For Jim’s birthday this year, we decided we’d take a long weekend trip to Munich! It seemed like the perfect choice as it combines two of Jim’s favorite things in life: pretzels and beer. I’m happy to report, Munich did not disappoint on either.
This was my second trip to Munich, as I had traveled there with Rebecca almost six years ago to the day. When I was there, though, it was incredibly sunny and hot. Our trip in 2017? Decidedly colder and overcast all three days. I have to admit, the cooler temperatures were a bit of a relief while the rain was pretty sporadic and light, so not too much of a downer.
We arrived in Munich on Friday morning, just before lunchtime, dropping our things off at our hotel and heading to the Wirtshaus Ayingers (a pub/sausage spot owned by our hotel in Platzl, basically across the street from the Hofbrauhaus). The food was delicious, and the portions were HUGE. We started with some pretzels (instead of bread), and I had pork medallions wrapped in bacon with a mushroom sauce and spaetzel (sooo good) and Jim ordered the pork knuckle with sauerkraut and dumplings. Neither of us had ever had pork knuckle before (it’s a Bavarian classic, apparently), so we had no idea what to expect. When it arrived at the table, Jim was met with a portion of pork larger than his head. I kid you not. To his credit, he ate about half of it, and I’ll wager I might’ve eaten half of mine, too. As far as beer was concerned, I ordered an Ayinger Hefe and Jim ordered the dark Hefe, which we’d never heard of/seen before. It was delicious. I’m going to have to look for it here in Toulouse.
After lunch, we hit the streets for a little exploring. We wandered past various churches (St. Peter’s Church as well as Frauenkirche) on our way to Marienplatz. Unfortunately, we had missed the 11am and 12pm glockenspiel show, so we continued on toward Odeonsplatz and into the college neighborhood.
That evening, Germany was playing the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifying match, so we decided we’d need to head to a bar and watch/root while sipping some radlers (one of our favorite summer drinks). I was sad to see my favorite German goalie wasn’t playing (Neuer), as he had a broken foot, but Germany came right out of the gate with a goal. The Czech Republic gave them a good game, but Germany prevailed. Unfortunately, the US also played a qualifying match that weekend (and lost).
The next morning we decided to start the day with the 11am Glockenspiel show in Marienplatz. I’ve heard many people talk about how this is overrated, but I think it’s incredibly charming and positively Bavarian. It’s amazing how intricate this entire show is. To watch the whole thing, click here. As you can see from the photos below, there are a number of umbrellas (it was raining), but the top photo appears to have more sun (that’s because we took that one later in the day).
After the glockenspiel, we wanted to check out the Viktualienmarkt and pick up some light lunch (we weren’t going to make the same mistake as the day before). I had donuts on the brain while Jim was channeling a white sausage sandwich. Ultimately, we both got what we wanted.
The Viktualienmarkt is definitely one of my favorite things in Munich. All of the produce looks so perfect, there are flower shops galore, cheesemongers, beer gardens, etc. I know if I lived in Munich, I would come to this spot as often as I could. On a sunny day, I bet there are hardly better places to be…
While in the market, Jim found a spot selling sausages, but I wasn’t giving up on my donut dream. Luckily, Jim had been doing some coffee research that morning and remembered a donut shop close to the market – Schmalznudel – Cafe Frischhut. It looks to be a small cafe from the street, but it’s two, full floors with a pretty limited menu (four types of donuts, orange juice, and various types of tea/coffee/hot chocolate). We ordered the three donuts you see below. I was in heaven. As you walk through the door you see the giant vat of oil and after you order the donuts they’re still piping hot when brought to your table. It reminded me a little of beignets from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, but with granulated sugar instead of powdered. I loved them all.
After our light lunch, we made our way over to the Hofgarten, situated between the English Garden and the Residenz. You can see the Diana pavilion in the bottom photo below.
From there we walked into the English Garden, my favorite part of Munich. If you’re unfamiliar with the English Garden, it’s a HUGE public park in the center of the city. What blows my mind is that it’s even larger than NYC’s Central Park. There are temples, tea houses, beer gardens, surfing spots, waterfalls, etc. It’s the perfect picnic spot (what Rebecca and I did on our trip), and just a magical place.
We first happened upon the beginner’s surfing spot (below, top left). It was a little drizzly, but that didn’t stop about six men from tackling the water. The guy in the green was the best of all of them. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he starts heading to the Eisbach Wave, instead.
After the wave, we wandered into the Chinese Turm, my second favorite thing in Munich. All websites had said it opened at 10:30am. We arrived closer to 1:30 or 2pm, but it was completely empty. No stalls were open. I was heartbroken. As we slowly wandered around (hoping something might open), we overheard one of the weirdest exchanges between an Irish tour guide and a German citizen. Let’s just say the German guy didn’t leave a very good impression on anyone in that tour or me or Jim.
Disappointed about the Chinese Turm, we made our way back toward our hotel and stumbled into the Hofbrauhaus. This is the spot where Rebecca and I had our first meal in Munich (well, beers & pretzels, anyway), and I was excited to share it with Jim. If you’ve never been, it is probably one of the largest restaurants/bars I have ever been to, and it’s been around for hundreds of years (I think it was built in the 1400s). You could feel the electricity as soon as we walked through the doors. Long, communal tables filled with jovial folks (everyone with a stein of beer), traditional Bavarian music playing (as well as a little bluegrass), various patrons in traditional German clothing (one of my favorites), as well as drinking out of their personal steins (how cool is that?).
This place was packed (I guess we should’ve expected it on a rainy Saturday when the Chinese Turm was closed), but we managed to find a seat not far from the action where we promptly ordered our giant pretzels and a dark radler. Friends, I thought the dark hefe was amazing, but the dark radler is a whole other beast of amazingness. It brings a nutty quality that works. I bet it’s even more drinkable with food (we didn’t see this option anywhere else).
When Rebecca and I first visited Munich some locals had explained that only tourists drink/order the 1L beers (“It’s too big…your beer gets warm before you can drink it all”), so we ordered our 0.5Ls and opted for the giant pretzels, instead. It really was a perfect way to spend the afternoon. It’s a wonder why there aren’t more beer gardens in the USA.
After our mid-day beer drinking, we decided to take a nap back at our hotel before heading out to dinner at Haxnbauer, a spot recommended by Susie & renowned for their pork knuckle (see it roasting below). If you’re headed to Munich, I’m sure there are plenty of delicious restaurants where you can sample traditional fare, but we highly recommend this spot. We ordered mushroom soup to start (maybe the best I’ve ever had), sliced pork knuckle (we learned our lesson from Jim’s lunch the day before) with mashed potatoes (also some of the best) and sauerkraut (for me) and red cabbage (for Jim…I think it was cooked in gluwein). Eventhough we opted for the smaller portions, neither of us could finish our plates. Our waiter joked, “Too small a portion?” with a smile.
The previous night we left for dinner a little around 7:45 or 8pm (we’re so French now), which appeared to be a little late for most spots in Munich (think closer to American eating times). We arrived at Haxnbauer close to 6:30pm and were seated after waiting in line for maybe five minutes or so (the restaurant was PACKED). When we left, there was a line around the block.
The next day our flight back to Toulouse wasn’t until 7pm, so we still had a full day of exploring ahead of us. As such, we opted to hit some of the areas of the city we hadn’t seen yet. We started with a walk to the Sendlinger Tor, then over toward the Asam Church (and incredibly cool private church of the Asam brothers – amazing baroque style work).
As we approached a metro station, we decided to head out toward the Olympic Stadium, which is also very close to the BMW Museum (and the spot where you can pick up a BMW). We didn’t go on the BMW tour (Jim says he would if you could tour the factory), but did walk around in the Olympic area. I’d say if you’re traveling with children, this would be a fantastic place to take them – there were so many activities for kids and beer gardens for adults.
We decided to head back to the English Garden in the afternoon. I lured Jim there with the promise of seeing the larger, Eisbach Wave, and secretly hoped we could see if the Chinese Turm was open (it was cloudy, but not raining).
The Eisbach wave was busy (see below) with surfers waiting on both sides. I’d just like to say, how cool is it that this exists in the center of the city? We watched from the bridge above, then from the side. To see it in action, click here.
After the surfing, I walked Jim back toward the area where Rebecca and I had jumped into the river many years before. What’s interesting here was that now there’s a big sign that says swimming is forbidden AND the water was brown (was green when we swam in it). I’d like to think the brown was from all the rain/mud. Regardless, it was fun to reminisce.
Then we found ourselves back at the Chinese Turm…this time it was open and we got some beers and sausages. I had told Jim when we were here before it had started raining and everyone scuttled under the Turm. And it happened again! I envy this aspect of German culture. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends or family. This is my favorite beer garden, and I’m so excited I got to share it with Jim.
All in all, Jim said he wanted to eat a pretzel and drink a beer every day. Mission accomplished. I can’t think of a better way to start the year!