What To See
Beguiling squares and buildings elbow green spaces.
Munich is a compact city, but you could easily spend several weeks exploring its museums, architectural treasures and idyllic surrounds. The Altstadt (old town) is a pleasure to stroll around, with its grand avenues and spacious squares that recall the glory of Bavaria's monarchy.
The landmark Frauenkirche, built between 1468 and 1488, is Munich's spiritual heart and the Mt Everest among its churches. No other building in the central city may stand taller than its onion-domed twin towers, which reach a sky-scraping 99m. From April to October, you can enjoy panoramic city views from the south tower.
Bombed to bits in WWII, the reconstruction is a soaring passage of light but otherwise fairly spartan. Of note is the epic cenotaph (empty tomb) of Ludwig the Bavarian just past the entrance and the bronze plaques of Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II affixed to nearby pillars.
The sprawling English Garden is among Europe's biggest city parks – bigger than even London's Hyde Park and New York's Central Park and a favorite playground for locals and visitors alike. Stretching north from Prinzregentenstrasse for about 5km, it was commissioned by Elector Karl Theodor in 1789 and designed by Benjamin Thompson, an American-born scientist working as an advisor to the Bavarian government.
The classical Ruhmeshalle is an open gallery of famous Bavarians whose busts adorn the wall like hunting trophies. The hall curls horseshoe-like around the green-tinged Bavariastatue. Climb up to the head cavity to get a great view from her hollow eyes of the 'Wies'n', as the locals call the festival grounds.
Neues Rathaus Tower
For pinpointing Munich's landmarks without losing your breath, catch the lift up this 85m-tall tower.
Head out of town to one of the many nearby swimming lakes, including the pretty Feldmochinger See, which is framed by gentle mounds and has a special area for wheelchair-bound bathers.
The Musikinstrumenten-Museum is packed with fun, precious and rare sound machines from around the world, including Indonesian ceremonial gongs and mechanical musical instruments. Some of them are cranked up regularly during concerts.
Odeonsplatz marks the beginning of the Maxvorstadt, a 19th-century quarter built to link central Munich with Schwabing to the north. Leo von Klenze masterminded its overall design and several of the buildings, including the Leuchtenberg-Palais. There are several nice, if pricey cafes, including Schumann's Bar as well as the plushly furnished Cafe Tambosi, which has a pedigree going back more than 200 years and used to be popular with Munich's high society.
This commanding palace and its lavish gardens sprawl around 5km northwest of the Altstadt. Begun in 1664 as a villa for Electress Adelaide of Savoy, the stately pile was extended over the next century to create the royal family's summer residence. Franz Duke of Bavaria, head of the once royal Wittelsbach family still occupies an apartment here.
Munich's annual calendar is positively groaning with events. It hits the ground running in January with Fasching, a raucous six week-long affair of street parties and balls. Lent comes to an end in March with Starkbierzeit, when strong beers with names ending in 'ator' are consumed (Triumphator, Salvator, Maximator, etceterator) in a tradition going back to monkish days. April welcomes spring with a mini Oktoberfest called the Frühlingsfest (much less crowded than the real thing), and a fair-cum-market, Auer Dult, is held on the last Saturday in April (it's also on in July and October). Munich's music and theatre Biennale is held every second year in May, and late June sees the Tollwood world culture festival at Olympiapark. Corpus Christi is a big deal in Bavaria, with street parades and dressed-up horses. June ends with the Munich Film Festival, a scaled-down version of Berlin's renowned festival. The Opera Festival brings highbrow entertainment to the State Opera House, while Sommerfest hosts two weeks of live bands and outdoor sport contests in Olympiapark. Oktoberfest, the biggest collective booze-up on the planet, is held (confusingly) in September. A six-day Cycle Race is held in the Olympiahalle in November, with plenty of entertainment, food and drink for those less sports-inclined. The year staggers to a close with the Winter Tollwood, a smaller version of the June world culture event, and a huge Christkindlmarkt is held on Marienplatz, complete with an outsized Christmas tree and stalls selling handicrafts and Glühwein.
All shops and banks close on public holidays.