Getting to know Munich


Munich feels at once relaxed and dynamic. This stems not only from its combination of the almost-Italian dolce vita - the maxim of Munich being Italy's northernmost city is bound to arise at least once while you're in town - and Bavarian efficiency. The city also effortlessly marries tradition with cosmopolitanism. It might be in Germany's oldest state but a new wave of entrepreneurs is bringing pop-ups to the city in the shape of design-savvy hotels, cosy cocktail bars and specialist retail.
Don't be fooled into thinking that Munich's food scene is all beer and roast pork loin. Indeed, as home to some 4,000 restaurants catering to just about every appetite imaginable, the city makes a strong claim to be Germany's food capital. There's plenty to munch in Munchen - you just need to know where to look.
Bavaria's 19th-century king Ludwig I sought to turn the city into a cultural powerhouse and founded many of Munich's museums and institutions. Today the Kunstareal packs more than 5,000 years of European cultural history into an area of 500 sq metres, with 18 museums, more than 40 galleries and countless other cultural highlights.
Lothringer 13, Au-Haidhausen. An artistic beacon to lure visitors east of the Isar, Lothringer 13 is the type of contemporary art space that's rare in the Bavarian capital. It's one of just five municipal galleries in the city and, ever since it was converted from an auto-repair shop in 1980, still bears the hallmarks of its industrial past: the high ceilings and large steel doors lend it a character that many of the city's art spaces lack. You won't find many paintings here. Instead Lothringer 13 features photography, conceptual design and audiovisual installations across some four group exhibitions a year, all of which are centred on social topics. The team works to encourage a dialogue about art. "We try not to be anti - anti-hip, anti-established, anti-whatever," says chief curator Jorg Koopmann. "Instead we take a curious professional approach to art and related fields." This goal extends beyond the gallery's calendar and into its modular cafe and events space Rroom, which regularly hosts concerts, lectures and symposiums.
Head north to the stadiums embedded in the hilly landscape of Olympiapark and the four cylinders that make up the BMW headquarters, or walk between the contemporary cubes of Pinakothek der Moderne and Museum Brandhorst, and you’ll soon understand one key commonality in the city: industrial design. This approach of function first and aesthetics second is what defines the city’s skyline.
Herz-Jesu-Kirche, Neuhausen-Nymphenburg. The grandeur of German churches is due in part to the tax that the congregation pays for their upkeep. One impressive example is the Herz-Jesu-Kirche, which reopened in 2000 after a fire destroyed the original in 1994. The design by architecture firm Allmann Sattler Wappner features glass-and-maple slats that rise above the modernist pews. Artist Alexander Beleschenko devised a symbolic alphabet that denotes passages from the “St John Passion”, which adorn the glass panels on the 14-metre-high doors.