The capital of the German state of Bavaria, Munich takes its name from the monks (Mönche) who inhabited the area before the city was officially founded in 1158. Since then, the city’s storied history has been peppered with ups and downs, including Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch and 1992 G7 Summit. As Germany’s present-day economic powerhouse, Munich is headquarters to several international brands, such as BMW and Siemens. Although the city’s location in the south of Germany, close to the Austrian border, provides a fairly mild climate, July often sees its share of scorchers, while the nearby Alps and the city’s elevation means Munich sees more snow than many other cities in the country.
Munich’s economic status offers a high standard of living to its residents, who take such pride in their Bavarian heritage that even those who don’t visit the Oktoberfest fairgrounds each September choose to celebrate the occasion by dressing in traditional costume. The city’s affluence has also attracted a large international population, and today some one third of the population comes from outside the country’s borders. Munich is home to several football (soccer) teams, including FC Bayern Munich, the most famous and successful club in the country’s history, with 26 national titles under its belt. Even outside of Oktoberfest, visitors come to Munich as much for its historical sites as for local delicacies such as apple strudel and Weißbier (wheat beer).
By far the most popular time of the year, Oktoberfest (which actually begins in September), draws crowds from around the world with its famous beer tents and fairground attractions that drew 5.6 million visitors in 2016. In November, the city sparkles under the lights of its numerous Christmas markets, which make Munich feel more like a small town than the country’s third largest city. Open year round, the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl is quite possibly the world’s most famous brewhouse, although several others in the city—Augustiner-Bräu, Paulaner, and Löwenbräu—are also internationally known. The Deutsches Museum claims the title of world’s largest science and technology museum, while BMW Welt allows fans of the popular automobiles to experience the brand through interactive exhibits.
The majority of the city’s main attractions lie in Altstadt (Old Town), whose streets were made car-free when Munich hosted the 1972 Olympics and have remained that way ever since. In Altstadt’s Marienplatz, the glockenspiel of the neo-gothic Neus Rathaus (New Town Hall) puts on a performance several times a day. Nearby lies the outdoor market of Viktualienmarkt and St. Peter’s Church, part of a monastery that dates back to before the city’s official founding. Cafes and restaurants about in the artists’ district of Schwabing, while Olympiapark’s many venues offer entertainment ranging from sporting events to concerts. About two hours away lies Schloss Neuschwanstein, the storybook castle built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in homage to composer Richard Wagner.