From its stellar art collections to its dense history, its beer-hall jollity to its magnificent green spaces, Germany’s southern metropolis promises a whole lot of culture, interest and good cheer. For culture buffs, the Maxvorstadt is heaven, with Munich’s world-famous Pinakothek trio, the Haus der Kunst and modernist Museum Brandhorst all within walking distance of one another. Those looking to admire historic squares and churches will find a parade of Renaissance, Baroque and neo-Gothic buildings in the Altstadt, as well as the renowned state opera. For a more laid-back vibe beyond the tourist hotspots, ever-more desirable Schwabing offers great cafes and bistros, as well as proximity to the Englischer Garten, while LGBTQ friendly Glockenbach undoes some of Munich’s stiffer Bavarian buttons with some of the best cocktail bars and dance spots in the city.
Where to stay in Munich
The Altstadt is Munich’s historic heart, very friendly to pedestrians and perfect for those looking to soak up the city’s past. The quarter’s major churches and squares include Marienplatz with its opulent town hall; the Neoclassical Königsplatz; the Italianate Odeonsplatz; the Frauenkirche; Peterskirche and Michaelkirche. The Altstadt is also home to the Residenz (former royal palace) and the National Theatre, principal venue of the acclaimed Bavarian State Opera. With such a density of attractions, as well as the main shopping thoroughfares of Kaufingerstraße and Maximilanstraße, the Altstadt is inevitably busy with tourists, particularly in summer.
Design hotel Louis delivers great understated elegance, with wooden floors and furnishings throughout and a restful, pared-down palette of whites, cool greens and mellow greys. Pop-up concept newcomer The Lovelace offers cozy doubles through to spacious suites, alongside a buzzing line-up of concerts, performances, concession stores and rooftop parties. For gentler prices, try the Mercure's comfortable, straightforward Altstadt offering.
Begin the day with something sweet from one of Munich’s oldest pastry and coffee shops, Café Frischhut. From there, cross over to the open air Viktualienmarkt, where you can stock up on all manner of Bavarian meats and cheeses, as well as wine and beer. After taking in the Altstadt sites, treat yourself to a superb vegetarian dinner at Tian or join Munich’s young and glamorous at big, bustling Mediterranean winner, Brenner.
It’s all about history and architecture in the Alstadt. All of the district’s churches are well worth a visit, from the restrained Gothic style of the domed Frauenkirche to the elaborate Michaelkirche, the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. On sunny days, the formal Hofgarten makes for a picturesque stroll, while the elegant Marienplatz and Odeonsplatz were key sites of Hitler’s failed coup attempt, the Munich Putsch, of 1923. After a day of sightseeing, head for an aperitif at Schumann’s, a legendary locale run by the eponymous Charles Schumann, without doubt the most famous bartender in Germany.
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Climb the 299 steps to the steeple of St Peter’s for the best Altstadt views.
With a run of characterful bistros, bars, and clubs, Glockenbach is a hub for Munich nightlife, as well as the heart of the city’s LGBTQ scene, centred along the Müllerstraße. Still close to the city centre but set apart from the tourist hotspots, it’s a great choice for those looking to drink, dance and get a top-notch coffee the next morning. The neighborhood’s Glockenbach Werkstatt is an exemplary community centre with a lively evening program of jazz, music, poetry slams and more, as well as a friendly beer garden.
Design newcomer Flushing Meadows promises spacious, sun-flooded rooms, with classy midcentury design elements, colorful textiles and contemporary artworks. Its rooftop bar is particularly popular for aperitifs and sundown views.
The excellent Wirtshaus Maximilian refreshes the classic Bavarian locale with a bright, pared down décor and innovative twists to regional and Alpine dishes. Neighborhood favorite Cooperativa combines no-nonsense Mediterranean flavours with beer hall style cheer, while upper-end Collette is a stylish contemporary brasserie by top German chef Tim Raue, offering a first-class run in classic French dishes and excellently priced lunch menus.
Explore Glockenbach’s nightlife in style with a tour of some of its finest cocktail joints. Try magical concoctions at the acclaimed Zephyr Bar, highballs and hip hop at The High, or Southern flavours at rhythm, blues and whiskey joint Zum Wolf.
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Get yourself a coffee or ice cream at Del Fiore, kick back in the brightly-flowered Gärtnerplatz and watch the Glockenbach world go by.
Home to two universities and many of Munich’s world-class museums, the Maxvorstadt is a lively cultural hotpot just north of the Altstadt. It’s here you’ll find Munich’s outstanding Pinakothek trio—the Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek and Pinakothek der Moderne—as well as the modern and contemporary Museum Brandhorst, the historic Haus der Kunst and Munich’s belated, but excellent, Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism. Further down the Leopoldstraße, you’ll find the elegiac Siegestor, before the streets give way to trees and rolling meadows in the vast and gorgeous Englischer Garten.
Superbly placed for the Königsplatz and Pinakothek trio, Ruby Lilly promises a pristine night’s sleep in its minimalist, soundproofed rooms, boasting box-spring mattresses, luxurious bed linens and blackout curtains. The Ruby bar and café serves light Italian dishes and drinks around the clock, including an organic breakfast of fresh fruits, wholegrain cereals and bread from local bakery, Mauerer.
For a low-key brunch or lunch with a great city panorama, find your way to the café in the Vorhölzer Forum at Munich’s Technical University. No longer the insider tip it once was, it still offers great vibes and, on a clear day, views right out to the Alps. For a more sophisticated, old-school flair, Halali is Munich’s restaurant of choice for quiet elegance and traditional, typically game-based dishes.
Get yourself a day pass to the Pinakothek art museums and dip in and out of one of the best collections of European art history in the world. Star turns include Albrecht Dürer’s Self Portrait with Fur-Trimmed Robe (Alte Pinakothek) and Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Neue Pinakothek). Across the square, the Brandhorst Museum brings bold contemporary architecture to a largely classical district, as well as major works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Damien Hirst.
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Get a beer at the Augustiner Keller, flagship beer hall of one of Munich’s oldest breweries. Its beer garden, with seating for 5,000 beneath shady chestnut trees, is arguably the best in town.
Once bohemian enclave and stomping ground of Lenin, Hitler and Kandinsky, the northern neighborhood of Schwabing is now the apogee of urban affluence and one of Munich’s most desirable districts. Great for those seeking a little laid-back remove from the more well-trodden city centre, it boasts several great cafes, restaurants, bars and boutiques along its main boulevards, Leopoldstraße and Hohenzollernstraße, as well as proximity to the Englischer Garten. Bigger than New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park, this is Munich’s green pride and joy; a vast, informally-landscaped space of undulating lawns, bike trails and rippling tributaries of the Isar.
In a converted water-mill, the Gästehaus Englischer Garten is an old-fashioned and tranquil Munich enclave, with simple, comfortable rooms and a verdant garden where breakfast is served in summer. It’s an easy walk to both the Englischer Garten and Schwabing’s bars, shops and restaurants. Book in advance and ask for a room in the main house.
Top of the Schwabing charts—and price range—is Tantris, Munich’s most famous restaurant which has proudly held onto its Michelin stars since 1974. Soak up the cult 1970s décor, choose from a five-course degustation menu or eight-course gourmet menu and savour the likes of king prawns with ravioli and star anise cream, or venison medallions with wild mushrooms and sweet chestnut puree. It’s all delicious, but expect a bill well into three figures. For much more wallet-friendly cuisine, try laid back pizza and a leafy terrace at Passaparola or fine Afghani food at Lemar.
The Englischer Garten is one of Munich’s greatest pleasures. Go for a run, a leisurely stroll, a skate, a sunbathe, or even a swim in one of the remarkably clean streams running off the Isar. In the evening, make your way to the vast and jovial beer garden at the pagoda-style Chinesischer Turm, or buy your own bottles and take it up to the Monopteros for a gorgeous sunset view.
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Stroll through the garden down to the Eisbachwelle, Munich’s incongruous, must-see surfing hot-spot.
Sometimes called the “French quarter,” peaceful Haidhausen is one of Munich’s prettiest neighborhoods. Flanking the east bank of the Isar, it’s home to some lovely local cafes and a rich classical music and culture program at the Gasteig. Haidhausen’s real boon, however, is proximity to the river, with lovely walks out to the Flaucher on your doorstep. Quieter than other districts, it’s great for those who enjoy proximity to nature and a peaceful retreat after a day of sightseeing.
Hotel Prinz München provides relaxed, pristine rooms, an ample breakfast buffet and in-house bike rental.
In a 19th-century building on a quiet street, the cosy Preysinggarten serves up homely conviviality and nourishing Mediterranean dishes, with a good run in vegetarian options. Its courtyard terrace is particularly lovely for a sunny Sunday brunch, but do book in advance. For coffee and cake, try Café Bla or the appropriately named KaffeeKüche.
Head south west along the river toward the Flaucher, a gorgeously leafy bathing area just a half-hour’s walk out of town. Incredibly clean for its proximity to the city, it’s particularly enchanting in summer, with hordes of happy Munichers sunbathing, swimming, playing guitar, kicking back with a beer, or “grilling.”
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Swing by the quirky Villa Stuck, once home to Franz von Stuck, one of Germany’s avant-garde pioneers and prominent member of the Munich art Secession. The villa features a number of his works on the wall, as well as an impressive Art Nouveau collection.