This is one of those towns that seems friendly but isn't. It offers beer, but its heart is cold.
Personally, I like the real Munich better than the jolly stereotype. I like the incredible modern museums, the overly complex rules and regulations.
I even somewhat admire the lack of tourist hand-holding – yes, you can climb the Old Peter bell tower, but nobody is going to tell you it's 306 steps to the top. Just start climbing (Implied corollary: if you have heart failure halfway up, well, find a way to get yourself back down).
All that oom-pah-pah stuff about Munich beer halls and jolly music? Well, it's true enough on the surface. This is Bavaria, after all. But I implore you, see more. Here's a quick rundown of a more balanced Munich:
MODERN: Pinakothek der Moderne: My very favourite place in the city. The modern art museum, which opened in 2002, is really four museums in one. There are paintings by great German artists like Kandinsky and Macke, plus prints, drawings and sculpture. Then there's the Neue Sammlung gallery. Devoted to industrial design of the 20th and 21st centuries, it contains everything from Eames chairs to the first iPod to a 1936 "Nocturne" blue glass radio made in Jackson, Michigan. Do not miss this place. It's worth it just for a look at the floor-to-ceiling illuminated, backlit, compartmentalised displays. (Entry about NZ$18, but only $1.80 on Sundays.)
OLD: Hofbrauhaus: The classic Munich beer hall, so of course you cannot visit Munich without setting foot in this place, no matter how corny it seems. (No entry fee.)
MODERN: Brandhorst Museum: Just opened in 2009. From the abstract multicoloured ceramic exterior to the interior filled with giant canvases, mostly by American artists Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol, this museum is modest, of human scale, and wonderful inside and out. Have lunch in the pleasant cafe on the main floor. (Entry about $12.)
OLD: Alter Peter (the nickname for St Peter's Church). The best photos of the Munich skyline come from the top of this 90-metre tower. An asthma-inducing climb, but just take your time and plod upward. You'll pass eight giant bells. (Fee to climb the tower, about $2.50.)
MODERN: The Schrannenhalle. This grain market was rehabbed into a trendy spot in 2005, but customers didn't take to its mishmash of sales booths and it closed down. It reopened just five months ago as a gigantic, rather upscale, delicatessen/food market. Crowded with people drinking wine, buying cheese and hobnobbing, it's a good place for people-watching.
OLD: Englischer Garten. Relaxing, sophisticated, pleasant, orderly, and in nice contrast to the frenetic city centre and the crazy train station area. An added bonus: in summer, there is surfing on a stream and nude sunbathing. MCT
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