Visiting Munich was my first experience in Germany. I was a wide-eyed recent college graduate who had just secured her first full-time job, so the excitement of being done with school and on the brink of starting that twenty-something life I'd always lusted for made the entire trip feel intoxicating – OK, OK that and all of the Pilsner me and my two friends and travel companions were consuming.
I've visited Berlin since then. It's obviously very ignorant to assume that two cities are similar just because they share a country code. I can affirm that Berlin and Munich are vastly different. While Berlin's culture is certainly very German in its own right, it immediately comes across as a modern-day bohemia with vegan gastropubs, street art everywhere, unbelievably stylish locals, and a tinge of grit (its history of Soviet occupation certainly precedes it).
Munich, of course, has an indie subculture like any other metropolitan area, but the western German city reads as way more buttoned-up. I don't recall seeing an ounce of trash on the street while I was there and the meticulously preserved Gothic and Baroque style buildings of many of Munich's main attractions paired with its bicycle culture make it feel especially pristine. The immaculate subways have plasma screens to let you know when the next train is coming. Oh, and street performers are a far cry from the ratty clowns you find in other European cities; Munich has sidewalk classical string quartets instead.
Because of Munich's sidewalk string quartets, being outside is an experience in and of itself. The city is also one of monumental worldly importance; walking from Marienplatz, its remarkable center square, to Odeonsplatz, another cultural hotspot, means strolling through an area where some of Hitler's Third Reich's most profound, historically altering events transpired.
Here are some other important places to check out:
- Flohmarkt Theresienwiese: the city's largest street fair for the the chance to snag some awesome vintage duds.
- Isarvorstadt: a youthful, buzzy area known for its vibrant nightlife.
- Alte Pinakothek: one of the oldest and largest galleries in the world that houses some serious masterpieces.
- Pinakothek der Moderne: lovely contemporary art.
- Jüdisches Museum München: for a poignant look at the lives of Jews in Hitler's Germany.
- Dachau: not for everyone. The grounds of a Nazi concentration camp, Dachau is a horrific, but extremely important reminder of the atrocities committed in Germany before and during World War II.
There is no shame in stopping by the city's often touristy biergartens for a stein – or several– and some schnitzel. My top picks are Hirschgarten and Hofbräuhaus. Once you've had your fill of lederson-donning waiters, head to these more off-the-beaten path spots:
- Ringlers: unbelievable burgers (a beloved menu item in the city).
- Ennstaler Stub'n: a local favorite for schnitzel and other traditional German food.
- Sendlinger Augustiner: another super traditional Bavarian menu.
- Glockenbach: a really cool space in Isarvorstadt neighborhood.
- Daddy Long Legs: for when you're in dire need of an acai bowl after all of the beer and schnitzel you've consumed.
Have a reliable recommendation or sweet spot to share? Go crazy in the comments section.