The best attractions in Munich
Kick off the day at Munich’s most famous foodie market, excellent for people-watching as much as fine regional produce. Kick back with a drink at one of the numerous stands—no shame in a radler (beer and lemonade) if you need to take it easy—and set about sampling the array of fresh and local produce, with specialties including bread, speck and Schweinshax'n (ham hock), the love-it-or-hate-it Weißwurst, as well as locally foraged mushrooms. If you’re in town over late November or December, the Viktualienmarkt hosts an annual Christmas Market, Alpenwahn, complete with carols, home-made cards and gifts and lashings of glühwein (mulled wine).
Haus der Kunst
Vast and imposing beside the Englischer Garten, the Haus der Kunst was built in 1937 to showcase Nazi-approved art. With its stripped down, monumental neo-classicism, it was the first large-scale building of the Third Reich, the beginnings of a fascist master plan for Munich, hailed as the “capital of the movement.” The inaugural display of “Great German Art” was intended as an edifying counterpart to the nearby—and now infamous—Degenerate Art exhibition. Today, the Haus der Kunst, under the direction of Okwui Enwezor, boldly engages with its troubled heritage, including a rigorous Archive Gallery, while running a cutting-edge contemporary program which insists on art as global, complex and open to multiple meanings. Solo shows include the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Thomas Struth and Frank Bowling, while the Haus’ middle hall hosts such impressive sculptural works as Hans Haacke’s Gift Horse, formerly of Traflagar Square’s Fourth Plinth. Once you’ve taken in the rich art and the troubling history, you’ll likely be ready for a glass of something strong at the adjoining Goldene Bar, one of Munich’s best drinking spots inside and out.
Not yet ten years old, the Brandhorst Museum in the northeastern corner of Munich’s Kunstareal (art district) is impossible to miss. With its Technicolor striped exterior, this dazzling addition to Munich’s art scene displays around 200 modern works from the collection of Anette Brandhorst and her husband Udo Fritz-Hermann. Big hitters include Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Bruce Nauman, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly. The polygonal room above the foyer was designed exclusively for Twombly’s Lepanto, a breath-taking, twelve-canvas sequence depicting a fiery 16th-century sea battle between the Ottoman Turks and so-called “Holy League” of European forces. In panoramic scale and colors as luminous as the Brandhorst facade, the sequence is at once at the heart of the battle drama and a historical reflection on the tragedies of conflict. For those fond of printed matter as much as pictures on the wall, the Brandhorst collection also boasts one of the most comprehensive holdings of Picasso-illustrated books.
Die Pinakotheken: Alte and Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne
Across the square from the Brandhorst Museum, Munich’s Pinakothek trio (the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek, and Pinakothek der Moderne) span European art history from the Middle Ages to today in blockbuster style. Albrecht Dürer’s Self Portrait with Fur-Trimmed Robe (Alte Pinakothek), with its Christ-like gaze and textural richness, is the star of the show, but there are abundant other treasures, not least the Pinakothek der Moderne’s line-up from the Blauer Reiter, Munich’s home-grown Expressionist movement. A day pass to all three museums is just €12, but given the extent of each collection, you may prefer to pick just one and wander at leisure.
The best restaurants in Munich
Booking comes highly recommended at this cozy joint in Haidhausen, serving up hearty Mediterranean dishes and a perennially homey atmosphere. In a 19th-century building on a quiet, largely residential street, it’s a simply-clad interior with fresh flowers, candlelight and specials on the blackboard. It wins extra points for its great vegan and veggie options (a rarity in Munich) and exceptionally friendly service; visitors young and old, local and new to town, are all welcomed like regulars. (The venue is super kid-friendly, with a playground out back.) In warm weather, the courtyard is lovely, particularly for a long, lazy Sunday brunch.
Maximilian does the best of the Wirtshaus—beautiful ales, hearty food and a roaring fire—without the dark wood carving, hunting trophies and chintzy fabrics which can, even for the seasoned Bavarian, begin to cloy. The interior is white and light, with simple furnishings and just the right measure of fresh pine. Like the décor, the food is a contemporary take on tradition, notching up Bavarian and Tyrolean classics with zesty additions like cheese dumplings with apricot, leek, and lime butter. There’s a comprehensive selection of local Augustiner beers and friendly (if not always super-efficient) service.
Theresa Bar & Grill
You’ve got two options with Theresa: the relaxed and trendy Grill, serving hunky waiters and succulent cutlets, rib-eye and chops, or the more glamorous, softly-lit and softly-furnished Bar Restaurant. The latter is great for romance with its pastoral murals, plush velvet seating, and a mouth-watering sharing menu. Whether you want to roll your sleeves up for the red meat, or dress up for smoked salmon tartar with beet mayo, both Theresa venues are the kind of places you want to savor flavors late into the night (though the Grill is also a great choice for lunch, particularly after a visit to the nearby Brandhorst Museum). Happily, the bar stays open until at least 1am.
From housing hay bales to high-class cuisine, this colonnaded hall was once the stables of Munich’s royal residence. Now packed full of pretty, young things, Brenner boasts a luxurious location off Maximilanstraße and an impressive vaulted and pillared interior. With inside capacity for 450 people as well as a scenic terrace looking toward the Bavarian state opera, it’s a big, bustling, brasserie-style place, where the terrazzo flooring and wrought iron elements do little to soften the noise. The triad offering of bar, pasta and grill promises Mediterranean flair and not a mention of sauerkraut, with homemade linguine and spaghetti and an array of meat and fish served hot from the open fire. Service is attentive and good, the guests are glamorous and the whole experience can be a welcome reprieve from the carb-laden jostle of the traditional Bavarian locale. We highly recommend booking in advance.
On one of one of Munich’s most beautiful city center streets, chef Ali Güngörmüs moved south from his Hamburg tenure at the renowned Le Canard Nouveau to set up his own restaurant, Pageou. Behind an impressive historical façade, the interior is bright, light and elegant, with white walls, generous leather chairs and rich red details. Pageou was the name of Güngörmüs’ childhood village and it’s the East Anatolian touch that makes his set and à la carte menus such winners, combining aromatic interest with rustic charm—think warm Saint Maure cheese on an eggplant-kadaifi nest. There’s a private dining room for parties and, in summer, a balmy back courtyard, as well as a slightly less expensive business lunch menu. Be sure to leave room for the signature chocolate cake.
The best bars in Munich
Die Goldene Bar
The Goldene Bar at the Haus der Kunst is lovely inside and out, but particularly glorious in summer, when the terrace enjoys truly golden sundowner rays, as well as the occasional eye candy surfer heading up from the Eisbachwelle for a beer. Inside, the gilded wall maps are 1937 originals showing the origins of wines, spirits, and tobacco around the world. Shimmering beneath the gorgeous modernist chandelier, they lend the interior a luxurious atmosphere, but it’s the relaxed, mixed crowd that makes the Goldene Bar such a favorite. Chief bartender Klaus St. Rainer is a particular fan of gin, which you’ll find in the signature house cocktail (Tanqueray, Perrier Jouet, lemon, sugar, gin and tonic foam). A tip: Every first Thursday of the month, the adjoining Haus der Kunst art museum has free entry from 6 to 10pm, so you can enjoy some culture with your cocktails.
In case you haven’t heard, German gin is a big deal these days, and Zephyr has a top selection, from local The Duke to Monkey 47 Schwarzwald, which boasts a whopping 47 infused botanicals from Germany’s Black Forest. With a deliberately stripped-back décor, this hit locale near the Isar saves the art for the cocktails themselves—and for the stunning cornucopia of fresh ingredients behind the bar. The menu changes regularly but never fails to delight with such fragrant concoctions as the Zephyr Ice Tea No.6 (Blended scotch, rum, dark berries, peppermint, and cloves). It’s like a beautiful, trippy botanical garden, and nearly always packed. (If things get too busy, take a breather at the Flushing Meadows hotel around the corner; it has one of Munich’s best rooftop bars, with great views over the Maximiliankirche towards the Alps, if somewhat patchy service.)
It’s strictly stirred, not shaken at Bar Garçon, a neat little newcomer between Gärtnerplatz und Viktualienmarkt. Proprietor Mario trained as an architect and brought his creative flair to much of the bar’s pared down interior, including building the marble and wood bar. The bar is small, with predominantly bar stooling (though snag the coveted window seat if you can) and a great easy-going atmosphere. The tunes are disco and soul, and the menu is leather bound and laid-back, with tasty variations on classics like the Negroni or Manhattan and homemade syrups and juices. There’s a good selection of open wines, too. Note that true to many smaller German establishments, Bar Garçon is cash only.
It’s all about Tennessee charms at Zum Wolf, a much-loved little bar in the heart of Glockenbach—one of Munich’s prettiest neighborhoods and a popular gay and lesbian district. With pine-green walls and framed photos of rhythm and blues luminaries, it’s a cozy, unassuming place, where Etta James and an impressive whiskey list wind everything down to a smooth Dixieland kind of rhythm. The cocktail menu includes dependable classics as well as in-house creations like the Kentucky Lightning, a dusky, golden delight of wood-infused Bulleit Bourbon, Laird’s Applejack, honey and bitters. As you might expect, this place is particularly cherished by homesick American expats. If you get hungry, partner venue Little Wolf diner is directly across the road and promises hearty soul food from pastrami to jambalaya with giant shrimp.