Famous for its theatres, architecture and lively cultural life, Munich is one of Germany's foremost cultural centres. The city has been the capital of Bavaria since the Renaissance; in the 19th century, the kings of Bavaria filled it with splendid art and architecture to show their wealth and prestige. Today, Munich combines beautiful historic heritage with world-class shopping and a lively night life, all within a short distance of the beautiful Bavarian Alps. If you're planning a trip to Munich, there are some things you shouldn't miss -- and some things you might miss if you don't know where to look.
The city centre is home to much of Munich's architectural heritage, including the Neues Rathaus (new city hall) with its famous glockenspiel and the 16th-century Frauenkirche. Don't miss the Nationaltheater, first venue for several of Wagner's operas, and the spectacular Residenz, one-time home of Bavaria's royals. This area is the perfect spot to stroll and enjoy the atmosphere, although at peak times of day it can get crowded with others who have the same idea. Because it's so close to the train station, this area is full of hotels, ranging from the inexpensive to the luxurious.
There's more to Munich's artistic life than just architecture, though: if you're an art lover, you can't miss the spectacular museums in the Kunstareal. Allow plenty of time for your visit; there are three major art museums, each showcasing work from different periods. If you want to focus only on modern art or only on older works, you can simply pick the museum that suits your needs -- otherwise, prepare for a long stay.
If you want to take in the view of the city, the best vantage point in Munich is the Olympic Tower, located by the site of the 1972 Olympic Games. Visit on a clear day to get the best view of the city and the mountains.
When most of us think of Munich, we think of the annual Oktoberfest event, which is, confusingly, held mainly in September. This festival of beer and food is one of the highlights of the city's year, but you can dine and drink well in Munich at any time of the year. Beer halls and beer gardens are all over the city; the Hofbrauhaus is the best-known, and definitely worth seeing, although it can get crowded with tourists at busy times. For a traditionally Bavarian snack, buy Leberkassemmeln from one of the butchers along the west side of the Viktualienmarkt. Despite the name (which means "liver cheese roll"), this doesn't contain either liver or cheese; instead, it's a kind of spiced pork and veal sausage served in a hot roll. If you're looking for something different, you're sure to find it -- Munich is a very cosmopolitan city, with every kind of restaurant imaginable.
The Bavarian countryside around Munich is well worth a visit if you have some extra time in your stay. The Chiemsee is a popular destination for daytrippers, but if you don't mind a hilly walk, Andechs monastery overlooking the nearby Ammersee features a historic church and gardens, together with a popular beer garden -- a uniquely Bavarian combination.