Marvel at Munich
Germany’s third largest city is often dubbed “the secret capital”, yet during Oktoberfest (a 16-day festival running from September 17 to October 3) more than six million guests visit its gothic terrain. Surely, the secret is out?
While historically, thanks to its snug location in Western Europe, Munich’s tourists were largely composed of neighbouring residents. Yet, today, with advanced air travel, a spectrum of cultures are touching down on Bavarian soil, with visitors from the Arabian Gulf citing it as a top holiday destination.
And it’s no surprise. Munich is actually one of Europe’s quiet achievers: it was voted 30 in National Geographic Traveller’s top 100 historic places, it has more millionaires per capita than any other city in Europe, after Hamburg, and rivals Paris and Milan in the fashion stakes.
Munich is where the standard of living is high and the quality of life rich. At the heart of the city is its Pinakotheks (galleries), which pulsate with life and the city’s legacies. Luckily for Munich’s residents former King Ludwig I’s penchant for the ladies – he had several infamous extramarital affairs – was equalled by his fascination with culture. As a result, he’s responsible for erecting many of the cultural institutes.
If you only have time for one Pinakothek make it the Deutsches, it’s one of the world’s major science and technology museums, imparting knowledge in fun doses and allows adults to behave like children with the hi-tech big toys.
Maximilianstrasse – a street named after and commissioned by King Maximilian II in 1850 – is Munich’s answer to Paris’ Champs-Élysées flaunting high-end boutiques, top couturiers, famous jewellers and exquisite galleries. Even the architecture of this street radiates a wealth of designs from gothic, tudor, renaissance and neo-classical. According to local residents Maximilianstrasse gets closed off when Middle Eastern royals visit so that they can shop and splurge in private!
At the end of the street stands the Maximilianeum, the Bavarian version of the Acropolis. Initially built as a school for gifted students – star pupils were rewarded with crates of beer – it’s been a house of parliament since 1949.
Explore the city’s lush landscape at English Garden. One of the world’s largest parks, it spans across the city centre to the suburbs. From waterfalls and beer gardens, to Apollo temples and places dedicated to nude sunbathing and surfing, the park is divided into distinct areas offering a unique paradise for all.
Munich’s real beauty lies in the fact that its roots are never far from the surface. Following heavy bombing during World War II, the Bavarian capital was reduced to a flattened wreck.
Devastation in the historic quarter nearly saw the complete destruction of the entire area, but a decision to renovate all the buildings retaining more than one third of its original structure meant the city’s face wasn’t completely lost.
Now home to some of the most impressive examples of Baroque architecture, its skyline is festooned with spires, gargoyles and an amalgamation of Eastern European and Mediterranean designs.
Many of the city’s illustrious landmarks are surrounded in folklore. According to legend, architect Jörg von Halsbach promised the devil he would build the famous green-domed Frauenkirche with no windows. On completion, the architect lead the devil into the lobby. From here, specifically placed pillars obscured the sight of windows. Believing Halsbach had won, the enraged devil stamped his foot so hard he left a footprint behind.
Lion statues flanking the Residenz, Germany’s largest palace, are further examples of stories passed down through generations. Muenchners claim rubbing the nose of these statues will bring you luck.
Contrary to belief, the Oktoberfest is not a wholly debauched affair. In fact its origins are in the alcohol-free marital celebrations between King Ludwig I and his wife Therese von Saxe-Hildburghausen. Today alcohol is served, but the onus is on celebrating the Bavarian way of life through traditional entertainment, quaint handicrafts and hearty cuisine.
The city’s tourism tagline is “Munich loves you” and to illustrate this Munich encourages you to live life like a local. Embrace the spirit of its gregarious residents and enjoy all that it offers.
While you’re there...
Have a stein Hofbrauhaus is not only Munich’s oldest pub at 419 years old – it still retains its old decor – but its also the biggest, accommodating up to 4,500 people. The one detail everyone remembers is that its largest banqueting suite was used for meetings by Adolf Hitler.
Climb St Peters If you have the stamina to climb the 306 steps to the top you will be rewarded with the most mesmerising views of the city for perfect for that Kodak moment.
Go to Disney Just a two hour train from the city centre is Neuschwanstein Castle one of the most architecturally impressive former royal residences and the inspiration behind the Disney castle logo.
Where to stay
Munich Bayerpost, (+49) 89/599480 www.sofitel.com
A former royal Bavarian post office built in 1896, it still caters to regal standards counting Saudi Arabia royalty as loyal guests. Although the original facade is intact, the interior, while paying homage to its previous life, smacks of modern vibrancy and elegance. Central location, 396 luxury rooms and Arabic-speaking staff, it’s one of Munich’s finest.
Facilities include a fully equipped gym and a modern pool, allowing you to burn off your indulgent meals, particularly if you make the most of the hotel’s breakfast – the options are vast and the quality outstanding. Its bar, ISARBAR, is also where the city’s trendy crowds congregate especially during Oktoberfest. But if you really want to assert how efficient this hotel is, test their concierge – seriously there is nothing they don’t know.
Zac Efron attracted a mob of fans when he visited for the premiere of Charlie St Cloud.X