Touring Munich in 1 day seems ridiculous at first, considering that it is a sprawling metropolis filled with treasures, and has some of Europe's greatest museums and palaces. But it can be done if you get an early start and have a certain discipline, plus a lot of stamina. This "greatest hits" itinerary focuses on the Altstadt, the Old Town, in the heart of Munich. You can begin at the central square, Marienplatz, taking in the carillon (Glockenspiel) and walk nearby to an old church, an open-air market, and the most fashionable shopping boulevard in Munich. After lunch, there will be time left for a visit to both the Alte Pinakothek and the Deutsches Museum, the two most important museums in Munich, followed by a late afternoon visit to the Englischer Garten, climaxed by a beer debauch at the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl.
After breakfast, launch your day by heading for the center of town opening onto:
This is the most historic and most scenic square of Altstadt (the Old Town). As you stand here, you'll be in the heart of Munich. Because many of the attractions are nearby, you'll cross this square -- perhaps -- several times. Try to come back at 11am to watch the greatest show in town, the 43-bell Glockenspiel (carillon) on the 8.5m (28-ft.) central spire of the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall). Brightly painted mechanical figures reenact famous events in the city's history. This is the fourth-largest carillon in Europe. You can climb the steps of the Town Hall (or take an elevator) for one of the most panoramic views of Munich. The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall), with a plain Gothic tower, stands to the right of the New Town Hall.
Before you hit the major museums, take a stroll along or by some of the major attractions of the Altstadt, including:
The oldest church in Munich stands at Rindermarkt. The church can be viewed immediately south of the Neues Rathaus. Its bell tower -- known locally as Alter Peter, or "Old Peter" -- towers over this 13th-century Gothic church. But since you've already seen a panoramic view, you may resist climbing its 306 steps for another vista.
In the rear of the church, you come to:
Our favorite place in Munich to get the makings of a picnic, this open-air market with dozens of stalls is called "the stomach of Munich." To the north stands Heiliggeistkirche, or the Church of the Holy Ghost, a late Gothic hall-type church with much later baroque ornamentations. A local told us that the Viktualienmarkt is not just a place to come for cheese, wine, and sausages, but "one can unlock the heart of the Münchner by visiting it," if you can understand what he meant.
Again, delaying your visit to the museums, cut north from the market, heading along Dienerstrasse until you come to Residenzstrasse. Cut east along:
Just so you don't get the idea that Munich is all "quaintery," walk along its most fashionable street, lined with boutiques and houses of fashion. It is the Fifth Avenue of Munich, its Champs-Elysées, but different from both of those streets. Certainly it is one of the great shopping streets of Europe. Maximilianstrasse also has some of the leading art galleries of Europe. We could spend a day just visiting them to see avant-garde German art, but time is rushing by -- and there's still much to see.
The great museum of Munich is the:
5. Alte Pinakothek
It really takes 4 hours to see this museum -- one of Europe's greatest art galleries -- in any depth, but you can do it in an hour and a half by concentrating only on its masterpieces. The collections were started by the ruling Wittelsbachs at the beginning of the 16th century, and they have grown over the centuries with frequent bequests. Albrecht Dürer is remarkably represented, as are the "Three Rs" -- Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphael -- plus a host of other old European masters, including one of our favorites, Pieter Bruegel. Promise yourself a more detailed visit on your next trip to Munich.
Time for a lunch break.
After lunch, head for the:
6. Deutsches Museum
On an island in the Isar River, but still in the heart of Munich, this is the German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology. When you see all these vehicles, locomotives, aircraft, and machinery, you'll wish that you'd pursued that career as an engineer. This museum takes up 5.3 hectares (13 acres) and is the largest of its kind in the world, with at least 16,000 artifacts on display. Instead of a day spent here, you'll have to settle for a 2-hour preview to keep up with our schedule.
To cap the afternoon, head for the:
7. Englischer Garten
If it's summer, hopefully you won't be offended by a little nudity. Japanese tourists certainly aren't. You'll see them all over the park snapping pictures of Münchners letting it all hang out. Nudity aside, the real reason to come here is to enjoy one of the largest and most beautiful parks in the country. With its lakes and pavilions, including a Chinese pagoda, this is an ideal place to take a respite from all that rushed sightseeing. There are also beer gardens if you'd like an early start on the suds.
After you return to your hotel, set out for your wildest and most rollicking evening in Munich by heading for the fabled:
8. Hofbräuhaus am Platzl
No beer garden in all the world is as well known as this sprawling, state-owned brewery, holding 4,500 beer drinkers. Oktoberfest is all-year-round here. How are you at downing a liter in a blue-glazed mug in 3 minutes? Münchners do it all the time. The air is overheated, and the smell of sausages, stale tobacco, and beer permeates this massive building constructed at the end of the 19th century. The largest banquet hall you will likely ever see is on the second floor. The pounding oompah band and the singing and shouting drinkers contribute to the retro Bavarian atmosphere.
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