Travel: 48 hours in Munich

Come autumn and the Oktoberfest, we'll only be here for the beer. But go now instead, and you will be able to enjoy Bavaria's favourite beverage in relative


WHY GO NOW?

WHY GO NOW?

As one of Europe's most attractive cities, Munich is a year-round destination, but is worth a visit at this time of year because most of the tourists tend not to arrive in great numbers until the spring. It can often get very cold during the winter, but there are plenty of indoor attractions. Summer gets pretty crowded, and unless you deliberately want to go to the Oktoberfest - which begins in September - the autumn is best avoided as the hotels tend to get booked up far in advance.

BEAM DOWN

The only no-frills option Go (08456 054321; www.go-fly.com) has fares from Stansted starting at pounds 40 return, although you must book by next Tuesday (and pay a pounds 5 surcharge if you book by phone). BA flies from Gatwick, Heathrow and Birmingham, while Lufthansa has flights from Heathrow, Stansted and Manchester, but prices are much higher.

The international Franz-Josef-Strauss airport, which opened about five years ago, is the latest thing in airport design, but it is inconveniently located about 20 miles from central Munich. Take the S-bahn train into the city centre; there are three departures an hour for most of the day.

CHECK IN

Much of Munich is modern, since the city suffered badly from the bombing during the Second World War, but if you want to stay somewhere with a bit of the atmosphere of old Bavaria, try the Platzl Hotel (1) in Sparkassenstrasse (00 4989 237030). Single rooms start at DM245 per night, including breakfast; doubles start at DM320, going up to DM440 for a luxury room. The hotel has been restored, but the restaurant, with its cellar-like atmosphere, gives you an idea of what it was originally like. The Daniel (2), on Sonnenstrasse (00 4989 554 945) is equally central but slightly more modestly priced, with singles starting at DM142, and doubles at DM193.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Munich sprawls in an ungainly fashion, but most of the interesting sights are in a relatively small area on the left bank of the river Isar, between the water and the railway station. The heart of the city is the Marienplatz (3), an attractive square with a fountain in the middle, where street musicians often entertain the tourists and shoppers passing by. The historic centre is enclosed by a ring road that pretty much follows the route of the old city walls.

TAKE A HIKE

The Aldstadt, or old town, which is largely pedestrianised, is the place to begin exploring. Start in the Marienplatz, with its Rathaus (4); then head down Im Tal, which leads to the Isator (5), one of the original city gates. You will pass the Altes Rathaus (6), or old Town Hall, which has been rebuilt since the war. Turn left and you will reach the Residenz, (7) built in the 16th and 17th centuries as a royal palace.

WINDOW SHOPPING

Most German shops close earlier at weekends than they do during the rest of the week, but Munich is better than many in this respect. The majority of retail outlets are open until 4pm on Saturday, although they then remain closed until Monday morning. Despite this, there are plenty of shopping opportunities in Munich, with several department stores around the pedestrian streets in the old part of the city. If you are interested in something more authentic than a designer shop, get up early enough in the morning to go to the Viktualienmarkt (11), which is one of the most interesting food markets in central Europe.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

The Cafe Am Dom (8) (00 4989 222766), opposite the Frauenkirche, is worth a stop. But if you are saving yourself for a hearty Germanic dinner, you could skip lunch altogether, and go for coffee and cakes at one of the numerous cafes scattered around the old part of the city.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

Munich is home to several of the finest museums in central Europe, and the two main art galleries, the Alte Pinakothek (9), and the Neue Pinakothek (10), are worth a couple of hours exploration. The Venetian-style Alte Pinakothek has an amazing collection of paintings from the Renaissance and the years that followed; look out for works by Durer, Cranach and Grunewald. The Neue Pinakothek houses more modern paintings, including one of Van Gogh's sunflower pictures.

AN EXCURSION TO REMEMBER

It may not be everyone's idea of a day out, but a trip to the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau is certainly memorable. This was the first such camp, and more than 30,000 Jews died here between the time it was built, in 1933, and the end of the Second World War. As well as a photographic exhibition, there are reconstructed bunkers and a so-called shower room that housed the gas chambers. Dachau is a short trip from the city centre on the S-Bahn from the main railway station (18).

A WALK IN THE PARK

The Englischer Garten (17) is a large expanse of parkland on the bank of the Isar river, with streams running through it, and a small lake in the centre. South of the Chinese Tower there is an open-air tavern, as well as an indoor restaurant, so it's possible to get a beer even at this time of year.

SUNDAY LUNCH

Vegetarian slimmers will find the pickings thin. The Hundskugel (16), at Hotterstrassee 28, (00 4989 264 272) is one of the oldest eating places in Munich, dating from the 15th century. It has an extensive menu of typical Bavarian dishes, often including roast suckling pig.

SUNDAY MORNING... GO TO CHURCH

The two large Gothic towers of the Frauenkirche, (15) the city's cathedral, dominate the Munich skyline; their onion domes look curiously out of place against the red brick of the building. Most of its original features have been reproduced during the careful post-war restoration.

DEMURE DINNER

The Pfistermuhle Restaurant (00 4989 23 703 865) at the Platzl (1) hotel serves some of the best food in Munich, concentrating on local produce, including some very good freshwater fish. The Ratskeller (00 4989 220 313), the basement restaurant in the city hall (4), has a better than average selection of typical German dishes. Also worth trying if you are looking for something more informal, is the Straubinger Hof (14), on Blumenstrasse (00 4989 260 8444), where you will have a hearty, meat-dominated, German gastronomic experience.

AN APERITIF

There is only one thing to drink in Munich - beer; the city is one of the largest producers in the world. And there is only one place to drink it. The Hofbrauhaus (12) (Platzl 9; 00 4989 221 676) dates from the 16th century, and is as rowdy now as it was then. It is a vast, lively hall which opens on to a courtyard in summer and tends to be overrun with tourists in the height of the season. If you prefer somewhere slightly less crowded, try the Augustinerbrau (13) (00 4989 519 940) on Neuhauserstrasse.

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