From some of the best art galleries in Europe to fine dining, this city has more to offer than beer halls and Bavarian dumplings – although these local flavours are pretty good, too

An hour from the Alps by car or train, the Bavarian capital, Munich, is an affluent modern city that cherishes its traditions. Baroque and neo-classical architecture, beer cellars and lederhosen are all part of the city's unique character, while significant art collections, Michelin-starred dining and a renowned opera house have put it on the global culture map. 

Luxury shopping

The neo-classical Maximilianstraße, named after King Maximilian II and created to impress visitors with its grand architecture, dates from the mid-19th century. A stroll along it today takes in designer brands Gucci, Montblanc, Cartier and Hermès, plus Hemmerle, a one-time jeweller to Bavarian royalty. Munich's elegant Kaufingerstraße and Neuhauser Straße are among the most popular shopping spots in Germany, while Luxus-Boulevard in upmarket department store Oberpollinger is a one-stop shop for labels such as Louis Vuitton, Céline and Tod's. 

Cultural highlights

Marienplatz has always been the beating heart of the city. In the Middle Ages, Munich's central market was located here. The market moved to Viktualienmarkt, where it remains to this day with its stalls of fresh food and flowers. Back at Marienplatz, join the throng to gaze at the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall), whose glockenspiel plays musical re-enactments of a 16th-century Bavarian duke's wedding. Then take the lift to the top: on one side, spot the space-ship-like Allianz Arena, home to football clubs Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich; on the other, see the Alps stretch into the distance. For centuries, the Frauenkirche's onion-domed towers have soared above every building in the inner city (nothing is permitted to be taller than the church's 99-metre height). Across Marienplatz is the Old City's most historic church, Peterskirche – worth climbing the steps to the top for the view. Nearby is the Residenz, a sprawling royal palace that embodies the former splendour of the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty, from the frescoed state apartments to the glittering treasury and rococo Cuvilliés-Theater, where Mozart's Idomeneo premiered in 1781.

Go luxury shopping Luxus-Boulevard in upmarket department store Oberpollinger is a one-stop shop for labels such as Louis Vuitton, Céline and Tod’s

Art affairs

Munich has long seen itself as one of the most significant centres of art in Europe. While it can't compete with London and Paris in terms of quantity, it has the quality to match the best. The Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group formed in Munich in 1911 and its groundbreaking expressionist works are on display in the Lenbachhaus. A short walk away is the Kunstareal museum quarter, the location of the Pinakothek galleries: the neo-classical Alte Pinakothek displays Old Masters, from Rubens to Dürer; Neue Pinakothek (Europe's first contemporary art museum) includes Van Gogh and Klimt among its big draws; while Pinakothek der Moderne showcases art, graphics, architecture and design from the 20th and 21st centuries. Also in the Kunstareal sits Museum Brandhorst, whose colourful façade never fails to impress. Inside, enjoy collections by Warhol, Twombly and Hirst. The Deutsches Museum is the largest science and technology museum in the world. It's packed with innovations, from the first motorised aircraft to a magnified model of a human cell. The Stadtmuseum is the place to learn about the city's history, as is the NS-Dokumentationszentrum across town, which documents Munich's role in the rise of National Socialism. Theatre fans should make a beeline to the Nationaltheater, home of the Bavarian State Opera, Orchestra and Ballet. 

Going green

Munich's Englischer Garten, which owes its design as an 18th-century park to British-American adventurer-scientist Benjamin Thompson, is a green oasis larger than New York's Central Park and London's Hyde Park. Festivals take place here and there are traditional beer gardens. As an alternative, Schloss Nymphenburg has substantial palace gardens, replete with a canal and lakes. 

Spa days

Unwind after a day's sightseeing at the Amour Fou Spa de Beauté at Mandarin Oriental, Munich. As well as beauty treatments from La Prairie, St Barth and Dr Dennis Gross Skincare, the spa has a Parfumerie and an Ulla Huprich hair salon. 

Dinner time

The two-Michelin-starred Tantris, with its 70s retro interior, is considered one of the best restaurants in Germany. Chef Hans Haas's degustation menu features dishes such as roasted lobster with pak choi. Equally revered are Michelin-starred Bavarian-Mediterranean restaurant Schuhbecks and Matsuhisa at Mandarin Oriental, Munich, the first establishment in the country from in-demand chef Nobu, who is famed for his Japanese-Peruvian cuisine, including the signature black cod. Elsewhere, traditional Wirtshaus restaurants and beer gardens abound. Join the locals at Wirtshaus in der Au for Knödel (potato or bread dumplings). 

Dine in style Matsuhisa at Mandarin Oriental, Munich is the first establishment in Germany from in-demand chef Nobu, who is famed for his Japanese-Peruvian cuisine.

Night life

The popularity of the tourist-packed Hofbräuhaus is testament to Munich's reputation
as a beer city par excellence. This famous beer cellar also offers typical German food and an oompah band. For a more sophisticated venue, try Schumann's, which is highly regarded for its classic cocktails. For live music, opt for Bar Gabányi from drinks expert Stefan Gabányi, or Jazzclub Unterfahrt, where international jazz singers entertain audiences. Helene, in the fashionable Schwabing district, is part restaurant, part disco (the latter is in the building's former underground garage). Or make like Munich's socialites and spend the early hours dancing to the beats at P1 Club.

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