Munich may be best known for Oktoberfest but there’s more to the Bavarian capital than drinking beer. Jenny Southan provides the lowdown.
1. Neues Rathaus
One of the first things you spot when you arrive in the centre of the Bavarian capital of Munich is the 85-metre Gothic-style tower of Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), rising above the main square of Marienplatz. It’s a prime landmark for getting your bearings and for a vertigo-inducing glimpse of Munich from up high, you can take a trip to the top for e2. Look for the small lift beneath the entrance archway and take it to the fourth floor to purchase your ticket. Then get in another to the pinnacle, where you can shuffle your way around the inside ledge for a 360-degree panorama. Built in 1909, the lower portion of the tower features an ornate copper mechanical glockenspiel, which chimes at 11am and 12pm (plus 5pm from March to October). Colourful figures dance the traditional Schafflertanz on the lower stage, and enact a joust on the upper level.
2. Ratskeller Munchen
If you timed it right to see the glockenspiel chime, then you should be starting to think about food. You don’t have to venture far – the Ratskeller Munchen restaurant is located in a vast, glowing cavern beneath the town hall. Find your way to the inner courtyard of the Rathaus and head down the stone steps towards the warm, inviting noise of clinking cutlery and foreign chatter. Take a seat beneath the vaulted ceiling and order a local speciality. Often eaten for brunch, Bavarian white sausages – made of veal, fresh parsley, lemon peel and spices – are served in a pot of boiling water, alongside a litre glass of Weizenbier. The only point to note is that here people don’t eat the skin – you either have to suck the meat out after biting one end off, or slice it open and peel the skin off. A dab of sweet mustard and a piece of freshly baked pretzel completes the experience, at a cost of €9.80, including the beer. Marienplatz 8, tel +49 8921 99890, ratskeller.com
A short stroll around the corner will take you to the royal avenue of Maximilianstrasse, the Bond Street of Munich. An elegant strip traversed by clanging trams, it boasts luxury boutiques, jewellery shops and chic designer-brand stores such as Dior, Gucci, Versace and Hugo Boss. Walking beneath the fashionable arcades alongside cafés spilling tables and chairs on to the pavements, warmed by heaters even in winter, you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere more Mediterranean. A little way down you will notice billowing flags projecting from the side of a cream-coloured façade, beckoning you to the regal 150-year-old Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski hotel, famous for top-class service and its impressive guest history of presidents, movie stars and artists. It is said that the King of Siam, who had stayed at most of Germany’s luxury hotels, arrived here with 1,320 cases for his own use. See kempinski-vierjahreszeiten.com for more information.
4. Pinakothek der Moderne
A brisk ten-minute walk will bring you to a trio of fine-art galleries sitting in an open area of neat lawns and pathways. If you have a penchant for 14th- to 18th-century European paintings, then the Alte Pinakothek houses more than 800 works. If 18th- and 19th-century painting and sculpture by artists such as Gainsborough, Courbet, Rodin and Degas is more your thing, pop into the Neue Pinakothek opposite. The Pinakothek der Moderne is a sight worth seeing in itself and houses permanent exhibitions featuring works by Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky and Warhol as well as temporary shows such as “Zoe Leonard – Photographs” (on from April to July). The museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world and has several floors of echoey, white galleries looking on to an airy atrium. On the ground floor and in the basement are the showrooms of the Architecture Museum and the Neue Sammling, which has changing displays of drawings, graphic prints and examples of industrial design. Open daily except Monday, 10am-6pm; Thursdays open until 8pm. Entry €9.50. Visit pinakothek.de for further details.
Heading back to Frauenplatz 1, the spearmint-green onion domes of Frauenkirche’s twin towers can be spotted from some distance above the orange rooftops, not least because their late-Byzantine style seems so out of place. The Catholic cathedral is the tallest structure in the city and will remain so as the authorities have passed a law forbidding developers to build anything higher. Beyond the imposing red-brick exterior are three serene naves, capable of holding up to 20,000 people, with whitewashed walls and slender stained-glass windows. The 500-year-old building was severely damaged during the Second World War but has since been restored. Metal lanterns hang above either side of the aisle and cast a soft, pearly light – take a few minutes to rest on a pew and take in the surroundings. Open Saturday to Wednesday 7am-7pm, Thursday 7am-8.30pm and Friday 7am-6pm.
6. Bayerischer Hof Blue Spa
After spending several hours pounding the streets, your mind and body will be in need of some relaxation – and, given the Blue Spa’s location only a stone’s throw from the church, there is no better place to end the tour. Located in a glass room on a rooftop terrace above the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel, you will find a calm, sunlit lounge heated by a wood-burning stove. If you have a chance to book ahead, try one of the treatments – you can choose from shiatsu, Ayurvedic, aromatherapy, Swedish or hot-stone massage. If you’re feeling really fatigued, opt for the powernap relaxation session (€48.50 for 35 minutes). Otherwise, simply sit back with a fresh fruit smoothie and admire the view, or have a quick dip in the azure mosaic-tiled pool. Open daily, 7am-10.30pm. Tel +49 8921 20992, bayerischerhof.de
For further information on Munich visit muenchen-tourist.de.