Cycling, surfing, football, beer and fairytale castles are the order of the day in Bavaria. This guide to a short break in Munich highlights the city's most exciting attractions.
Munich is a land-locked city where you can surf. That enigma alone may be enough to entice you to visit the Bavarian capital. It may not have the raw energy of Berlin or Hamburg, but Germany’s third-biggest city is bursting with tradition and even boasts a burgeoning hipster scene.
Hire a Bike
Cruising the streets of Munich by bike is a great way to get to grips with the city and, with over 750 miles of cycle paths and a largely flat terrain, it’s pretty easy too.
Cycling through the Bavarian capital’s different neighbourhoods you can expect to find everything from traditional beer houses served by women in lederhosen to high-end fashion boutiques populated by the city’s high-flyers – known locally, and slightly derogatorily, as ‘schickimikis’.
While roaming: hipster student districts filled with burger joints and cocktail bars morph into the city centre’s Lego-like historic landmarks and lovely green spaces. And if you look hard enough, you may even find some neighbourhoods that have been blessed with the pastel coloured paints of a street artist.
Surf in the English Gardens
The English Gardens are vast and sociable. There’s a beer house in the middle, a few cafés dotted around the place and plenty of picnic spots wherever you look. There’s even an unofficial nudist area.
The park is great for romantic strolls, summer sit-downs and relaxed cycle rides. The highlight, however, is the winding river: a fast-paced freshwater stream that takes intrepid swimmers eddying from one side of the gardens to the other. The ‘ride’ lasts for around 10 minutes and encompasses twist, turns and even a surfing section (so if you see anyone cycling around the landlocked city with a surfboard on their back, don’t judge them as outrageous posers, they’re probably on the way to the surfing dam).
Floating across the surface of the bracing water, watching splinters of sunlight stream through the leaves above, is a truly energising experience. The less aqua inclined can wait on the riverbanks, gazing at the incongruous spectacle of wet-suited surfers pumping waves in a woody stream.
Drink Beer (& Cocktails)
Above everything else, Munich is probably famous the world over for its incredible beer. The ‘big six’ breweries: Löwenbräu, Hofbräuhaus, Augustinterbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten have thousands of years of experience between them brewing up clean, crisp and refreshing beers.
Each of the ‘big six’ brew houses is worth a visit. But remember: the locals only use the oversized stein glasses at the beginning of the night, as sharers. It’s generally only tourists who drink from steins on their own, on the reg.
In addition to the traditional beer houses, Munich also has a growing scene of independent bars. You know, the sort of edgy creative spaces you might find in… dare I say it, Berlin.
Corleone is one such bar, a small beer and cocktail joint with arty video installations and eclectic music mixes. Maroto is another scruffy-but-stylish late bar with warm mood lighting, a buzzing atmosphere and virile cocktails.
Bayern Munich are giants of the footballing world. They’ve won the Bundesliga in each of the last four seasons, also picking up a Champions League victory during that time. If you get the chance to watch a game at the Allianz Arena: take it.
However, if you can’t get hold of tickets, or if you want to catch an international or lower tier match, then the awkwardly named Stadion an der Schleissheirmerstrasse is the place to be.
Adorned with football memorabilia – signed shirts, flags, matchday scarves, and plaques – from all over the world, and populated by an international crowd of football fanatics, the venue has a spine-tingling atmosphere before, during and after the final whistle.
Seating is reserved, so book ahead. Table service ensures you won’t miss a moment of the action.
Visit a Fairytale Castle
Nestled in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, around two hours train out of Munich, the town of Hohenschwangau boasts an unmissable attraction, which draws in over 1.3 million visitors each year.
The fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle, built by the eccentric Kind Ludwig II in the late 19th century, sits atop a rugged hill overlooking the crystal clear waters of Lake Alpsee and the rolling valleys of the surrounding area. The castle’s enchanting turrets, towers, pinnacles and gables were inspired by Richard Wagner’s Romantic opera Lohengrin, and went on to form the blueprint for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Ludwig’s story is compelling and tragic: disillusioned with the state of his kingdom, he focussed all of his attentions on a series of ludicrously ambitious escapist architectural projects. Rumour has it that the king was falsely declared insane, and possibly murdered, to halt his wave of extravagant and expensive projects.
Ironically, Ludwig’s phenomenal buildings are so popular with tourists that they have paid for themselves many times over since his untimely death in 1886.
Located in the heart of Munich, the deluxe MARITIM Hotel features 347 elegantly furnished rooms, two restaurants, a piano bar, traditional beer garden and indoor rooftop swimming pool with panoramic views over the city.
Close to the central railway station, it is within walking distance of the main shopping and sightseeing areas, all of which can be reached comfortably on foot from the hotel.
One night’s accommodation in a Double Comfort Room starts from only 104.00 Euros including free WiFi and use of the wellness centre. The lavish MARITIM international breakfast buffet is available at 24,00 Euros p.p.
If you would prefer to stay the night in Hohenschwagau and relax before and after your visit to the castle there is plenty to keep you occupied in the pleasant Bavarian village. Highlights include floating across the tranquil aquamarine waters of Lake Alpsee on a pedalo and bathing in the healing saltwater of Königliche Kristal-Therme spa.
Hotel Müller offers excellent accommodation options in the shadow of the fairytale castle. Friendly staff, a delicious traditional Bavarian breakfast, complimentary wine and pleasant balcony space make for a very enjoyable stay.
Standard rooms start at €120 per night.
Accommodation for this trip was kindly provided by MARITIM Munich and Hotel Müller.