroyed. As part of the reconstruction program, a special effort was made to preserve the historical areas, whilst the building a new and modern Munich began. The visitors to the Olympic games in 1972 were welcomed by newly built underground transport and ring roads. In the following year Munich had become one of the most desirable cities in Germany. It still serves as a center of the publishing industry and home of many big international corporations. Furthermore, it counts as a very welcoming and safe town and thanks to its large tourist and leisure facilities has been referred to as the "most northern town in Italy".
Munich definitely has lodgings to suit every budget and every taste, but the fact that the city attracts over 6 million visitors a year and is a major trade and convention site, means that rooms are often booked months in advance. It's not always possible to be spontaneous here, so think about your accommodation in advance!
The most famous hotels are all in the city center. Being so centrally located means that these hotels are all within walking distance from the Marienplatz, which makes them ideal starting points for both shopping and sightseeing. The city center is probably the most expensive area to stay but most of the hotels here are first-rate; choose from luxury hotels such as the Platzl, the Bayerischer Hof, or the sumptous Vier Jahreszeiten. The area around the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) is also popular with tourists. It's a good area for those who are in Munich on business as you can reach any place in the city or the trade centre easily. Try the Drei Löwen Residenz, the Exelsior or the Mercure, which is next to very near the city's exhibition halls.
The Nymphenburg-Neuhausen district, which is extremely picturesque, has a number of nice hotels. Many of these are especially family friendly and only a short walk away from the castle. The Hotel Orly is of note. NH München Deutscher Kaiser has an English garden on its grounds, making it a pleasant location for families and those looking for peace and quiet. The Bed & Breakfast München offers guests a unique, comfortable experience in a home-like setting. Prices are very reasonable as well. The Hotel Rotkreuzplatz is located nearby many public transportation options and is ideal for those traveling with a car. Just 15 minutes from the city center is the newly-refurbished Hotel Wasserburg.
Schwabing and Maxvorstadt
The Hotel Alfa is a medium-sized hotel that offers comfortable rooms with traditional décor. Hotel Amba is convenient for those looking to be close to the station, and most of the rooms contain en-suite bathrooms. Hotel Europa can be found in the Museum District, and is frequented mostly by business people and those looking to be close to the city's many artistic treasures. The stunning and modernly-deocrated Hotel Mercure Schwabing features an attentive staff and high-quality guest rooms. The Park Hilton is one of the nicest hotels in the city, with three restaurants, a casino and a hip nightclub all contained within its walls. The Holiday Inn München City-Nord and Hotel Montree are well-positioned near many nightlife options. The Hotel Occam is an eclectic option, with rooms named after regional artists or famous cities.
No German city is better known for relishing the culture of eating and drinking than Munich. Spending hard-earned cash on culinary extravagances has become second nature to the locals.
The city boasts many restaurants ranging from the good to the very good, however it should be noted that the quality of the cooking is not the only thing that is high, the prices are fixed accordingly. Restaurants are mostly located in the inner city areas: City Center, Schwabing, Maxvorstadt and Isarvorstadt.
Those who fear the tourist crowds of the famous Hofbräuhaus should head for the Andechser am Dom, where they serve beer brewed by monks at the Andechs Monastery, 50 kilometers outside Munich. For those who have had their fill of Bavarian beer, there are always the fine wines of the Pfälzer Weinprobierstube. Of course Munich is not without its share of traditional Bavarian cooking and is famous for its roast pork, dumplings, cabbage and white sausages. Traditional dishes from Upper Bavaria, prepared in the good old-fashioned way are available at Weißes Bräuhaus.
Maxvorstadt and Schwabing
International cuisine is served at Hunsinger's Pacific, which offers "Fusion Cooking" and a luxurious ambiance, at the higher end of the price scale. Some consider Munich to be "Italy's Northern-Most City," which is confirmed by the sheer number of Italian restaurants. Try the pizza at Bei Mario and the traditional Italian cooking at Osteria Italiana.
The Spanish taste for fish has also left its mark on Munich, in cozy restaurants with a relaxed and laid-back feel to them, such as Casa de Tapas. The Asian influence can also be felt, with restaurants like Man Fat serves traditional Chinese cuisine in a comfortable atmosphere.
Those who relish a skillfully prepared fish dish should try one of the Japanese restaurants - their numbers are increasing rapidly in Munich as Sushi becomes more and more popular. Tokami is a good place to try some great food.
Young people congregate in the fashionable Tex-Mex bars such as Enchilada and Tijuana. Specialties from the African continent are to be had at the Blue Nile. Those who have tried and tested it all should perhaps head for the land down under at Outland, which offers the exotics of Australian cuisine.
The flagship of Munich's gastronomical community is Tantris, which has won several awards by the Michelin Guide critics. Munich's luxury restaurants also includes small and intimate places with a loyal regular customer base; such as Boettner, which has remained true to its elegant tradition for generations, as well as Kleinschmidtz, which has in recent years successfully transformed itself from a stylish French bistro into a popular venue for those in the know. Interview, an Italian restaurant popular among Munich's elite can be found here, across the street from the Gärtnerplatztheater. Pacific Times serves pan Asian dishes with plenty of fresh seafood and vegetables. Pimpernel is a hip gay bar that is frequented by straights, and which serves light bar food until the early hours.