There’s far more to Munich than the Oktoberfest. It is often featured on lists of the world’s most liveable cities, and it’s not hard to see why. Unlike Berlin, this city has money and it shows. It was carefully rebuilt after the war and the architecture is beautiful. It is a great city to walk and cycle around and has a stunning river, parks, city squares and an open air market. Throw in plenty of arts, culture two of the top universities and a couple of famous beer houses and it’s a formidable place.
So to see it all for yourself, here’s a quick itinerary you could do in a morning…. Get a taxi to drop you at Odeonsplatz and you’ll be perfectly placed to stroll through the city’s historical centre. Head south past the Munich Residenz, the largest residential palace in Germany that was the seat of Bavarian rulers for more than 400 years. It houses a large art collection and the Bavarian State Opera is right next door. Then head to Marienplatz, the centre and heart of the city where you’ll also find the city hall.
Do some window-shopping along Kaufinger and Neuhauser streets, which are closed to traffic. Then make your way back to Viktualienmarkt, a bustling open-air market just off Marienplatz full of gourmet food and a lively beer garden in the middle. It’s great for people watching.
When you’ve rested, head back to Odeonsplatz and take a quiet walk in the Hofgarten. If you’re a real park lover, you could keep walking to the English Gardens – Munich’s showpiece park and the river, where people actually surf. If not, sit at the restaurant outside and have another drink or head down Maximillian Street for all your designer shopping.
If you hate waiting in long queues to get into over-priced galleries and museums, then you’re in luck. In Berlin you get a free outdoor gallery along with a big chunk of 20th Century history, all for free.
The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery is a 1.3km-long section of the wall running along the Mühlenstrasse and the bank of the river Spree in former East Berlin. With more than 100 paintings by artists from all over the world, the memorial for freedom is apparently the largest open-air gallery in the world.
The gallery is close to the Ostbahnhof S-Bahn station on the west side and the Warschauer Straße S+U-Bahn station on the east side. Walk over Oberbaumbrücke, arguably the most beautiful bridge in Berlin and the only connection between Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. Once you’re over the river, take a left and you’ll find the wall right in front of you.
See below for some mural highlights:
Every panel of the 1.3km was painted by a different artist in 1991, but after years of decay many of the works were later restored.
The gallery is a fantastic reminder of what the city has been through and it should definitely be on your to-do list. You’ll love the stroll and I bet you’ll walk away with hundreds of photos.
If you’re looking for a stylish place to eat and sleep in Berlin, you could do worse than Soho House, a private, members only club in Mitte that also rents rooms and apartments to the public. It’s in a grand old corner building with a stunning roof top bar and the coziest restaurant and lounge area where I was lucky enough to get an invite for dinner.
The Cookhouse restaurant has a very relaxed ambience with an open plan kitchen alongside the homey lounge area. It feels like a very comforting oversized lounge and kitchen in a private home, with the lounge décor that wouldn’t be out of place in the Hamptons. I felt so comfortable I was working out ways to stay there. Like forever.
After dinner we stepped out of the warm cocoon and headed for the rooftop, where there’s a great bar next to the swimming pool that boasts views across the rooftops of Berlin.
Note: Members have to accompany guests to the club, so the best way in is to actually stay at the hotel, which I certainly recommend.