This April, rock up to a Bavarian beer festival, polished off by Michelin-starred dining, or just indulge in classical music or modern art in this vibrant German city
At times, the Bavarian capital, Munich, can be as brilliantly modern as it is reassuringly traditional, and this combination makes it one of Europe's most liveable cities. This modern versus tradition theme is encapsulated in the 1853-built Shrannenhalle, a former grain store that is now home to open-plan eateries, from the decidedly upmarket Käfer and Tantris to a Tyrolean farmer's stall and a Bavarian restaurant. Alternatively, refined diners can head across to Dallmayr, a three-in-one combination of café, Michelin-starred restaurant and dazzling ground-floor grocery store, or make for the elegant environs of Restaurant Mark's at Mandarin Oriental, Munich for executive chef Simon Larese's one-star modern French cuisine.
In April you can also experience Munich's convivial beer festivals. Numerous local breweries create fantastic beer, up to around 19 per cent, at the Munich Starkbierfest (strong beer festival), which runs until 12 April and is less international than the oversized Oktoberfest. The most famous is the boisterous 17-day Paulaner am Nockherberg, which closes on 6 April.
If you are looking for art, it is worth remembering that 19th-century Munich was Germany's Kunststadt (art city) par excellence, the legacy of which puts the city's collections with the best. Dix/Beckmann: World as Myth is the big annual exhibition at the ever-brilliant Kunsthalle, with 11 rooms dedicated to these two star names from the tumultuous Weimar years of the Twenties and Thirties.
Munich's Museum Quarter is home to four world-class institutions, showcasing masterworks from the Middle Ages to the present day. Alongside the three Pinakothek museums, there's Museum Brandhorst – an architectural blast of colour, holding works by Damien Hirst, Sigmar Polke, Alex Katz, Cy Twombly, and other contemporary art giants. (A great after-museum retreat is across the street at Brasserie Tresznjewski, which serves food until late and has an enticing selection of cocktails.) For something avant-garde, from The Blue Rider to Joseph Beuys, visit the newly renovated and extended Lenbachhaus, overseen by Sir Norman Foster. Take in the view across the historic Königsplatz from the terrace of the museum's café-restaurant, Ella. You can also view contemporary art at Mandarin Oriental, Munich this month, where Asia-inspired pictures by Uschi Schmitt-Ladanyi are on show at Bistro MO, and works by Gianfranco Meggiato are at Restaurant Mark’s.
Munich's boast that it is Germany's number one city of culture has some historical credence: in 1775, Mozart premiered his La Finta Gardiniera here, and in 1781 he chose the incomparable Cuvilliés Theater to premier Idomeneo. Rebuilt after the war, this jewel of European rococo architecture puts on an evening of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven on 21 April.
While eschewing high-rise modern architecture in the Old City, Munich nevertheless has plenty of innovative architecture. BMW Welt is a huge draw, as is the Olympic Stadium, especially as it was home for many decades to one of the world's most successful sporting names, Bayern Munich football club. Nowadays, Bayern plays in an arguably even more dramatic setting – the space-ship-like Allianz Arena, and though football tickets are hard to come by, there are non-match-day tours or games with the city's second team, 1860 Munich. Otherwise, top-notch sporting action at the Olympic Park can be seen on 24 April, when Germany takes on Russia at ice hockey.
If this wonderful mix of modernity and tradition leaves you needing an extra burst of the Bavarian capital, immerse yourself in its history amid the curiosities of the City Museum and the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum, with the latter housing its own very traditional Bavarian pub-restaurant.
Paul Wheatley is a Munich-based writer, and the author of Munich: From Monks to Modernity