Oktoberfest is in full swing in Munich right now, but there’s plenty to do in the city anytime, especially on a warm day. We’ve placed Munich on the short “I could live here” list due to its beautiful architecture, green spaces, cleanliness, and convenient transportation.
Flower markets, fruit stands, and perfect weather contributed to our adoration for this Bavarian capital. We were struck by the hip vibe of the city and its health-conscious outdoorsiness…
Surfing :: Although situated in the heart of Europe, it turns out you don’t need an ocean to surf in Munich. Eisbach (“ice stream”) is a surfing siren for experienced waveriders. A constant strong wave on the Isar River is the success story of years of experimentation by the local river surfing community.
Green Spaces :: The English Garden (Englische Garten) is one of the largest urban parks in the world. With 78 kilometers of winding paths, we lackadaisically cycled for hours past ping-pong tables, playgrounds, soccer games, ice cream shacks, and a pond with paddle boat rentals. This lovely city also embraces countless pocket parks and plazas.
Foodies: The award for the most amazing grocery store on the planet goes to Käfer. This multi-story market is basically a delightful labyrinth filled at every turn with unique products from around the globe. A must-see for any human who buys or eats food.
Biergarten :: A trip to Munich would not be complete without a visit to a local biergarten. Like an English pub, a beer garden is family friendly and serves food. It’s simply a nice place to hang out outside. Giant pretzels and brats tend to be menu staples.
In the heart of the city lies the 19th-century Augustiner-Keller biergarten nestled among 100 chestnut trees. Their seating area and steins (beer mugs) are remarkably large. If you want some pub grub, the menu offers a broader variety than the self-serve option.
Alternatively, Osterwaldgarten is tucked away in a quiet neighborhood just outside the English Garden and is very accessible by bike. We loved its cozy location.
My first visit to Germany was as an exchange student in high school. Bravely, my mom waved goodbye to me at the airport (back when anyone could go to the gate), and she had to trust I’d be in good hands in the middle of West Germany with a family of strangers.
Actually, we only found the name of my village on a map of East Germany – so really, we weren’t really sure where I was going. And I didn’t speak German.
The exchange student organization collected me at the Hamburg airport and explained that under no circumstance was I to fall asleep on the train as many students woke up lost at the Swiss border. And of course, sleep was the only thing on my mind.
Fortunately, a remarkably warm family met me at the village station (I stayed awake!) who was as excited to teach me about their country as I was to learn about theirs.
But on that first day, I slept for 24 hours due to a mixture of jet lag and a complete blackout shade. My host family thought perhaps I had died and couldn’t decide if they should check on me. What a beginning!
Over the summer, they taught me how to hitchhike (with one of my host brothers) to neighboring villages, to play canasta, to count in Italian, and to order food in German. I was legally going to dance clubs, which was about the coolest thing ever. I exposed them to the band ‘Boston’; they introduced me to way cooler music by ‘The Cure’.
It took hours to complete the daily shopping with my host mother at the individual stores: the bakery, the butcher, the greengrocer. But I didn’t mind because everyone was so friendly (despite not understanding a word they were saying). I thought it most curious that shops closed midday, enabling my host father to eat lunch with the rest of us.
And wow, how that summer showed me a bigger world and planted the desire to see more of it.
Although I lost touch with my host family once I attended college, I reconnected with my host brother through Facebook. Love that!
Returning to Germany brought back so many fond memories. Decades later, my family and I bonded over giggles, frustrations, and new discoveries with the aid of our hotel’s suggestions, TripAdvisor and Google Translate. Oh, how travel is so good for the soul.
Have you been an exchange student? Anything to add to the must-see Munich list? Where would you go for a weekend vacation?