Munich is historically known for foamy liters of beer, wurst and Oktoberfest, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Yet this city has a cultured, sophisticated side too, appealing to art, opera and gourmet food aficionados. There are plenty of wine restaurants serving up fine Rieslings and German Eisweins (Icewines), plus eight Michelin-starred restaurants, along with the traditional beer halls.
The best part is that so many of these hotspots are concentrated in the old walled part of the city now geared to pedestrians, making Munich a social, fun place to visit.
One of the best food experiences is the Viktualienmarkt (Viktualienmarkt 6), an outdoor market stuffed with cheese, honey, fresh flowers, olives, wines, sausages and exotic fruit. The beer garden in the center is an excellent spot for people-watching.
Vinorant Alter Hof (Alter Hof 3) juxtaposes the old with the new—Tyrolean vaulted ceilings arch over chic parquet floors and white décor. The staff here are friendly and knowledgeable about the 90-plus German wines on the list. A 2007 Domina Juventa, Trocken, Divino Nordheim goes well with Franconian filet of beef on a cheese potato fritter with leeks and Franconian truffles.
Downstairs, Vinothek Alter Hof, a wine bar, offers casual food to enjoy after a performance by the Bavarian State Opera in the ornate National Theater (Max-Joseph-Platz 2).
Gourmet Restaurant Königshof chef Martin Fauster earned a Michelin star for dishes like Bresse pigeon with elderberries and goose liver Povensen at the Hotel Königshof (Karlsplatz 25). There are 1,000 wines available here, ranging from value wines to five vintages of Romanée-Conti Burgundies.
The hotel owners, the Geisel family, run one of the city’s best wine shops on premises, Geisels Weingalerie. Stephan Geisel says the wines in the shop and hotel come directly from chateau cellars to control storage and transportation, and ensure quality.The Garden Restaurant, opened last fall at Hotel Bayerischer Hof (Promenadeplatz 2–6), is the most talked about new restaurant in Munich. It has a glass conservatory and dark colors so the food, such as shoulder of lamb with bell pepper, mustard polenta and cumin, is the highlight.The Bayerischer Hof, dating from 1841, hosts a traditional German food restaurant, Palais Keller, a Sunday jazz brunch in winter, a nightclub with live jazz and one of the best views of the city from the rooftop Blue Spa Lounge.
For lunch, the second-floor café at Dallmayr (Dienerstrasse 14–15) should not be missed. The first floor of this famous 300-year-old gourmet emporium offers rye bread, fresh pasta, vinegars, hanging cured ham legs, caviar, wine and more.
After visiting the BMW Museum (Olympiapark2) and BMW World (Olympiapark 1), lunch at the revolving Tower Restaurant at the Olympia Tower (Spiridon-Louis-Ring 7) can’t be beat. There are panoramic views over Olympic Park, the city and the Alps.
Still, it is the beer that beckons many to Munich, famous for Weissbier or wheat beer. The best way for English-speaking visitors to learn about the Bavarian beer experience is to join the Beer and Brewery Tour by Munich Walk Tours (New Gothic Rathaus, Marienplatz).
The tour first features a beer tasting at Weisses Bräuhaus (Tal 7) where seven types of wheat beer are produced. At Paulaner Bräuhaus (Kapuzinerplatz 5) there’s a brewery tour, beer tasting and dinner. Featured are traditional dishes like beef goulash cooked with beer and served with pretzel dumplings. The Hofbräuhaus (Platzl 9), dating to 1607, is the last stop, where a Bavarian Oompah band adds an atmospheric touch.