Munich is the capital of the southern German state of Bavaria. Amongst the most economically successful and fastest-growing cities in Germany, Munich is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, home to the headquarters of numerous corporations such as BMW, Siemens and Allianz. It was rated 2010's “most livable city” by Monocle Magazine.
Things to see and do
Ludwig Maximilians University
The University of Munich is one of Germany's oldest universities, and is named after King Maximilian I of Bavaria. It is also considered one of Europe's most prestigious universities, with 34 Nobel laureates to its name. However, the university also has a rather dark chapter in its history: during the Second World War, siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl founded a student resistance group called the White Rose (Weiße Rose) against the Nazi regime. When caught distributing anti-regime leaflets in the atrium of the university, they were both arrested and later executed by the Nazis. Today, iron pamphlets on the ground of the university’s main square and a permanent exhibition at the university keep the siblings' memory alive.
The Marienplatz has been the central square of the city centre since 1158. In the Middle Ages, markets and tournaments were held here. The Marienplatz was named after the Mariensäule, a column erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swedish occupation. Today the Marienplatz is dominated by the New City Hall - a gothic council hall with a ballroom and a tower. The Glockenspiel in the tower attracts millions of tourists every year. It can be watched every day at 11am and 12 pm. It is also worth climbing up the stairs of the nearby St. Peter's Church, which is called Alter Peter (Old Peter). There you can enjoy a perfect view all over Munich.
Only a few steps away from the Marienplatz, little stalls sell local vegetables, fruits, flowers and traditional food at Viktualienmarkt. In the other direction, you can find Munich’s main shopping street – the Kaufingerstraße.
FC Bayern Munich & Allianz Arena
Neuer, Müller, Schweinsteiger, Götze – the stars of the German national team have one thing in common. They all play for FC Bayern Munich, the most successful club in the history of German football. FC Bayern has won a record 24 national titles and 17 national cups. The team colours are red and white, and the team crest shows the white and blue flag of Bavaria. In terms of revenue, Bayern Munich is the biggest sports club in Germany and the fourth biggest football club in the world. Famous former players include Franz Beckenbauer, Oliver Kahn and Mehmet Scholl.
Since the 2005/06 season, Bayern has played its home games at the Allianz Arena, located in the north of Munich. The stadium facade is constructed of air panels that are kept inflated with dry air. It is the first stadium in the world with a fully colour-changing exterior. It is lit up in red when Bayern Munich plays, and blue when the team 1860 Munich, which shares the stadium with Bayern, plays.
Flaucher & Englischer Garten
You want to experience nature? Munich offers some great places to do so. During summer the Flaucher - a shingle beach along the river Isar - is a popular recreational site and is often used for barbecues. Close by, on the opposite side of the river, you can find Tierpark Hellabrunn (Munich Zoo). Right in the center of Munich is the Englischer Garten (English Garden). With an area of 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq mi) the Englischer Garten is one of the world's largest urban public parks - even larger than New York's Central Park.
Walking along the path, you can find a small man-made river, the Eisbach, flowing through the park, with a standing wave created on one section. Surfers line up here along the bank taking turns to enter the water with their boards.
Right in the centre of the park is a Greek-style temple called Monopteros, seated on a small hill where you can rest for a while and enjoy the Munich skyline. From there you can spot the tip of the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) - a 25-metre-high wooden structure surrounded by one of the famous Bavarian beer gardens. Traditionally you can bring your own food and enjoy a pleasant day.
Another great idea is to visit the Olympiapark, which offers many fun attractions and hosts a variety of cultural and social events during the year, particularly during the summer. During June and August there are open-air concerts and an open-air cinema at the lake. The Tollwood Festival in June and July with many stalls offering everything from organic food and drinks to handicrafts is another fun event to recommend. An insider tip: don't miss the Münchner Sommernachtstraum (Munich Summer Night's Dream) - a big firework display which takes place every year. Close to the Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Tower towers over the park at a height of 291 metres. Its observation platform offers an amazing view of the Munich skyline.
Going out: Gärtnerplatz & Glockenbachviertel
Are you up for a drink or just strolling around? The best restaurants, bars and clubs can be found at the Munich hotspots Gärtnerplatz or Glockenbachviertel, both of which boast a lively street culture. Here you can find many art activities, art galleries and little boutiques. Glockenbach is known for the city's gay and lesbian scene which is mainly located around Müllerstraße. Apart from its fancy bars and restaurants, Gärtnerplatz is also home to the Bavarian State Theatre.
Munich is probably best known for Oktoberfest - the world's largest funfair. It runs for 15 days from late September to the first weekend of October, with more than 7 million people from around the world attending the event every year. Bavarians often simply call it Wiesn, after the colloquial name for the fairground on which it is held (the Theresienwiese).
Oktoberfest has been held since 1810 and therefore is an important part of Bavarian culture. Aside from dancing in the tents, visitors may enjoy the many amusement rides, stalls and games, as well as a wide range of traditional food such as Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Weißwurst (a white sausage) along with Brezn (pretzel) and Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) or Knödel (potato or bread dumplings).
However, the most important thing at Oktoberfest is - of course - Bavarian beer. There are six beer tents serving their own brewed beer with different flavours. Last year, 7 million visitors drank around 7.5 million litres of beer!
Beer however is not the only typical Bavarian thing you can experience. During the funfair, locals usually wear traditional costumes - women dress up in Dirndl and men in Lederhose.
Oktoberfest has become so popular that other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modelled after the Munich event (even though they will of course never quite come close to the original!).
Town twinnings between British and German cities play an important role in promoting cultural exchange. Munich has been twinned with Edinburgh in Lothian, Scotland since 1960.
Founded in 1050, Nuremberg is situated in the Bavarian region of Franconia, in southern Germany. With a population of around 510,000, it is Bavaria's second largest city after Munich. World-famous for its rich history and local specialities such as its Bratwurst (sausage), in recent times Nuremberg has become a vibrant and modern city with much to offer.
Passau is an attractive university city not far from the Bavarian Alps, and is home to a wide range of events and attractions, as well as three different rivers! It is also known for having the most pubs of any city in Germany, relative to its size, and contains not one but three breweries - the Löwenbrauerei, the Hacklberg Brewery and the Andorfer Brewery.
Founded in 1715, Karlsruhe is nicknamed the 'fan city' ('Fächerstadt') due to the distinctive way in which it is laid out - the streets radiate out from the palace which forms the city's core like the creases of a fan. It is also one of Germany's warmest cities, with almost 2000 hours of sun a year!
Heidelberg is a picturesque city located in Baden-Württemberg, in the south of Germany. Situated on the bank of the River Neckar and surrounded by the hills of the Odenwald forest, it inspired numerous poets and painters of the Romantic era. Heidelberg is a traditional university town - the University of Heidelberg is the oldest in Germany, and has more than 30,000 students.
Berlin has been the capital city of the united Federal Republic of Germany since 1990. In that time, it has become one of the hippest and most vibrant urban centres in Europe - with a flourishing cultural scene, brilliant nightlife, and a plethora of bars, restaurants, shops and cafés, as well as green open places.