Germany is a wellspring of cosmopolitan culture and cutting-edge art and design, but Munich is the connoisseur’s alternative. The Bavarian city comprises the same sophistication and handsome hotels, restaurants and bars as the likes of Berlin and Frankfurt, but it comes with an added helping of Gothic towers, cobblestoned squares and more timbered beer halls than you can shake a stick at.
By virtue of Munich’s place as the Oktoberfest capital of the world, this is also a place to party and socialise, and in spite of the Covid-19 shutdown and restrictions on gatherings, the Bavarian city has done its utmost to keep the good times flowing. That means that in the medieval streets and squares fanning out from Marienplatz, business is returning to pre-pandemic levels and — despite everything — the city is growing in exciting ways.
The introduction of Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTL) has us all excited to once again embark on European adventures. To kick off our series of European “Great Day” itineraries, we offer an action-packed day to be spent exploring the streets of Munich.
The banner Museum Quarter has many places to recommend and the sensational Die Pinakothek, which forms part of a succession of six co-dependant galleries dedicated to old, new and modern art movements, is unquestionably the best place to start. The famous names here absorb all manner of genres and styles — and what a place to delve deeper into German art history. Start by learning about post-modern pioneer Joseph Beuys, then swot up on Max Ernst, one of the first icons of the Dada scene.
Beginning as a castle built for Bavarian kings back in 1385, the Munich Residence has served as a seat of royalty and government for centuries. You’ll get the idea of what life was like for the monarchs while taking a look around the treasury, courtyards and theatre, though don’t miss the oldest room in the building, the indecently-lovely Renaissance Antiquarium. It’s a soul-stirring, 66m-long hall, with every inch adorned with terrific statues, figurines and frescos. The main building was partially destroyed during the Second World War, but there was no way Bavarians were going to let it be taken over by ghosts. Cue a stunning renovation, making it one of the largest cultural spaces in Germany.
For heart-in-mouth cuisine, there’s only one name in town for an indulgent weekend-only brunch. That’s Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese wonder chef who’s exquisite and experimental dishes can be found at Matsuhisa Munich, the anchor tenant inside the swish Mandarin Oriental Munich. Order the pared-back Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Tacos or Peruvian Rib Eye Anticucho — it’s a world apart from the calorific pork knuckles most visitors end up with on their plates. Not here over the weekend? Reserve a table for a midweek dinner instead.
One of the world’s most famous car brands, Bayerische Motoren Werke was first blueprinted in Munich more than a century ago. You’ll know the luxury car marque better as BMW and it shows no signs of ageing at its head-spinning headquarters and futuristic visitor centre that’s home to BMW Welt, or the BMW Museum. Among the car eye candy on display is a BMW M1, a post-modern masterpiece created by Andy Warhol. Should pop art be your thing, keep the Galerie Sabine Knust in mind for a future visit — it hosts all manner of funky exhibitions.
Now for one last museum, but primarily so you can work up a thirst. Munich isn’t short of beer halls pouring out the good stuff, but it rarely tells the story of this obsession. Cue the Bier und Oktoberfest Museum, housed in a historic townhouse and chronicling the transformation of Bavaria’s most famous festival from royal wedding horse race into the world’s largest celebration of German culture. Naturally, there are opportunities for beer tastings and there’s a pub, too. For more history, seek out the Hofbräuhaus, Munich’s most famous, if riotously popular, beer hall.
There’s no excuse to make dinner an ordinary affair. There are dozens of destination restaurants to pick from these days, with the city overhauling its bratwurst and beer reputation in recent years. For a party restaurant-bar in a steamboat on a railway bridge, seek out Alte Utting on Lagerhausstrasse. Alternatively, Blitz on Museum Island serves up magic vegan Mexican, with jackfruit ceviche, zucchini flower quesadillas and cauliflower fajitas highlights on the menu. It’s all very clever and very good for the planet.
Bar-hopping is almost a human right in Munich and, while many bypass the medieval Altstadt, it still offers plenty of hidden pleasures. To begin, swing by speakeasy-style street-level bar, Ory, a scene-setting cocktail joint from local conceptualist Maximilian Gradl. The schtick here, for instance, is ice cream cocktails and the bar is shaped around half a dozen freezer containers, as though it was channeling the vibe of an Italian gelateria. Ask for a dairy-free coconut sorbet with a shot of rum and slug of pineapple juice.
At this time of day, you’ll want to seek out a place like Zephyr Bar, with its of-the-moment gin list that delivers heavy pours and some of the most innovative cocktails in Germany. Start with Tanqueray with mango and sesame, or, for a winter warmer, you’ll want a berry-infused sloe gin sloshed with herby dill aquavit.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The information is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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