- It’s 7.07pm, the sky is hastily transpiring from the light blue of early evening to the dark navy of late night and I’m slightly stressed. My flight in Dublin was delayed so now, as I sit here on the train from the airport, trying not to let the old woman in front of me staring my way distract me, I can only think one thing – I’d murder a beer. And thinking of this cold, golden beer that will soon grace my lips is pepping me up a little because the train I am now sitting on is bound for Munich, home to some of the world’s finest.
Bavarians drink beer as it’s meant to be drunk. For a start, they have large halls and gardens to drink it in. Secondly, they don’t pollute their beer with additives and preservatives which make your head feel like a jigsaw in a blender the following day. Beer brewed in Munich is crisp, clean and very, very tasty. Cider is my preferred tipple and even when I had the privilege of gracing myself with a pint of the stuff, I vowed to stick with the local drop.
Beer halls, a wonderful invention!
The best-known beer hall in Munich, where traditional bands ‘oomp’ away in their lederhosen, and busty waitresses pose for photos with heckling men in between dealing out pretzels to the clientele, is Hofbrauhaus (Am Platzl 9). Located just minutes from Marienplatz which is the Old Town’s (and pretty much the city’s) focal point, you can’t help but get the impression that staff here spend just as much time shovelling tourists out as they do luring them in. If you want to meet locals to quiz them about the multitude of ways there is to say ‘prost’, this isn’t the place to go. Chances of sharing a table with your father’s boss are higher.
To experience the true experience of a Bavarian beer hall you can’t help but anticipate before arriving, Augustiner Braustuben (Landsberger Str. 12) is where you should set your sights. Located just three short tram stops from Hauptbahnhof (board trams #18 or 19 at Berger Str.) this is where you will meet locals to enlighten you about the different ways to raise your glass. The beer is also particularly good thanks to the brewery which it is literally joined at the hip to, not to mention the food – ask for the ‘Bratenpfanderl Braustuben’. It may be the most expensive meal on the menu at €9.80, but within seconds of your first bite that will be swept right to the back of your mind.
If you ever imagined a man-made resort constructed exclusively for after-dark haunts, Munich has one of them in the shape of Kunstpark OST (Grafinger Str). Just minutes from Ostbahnhof train station, this is a party animal’s dream come true. Neon lights blink at every given chance, burly bouncers do their best impressions of large men trying not to intimidate you, and music pounds through the walls of the various establishments. Regardless of whether or not you categorise yourself as one who enjoys letting their hair down until the early hours, you should take the time to check this place out.
One of Europe's most picturesque old towns
Of course, there is more to do in Munich than make lesser of your brain cells. Munich’s Altstadt (Old Town) is one of the prettiest in Europe. The heart of it is Marienplatz which is dominated by the New Town Hall. Built between 1867 and 1909, it’s difficult to believe its towering, grey steeple had to be completely rebuilt in 1972. It is adorned by the Glockenspiel, a 15-minute show which incorporates 32 life-sized figures and 43 bells. You may find your attention drifting off during the show, but that’s allowed. The 15 minutes drags out a tad. But if you’re in the square any time around 11am or 12 noon (or at 5pm from Apr-Oct) hang around to hear the crowd hush suddenly just as the show starts.
Marienplatz is surrounded by churches with interiors dripping with gold and frescoes to take your breath away. The best known is Frauenkirche, instantly recognisable thanks to its onion-shaped domes. After visiting all the places of worship (it shouldn’t take you longer than an hour due to their proximity), you can begin an orderly march in any direction from Marienplatz and trounce upon well known attractions. Take, for instance, a path due west from the old square. Within 5 minutes you’ll be at Karlsplatz, the Bavarian capital’s answer to Piccadilly Circus, minus the blinking Sanyo sign, where you will find the Karlstor, the western gate.
Take yourself on a small journey north of Marienplatz until you get to Max-Josephplatz. Dodge the skateboarders and BMX riders to get to the Residence Museum (open Apr-Oct 9am-6pm, Oct-March 10am-4pm; admission €6), previously home to King Ludwig I. Upon exiting you’ll find yourself at Odeonsplatz where two of the most opulent buildings, the Feldernhalle and the Theatinerkirche St Kajetan (the mustard looking one) stand proud. Within ten minutes of here are the English Gardens, Europe’s largest city centre park. The sound of the waterfall you hear once you walk in will make you as curious as a dead cat. Keep exploring to find green, open lawns, large beer gardens and, if you’re lucky, some surfers on the Eisbach River which flows through it.
Feed your brain knowledge
If you want to know how paper is made, how clocks work and how water generates energy, this can all become crystal clear in the Deutsches Museum (open daily from 9am-5pm; admission €7.50/€3 students) which is said to be in the world’s largest technology museum. Found ten minutes walk west of Marienplatz, the only problem with visiting it is that you have to walk past Viktualienmarkt to get there. A huge food market and beer garden, you can treat yourself to a number of palatable delicacies in the food stores which are here in abundance.
Getting around Munich is easy as pie. The S-trains (suburban) and U-trains (metro) network is very easy to use. Within the stations all the different lines are clearly signposted and making your way around the city is very easy. Single journeys cost €2, but if you’re going to stay in the city for more than three days get a Streipenkart. Costing €9.50, it’s valid for 10 trips.
Nobody ever wants to harp on about stereotypes too much when describing a city, but it’s hard not to when talking about Munich. Every third male has a moustache, and one in every three of those moustaches is huge. You can get frankfurters in stalls all over the city, and there is enough beer to leave a small country legless for a season. But there is more to Munich than all of that. There’s an old town which was destroyed but rebuilt to its former glory, there are enough museums to keep you occupied for a week, and even more friendly locals to talk to you for longer. In saying all of that, I have got one bad thing to say about this city – I’ve been to the gym 6 times since I got back trying to burn off the pounds I put on. Be warned, treating yourself to its niceties is far too easy.
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