Before visiting Munich - Germany’s third largest city - I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly wasn’t prepared for its royal grandeur and beauty inherited from its long history as capital of Bavaria! Breathtaking palaces, lavish gardens and fabulous museums make it an absolute must for culture lovers and aesthetes alike. But let’s not forget its contemporary character. With the best German designers living and working in Munich, the city is Germany’s undisputed capital of design, shining through its modernity and creativity. Add the fact that it’s clean, safe and packed with shopping possibilities and you’ll easily understand why Munich is definite city trip material!
Exploring Marienplatz and its surroundings
Upon your arrival in the Bavarian capital, head to its epicenter known as Marienplatz or Mary’s Square. This has been Munich’s main square since its foundation in 1158 and continues to draw many crowds today. Admittedly this is the most touristy spot you could start your trip with, but it gives you an immediate sense of the city’s long history. All around there are significant buildings to be seen, among which the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) with its intricate Gothic architecture and animated clock drawing everybody’s attention at 11AM, 12PM and 5PM.
From here you can visit three churches which are of interest, each with a distinctive identity. First comes the Frauenkirche and its iconic bulbous domes leaving their signature on the city’s skyline. On the inside, the Church of our Lady reveals a sobriety which contrasts with its incredible size. Walk its dark halls all the way to the back to discover fences decorated with roses in golden metal which I found of great beauty. A little further you’ll find the Peterskirche where the darkness makes way for day light. With its golden statues and pink accents, its decorations compensate for its smaller size. Through a separate entrance on the side, you can climb up the tower to enjoy views that can reach over 100 kilometers on clear days. Last but not least the Asamkirche is even smaller but even more grand in its decoration. To discover its full splendor you’ll have to go inside, but already from the street you can get a taste of its lavish Baroque style. You’ll find a Starbucks in front and many boutiques around it, which is kind of exemplary of the area over all: shopping is always around the corner!
Lunch at Prinz Myshkin | Hackenstraße 2, 80331 München
“Oh, I don’t know how to express it but at every turn one comes across so many beautiful things”. These words from Prince Myshkin (the hero of the Russian novel ‘The Idiot’) inspired me and must have inspired the founders of this vegetarian restaurant to create a magnificent open space where the white walls and vaulted ceilings let the design lighting and contemporary art shine in all their beauty. As for the menu, it takes you on a trip around the world with dishes such as ‘Moroccan Sunset’, ‘Asian Fresh’ and ‘Pizza Bruschetta’. I found it impossible to choose but eventually, with a little help from the waitress, I picked one of their classics called ‘Crespelle al Forno’ (savory pancakes with spinach and ricotta) and absolutely loved it!
Shopping and more in Reichenbachstraße
For a more alternative kind of shopping - the one I favor - head to the Reichenbachstraße. On both sides of the street you’ll find many little boutiques and other unique, independent stores. Jewelry, apparel, vintage, … It’s an eclectic mix! One that is best exemplified by Kauf Dich Glüecklich (at nr 14), a German concept store for both women and men where you can dress yourself from head to toe and even decorate your home or splurge on some cosmetics. The street crosses the picturesque Gärtnerplatz - a round square with houses in pink, orange and red - and at the end you’ll find the small café Trachtenvogl (nr 47) which is perfect for a coffee/tea stop.
In the East of the city you can get a taste of its young, creative vibe. Previously an industrial area, Werksviertel is currently being refit into an attractive new neighborhood that brings together apartments, offices and green spaces. For now, it mostly comes to life at night through an alternative nightlife with underground clubs, but for those who love street art it can be of interest during the day as well. In its midst you’ll find the ‘Container Collective’, an urban ensemble of containers decorated with colored graffiti that house little cafés and some pop-up shops.
Drinks at the Ory Bar | Neuturmstraße 1, 80331 München
There are new, exciting places opening in Munich on regular basis and the latest addition to its premium bar scene is the Ory Bar inside the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel. In a sumptuous space that is reminiscent of Art Deco yet super contemporary, you can have a taste of the best cocktails. The menu is minimal but very efficient with every cocktail being given an inspiring name and an illustrative black and white picture (‘You, The Cat & Me’, ‘Smokin’ Aces’ and ‘Flying Carpet’ are just a few of them). They have the classics as well their own signatures, but either way I would definitely recommend chatting with the waiter before placing your order as these are very peculiar gustative creations!
Dinner at Pfistermühle | Pfisterstraße 4, 80331 München
Just a few steps away from there, and five minutes from Marienplatz, you’ll come across Munich’s oldest mill building which houses one of its finest restaurants. If you want to get a taste of traditional Bavarian cuisine with a modern touch, this is where you have to be. At Pfistermühle you are guaranteed to have a memorable culinary experience, from the excellent service to the beautiful plates. You can order à la carte of course, but it’s worth trying out one of their menus comprised of 4 to 6 courses (there is even a vegetarian one) to get the full experience. As an apéritif, try the ‘Spatzl’, their own version of the Apérol Spritz which is named after the Bavarian word for ‘darling’!
Stay at Bold Hotels | Lindwurmstraße 70A, 80337 München
If you want to feel like a Munich resident while you’re here, Bold Hotels is your go-to option. Indeed, the rooms boast a minimal, contemporary decoration and resemble small apartments in a five-story building with view on the inner courtyard. There is a subway entrance located literally in front of the hotel and at any time of the day you can have a seat in the cute lobby, have a drink, read some magazine or even play a party of Monopoly München Edition. Considering the hotel’s young identity, I expected to encounter mostly people our age, but we actually saw people from all ages at breakfast, proving anyone can be a Bold resident!
Visit of the Lenbachhaus | Luisenstraße 33, 80333 München
Munich boasts more than 60 museums and galleries, but if I had to pick just one to visit it would undoubtedly be the Lenbachhaus. It almost feels like the union of two museums, making it impossible for anyone to get bored. On the one hand you have the historic golden building in Italian Renaissance style, the former residence of the artist Franz von Lenbach who contributed to Munich’s rise as an almost mythical center of arts. Among other things, you can visit the original rooms which have been decorated with the celebrated portraitist’s works from the late 19th century. Leaving these dark chambers, you can stroll in the glorious, sunbathed garden.
On the other hand, you have the modern extension which was added in 2013, with the meeting of the two buildings - the past and the present - welcoming visitors right from the entrance (the glass installation hanging from the ceiling is striking, especially when the sunlight hits it). This part of the museum famously houses works from the ‘Blue Rider’ movement, a group of major representatives of German Expressionism set up by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s interesting to see Kandinsky’s progressive evolution towards expressive abstract painting and I had no idea he was so close to the city of Munich (he studied and lived here, together with his partner Gabriele Münter which was also part of the ‘Blue Rider’). Other sections are dedicated to modern and contemporary art, including a few Warhol paintings such as a depiction of the Neuschwanstein Castle in surreal vivid colors which I had never seen before.
Lunch at Ella | Luisenstraße 33, 80333 München
After your visit to the Lenbachhaus you’ll know all about the artistic couple Kandinsky and Münter. What you won’t know is that Wassily used to call his partner Ella (short for Gabriella) and that the museum’s adjacent restaurant draws its name from it. Pushing its doors you’ll discover an elegant space with mid-century furniture and a luminous stone bar. On the menu, you’ll find the best of Italian cuisine. The ‘Mozzarella di bufala’ is the most delicious mozzarella I’ve ever tasted and the ‘Goat cheese pumpkin cheese tartlet’ is equally tasty and creative!
Visit of Museum Brandhorst | Theresienstraße 35, 80333 München
The Kunstareal is Munich’s museum quarter and forms the city’s cultural heart. You’ll find multiple Greco-Roman buildings in this area which are reminiscent of King Ludwig the First’s love for Greece and Italy. The museum with the most eye-catching architecture is probably the Brandhorst. With its thousands of ceramic rods in different colors it really pops in this urban landscape. On the inside you’ll discover modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21th century, displayed in wide-open galleries on vast white walls. The basement houses the permanent collection with works by the likes of Andy Warhol whereas the ground floor welcomes temporary exhibitions (for example one dedicated to Alex Katz which I liked). Interesting to know is that the Brandhorst was designed as a day light museum, meaning it doesn’t rely on artificial light like most museums do.
Stroll in the English Garden
You can spend the rest of the afternoon strolling in the English Garden, the city’s main park which is remarkable for multiple reasons. First of which surfing! That’s right, you can watch actual surfers showing off their skills on the standing wave near a small bridge. But this gigantic park has more tricks up its sleeves. It features a Chinese Tower, a Japanese Tea House as well as a Greek bandstand called the ‘Monopteros’. Overlooking the park at 15 meters high, it offers views all the way down to the old city. While you’re exploring this 900-acre area, do pay attention to where you’re heading since parts of the park are fit for naturists (just to avoid any wild surprises).
Dinner at Theresa Restaurant | Theresienstraße 29, 80333 München
To get a feeling of the local nightlife, I recommend having dinner at Thesesa Grill on Saturday night. This is a very popular and trendy restaurant that’s usually packed, so you should definitely book a table in advance. The downside of its popularity is that it’s very noisy, but on the bright side the food is really good. Obviously meat lovers will be the most happy in this grill restaurant, but there are also a few fish options and even one or two vegetarian dishes (the eggplant gnocchi are truly excellent)! The restaurant is rather dark so it means you have the most intimate of atmospheres at your candlelit table.
Brunch at Café Lotti | Schleißheimer Str. 13, 80333 München
On Sunday you can channel your inner queen with a visit to the Nymphenburg, but not before you had brunch at the pretty Café Lotti. With its pink walls and glass chandeliers, it is the perfect setting to get in the mood for a visit to the palace. Café Lotti offers a great deal of breakfast formulas, whether savory or sweet, and their list of hot drinks is extensive as well (for example I had a special chai latte with ginger and lemongrass). Prices are really decent since you’ll pay about 11€ for a breakfast plate, but you should know these are rather light so I would recommend ordering something sweet on the side. This girly spot is also very popular on weekends so booking a table is advised.
Visit of the Nymphenburg Palace | Schloß Nymphenburg 1, 80638 München
Munich’s royal grandeur is obviously most outspoken at the Nymphenburg Palace, the summer residence of the Bavarian rulers since the 18th century. It will take you about 45 minutes to get there (a subway ride followed by a bus or tram) but it’s definitely worth it! Visiting the main palace, you’ll get to see the incredible main hall with its high painted ceilings and rich chandeliers, as well as the interesting ‘Collection of the most beautiful’, a series of 36 portraits of beautiful women from various backgrounds commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. But the real gems are actually hidden in the vast domain behind the palace (so make sure to take the ‘combination ticket’ granting full access). After strolling through the picturesque gardens, you can lose yourself in the forest stretching behind and discover the four park palaces that behold some surprising treasures: halls tiled entirely with blue Chinese motifs, a swimming pool below ground level, an artificial grotto and intricate chambers in Rococo style. You can easily spend two hours wandering around, especially considering your ticket gives you access to the Porcelain and the (surprising) Coach Museums as well!