Munich may be renowned for its lederhosen and the Oktoberfest, but it would be an injustice to stop there. As the capital of Bavaria, and one of Germany's largest cities, Munich has been, and remains a European cultural and entertainment centre with huge historical significance.

Although settlement in the Munich area can be traced back to Roman times, the Duke of Saxony and Bavaria founded the actual city in 1158, with the name derived from a nearby settlement of Benedectine monks entitled Munichen. A focal point of the region, Munich would only come to wider prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries courtesy of expansion and cultural revival, being pivotal in the development of the Gothic style, the late Renaissance and the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

However, it was during the 19th century that the hallmarks of contemporary Munich were established. The city was made capital of Bavaria in 1806 after a brief period under the Austrian Habsurg family's control. Under the Bavarian monarch Ludwig I, some of the city's finest buildings were constructed, followed by huge technological expansion with the introduction of railways towards the end of the century. In addition, by the outbreak of World War I, Munich had become a Germanic and European centre of arts and sciences, with a young Albert Einstein, Wassily Kandinsky, Richard Wagner and Henrik Ibsen among the cultural heavyweights in residence.

The city was embroiled in the latest post-war political developments, ironically hosting both the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in February 1919 and the site of the abortive Nazi 'Beer Hall Putsch' in 1923, which attempted to overthrow the democratic Weimar Republic. Less gloriously, Munich remained a centre of Nazi power and subsequently suffered at the hands of Allied bombing before reconstruction helped re-establish the city's prosperity. Its continued importance is evidenced by the city’s involvement in the German-hosted 1974 and 2006 football World Cups and the rather more tragic 1972 Summer Olympics.

Containing such immense history and cultural cachet, Munich is a must-see for anyone interested in Europe, let alone Germany.


Impossible to miss and vital to see, the Marienplatz (Mary's Square) has been the heart of Munich since its foundation. Containing the Old City Hall with its traditional 15th century styling, a number of genuine street musicians and the fabulous Marian Column, erected to denote the end of Swedish occupation in 1658, this large open square is a nexus of activity and a site of huge cultural significance. However, the most famous sight can be found in the New Town Hall tower, near its predecessor. Within the 260 foot tower, which itself provides an incredible panoramic of the city, is the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, the most famous of its kind and dating from 1908. Each day at 11am, the glockenspiel re-enacts two medieval stories from the 16th century, making full use of its 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures.

Munich is equally well known for its selection of beautiful churches. The oldest in the inner city is Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church), remarkably stretching back further than the foundation of the city to the 8th century. Although destroyed in the fire of 1327, it was reconstructed later in the century and expanded in the 18th century. Perhaps the most well known religious building though is the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of our Blessed Lady), being the largest church in the city and most unique with its huge domed towers. Although the building itself was complete in 1488, the towers were not built until 1525, where they have stood since (even surviving the Allied bombing). Among the many other buildings are the Michaelskirche (St. Michael’s Church), which acted as a spiritual centre of the Counter-Reformation with its renaissance architecture and glorious façade, and the St. Anna im Lehel, notable as one of the finest examples of rococo architecture.

Befitting its status as Bavaria's capital, visible landmarks of the kingdom remain today. Being the former home of Bavarian dukes and kings, the Residenz now acts as a museum and is worth seeing for its hotchpotch of Renaissance, baroque, rococo and classicist architecture both in the façade and interior, the culmination of continual development since its foundation in 1385. Elsewhere, trips down the Brienner strasse, the Maximilianstrasse and the Prinzregentenstrasse provide an opportunity to see the finest buildings of the 19th century kingdom as it reached its zenith.

One cannot hope to cover all the museums and galleries in Munich in any detail. However, the most important place in this regard is the Kunstareal (literally 'art area') in the city centre. Within this area can be found the Alte Pinakothek (containing 14th-18th century art, including Durer, Raphael and Rubens), the Neue Pinakothek (containing 18th-19th century art, specialising in neo-classicism and Impressionism) and the Pinakothek der Moderne (focusing on modern art). Also situated within its regions are the Glypothek (offering a huge collection of Greek and Roman sculptures) and the Lenbachaus (paying tribute to the Der Blaue Reiter expressionists, including Marc, Klee and Kandinsky). For those who prefer the sciences, Munich is also well resourced with the Deutsches Museum on an island in the Isar River, being one of the largest and oldest natural science museums in the world.

For a more relaxing experience, the Englischer Garten (English Garden, due to its design) is one of many beautiful parks strewn around the city and even offers surfing in the Spring on the River Isar. Watch out for the nudist area though! The Munich Zoo can also be found at Thalkirchen.

Sport is an essential part of Munich life, and football in particular. As one of Europe's most successful clubs and current Bundesliga champions, seeing Bayern Munich is a tough task. However, also playing their games at the spectacular Allianz Arena (which was used for the 2006 World Cup) is 1860 Munich, offering more opportunities for tickets during the season.

Should you happen to visit in late September or very early October, then why not pop along to the world-famous Oktoberfest? With 6 million visitors each year to the roller-coasters and fourteen beer tents, this festival has a strong pedigree reaching back to 1810, when established to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese. Music, lovely food and plenty of alcohol are on offer and have made it one of the premier events in the continent, offering something for everyone.

Outside Munich, the most sobering and informative activity is a trip to Dachau Concentration Camp. With the gates framed by the chilling Abeit Macht Frei (Work sets you free) motto, the camp itself is a fascinating (if disturbing) insight into one of the central parts of Nazi history. Tours can be booked in Munich.


For more unique produce, the many markets in the city should be visited. The daily Viktualienmarkt in the city centre provides the best selection of food and drink and also serves up occasional folkloric events including gardeners' day and brewers' day.

For local crafts, the best areas are the Neuhauserstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse, with an opportunity to pick up woodcarvings, beer mugs, speciality foods and maybe even lederhosen!

For more traditional luxury goods and clothing, the Maximilianstrasse in the city centre and the Hohenzollernstrasse are the major areas. However, shopping centres like PEP in Neuperlach Zentrum and OEZ in Olympia Einkaufszentrum are worth exploration

Nightlife and Eating Out

Amongst the many restaurants located in the city, the most common misconception is that German sausage is the only thing on the menu! While it is true that local specialities include the famous Weisswuerste (white sausage) with mustard, this is largely a breakfast dish and doesn't represent the true wealth of choice. If you have the opportunity, why not try the Schweinshaxe (roasted pig's knuckle) or the Leberknodel soup (bread dumplings with liver and onions)? For dessert, the Bavarian apple strudel and the Auszogene (fried pastry in a donut shape) are extremely popular.

The city itself enjoys a thriving nightlife with over 6,000 licensed establishments. For beer halls, the best place is the Hofbrauhaus am Platzl but you're never far away from a drink in Munich. The main area for clubs is Hardhausen, which includes the huge Kultfabrik/Optimolwerke entertainment area.

If you'd prefer something more cultured, the Nationaltheater Munchen opera house is home to the Bavarian State Opera and specialises in the works of Richard Wagner, who premiered many of his pieces at establishments like Das Rheingold in 1869. Adjacent to the Nationaltheater is the modern Residenz Theatre for more contemporary showings, while the Gärtnerplatz Theatre provides fantastic ballet performances.

Tourist Information

Munich Tourist OfficeSendlinger Str. 1D-80331MunichTel: +49 (0)89 233 965


Munich is served by the Franz Josef Strauss International Airport (commonly known as the Munich International Airport). Located some 28km from Munich, the city centre can nevertheless be easily reached via the commuter S-Bahn train.

The airport itself is one of the largest in Europe, making domestic and international flights unproblematic. British Airways runs from London Heathrow, Glasgow and Bristol, Easyjet runs from London Stansted and Lufthansa operate out of both Birmingham and London Heathrow.

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