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A Munich travel guide – opulent baroque palaces, lively beer halls and designer shopping

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Boisterous beer halls, Alpine panoramas, and gleaming BMWs all come as standard on a Munich city break. But book a Munich hotel and you'll also discover a city with an upbeat after-dark scene, a rich cultural heritage and a love of outdoor living.

Get your bearings

The core of the city is Munich's 13th-century Altstadt (Old Town), encircled by the Altstadtring road. Studded with neo-baroque architecture, it is home to designer boutiques and cavernous beer halls. Edging north-east is genteel Schwabing, where Art Nouveau boulevards lead to the English Garden, a six-kilometre ribbon of greenery hemming the Isar River. West of Schwabing is the Maxvorstadt university quarter, with its independent galleries and lively bars. Further west are elegant Neuhausen, and Theresienwiese, the hallowed grounds of the Oktoberfest beer festival. North of the centre is the Olympiapark, home to the Olympic Stadium and space-age BMW Museum.

Hearty dining

Eating and drinking with gusto is Munich's favourite pastime. Go traditional in the bustling Viktualienmarkt with a Weisswurst, a herby veal-pork sausage slathered in sweet mustard. Oompah bands play while waitresses in traditional Bavarian dress drift through crowds guzzling foaming wheat beer in the legendary Hofbräuhaus. The Altstadt mixes Michelin-starred restaurants with arty vegetarian cafés and wood-panelled pubs serving every part of the pig except the oink. No Munich city break is complete without a lazy afternoon in one of Schwabing's chestnut-shaded beer gardens.


Leisurely shopping

Cutting through central Altstadt, the stately Maximilianstrasse boulevard flaunts big-name designers like Gucci and Prada. Wander Neuhauserstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse for high-street department stores before nipping into centuries-old Dallmyr, Munich's finest deli. Eccentric galleries and boutiques stocking everything from homespun fashion to vintage lederhosen concentrate in the Gärtnerplatz and Schwabing districts.

Cultural highlights

The Wittelsbach royals left their 700-year legacy on the Residenz palace's frescoed apartments and glittering treasury. Works of the Old Masters grace the Alte Pinakothek gallery - look out for evocative religious works by German Renaissance artists Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer. Contemporary art fans can find Warhol and Damien Hirst artworks in the candy-striped Museum Brandhorst, while car lovers can take a spin through motoring history at the UFO-shaped BMW Museum. See the much-lauded Bavarian State Opera perform at the neoclassical Nationaltheater before retiring to your Munich hotel.

Relaxing moments

Munich's vast English Garden is where locals come to stroll through maple woods, sunbathe nude in their lunch hour, and even surf on the Eisbach stream. Row gently across the garden’s Kleinhesseloher Lake before relaxing in the Seehaus beer garden on its banks. Five kilometres west is the 18th-century Nymphenburg Palace, whose landscaped gardens still captivate today with their canalside romantic follies. Marble columns and water-spouting busts soar above the Art Nouveau Müller'sches Volksbad swimming pool and steam bath a short walk east of Altstadt. Watch deer graze in the Hirschgarten, the largest beer garden in Bavaria, to the west of Munich’s city centre.