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Munich - Germany
Germany's most popular tourist destination, Munich, is also—according to opinion polls—the city that native Germans would most like to live in. Its popularity is easy to understand. Located within eyeshot of the snow-capped Alps, Munich is sophisticated, wealthy and elegant, a city of broad boulevards and baroque facades; a thriving media and high-tech metropolis, but with a small-town flair and endearing rustic charm. It is also home to the raucous Oktoberfest, the colorful Fasching carnival and a vivacious way of life which is best savored in one of its many beer gardens, beer cellars or just out and about on the town.
Munich's historic city center lies between Karlstor, Isartor, Sendlinger Tor and Odeonsplatz. Splendid neo-baroque buildings stand in the shadows of futuristic glass and steel constructions. For an excellent view of the city, climb to the top of Alter Peter (St. Peter), affectionately known by locals as "Alter Peter," or "Old Peter." The historic center also boasts numerous other churches, including the Asamkirche, Theatinerkirche and Dreifaltigkeitskirche, as well as the city's most distinctive landmark, the twin-towered Frauenkirche. Street performers entertain the crowds at Marienplatz, but everyone's attention is immediately drawn to the show on the town hall's bell tower when it begins to chime. Unarguably, the jewel in the crown is the Residenz, the former royal palace on Odeonsplatz, complete with the stunning Hofgarten. Visitors could also take a stroll around Viktualienmarkt.
The Countess of Revenlow once said that "Schwabing isn't a place, it's a state of mind." Once home to colonies of artists, bohemians and other alternative types, Schwabing is now teeming with affluent young professionals. But don't be fooled, this part of town has many different faces. Visitors can admire the regal magnificence of 19th-century Munich on Ludwigstraße, home of the university and numerous Bavarian government ministries, while the ultra-modern, high-tech city is clearly visible in the area behind the Siegestor. Leopoldstraße, lined with cinemas, bars, restaurants and shops, is the place to see and be seen. The splendid art nouveau buildings in many of the side streets are a mecca for architecture lovers and a feast for the eye. The alternative and revolutionary atmosphere can still be felt in the area around Münchener Freiheit; and if you fancy visiting a museum, then look no further—this is where the majority of Munich's museums is located.
Haunt of the rich and beautiful. Well, the former at least. Beginning at the Friedensengel on the River Isar, Prinzregentenstraße leads into the heart of Bogenhausen. With ostentatious streets lined with ornate villas, this part of town simply oozes wealth. The area around Arabella park in the north of Bogenhausen has become a symbol of the German economic wonder: mammoth futuristic fifties constructions make you feel positively lilliputian.
Otherwise known as the "French quarter," Haidhausen is the personification of continental savoir vivre. With its variety of architectural styles and patchwork of multicolored, multicultural and multi-talented individuals, this district is brimming with creative spirit. It is also the perfect place to embark upon a culinary trip around the world. Don't overlook the Müllersches Volksbad, a beautiful Roman-style swimming pool.
If you haven't fallen in love with Munich yet, then you will when you see the English Gardens. The lush lawns, romantic hideaways and boisterous beer gardens offer something for everyone. Sun worshipers can improve their tan at the Eisbach, tea lovers can take part in a traditional tea ceremony at the Japanese tea house, while others may prefer to savor that inimitable "Munich feeling" in the beer garden near the Chinese Tower. The view from the Monopterus—a former haunt of the flower power generation—is well worth seeing. This inner-city oasis is a must for visitors with a bit of time on their hands.
Tired of the hustle and bustle of city life? Then it's time to visit Schloss Nymphenburg, a picturesque castle with Parisian-style gardens and ponds full of water lilies, graceful swans and well-fed carp. A favorite meeting place for lovers and families alike, it's also worth wandering around the streets to admire the traditional town houses. A drink or two in Café Palmenhaus is the perfect way to round off the day.
A typical industrial area, Sendling is also "Munich's belly," housing the legendary fruit and vegetable market, one of the largest in Europe. The market begins at 5a and is well worth a visit. But if that sounds like an unreasonably early start, you could check out the fascinating Jewish Cemetery which contains eight centuries-worth of tombs and gravestones.
Under the watchful gaze of the statue of Bavaria, hundreds of thousands of revelers meet here every September for the world-famous Oktoberfest, when the autumn air is filled with the aroma of pretzels, sausages and, of course, beer! This unmissable event has a certain unifying force: with tourists and Bavarians, punks and business people all swinging their beer glasses, swaying to the beat of the oompah bands and dancing on the tables. Quench your thirst with a quart of beer and flaunt your Dirndl and Lederhosen!
Built for the 1972 Olympic Games, the Olympic complex initially aroused a great deal of controversy but is now an integral part of Munich's cityscape. Crowned by the magnificent Olympic Stadium—former home of Bayern Munich FC and their lesser-known local rival 1860 Munich—this part of town is southern Germany's undisputed center of sport and entertainment. As well as a variety of sports stadiums, the complex also includes a vast entertainment center, the Olympiahalle, venue for big-name concerts by the likes of U2 and the Rolling Stones. Shortly after the 1972 Games, the Olympic Village was converted into a colorful student residence, and now accommodates some 9000 students on the cheap.