Amid BMW’s headquarters, Frei Otto’s Olympic Park, world-class soccer in Herzog & de Meuron’s cloud-like arena, a six-million-strong Oktoberfest, more than 180 beer gardens and over 1 200 kilometres of tree-lined bike lanes, Munich is as proud of its grand classics as its pockets of modern small-town atmosphere.
First, a word to the wise: those of you with green passports will want to pop into the German embassy in either Centurion, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or Bloemfontein at least 90 days before your date of departure. Once you’ve made it to the Bavarian capital, getting around by foot within central Munich will do just fine; beyond that, public transport is excellent.
However you get around, don’t leave without digging deep into Munich’s rich cultural, artistic and historical highlights.
At first sight The Flushing Meadows Hotel & Bar, built about two years ago on the top two floors of a former post office in Fraunhoferstrasse, seems just a faded yellow block. But inside the hotel holds 11 individually styled rooms designed by friends of the initiators – culturally plugged-in Arnold/Jäger/Werner (Sascha Arnold, Niels Jäger and Steffen Werner) – and five penthouse studios.
Breakfast, coffee and drinks are served in The Flushing Meadows Bar, which features a rooftop terrace. Come evening basically half of Munich huddles up here to enjoy a G&T or a cool Tegernseer Hell beer while the sun sets over Saint Maximilian church. Not far from the river Isar, the bar is perfect for experiencing the Münchner’s Munich.
Another local legend is five-star Hotel Bayerischer Hof. In the 1980s it was the setting for Helmut Dietl’s satire Kir Royal; today it lures people to its rooftop terrace with the Blue Spa Lounge and its panoramic view of downtown and the Frauenkirche. The hotel, though traditional, is also young at heart: Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt gave its starred restaurant Atelier a makeover, and chef Jan Hartwig spoils guests with a merger of regional specialties and global ideas.
Built between 1933 and 1937, Haus der Kunst – literally House of Art – features 21 colossal neoclassical pillars that ascend the full height of the building.
What the art museum holds is easily as impressive as its imposing physical presence. Under director Okwui Enwezor, who was also last year’s artistic director of the 56th Venice Biennale, the museum stages outstanding exhibitions by the likes of Louise Bourgeois and Mark Leckey, as well as film and video works from the Goetz Collection – a private armada of contemporary art.
Sitting on the terrace of Golden Bar in Haus der Kunst when the weather is good, you’d be well-advised to enjoy a piece of chocolate cake alongside the treetop views of the Englischer Garten. From 10am daily the bar – which has a number of outstanding murals by Karl Heinz Dallinger – serves coffee, drinks, lunch and dinner.
For a nighttime experience, head to district Maxvorstadt for a meal at farm-to-table eatery Cantine Cantona.
Visit the famous Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) beer garden, where Bavarian brass bands entertain those enjoying a drink. At the Fräulein Grüneis kiosk, cyclists, joggers and roller-bladers buy refreshments while parents on a Sunday stroll treat their kids to some organic lemonade.
For more options, make your way to the Glockenbach district where you’ll find the recently opened SuperDanke! juice bar, Arnold/Jäger/Werner’s seventh spot in Munich. On the other side of Prinzregentenstrasse is where the hospitality emporia of these three enterprising architecture, design and communication experts started off; they’re also behind the concept and interior design of Bob Beaman Music Club in Gabelsbergerstrasse, James T Hunt Bar in Schellingstrasse and Stereo Café on elegant Residenzstrasse near the opera house.
Munich barkeeping legend Charles Schumann has run the eponymous Schumann’s – the bar where football stars, literary figures and glitzy Munich schickeria (high society) meet – from 1982 in Maximilianstrasse and, since 2002, in Hofgarten. He also recently opened a small, exquisite bar called Les Fleurs du Mal on the Hofgarten venue’s top floor, with a nine-metre-long counter – at which no more than a dozen guests can sit – made from a single Redwood tree.
If you’re looking for cutting-edge design, look no further than the Glockenbach district. You’ll find cool, unconventional fashion at Haltbar on Pestalozzistrasse – where, incidentally, you might run into fellow shopper Stefan Diez, a German designer who has long been one of the country’s best furniture and product designers.
Co-conspirator Saskia Diez designs fascinatingly delicate jewellery, which she sells from her showroom in Geyerstrasse; among her trove of items you’ll encounter two perfumes that Saskia dubs ‘invisible jewellery’, conceptualised in hand with master perfumer Geza Schön from Berlin.
Originally published in HL May 2016.