A weekend guide to Munich Germany's third largest city has a pleasant pace of life, beautiful architecture and a thriving art scene.
A dumpling for every plate
Why go Munich, or München as the locals call it, is the capital of Bavaria, a southern German state. It is Germany's third largest city, but has the reputation of being its most pleasant because of the pace of life, the beautiful architecture and a thriving art scene. Although the city is sizable, it is small enough to enjoy on foot, with its pedestrianised centre, gardens and interesting places to explore. So at a time when it is virtually impossible to walk outside in the UAE, head for the cooler climes of Munich and take in the scenery. What to do A good place to begin to enjoy this laid-back city is the Marienplatz, right in the centre. Strolling around you will pass some neat little shops, including a Swarovski boutique where you can pick up some glittery bits to take home with you. But there's something for everyone: if football is your passion, you can visit the fan shop of the city's biggest - and Germany's most successful - club, Bayern Munich, which is just a five-minute walk from the main square. Also a few minutes walk from Marienplatz is the Frauenkirche. If you only visit one church during your weekend, this is the one to see. Its green domed tower is synonymous with the city, just as the Eiffel Tower stands for Paris. The 15th-century cathedral is set in a square just behind Marienplatz, and it is steeped in legend. One story says that the church's architect made a deal with the devil, whereby the wind would cease while the church was being constructed so long as the building was without windows. Well, from one particular vantage point in the entrance it does appear that the Frauenkirche has no windows - columns screen them from view. When the devil discovered that he had been duped he is said to have stamped his heel and today there is a deep footprint set in the flagstones that is said to belong to the devil himself. Whether retribution or not, the small square is always extremely windy these days. If you're feeling energetic climb to the top of the south tower. The views over Munich and across the Alps are stunning. From the Frauenkirche head to one of the most charming gardens in Europe - the Hofgarten, near the Munich Residenz. The Residenz was begun in 1385 and served as the seat of government and the residence of Bavarian dukes and kings from 1508 to 1918. The architecture, decoration and works of art date from the Renaissance to the early baroque and rococo periods and the neoclassical era. If contemporary art is more to your liking then you have also come to the right place. Munich is chock full of pinakotheken or galleries. Start with the Pinakothek Modern but don't ignore the many private galleries dotted around the city. You could easily spend half a day visiting all the museums and monuments at the Residenz alone. Don't forget to save some time for the nearby court garden, which dates back to 1613. Sit in the pavilion and plan an afternoon nap back at the hotel after all this trekking around. If you are feeling peckish, head back over the Marienplatz and down to the Viktualienmarkt. This outdoor market is open daily from 9am to 5pm except on Sundays. There is everything from cheeses to meats to herbs, spices and fresh juices, as well as lots of cosy restaurants to choose from in the area. My favourite snack is the classic German pretzel, which costs about a single euro and is sold at the market's numerous bread stalls. It's just big enough to see you through until dinner, which in Munich is likely to involve a whole roasted animal or at least a knuckle of veal and dumplings. Where to eat Breakfast Grab a pretzel from any bakery or market stall and wander around the city taking in the fresh, early morning air. Lunch Head for the Susie W Bistro at the Sofitel, a stone's throw from the central railway station. If you are in Germany during the asparagus season from April to late June then don't forget to count your blessings with a plate full of these delicious green stalks. The signature dish here is Bavarian lamb chops with four different kinds of sauces. And - surprise - there's not a dumpling in sight. Lunch will set you back about US$64 (Dh237) per person. Dinner Try the Hofbräuhaus, an historic landmark, if only to soak up the atmosphere and sample one of those great chunks of meat you imagine Germans eating on a daily basis. If you want typically Bavarian fare, stick with anything featuring a combination of meat and sauerkraut. Dinner for two will cost about $93 (Dh342). Where to stay Budget Motel One is one of Germany's most popular chains and for good reason. The hotels are clean, modern and comfortable. There are two in Munich, though I prefer the München-City-Ost because of its more central location. A double room costs from $106 (Dh389) per night, including taxes. Motel One München-City-Ost, Orleansstraße 87 (www.motel-one.de; 0049 89 59 97 64 90). Mid-range Without a doubt one of my favourite places to stay in Munich is the Platzl Hotel, right in the middle of Munich's historic old town (conveniently next to the Hofbräuhaus). A double room costs from $275 (Dh1,010) per night, including taxes. Platzl Hotel Inselkammer KG, Sparkassenstraße 10 (www.platzl.de; 0049 089 23 703 0). Luxury The Sofitel Bayerpost is a refurbished Royal Bavarian Post Office in the heart of Munich. Luxurious rooms and services include a team of Arabic-speaking staff that has been assembled and trained to cater to visitors from the Middle East. A double room costs from $299 (Dh1,100) per night, including taxes. Sofitel Munich Bayerpost, Bayerstrasse 12 (0049 89 59948 2500; www.sofitel.com) Recommended reading Gladius Dei, by Thomas Mann, is a fascinating novella set in Munich around the turn of the last century when the city was experiencing a glorious period of art nouveau revival. How to get there: Return flights on Etihad Airways (www.etihadairways.com) from Abu Dhabi to Munich cost from $883 (Dh3,245) including taxes.