Make the most of Bavaria’s largest city
Think of the Bavarian capital and you’ll likely picture oompah bands playing to loud crowds in lederhosen. But this southern German beauty has a stylish, laid-back ambience, too. Visit a plush Rococo-style theatre, idle in leafy parks, and work slowly through drinks in a serene garden… The wochenende starts here!
SEE & DO
Just arrived? Head straight to the English Garden, the city’s green lung, where streams and waterfalls catch the rays of late sun as they dawdle through woodland and elegant landscaping. Here you’ll find locals practising yoga, walking their dogs, flying kites and idling in a beer garden in the shadow of a multitiered Chinese pagoda. You’ll get a lovely feeling they call Gemütlichtkeit round these parts.
If you’re here on a Saturday morning, take in a traditional mid-morning treat of Weisswurst and Pretzel. Brunch at central Viktualienmarkt gets crowded, so take the U-Bahn to the leafy Schwabing neighbourhood, where shoppers with fashionable string bags browse the cabin-like stalls of Elisabethmarkt You’re here to chill, though, so find a table at Winter Garden in the shade of sun-dappled linden trees and linger awhile with a drink, surrounded by a chattering crowd.
Take a casual mooch around Schwabing, making for the Alter Nordfriedhof (Old North Cemetery) on Arcisstrasse. It’s anything but gloomy and is now more of a park to take a picnic to or sunbathe in. Canopies of trees give it the appearance of a large glade, as squirrels scamper over plots, birds trill and joggers go by, crunching the gravel.
Back in town, wander round the Residence. Once the Bavarian royal family’s palace, it’s now a sumptuous museum in which to hide from the bustle of the street. For added swash and buckle, 18th-century style, take in the nearby Cuvilliés Theatre, a lush expression of Rococo design, with marble columns, gilded boxes and stucco nymphs and cherubs. Visitors are transfixed by the finery — perhaps imagining the curtain rising as the first strains of a Mozart opera are heard.
You could climb the 299 steps to the top of St Peter’s Church, but it’s a lung-buster. Instead, relax into the ethereal main interior below, where a massive 18th-century gilded altar rises to the frescoed ceiling. You might hear the angelic sound of a choir rehearsing.
Munich’s in no rush to wake up on Sunday, so take a slow amble for coffee and cake at the Deutsches Museum, beside the River Isar. Then explore the rooms full of science-and-technology attractions, including ships, aircraft, mining and electrical power. In the maritime section, look out for the early 20th-century U-boat, cut open to show the horribly cramped conditions inside.
Before lunch, explore Königsplatz, which looks as if a giant has tossed a trio of Pantheon lookalikes in the middle of Munich. Built in the 19th century by order of King Ludwig I, this is where friends embrace on worn stone benches and canoodling couples sit in the midday sun.
Finish your mellow wanderings at Geschwister-Scholl-Platz in the university area, where a handful of bronze tablets are embedded in the pavement close to a water fountain. These are replicas of the leaflets student members of the anti-Nazi White Rose resistance movement scattered here in 1943. Nowadays students horse around as tourists crouch over the tablets, reading the words of defiance.
Inspired by the city’s Old Botanical Garden (just a stone’s throw away) Sophia’s offers up a beautiful dining room and terrace, the latter a great spot for a light lunch. The relatively short menu hints at dishes that have been perfected, a feeling confirmed by a splendid homemade tagliolini. roccofortehotels.com
AYINGER AM PLATZL
This central tavern has a mellow evening mood enhanced by mighty helpings of dumplings and flagons of Ayinger’s fab ale. Don’t be deterred by the reserved signs on empty tables. It’s to keep drinkers at the bar. ayingers.de
NAM GIAO 31
An agreeable little Vietnamese neighbourhood restaurant — try the crisp roasted duck with peanut sauce and coconut. On a budget? Join the lunchers and get a soup and a spring roll.
Friendly staff, diners occasionally bursting into song and traditional dishes with a touch of the Med give this restaurant a sociable and amiable atmosphere.
Named after the Buddhist statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, this family-run joint celebrates the spices and colours of Afghan cooking. Veggies, vegans and carnivores settle in with equal enthusiasm. If it’s warm enough, nab a table on the terrace (book ahead). bamyan.de
BOLD HOTEL MUNCHEN ZENTRUM
A modern crash-pad popular with families, business types and passing nomads. It’s good value, too, and only a 10-minute stroll from the centre in the arty enclave of Schlachthof. Opt out of having your room cleaned (it’s eco-friendly!) and the hotel will give you a free drinks voucher for its bar.
BAVARIA BOUTIQUE HOTEL
For 40 years, the same family has owned this snazzy designer den, a stein’s throw from the Oktoberfest’s official meadow home, Theresienwiese. Ideal for short stays, the rooms are minimalist, but cosy, and brushed with calm colours.
HOTEL LA MAISON
Its location, surrounded by plenty of cool bars and restaurants, makes this sultry four-star boutique bolthole a hit with weekending explorers. It’s also an easy-going stroll from the English Garden, and has its own ‘digital concierge’, which includes details on sights, taxis and local transport, plus an app for online checking in and out.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL MUNICH
Standing in the city’s Old Town, this hotel is not shy when it comes to flashing its luxury credentials. They include the Grand Presidential Suite, in which you’ll find six rooms, a hot tub and steam room.
PLATZL HOTEL MUNICH
With an Altstadt location and part of the building dating back to the Middle Ages, it’s a much-loved pit stop for Munich regulars, who enjoy its genial fusion of old-school Bavarian decor and contemporary-cool coloured walls. Think lederhosen with a punk hairdo. It’s worth dining in for the restaurant’s take on regional cuisine.
Overlooking the Viktualienmarkt, this is ideal for a languid, romantic weekend. Its Mediterranean-styled rooms blend oak flooring with a calm colour scheme, while its Japanese restaurant is also well worth the splurge. During fine weather, the hotel opens up its rooftop terrace, which has sweeping views of the city.