Layout of the City
Like many cities, Munich started out as a small town enclosed by a wall and then expanded beyond it. The ‘inner city’ occupies such a small area that everything is close and easy to visit, and you’ll get a sense of the orignal wall, indeed, the gates still remain.
The river Isar flows through the city and it is generally a very green place. The enormous Englischer Garten, is a park with a boating lake and beer garden (of course) and is well worth a visit.
Geography and Weather
Munich is the largest city in the south of Germany and is about an hour and a half drive from the Alps. Most of the time the mountains are just a dark unclear shadow on the horizon, but with the right weather conditions – specifically a special wind called the Foehn – , they become crystal and beautifully clear. This is when the postcard pictures get taken. Munich is very close to Austria, Switzerland and after a short hop through Austria, also Italy.
It is a mostly flat place and has true continental weather i.e. very warm in the summer, and very cold in the winter. The summer sees quite a few thunderstorms in the evenings, but far more beautiful sunsets. If you come in the winter, bring really warm clothes, in summer the nights are balmy but bring a small umbrella just in case.
Under an hours drive away to the south (with train connections too of course) are the lakes which is where many Muncheners head for during the summer months. These are glacial lakes, and therefore deep and cold till well into summer, though there are also smaller ones which warm up more quickly.
Munich is much more than just the venue for the Oktoberfest, it’s the high-tech capital of Germany with many international companies choosing to have their European headquarters here. BMW, MAN (truckmaker) and MTU (aeroengine maker) are also based in Munich as are countless other firms.
It’s a super modern exhibition centre, both a film and fashion centre and has the highest density of publishing houses of any place in the world except New York.
You could lose yourself for days in the Deutsches Museum or in any of a number of the other museums and galleries and there are countless beautiful churches and other buildings to explore.
Munich is a very culturally active city too with its orchestras, ensembles, opera houses and theatre. All the major music artists will pass through Munich on their European tours. Flick through any of Munich’s events magazines to get a sense of how much is going on and if you’re here for a longer stay, there are even two English cinemas as well as a number of English video libraries.
Any German will tell you that German beer is the best in the world, and having lived here for two years I agree wholeheartedly. Bavaria has a vast number of breweries, large and small and it is worth trying as many different types as possible. Beer is so special to Bavarians, that it isn’t even classified as alcohol, it’s a ‘health drink’ and rather amazingly, next to the soft drink machines in factories you can find beer vending machines.
Incidentally beer making ingredients are not allowed to include preservatives or chemicals of any kind. Explore the beer cellars and beer gardens, visit some of the breweries actually in Munich and if you’re really keen explore the supermarkets, you’ll be pleasantly amazed at the prices.
There are also numerous beer festivals throughout the year with the most famous of all being the infamous ‘Oktoberfest’ which is definitely worth a visit. Be careful though, the stuff’s around 8%.
Besides all this, Munich is a soccer capital with no less than three clubs playing in the Bundesliga, the German equivalent of the English Premier League. The incredible Olympic Stadium complex, Olympic tower and park built for 1973 Olympic games are a must on the visit list.
As soon as the weather is warm, the parks and cycle paths fill up with roller-bladers. During the warmer months on Monday evenings, there is a massive roller blading procession through the city and numbers are usually over 12,000.
In summer, people tip into the mountains to enjoy mountain walking and climbing and when it gets cold again they head off to the mountains nearby to ski.
Some facts about Munich:
Area: 310 sq km (121 sq mi)
Telephone Area Code: 49-(0)89