Munich's Westend is no longer a Secret

Tucked behind the landmark Augustiner's Brewery on Landsberger Street, the Westend Quarter of Munich is growing in both its diversity and vibrancy. Long known as a place where mostly Turks, Greeks and Balkan peoples lived, it has experienced a large influx of young Germans in the last couple years. Yet, it still has a multi-cultural charm displayed in its plentiful Kebab houses, numerous Greek taverns and clubs (public and private), a Greek bakery, great Italian Trattorias, a Croatian restaurant and a plethora of other international establishments. While shopping in a local supermarket, it is not uncommon to hear mothers chiding their children in everything from American English to Russian to Spanish (and a few African languages as well). In summer there are many themed street festivals complete with grilled food and live music. There are also several youth evenings at a local youth hall behind a branch of the city library where teenagers can dance and mingle till late at night under adult supervision. All of this multiculturalism and buzz has made it very attractive for young Germans who have recently moved here from the Ruhrgebiet or northern Germany for employment, as it more closely resembles German cities in those areas with its ethnic diversity. And for those Germans from small towns or villages it offers them a wonderful opportunity to experience one of the best aspects of European city life, the close proximity of many different cultures.

But that's not to say that Bavaria isn't well represented either. Both the Hacker-Pschorr Bräuhaus and the Augustiner Bräustüberl and Bierhalle have excellent Bavarian fare and some of the freshest beer in Munich. And for those all too infrequent hot summer days an excellent traditional beer garden in Bavaria Park, which serves Augustiner and has live 'Blasmusik', allows the locals to relax without the hordes of tourists that frequent many of the other beer gardens in Munich. And you can always hear real Bavarian spoken here too!

There has also been a large increase in the number of renovated or completely demolished buildings (to make room for new tenants) in Westend over the last year or so. Every city block here has a construction site. Many of the store fronts have a nice balance between old and new. No one particular style dominates (much like the ethnic groups). At least four new kindergartens, four clothing boutiques and five cafés have opened up in the last two years. Westend is a neighborhood on the rise, with a strong demand for family friendly businesses. There are also many hotels, bookshops, fruit and vegetable markets, supermarkets (including at least 3 organic markets) and a few Thai massage parlors. Westend even has its own free quarterly culture magazine appropriately titled, Westend, which can be picked up at most businesses in the district. It also boasts its own newspaper. And many more great things are being planned.

The best way to explore Westend, as with most places in Munich, is by foot. A convenient route is to take tram 18 or 19 to Holzapfel Street. If you'd like a half liter of cheap Augustiner (EUR2.65) you have to look no further. Walk up Holzapfel, taking notice of the best Kebab house in the area and an Afro-Brazilian store on your right. Turn right on Schwanthaler and explore the many boutiques, knickknack shops and an art gallery. If you have a hankering for something sweet, Café Marais is most outstanding, both for its dessert and décor. It is situated on the corner of Schwanthaler and Park streets. Park Street and Ligsalz Street have a couple of used bookshops, including one with a large selection of titles in English. Keep heading south four blocks on Park Street to its end (two other great cafés are on Gollier Street if you look left) and then turn left on Kazmair Street and cross Heimeran Street. Here is a small collection of shops and a soup bistro. Behind these are Bavaria Park, Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum (a great place for kids) and the Augustiner beergarden, where you can cool your heels with one of Munich's finest malted beverages. It's a 5 minute walk to the Underground (Schwanthalerhöhe), and then only two stops to Hbf.

Another great thing about Westend is the one-way streets. City planners, in a moment of lucid thinking, made many of the streets one-way. This efficiently discourages drivers from using them to get from Landsberger Str. to the Westpark and Harras area. The lack of traffic has also had a residual effect - not as much graffiti. No proper graffiti bomber wants his work or symbols unseen. In a multi-cultural neighborhood that is very rare indeed.

The nearly boundless varieties of ethnic food and drink, interesting things to see and many diversions for the whole family give you the makings for a wonderful day, and allow you the chance to enjoy one of the (not so) secret quarters of Munich.

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