City Breaks: 48 hours in the life of Munich

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The Independent Online
For a short cut to the soul of Bavaria's capital, Muthena Paul Alkazraji offers a guide.

Why go now?

Because the raucous, back-slapping merriment of the Oktoberfest is well and truly over. Fewer people will bang on the roof of your taxi slurring "Ish muss mit Ulf sprechen!" Munich is now emptied of its beer-guzzlers, apart from the natives. Throughout Advent the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) is set up on the Marienplatz, replete with Bavarian yuletide atmosphere.

Beam down

Debonair (0500 146200) flies from Luton to Munich for pounds 136.40 return, including tax. Lufthansa (0345 737747) has a special fare from Heathrow of pounds 156.20, and also flies from Manchester for pounds 196. British Airways (0345 222111) flies from Heathrow and Gatwick for pounds 186.40 return.

Get your bearings

S-Bahn (suburban train) 8 leaves Munich Airport every 20 minutes around the clock, and takes 35 minutes to get to Marienplatz, the heart of the Innenstadt (Inner City). Get a free map from the tourist information office in the gorgeously gargoyled new town hall, Neues Rathaus - not to be confused with the old town hall (Altes Rathaus).

Check in

The appropriately named Hotel Splendid (00 49 89 296606) on Maximilian Strasse will accommodate you in formal elegance on Munich's schickimicki (smart set) shopping boulevard. (Wrap your credit card in gold paper from the Christkindlmarkt to secure attentive service in the street's boutiques.) A standard double room with bath costs pounds 85-pounds 112 a night. Bavarian rooms are available. The Guesthouse English Garden (00 49 89 392034) on Liebergesell Strasse is prima for strolls through the city's huge "green lung". Double rooms with a bath cost pounds 55-pounds 70 a night. Bed and Breakfast Munchen (00 49 89 1688781) will find you less expensive accommodation, including lodgings with families, from pounds l5 to pounds 40 a person per night.

Take a ride

Tram 19 from Karlsplatz takes you through Promenadeplatz and past Loden Frey, Munich's largest Bavarian clothing specialist (top range of lederhosen), then swings into the grandiose Max-Josephplatz, shouldered by the Residenz and the National Theatre. It then trundles along Maximilian Strasse past the Museum for Ethnology and over the river Isar. Disembark at the Maximilianem, seat of the Bavarian Parliament. From here parkland paths border the clean, green Isar. To return, take tram 19 again.

Take a hike

Begin under the Glockenspiel in Marienplatz. The new town hall's mechanical clock gyrates and clangs in the tower at 11am and noon. Its near-life- size figures are coopers dancing about the end of the Black Death, and knights jousting at the wedding celebrations of Duke Wilhelm V in 1568: the blue Bavarian knight wins every day.

Walk along Wein then Theatiner Strasses to Odeonsplatz; here, in 1923, Hitler's first grab for Bavarian power left 14 Nazis and four policemen dead. The view along Ludwig Strasse's Italian-style buildings stretches north. Walk back along Residenz Strasse, through Max-Josephplatz, and back to Marienplatz. Go under the arches of the Altes Rathaus, with fairy- tale turrets, and turn right into the delectable Viktualienmarkt. You can eat your own food in the beergarden.

Lunch on the run

The Internet Cafe at Altheimer Eck 12, Arcade Passaage, is three minutes' walk from Marienplatz. The Haferl Milchkaffee (a big bowl of frothy, milky coffee) and the pizzas are delicious. Net site use is also free for an hour when you eat here.

Cultural afternoon

Munich has a dizzying choice of historic buildings, art galleries and museums (most free on Sundays). However, a through-the-keyhole-style wander around the magnificent Residenz ranks highly. Built over five centuries by dukes and prince electors of the Wittelsbachs dynasty, it has acres of sumptuousness to view. Make for the Antiquarium (largest Renaissance vaulted hall in northern Europe), the treasure chamber, the Ancestral Portrait Gallery, and the Cuvillies Theatre (finest rococo theatre in the world).

An aperitif

Muncheners are the world's largest consumers of beer. The city's seven breweries leave the aroma of hops permanently hanging in the air. At one time Bavarians would test the quality of their bock beer by pouring a fresh brew on to a bench, sitting down, drinking a lot more, then letting nature take its course right there. If the bench stuck to their rears when they stood up, the bock was good. The Bayern brews are excellent; mercifully, this does not need retesting. Three to try are the helles (light), dunkeles (dark) and Weissbier (cloudy orange). Sup them at the historic Hofbrauhaus or the quieter Jodlerwirt (live yodelling after 8.30pm) on Alterhofstrasse. Eins, zwei, g'soffa (one, two, down the hatch).

Demure dinner

Traditional Bavarian fare could cause post-traumatic stress disorder in ill-prepared vegetarians. For a meaty Munchen menu in an oaky tavern, the Nurnburger Bratwurst Glockl at 9 Frauenplatz is the place. This family- owned business has been grilling pork sausages over an open beechwood fire for five generations.

Sunday morning; go to church

Well, go to the top of a church. The 306-step climb up the tower of Peterskirche at the edge of Marienplatz gives panoramic views over the city. On a clear day you can see the Alps. Or, to view rococo styling so lavish it will make you queasy, visit Asamkirche on Sendlinger Strasse.

Bracing brunch

Take the lift up five floors to the Cafe Glockenspiel at 28 Marienplatz. The bar-cafe here has a great view and an extensive breakfast menu. Top of the range is the "lovers' breakfast for two", which for pounds 30 includes champagne and goose-liver pate. A trusty bowl of cornflakes, however, is about pounds 1.80. Get a window seat and watch out for the glockenspiel whirring into action while you eat.

A walk in the park

The 900 acres of the English Garden, so-called because of its informal, unmanicured style, is Munich's favourite spot for a stroll. Head for the Monopterous, a Greek-style love temple, which has views southwards towards the "beermug" towers of Frauenkirche. Close by is the Chinese Tower and beergarden. Schon.

The souvenir

Forget the beersteins and "shaving-brush hats"; select a delicacy or two from the Viktualienmarkt - don't leave out the sweet mustard. For something more durable, the toy wooden figures from Erzgebirge offer delightful Christmas nostalgia - and they crack nuts.