Today’s Munich City Guide comes from Eleanor Mayrhofer, a designer who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Munich over 12 years ago, and Emily Wachelka, a Pennsylvania native who has lived in Munich for over six years. Eleanor lives in Munich with her husband, runs her online printable stationery business, e.m.papers, and writes about life in Munich on her blog, Wahlmünchnerin. When she is not hanging out by the Isar River, Emily is scheming various celebrations at Pretzel Parties and preparing for a baby boy, due January 2012. These two ladies lead us around Munich with a guide full of great hotels, restaurants and must-do shopping. Thank you, Emily and Eleanor, for this incredible guide! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
Munich sits in the very south of Germany and is often referred to as Italy’s northernmost city. Despite serving as the capital of Bavaria, the engine fueling Germany’s robust economy, Munich has a laid-back vibe with a culture that celebrates both hard work and leisure.
To the chagrin of Berliners, Kölners and Hamburgers everywhere, in 2007, Monocle Magazine listed Munich as the most livable city in the world and again in 2010. München also regularly shows up on the top-five list of various agency reports on the best cities to live in, with good reason. Munich may not have the über cool grittiness of Berlin or the hard-partying charm of Cologne, but it does have a healthy mix of things that make a city appealing: a thriving design scene, lots of jobs, well-funded art and cultural institutions, industry, a burgeoning indie scene, one of the highest ratios of green space to people (The English Garden is one of the largest city parks in the world) and a robust bike culture. Finally, Munich offers citygoers an endless amount of restaurants, bars, shops and spots to hang out in.
Split down the middle by the Isar River, Munich was originally seven villages that grew together. The city is roughly comprised of 10 main neighborhoods: Altstadt, Schwabing, Max Vorstadt, Isarvorstadt, Haidhausen, Au, Westend, Glockenbachviertel, Lehel and Neuhausen. Each one is a world unto its own, and that’s how we’ll break up this guide.
Check out the Google Map with all of the below listings.
The Cortiina: A hip but understated design hotel right across the street from Bar Centrale and owned by the same people. The hotel also has a bar complete with fireplace that is worth visiting on its own, especially in winter.
Hotel Stadt Rosenheim: Originally built in 1890, the hotel was used by the US Army for 10 years after WWII. It is now a highly recommended and reasonably priced design hotel that sits on the edge of Haidhausen and conveniently located by the Ostbahnhof, the main eastern train station. It is just 31 minutes from the airport on the S-Bahn train or 9 minutes from Hauptbahnhof, the city’s central station.
Olympic Hotel: A cozy hotel located in the heart of the hip Glockenbach Neighborhood. Regular exhibitions of art are displayed on the walls, and it is just minutes from the heart of town as well as all the shops, restaurants, bars and cafés that the Glockenbach quarter has to offer.
Hotel Opera: For those who require upscale, traditional luxury in a quieter neighborhood setting. This hotel is housed in a well-preserved 19th-century building in the posh (but quiet) Lehel neighborhood. Walking distance to the English Garten as well as Maximillianstrasse, Munich’s version of Rodeo Drive.
The Altstadt (Old City) is Munich’s historical city center and, not surprisingly, home to some of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. But beyond the busloads of tourists waiting for the Glockenspiel to start chiming or making their way in a haze to or from the Hofbräuhaus, it is also full of lesser known, traditionally Bavarian as well as contemporary and interesting places to visit, eat and shop.
Eat & Drink
The Viktualienmarkt: Munich’s year-round open-air farmers’ market. Hardly a secret destination but well worth visiting, especially if you know which stands to hit. For quick, cheap and delicious grilled sandwiches made with generous slabs of French bread and ingredients like prosciutto, figs, mozzarella, goat cheese and more, head to Luiginos, an organic cheese stand that boasts the production of the “World Champion” winning Emmentaler cheese. Look for the yellow awning toward the eastern border of the market. If you are in the mood for a more leisurely high-end lunch and the weather is nice, grab one of the tables in front of Fisch Witte and enjoy any of their delicious fresh seafood offerings along with a chilled bottle of Weisswein (white wine). If the weather is on the chilly side, head over to the Münchner Suppenküche tent to enjoy delicious soups and hearty stews based on family recipes. The menu changes daily, with everything from traditional Bavarian soups to Asian-influenced curries. There is usually at least one vegetarian option available. Get there ahead of time if you’re hungry; there is usually a bit of a line.
Jodlerwirt: There is a popular Bavarian term, “Urig,” which means something like a mix between cozy and dark and old and typical, and there’s is really no other way to describe the Jodlerwirt. Nestled in a small, wood-clad building, Jodlerwirt serves simple Bavarian food and drink, and there is always a one-man-band-style entertainer armed with an accordion and a full repertoire of schadenfreude jokes — mostly about you — all evening long. You may not understand a word he’s saying, but you’re sure to pick up on the jolly mood, and who knows — after a few beers or “willi” pear schnapps, you might be speaking Bavarian yourself.
Bar Centrale: Bar Centrale is somewhat hidden on a side street. A small bar that opens onto the road, it’s where locals stop for a post-shopping Prosecco Aperol and to see and be seen. Run by a lively crew of Italian barkeepers, if everyone wasn’t speaking German, you might just think you’re in Milan or Rome. Standard Italian bar fare, such as paninis, is offered, and there is also a small dining room in the back, which offers a full menu.
Kustermann: Family owned since 1798, this multi-level housewares store offers floor after glorious floor of everything from Italian espresso makers to German Weck canning jars all appealingly displayed. Warning: You can easily lose entire days browsing all the goodies here, when all you meant to do was buy a light bulb. If your travel partner has shopping fatigue, there is a small Viennese-style cafe tucked into the second floor with a display of lovely cakes and a full coffee and espresso bar.
Obacht: A shop offering a proud and modern take on Bavarian kitsch. The store is owned by Babette and Marion, two bona fide Bavarian Mädels (gals) who offer handmade products branded with antlers, cuckoo clocks and cross-stitching that look surprisingly cool.
The Fünf Höfe: A shopping passage redesigned and remodeled by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, who did an exceptional job of creating a very modern shopping area within the heart of the old city, blending both elements harmoniously. Within the complex, you’ll find upscale stores such as Armani Exchange as well as a Muji and Magazin, a modern German home furnishings store. A large portion of the upper floor is taken up by the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, an art museum that features exhibitions ranging from the old masters to shows with themes addressing broader cultural contexts, such as prehistoric or non-European civilizations.
See & Do
The Altstadt is chock-full of standard Bavarian sights that most guidebooks consider “must-sees,” such as the Glockenspiel or the St. Peter’s Church Tower. Below are a few places and spaces not immediately obvious that we think warrant a visit.
Literaturhaus: If you’re looking for a little bit of culture, the Literaturhaus has much to offer. Self-described as “A retreat in the thicket of the city for all who keep an ear out for jingles or simply wish to wait a little longer for Godot.” The Literaturhaus reminds one that Munich is the largest publishing metropolis in Europe. Readings, lectures and exhibitions are the order of the day here, often in English. If you really want to feel like a European intellectual, visit the Oskar Maria café coffeehouse and restaurant downstairs.
Münchner Stadt Museum: The Munich City Museum offers a lovely cross section of Munich history and culture. Don’t miss the collection of marionettes and puppets from the Münchener Theater, or the excellent photography collection. After exploring the museum’s offerings, or if you don’t have time to visit the collections, be sure to visit the gift shop and see its quirkily curated selection of modern cuckoo clocks, snarky t-shirts and historic and silly postcards. Check out the antique section for authentic Bavarian treasures. The café is frequented by locals and is a cozy spot to read a newspaper, drink a cup of coffee, eat a quick lunch and just people watch. On a nice day, take advantage of the outdoor seating on Josefsplatz.
Kunstverein: A public space for contemporary art that is comprised of more than 1,000 private members that work to host not only exhibitions by local artists but also international works in cooperation with the Andy Warhol museum, The Whitney Museum of American Arts, The Emily Carr institute and others.
The Ohel Jakob Synagogue: Completed in 2006 as part of the new Jewish Center in Munich, which is comprised of the synagogue, the Jewish Museum Munich and a community center, this imposing structure should not be missed. Situated at Sankt-Jakobs-Platz, the synagogue was designed by architects Rena Wandel-Hoefer and Wolfgang Lorch, who won the contract via an architecture competition.
These two adjacent neighborhoods, which lie just south of the city center and to the west of the Isar River, are technically part of two different city districts. But together they make up the epicenter of all that is hip in Munich. The area has undergone rapid change over the last several years as bars, indie shops, cafés, furniture stores and night clubs have taken over. Traditionally the city’s gay quarter, the Christopher Street Day parade (Pride Parade) centers around the area’s main square, Gärtnerplatz.
The Gärtnerplatz is the heart of the area and is the focal point of non-commercial and commercial activities alike. On a sunny day, people enjoy the flowers and grassy patches with makeshift picnics. The grand State Theater borders one side of the round square as do several cafés and shops with outdoor tables providing the constant background buzz of city life. The steps of the theater have become a de facto gathering place for people pre- and post-clubbing or just hanging out to enjoy a beer and a chat.
Eat & Drink
Zappeforster: Delicious and simple food like pastas and salads are served up in a green-walled dining room or around the corner on the Gärtnerplatz. The coffee is delicious, and in the summer, you can order a beer and join the crowd hanging out on the lawns among the spectacular flower gardens of Gärtnerplatz and the steps of the State Theater.
Hey Luigi: This hip, boisterous restaurant and watering hole is a neighborhood favorite. During the day, there is ample outside seating to enjoy some people watching and one of the many delicious salads on the menu. At night, it morphs into a lively bar but remains a full-service restaurant as well. On Sundays, they usually offer fresh homemade Schweinebraten (slow-roasted pork with dumplings.)
Baader Café: The Baader Café was part of the Glockenbach neighborhood landscape long before it became the hip place to be. A full bar, solid menu of café food and a cool but unpretentious vibe make the Baader Café a perennial local favorite. Also a great place for late Sunday morning breakfast. You can’t miss it; it’s the place with the large Planet der Affen (Planet of the Apes) wall mural in the dining room, which is easily visible from the street. There is only a picture of a globe and the actual text, though — no monkeys.
Café Maria: Feels like a modern, alternative take on a farmhouse, with heavy wooden tables, friendly service and a small but excellent menu offering international dishes and breakfast all day. This is definitely one of the Glockenbachviertel’s hidden secrets. Tucked in a residential area, Maria offers a variety of healthy breakfasts or small choices for dinner; the soups are especially delicious. The outdoor seating is sunny all day, and offers the perfect opportunity for loungers to sip a Milchkaffee and watch passers-by. At closing, night owls can head across the street to the biblical (and proprietorially) related Bar Josef.
Trachtenvogl: Trachtenvogl perhaps does the best job of typifying Munich hipster culture. The bar and café kept the original name of the establishment, which made Tracht traditional Bavarian clothing such as Lederhosen and Dirndls. Now filled wall-to-wall with vintage retro furniture, it offers not only standard coffeehouse drinks but over 40 kinds of hot chocolate. In the evening, it turns into a busy but laid-back bar and lounge where you can often find local DJs spinning cool tunes.
Bar Josef: A small bar and disco with 70s-inspired modern décor that offers not only cocktails but also locally inspired snacks, such as thick slices of hearty farmers’ bread topped with cheeses and spreads, house-made potato salad and soups. Grab a seat at one of the cozy, leather-lined booths or get out onto the dance floor to work off those heavy Bavarian carbs.
Götterspeise: The German word Götterspeise translates as “food of the gods” but actually refers to one of the most pedestrian desserts we know of: Jello! At this café and confectionery shop housed in a lovely pre-war Altbau building, the retro, wiggly dessert is nowhere to be found. Instead, you will be awed by mounds and mounds of expertly crafted pralines and other sugar confections. Take a seat in the adjoining café for a relaxed spot to enjoy a coffee and one (or several) sweet treats.
Aroma Kaffeebar: A great place to sip coffee and do some excellent people watching. Not only is the food — such as the paper and twined wrapped sandwiches — fresh, local and good, but half of the space is a thoughtfully curated shop full of curios, culinary treats and modern crafts. Make sure to wear your hipster sunglasses, and do try the delicious Mango-Mint shake.
Bergwolf: The line snakes out the door all night long, and party-goers in need of regenerative calories crowd the entryway hoarding paper trays of the Bergwolf’s specialty, “Currywurst,” a large sausage cut into bite-sized pieces and smothered in a curry ketchup sauce. Vegetarians can go for the piping hot French fries smothered in ketchup and mayonnaise, called “Rotweiß” (red/white), and those watching their waistline can order the “Jogger’s” version: without mayo. If you can fight through the crowd, the back of the bar is a cozy, dimly lit setting with a larger selection of drinks, simple wooden tables and the same yummy snacks brought right to your table — if you can find a seat.
München 72: This neighborhood-y café just opened a couple years ago and has quickly become a go-to spot for locals, as well as a lunch stop for the people who work at the European patent office, which is located right across the street. As the name suggests, the theme of the café is the 72 Olympics, which took place in Munich. Much of the seating is made out of salvaged German gymnastics equipment from the 70s, including pommel horses and orange plastic arena seating. The restaurant is owned and operated by the very friendly Tom, and a substantial portion of this guide was written here!
Schuh Bertl: Hardly a spot for modern, indie fashion (or is it?), this small shoemaker’s atelier is a perfect example of the culture of craftsmanship and independent business that comfortably coexists with the high-tech, engineering and bio-tech industries that fuel so much of the wealth in Munich. “Bertl” definitely qualifies as part of the local color. He can be regularly seen making his trademark shoes in his workshop or just hangin’ outside of his shop chatting with friends, locals and the postman, who stops by often for a cuppa. He creates not only traditional Bavarian shoes but modern work boots, shoes, rucksacks, cases and belts. If you want a quality souvenir of your visit to Munich — one that you’ll actually use and will probably last a lifetime — stop by and visit Bertl.
Sams & Son: I don’t know how they do it, but I can only assume that the owners of this small boutique have some sort of great, secret connection to get in on every institutional estate sale in Munich before anyone else knows about it. Full of old apothecary shelves, globes and maps, lamps, vintage suitcases, traveling trunks and wood type, Sams & Son is a small paradise for anyone looking for vintage curios, furniture and ephemera.
Antonetty: Owning one of Antonetty’s hip, colorful leather wallets or bags makes a clear statement: I am a local, and one who knows what’s cool in town. Part of the appeal of this leather work studio is that it started years ago on a corner of the Glockenbach and sold its wares directly out of the workshop, which is on full display through the plate glass windows of the storefront. You can see the designers and craftswomen creating the items as you walk by. Not only can you order a wallet or purse with custom colors for the leather and zippers, Caroline Antonetty and her team also make jackets, belts and other accessories to order.
Bergwein: Südtirol is one of the northernmost alpine regions of Italy. Mostly German-speaking, it has culturally more in common with southern Germany and Austria than the rest of Italy, and it also produces great wines. Happily, this small wine boutique has brought some of the best of these Weins a little further north, to spare the good citizens of München the four-hour drive down to the area. There are regular wine tastings and events at the store. It’s probably worth wrapping a couple of bottles in a plastic bag and sticking them in your suitcase for the trip home.
Glockenbach Werkstatt is a Bürgerhaus, a locally subsidized kind of community center. The Glockenbach Werkstatt is a combination concert venue, café, bar and artist workshop all in one. The rotating weekly program includes all sorts of events, such as flea markets, clothing swaps and open mike nights, as well as dance parties. Stop by and have a beer in the café or the bar area and see what’s happening.
Café am Hochhaus: Formerly a cafe only a grandma could love, this is now a very hip night club. Another spot that opted (smartly) to keep the name of the previous owner’s establishment, which adds to the bar’s sense of urbane irony. It gets quite full and trendy on the weekend, but if you’re looking for nightlife, it’s a good place to go on weeknights.
Haidhausen lays in the eastern portion of the city. The neighborhood is peppered with the small fairy-tale like homes (now historical landmarks) that housed artisans and workers who, centuries ago, were not allowed to live within the gates of the main city. The district also has an abundance of 19th-century Altbau buildings, which managed to survive the war. Starting in the 1970s, the area experienced significant development and renewal, making it one of Munich’s more expensive and desirable neighborhoods to live in.
Eat & Drink
The unofficial “main drag” of Haidhausen is Wörthstrasse, which houses several restaurants and shops and on warmer evenings, hosts a nice street buzz. Some of these worth visiting include NoMiya, which offers tasty Japanese food in a decidedly Bavarian setting and Lollo Rosso, a cozy wine bar with several regional wines and a small but tasty Italian menu. Both restaurants have floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the street, so you can watch passersby on foot or bike.
Negroni: For exceptional cocktails in a (usually) low key, classic bar setting, turn onto Comeniustr and walk to the corner of Sedanstrasse. Try the Jack Dope. A small dinner menu is offered most evenings of the week, and the food is also quite good.
Wein Cantina: A somewhat upscale wine bar run by two wine aficionados and a renowned local chef. The Vinothek hosts regular wine tastings and also offers a multi-course menu with selected wine accompaniments. The menu changes daily.
Café Fortuna: A small indie café that serves organic, homemade food and desserts. A great place to come during the week if you want a quiet coffee. If you’re looking for something more lively, visit on Thursday evenings when the café hosts dance nights with DJs spinning funk, soul and jazz music. They also offer a Sunday brunch.
Maria Passagne: A bar for those in the know! Behind the black door and red velvet rope is a cocktail bar and a kitsch wonderland, complete with pink walls adorned with retro ceramic tchotchkes. Ring the bell, and you’ll be let into this small, secret world. Good cocktails and decent sushi, the old Flash website pretty much explains how the process works.
Wölfl Konditorei: For some really good pie, streudel, pastry or similar baked delight, stop by this unassuming Konditorei. Note the confectionery Meisterbrief diploma hanging on the wall — it’s there for a reason. Don’t go here to see or be seen. Go if you want some really good cake.
Bindewerk: A shop and bookbinding studio showcasing the talents of Arne Katzbichler and his team. Lots of gorgeous books, albums and notebooks made from beautifully patterned papers. You’ll also find lots of lovely silk-screened prints, some of local alpine vistas, the city or just interesting visual compositions.
1260 Grad: Just walking into this small ceramics store is a visual treat. All products are made by talented ceramic artist Petra Fischer, who also has impeccable instincts for creating an appealing shop environment. In addition to kitchen and dishware, you’ll also find items for the bathroom, flower vases and patterned porcelain bowls and trays.
Muffathalle Biergarten offers a modern, hip take on the beer garden and is just down the road by the Gasteig, the city symphony and concert hall. The clientele reflects as much. Biergarten culture runs deep in Munich, and you’ll find people from all walks of life in almost every one, but the Muffathalle appeals exclusively to a more urbane crowd. Try one of the very excellent Hermansdorfer local organic bratwursts.
See & Do
The Muffathalle and Ampere clubs are part of the complex that also houses the Muffathalle beer garden called the Muffatwerk. The complex used to be a power station and now serves as a hot spot for concerts and nightlife. The Muffathalle is a larger hall used for intimate concerts for many well-known artists, while the Ampere is a more of a nightclub.
Müller´sches Volksbad: Not only a functioning public indoor pool with a complex of saunas and steam rooms, it is an architectural jewel showcasing a well-preserved example of a Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) building. Perfect if you are visiting in the colder months. Remember, saunas and steam rooms in Germany are fully nude and coed! But check the schedule for the weekly Frauenabend (women-only evening.)
The Au neighborhood runs along the Isar River and sits just across from the city’s hipster epicenter, Gärtnerplatz. Traditionally an area considered undesirable to live in due to its proximity to the Isar River (Au literally means “floodplain”), the area has recently emerged as a sought-after neighborhood due to its central location, access to the river and associated park space (flood management has greatly improved over the last several decades).
Eat & Drink
Österia: Playing on the Italian word “Osteria,” this Austrian (Österreich) restaurant offers an upscale take on cuisine from the Alpine region and regularly offers a set menu with an Austrian wine accompaniment (Weinbeglietung) for each course. If you find any particularly good, you can hop over to their wine shop, Oesiwine, around the corner.
Le Fattoria: This small restaurant nestled within an unassuming part of the neighborhood is a favorite of locals. Owned by two Italians, the food is authentic, uncomplicated and reasonable. Great if you’re looking for a casual dinner off the beaten path. The beet gnocchi is fantastic. They do seem to leave town for a large part of the summer, so call before you go.
Café Hüller: One of the few cafes in Au, right along the Isar. Beyond standard coffee-bar fare, Café Hüller offers hot dishes like pasta and crepes. Some nights you’ll also find small acoustic concerts and local community events taking place.
Schwarze Hahn: A grunge bar complete with dark walls and highly tattooed clientele. Nightly DJs spinning “Heavy Rockin’ Music.” Watch out — it’s also a Raucherclub, meaning that after 11:00 pm, it becomes a “Smoker’s Club.” Anyone can come in; you just have to sign a piece of paper before entering to “join” the club. This is how some bars and clubs have found a way around the recent anti-smoking laws.
Charlie: This Vietnamese restaurant recently opened. In spite of its out-of-the-way location, it has seen brisk business. They’ve kept many of the traditional Bavarian furnishings of the previous restaurant and added some rustic-industrial touches. You would not know it’s an Asian restaurant by looking at it from the outside. A restaurant specialty is Feuertöpfe, tasty Vietnamese hot pots of soup accompanied by do-it-yourself rice paper wraps, meat, noodles and vegetables.
See & Do
Deutsches Museum: Munich’s vast science and industry museum with everything from previously used space capsules to old submarines. It’s right in the middle of town and great for kids and adults alike. Don’t miss the underground Bergwerk (mining) exhibit.
Auer Dult: A nine-day folk festival dating back to the 14th century. In its present form, it is one part carnival, one part folk and craft festival and one part housewares section at the hardware store. It’s kitschy, and a great place to eat traditional Bavarian food like Rahmschmankerls, Dampfknüdeln and, of course, Bratwurst. The “Dult” takes place three times a year, so check their website for dates.
A quiet, upscale neighborhood bordered by the Isar River, the English Garden and downtown. In spite of its lack of street and nightlife (or maybe because of it), this is Munich’s most expensive neighborhood to live in. It’s low key, but there are some great places to experience.
Eat & Drink
Nage und Sauge: A surprising lively (and loud) spot in this otherwise sleepy part of town. Both a bar and a restaurant, you’ll find a hip crowd enjoying a variety of the available salads or pasta dishes as well as cocktails. In summer, you can sit outside, but after 11:00 pm, you will get seriously shhhuushed!
Le Barestovino: An upscale and elegant French restaurant and wine bar, perfect for a special occasion or romantic dinner. The actual dining room is situated toward the back. Experienced sommeliers provide expert recommendations to go along with a menu that serves up classic French cuisine.
La Stanza: Pop into this bar-restaurant for some Italian flair and fun mid-century interior architecture. Can be a bit scene-y, but that makes it all the more fun. It gets quite lively on Saturday in the late afternoon as the shopping rush begins to wind down. (Remember, stores in Munich close at 8:00 pm every day and are not open on Sundays.)
Gandl: Both a specialty food shop and a restaurant, Gandl is a relaxed but top-tier restaurant. Perfect on a sunny day or warm evening for outdoor seating on the scenic St. Anna Platz. It also serves as the restaurant for the Hotel Opera, which is located about a block away.
Roosevelt: A small, old-world-style cocktail bar where the barkeepers wear white jackets and mix world-class cocktails. Lots of dark wood and low music make it a good place if you want a quiet drink for two and aren’t interested in lively crowds.
Thiersch 15: A home-furnishing store showcasing beautiful modern furniture, with an emphasis on European designers. See, touch and feel sofas, lighting, tables and chairs from designers like e15, Fermob, Richard Lampert, DePadova and more.
St. Anna Platz Farmer’s Market: Thursdays from 11:00–18:00. Lots of local and organic produce and meat stands, as well as some tasty bratwurst and cake booths. The square is also surrounded by several cafés and restaurants (some mentioned above), which make for a perfect coffee or Campari Spritz stop after grocery shopping.
See & Do
Haus der Kunst: Technically in Maxvorstadt but right on the border, this museum was infamously built by Hitler, and the museum takes great pains to honestly reconcile the history of the museum with its place in modern Germany, often working relevant themes into the shows it curates. It now houses contemporary art exhibitions from artists such as Ai Weiwei and Matt Mullican with themes such as “Future Beauty — 30 Years of Japanese Fashion.” The back of the museum, including the outdoor terrace, has recently been converted into a very nice restaurant and bar called the Goldenen Bar.
Eisbach: The lack of an ocean has not stopped Munich from developing a thriving surfing scene. At the southernmost entrance of the English Garten, right next to the Haus der Kunst, is a naturally occurring river wave on which surfers strut their stuff. There is usually a crowd of onlookers on the bridge. Enjoy the large grass meadow nearby and grab a snack at the newly renovated Fraulein Grüneis, which used to be a public washroom building.
This is the large northern section of the city that is marked by its main thoroughfare, Leopoldstrasse, Munich’s version of the Champs-Élysées. The wide boulevard is lined with shops and cafes, but most of these are chains and not that interesting. Throughout the neighborhood, impressive Art Nouveau apartment buildings line many of its gracious streets. In a previous era, the district was a stronghold of German arts and letters and home to bohemians, artists and writers such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Isolde Kurz and Thomas Mann. In recent times, Schwabing had its heyday as the place to see and be seen in the 80s, but since then, much of Munich’s hip scene has moved south and east.
Eat & Drink
Le Florida: A small restaurant and bar with an open kitchen. A good place to enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine with a mixed and urbane crowd. It can be on the loud side and don’t try to get in without a reservation after 7:30 pm.
Kaisergarten: Bavarian food with contemporary flair. One of the most appealing things about Kaisergarten is the small beer garden area to the side of the restaurant, which faces the road. Seating has been built around and between several large, beautiful chestnut trees. The restaurant is situated on a fairly busy corner, so outdoor dining at the restaurant combines the best of the beer garden experience with the street cafe.
Freebird: Named after the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, but all similarities more or less stop there. This gemütliche (cozy) yet modern bar offers a fireplace as well as comfortable sofas and chairs to sip cocktails (try the “Freebird Cocktail” with cilantro) as well as crossover food like homemade samosas, chickpea salad or modern takes on European staples like chicken cordon bleu.
Schwabing has a couple main thoroughfares, the most notable being Leopoldstrasse. Smaller, independent shops, restaurants and cafés can be found on the side streets, and the busiest one of these is Hohenzollernstr.
Sinneswahn: A great spot to get your fill of all things colorful and slightly kitsch, including melamine dishware, Scandinavian grease cloth by the meter, shabby chic homewares and paper goods. The store gets pretty crowded on the weekend, so try to stop by during the week if you can.
Bench: If you like this UK-based clothing manufacturer (who will be launching an online store for the US in 2011), you can find a retail shop at Hohenzollernstr. 21. Stock up on Euro-casual urban streetwear like hoodies, jeans and jackets.
Koton: A go-to source in Munich for classic modern and mid-century furniture. Offering items such as limited-edition Eames DSR chairs as well as vintage pieces, the store and showroom(s) also offer larger items such as tables and sideboards. Items from Knoll, Herman Miller and ClassicCon abound.
Perlenmarkt: Even if you aren’t interested in crafting, it’s worth it to take a peak inside this bead emporium. Every kind of bead imaginable — from Swarovski crystals to Czech glass beads, as well as charms, chains and fixtures — are on offer and appealingly displayed.
Semikolon: Satisfy your paper and stationery fetish here. Not only are the standard Moleskine items on offer, but Semikolon makes their own colorful line of gorgeous notebooks, folders, albums and storage boxes. You’ll also find beautiful wrapping paper, handmade envelopes and every type of writing implement.
See & Do
BMW Welt and the BMW Museum: This is incredible, even if you don’t care about cars. The new BMW World Building designed by Wolf Prix of the Vienna-based architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au is one of the most notable recent architectural sights in Europe. The museum itself provides an unexpectedly engaging experience, taking visitors through the auto-design process from conception to realization. Lots of neat-o high-tech touch-screen exhibits as well as interesting historical tidbits from the archives. The impressive 1972 Olympic Center is also nearby.
Ingo Mauer Showroom: The famous lighting designer is based in Munich, and his main showroom and atelier can be found in Schwabing. To see one of his public works on your way in or out of Schwabing, make sure to catch the U-Bahn at the Münchner Freiheit Station. Chartreuse lighting and wall panels along with cobalt blue tiling make for an unforgettable arrival or departure.
Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt are two Munich neighborhoods located south of the Munich train station and east of the Theresienwiese, the site of the world-famous Oktoberfest. This is an eclectic area, encompassing trails along the Isar, the old slaughter house quarter (more pleasant than it sounds) as well as former warehouses converted into artist workshops and dance clubs. The neighborhood surrounds the dramatic St. Paul Church that overlooks the Oktoberfest fairgrounds.
Eat & Drink
Café Beethoven is a Viennese-style café situated on the ground floor of a lovely small hotel. Elegant and relaxed at the same time, it’s a great place to go for brunch or to stop for a freshly tapped beer in the evening. A classic Viennese coffee menu offers a decadent treat: the Einspänner, a strong shot of espresso served in a glass and topped with unsweetened whipped cream. The dinner menu is small but delicious, and don’t miss the daily piano concerts ranging from classical and jazz to blues.
Café Mozart: Café Mozart manages to have an old-school and modern vibe at the same time. Wood-paneled walls, outdated upholstered furniture and red carpets mix comfortably with modern, young partygoers. The menu offers drinks as well as German and international cuisine. Breakfast served until 4 pm. Great people watching, and a Munich favorite.
Valentin Stüberl: The Valentin Stüberl is a tiny, hip location with rotating DJs and a devoted clientele. Stop by for a cocktail or a beer. If you’re lucky, you can grab one of the few seats, but it’s just as comfortable standing around with a beer in your hand, watching and bobbing to the music. Sop up the cocktails with a small selection of sandwiches and other simple fare — the daily offerings are written on a chalkboard.
Lindwurmstüberl is another of those Munich classics that transport you back to another era; the (unintentionally) 50s-style café specializes in rotisserie chicken and the Munich-preferred Augustiner beer. Sit at the window and watch the crazy intersection traffic or tipsy Oktoberfest-goers. You can also venture up to the newly renovated rooftop terrace for a lovely, tree-shaded chicken-eating experience.
Cafe GAP: If you find yourself early for your train at Hauptbahnhof, bus past the sketchy looking bars and lounges of the train station area and head straight to Goethstr. 34. GAP is a bar/kitchen/performance space with a slightly grungy aesthetic and a tiny open kitchen. The menu is small and changes daily, but it’s a great place to grab a beer and a snack and perhaps catch an open mike night and enjoy paintings by local artists hanging on the walls.
See & Do
Oktoberfest: No Munich city guide can in good conscience ignore the Wiesn (“the meadow,” the local term for the Oktoberfest). The annual beer festival attracts millions of tourists from all over the world, and while not everyone’s idea of a good time, there are a couple things to see. Since 2010, the festival has introduced a blocked-off area for the “Historical Oktoberfest” (Oiden Wiesn). It costs 3 Euros to get in, but is worth it. The area tries to recreate what the festival originally was: A party thrown to celebrate a royal marriage in the 19th century. Charming vintage rides, traditional tracht and music pervade the quaint, quieter section of the fest, filled mostly with locals.
Back in the louder, wilder section of the “modern” Oktoberfest, stop by an attraction that’s been around since the 50s, the Teufelsrad (“Devils Wheel”) to get some firsthand experience of German schadenfreude as the crowd watches and cheers to see who can stay on the spinning wheel the longest while they are either sitting in a huddled mass, boxing, hula hooping or being assaulted with a large ball of foam rubber.
Import/Export: A former Turkish grocery converted into a cultural center. Import/Export is partnered with Kunstzentrat e.V., an organization for artists and culture, and offers readings, concerts, workshops, film presentations and theater performances. There is something going on here almost every day of the week. Cover is approximately 5–15 Euros.
Most visitors to Munich will inevitably find themselves in Maxvorstadt. The borough begins at Odeonsplatz and is bordered in the east by the English Garden and in the north by the Munich neighborhood of Schwabing. The main boulevard Ludwigstrasse, which runs straight through the middle of this neighborhood, is characterized by the Arc de Triomphe-style Siegestor monument and lined with classic buildings housing parts of the Bavarian state government and library. The city’s universities — the LMU and the Technical University — breathe life into this stretch of town, and Munich’s best art museums are all located here.
Eat & Drink
Café Jasmin: Café Jasmin’s young owners left this restaurant just as they found it — impeccably furnished as a 1950s cake house, with plush green furniture and elegant murals on the wall — but this café is anything but old fashioned. Most of the patrons are hip students, often laden with binders and laptops, enjoying a study break with a foamy Milchkaffee and rich slice of cake. Jasmin also offers cocktails and a small menu, so definitely stop in if you’re in the area.
Max Emanuel Biergarten: From its unassuming facade, you would never know that the Max Emanuel houses not only a sprawling restaurant but also a cozy, sizeable Biergarten in the back. Skip the restaurant interior for the chestnut-shaded tables of the beer garden. In the “self-serve” section, you can even bring your own snacks, or sit in the full-service area and order from their internationally inspired menu. Beer happy hour daily from 4–6 pm (5–7 pm in the winter).
Barer 61: Barer 61 is easy to find — its name and its address are one and the same. A typical student café, with a mishmash of sofas and thrift store lamps, offering fresh-squeezed juice along with the typical selection of drinks and various hot and cold sandwiches. Stop in to check out the local student population and enjoy a refreshment.
Lo Studente: The wood-fired pizzas of this small, unassuming Italian pizzeria are absolutely delicious. Don’t miss the daily pizza special, or enjoy a steaming plate of their authentic pasta dishes. Sit inside on modern leather benches or outside on the sidewalk terrace. Simple Italian food in a young, hopping atmosphere.
See & Do
Art Babel: Founded by Zehra Spindler, a leading figure in Munich’s alternative culture movement, this former transformer house located by the Hauptbahnhof is now a center for indie artists and local subculture. Events include Nerd Nites, live art installations, poetry readings, indie film showings and underground dance parties.
Pinakothek der Moderne: Munich’s three Pinakotheks each showcase a particular art era: Alt, Neu and Modern. If D*S readers can only visit one, it should be the Pinakothek der Moderne, which focuses on art, graphics, design and architecture.
Museum Brandhorst: Museum Brandhorst is the newest addition to Munich’s museum scene and opened in 2009. The facade of the building — made up of 36,000 ceramic tiles in 23 different colors — is hard to miss. Inside, the collection features numerous works by Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly as well as other modern art works.
Carta Pura: Even the exterior of this paper shop is beautiful, with its hand-painted lettering on a stucco facade. Inside, walls upon walls of patterned papers tempt in all manner of shades and prints. In the back, you’ll find lovely, hand-folded note cards and stationery accessories.
Westend is one of those neighborhoods that has been rumored to be up and coming for many years and is . . . still on its way up. But it has two key signs of being the next cool neighborhood: It’s an interesting mix of young trendsetters on a budget and immigrant families. Nestled between the sprawling Westpark and the industrial area behind the Munich train station and bordered by the Oktoberfest fairgrounds on the northeast, it features unique shops with handmade items, independent clothing designers, funky bars and a nightlife scene.
Eat & Drink
Kongressbar: If visiting Oktoberfest leaves you needing a drink, stop by this cocktail bar, which has a retro flair — although the owners swear that’s not what they were going for. The architecture is curvy, and the music is excellent, due to a rotating team of DJs and live performances on the first Friday of the month. Don’t miss the 50s-style punch, served from antique punchbowls.
Josefa is, as they say in German, “klein aber fein” (small but lovely). With only four tables and a tiny open kitchen, the selection in the handbound leather menus manages to offer an intriguing list of items. Choose from a daily soup, salad or pesto or opt for a creative cocktail. For dessert, don’t miss the homemade cakes.
Das Neue Kubitscheck: One look at the website and the café slogan “f*ck the backmischung” (transl: f*ck the cake mix), and you’ll see that this isn’t your grandma’s coffee shop. The café was featured in the online magazine Dezeen, which describes the owner as “a Munich punk on a crusade against doilies.” The German studio Designliga was responsible for the striking interior and unique branding of this café. Stop in and see for yourself (and have a slice of cake while you’re at it).
Café Marais: This French-themed café and shop in a converted textile retail store is a dream come true for lovers of all things French and vintage. This café is rumored to be “the true heart of the Westend.” Mishmash furniture, an original cash register and countless authentic details combine to give this coffee shop and café a unique atmosphere. Order a latte macchiato and people watch, or peruse the eclectic selection of handmade curios and antiques.
Ca Va: If all the seats are taken at Café Marais, you could always stop into Café Ca Va, another eclectically furnished café/bar in the Westend area. If the weather cooperates, sit outside on the sidewalk. The menu offers everything from typical German fare to international dishes, and it’s always a good spot to grab a beer or a late breakfast (until 4 pm!).
Haenselgret specializes in handmade children’s items and classic toys. Just browsing the store’s colorful selection of hand-sewn clothing, baby bedding, vintage toys and tiny country store bins brings a smile to any child or adult’s face. Don’t miss the Bavarian artists offering whimsical Lederhosen and Dirndls for little ones.
Bonnie & Kleid: This small indie shop with a cute play on words (Kleid means “dress”) offers a mix of jewelery, handmade clothes by local independent labels, art objects and t-shirts.
See & Do
Raum 58: Another of many (if not well known) spaces for displays of local art. Raum 58 calls itself a “project room for contemporary art in Munich.” Stop in at this small gallery space and check out the rotating works of mostly Munich artists.
Neuhausen is a large neighborhood that lies to the northeast of Munich. Unlike the rest of the city’s neighborhoods, which easily melt into one another, Neuhausen feels in some ways like an appendage that requires a little extra effort to get to. It’s laid out a little differently than the rest of Munich, with wide streets and spectacular stand-alone homes, many of which used to be (or still are) city villas belonging to the very well heeled. If you know where to go, there are lots of great shops, cafés and restaurants to experience, and it is definitely worth the trek.
Eat & Drink
Lupo di Cucina: This small Italian restaurant serves up simple and authentic pastas, which you can watch being prepared by the owner, Reto, in his open kitchen. A casual neighborhood-y place where you might find a local whiling away the afternoon reading the paper in the main room. There is also a small separate dining room with checkered tablecloths, which can be easily taken over by a group of eight or so and a few small tables for outside dining when the weather permits.
Tanpopo: Although the name and owner, Kanako Okado, are Japanese, and there are a few Japanese knick knacks for sale, the food is classic European Konditorei fare: tarts, cakes and pastries. Fr. Okado has lived in Germany for over 15 years and cut her teeth in the hospitality industry working at the Kempinski Four Seasons. In 2003, she passed her German confectionary “Meisterprüfung” with flying colors. A lovely sunny spot for some Kaffee und Kuchen.
Kaffee Espresso & Barista: A combination espresso machine shop, retro furniture depot, coffee museum and coffeehouse, Kaffee Espresso & Barista is a place for serious coffee lovers. Sip your bean juice among coffee posters, bags of coffee beans and the creme de la creme of European espresso makers, and drink in the coffee culture. On a sunny day, sit outside on the colorful vintage chairs and tables.
Ruffini: A restaurant, café and bar perfect for brunch or an afternoon Kaffee & Kuchen. If the weather is warm, head up to the roof deck, which gets really lovely afternoon sun. Live music, readings, film showings or cabaret shows take place (usually) on Monday nights as do occasional wine tastings. Rotating art exhibitions adorn the walls. Wine, olive oils and other delicacies can be purchased in the restaurant’s small shop.
Café Neuhausen: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails can all be enjoyed here. Tucked into a quiet pedestrian passageway, the café has a lovely side garden where you can sit under the bright yellow and white striped awning and select from a varied menu of anything from salads, weiner schnitzel, hamburger and pastas to tabbouleh and Asian entreés.
Taxis Garten: This is a favorite beer garden of many locals even if it’s a bit out of the way. The food is quite good, and beyond the traditional beer garden fare like roast chicken, giant pretzels, obazda (a mix of Camembert cheese, butter and paprika), ribs, sauerkraut and the like, they also offer items such as avocado and tomato salad and other lighter dishes.
Himmelblau & Himmelblau Wohnen: On a southwest corner of Nymphemburgerstrasse, the large main boulevard that runs through Neuhausen, you’ll find Himmelblau, a shop full of bright-colored items like melamine dishes, woven plastic baskets and grease cloth. Across the street, you’ll find its sister shop, Himmelblau Wohnen, which offers a nicely curated mix of more sophisticated and modern furniture. Everything from lighting and tables to cushions and shelving.
Frau Lang: If you’re looking for some funky clothing, stop by Frau Lange. She carries well-known European clothing and shoe brands like Camper but also a nice selection of brands that are lesser known or hard to get in the states like Vialis, Zeha Berlin and more.
Stoffwechsel: Find a great secondhand bargain and do some good while you’re at it. Stoffwechsel is a fun and well-curated thrift store that benefits the German NGO Diakonia. The shop has a mix of current fashion as well as some vintage items. Be sure to walk a few meters past the shop just to check out the bizzarro and strangely compelling display at the mannequin shop Tolly’s on the corner.
Laifufu Teesalon: This lovely shop has a variety of artfully arranged Japanese objects and a very large selection of Japanese teas. The back area can be reserved for private, authentic tea ceremonies provided by the shop’s owner.
Kristina Sack Küchen & Tischkultur: This small shop is packed to the gills with kitchenware goodness from brands like Le Creuset, Cilio, DAFF and Eisch, to name just a few. Beyond selling kitchenware, Frau Sack and staff also provide kitchen design services.
See & Do
Cinema: You can go to this English-speaking movie theater if you just need a travel break and want to zone out and watch the latest US blockbuster, but you can also see live broadcast performances from venues such as the British National Theater and the Bolshoi Ballet. Performances are expertly filmed (with multiple angles and shots) and beamed to the movie theater, live and in real-time. Look under “service” on the website to see what’s on offer. Tickets average 23 Euros.