From hip bars and restaurants to cool boutiques and magnificent art museums, Munich during Oktoberfest – and at any time of year – has much more to offer than Bavarian beer
A gallery in the Lenbachhaus
Steins of foaming beer, dirndl dresses and folk songs: the stereotypes of Bavaria are roundly embraced by locals and visitors alike during Munich's month-long celebration of wheat, hops and barley, known to us all as Oktoberfest. But beyond the boozy merriment there's another side to this city that perhaps isn't quite visible from the vast beer tents that spring up during the festival.
The Lenbachhaus is a deeply impressive arts museum, which, with a façade of gleaming brass tubes and a glittering atrium of coloured glass and steel, can make a first-time viewer feel as if the first drink of the day has already impaired their vision. Inside, the Norman Foster-designed gallery space houses an outstanding collection of works by the Blue Rider group, founded in Munich a century ago and featuring star names such as Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Paul Klee.
No 10 store in the Maxvorstadt district
Stereotypes about this compact city continue to be swept aside by taking a stroll around the Maxvorstadt district. Known to locals as 'the brain of Munich' due to its huge array of museums and university faculties, the expected glut of second-hand bookshops and boho cafés has been joined in the past few years by purveyors of more bespoke items, such as No 10, an atelier where rings, vases, bracelets and jewellery are made in-house by a team of local designers.
Nearby, A Kind of Guise is a new store specialising in lamb's wool blankets, modish men's shirts and their own range of Farrokh caps made from German Steiff fabric.
Schnitzel at Spezlwirtschaft
When it comes to dining, Bavaria has a reputation for serving up food that might be politely described as robust and hearty. But there is finally respite from the calorie overload in the form of Spezlwirtschaft. A recent arrival in the city, and hidden down a side alley near Ledererstrasse, the chefs here show no small amount of prowess in creating lighter variants of classic Bavarian comfort food. Their schnitzel with lingonberries and sprout salad and their pumpkin Knödel (a type of dumpling) with seared chard are modern takes on classics that won't leave you feeling as if you need to retire to your bed for the rest of the weekend to digest it. And neither will the healthy seafood sushi and sashimi from legendary chef Nobu's Matsuhisa restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Munich. Reserve a seat at the live cooking counter.
But perhaps the most surprising discovery in the Bavarian capital, so devoted to its beer, is the slow and subtle rise in popularity of craft gin to these parts. Never a spirit associated with this region of Germany, Munich now has its very own gin in the form of The Duke Munich Dry, created with untreated juniper berries, Bavarian hops and malt, and 13 herbs and spices, including ginger and angelica root, lavender, coriander and lemon peel.
Hey Luigi bar
Sipping an infusion made with love and innovative flair by the mixologists at bars such as Zephyr or Hey Luigi is the ultimate antidote to the sometimes boorish excesses of all those steins of lager.
Munich may be a city that likes to raise a glass but, at last, it's now possible to take in a tipple that perhaps doesn't require an oompah band soundtrack in a giant tent.