Munich, Germany is known as the beer capital of the world and is most famous for its annual Oktoberfest, but this city was founded on more than a love for beer. On a recent trip to the village which has become an international city, my family and I got to discover the rich history and beautiful architecture of Bavaria.
The city of Munich dates back to 1168, but it was virtually leveled in World War II due to Allied bombing. After the war, the reconstruction team decided to rebuild the city as it looked before the war instead of introducing a modern new city plan. Because of this decision, Munich remains very pedestrian friendly, as the original platzls (squares) were not designed with cars in mind. Walking through the Marienplatz, an incredible glockenspiel plays three times each day from the New Town Hall. As the glockenspiel spins, it plays out scenes from a royal wedding, jousting match and celebration dance. The entire facade of the New Town Hall in Marienplatz is filled with sculpture, keep a look out for a dragon on the side of the building, a reminder of the plague which swept through the city on numerous occasions. It’s located on the corner of Weinstraße and Marienplatz.
Munich’s largest park, the English garden is a great place for a relaxing walk. There you can find the Chinese Pagoda and the Monopteros, a small greek temple with an excellent view of the skyline. As my family walked along a path near a river that flows through the park, we were surprised to discovered a group of surfers riding a wave in the river. If you want to watch, head to the southern edge of the park, next to the Haus der Kunst.
My family hired a private guide to show us the history of the Nazi movement in Munich and learned a lot that we would not have discovered on our own. If you want to book a tour, Radius has great options that take out all the hassle. If you want to see some of the history on your own, keep your eyes out for plaques honoring those affected by the atrocities of WWII. There are many but they are intentionally unobtrusive, to allow the city to heal. I would highly recommend getting a translating app if no one in your party can read German solely for understanding the memorials. Munich like many towns frequented by tourists, is English friendly.
Munich’s location in the Alps makes it a perfect place to make a day trip from to Austria or the fascinating castles of Bavaria’s “mad” king Ludwig II. My family opted for the later, checking out Neuschwanstein Castle on a tour booked through Radius. Ludwig famously built the castle as an escape from reality after his power was weakened by the German Unification. The story of his life and untimely death has inspired conspiracy theories that remain plausible to this day. The Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s beauty and the beast and appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. A nearby lake is perfect for a quick swim during the hot summer months.
Of course, no trip to Munich is complete without a stop at the Hofbrauhaus am Platzl, the royal beer garden which was opened to the public under King Ludwig I in 1828. In addition to the famous Hofbrauhaus, try a big bavarian pretzel from one of the sellers walking through the rows of tables and a traditional German meal.
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