Many of the tourists who travel to Bavaria's bustling capital city never make it past the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest. But a world-class culture, shopping and nightlife beckon beyond the beer.
Beer flows freely at Munich's Oktoberfest
For many good reasons, Munich is the second most popular destination in Germany. It's where tourists can don a pair of lederhosen, gulp one-liter mugs of beer, munch sausages galore, listen to the distinct, thick dialect of the Bavarians and dance to the beat of umpah-music -- all in the shadow of the Alps. Ahhh, the typical German image.
But quaint, village-like Munich -- it's often called the "Village of One Million" -- also has another side. As one of the wealthiest cities in Germany, Munich has an affluent community, drawn from film, television, media and the good old-fashioned aristocracy, that likes to strut its stuff.
Munich's city hall and Marienkirche
The rich and famous even have a name, the "Shickeria." They add a glossy edge to the city, bringing with them stylish stomping grounds including new bars, restaurants, and trendy boutiques.
However, there is one thing that unites everyone in Munich, the tourists and glitterati alike: the beer. Beer is one of the main reasons why millions flock to the capital of Bavaria every year. Beer is what makes the world's largest public festival, Oktoberfest, so popular and has spawned countless beer gardens throughout the city, devoted to the consumption of this most-favored beverage.
Beware of rubber-necking
Enjoyment for all the senses at Oktoberfest
Munich is divided by the Isar River, with most of the city's treasures on the left bank. Many of the architectural jewels are concentrated around the Marienplatz in the middle of the Altstadt (Old City).
Without having to do much navigating you can't help but stumble by the 19th century neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New City Hall). Fantastic photo opportunities await when the Glockenspiel in the center of the Rathaus strikes the hour. Copper figures emerge from the clock, dancing to the music of 43 bells. (Beware of tourist rubber-necking below this most iconic of Munich experiences!)
Steps away, there's a great view from the spire of the Gothic St. Peter' s Church -- sometimes even as far as the Alps. And for lavish interiors, the elaborate 18th century Rococo ceiling inside the Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Spirit) is a must.
The English Garden
The other dominant and extremely popular building in the Altstadt, not far from Marienplatz, is the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), a Gothic assembly hall and the final resting place of Ludwig the Bavarian. The twin copper domes are one of the defining images of the Münich skyline.
Shop and surf (and we don't mean Online)
In between all these historical monuments is a great shopping district with a thriving café scene. Power shoppers head straight to Maximilianstrasse, where Gucci and all the heavy-hitters line the street.
When locals aren't sipping coffee at the Marienplatz, they are sunning themselves in Europe's largest, and perhaps most famous city park, the Englischer Garten.
There's a small lake and part of the Isar River flows through the park, making it a good place to go boating, swimming and even surfing. (Yes, real surfing: Swells in a portion of the Isar River known as Eisbach create great surfing conditions -- well, at least good enough for Alp-locked beach bum wannabes.)
The Chinese Tower
The many paths winding through the park are popular with joggers and rollerbladers, and the beer garden at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower), is the gathering place in the summer.
South of the Altstadt are the adjoining Gärtner and Glockenbach quarters, both of which have benefited from the city's rising hipster population. Around Gärtnerplatz, and just to the west in Glockenbach, independent designers and up-and-coming restauranteurs have set up shop.
Further east across the river, another neighborhood, Haidhausen, is garnering a bit of attention. Around Weissenburger Platz and Rosenheimer Platz, new restaurants and shops open monthly.