Think of Munich and October and you’ll probably get an image of thousands of people sitting at benches swilling down large quantities of beer, interspersed with roast pork, ham hock and pretzels. And that was the case a week or so before we arrived, as Munich celebrated the Oktoberfest along with millions of visitors.
Fortunately, by the time we visited, the beer-tourists had largely dispersed and Munich had an almost serene, autumnal feel to it.
I had visited Munich once before, in 1965, when it was still being rebuilt after the war. I remembered bleak open spaces, unattractive buildings and walking many miles around the central area to find places of interest.
Either Munich has changed massively or my memory is playing tricks on me – probably both! What I found on this visit was certainly the open spaces, but now attractive parks, along with beautifully restored buildings, particularly within the old town. Also, and of importance to Senior travellers, the central part of the city around the old town is compact enough for pleasant, relaxed strolling around the various attractions.
My route took me from the main market square, the Marienplatz, up past the Residence Palace to the English Garden. I then crossed the River Isar and followed it back under the trees in their autumn finery, before crossing back over and finishing at the Victuals Market near to Marienplatz. That took the best part of a day.
The following day, I travelled by car to two attractions further out from the centre, the Nymphenburg Palace and the Olympic Park.
My Highlights of Munich
These ten highlights of my visit are in the order in which I visited them:
1. Marienplatz, the main square in the centre of Munich, flanked by the Old and New City Halls. Try and get there for 11 am, noon or 5 pm to see the display from the Glockenspiel perched high on the New City Hall tower. Thirty-two life-sizes figures, including two on horseback, act out aspects of Bavarian history. Don’t worry too much if you miss it, the buildings around the square are enough reason to visit.
2. The late Gothic Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady (Frauenkirche), close to the Marienplatz, dominates the skyline of central Munich with its spires rising to 100 metres. Apparently there are great views from the top of the towers looking towards the Bavarian Alps, but the towers are closed at the moment for urgent repairs.
3. The Residence Palace at the northern edge of the Old Town. This massive structure consists of ten courtyards and attractive, historical gardens. It was a pleasant sunny day when I visited, so I decided to miss out this time on the Residence Museum, which has a fine collection of interior decoration, and the Residence Treasury, which displays priceless jewellery collected over 900 years. Both have reduced admission fees for Seniors over 65.
4. The Theatine Church (Theatiner Kirche), just beside the Residence Palace. The impressive white Baroque interior of this 17th Century church contrasts sharply with the Mediterranean yellow colour outside.
5. The Hofgarten, which forms a link from the Residence Palace to the English Garden. The garden was set out in the early 17th Century as an Italian style Renaissance garden. The central pavilion is dedicated to the goddess Diana.
6. The English Garden, a 900 acre oasis of tranquillity, with a small river gushing through. We stopped at the Chinese Tower near the centre and enjoyed an obligatory beer and pretzel!
7. River Isar Walk, along the eastern bank, leading back towards the town centre. Halfway along, you pass the Angel of Peace monument erected in thanks for 25 years of peace after the 1870/71 Franco-German war.
8. The Victuals Market (Viktualienmarkt), dating back 200 years, offering a massive collection of vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, spices, flowers and lots more, all laid out with precision. It’s a great place for a tasty snack.
9. Nymphenburg Palace, which was built as an Italianate villa in 1663/64. It was reworked 50 years later with addition of four pavilions. The resulting massive complex includes a Porcelain Factory, elegant public rooms and extensive parkland. Seniors 65+ get a 20% reduction on entry charges to the palace.
10. Olympic Park, home of the 1972 Olympics, providing a pleasant evening walk. Look out for Father Timofej’s Russian Orthodox Chapel, built without permission from war debris, but allowed to remain when the Olympic Park was built.
EasyJet flies to Munich from Stansted, Gatwick, Manchester and Edinburgh, for just over £100 return, depending on when you travel, see: Fly on a Tuesday! It is also worth checking out British Airways from Heathrow and Glasgow, and Lufthansa from Birmingham and Manchester, as their prices are comparable to the budget airline.
There is an abundance of good quality accommodation in and around Munich, with almost all the major chains being represented. Don’t forget to claim your Senior discount. I stayed at a small hotel to the east of the city at Messe, near the ring road, and had little difficulty driving in to the centre in the morning and finding a parking space.
Previous Short Breaks articles have featured Frankfurt and Nuremberg. The beauty of visiting cities in Germany is that they are so completely different. The most attractive aspect to me of Munich is the abundance of parkland near the centre, unlike the other two cities.