Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
For all its grandeur, size, and number of inhabitants, Munich is still nothing more than a large village. I don’t say this to be demeaning or to discount its attractions – I actually think that it’s one of the greatest things about a visit to Munich. No matter how large and cosmopolitan this capital of Bavaria becomes, it maintains a cosy village-feel where every face you pass on the street has a smile and a friendly ‘Guten Morgen’ to offer.
This sense of village camaraderie is most evident on Sundays in the Englischergarten, the large public park to the north-east of the city. All shops are closed, and the focus is on family and friends. Everyone comes out in force – young lovers holding hands strolling through winding lanes through the parklands, families with kids in strollers having picnics, teams playing soccer on the sporting fields, performing artists busking and playing music, older retirees sitting and sharing a beer in the biergarten, even keen surfers making the most of the artificial wave in the park’s river.
We were lucky enough to join everyone on a beautiful sunny Sunday in the park, just as the season was turning and the autumn colours were coming through. With blue skies above and crunchy red and golden leaves below, it felt like we were walking through a fairytale. The Englischergarten on a Sunday is definitely a prime people-watching experience I would recommend for any visitor to Munich!
If you want to spend more time in nature, I can also recommend spending some time in the Olympiapark, the site of the sadly tragic 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The green spaces and lakes there are extremely tranquil, and well worth a walk around. If you’re into motorcars as well, I can also recommend the BMW Welt located in Olympiapark, where you can see displays of their latest models and visit a museum as well (not so much of interest for me, but K certainly enjoyed himself!).
If you’re limited on time, you could also consider a free walking tour of Munich for a quick snapshot of Munich’s history. Like the ones we did in Torino and Lisboa, the free walking tour of Munich by Sandeman’s New Europe is run entirely on a tips basis – you pay what you think the tour was worth to you. The day we did the tour also happened to be the first day of the Bavarian ‘silly season’, so our tour started off with a performance by a local oompah band. Now that was a pleasant surprise!
Food-wise, there’s no denying that Munich is the star of Bavarian cuisine, and Bavarian cuisine is the star of German cuisine world-wide. We had a great traditional Bavarian meal at Tattenbach, a less impressive meal at Augustiner am Platzl, and had many casual snacks of pretzels and ‘meat rolls’ from butchers and delis, where they’ll slice off bits of their cold meats to make you a sandwich on demand. (Randomly, we also had an Italian meal at San Benno which was surprisingly excellent.)
I loved our visit to Munich, and I have to admit that I’m glad that we visited when we did. It was a few weeks after Oktoberfest so we missed out on the orgy of Australians vomiting Bavarian beer everywhere. As a result, we had a much more sedate time in Munich, enjoying nature, food and community, rather than wasting our days getting drunk. I’d definitely be interested in visiting Munich again, but perhaps using it as a base for exploring other parts of Bavaria on our next trip.