This is the sixth post in the London & Munich series (and the first one about Munich!) Other posts in this series include The Square, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Exploring London by Foot, Alain Ducasse, and Marcus Wareing.
We have finally completed our journey through London in the London & Munich series and will begin exploring Munich!
It's not every day I get to visit a new country. A couple years ago a friend told me her goal was to visit at least one new country every single year. It was her way of making sure that she was diligent in her overall grand plan of seeing the world.
"That's a great idea" I said to her at the time. "I wonder if I've been doing that . . ."
I thought back a bit.
2008 - First time in London in 9 years . . .
2009 - First time in Japan and Taiwan in over 10 years . . .
2010 - China (Shanghai, Xi'an, and Beijing)
2011 - Greece
2012 - Australia and New Zealand
2013 - Thailand
2014 - Argentina, Uruguay, and Malaysia
2015 - Germany!
Boston was blanketed in record snow and it was just pretty hard to get out. Between shoveling ourselves out of snowpiles and dealing with the ice dams and a broken roof afterwards, the first part of 2015 was a bit painful.
When spring came, my travel bug came out in full force and we dashed off on several trips one right after another. In April I tagged along with Bryan to Orlando on one of his business trips and we enjoyed Disneyworld for three days. During the month of May I stayed put and eked out 22 blog posts that month (!) - see how productive I am when I am home!
In June we went to Montreal as well as London and Munich!
Yay, new country!
Germany is FULL of beer halls and you have to try at least several of them. In fact, we hardly touched fancy restaurants while we were in Germany. Instead, we went around to numerous beer halls and beer gardens, tasting various types of Bavarian food along the way.
There's too many to squeeze into one single post, so I will split the restaurants up into various posts, discussing them in groups based on location and what else you can see in the area.
One of the most famous areas (and definitely a "must-visit") is the city square in Munich. Called the Marienplatz, the square itself is anchored by the impressive and towering New City Hall, which includes a huge, life size glockenspiel that goes off twice a day: once at 11AM and once at 12PM.
Crowds gather around the tower at lunchtime daily to witness the show.
The streets surrounding the Marienplatz are luxuriously walker-friendly, with wide, pedestrian-only streets lined with shops on both sides.
We walked through this area almost every day. Bryan even made sure to book a hotel that was within walking distance from here, since so many of the sites are in this general area. In fact, not once did I take a taxi or use the subway within Munich. We walked everywhere!
Each day we saw something different, whether it be fruit stands, street performers, or cafes along the streets.
One day we just randomly walked into an open door and stumbled upon a church service where they were playing beautiful music.
In the area around the Marienplatz, there are tons of restaurants, cafes, and beer halls. Below are some of the most famous that we visited.
Hofbräuhaus is definitely by far the oldest, most famous, and most visited beer hall in Munich. It was established in 1589 as "Royal Brewery of the Kingdom of Bavaria", initially reserved for use by the royal family only. As time went by, its fame grew substantially as Munich became internationally known as the beer capital of the world.
The restaurant boasts tons of famous patrons. Mozart lived across the street and dined there regularly. Lenin, Hitler, other "comrades" conducted meetings there. In fact, Hitler gave his last public speech at the Hofbräuhaus. U.S. presidents have visited, like Ulysses S. Grant, John F. Kennedy, and many others. The restaurant has survived multiple wars, been meticulously rebuilt and restored, and continues to serve crowds of people.
The space is huge and it's always packed with locals and tourists alike. The atmosphere is festive. There's live music, servers dressed in traditional clothing, and endless food and beer!
Check out the famous locker that holds beer steins, reserved for a very limited number of special guests. The landlord at Hofbräuhaus built these lockers in 1970 to provide regulars a safe place to store their beer steins. Theft had become rampant as the Hofbräuhaus shot up in international fame. Everyone wanted a Hofbräuhaus beer stein as a souvenir, and tens of thousands of beer steins were stolen every year. These lockers at least prevented the theft of the loyal guests' valuable beer steins (which they kept at the restaurant).
The rack only has 424 spots, and having one is a HUGE status symbol. They are so highly coveted, the only way to get one is if someone dies, moves away, or terminates membership (which rare happens). Spots often get passed down within families!
For most of us nonlocals, it's a fun place to catch some good beer, enjoy festive music, and eat solid Bavarian food. Beer comes in 1-liter mugs, but it's not too expensive, so don't feel too bad if you can't finish it!
Because Bryan and I had already tried many of the classics by the time we got here, we instead ordered some different items, like the spaetzle and the sausage.
We really enjoyed the sausages, which came with sauerkraut and mustard. They were fresh, "popped" with flavorful juices, and overall delicious.
The spaetzle, on the other hand, was unremarkable. The pasta itself was not very al dente, and the cheese sauce was not very memorable. Bryan (who loves any thing that resembles mac & cheese), still found it comforting, and we both enjoyed the fried shallots on top.
German potato salad is typically made with vinegar instead of mayonnaise, so it's more tart and less rich and creamy compared to the US version. I really enjoyed this simple dish.
Unfortunately, I personally found the purple cabbage sauerkraut to be too sour for my liking.
Though there was talk of rain, we took the risk and sat outside (we didn't have to wait for a table here, yay!). You seat yourself, so basically find an empty table, sit down, and a server comes to help you out. From time to time, servers dressed in traditional clothing would walk around with baskets full of German spice cookies and pretzels for sale.
Though some may admonish against going to Hofbräuhaus because it's too "touristy", I still had lots of fun there. As a first timer to Germany, I feel like you can't visit Munich without at least having one beer at the Hofbräuhaus - it's so classic!
If Hofbräuhaus is too crazy crowded and huge for you, consider Wirtshaus right across the street, which specializes in Ayingers beer.
Wirtshaus has a much more intimate feel, reminding me more of an Irish pub than a large, loud beer hall.
The beer is excellent - we tried several.
The food is also very good. Their menu had some more seasonal items, like the white asparagus that was being featured when we were there. We ordered a Wiener Schnitzel, a pork loin pounded super flat, brined, breaded, and deep fried.
I ordered a veal meatball which came with a side of potato salad. I was looking for something a bit lighter, and this worked out perfectly.
All in all, we really enjoyed our experience at Wirtshaus. The food was a bit better than Hofbräuhaus, and it was fun to try different beer. It was raining the day we went, so we didn't even attempt to sit outside. Instead, the cozy warm interior became the perfect antidote to the gloomy weather outside.
Stay tuned for Munich's largest outdoor market, visiting the lavish royal residences, and lots and lots more food!