I don’t think it’s legal to visit Munich without spending at least a little time at the famous — or infamous, depending on your love of raucous beer halls — Hofbrauhaus. Or at least that’s what my husband, Chris, led me to believe.Our evening at the Hofbrauhaus provided some indelible travel memories of beer-soaked locals clad in lederhosen and dirndls dancing around in drunken conga lines to the persistent beat of the oom-pah.
Happily, our hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, was situated just a few (wobbly) steps, yet a world away from this nonstop party scene.If the frat-house atmosphere of the beer hall isn’t really to your liking, there are more low-key ways to enjoy Munich’s traditions and rich cultural scene. Places where old and new interwine, where the old-fashioned beer hall also might be a WiFi hot spot, and where the Eisbach River is the launching site for sedate scenic boat tours and a playground for surfers determined to catch an unlikely wave. Munich’s dining scene offers plenty of choices beyond the typical, gut-busting German cuisine. But we mostly opted for traditional restaurants like Spatenhaus, which specializes in filling Bavarian-style pork and sausage dishes and serves its own housemade beer. Here, the long, wooden tables were filled with Germans and other Europeans, who were happy to share baskets of warm pretzels and tips on what to see and do.
Not all German traditions revolve around bratwurst and brews. The recently re-opened BMW World, celebrates the history of the performance-oriented automaker. The museum displays vintage roadsters, racing editions and cars reimagined as art pieces by contemporary artists.
There also is a showroom with current models available for purchase — quite a souvenir that would be. The factory tour can be supplemented with an “experience,” in which you can take a BMW for a spin through the countryside.Balancing out the fast car-and-beer lifestyle is a comprehensive fine art scene.We spent hours wandering the halls of the Alte Pinakothek, an institution with a wealth of works by the Dutch masters; the Brandhorst, a contemporary repository for pieces by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Damien Hirst, and the Residenz Museum, a former palace for the Wittelsbach royal family, who amassed a priceless collection of furniture, silver, porcelain and paintings.
After so much art, what better reward than a Munich-style snack of a beer and a pretzel –– without the conga line, please.One good read: Inside the BMW Factories: Building the Ultimate Driving Machine.