Both traditional and cosmopolitan, Munich offers a wealth of history but also all the contemporary flourishes of a modern city. There’s the Baroque charm of the medieval Altstadt, with its cobblestone streets studded with gingerbread buildings, ornate churches and grand squares.
The Bavarian capital’s 700-year-old brewing culture is still alive and well. But there’s another side to the city, too—sleek, sophisticated, and oh-so cutting-edge. Nowhere is this more evident than in its flourishing art scene, with an array of museums and galleries celebrating the best in contemporary art.
Keep in mind when you’re visiting Munich for a city break of its current COVID restrictions. There is a social distancing requirement of six feet and you are obligated to wear masks in stores, museums, and on public transport as well as in certain public areas.
Traditional Bavarian cuisine is a hearty affair, with sausages, potatoes, and dumplings (knödel) taking center stage—all washed down with a fresh beer. The best places to sample this rib-sticking comfort food are at the many beer halls, biergartens, and Wirtshaus (tavern-restaurant) dotting the city.
The most central is Schneider Bräuhaus, a venerable 148-year-old Wirtshaus set in the heart of the Altstadt. Dirndl-clad waitresses ferry trays of Kronfleisch (classic nose-to-tail meat dishes) and house-brewed wheat beer to crowds of tourists and locals in the rustic dining rooms. Be sure to get here before noon for the traditional breakfast of Weisswurst (white veal sausage) accompanied by crusty, salted pretzels.
At Augustiner Bräustuben, Munich’s oldest brewery, you’ll find what may be the city’s cheapest pour—€2.80 for a half-liter of its tasty house-brewed lager. Settle in at one of the long communal tables beneath vaulted brick ceilings and choose from a concise menu of Bavarian classics, including grilled pork knuckle served with potato dumplings smothered in gravy.
For an authentic biergarten experience, try Paulaner am Nockherberg, set high on a hill above the river Isar. The sprawling, 2,250-seat outdoor space, shaded by towering chestnut trees and with a burbling fountain at its center, is among the loveliest drinking spots in the city. The menu features classic Bavarian fare, but is definitely a cut above other beer gardens. Their Brotzeit Brettl is piled high with local cold cuts, cheese, and quark (a cross between cream cheese and yogurt). For non-meat-eaters, there’s also a vegetarian version with grilled veggies, mountain cheese, black bread bruschetta, and aubergine tartar.
Home to more than 80 art institutions, Munich is among the top cultural capitals of Europe. In recent years, its contemporary art scene in particular has flourished. Start in the Kunstareal Art District at the Pinakothek der Moderne, a massive, 130,000-square-foot complex comprising four different museums covering art and design of the 20th and 21st centuries. Its Sammlung Moderne Kunst is a remarkable collection of international contemporary art, with permanent works by Joseph Beuys, Rosemarie Trockel and Anselm Kiefer.
Nearby, the Museum Brandhorst houses paintings, installations, video works and sculpture as well as Pop Art. The building itself resembles an abstract painting, with a shimmering facade made up of 36,000 ceramic rods in different-colored glazes.
Formerly a museum for National Socialist art, Haus der Kunst has been radically transformed into an innovative center for international contemporary art. The sprawling Neoclassical building hosts a revolving series of exhibitions, many of which focus on the work of multicultural artists.
25hours Hotel Munich the Royal Bavarian
Set inside a former post office, 25hours Hotel Munich the Royal Bavarian is one of the city’s most delightful stays. Playful design touches run throughout, from antique typewriters in the lobby to lightboxes in the elevator depicting idyllic scenes. Rooms have a similarly quirky design scheme, albeit a bit more subdued. The lobby-level Boilerman Bar whips up superior cocktails in a groovy setting, while restaurant NENI serves a well-rounded Mediterranean-themed menu.
Combining sleek, minimalist design with an excellent central location in the Aldstadt, the 75-room Cortiina Hotel is particularly well-suited to couples and solo travelers. Rooms are on the cosy side but are beautifully outfitted with warm wood floors, plush furnishings, rich textiles, and natural stone tiling in the bathrooms. The buzzy, ground-floor Grapes Weinbar has one of the city’s most exciting wine menus, with knowledgeable sommeliers on hand to help navigate its more experimental varietals.