Munich is the third largest city in Germany, after Berlin and Hamburg. It is undeniably a city of revelers. Yet there's much more to Munich than Oktoberfest and the city's reputation as the beer-brewing capital of the world.
Munich is Germany's high-tech hub, one of its film and publishing centers, the historical residence of Bavarian royalty, the headquarters of such corporations as BMW, and the city in which most German professionals routinely say they would like to live. It boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in Germany.
Munich throbs with grand churches, opulent palaces, vigorous music and art scenes, and an abundance of gourmet restaurants, beer gardens and popular nightspots. If Oktoberfest season is too hectic for you, try Munich in summer. There's nothing quite like enjoying a cold wheat beer in the cool greenery of the Englischer Garten.
Munich lies 50 mi north of the Alps. The Isar River flows through the eastern part of the city. Four massive city gates provide the general boundaries of Munich's innenstadt, or inner city.
Sights—Street performers and the moving figures of the glockenspiel at Marienplatz; the opulent Residenz and Schloss Nymphenburg; the Frauenkirche and other churches in the Old Town.
Walks and Recreation—Strolling along Schwabing's Leopoldstrasse or in the gardens of Nymphenburg Palace; bicycling, jogging or walking through the Englischer Garten; enjoying the unique silence at the Botanischer Garten; window-shopping in the Old Town pedestrian zone or on gilt-edged Maximilianstrasse; ice-skating at the outdoor track in Ostpark and, at Christmastime, at the outdoor rink at Stachus.
Munich, the city of seven world-renowned breweries, scores of beer halls and the world's largest beer gardens, is equally blessed with a variety of restaurants. There's something to please virtually every palate (and pocketbook), ranging from traditional Bavarian specialties to Italian, Balkan, Greek, Thai and classical French delicacies.
Gasthauser and gaststatten eateries serve rustic German and Bavarian foods. Bavarian dishes tend to be a bit heavy, but good local beers and Franconian wines act as delightful digestives. Braten (roasts), schweinshaxe (shanks of pork), sauerbraten (marinated beef served with a sour-flavored sauce) and weisswurst (spiced veal sausages) are popular meats, usually accompanied by sauerkraut. Kasespaetzle (egg pasta served with melted cheese and butter) and dumplings, known as knodeland made of either grated potato (kartoffel) or bread crumbs (semmel), are also common side dishes. Leberknodelsuppe is a clear broth served with a liver dumpling. Leberkas, a loaf of minced pork and veal, is similar to hot dogs in flavor. We also think you will love the more than 300 konditoreien (pastry shops), many of which make their own chocolates.
Smoking is prohibited in all restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs and beer tents.
Breakfast is generally served 7-11 am, lunch 11 am-3 pm and dinner 7-11 pm.
The city was officially founded in 1158 by Heinrich der Lowe (Henry the Lion). In 1255, Munich began its long history as the home of Bavarian royalty when the Wittelsbach family, dukes of Bavaria, settled in the city. In 1504, the city was named the official capital of the Duchy of Bavaria. However, several brief periods of foreign occupation followed: In 1632, during the Thirty Years War, Munich was ruled by Gustav II of Sweden, and the Hapsburgs of Austria ruled the city 1705-14 and 1742-44.
Beginning in 1745, Duke Maximilian III Joseph began shaping the Munich we know today. He founded the city's academy of science and built the Cuvillies Theater and the Nymphenburg Porcelain Factory. In 1806, Munich became the capital of the Kingdom of Bavaria, and its rulers set about leaving their mark on the city. The eccentric King Ludwig II, a professed "Munich hater," spent his time building outlandish castles outside of the city, among them Neuschwanstein. His life and mysterious death in 1888 remain a popular part of Munich folklore.
In the early 20th century, Munich saw the potent beginnings of National Socialism. Adolf Hitler's failed beer-hall putsch ended in bloodshed at the Feldherrnhalle south of Odeonsplatz in 1923. However, by 1933, the Nazi party was in full command, and the concentration camp in nearby Dachau went into operation. In 1935, Hitler named Munich "Die Hauptstadt der Bewegung" (Capital of the Movement). In 1938, the infamous Munich Treaty (an Allied attempt to appease Nazi aggression) was signed there. By the end of World War II, much of Munich was destroyed.
Reconstruction and restoration of the city took place over the following decades. The 1972 summer Olympic Games, which were held in Munich, were supposed to be a celebration of the city's rebirth. However, when 11 members of the Israeli team were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, the host city again found itself associated with tragedy. The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of Munich as an international center for technology, media and insurance. Today, the city attracts a large number of high-tech companies and serves as a center for Germany's fashion, art and cinema industries. Munich is also one of Germany's most popular tourist destinations, and every year in late September, Oktoberfest attracts about 6 million visitors.
Two royal palaces, the Residenz and Nymphenburg Palace, are must-sees. In addition to their ornate interiors, each has its own garden or park. However, the city's most appealing green space is the Englischer Garten—take a break from sightseeing and relax at one of the popular beer gardens there. If you're up for more sightseeing, explore the nearby districts of Schwabing, Bogenhausen and Haidhausen or take the U-Bahn north to the Olympiapark.
Bavaria's cultural heritage is well-preserved in several excellent museums. The Deutsches Museum, a large science and technology museum, is so fascinating that most visitors vow to spend more than one day there. Kids will enjoy the Munich Stadtmuseum's puppet collection and the classic children's shows at the Muenchener Theater fur Kinder.
The Munich City Tour Card offers price reductions for many inner-city sights, museums, tours, excursions and some restaurants. A map of participating sights comes with the card. The card can be purchased at S-Bahn and U-Bahn vending machines, at the MVG Kundencenter Marienplatz, at the tourist information center or online. http://www.citytourcard-muenchen.com.
Munich got its name from a small band of monks who settled the area in 1050. It was originally called "zu den moenchen," which means "by the monks."
Every year, Munich receives more than 300,000 visitors from the U.S., more than 100,000 from Japan and 150,000 from Italy.
The quality of a Munich mayor is measured by the strokes he needs to tap the first barrel of beer at Oktoberfest.
The Englischer Garten has a very public section for nude sunbathing.
According to local legend, stroking the lion's nose in the front of the Residenz brings good luck and prosperity.
The Kocherlball is an annual event celebrating a tradition from the beginning of the 20th century, when maids and servants met once a year before sunrise to get together and dance and sing before they went back to work.
The 12,000 staff members of the Oktoberfest work crew bring revelers about 2.3 million gal of beer each year.
In January 1821, when the Munich Opera burned down, it was so cold that all fire-fighting water froze. The king then ordered the fire brigade to use beer from the nearby Hofbrauhaus instead—in vain, unfortunately.
DOS & DON'TS
Do use the very Bavarian greeting "Gruss Gott" whenever you enter a store or a restaurant if you want to impress the locals.
Do ask for the beer garden. Many city restaurants have a small hidden beer garden, and sometimes you will discover a real treasure that few tourists ever see. Remember, beer gardens are about being outside in the fresh air, eating roast chicken, leberkas or schweinshax'n, and drinking soft drinks as well as beer. Beer gardens are a Bavarian way of life, not a dictated beverage choice—soft drinks are always available—though they might cost more than the beer.
Don't argue with traffic police or the traffic warden. Munich's police force is more relaxed than its northern colleagues and may—sometimes—even waive the fine if you smile a lot and apologize.
Don't feel obligated to leave a large tip in restaurants, as it is not the custom in Germany to tip heavily.
Don't walk in the bicycle lanes, which are clearly identified by a white line. The chance of being run over by a bike (versus a car) in Munich is much greater.
Don't order bottled still water in a cafe when you are on a tight budget. Munich tap water is pumped in straight from the Alps, has an excellent taste and is controlled more strictly than mineral water.
Passport/Visa Requirements: A passport is required . Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.
Languages: German. It's usually not a problem to obtain information in English, particularly in matters dealing with travel or business.
Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant).
Time Zone: 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+1 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the end of March to the end of October.
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts, 50-cycle AC. A two-pronged adapter and a transformer to convert the voltage to 110 are needed for most small North American appliances.
Telephone Codes: 49, country code; 89,city code;
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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