Munich

Updated: May 15, 2006, 2:54 PM ET


Allianz Arena, along with a view of the Cathedral of Our Lady and the New Town Hall in Munich. (Lutz Bongarts/Getty Images, AP Photo/Diether Endlicher)

Whenever Germans are asked in opinion polls to name the city they would most like to live in, Munich always comes out on top and it's not hard to see why.

An appealing mixture of the traditional and the modern, the Bavarian capital has it all: outstanding architecture, great food and drink, good shopping, fine public transport and a perfect location, just an hour's drive away from the mountains and lakes of the Alps.

Munich boasts many and varied imposing landmarks, including the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) on the central Marienplatz square -- where crowds gather at eleven o'clock every day to see the glockenspiel show spring into action -- the nearby twin towers of the Cathedral of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) and the magnificent former Bavarian royal palace and gardens at Schloss Nymphenburg, to the north-west of the city centre.

World Cup '06: Germany
It's not too late to plan a trip to Germany.

See our World Cup Travel Guide for information and inspiration:

• World Cup Travel Guide index
• Last-minute ticket info
• National team/fan hotspots
• Hotel rooms still available
• Getting around Germany
• Where to watch? Everywhere!
• Must-see sights in Germany

Since May of last year, Munich has another must-see construction in the futuristic shape of its new football stadium, the Allianz Arena. While it is named after its insurance company backers, the fact that the company in question are not one of the World Cup's official sponsors means it will be simply known as the FIFA World Cup Stadium Munich.

Located in the north of the city in the Frottmaning district, the state-of-the-art, 66,000-capacity stadium has proved a big hit with its recently installed resident clubs (Bayern and 1860 Munich) and is now rightly seen as one of the premier venues in Europe. The best way to reach it is by underground, using the city's highly efficient network of U Bahn (underground) and S Bahn (suburban trains).

If travelling from the central railways station, take the S Bahn line S1 or S8 in the direction of Ostbahnhof, getting out at Marienplatz, then change to the U6 bound-for Garching-Hochbruck, jumping off at Frottmaning. The stadium is a ten-minute walk away.

It's equally straightforward to make one's way to the centre of town when arriving at Munich's plush Franz-Josef Strauss airport. Either hop on the Lufthansa Airport Bus, which leaves every 20 minutes and makes the journey from the terminals to the city centre railway station (Hauptbahnhof) in 45 minutes (one-way: €9, return: €14,50). Or use the S Bahn lines S1 or S8 to the Hauptbahnhof (a single ticket is €8 and the trip takes 40 minutes).

Munich is wonderfully served by a fully integrated public transport system comprising trams, buses and U and S Bahn trains. At first glance, it may seem a slightly complicated pricing system, with the fare calculated on the number of zones required to make the trip, but don't worry. In effect, most places of interest to visitors are within the blue 'inner zone' (Innenraum).

Tickets, which are available from machines in all U Bahn stations, at some bus and tram stops, inside trams and in newspaper shops, come in various forms. The day ticket (€4.50) takes in short rides and then you have a pass to be used for four bus or tram stops or two U and S Bahn stops (Kurzstrecken, €1). Finally, there is the value for money strip-card of 10 tickets (Streifenkarte), whereby passengers stamp one strip on rides of two or less tram or U Bahn stops and two strips for longer journeys.

Whatever ticket you buy, make sure you endorse it before use in the blue machines found in underground stations and aboard buses and trams. Fail to do it and an unsympathetic ticket inspector will slap a €35 fine on you.

It's not by accident that Munich hosts the annual Oktoberfest beer festival. The city is home to no fewer than six big-league breweries and ranks as the third-largest producer in the world. Beer halls and beer gardens are found at every turn, but no trip to Munich would be complete without a pilgrimage to the Hofbrauhaus in the Platzl pedestrianised area just off the Marienplatz. It may be a tourist trap, yet the wheat beer and 'helles' (light beer) are still reasonably priced and the sing-along atmosphere generated by the oompah band cannot be beaten.

Munich cuisine is hearty, unpretentious stuff, with sausages of all shapes and sizes, roast pork (Schweinebraten), pickled cabbage (Sauerkraut) and dumplings (Knodel) on most menus. Incidentally, many of the city's best value-for-money eateries are brewery-owned.

Check out the Altes Hackerhaus on Sendlinger Strasse, the Augustinerbrau on Neuhauser Strasse or the Franziskaner Fuchsenstuben (Perusastrasse), all of which are slap-bang in the city centre. The Ratskeller, a huge restaurant in the basement of the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) is worth a look too.

Those who want to put together a DIY meal should head for the city's bustling open-air market (Viktualienmarkt), a two-minute walk from the Marienplatz. Just alongside the market is the hugely popular Cafe Frischhut (Pralat-Zeistl Strasse), which specialises in delicious Bavarian doughnuts known as 'Schmalznudel'. The market also has a great beer garden.

Fanning out from the Marienplatz are Munich's most prominent shopping streets. Sendlinger Strasse features smaller, niche retail outlets, while the department stores Kaufhof and Karstadt are located in Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauser Strasse respectively.

For the duration of the tournament, the Olympic Park -- the location of Bayern Munich's old Olympiastadion home -- will play host to a 'Fan Village'. Every World Cup game will be shown on a big screen here, and rock concerts and a host of football-related events are planned. To get there, take the U3 tube from Marienplatz to Olympiazentrum.

If you are lucky enough to be heading to Munich this summer, enjoy all it has to offer.

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