Have Your Fill of Art (and Beer) in Munich

1. Where to Stay

Enjoy Euro-chic decor and a private balcony at The Charles Hotel.Photo: Courtesy of The Charles Hotel

Scope out the stalls of the famed Viktualienmarkt food bazaar from the balcony of your Market Deluxe room at the year-old Louis Hotel (from $245), a bohemian-chic spot adorned with mid-century modern furniture. The hotel’s in-house Japanese restaurant, Emiko, sources its seafood directly from the market.

Swim in a 1000-square-foot indoor pool with a sliding glass roof at the Bayerischer Hof (from $290), Munich’s answer to the Plaza Hotel. The generously-sized rooms are a testament to the spot’s age—it was built in 1841, before the city become more pressed for space.

Pamper yourself at the five-star The Charles Hotel (from $345), where brightly colored rooms overlook the Old Botanical Garden. Book the Art Package, which includes two weekend nights, breakfast, and tickets to any of the three Pinakotheken museums (regularly $8.80-$12.50).

2. Where to Eat

Spatenhaus an der Oper is a paragon of Bavarian cuisine in Munich’s Old Town.Photo: Courtesy of Spatenhaus an der Oper

Channel the Old World at Künstlerhaus, a frescoed Venetian salon originally opened by Bavaria’s Prince Regent in 1900 that once served as a setting for masked balls. The upscale restaurant now serves globe-spanning cuisine and is favored for its savory weekend brunch, served until 3pm.

Gorge on home-style Italian dishes at Seerose, a year-old trattoria with red gingham tablecloths and arty black and white photos on the walls. Though the menu offers around a dozen German brews—try the excellent Franziskaner wheat beer—classics like venison ragout on pappardelle are reminders that Munich is only 130 miles from the Italian border.

Request a second-floor table near the window for a view of the opera house at Spatenhaus an der Oper, an antler-filled gem serving inventive Bavarian cuisine. The extensive menu spans seven pages—narrow it down by ordering one of the “Spatenhaus Specialties,” like veal meatballs with cognac-pepper sauce. Pair your meal with one of 10 regional beers or a bottle of German sauvignon blanc (from $40).

Eat late at Heart, a clubby, five-month-old newcomer that serves hearty dishes like beef tartar and Wiener schnitzel until five in the morning. Stylish diners lounge on banquettes beside huge bay windows, listening to blaring dance remixes and swilling glasses of the Heartbreaker, the house Prosecco and elderflower cocktail.

3. What to Do

The Brandhorst Museum displays over 60 pieces of Twombly's art, including the "Lepanto" cycle.Photo: Courtesy of the Brandhorst Museum

Admire the striking exterior of the Brandhorst Museum, constructed from 36,000 multicolored ceramic rods, before scoping out the modern art within. Opened in May 2009, the museum’s centerpiece is its floor dedicated to abstract painter Cy Twombly. The twelve red, yellow and turquoise canvases of Twombly’s dramatic “Lepanto” cycle—viewed beneath ceilings that filter in natural light—are worth the price of admission alone ($8.80; $1.25 on Sunday).

Wander between colorful special exhibitions and dark Gothic rooms at Villa Stuck, the one-time mansion of German painter Franz von Stuck. The historic spot offers a wide range of work, from California artist Mel Ramos’s sexy statue of a naked woman emerging from a Chiquita banana peel to Von Stuck’s own macabre murals of angelic boys ($11.30).

Contrast the past and present at the Haus der Kunst, an imposing art museum that was the first monumental building of the Third Reich. Until 1944, only painters and sculptors that represented Hitler’s vision of German art could be shown here, but HdK now presents exhibitions like the Islamic-themed “The Future of Tradition - Tradition of the Future”, opening September 17, 2010 ($6.30).

Allot an afternoon for each of the three Pinakotheken museums – Old, New and Modern – which are three minutes away from one another. The Guggenheim-shaped Pinakothek der Moderne has the largest contemporary art collection in Germany, including a number of bold Ernst Kirchners and feverish Max Beckmanns, while the jaw-dropping Alte Pinakothek houses over 800 European masterworks ($8.80-$12.50; $1.25 on Sunday).

4. Insider’s Tip

A selection of servus.heimat's offbeat offerings.Photo: Courtesy of servus.heimat

This being über-Catholic Bavaria, most shops are closed on Sundays. One exception: the awesomely kitschy servus.heimat, a destination for unique and ironic souvenirs—think rubber duckies in lederhosen ($11.20), a cuckoo clock from the Black Forest ($123), or a heart-shaped flask with a deer on it ($32.30)—open at St. Jakobs Platz 1 between 10 am and 6pm on Sundays.

5. Oddball Day

Drink beer at The Chinese Tower in the 900-acre Englischer Garten.Photo: Flickr/a.schauervilla

Get the most out of the lovely Englischer Garten—Munich’s version of Central Park—by exploring the interesting places in and around its periphery. Start at the treasury of the Residenz München, the largest city palace in Germany. Among sparkling diamonds and rubies, you’ll find weird fourteenth-century oddities, like old skulls with their own beaded cozies (They say one is John the Baptist’s). Afterwards, cut through Hofgarten park to Haus Der Kunst’s restaurant, Café Goldene Bar, which reopened this month after renovations. Order a homemade focaccia filled with ham ($5) in the historic bar, decorated with golden maps from 1937. Turn left out of the building until you come to a stone bridge overlooking the Isar River, the most famous river surfing spot in Europe, where wetsuit-clad surfers ride the waves year-round. Make your way to Seehaus, situated beside the tranquil Kleinhesseloher Lake, where you can rent a paddle boat or relax in the outdoor beer garden. If you’re hungry, sample the mixed platter of grilled red mullet, salmon, pikeperch, and prawns ($30) at the sophisticated Seehaus im Englischen Garten restaurant. Continue on the path out of the park until you reach Feilitzschstraße, a cobblestoned street lined with jewelry shops and boutiques. You’ll soon come to the experimental wellness salon Float, where you can relax in a pitch black floating tank filled with body temperature salt water ($58 for 45 min; pair floats for $91). As the sky begins to turn purple, head back to Seehaus to watch the sun set over the lake.

6. Links

For information on Munich’s art museum district, check these listings.

The English language expat magazine Munich Found offers information on local events.

Spotted by Locals: Munich has great by-area mapping capabilities.

Have Your Fill of Art (and Beer) in Munich