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Munich is Germany´s leading tourist city. It is especially for foreign guests who love the Bavarian capital.
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Munich is regularly voted as the place most Germans would like to live, thanks to its strong economy, low crime rate and weekends on the golf course (over 45 lie within 60 kms of the city), by the lakes or in the mountains, just over an hour away.
Symbols of modernity are all around the city. Already familiar from last year’s World Cup is the Allianz Arena, a 70,000-seater football stadium designed by Herzog & de Meuron of Tate Modern fame and known locally as das Schlauchboot, or ‘the inflatable boat’. And another landmark, reconciling past and present, has opened: the new Jewish Museum on St Jakobsplatz, a rectilinear stone structure that seems to float on glass.
But apart from making money, what Munich really excels at is spending it on culture. It has a vast array of theatres and museums – 110 and counting – as well as three symphony orchestras, two ballet companies and a world-class opera house. And its art galleries are outstanding.
The Pinakothek der Moderne, next to the Alte and Neue Pinakotheks, is an austere, impressive box, whose concrete-and-glass exterior hardly prepares you for what’s inside. Two huge staircases lead from a stark, skylit three-storey atrium to a succession of utterly plain, white galleries; with no visible light fittings, power sockets or humidity gauges, nothing distracts from the art.
It houses a fine collection of German Expressionism and Entartete Kunst – ‘degenerate art’; those paintings condemned and confiscated by the Nazis – as well as exhibitions of graphic art, architecture and design – cars, furniture, prehistoric PCs, trainers, Handys (as Germans call mobile phones) and other everyday objects asking to be examined in a new light.
Munich’s other unmissable art gallery is the Lenbachhaus, former home of undistinguished portrait painter Franz von Lenbach but now a light, airy space. The art is mostly 20th century – works by the Expressionist Blaue Reiter group (Marc, Kandinsky, Klee) and modern US artists like Richard Serra and Jenny Holzer. »
You could also try designer-hunting in the complex of arcades near the Town Hall, or rathaus, called Fünf Höfe (‘Five Courtyards’). A few steps away is the Kaufingerstrasse, a pedestrian zone lined with department stores, while Cartier, Chanel and Dior inhabit the elegant boulevard of Maximilianstrasse, Munich’s Bond Street. The grand hotels are here, including the Vierjahreszeiten, and, nearby, the fabulous Bayerischer Hof at Promenadeplatz 2.
Munich prides itself on having the best food in Germany, so don’t miss the Viktualienmarkt, a central market crammed with green-painted stalls selling pyramids of fruit and vegetables, wild mushrooms, flowers, pork, sausages and wine.
Stalls also sell grilled Bratwurst to eat communally at small, high tables, though if you prefer your sausages indoors, the nearby Weisses Bräuhaus
on Im Tal is authentically Bavarian without being kitsch; the food is simple but good, and the citrussy wheat beer (Weissbier) better still. Those who prefer fish but still want an echt keller experience might try the inexpensive but good Austernkeller (‘oyster cellar’). Parks, pavilions, Puccini
Munich is a very green city, and the Englischer Garten is its main park. Try the Chinesischer Turm, a quirky pagoda, at whose foot is a beer garden seating 7,000. Less busy is Schloss Nymphenburg, 6kms from the city centre (15 minutes on a number 17 tram). Its idyllic palace gardens are dotted with rococo pavilions, among them an 18th-century heated swimming pool, tiled in Delft and lit by a chandelier. Another wonderful curiosity is the Amalienburg, a hunting lodge containing perhaps the world’s most fanciful dog kennel, designed by François Cuvilliés, who came to Bavaria in 1714 as court dwarf.
Those in search of culture will seek out the summer’s opera festival, whose full-scale performances are at the Nationaltheater, home of the Bavarian State Opera, next to the Residenz. This neo-classical monument was substantially rebuilt after a fire in 1823, funded by a levy imposed on beer sales. A fine marriage of art and commerce, then – a way of ensuring generous arts funding in a city often described as ‘the world’s unofficial beer capital’.