Plenty of oompah in this culture-rich Bavarian city

Stunning: breathtaking views over Munich
Stunning: breathtaking views over Munich

WHILST Munich is often synonymous with beer, there’s more to the beautiful Bavarian city than its brewed beverages.

Granted, they offer some tasty ales - and know how to serve them in grand beer halls and gardens - but the German destination also offers impressive architecture, art, culture and history.

Munich airport is a 10 euro, 40-minute train ride from the city centre - but remember to get your ticket validated before you get on the train, something we didn’t realise.

We were staying at the luxurious Charles Hotel, a short walk from Munich’s train station, the Hauptbahnhof.

One of the Rocco Forte collection, the hotel is situated next to Munich’s peaceful Old Botanical Garden in the heart of the city.

The rooms - which even have a pillow menu - are incredibly stylish, along with the hotel’s bars and restaurant which served the most delicious breakfast buffet of meats, cheeses, salmon, sausages and breads which filled you up perfectly for a day of sightseeing.

We got a three-day city tour card (29.90 euro for up to five people) which saves 50 per cent on many attractions and lets you travel by under and overground, bus and tram within the city centre.

The Viktulienmarkt was our first stop - a market buzzing with stalls selling gifts, flowers, candles and food, with rolls of sausages hanging from shop ceilings and bags of biscuits and pretzels spilling over baskets in doorways.

The market’s beer stands offer a cheap choice for dinner, such as currywurst and sauerkraut - curried sausage and pickled cabbage - for a few euro.

Nearby was the Der Pschorr bierkeller, with a delicious home brew but after a few we called it an early night ready for Saturday.

We picked up a pass for the hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour bus which gives you flexibility to explore the city all day.

The tour guide explained sights including the grand Pinakotheken, painting galleries which house thousands of paintings from the 14th to the 19th centuries, as well as Königplatz, the beautiful and monumental square used during the Third Reich as a field for the Nazi Party’s mass rallies.

The Marienplatz was a popular hop-off stop, with its imposing new town hall as well as the old town hall, shops and cafes.

Maximilianstrasse, Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse are lined with designer stores such as Dior and Gucci, but by just wandering nooks and crannies of the city you can pick up bargains and gifts for home.

One shop worth visiting is the incredible Dallmayr (Dienerstraße 14), with rooms of floor to ceiling shelves boasting chocolates, biscuits, cakes, meats as well a a fish bar and deli counters.

The famous Hofbrauhaus beer hall is a short walk from Marienplatz, but we found it too busy to find a seat and preferred the less-touristy Lowenbrau bierkeller (Nymphenburgstrasse), a short walk out of the centre, but just by a tube stop (Stiglmaierplatz).

The spring sunshine was blazing for our last day, spent strolling through the stunning English Garden in the city centre - one of Europe’s largest urban parks.

A great must-see attraction was the surfers who gather to ride the constantly perfect wave on the garden’s canal, surrounded by gawping tourists.

Head also for the Chinese Pavilion, arguably Munich’s best beer garden with hundreds of tables to sit with jugs of beer - 3.70 euro for half a litre - and plates of traditional food such as ham hock and chips.

All while a Bavarian oompah band serenades you from the pavilion, to whoops from the crowd.

2011 also marks the 125th anniversary of the death of King Ludwig II, who was born and buried in Munich and involved in much of the city’s life, from art to business.

A great lover of music, he invited the composer Richard Wagner to the city - for the legendary private performances just for himself.

To mark the anniversary, there are King Ludwig II tours throughout the year (email the tourist office gf.tam@muenchen.de).

We had an absolutely perfect weekend break. My travel partner in fact deemed it his favourite European city.

OK, so we had a fair few beers in Munich, but it’s hard to avoid. And who’d want to?

But those who go just for the beer are missing out on so much, the city has stacks to offer.

Where else do you find inner-city surfers and a Chinese Pavilion housing an Oompah band?

* Lowcost airline bmibaby flies direct from East Midlands to Munich up to three times a week from £38.99 one way including taxes.

The airline offers allocated seating, online check-in and its Diamond Club - a generous frequent flyer programme. Visit www.bmibaby.com.

* The Charles Hotel (Sophienstrasse 28) has 160 guestrooms including 27 suites overlooking the Old Botanical Garden, the historical parts of the city and the Bavarian Alps. All have internet access, large bathrooms with limestone vanity tops and separate shower units.

For more information and rates visit www.roccofortecollection.com.