Munich Travel Guide
Picture Bavaria and you’ll likely imagine a city resembling Munich, replete with Lederhosen, oompah bands, and the giant Bierhallen of the annual Oktoberfest celebrations—the world’s largest folk festival—aplenty. But stereotypes aside, there’s a huge number of things to do in Munich too, from a stunning medieval Old Town to 61 theatres and 36 museums. It was also here, in the ‘City of Beer and Art’, that Germany’s first publicly supportive political statements on homosexuality were made back in 1867. Though it took a further 100 years for sexual activity between men to be legalised, this still made Germany a leading light in the battle for equality, which today sees Munich laying claim to some of the oldest gay bars in the world. Set around the Glockenbachviertel neighbourhood, the LGBTQ scene is one of the largest and most diverse of any German city; events come to a head not at Oktoberfest, but the Christopher Street Day pride festivities each July. For your definitive Munich gay guide, you’ve come to the right place.
The best hotels in Munich
Let’s start this gay Munich travel guide with a roundup of the best hotels in Munich. For that homely touch—if your home is a penthouse that money can’t buy—BEYOND by Geisel boasts unmatched communal spaces in a phenomenal location directly on Marienplatz, which has been the heart of the Altstadt (Old Town) since 1158. A communal guest living room spans two floors, while the dining area and fully-fitted kitchen provide plenty of space to show off your culinary genius at any time of day. But when all is said and done, it’s the rooms that count, and those at BEYOND by Geisel are bathed in natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. While BEYOND may be known for classic luxury, the design hotel, Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor, snugly located between the Olympic Stadium and the city’s Englischer Garten, is famous for its natural woodwork. Guests can enjoy panoramic views of Munich from the rooftop bar, indulge in massages and locally-inspired healing treatments at the in-house spa, or top up their tans on the pool sundeck.
Situated within easy reach of Munich points of interest, between the Old Town and the Glockenbachviertel gaybourhood, and beside the famed Viktualienmarkt square and food market, Living Hotel Das Viktualienmarkt couldn’t be more central. The light and spacious rooms have extra-long beds for the comfort of all their guests and contrast vividly with the black and gold stylings of the lobby and bar. Embodying bronze, silver, and gold, Motel One Munich-Olympia Gate celebrates and commemorates the 1972 Munich Olympics. Enlarged photographs from the games adorn the walls, and each furnishing has been chosen to evoke the 1970s Olympic spirit. Located in the Schwabing district, one of Munich’s most authentic, Motel One Munich-Olympia Gate offers guests the ideal balance between tranquillity and the vivacity of the nearby centre of the city, where you’ll find Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski München. The main attraction, besides its classically-styled rooms, is use of its luxury day spa, which offers a wealth of calming beauty treatments in addition to an indoor swimming pool and fine views over the Munich skyline.
The Alte Pinakothek is a veritable who’s who of the art world spanning 600 years
Things to do in Munich
No small-scale local art gallery, household names abound at the Alte Pinakothek, a Munich sightseeing must. The neo-Renaissance design encompasses one of the world’s oldest public art galleries, born out of the collection of Bavaria’s now-defunct royal house, and is veritable who’s who of the art world spanning 600 years. With more than 700 works, the permanent collection includes encounters with Dürer, Rubens, da Vinci, Titian, and Rembrandt. Hosting the debuts of many of Richard Wagner’s most famous musical compositions, including Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Munich National Theatre continues to be one of Europe’s top opera houses. Home to Bavaria’s state ballet, opera, and orchestra, tours take you behind the scenes into the expansive backstage world in order to uncover the stories of its leading lights. The main performance season begins in April each year.
Still wondering what to do in Munich? Enjoy a very different kind of performance at Filmtheater Sendlinger Tor, just beyond the southern gates (Sendlinger Tor) of the Old Town. Munich’s largest single-screen cinema, it has been owned by the same family for 70 years and is one of the only establishments that continue to paint its own film posters—three metres in size—entirely by hand, giving a unique perspective on even the biggest blockbusters. Rather newer, given it was only legalised in 2010, is the intriguing spectacle of Eisbach surfing. Passing along the southern tip of the Englischer Garten, the Eisbach River’s narrow channel and strong currents create a standing wave of whitewater that challenges even the most experienced surfers, while crowds look on in endless wonder. “Endless wonder” could easily describe the Midnightbazar as well. Featuring a succession of stalls like you’ve never seen before, this indoor flea market incorporates live music, street food, and even cocktails, drawing a steady stream of bargain-hunters for a rummage through the vintage clothing, bric-a-brac, and other second-hand items on every other Saturday right up until midnight.
Things to see in Munich
The enormous Englischer Garten (English Garden) isn’t just a place to watch surfers do their thing. Designed in the eighteenth century to replicate the natural landscapes of English parkland, its 370 hectares makes it bigger than New York’s Central Park. Besides its extensive lawns and waterways, it’s home to all manner of treasures, including a Chinese pagoda constructed in 1790 and a Japanese teahouse added in 1972. Dating back to 1733, the Church of St Johann Nepomuk, better known as the Asam Church, has become incorporated into the buildings of Sendlingerstraße, yet remains one of the most important late-Baroque buildings in the south of Germany. The brainchild of a sculptor and painter pair of brothers, the Italianate interior of this chapel is covered with allegorical artworks, of which the ceiling fresco— painted by Cosmas Asam—has been internationally recognized.
Another artwork with an unusual location is Umschreibung, a spiralling staircase to nowhere sat within the courtyard of Munich’s KPMG building. Created by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson in 2004, the title translates as ‘circumscription’ or even ‘euphemism’. Rising almost ten metres, this is a sculpture you can become a part of, by following the helical structure up and down in an act of periphrasis, or movement without destination, another way in which umschreibung can be translated. There’s certainly no doubt about the purpose of Munich’s Olympiapark. While it is worth visiting to take in the impressive tent-like stadium roof up close, there’s also a small outdoor exhibition beside the Olympic Flame, complemented by a 20-minute film about the 1972 games. But there’s also still plenty of sporting activity on offer, including a two-hour guided stadium roof walk, which can be combined with a 40-metre abseil, or zip-line flying fox experience.
The stunning yet classic interior of Ratskeller is the perfect place to sample Bavaria’s specialities in a formal setting
Where to eat in Munich
When it comes to food and drink, there’s more to Munich than its white sausage stalls. German cuisine has worked to counter its maligned status of stodgy and uninteresting food combinations, as can be seen—and more importantly, tasted—at the Michelin-starred Restaurant 181. Taking up part of the needle-like Olympic Tower, it revolves slowly 181-metres above the city. But the menu remains the star of the show. Its sections include signature dishes such as Atlantic Monkfish with pancetta, and avant-garde dishes that include goose liver terrine with popcorn. An alternative Michelin option is Schweiger², named after celebrity chef Andreas Schweiger. Though small, this restaurant has a friendly and unpretentious ambience, which perfectly matches the menu of innovative plates that descend from the classical tradition.
With a strikingly modern exterior and stand-out Asian interior, Tantris has welcomed all manner of diners, like designer Yves Saint Laurent and pop sensation Christina Aguilera. The menu is less Asian-inspired than its décor would suggest; popular dishes include variations of salmon served with cream cucumbers and radish, but guests may also enjoy oxtail ravioli with peas, celeriac, and a Périgord truffle jus. By contrast, the stunning yet classic interior of arched ceilings, stained glass windows, and carved stonework of Ratskeller is the perfect place to sample Bavaria’s specialities in a formal setting. On the ever-changing menu, you can find everything from white asparagus to potato pancakes with apple sauce, as well as an impressive selection of local wurst. About as far from Bavarian fayre as you can get are the spicy stews, seafood, and chicken-stuffed banana leaves of Caribbean Embassy, which also boasts a bar with more than 100 different rums from 26 different Caribbean islands. If that leaves you in something of a daze, consider dropping by one of their regular rum tasting sessions!
A staunch part of Munich’s gay scene, as it has been for decades, is the German/pan-European bistro Restaurant Deutsche Eiche, offering traditional Bavarian dishes such as roast pork, alongside crunchy salads and lighter snack plates. Although it can’t match Deutsche Eiche’s heritage, the nearby Beim Franz has certainly been giving it a run for its money since it opened in 1997. Its traditional German dishes use regional ingredients whenever possible for a truly authentic taste of the region.
Shopping in Munich
The doyen of Munich’s luxury menswear retailers is without a doubt Max Dietl. The four-floor store on Max-Joseph Platz sits at the heart of the city, opposite the Bavarian State Opera building. From casual wear to bespoke suits, it houses the country’s largest collection of established brands, including Brioni, Kiton, and Stefano Ricci. The classic high-end feel continues into Hirmer, whose six floors hold 7,500 items and are dedicated to men’s fashion, making it the largest menswear store in Germany. Should the shopping get too much, take a break at the bar overlooking Frauenplatz Square.
Anyone interested in modern German design should make their way towards A Kind of Guise, a concept store which specialises in German products. It bases its collection of 16 designers on those who push premium fabrics, ethical production, and exquisite craftsmanship to the forefront of all they create, whether menswear or household accessories. Homeware, as well as fragrances, books, and artisanal foods, are all waiting to be discovered at Falkenberg. With stock limited to a rotation of just two months, there’s always something new and quirky to uncover.
Dedicated to all things biker, Bad and Bold was unveiled to the Munich public in 2012 by long-term Harley-Davidson riders Barbara and Matthias. Barbara’s tailoring expertise was the key to the success of this homegrown Munich store, bringing retro shirts, vintage leather jackets, and motorcycle accessories to the masses. What Bad and Bold is to biker fashion is what Soda is to art and design, with this store providing an outlet for books and international publications of a diversity rarely matched. Where else can you pick up a book on ‘old men’s tattoos’, and a magazine on the latest holiday hotspots?
Thanks to its mix of locals and visitors, Feuerwache is a great introduction to what Munich’s LGBTQ scene has to offer
And now for Mr Hudson’s Munich gay scene guide. Established in the 1980s, Feuerwache, or Fire Station, is a cosy gay bar with a décor that harks back to when it first opened. Thanks to its mix of locals and visitors, it is a great introduction to what Munich’s LGBTQ scene has to offer. Attracting a younger clientele and their friends, Bar Rendezvous has a café-like ambience during the day and a clubbier vibe at night, with singers of all abilities trying their luck at karaoke every second Thursday.
If you’ve heard the buzz around gin then you won’t want to miss a stop at Zephyr Bar, a rooftop cocktail bar with the city’s best selection of the spirit—including rare local distillations such as The Duke, and Monkey 47 Schwarzwald, a gin infused with 47 botanicals picked from the Black Forest. It’s no wonder this place is almost always packed. Whiskey-lovers may prefer the single carved walnut wood table of Les Fleurs du Mal, where they can choose from 150 brands. Meanwhile, the one-room club that is Jenny was a friend of mine offers a timeless selection of drinks, and an equally timeless musical back catalogue that ranges between ‘90s pop and hard-edged electronica. Found just south of Müllerstrasse, it also offers a quiz night every Thursday.
Photo: Matthew Brodeur
Photo: Marvin Van Beek
Olympiaturm | Photo: John Rodenn Castillo
Photo: Jan Antonin Kolar
Photo: Camilla Bundgaard
BMW Museum | Photo: Anastasia Dulgier