Munich

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For many young travellers, the German city of Munich is unique for its hosting of one of the biggest parties of the year – Oktoberfest – where travellers from all over the world gather over  a two-week period (interestingly, most of the Oktoberfest takes place in September…) and sample the wares of the various beer tents and fairground attractions.

But, if you’re someone with a keener interest in sporting history, Munich may be more significant for its Bundesliga football team – Bayern Munich – one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Alternatively, you may be a film buff and the 2005 Hollywood movie, ‘Munich’, may have been the first time the name of Germany’s third-largest city – after Berlin and Hamburg – popped up on your radar. Either way, all one-dimensional views of the city are exactly that, with the picturesque Bavarian capital offering so much more in many different areas.

“As a city it offers an exuberant business environment, excellent scientific and research institutions, scenic beauty and parks, eclectic restaurants and pubs, a huge cultural presence, scintillating night life and of course, the sports”, says Dieter W. Haller, German Ambassador to South Africa.

Sport

Haller picks up on his final point, saying that “Munich is the most sportive city in Germany” and more than just the host city of Bayern Munich. That being said, if you find yourself in Munich between the months of August and May, seek out a Bayern Bundesliga fixture at the Allianz Arena and compare the football-watching experience to that of back home. The Allianz Arena is only six years old, but the stadium played host to six World Cup matches in 2006, including a semi-final. Away from football and with the Alps a short trip away, it’s no surprise that Munich’s sporting pedigree extends to winter ‘snow’ sports involving the likes of skiing and snowboarding. The city has also been shortlisted, along with Annecy in France and Pyeongchang in South Korea, to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, with the final decision on the host city expected in July. From an existing hosting perspective, Munich stages the men’s ATP tennis event in April and the European Tour’s BMW International Open golf tournament in June, whilst the Munich Marathon is run in October.

Culture

There is also a huge cultural presence in Munich, with concerts, theatres and festivals in abundance – particularly in summer – and a business trip to the German city could be rounded off quite nicely by taking in one of the following, depending on what time of year you visit. Among those events worth noting are the Munich Opera Festival, which usually takes place in July. Elsewhere, visitors can look forward to the Tollwood Summer Festival in late June and early July. The event takes place in the Olympic Park and offers an interesting mix of international musicians and theater groups, performances and live music, along with arts, culture and a market with handicraft and culinary delights from all over the world. That’s followed up later in the year by the Tollwood Winter Festival in November and December. At around the same time is the Christmas market (or Christkindl-Market), which gets under way on the 25th of November. Before that, there’s the Ballet Festival Week at the Bavarian State Opera in late April and other events to look out for throughout the year, in the form of Jewish Cultural Days, the Long Night of the Museums, the Great Art Exhibition (contemporary art) and of course, the Oktoberfest, if you fancy a couple of cold beers in a rather festive environment.

Tourist Attractions

“The great thing about Munich is that it offers so much for so many”, says Haller and the German Ambassador may be on to something. There are the famous historical highlights, such as the New Town Hall in Marienplatz, at the centre of the city, with its famous Glockenspiel, which, by definition, is a percussion instrument. In Munich, however, it takes the form of a set of crafted figurines, enacting a historical story, for the benefit of the watching public, from within the clock tower in Marienplatz, with the various scenes being played out at dedicated times in the day. Also worth looking out for is the BMW museum, the Nymphenburg Palace and the Frauenkirche, which is arguably the most famous building in the city and a well-known landmark, serving as the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. There’s also the Viktualienmarkt (notable for its gourmet foods) and the Hofbrauhaus, arguably the world’s most famous beer hall. That’s worth a visit for a few post business meeting beverages. On a similar note, a recommendation of Haller’s, particularly in light of the city’s bid for the 2018 Olympics, is the München 72 bar, which houses memorabilia from the 1972 Olympic Games. Alternatively, you can visit the Olympic stadium itself, located on the outskirts of Munich and featuring a stunning view from the tower overlooking the stadium. Those fancying more in the way of cultural attractions can take in the large Residenz palace complex on the edge of the Old Town. It ranks among Europe’s most significant museums of interior decoration. Alternatively, there’s the Deutsches Museum, which shares the advances in science and technology over the past century. Lastly, the beautiful Englischer Garten park offers the opportunity to run off some of the excesses of a business trip, with plenty of jogging routes covering an area bigger than New York’s Central Park and featuring well-manicured gardens.

People, Food & Beer

Well, according to Haller, “they may be Bavarian, but first they are Germans!” So, they are hard-working, creative and driven, but in Bavaria, they add to this very successful brew, a robust sense of fun, embodied by hosting the world-renowned Oktoberfest. Bavaria, like most regions of Germany, has a distinct dialect and evolved culinary specialties which shape the region’s character. There is the famous Bavarian sweet mustard, liver meatloaf (Leberkäse) and, of course, the beer. No trip to Munich would be complete without sampling the local Weissbier (wheat beer) or some of the other many local brews, which can be found at the various beer halls (see sidebar). Bavarians are also known for the tradition of eating white sausage, pretzels and drinking beer for breakfast!

Location & Climate

In the south-east of Germany, it’s located in the heart of Europe as well, which makes Munich an attractive base from which to explore other points of interest on the continent. The city itself is approximately 50 kilometres north of the northern edge of the Alps at an altitude of around 520 metres. The local rivers are the Isar and the Wurm and the climate is described as ‘continental’, due to its proximity to the Alps. That results in extreme temperatures, which can both rise and drop quickly. Winters last from December to March and the summer months are May until September.

City Statistics

Motto: ‘Munchen mag Dich’ (Munich likes you)
Location: South-East Germany, on the River Isar, north of the Bavarian Alps
State: Bavaria
Population: 1.35 million
Website: muenchen.de

Beer Gardens to Visit

Hofbrauhaus
Augustiner Brau
Paulaner am Nockherberg
Hackerhaus
Lowenbrau

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