Munich is one of those places that we always used to just pass by when traveling. Located in southern Bavaria, it’s the last big city in Germany before reaching The Alps, somewhere we can be found pretty much each year. As a kid, Munich was my reference point for the long journey by car I made with my parents each summer. If we were getting close to Munich, we’d be close to our final destination.
Over the past year or two, we started hearing more and more good stories about this city. Yes, more stories than just the October fest, which attracts about 6 million visitors each year. So during our last drive down to The Alps, we decided to stop, explore and go in search of the best Urban Outdoors of Munich.
Munich, or München, is the third largest city in Germany (after Berlin and Hamburg) and has about 5.6 million inhabitants. The name derives from the old High German term Munichen, meaning “by the monks”. Even though we knew Munich a big city, we didn’t really know what to expect from it. A network of Autobahns will lead you smartly around the city when driving down and all I ever remember seeing was the Allianz Arena, the futuristic soccer stadium that is home to Bayern München and our very own Arjen Robben.
We left home at about 05.30 am and made it down just before noon, giving us plenty of time to explore the city. It happened to be a sunny day and after checking into our hotel just outside the city center, we stepped into the metro and made our way downtown. We decided to head out for a walk in the Englisher Garten first, while the sun was still out. We entered the park from the north and immediately noticed it was pretty busy. It’s the Friday afternoon before Christmas and many people seem to have left their work early for the holidays. The Englisher Garten is one of the world’s largest urban public parks (even larger than New York’s Central Park), making it a perfect place for some strolling and breathing in some fresh air. The name refers to its English garden and the informal landscape that reminds you of the Brittish style.
The first part of our walk led us to the Kleinhesseloher See where the birds are enjoying some sunshine. From here we continued our walk along a small stream. An old man is making Christmas music and people seemed thankful for the weather being so good today. After about half an hour, we entered the grounds of the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) where we find, very surprisingly, a Christmasmarket. Unfortunately, the tower is closed so we can’t walk up, but we at least decide to get a Gluhwein and some Bratwurst before continuing our walk.
Light in our heads from gulping down the giant mug of mulled wine, we take a short look at the Chirstmasmarket. It’s amazing how some people are incredibly creative. And … how some people just travel all across the world to see Germany’s Christmasmarket. We are of the honest opinion when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, however that doesn’t really seem to be true according to the people we spoke to…
From the Chinese tower we made our way to the Monopteros, a nearly wooden Apollo temple that seems a bit out of place in a park like this. However, the short climb leading up to it, made a perfect place for some panoramic views of the city. We expected a big skyline, we’re in a giant city after all, but there was none. The day after we heard from our Urban Outdoors guide (how cool is that, to have our own Urban Outdoors guide … more on that in our next post!) that according to a referendum it’s not allowed to build higher than the 99 meter high Frauenkirche in the city center. Something we can only totally agree with!
While the sun kept on shining in our faces, we watched kids play in the grassy fields and kite runners trying up to hold their kites in the air. Slowly the sun was setting behind the missing skyline and we make our way down again, along the fast flowing current of the stream that divides the park into several parts.
Our final stop in the park is the Eisbach River. What we see here is just amazing: behind a small bridge, cool looking dudes are taking their surfboard into the water and trying to beat a one meter high wave that comes down from underneath the bridge. It looks really awesome, how one after another tries to stand up as long they can, usually making way for the next one in line after a minute or so. Many tourists had gathered here to see what’s going on and we all seemed amazed. This is the best Urban Outdoors possible. Unfortunately, surfing here should only be tried by skilled and experienced surfers, so no way to jump in and try with them. (And in case you are wondering, the wave is artificial and comes from a pumping system under the bridge. It still looks pretty cool though).
From here, we decided to continue walking and cross the Isar River to the eastern side of the city, into a neighbourhood called Haidhausen. We climb the stairs to the ugly Friedensengel and continue strolling through the area. In the meanwhile, it has cooled down and the sun has disappeared. Before we are getting too cold, we decide it’s time to head back to the center and warm up with some coffee.
Upon arrival back in the city center we realize the best place for warming up is the Globetrotter Outdoor store. As true outdoor lovers, we never mind spend an hour or two browsing through the racks of a good outdoor shop. Having been to the one in Cologne earlier on, we know it’s going to be a great experience. We get in, get a coffee and log onto the wifi. First things first. Then, after about half an hour, we decide it’s time for shopping. Fortunately, we can keep ourselves from buying too much and we leave with just one hiking map and some socks.
From here, we make our way over to the central square called Marienplatz. By now it’s fully dark, a giant Christmastree is lighting up the square and a choir is singing to entertain the hundreds of tourists that have gathered here. We just stand there together with them, watching everyone else. Tomorrow it will be another day. And that will be another story…
Soon we’ll be writing more about the Urban Outdoors of Munich. For now, if you want to read more, check these:
– The Urban Outdoors of Vienna
– Tempelhof Airport: abandoned in Berlin
– Things to do in Munich with kids
For this article we worked together with Muenchen.de however our opinions are, as always, enitrely our own.
Thanks for sharing!