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Beer. Art. History. Repeat – Munich

Ronita Mohan

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know much about Munich, the largest state in Bavaria, Germany. Munich has been synonymous with Oktoberfest for many years, but there didn’t appear to be much else to see. So, before our trip, I started doing my research and I found that there were a few places I definitely wanted to visit.

We arrived at Munich airport in the evening. It being summer, there was still light out well after 9pm giving the city a very friendly feel. Munich airport is an hour away from the city centre, so that’s something you might want to keep in mind. Munich is also an expensive city, so be prepared to spend a little extra during your stay there.

Accommodation

We had chosen to stay at a Holiday Inn in the city centere and I would highly recommend the hotel to anyone visiting Munich. Wherever you choose to stay, it is best to find a hotel with good transport connections. However, I would recommend you not stay at hotels close to the major train stations, Hauptbahnof and Ostbahnof, as the areas tend to be full of unsavoury characters.

Transport

Munich is a very well connected city. You can use the U-bahn or S-bahn to get around pretty much everywhere. The main train stations and buses have several stops around the city, as well. During the summer, Munich is a pleasant place to walk around so you will never have a problem getting around.

Attractions

When in Munich, I would recommend your first stop be at Marienplatz, a large plaza in the centre of the city. Marienplatz is full of buzz no matter what time of day you visit. The tourist centere there will give you all the information you need. There are also food stalls, musicians and a general carnival atmosphere. The Town Halls of Munich are also here so get your camera ready to capture the gorgeous architecture.

A short walk from Marienplatz is the Viktualienmarkt. You cannot miss this farmers’ market if you want the true Munich experience. Colourful stalls dot the area, selling every kind of food possible, and the open-air restaurants are a delight.

Our main mission at Munich was to visit the Pinakothek. The Pinakothek complex includes the Alte Pinakothek, the Neue Pinakothek, the Pinakothek der Moderne and the Museum Brandhorst. The complex has something for everyone with paintings of every era.

We were hoping to see some Reubens paintings and were in luck, the Neue Pinakothek was holding a special exhibition, Neue Neighbours, with works by Reubens, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Tintoretto, Lippi and more.

If you’re planning to visit the Pinakothek, it’s best to go on a Sunday, when entry is just 1 Euro.

Though we didn’t get to visit it, the BMW Museum in Munich is a must-see. Whether or not you are a car-enthusiast, the BMW Museum is stunning. Learn about the history of the company, car manufacturing, racing and the country, all told through rows of the most glamorous cars in the world.

The Olympia Park is another sightseeing stop, especially if you’re a sports fan. Walk around the Olympic Stadium where the 1972 summer games were held. Go up the Olympic Tower for a 190 degree of the city or walk among the stars, or rather, their handprints, in the Olympic Walk of Stars.

For the more architecturally-inclined, the Cathedral Church of Our Lady is the place to go. This beautiful Gothic Cathedral is a landmark of Munich and is also ideally placed for excellent views of the city.

Experiences

There is only one way to experience Munich – Beer Gardens. There are a large number of beer gardens around the city, both outdoor and indoor ones. The largest indoor beer garden is the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, home to the second-largest tent at Oktoberfest. However, I would strongly recommend you visit Augustiner Keller. This busy beer garden has amazing food, beer and a very friendly atmosphere. I have no idea how the service staff can keep smiling after a long day, but somehow they do.

On a more sombre note, Munich is only an hour’s train journey away from Dachau Concentration Camp. One of the first Concentration Camps, Dachau was a model for other camps established during the Second World War. Visiting Dachau is a sobering experience especially as visitors follow the path the prisoners actually took. There is an exhibition with facts, figures and recordings of the experiences of prisoners who survived the camp. You can also visit the memorial site with chapels, an international monument to the prisoners as well as the gas chamber.

For the adventurous traveller, Oktoberfest is the time to be in Munich. The city goes into party mode with hundreds of thousands of international visitors descending on the beer gardens. It can get very congested and traffic becomes quite a hassle. However, the experience cannot be matched, so if you are planning to visit Munich during Oktoberfest, book your hotel well in advance or you may not have a place to stay.

Shopping

Munich is home to many of the world’s designer labels, but if you’re looking for something authentic to buy, go no further than the dirndl dress and lederhosen trousers for men. Depending on the quality of the leather, these traditional costumes can set you back anywhere between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 60,000, so shop wisely.

Beer is, of course, a must-buy. I highly recommend the Ludwig beer, a weissbeer that has a fruity flavor. Paulaner is another beer that is very popular in the city, so keep some extra place in your luggage.

Food

Though native to Austria, you absolutely must try the Wiener Schnitzel, breaded and tenderised meat with a lovely cranberry sauce, knodel or bread balls, and sauerkraut.

For more authentic cuisine, try the weisswurst sausage, usually served with the skin on and in a clear, delicious broth. Perfect for a sunny afternoon or wintery evening. Complemented, of course, by a weissbeer.

A more recent invention is the currywurst, sausages in a spicy curry sauce, perfect for Indian taste-buds.

For dessert, the famous Apple Strudel is your one-stop Munich experience.

Munich is a wonderful, calm city. We were there when Germany won the Football World Cup but you wouldn’t know it from how quiet the streets were. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation or a good starting point for visiting Germany, Munich is the place to be. I would return in a heartbeat.