Germans take their football (soccer to the North Americans) seriously, and Munich hosts two major soccer clubs, TSV 1860 München and FC Bayern München, in the fabulous Allianz Arena. You can admire the 2,874 inflated foil panels that make up the stadium’s futuristic light-up roof (the biggest membrane shell in the world) from the outside or take a guided tour, but why not take in a game and root for the home team over several pints of the local brew?
The car manufacturer’s global headquarters in Munich are a huge source of civic pride, and car-lovers treat a visit to BMW Museum and BMW Welt (World) like a religious pilgrimage. Exhibits in the museum explain historic feats of engineering in clear, accessible language.Prototypes and theoretical future technologies are also exhibited. More than 100 car models are on display in this futuristic, bowl-shaped building next to the BMW headquarters. Unfortunately, the museum does not give free samples.
Englischer Garten Park, bigger than New York's Central Park, is a sprawling area of woods and lawns in the middle of Munich. Scientist Benjamin Thompson of Woburn Massachusetts was a loyalist, driven from his New Hampshire home during the war of 1776. He found a new home in London, and then in Munich under Duke of Bavaria Karl Theodor, for whom he established this park in 1789. Modern visitors flock to the Monopteros greek temple by distinguished local architect Leo von Klenze; the Chinesischer Turm with adjacent beer garden; and Japanisches Teehaus and garden on a small island. The Schönfeldwiese ("beautiful meadows") area is famous for the nude sunbathers who decorate the lawns, and of course this park can be quite cruisy too.
The Hofbräuhaus is perhaps the most famous beer hall in the world, so make sure to come thirsty and ready to indulge in drunken revelry with live oom-pah music and friendly servers in traditional Bavarian Lederhosen (leather pants). The poeple of Munich have been brewing beer since 1589. The current brewery has stood since 1644 and the centuries of tradition can be tasted in each delicious pint.
The Isar River ranks among Munich's greatest charms. The waters flow from the Tirol Alpine region of Austria. Allowed to run naturally, its tributaries are little islands edged with sand or pebble beaches, big flat rocks, and meadows of grass and wild flowers.
All kinds of people come to the water on warm summer days -- families with children, goth teens, gay couples, and gatherings of friends of all ages and ethnicities. Over barbecues and beer, they populate the riverside, bike the nearby trails, throw frisbies, read or doze, all mingling together without fuss or offense to one another.
Nude sunbathers turn golden brown, and activities on the gay cruising trails aren't hard to spot, among trees of the larger island just beyond the downriver footbridge. Aongside this, kids and dogs frolic, and lovers -- straight and gay -- get wrapped in private worlds of their own. This area is easily reached by U-Bahn; go to Thalkirchen station and follow the people with beach gear. Munich's famous zoo is nearby as well.
Fishing is popular too -- overnight fishing packages are offered by outfitters. Graylings and similar fish are abundant and a licence is required for all adults.
River rafting involves a gentle and leisurely float on a wooden raft, taking several hours, usually including a band, abundant food, and rambunctiousness like squirting passers-by on bridges above (bring water gun).
For more challenging action there is surfing on the Eisbach, a tributary of the Isar running directly through Englischer Garten. A standing wave is produced as water shoots from an underground tunnel at five meters per second and hits a breakwater. It's located next to the Haus der Kunst, now a museum, and rare surviving Nazi era building. Only one person can surf at a time, but polite young German surfers wait their turn, and aren't as territorial as those at "locals only" surf spots elsewhere. The water is cold, however. Pack a wetsuit or just enjoy the view. A calmer wave for beginners can be found at Thalkirchen Campground.
Munich’s sumptuous Baroque palaces are the architectural crown jewels of this historic city whose mishmash of styles – from hauntingly medieval to dazzlingly modern – are its hallmark. The stately Nymphenburg Palace is famed for its lavish décor including exquisite ceiling frescoes and Ludwig I’s famous 19th-Century “Gallery of Beauties” – portraits of the 36 most beautiful women in the world.
Scattered about the palace’s 200-hectare park are a botanical garden, the Porcelain Museum, and a half-dozen pavilions erected in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Amalienburg is the height of rococo décor with its circular hall of mirrors, while the Pagodenburg is a lovely combination of French and Chinese architectural and design styles.
An experience, not just an event, Munich's single biggest party is the annual Oktoberfest of September into October, one of the world's greatest beer festivals. A subway ride to Theresienwiese or Goetheplatz U-Bahn stations will get you to the festival's giant tents, costume parades and carnival rides.
A huge gay gathering of thousands of queer beer-swillers celebrate from midday until midnight on "Gay Sunday" in September at the Bräurosl beer tent during these festivities. Come early, as seats fill soon after the doors open, around 10am. See Rosa Wiesn for gay Oktoberfest information. Munich bears have their own OctoBEARfest events in mid-September sponsored by Munich Bears.
King Maximilian I established this "victuals market" in 1807 to serve the residents of this growing city with a central place to buy food. Major additions were made from 1823 on, with more halls added as needs arose. Fish markets, fowl and other meats, flowers, produce, and bakery items each had their own pavilions. Like most of the city it was severely damaged in the war, but mostly restored, with fountains and other embellishments added during the reconstruction.
A favorite of modern gourmets, the market covers 5.5 acres with over 140 shops and stalls, and beer gardens, offering most every kind of ordinary and exotic produce, meat, fruit, flowers and plants, dairy products, honey, fish -- and a wide variety of sausages. This area is also the site for many festivals and special folk events year-round, with music, dance, prepared foods, and always plenty of beer to wash it down, and make people festive.