Your average visitor to Munich may think of beer halls, bratwurst and brass band music, but more discerning types will plan to visit the city's fabulous museums and spend their evenings listening to good opera, classical concerts and--if they are really up to date--some rock, pop and Cuban wave, as well. With 15,000 people attending a musical performance every day, Munich always has been, and with luck always will be, a musical town. You can enjoy this city of old-fashioned Culture and newer-fashioned Kultur without breaking the bank.
At the Munich Opera this spring and summer, you can hear and see opera classics such as Die Walkure and Don Carlo, or ballet including Raymonda and Manon. In an average year, the Bavarian State Opera packs more than 600,000 people in its three theaters (the National, the Cuvillies and the Prinzregenten) for about 60 productions and 350 performances. The season runs from mid September through July. Tickets start from €25 ($22.50). If you'd rather just tour the place, you can take a tour in German for €5 ($4.50). The say that English tours are available by asking at the ticket office.
Best of all is this July's Munich Opera Festival, the world's oldest (at 125 years), with 60 performances during the 30-day period, including 16 operas, two ballets and several concerts. Zubin Mehta is the General Music Director of the opera--founded in 1530, by the way. For tickets, you can either e-mail email@example.com or go to the Web site, www.staatsoper.de.
The city has two opera houses and three symphonic orchestras (the Munich Philharmonic with New York's James Levine as principal conductor, the Bavarian State Orchestra with Lorin Maazel through this year and the Bavarian Broadcasting Symphony). There is also a Munich Symphony Orchestra, a Munich Chamber Orchestra and even a second orchestra of the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation. A second music theater is the State Theatre at Gartnerplatz, which specializes in lighter opera and operetta, like The Merry Widow or West Side Story.
Jazz has an eager audience in Munich and is performed daily in the famous Unterfahrt Club, in the Einstein Cultural Centre and in the Bayerischer Hof Hotel, as well as on the stage of the Gasteig Arts Center on occasion. There are four world-famous labels based in Munich--ECM, ACT, Winter & Winter and enja. For Cuban and African music wave from the late 90s onward, go to performances at the Muffathalle when you get a chance.
Out of the 46 museums in town, you simply shouldn't miss the Deutsches Museum, Europe's largest science museum; the Old Pinakothek, with Rubens, da Vinci and more; the New Pintakothek, with Monet and Biedermeir; the Modern Pinakothek (opening this autumn); or the State Gallery of Modern Art.
Don't miss going out into the suburbs a bit to see the Nymphenburg, the former summer residence of the Wittelsbach family, rulers dating back to 1664. If you like churches, of which the city has 300, try St. Peter's (11th century) or the Cathedral Church of Our Beloved Lady, or the Asamkirche (1733), a masterpiece of Bavarian rococo.
If you don't want to use taxis, try the efficient mass transit system and use the Munich Welcome Card, which includes transport to and from the airport. You get unlimited travel on all public transport in Munich, including bus, subway, streetcar and S-Bahn. Price for one day is €6.50 ($5.85), for three days €15.50, $13.95 (adding on airport makes it €26, $23.40); "partner" ticket (up to five adults) for three days €22.50 ($20.25). Adding on airport routes make the latter €38 ($34.20) for five adults. On the partner tickets, two children 6 to 14 years old count as one adult, so you could, conceivably, have two adults and six children in that age group traveling on one ticket. In addition to the unlimited transport, you also get up to 50% off on admission to 38 tourist attractions, including three palaces, 13 museums, four cinemas, six conducted tours, a horse-drawn carriage, a bicycle hire, and nine city walks and sightseeing tours. The card is available from the tourist information office in the New City Hall, at the main rail station and in many hotels.
Conveniently located and quite charming is the Hotel Exquisit, a 4-star establishment, with double rooms from €150 to €185 ($135 to $166.50). The price includes a big breakfast buffet (with ice cream!), service charge and VAT (value added tax). The rooms are fairly large (some are non-smoking), with minibar, the service is friendly, plus it's located on a quiet side street in heart of city center. 3 Pettenkoferstrasse, Nahe Sendlinger Tor, Munich, phone 551-9900, fax 551-99-499, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Their Web site is www.augustiner-restaurant.com.
A second choice is the Splendid, another charming place reeking of Olde Worlde ambiance. Some rooms with bathroom, a few without. Prices for double without bath €96 ($86.40), with bath €136 to €191 ($122.40 to $171.90). The prices include a breakfast buffet. 54 Maximilianstrasse, on the east side of downtown, phone 296-606, fax 291-3176, e-mail email@example.com.
If you're lucky enough to be in town this September, you can take in the Oktoberfest, which occupies the Theresienwiese under the gaze of a 60-foot-tall statue of the Bavarian patron saint. For two weeks, you sit in tents or in the open air, raising beer mugs, waltzing on the tables and singing. You can eat, too, with the wursts, the roasted chicken, the smoked mackerel and more. And, of course, the oompah music never ends. If you miss Oktoberfest, just look for a beer garden or beer hall for the same kind of ambiance, albeit much less in quantity.
The Ratskeller Munchen, the most traditional of cellar restaurants in the city hall basement, serves good food inexpensively and efficiently. The decor is dark and gloomy, the music can be loud, but the hearty food and good cheer make up for all that. Here is where you get your sauerbraten with red cabbage and dumplings, as well as other regional specialties. Most plates run about €10 to €20 ($9 to $18), open daily. They also offer a vegetarian menu. Im Rathaus, 8 Marienplatz, phone 219-9890, reservations a good idea.
The rate of exchange for the European Euro at time of writing was €1.10 to the U.S. dollar. The Euro is divided into 100 cents, just like the dollar.
The country code for Germany is 49, the area code for Munich is 089 (drop the 0 if dialing from outside Germany).