Weekend in Munich

Gateway to the Alps, full of fascinating history and home to some of the world's best beer gardens - when summer arrives, there are few better European cities to visit than Munich.

Its size and excellent public transportation system mean that the Bavarian capital is ideally suited to a quick weekend away, but can also serve as a base from which to explore some of the spectacular scenery in southern Germany and Austria - just an hour away. We reveal some of the best places to explore within the city.

Yes, it's not all about beer, but what better way to kick things off than a visit to Europe's only airport brewery? Sample a glass of the excellent Airbräu in the space between terminals one and two and note the price - it will probably be the cheapest one you'll have all weekend.

Checked in and luggage deposited, it's time to stretch your legs after the trip. Late afternoon and evening is a fine time to explore Munich's city centre. Head to Marienplatz to see the gothic city hall and then simply feel free to wander; the centre isn't huge and is easy to navigate. Just to the north is the Odeonsplatz square area next to the old royal palace and its gardens, while to the west of Marienplatz is the twin-domed Frauenkirche that is synonymous with the city. If the weather is clear, tackle the steps that wind up to the top of the Peterskirche (St Peter's Church) between Marienplatz and the Viktualienmarkt food market. From there, you'll get a view across the city and to the jagged peaks of the Alps beyond.

On a warm Munich evening, there is nothing better than a few hours in one of its many beer gardens. The Augustiner beer garden is one of the biggest and best. Take tram number 16 or 17 heading west or the S-Bahn to Hackererbrücke and marvel at the thousands of benches under a canopy of chestnut trees as you drink what most locals consider the city's best brew. Only fancy a shandy? Then just take a "Radler" from the large self-service area.

Start the day the Bavarian way with a traditional "Weisswurstfrühstück" - a veal sausage breakfast. If the sun is shining, then make your way to the English Garden - one of Europe's biggest inner-city parks - and the Seehaus. The lakeside restaurant and beer garden offers a sunny, picturesque setting to sample the chunky white sausages together with mustard and, of course, a Weissbier (any other kind will be frowned on somewhat and don't, whatever you do, go for ketchup instead of mustard).

Now it's time for some sporting culture. Take the subway north to the Olympiazentrum, where you can explore the old Olympic Park, which - unlike many other host city's facilities - is very much still in use 40 years on. Admire the sweeping tensile architecture and be sure to check out the event programme as there are a number of attractions throughout the summer, from concerts to the Tollwood summer festival, featuring food, music and a variety of other cultural highlights.

Saturday evening and time to hit the town. Munich is a rich city, and as such there is wealth of choice for fine dining and cocktail-sipping locations. A fine place to start the evening is on the rooftop bar of the luxury Bayerischer Hof hotel. There's a local law that decrees that no city-centre buildings are allowed to be built higher than the nearby Frauenkirche, meaning no skyline to admire, but it does allow sweeping views around the city. From there, central Munich has a variety of restaurants catering for all tastes, with obvious emphasis on hearty Bavarian and Italian in particular. Looking for something a little more 'edgy'? It isn't quite Berlin, but head to the Glockenbach area which starts at Sendlinger Tor and spreads down towards the river. Nominally the city's gay district, it's full of smaller bars and restaurants, from burger joints to Thai or sushi. Pick somewhere with a table outside and watch the cool kids wander by.

Depending on how the night before panned out, Sunday is the perfect time to take in a little more of Munich's culture. As it's very much a Catholic state, almost ALL shops will be closed (with the exception of a handful at the main station), so any last-minute souvenir shopping will have to wait until the airport. The Königsplatz area offers a glimpse of Munich's Nazi past with some imposing architecture as well as a collection of world-class art museums that span the full spectrum of tastes. Sunday is very much café-time in Munich, so why not cap your visit with a coffee and cake? For location and a touch of elegance, Café Tambosi at Odeonsplatz is hard to beat (although a little overpriced and slow to serve), while Café Vits, near Isartor, makes the finest coffee in town.

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