Munich is one of Germany's biggest and greenest cities. The Wittelsbach dynasty, rulers of Bavaria for eight centuries, endowed their capital with gardens, palaces and museums on wide boulevards. The city is also surrounded by countryside dotted with lakes and castles, and in fine weather you can see the snowy Alps towards the south.
Altstadt-Lebel, Munich's oldest quarter, is a compact square kilometre of streets packed with gothic and baroque architecture. Marienplatz is its hub, while Kaufingerstrasse and Neuhauserstrasse connect to form the Altstadt's main thoroughfare. Beyond Karlstor,amedieval gateway, you'll find Maxvorstadt, a neoclassical district laid out in the 19th century. To the north, bohemian Schwabing is full of funky bars and cafés.
Maximiliansbrucke crosses the Isar River, linking older parts of Munich with the suburbs of Bogenhausen and Haidhausen. Southeast of here, Grünwald is home to one of Europe's biggest movie production complexes – a popular sightseeing attraction.
Any visit to Munich should start on Marienplatz, where the "Glockenspiel" figurines of the Neues Rathaus (New City Hall) are among the city's most beloved sights. Opposite, the spire of the 11th-century church Peterskirche – "Old Peter" to locals – rises from the Altstadt's highest point.
At the west end of Kaufingerstrasse you can't miss the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). With twin towers topped by onion-shaped domes, this gothic cathedral is another iconic Munich landmark. Next to Max-Joseph-Platz, the Residenz palace complex was home to the Wittelsbach monarchy for more than 500 years.
You can discover art from the ancient world at the Glyptothek, a treasury of bronze and marble statues of gods and emperors, as well as delicate works of gold. Farther west, you'll find more fine craftsmanship at Nymphenburg Palace, a group of royal summer residences full of rococo marvels like the Great Hall and the Hall of Mirrors.
Munich's Altstadt and surrounding districts offer grand hotels in former palaces and gracious townhouses steps from main attractions. Smaller boutique properties, budget options and modern hotels cater to holidaymakers and business visitors alike. You'll find many of these around Schwabing and in Maxvorstadt's museum district.
A 10-minute walk from Altstadt sights, on the east side of the Isar River in areas like Haidhausen, large city hotels offer facilities such as swimming pools, business centres and executive floors. Hotels at Schwaig-Oberding are close to Munich International Airport (MUC), and Feldkirchen bei Munich is a handy base for visitors to the Munich-Messe exhibition centre.
Munich's efficient network of trams, buses, and trains brings the suburbs within easy reach of the centre. Unterhaching, for example, is only a 20-minute train ride from central Munich, but also offers quick access to Germany's high-speed Autobahn, for those coming and going by car.
Bavarians like hearty food and plenty of it. Pork, ham, beef and sausages served with dumplings, potatoes and pickles are favourites.
You can enjoy a brotzeit (snack lunch) and mass (litre stein) of beer with locals in outdoor beer gardens that seat thousands, like Königlicher Hirschgarten in Nymphenburg. Drinkers can bring their own snacks or buy them on site at places like the Viktualienmarkt just off Marienplatz or the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) in the sprawling Englischer Garten (English Garden).
In winter, the drinking scene moves indoors to cavernous beer cellars around Marienplatz. Both beer gardens and cellars are busiest during Oktoberfest, the annual celebration of Bavaria's favourite beverage, which actually starts in September despite its name.
In trendy Schwabing, you can sample Asian, Italian, Spanish and Turkish cuisine at both pavement cafés and traditional taverns. You'll find fine-dining restaurants in the city centre, including a dozen that have one or more Michelin stars.
Locals shop for fashions and accessories along Maximilianstrasse and Kaufingerstrasse, Munich's main shopping streets. You'll find temples of consumerism like the Kaufingertor arcade here.
Galeria Kaufhof on Marienplatz has eight floors of luxury brands and designer goodies and offers multilingual shopping escorts for visitors.
Looking for Bavarian souvenirs? You'll find charming ceramic figures and delicate chinaware at the flagship store of Nymphenburg Porcelain on Odeonplatz. You can buy traditional Bavarian Lederhosen (leather trousers or shorts) and Dirndl dresses at shops like Angermaier and Moser.
High points of the shopping year include Auer Dult, a glorified jumble sale held three times a year, and the main Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) held every year on Marienplatz.
Many shops in Munich close on Saturday afternoons, though some department stores stay open until the evening. Most shops are closed on Sundays.
The legacy of the culture-loving Wittelsbachs still lingers in Munich. Bavaria's ruling dynasty endowed the city with palatial museums, theatres and concert halls. Art connoisseurs should stroll along Theresienstrasse to discover treasures in four museums around the Pinakothek complex in the Maxvorstadt district.
Highlights of the Alte Pinakothek include Albrecht Durer's "Self Portrait with Fur Trimmed Robe" and paintings by Rubens, Raphael and Tintoretto. If you prefer 18th- and 19th-century art, you'll appreciate the collection at the Neue Pinakothek, which includes Van Gogh's "Sunflowers". There's edgy art and design at the Pinakothek der Moderne, and conceptual and pop art by luminaries like Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly at the nearby Museum Brandhorst.
Other palaces of culture cluster around the Residenz. You can hear the Munich Symphony Orchestra in the Residenz's Brunnenhof courtyard and at other venues like the Prinz Regent Theater. The National Theater is home to the Bavarian State Opera and Bavarian State Ballet.
You'll find plays with English surtitles at the Schauspielhaus on Maximilianstrasse, home of the Münchener Kammerspiele (Munich Chamber Players). Across the river in Haidhausen, Gasteig Munich, a fortress-like, 20th-century building, is home to the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
Munich's custom-made attractions in museums, parks and swimming pools are great fun for families. You can pick up the makings of a picnic at the Viktualienmarkt, then head for one of the city's green spaces. Surprisingly, beer gardens in Munich are actually popular family spots, where you can bring your own snacks and kids can run freely during the day.
Kids will be entranced by the dancing figures of the Neues Rathaus Glockenspiel, including the Münchner Kindl (Munich Child), symbol of the city. Families can take their small ones to find more "little people" at the Muenchner Marionetten Theater, which presents puppet plays for tots, teens and adults.
The Deutsches Museum on Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is dedicated to technology throughout the ages. Young visitors will be amused by the hands-on exhibits at the Kid's Kingdom section.
Creatures great and small, from elephants to tiny shrews, roam enclosures at Hellabrunn Zoo, where children can meet pygmy goats at a petting zoo and romp in an adventure playground.
Though Dante Freibad at Neuhausen-Nymphenburg has a separate zone for nude swimmers, more modest visitors can enjoy a heated 50-metre pool, a separate play area and a paddling pool for kids.