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Do the Germans have the secret recipe of how to combine old and new? At times it seems that way. It has been achieved successfully in cities like Berlin, Hamburg and Düsseldorf and Munich is another example of a city where old and new go hand in hand. And we don't only refer to historical and innovative architecture, but also to traditional festivities and ultramodern discotheques, traditional costumes and avant-garde fashion. And what about the combination of Bratwurst and the ever-increasing popularity of exotic restaurants in Munich?
Munich is sometimes referred to as the World Capital of Beer. In the Biergartens, the golden liquid is served in large tankards, but, upon request, you can also order a Schnitt (250 ml, half a tankard). Did you know by the way that you can bring your own food to the biergarten? Buy, just like the locals, bread, cheese, sausage salad and some gherkins on the market, order a large tankard in the biergarten and you have a tasty and also cheap Brotzeit as the 'Münchner' would say.
As can still be deduced from its name, bavaria's capital was founded by monks. Munich's symbol is also a monk, as can be seen on the top of the tower of the Neue Rathaus on the Marienplatz. This square is the city's beating heart. In the old days this was also where the market was held. At the Fischbrunnen, the fishmongers used to keep their merchandise fresh in the water of the fountain. Nowadays the market has been moved to the larger Viktualienmarkt, where fresh merchandise like vegetables, fruit, game, fowl, fish, honey, herbs, spices, sausages, cheese and flower are delivered daily.
During the annual Oktoberfest, Munich is flooded by millions of visitors. The name is somewhat confusing though, as the festivities start on the third Saturday of September and last for 16 days. Drinking beer and eating are the main activities during the Oktoberfest, which takes place on the Theresienwiese. Only beer from the six Bavarian breweries can be served during this feast.
In order to taste the real Munich, you have to visit the districts outside the center. Just south of the center lies the Gärtnerplatzviertel. Around the central square you'll find countless small shops, specialized in fashion or design products as well as many local bars and restaurants. On the right bank of the Isar River lies Haidhausen, a district that feels somewhat like a village. You'll find the trendy part of the neighborhood around the Pariser Platz. Westend, the area just west of Theresienwiese, is up & coming. It is Munich's multicultural and student district with exotic eateries and coffee shops, but also galleries and specialized shops.
The city also houses some interesting museums. Three of them are located close together: The Alte Pinakothek (paintings from the Middle Ages), the Neue Pinakothek (art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) and the Pinakothek der Moderne (as the name already implies, modern and applied arts).
The Englischer Garten is a huge city park stretching from the center to the northern suburbs. It is the city's green lung and recreation area, just like Central Park in New York, but then bigger. Nude recreation is permitted in the southern part of the park. And of course the biergartens are present here as well. There are four of them: Chinesischer Turm, the somewhat posh Seehaus, Hirschau and Aumeister.
Except for the city itself, Munich's attraction also comes from its location: The Bavarian capital lies on the bank of the Isar River, at the foot of the Alps. Although the mountain peaks are not as high as in Switzerland or Austria, they are beautiful and ruggedly shaped.
The town of Erding is located northeast of Munich, right next to the airport. It is mainly known for the huge Erding Therme complex that has been built around the thermal springs. On Fridays a large Farmer's market is held in Erding.
Bavaria's best-known castle is without a doubt the Neuschwanstein Castle, located southwest of Munich. A true fairytale castle and it supposedly inspired Walt Disney when he designed the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
As southern Germany's political, economic, social and cultural center, Munich is a busy city. It may be difficult to find a parking space for your rental car. There are large parking garages near the Hauptbahnhof and just south of the Kauflingerstrasse shopping area. Both around the center and near the suburbs there are P+R lots where you pay a modest fee to park for a day to continue your journey by public transportation. It is not allowed to park for more than a day at these sites. On top of that, the city center is a so-called 'Umweltzone', where you can only drive around with a special sticker.
Munich Airport is located about thirty kilometers northeast of the city center. Franz Josef Strauss International Airport can be easily reached by rental car. The airport is situated right along the A92 freeway, which connects with the A99 beltway. Make sure to avoid rush hour. The roads around Munich are also extremely busy at the beginning and end of summer and winter vacations and during large events.