I can’t believe it’s been over a year since this trip. I certainly didn’t mean for these posts to get so far behind, but I’ve had a different set of priorities lately. Google photos sends me a flood of photos every week though & I love looking back on our time in Europe last year. Munich was another must revisit for both N & I, but especially for N who found his overnight stay (the shortest of the whole tour) during Contiki far too short. I’d had a few days to explore the city, but was eager to revisit my favourites & find some new ones. Here’s what I loved most about our visit this time around.
Traditional Bavarian Experiences
Travel planning & research has gotten so much easier even since my first visit to Munich in 2009. There’s just so much great information online, & while it can be overwhelming, I love pouring over different articles & blog posts & making a big plan. Going into this trip, I felt I had a much better grasp on Munich than I did even after my first visit. While I love the eclectic mix of modernity, grit, & multiculturalism you find in Berlin, I’m more at home in laid-back Munich (however, it’s unfair to play favourites with either of these great German cities, if you ask me). The juxtaposition of high-tech with traditionalism that you find in Munich is such an interesting contrast. I really love it!
Traditional breakfast in Munich is a must, if you ask me. I’d read a fair bit about it before our visit, but I was still skeptical before we went. When we woke up a little groggy from a few too many steins the night before, I really wasn’t sure I was up for it. Luckily Munich is pretty compact so even though we needed to get an early start, it didn’t take too long to get from our hotel near the Englischer Garten to the city center. & I’m so glad we didn’t end up skipping it. It wound up being one of my favourite memories from the city.
So what exactly is a traditional Bavarian Breakfast? Most people we told about it were not into the idea of starting their day with beer & sausage, & I was honestly pretty skeptical, but it actually really works. & once you’re there among locals, who are ordering the same with their morning paper, it seems totally normal. The wheat beer (weissbier) is quite refreshing. I read a lot of reviews about where to go & we settled on Schneider Bräuhaus for our Weisswurst Frühstück. Breakfast included the beer, boiled sausages served with loads of sweet mustard, and freshly baked pretzels. The sausages come in pairs & are served in a pot of hot water to keep them warm. You’re supposed to remove the skin by cutting the sausage lengthwise and then roll the meat from the skin with a fork (apparently eating the casing gives you away as a tourist, not that we were fooling anyone).
Last time I was in Munich, I didn’t quite have the funds for a dirndl, the traditional Bavarian dress for women. I’ve often thought about how I should have just gone for it since then though, so I was resolved to buy one this time around. I looked up a few tracht stores in the city center beforehand & we found one that seemed to have reasonably priced dirndls. It was fun to try all the different patterns & combinations on. I found one I really love & wore it out that night. You certainly don’t need one to enjoy the beer gardens or other Bavarian traditions, but I love mine & got so many compliments on it all night in the beer halls!
They’re everywhere in Munich &, for us at least, an essential part of any stay in the area. They’re all a little different, but most of my favourites have a great outdoor space. I think what really makes the Bavarian Beer Garden so special is the seating. Don’t expect to have a table all to yourself. Half the fun is making friends with the other people at your table.
We went to quite a few biergartens over the course of our stay. On our first night, we headed over to one of my personal favourites: Augustiner-Keller. We started in the restaurant for dinner with my brother & his girlfriend before heading over to the biergarten for another stein. Even my brother’s girlfriend ordered a 1L stein, & she’s not usually a big beer drinker. There’s something contagious in that atmosphere, whether it’s the garden setting, the twinkling overhead lights, or the sounds of other parties enjoying the warm summer air. The beer at Augustiner also has a great reputation, combined with its central location & charming garden, it’s a busy favourite for many.
Another favourite of mine is the beer garden at the Viktualienmarkt. It’s mostly self-service, so you’ll definitely find yourself cosying up to other groups, especially during prime market hours. I love this aspect of it. I’m a sucker for a market, so the opportunity to gather a variety of lunch options before finding a table & grabbing a couple steins is my idea of the perfect afternoon. A unique feature of this particular beer garden is the beer itself. Every six weeks, a different beer from one of Munich’s famous breweries is served on tap. They alternate through Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Spaten.
Rounding out my top picks is the biergarten at the Chinesischen Turm in the English Garden. No visit to Munich is complete without some time in this huge park, & I think the biergarten here is an equally worthwhile stop. Bands play beneath the huge wooden pagoda in the summer, & its proximity to the University draws in a younger crowd. On a sunny day, it’s the perfect spot for a break. We joined my parents here for a drink on Canada day, before continuing into the city center for dinner.
As always, this is probably the most important piece of research for me when planning a trip. I essentially plan all my sightseeing around the food I want to eat, & Munich was, of course, no exception. I’ve already mentioned traditional Bavarian breakfast as a must, but there were definitely a few more gems during our stay.
Much like our previous stop, Bavarian food is pretty heavy. It’s definitely a style I personally love (there’s a reason why grandma’s food can be so comforting!). Expect big portions & lots of meat, although you can certainly find a diverse array of food from other cultures as well. I just gravitate to some of the more Bavarian options.
The restaurant at Augustiner-Keller is a great spot to sample some Bavarian specialties. N & I both went for the pork knuckle with potato dumpling & red cabbage. It is a huge serving, but it was so good that I would order it again in a heartbeat (& we did in fact during a stop over in a small German town during the cruise!)
The following night, I had made a reservation for dinner at Spezlwirtschaft for dinner. They do a modern take on German comfort food. We shared a trio of cheese dips to start & then I went for the homemade käsespätzle topped with crispy fried onions (a regional version of mac & cheese which did not disappoint). Everything was delicious, the atmosphere was trendy & younger, & it was just down the street from our next stop: the infamous Hofbräuhaus.
Of course, no “gastronomic” tour of Munich would be complete without a stop at the Viktualienmarkt in the heart of the city center. It’s a pleasant place to stroll, pick up lunch, or find a table in the biergarden to enjoy a few steins. We stopped by on a Saturday & did exactly that, picking up an array of items from a few of the hundred or so vendors in the market before joining fellow beer lovers at one of the crowded tables.
Finally, if you’re looking for one of the best sandwiches you’ll possibly ever eat, head over to Haxnbauer. You have two options when you enter, left for the restaurant (which I hear is also great, however, make a reservation & prepare to spend a fair bit) or right for your to go options. You’ll usually have two choices of grilled meats for your Haxensemmel, which is a ciabatta bun with the most tender & delicious sliced grilled meat & coleslaw. We ate ours outside at the Viktualienmarkt (under one of the tents as it was a rainy Sunday & the market had already closed for the day). It was perfect.
One of the best things about Munich, in my opinion, is its relatively compact center. It’s easy to spend the morning doing a free walking tour to get your bearings, grab lunch & explore the Viktualienmarkt, & then head up to the University & English Gardens for the afternoon. You’ll still have time to change into the dirndl you purchased earlier that day before dinner & drinks back in the center & hit the beer gardens or halls for a great night out. In fact, that’s exactly how we spent Canada Day on our trip.
The different approaches to Holocaust memorials are most striking if you get the chance to visit both Munich & Berlin. Where in Berlin, the designs are meant to inspire reflection & are generally hard to miss, Munich has taken a much more conservative approach, in an attempt to avoid devaluing them. Neither of them is wrong, but I think it certainly showcases the huge different between both cities. In Munich, you will likely miss the two main memorials I’m aware of unless you’re looking for them. I believe the idea is that you’re meant to stumble upon them unexpectedly, in every day life, but I think it may be just as much a response to what is perceived to be an over the top memorialization in Berlin.
Both are interesting stops as you wander the city center. You’ll find the first in an alley near the Feldherrnhalle. When Hitler came to power, he installed a plaque in this square to commemorate the failed attempt to take over the city in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Passersby were expected to perform a Nazi salute, however, opponents of this Regime would cut through the alley in order to avoid passing it. If caught, they were arrested. Today, you can follow their path along Viscardigasse (or Dodger’s Alley), memorialized in bronze cobblestones to commemorate their bravery in this act of passive resistance.
The second is up near the University, a great stop on your way to the English Gardens, & another floor memorial. These bronze pamphlets are meant to resemble those distributed by the White Rose Resistance & are dedicated to two key members, Hans & Sophie Scholl, who were subsequently caught & sentenced to death for denouncing Hitler & the Third Reich.
Afterwards, grab a couple beers from a convenience store (drinking in public is allowed in Germany, & you’ll likely be thirsty from your walk) & head for the English Gardens. Head over the Eisbach, a small man made river where surfers have been catching waves since the 70s. It’s pretty cool to watch them surf for a while or if you happen to be there on a hot day, cool off with a dip in the river a little further down from the waves. As one of Europe’s biggest parks, you could easily spend an entire day wandering this park, stopping for food & drinks at the tea house or beer gardens, or packing your own picnic to enjoy.
This just barely scratches the surface for Munich. We easily filled two days with great food, drinks, & sights. It’s certainly a smaller scale than the sights of Berlin, but I think that might be what draws me to it. If you have some extra time to kill, we also enjoyed a rainy afternoon at the well designed BMW Museum, or you can get out of town & tour one of the many nearby castles.
This was the last stop on our Europe Beer Road Trip. My brother & his girlfriend were on a flight home to Calgary & the rest of us flew to our next stop: Copenhagen!