Discover a Munich beyond Oktoberfest
A sharing culture, downsizing and recycling – clear trends that indicate we yearn to slow down, consume more consciously and live a more minimalist lifestyle. In parallel, there is a growing interest in slow travel – a philosophy about relaxing the pace to experience more. If this strikes a chord with you, head to Munich.
The Green City project started back in 1990, with the aim of creating a greener city, via sustainable urban planning, more environmentally friendly transport and increased climate-smart energy usage.
There are numerous local initiatives today aimed at encouraging more harmonious and “greener” ways of living, such as Haus für Eigenarbeit, an open workshop that inspires creative recycling, urban gardening projects Essbare Stadt and O’Pflanzt Is and the urban organic farming initiative Humming München, where clothes exchange days and climate-smart cookery schools for children are organized. There is a vegan food store Veganz and organic burger chain Holy Burger, to name just a couple of examples.
Munich enjoys an unusually calm-inducing location, with the Bavarian Alps and numerous lakes within easy reach. A good place to start exploring it at a slow pace is Viktualienmarkt, the city’s central food market, which is over 200 years old. Here you can buy vegetables grown locally, slowly matured Alpine cheeses and other local specialties. One of the stands, surrounded by dried flowers, fragrance bags and potpourri is run by Elke Fett, who has worked here so long she is nicknamed ‘Frau Viktualienmarkt’.
“Here it's like a parallel world within Munich. Outside the market, people rush around in a state of stress, but here they take the time to see what there is, taste and chat with other people. This is something we're very proud of.”
At the organic bakery Hofpfisterei, located at one end of the market, they sell bread that’s left to rise for an unusually long time. The shelves are filled with rye based bread and wholegrain pretzels sit on the counter. I sample a slice of buttered rye bread that has been left to rise for 24 hours. Fresh, acidic, delicious.
Not far from there is Sama Sama, an extraordinary chocolate store. The glass counter is adorned with extravagantly decorated marzipan and chocolate pralines arranged in a row like precious jewels and topped with candied flowers, glitter and gold - you could almost imagine Liberace serving behind the counter.
Next door to the market is Der Pschorr, one of the city's certified slow food restaurants. Located in the former meat market, it has rustic wooden tables, beer stored in ice cold barrels in the cellar served by waitresses in traditional Bavarian dirndl folk dresses. The food also veers towards the rustic and is served in trencherman portions. Its specialty is beef from Murnau-Werdenfelser.
Here I meet Rudolf Böhler, who is involved in the local slow food association, the first and biggest movement of its kind in Germany.
“Why we are so popular could be due to us locals being food lovers who are conscious of what we eat. We are spoilt by very good producers in the surrounding area,” he says.
According to Böhler, there are several ways to experience this huge German city a bit more slowly.
“Walk rather than take the metro – there are plenty of good walking paths along the River Isar. Choose restaurants that prepare food from scratch using local raw materials. And don't miss the Englischer Garten, especially the northern part. It's not as well known, which means it’s usually not as crowded there.”
Eat and drink
Restaurant Conviva im Blauen Haus
The restaurant not only serves well-prepared and good value food; it also provides opportunities for disabled individuals to enter the workplace.
Serves the best weisswurst, a traditional veal sausage, in Munich. It's popular with workers in the area who order a classic Bavarian breakfast; weisswurst, mustard, pretzel and beer. Open from 7am, Mon-Sat.
Large bierkeller and restaurant housed in the former meat market by Viktualienmarkt. Serves tafelspitz, wienerschnitzel, leberknödel, käsespätzle and simple dishes in huge portions. The house beer, Edelhell, is served from oak barrels.
A small and cozy slow food certified neighborhood restaurant with south German specialties such as schnitzel and spätzle. Delicious and value for money.
Vegetarian gourmet restaurant with one star in the Guide Michelin. The five course menu costs €60, but if you want to eat for less, the restaurant also offers a three course lunch menu for €19.
Elegant café that’s perfect for a break from shopping. The menu changes according to the time of day, including burgers, salads, organic smoothies, sandwiches and home baked cakes. Dinner menu, natural wines and drinks in the evening. Stereo also serves “Duetts”, alcoholic drinks with matching bar snacks.
Munich based duo who create extravagant gowns that have been worn by celebrities like Kristen Stewart, Eva Longoria and Kristen Bell. The 500 square meter flagship store is an experience in itself.
The food market, now over 200 years old, is a must for any foodie. You find the best meat, cheeses and vegetables in the area here. There is a biergarten in the middle that serves food.
One of the largest delicatessens in Europe. The store is divided into several different departments, specializing in cheese, coffee, wine etc.
Candy store selling extravagantly decorated marzipan and chocolate. A haven for drag queens and other eccentric chocoholics.
See and do
The green lungs of Munich and one of the largest city parks in the world. It's larger than Central Park and has excellent walking paths, a Japanese Teahouse, German beer gardens and an artificial stream for expert surfers.
The people of Munich are proud of their museums: Deutsches Museum, the largest science and technology museum in the world, plus art museums Pinakotheken and Museum Brandhorst to name just a few. Naturally, there is also a museum for anyone wishing to learn more about beer and the history of Oktoberfest.
Munich is the perfect starting point for hikes in the Bavarian Alps. A popular day trip is to the 1,731-meter-high Herzogstand, or Hausberg as the locals call it, just over an hour south of the city. If you don't want to climb and descend under your own steam, there is also a cable car to the top.
A designer hotel with individually styled rooms in hip Glockenbachviertel. Popular cocktail bar on the top floor and a smoothie bar at ground level.
Chic designer hotel with an unrivaled location next to the Viktualienmarkt food market.
Maritim Hotel München
Simple mid-range hotel close to the train station. Generous breakfast buffet.
Text: Annika Goldhammer