The capital of Bavaria combines urban flair with a regional and international approach. We present some of Munich’s must-see attractions and iconic sights. A story by Thomas Linkel (text and photos)
Where Munich is the most beautiful
When the roof of the Olympic Stadium reflects the early morning sun and the intense orange of the sky over this historic monument brings the promise of a new day, the Bavarian state capital is just warming up.
One of the best places to watch this happening, including the picture-book sunrise, is from the Olympiaberg, one of Munich’s most beautiful viewpoints. In 1972, the architectural practice of Behnisch & Partner began the futuristic roof construction of the Olympic Stadium, which would later become a timeless symbol of lightness, transparency and openness.
A hollow-headed bronze: Bavaria trumps king
Without doubt, King Ludwig II is one of the most dazzling personalities, with numerous monuments in Munich dedicated to him. However, when it comes to size, the monarch is totally dwarfed by Bavaria, as the statue of the region’s patron is 18 metres tall and cast in bronze. With the colossal construction of the Hall of Fame in the background she is - and not just at Oktoberfest - a popular photographic model on the Theresienwiese.
While the monarch was often misunderstood, Bavaria gives visitors a glimpse into her inner workings: inside the statue, a spiral staircase leads right up to her head. The view from here is simply majestic!
Although Munich is a teeming metropolis, it retains the charm of a city that can be explored on foot. The route from the Theresienwiese to the floodplains of the Isar is full of interest, leading through such places as the Schlacht- und Viehhofviertel, named after Munich’s slaughterhouse, whose red brick buildings and graffiti-covered walls show a whole different side to the city.
Isar River: Bavarian joie de vivre on the waterfront
The typical city image is soon found in the wonderful atmosphere of the renatured river landscape around the Isar. Water flows through this cosmopolitan city; sometimes calm, sometimes racing, sometimes dark and broody, sometimes crystal clear.
The banks are without doubt a reflection of La Dolce Vita in Munich: whether it’s beer or champagne, folding chairs or picnic blanket, pizza or cordon bleu, rest and relaxation or sporting activity, romantic date or family celebration - the life of Munich’s inhabitants moves outside in the summer to the waters of the Isar, which runs for a good 20 km through the city.
The Isar is never more mystical than when mist hovers over its waters. But this is not necessarily an early morning weather phenomenon. Poor visibility between Flaucher and the southern city limit is often the result of social gatherings, with one glowing barbecue grill after another. At that point the Munich city summer smells of steaks, smoke and garlic. Isar-cooled beers from Munich’s more than 20 large and small breweries help the mild evenings go with a swing.
Off to the Glockenbachviertel
From the many bridges over the River Isar you get a good view of all that’s going on. The Reichenbach Bridge and the Cornelius Bridge by the Deutsches Museum offer the perfect starting point for a city adventure.
After a few metres, a brisk walk switches to an urban amble; past trendy shops, cafés and bars on the way to the heart of the Glockenbachviertel, the Gärtnerplatz. Not only are your senses assailed by a wealth of historic and modern architecture, but halfway there you pick up the scent of a particularly lovely fragrance: “Keksliebe” can be found in the Corneliusstraße.
Rustic shopping at the Viktualienmarkt
For gourmets, this is just the start of a culinary city exploration. The world-famous Viktualienmarkt is just a few minutes’ walk from the Gärtnerplatz. Its traders have been selling their wares daily (except on Sundays and public holidays) since 1807.
Since 1807 the 'belly' of Munich
Even if the former farmers’ market seems like a delicatessen paradise, it has retained its original Bavarian flair. The area is full of aromas, colours and culinary delights.
When buying flowers, freshly roasted coffee, speciality sausages or domestic and exotic fruits, Bavarian stallholders often throw in an anecdote about old Munich.
Smaller markets can be found in many districts of the city. The Wiener Markt in Haidhausen is one of four permanent markets. It is close to the Gasteig Cultural Centre and 10 minutes by bike from the new Werksviertel near the Ostbahnhof station.
One giant wheel and two towers
The new district that has been built on the traditional 'Pfanni' grounds features residential and office buildings as well as cafes and restaurants - and the 78-metre high “Umadum” Ferris wheel. From the Alps to the Olympic Park, Munich can be seen in all its glory from up here. The two towers of the Frauenkirche, at 99 metres high, are particularly striking.
A benchmark height
The three-aisled Late Gothic brick building in the heart of the city near the Marienplatz was inaugurated in 1494. Munich’s cityscape is still dominated by this landmark - and a noticeable dearth of skyscrapers. This is due to a local referendum in 2004, which limited all new building projects to a maximum of 100 metres. This limit has only rarely been crossed since then, for example by the Highlight Towers and the Uptown.
Boulevards, City gates and triumphal arch
From Odeonsplatz, the view opens onto Ludwigstraße, one of the four boulevards in Munich. While you can stroll down the Maximilianstraße and the Briennerstraße and marvel at the protected historic buildings on the Prinzregentenstraße, the Ludwigstraße is lined with Italian Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Romantic architecture. At its northern end is the Siegestor, or Victory Gate.
While the historic city gates, the Sendlinger Tor, the Karlstor and the Isartor, border the old town to the south, west and east, the Siegestor, an imposing triumphal arch, marks the border to Schwabing. It is frequently passed through by students at the Ludwig Maximilian University, who add a youthful flair to the numerous faculty buildings in the Maxvorstadt area.
Art from Rubens to Richter in the Kunstareal
Heated debates are held in street cafes, cool fashion is sold in small boutiques and the green spaces around the Kunstareal, or Art District, are much in demand for sport, relaxation and outdoor study. Students at the HFF (University of Television and Film Munich) or the Academy of Fine Arts and visitors to museums such as the Pinakothek der Moderne or the Lenbachhaus may often fail to notice a secret hiding behind a smart pair of sunglasses and a cool outfit.
Schwabing and the English Garden
The university grounds extend into the legendary district of Schwabing, which was viewed as the Bohemian district in the Prince Regent era at the end of the 19th century, and became a party centre in the 1960s and 1970s, when its club culture attracted international stars such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.
The neighbouring English Garden, at 375 hectares, is one of the most spacious city centre parks in the world. Munich’s green lung, with its Chinese Tower, Monopteros and the lake of Kleinhesseloher See, is an ode to the Bavarian attitude to life. On the meadows and in the Biergarten, over roast pork with dumplings, a game of frisbee or a spell of surfing on the Eisbach wave, all’s well in the world here in the state capital.
More information on Munich at munich.travel