Famous for such delights as beer gardens, weisswurst, pretzels, and BMW, Munich is a location worth visiting if you enjoy European cities with a clean environment, relaxed atmosphere, and some of the best public transportation in the world. I had the great fortune to have spent almost a year as a resident of Munich in 2007-2008, and was able to discover some of the best things to see, do, and eat in the area. I recently returned to Munich for a reunion with the friends I made while living there previously, and had the chance to experience some of the best things the city has to offer once more.
Some of the main attractions which you may have already heard of include Oktoberfest, an annual tradition of beer consumption and lederhosen, the Englischer Garten; Munich’s own central park, and the Allianz Arena, where FC Bayern, the local professional soccer club plays their home matches. Many others exist and like any other European destination resources such as books by Rick Steves or Lonely Planet are excellent for familiarizing oneself with the best features of the city.
While it’s not in the same league as London, or Moscow, Munich is not particularly catering to those on a low budget. Muenchners enjoy their class whether with cars, fashion, or food, and it’s easy to spend 1000 Euros in a week as a visitor, without factoring in the costs for lodging. That said, the city is generally small enough that you can often walk to your destination if you’re in the central area, or else take the u-bahn, (the underground metro system). Cabs are more or less unnecessary unless you happen to be out past the u-bahn’s hours of operation, and even then there are often trams that one can take to select locations. The S-bahn (a train system) is another above ground option that allows one to get to the outskirts of the city with relative ease. Various passes are available ranging from a single trip to multiple months.
As is the case with any major city in Europe, Munich is full of rich history. Originally founded by monks, having endured the toils of various wars, being host to the 1972 Olympics, and more recently hosting several of the 2006 world cup matches, the city has many layers of culture and history. One could easily spend a great deal of time learning of the many events that have taken place in and around the city.
One convenient way to delve into some of this history is through the city’s museums. A few of these include the Deutsches Museum: a large science museum, or the Alte or Neue Pinothek, two of the city’s most prominent art museums. One can also get a good sense of the history simply by walking the streets and observing statues dedicated to rulers and other figures of importance at different periods through the city’s and region’s history.
Another aspect of modern culture in Munich is their very own professional soccer team FC Bayern, who play home matches at the Allianz Arena. FC Bayern are renowned as the best team in the German Bundesliga, the foremost professional soccer league in Germany. I was able to attend one of their matches when I lived there previously, and was not at all disappointed. Goals were scored, profanities were used, and the regions most popular sport and my personal favorite allowed for a unity of national identities all within a short period of 2 hours. ☺
Statue of Ludwig the 1st King of Bavaria
Wall Relic from War Era
The city itself actually has much more to offer than what you will find in the travel guides. The 2 major universities located near the city center, the TUM and LMU, complement Munich’s rich history with a great number of students and a wave of youthful energy. One can find cafes, lounges, bars and all manner of other facilities catering to student life (including more reasonable pricing on food and drinks).
In addition to the student populations one can also experience flavors from neighboring and nearby countries. The Italian border is only about 2 hours drive, and the influence can be seen in the local culture, from the architecture to the number of mouthwatering Italian restaurants in the city.
One also sees a great many people from many other parts of the world, in and outside of Europe. Don’t be surprised to hear a different language every 50 feet whilst walking down the street.
Ludwigstrasse near the TUM
The food in Munich is generally very tasty and usually of top quality. Besides the delicious traditional Bavarian and Italian options, Munich features an array of restaurants, cafes, bars, and other venues that more or less cover the entire spectrum of ethnic cuisine. From Japanese to Indian, Greek to Russian, one can find just about any type of cuisine. However, one thing I would generally recommend avoiding is Mexican food, and that goes for virtually all of Europe. Not that good Mexican doesn’t exist, but I’ve generally been disappointed when eating it overseas.
A far better option in my personal opinion would be try your luck at a pizzeria called Lo Studente. Located at number 30 Schellingstrasse, in one of the more heavily student populated areas of town, the little pizzeria offers a wide variety of pizzas with various meat and vegetable toppings, as well as salads, appetizers, coffees, wines, and other beverages.
Lo Student Pizza with Arugala, Fresh Tomatoes and Parmesan
The place is Owned and run by Italians who have the art of making a pizza down to the point where you have a delicious pie in front of you about five minutes after ordering. The pizzas themselves are equal parts diverse flavor and simplicity, and you get the sense that only the best and freshest ingredients are used. I always leave feeling happy and satisfied. Whatever you do, if you go to Munich make sure you pay a visit to Lo Studente, as you won’t regret it. ☺
If you are looking for a low cost meal, sandwiches are sold at most all of the many bakeries all across the city. Doner Kebab joints are also bountiful and one can get a tasty gyro or falafel sandwich for only a few euros.
Marienplatz City Center
While the built environment in and around Munich would impress most green minded city planners (bike paths galore, public transportation, plenty of green spaces), the Englischer Garten downtown may be it’s most prized central area for an escape into nature.
I like to think of this as Munich’s version of central park in New York City. The park is made up of around 3.7 square kilometers of green space filled with walking paths, ponds, forest, and the local river, the Isar. Here, one can get a good walk in, participate in pick up soccer games, and even watch surfers tackling the river’s standing wave!
The Englischer Garten
River Isar in the Englischer Garten
Surfing the Standing Wave on the Isar
Munich is a great destination for a few days or up to a week if you have the budget to delve into some of the attractions in and around the city. I definitely recommend a visit next time you are thinking of a trip to Europe.
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