Forget lederhosen and foaming beer, the arrival of hip hotels, top restaurants and sleek museums is making Munich a German capital of cool.
Oktoberfest draws thousands to the Bavarian capital every autumn, but when the Oompah bands lay down their tubas and the beer swigging hordes stagger home, there remains a city of history, culture, and an ever increasing hipster quotient. Best of all, you can enjoy the new clubs, eateries and museums without the manic crowds.
Traditional Bavarian culture is the beating heart of this friendly, compact city. What some dismiss as schnitzel-kitsch actually means gorgeous ornate buildings and mouth-watering food. With the Alps just an hour away, and with acres of gardens, a winding river, and wide dramatic boulevards it is not surprising that Munich is regularly voted German's ideal place to live.
A relatively young city, founded just 850 years ago, Munich's rich history and distinctive character is proudly felt by the locals, as illustrated by the large number wearing very tight leather shorts, regardless of season.
Of course the shadow of more recent events hangs over the city, but Munich has addressed its dark past head on, and continues to do so with every passing year. The Haus der Kunst (hausderkunst.de) created by the Third Reich to showcase Germany's "finest art" now displays the work of modern artists (much despised by Hitler) and travelling collections from political dissident artists hang on the walls. In the striking Justizispalast (Buildings of Justice) visitors can explore the little known story of the White Rose, a small resistance group of students who protested against the Nazi regime and were tried and put to death here.
The recent creation of a Jewish Museum (juedisches-museum-muenchen.de) makes an excellent addition to the Jewish cultural centre, as does the delicious kosher restaurant, Einstein (einstein-restaurant.de). Time your diner to coincide with an evening service at the impressive, modern synagogue across the cobbles, when light floods through its glass dome, sending Stars of David into the sky.
A stroll through the Englischer Garten, one of the world's largest city-centre parks.
The chance to take tea in Luigi Tambosi. Founded in 1775, it is the oldest Italian café in Germany, a favourite spot of Mozart and a Munich institution. (Odeonsplatz 18).
The churches which fill this city, but make especially sure you visit Bürgersaalkirche (Neuhauser Strasse 14), where the body of Jesuit priest Rupert Mayer is buried. He spoke out against the Nazi regime for years, before finally being sent to a concentration camp. Many come to ask him for courage in their own lives.
Spending an entire day at the Bavarian National Museum (bayerisches-nationalmuseum.de) exploring the sacred and secular folk art, fine arts, and historic treasures of the region.
Watching the locals surf on the Isar river – even in the depths of winter. Painful, yet compelling viewing.
A frothy beer. If you can't resist the call of the stein, head for the new Augustiner am Platzl (augustiner- wirtschaft.de/cms/), the perfect place to sip with the leiderhosen-clad locals (yes, really) and enjoy a dish of weisswurst, traditional white boiled sausages.
The Literaturehaus, opposite the only Greek Orthodox church in Munich, is used for numerous bookish meetings and conferences. Sit down in the building's OskarMaria café (oskarmaria.com), order a warming tea served in cups painted with choice literary quotes, and you have a good chance of bumping into one of Europe's great writers.
Just 10 minutes walk south of the central Marienplatz and you'll find Gartnerplatz, Munich's hottest neighbourhood. Delis, boutiques, cafés and clubs have sprung up on the Gartnerplatz's numerous small streets, catering both to residents and the recent influx of hipsters and young couples. Try the new Tushita Teehaus, a tiny café filled with teas of every flavour, run by the warmly welcoming Japanophile Sandeh von Tuches. The café's 12 cosy seats are always loaded with colourful locals making their way through the menu of 100 varieties of tea and organic vegan cakes.
Details: Klenzestrasse 53; tushita.eu.
Nothing says "hip city" like the arrival of a Design Hotel, and the newly opened Louis does not disappoint. Set in the heart of Marienplatz, directly overlooking the bustling Viktualienmarkt market, this 100- year-old building has been transformed into a warm, chic space. Created by local architects Hild und K, rooms are filled with rustic woods and natural fabrics and feature quirky touches like wardrobes designed as suitcases. It isn't just a hit with visitors – restaurant Emiko, serving modern Japanese cuisine, is filled every night with Munich's fashionable and fabulous, all sipping sake.
Details: Viktualienmarkt 6; designhotels.com/louishotel.
Opened to acclaim in May 2009, this is the latest home to a collection of world-class modern art. Its striking facade, created by Berlin architects Sauerbruch Hutton, is made from 36,000 coloured ceramic rods and is built on strict ecological principles. Inside, the three spacious galleries display more than 100 Warhol's, as well as the works of Damien Hirst, Alex Katz and Cy Twombly.
Details: Theresienstrasse 35a; museum-brandhorst.de.
Berlin isn't the only city where Germans like to party – nightspots open here at a dizzying rate. Currently the hottest ticket is Neuraum, set in the city's newly-converted bus station, Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (or ZOB). It holds more than 2,000 clubbers and eight DJs. When you've worked up an appetite, follow everyone next door to Vapiano, a new branch of the self-service Italian franchise.
Details: Arnulfstrasse 17; neuraum.de
Bavarians love to eat, and fine food is available all across the city. Inside the luxury Hotel Bayerischer are two of Munich's newest restaurants, the Atelier and the Garden, designed by the Belgian art dealer Axel Vervoordt. Both have Mediterranean inspired dishes but serve them in two very different atmospheres. The Garden sits in an elegant, light filled modern conservatory while Atelier is a sumptuous cocoon of cream and chocolate coloured fabrics.
Details: Promenadeplatz 2-6; bayerischerhof.de
Insider’s secret: Michael Borio, tour guide
"The Nymphenburg Palace, the summer home to the rulers of Bavaria, has an amazing collection of carriages. Go through to the very last room, and you'll see those which once belonged to King Ludwig II: so beautiful, covered in gold and crowns and coats of arms and angels, it is hard to believe they are real. These actually inspired Walt Disney in his creation of the carriage in Cinderella.
"Then, for something extremely modern, head for the new BMW Museum. The architecture is amazing and looking at the technology is like seeing into the future." (afriendinmunich.de)
Details: Nymphenburg Palace, Eingang 19; schloesser.bayern.de. BMW Museum, Am Olympiapark 2; bmw-museum.de.
Michael Borio: afriendinmunich.de
How to get there
British Airways (0844 4930787; ba.com) flies from London Heathrow to Munich from £113 return, including airport taxes.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies