Munich is home to a world-class opera group, the Bavarian State Opera. Led by the music director Kent Nagano (a California native), the Bavarian State Opera has a full slate of performances planned for 2008: Mozart’s Idomeneo, Strauss’ Ariadne on Naxos and Busoni’s Doctor Faustus, to name just a few. The Bavarian State Opera also works alongside the Bavarian State Ballet and Orchestra groups, providing the full range of classical musical arts for the citizens of Munich. In addition to regular performances as the National Theatre, the Bavarian State Opera also performs at the Prinzregententheater and the newly reopened Cuvilliés Theatre. Be sure to partake in the Munich Opera Festival from June 26 to July 31, 2008.
Tel: 089 218 501
Photo: FVAmuc / Robert Hetz
After six years of construction, BMW World finally opened in 2007, and it was well worth the wait. Serving as a center point for everything concerning BMW, this striking building is an architectural expression of modern design and German engineering. In addition to the multi-media presentations and exhibits about BMW cars and motorcycles, BMW World’s main function is to serve as a highly personalized delivery point for new cars. The building is also an event venue and conference site, and has two restaurants, a bistro and a coffee bar. True enthusiasts will want to visit the nearby factory as well.
Tel: 089 382 233 07
Photo: BMW AG
Even the most seasoned of expatriates cling to the memory of their first German Christmas Market. What is there not to love about the steaming mugs of Glühwein, the roasting almonds and crisp winter air, the colorful lights and the handmade gifts. While every city across Germany hosts its own brand of market during the cold weeks of December, there is none more famous and none more loved than the Christkindlsmarkt in Nuremburg. Hundreds of stalls fill the Altstadt, offering the finest in foods, the city’s famous gingerbread (Lebkuchen), and arts and crafts. There is a children’s area called the Kinderweihnacht, with carousels and train rides. The market kicks off at the end of November and remains open until December 24.
Photo: Christine Dierenbach
Truly one of Europe’s great parks, Munich‘s English Garden is a massive expanse of greenery that sits between the Altstadt, the Schwabing district and the Isar River. It was first conceived by the Elector Karl Theodor in 1789, at the same time the French were dismantling their monarchy. The park is roughly five kilometers in length and hosts a number of highlights. The Kleinhesseloher See is a pleasant lake in the center of the park with paddleboats available for rent. Munich’s most famous beer garden is located at the base of the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). The Japanisches Teehaus (Japanese Tea House), which was built as a gesture of friendship during the 1972 Olympics, features ceremonial tea parties every second and forth weekend from April to October at 3:00, 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. It is not uncommon to encounter nude sunbathers along the grassy stretches. And Beware: The park becomes a hotbed for criminal activity late at night.
Tel: 089 224 319 (Japanese Tea House)
Photo: FVAmuc / Christl Reiter
With room for over 8,000 guests, Europe’s largest beer garden is sure to have a seat for you. The Hirschgarten takes its name from the multitude of deer (Hirsch in German) living nearby. The country-club like restaurant is a popular choice for wedding receptions, birthdays, baptisms and anything else whose celebration is complemented by large pints of beer. The Hirschgarten is located directly south of Schloss Nymphenburg, between Wotanstraße on the west and Wilhelm-Hale-Straße on the East. Zum Wohl!
Tel. 089 179 991 19
Photo: pixelio / Hein
Why is the world’s biggest party called Oktoberfest, when it actually begins in September? This is a question that is bound to arise after consuming three or four liters of liquid ebullience. Consume three or four more and you will probably forget the answer, or better yet, forget that you asked. The sober will know that the first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to honor the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The party kicked off on October 12, 1810 and ended five days later with a horse race. In the years to follow, the party grew longer and longer and instead of embracing the colder weather of late Oktober, officials decided to move it forward to September. Held at the Theresienwiese, the festival consists of 16 tents that are open from about 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. You can enter the tents for free, but finding a place to sit is another matter. Some tents allow you to book a table in advance. Weekends tend to be the most crowded. Tuesdays are family days with discounts for children’s rides. Parents are advised to bring their children in the afternoon, not the evenings, when behavior tends to become rowdy and occasionally violent. Many locals have the "take it or leave it" attitude towards the festival, but it is a very important industry in Munich, pumping about one billion euros into the local economy each year.
Photo: FVAmuc / Christl Reiter
Although the 1972 Olympics have long since passed, the park where the games took place remains an ever-present reminder of Munich’s sports history. The colossal Olympic Tower dominates Munich’s landscape and provides a breathtaking view of the region (on clear days!). The former Olympic swimming pool and ice-skating rink were opened to the public shortly after the competition ended. Entry onto the grounds is free, but there is a small fee to enter the Olympic Stadium. Various tours allow visitors access to the VIP areas and locker rooms, which can be an exciting experience for child athletes. The Olympia Park is also home to the Sea Life Munich aquarium.
Tel: 089 306 70
Photo: FVAmuc / Wilfried Hösl
Home to Bavarian rulers from the 14th century until 1918, the Residenz is the grand-daddy of palaces in Munich and Bavaria. The site itself is a sprawling complex with several entrances to the various attractions. These include the Residenz Museum, Treasury, Theatre, Courts and Allerheiligen Church. Housing the history of the Wittelsbach dynasty under one roof, the Residenz contains a plethora of highlights. The Ancestral Gallery has 121 chronologically ordered portraits of the rulers of Bavaria, the Hall of Battles depicts scenes from the myriad wars fought by those rulers, and the Reiche Zimmer (Rich Rooms) provide a sampling of the extravagant artistic tastes of their times. The Residenz Theatre, also known as the Cuvilliés Theatre, has one of Europe’s finest rococo interiors. Excellent English-language guides are available for a small price.
Tel: 089 290 671
Photo: FVAmuc / Wilfried Hösl
Five kilometers northwest of the Altstadt is the Nymphenburg palace. Construction of this majestic villa began in 1664. Its intended resident was the Electress Adelaide of Savoy, but over the course of the centuries a series of expansions led to the villa’s function as summer residence for the royals. Overwrought with Versailles imagery, the main building is a mansion with two wings. Its rooms are packed with stucco and frescoes, ancient tapestries and royal paraphernalia. The Schönheitengalerie (Gallery of Beauties) has 38 portraits of women whom Ludwig I thought to be beautiful; the infamous Lola Montez occupies a frame in this room. Outside, the 200-acre royal gardens are a haven for walkers and joggers (and swans). The park contains nine separate pavilions.
Tel: 089 179 080
Photo: FVAmuc / Studio Hahn
One of Europe’s most famous fresh food markets, this expansive swath of stands and stalls boasts some of the finest foods and edibles in Bavaria. The Viktualienmarkt is also an excellent place to sample local specialties. Bavarian butchers serve the finest cuts of ham and sausage, wrapping them in the emblematic blue and white. In the summertime the market is transformed into a massive beer garden, while in winter, people tend to stand around sipping Schnapps. Also of interest is the nearby Schrannenhalle. This 19th century grain-market hall situated southwest of the stalls is packed with restaurants and craft shops.
Photo: FVAmuc / Alfred Müller