When one mentions the city of Munich, Germany, visions of beer are the first thing that comes to mind. Although the famous brands such as Lowenbrau, Spaten, Paulaner, and Hofbrauhaus are big names, the city is host to six breweries and many more in the surrounding area. Visiting the city should always include at least one brewery tour.
Oktoberfest (end of September to the first week in October) is their world-class event but there are many more things to do in the city.
The city, the third biggest in Germany (behind Berlin and Hamburg) is also the capital of the German state of Bavaria. Located on the northern edge of the Alps, the city of about a million and third was founded in the twelfth century. Historic architecture is everywhere; Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo are just a few of the periods represented.
At the very center of Munich is Marienplatz (or Our Lady’s or Mary’s Square). The Glockenspiel, a huge clock, is located in the tower of the new city hall. Everyday at 11 a.m. (as well as noon and 5 p.m. in the summer) 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures re-enacts two stories in honor of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine.
On the top level, two knights on horseback joust (with the Bavarian Knight winning every time) and next, on the lower level, the Shafflertanz or barrel making dancers twirl and spin with bells ringing. The whole 15 minute show ends with the golden bird on the top crowing three times to signal the end.
Munich museums are also world class. Three museums close together can be found by Munich’s English Garden. The Alte Pinakothek is home to over 800 pieces of European masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the end of Rococco, with the world’s largest collection of Rubens.
Next door is the Neue Pinakothek featuring art from the late 18th to the beginning of the 20th century, including the private collection of King Ludwig I. Also there are paintings of Monet, Dega and Renoir.
The Pinakothek der Moderne is the last of the three which unites four collections: the State Graphics Collection with 400,000 prints and works on paper, State museum of Applied Arts, the Museum of Architecture of the Technical University of Munich, and the State Gallery of Modern Art with Picasso, Kandinsky and Andy Warhol pieces.
After a day of art, architecture and intellectual stimulation, no visit to Munich is complete without a visit to the Hofbrauhaus.
The huge beer hall is located right off Marienplatz. The unassuming entrance leads you to the #1 tourist attraction in Munich. Wherever there is an empty seat, just be the first to grab it. Your picnic table might also have guests from anywhere in the world.
Our table had visitors from Norway and South Korea. The Bavarian polka band keeps the entertainment moving, whether it is the beer hostesses in traditional dirndl dresses carrying 13 one liter mugs of beer in each hand (REALLY), the visitors leading the band, the sausages, cheese and pretzels or just the best ambience of any beer hall anywhere. Even if you are not an imbiber, you will appreciate the Hofbrauhaus. Prost!