Munich: Embracing the Ancient and Modern
Munich is renowned for being both traditional and forward thinking and blending the age-old Bavarian style of life with modern high-tech, making this metropolis at the edge of the Alps an intriguing area to visit. For RF and microwave engineers the city and surrounding region is a major contributor to their industry, with excellent universities and numerous high-tech companies such as Siemens, Infineon, EADS, BMW and, of course, Rohde & Schwarz, that are continuously redefining the limits of technology.
The local belief in progress paired with a sense of tradition is expressed in Munich’s image and lifestyle. To give you a flavour of the city I will endeavour to showcase the sights and experiences that Munich has to offer beyond the usual tourist spots. Much has changed since the city last hosted European Microwave Week (EuMW) in 2003. Therefore, I will focus on some exciting new projects, culinary musts and exclusive shopping opportunities that have dramatically changed the city over the last few years, as the love for tradition has been matched by the quest for progress.
However, there is one thing you should never forget: no matter how progressive Munich may be, time-honoured and age-old customs such as the city’s numerous beer gardens are waiting around every corner. If you allow yourself to get caught up in the atmosphere you will find yourself swept away by the magic of the city on the Isar.
The Outskirts of Munich
Most EuMW visitors will arrive at the airport and the easiest means of transport to the town centre is the S-Bahn (local train). If you take a taxi from the airport you will soon see an architectural highlight of modern Munich. Directly off an interchange on the A9 highway is the Allianz Arena, which looks like an oversized, illuminated rubber boat with a honeycomb-like facade of giant air pillows. Since 2005, this ultramodern stadium has been the home of the two local soccer teams, FC Bayern and TSV 1860, and more famously was the venue for the opening game of the FIFA 2006 World Cup. The three stands of the stadium can hold more than 69,000 spectators.
Further towards the city, you will come to the Münchner Tor (Munich Gate), which marks the end of the interstate between Berlin and Munich. It is the site of a brand-new city district named Parkstadt Schwabing that has been created over the past few years. It features office buildings, apartments and parks, and renowned companies have already established themselves there. The dominant sight is HighLight Towers, two slim towers designed by the famous architect, Helmut Jahn.
Even though it says so in the name, not quite so new is the Munich International Congress Centre (ICM) of the New Trade Fair in Riem, where EuMW 2007 is being held. Located on the premises of the former Munich Riem Airport—where busy air traffic was the order of the day until 1992—an ecology-oriented municipal construction concept was brought to life recently. This concept includes the new park, Landschaftspark Riem, which was created for the National Garden Show in 2005. It features linear and geometric shapes with groves, hedges, individual trees, natural meadows and a man-made lake for swimming. It is just the place to relax between conference sessions.
After a busy day at European Microwave Week, everyone deserves some relaxation time and the first stop should be the Old Town or Altstadt, which is only 20 minutes from the ICM on the subway. Marienplatz is the traditional heart of the city, featuring the main historic sites: the Mariensäule, a column with a statue of the Virgin Mary, the Altes and Neues Rathaus, the old and new city halls, the world-famous Glockenspiel, with its clockwork chimes and dancing statues, the Frauenkirche, a late-gothic Cathedral of Our Lady, with its unmistakable double towers, and Peterskirche or St. Peter’s Church, which is Munich’s oldest church, recognisable by its characteristic clock tower.
Only a block or so away, there is the Viktualienmarkt, a rare smorgasbord of stalls and shops offering fresh fruit and vegetables, sausage, cheese, baked goods, and other local and international specialties. Nearby, the contrast between the old and new is nowhere more evident and intense than in the Schrannenhalle.
Built in the mid-1800s as a wrought-iron trading centre for grain, it was gradually dismantled between 1914 and 1932. It has now been rebuilt from original materials and architecturally expanded—as a modern structure, of course, and reopened in 2005. Inside are a number of eateries as well as bars and clubs, making it an ideal location for an enjoyable evening after a hard day’s work.
The building at the front entrance of the Schrannenhalle is home to Der Pschorr, a restaurant specializing in Bavarian dishes. It is especially known for its old-style draught Bavarian beer, served directly from a wooden keg that has been cooled on slabs of ice.
Another attraction that has become a cultural institution downtown is the new Jewish Centre on St. Jakobsplatz. It was opened in 2006 and is a complex of buildings that includes one of the largest new synagogues in Europe, the Jewish Community Centre and the Jewish Museum. Featuring outstanding architecture, the Centre is located in the heart of the city between the Viktualienmarkt and Sendlinger Straße. The various exhibitions at the museum include a permanent exhibition on Jewish history and culture in Munich.
Just a couple of blocks away, Munich’s nightlife district is centred around Gärtnerplatz and the Glockenbachviertel. This area is full of bars, pubs, cafés and restaurants renowned for their innovation. A good example is Essneun on Hans-Sachs-Straße, a restaurant with a cool design that serves a constantly changing menu of unusual dishes such as mustard miso kangaroo on bean cream. During the day, the area is well worth a visit too for a stroll up and down the streets to see the numerous small boutiques and designer businesses with their eye-catching products on display.
For elegant shopping, the place to go is Maximiliansstraße, where one shop after the other carries the name of a world-famous fashion designer. The Maximilianshöfe, completed in 2003, closed a once-gaping hole in the luxury shopping mile located behind the National Theatre. In addition to exclusive shopping, this ‘courtyard’ offers excellent dining. The Brenner Operngrill is housed in a historic portico that serves as the foundation of a cubic, glass-panelled building. The Mediterranean dishes are prepared on an open grill centred beneath the portico arches.
Theatinerkirche/Odeonsplatz (photographer: Christl Reiter, TAM MUC).
Technology Centre of Rohde & Schwarz.
One of the most elegant shopping arcades in Munich is Fünf Höfe, which was created by radically redesigning an entire old-town block along Theatinerstraße. This prize-winning complex consists of five interconnected courts, each with its own character. Vines hanging from the sky like suspended gardens and tunnel-like, mosaic-decorated passageways imbue the complex with a charm of its own. Among the numerous smart shops there is one branch of the Japanese lifestyle chain Muji, known for its minimalistic design. The HypoKunsthalle is an art centre in the complex that regularly stages changing retrospectives and exhibitions of works by important artists.
The contrast between historic and modern construction could hardly be more apparent than in the Alter Hof, the recently renovated site of the former imperial residence of Ludwig of Bavaria and the exact spot where the origins of Munich once lay. A castle complex, dating from the 12th century, originally stood here. The only structures remaining are the gate tower of the former imperial residence and the gothic oriel, also known as the ‘monkey turret’. Legend has it that a court monkey once held the little Ludwig captive on the spire of the turret. This structure is joined by new residential and business buildings, which were opened in 2006.
River Isar near Flaucher (photographer: Josef Wildgruber, TAM MUC).
Frauenkirche and skyscraper (photographer: Heinz Gebhardt, TAM MUC).
The Alter Hof is also home to a branch of Manufactum, which offers a wide range of household goods, furnishings, cosmetics, groceries and much more. The company slogan proudly states: “The good things in life still exist.” At Vinorant next door, you can enjoy creative local cooking and Bavarian wines from the Franconian region.
Beyond the Old Town, you will find Olympiapark (subway station: Olympiazentrum), the architectural masterpiece that was home to the 1972 Summer Olympics. Right next door is BMW Welt (BMW World), where the curved facade of the new Delivery Centre and Event Forum complements the distinctive silhouette of the company’s headquarters that was built in the 1970s in the shape of a four-cylinder engine. However, it is not scheduled to open until the end of October, so it may be a sight to see the next time EuMW comes to Munich.
The best way to discover Munich is by foot or by the extensive public transport system, which is zone-based, and most places of interest are within the inner city zone. Tickets come in short-trip, daily and weekly varieties, and are valid for the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams and buses; just stamp your ticket as you enter the station and hop aboard. You can buy tickets from vending machines at stations, bus stops and newspaper kiosks.
If you like to exercise while sightseeing then Munich is one of the ‘bike friendliest’ cities in Europe with more than 700 km of cycle paths. If you want you can join a guided tour of the inner city. Visit www.spurwechsel-muenchen.de/ for more information.
New synagogue (photographer: Roland Halbe).
Allianz Arena (photo: Allianz Arena München Stadion GmbH).
Find Out More
If you are interested in visiting any of the sights, restaurants, bars and shops you have just read about, here is a list of contact details, either web links or addresses and telephone numbers. Following that is a selection of restaurants, beer gardens, cafés, bars and clubs to whet your appetite as to what Munich has to offer. Addresses and phone numbers are given, but if calling from outside Germany use the International Dialling Code: +49 and omit the first zero. In Munich the city code 089 is not required.
St. Jakobs-Platz 16
It is a mecca for colourful personalities looking for inspiration as to the latest trends in kitchen, art, fashion and music.
Schuhbeck in den Südtiroler Stuben
In this castle-like atmosphere replete with stucco, woodwork, comfortable chairs and beautiful fabrics, master chef Alfons Schuhbeck serves seasonal Bavarian cuisine for gourmets.
First class Italian food.
Being vegan is made easy at Munich’s most famous vegetarian restaurant, which also doubles as a club. It’s full of history, being one of the oldest buildings in the city.
The sushi masters here conjure up dishes to individual tastes and in the true spirit of Asian courtesy; the guest is treated like a king.
In Munich’s oldest wine-house guests can enjoy culinary delicacies and exquisite wines.
A traditional restaurant with fine Bavarian cuisine and its own freshly brewed beer.
Hofer – der Stadtwirt
Situated in Munich’s oldest townhouse (1551/1552) right in the centre of the city.
These traditional open-air eateries are open not only in summer, but also on nice autumn afternoons.
Munich’s oldest and largest beer garden is situated near Nymphenburg palace right next to a deer-enclosure.
Enjoy a cool beer while listening to kettledrums and trumpets. This multicultural rendezvous is located in the heart of the English Garden.
Englischer Garten 3
A traditional café situated directly at the Hofgarten. If you can snare one of the many coveted tables in the sun, you can while away the afternoon enjoying the view. Inside, you will find an excellent mixture of old and new plush sofas.
With its coffee bar and stylish restaurant, the attractive Anna hotel provides lots of space not only for its hotel guests, but for the general public too.
Schumann’s Bar am Hofgarten
An historic place famous for drinks and cocktails.
Round the Gärtnerplatzviertel
Funky and cool. Here you will find many stylish, comfortable, hip bars, restaurants and pubs.
CLUBS AND NIGHTLIFE
Getting past the doorkeepers at Munich’s legendary club can be difficult, particularly on weekends, but if you do get in you might spot a VIP.
Enjoy the view, savour the good food and drink, and hear the music.
With its many clubs and bars you will find party people everywhere here in Munich’s Party Zone and also in the neighbouring Kultfabrik, which is Europe’s biggest party area.
Friedenstrasse 10 near Ostbahnhof