Time to warm up the brass bands, stretch your beer gut, and dust off your best lederhosen or dirndl, for it is time, once again for Oktoberfest. We could tell you about the beer, the chicken dance, the pork knuckles, and the oom-pah bands, but instead we’d like to focus on what to do in Munich after you’ve drunk yourself silly.
Start with a morning walk through the Englischer Garten public park, which, at almost one-and-a-half square miles, is larger than Central Park. Stroll along the wooded paths, take tea at the Japanese tea house, paddle a boat along the man-made Eisbach river, and, if you dare, join the nude sunbathers on the Schönfeldwiese lawn. End up at the garden’s most recognizable landmark: the 82-foot-high gold-leaf trimmed wooden Chinese Tower, where – if you must – you can have a drink in the 7,000-person capacity beer garden.
Although it has only been legal to do so since 2010, people have been surfing the Eisbach’s three-foot high standing wave, located at the southern end of the Englischer Garten, since the 1970s. Due to perilous conditions (the river, at times, only reaches a depth of 15 inches) and a strong current, only confident surfers should attempt it – but not with a belly full of beer.
While Oktoberfest does have a long history and rich tradition, the cultural experience tends to get drowned by the gallons of beer that flow. To get a cultural fix, head west of the Englischer Garten, where you will find the Kunstareal art district, and three museums that each highlight a different period in European art. The Alte Pinakothek, one of the oldest art galleries in the world, houses a famous collection of Old Masters paintings including one of the biggest Rubens collections in the world. The Neue Pinakothek features art and sculpture from the late 18th to the beginning of the 20th century, including works by French Impressionists Edgar Degas and Claude Monet, and by German Romanticists Caspar David Friedrich and Karl Friedrich Schinkel . Recently reopened after seven months of renovations, the modern art museum Pinakothek der Moderne houses work across various disciplines including photography and video, by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Sam Taylor-Wood.
If your passions lie in the sciences rather than the arts, head to the Deutsches Museum, located on a small island on the Isar River that is accessible via a bridge. The museum is the largest in Munich and home to 50 exhibition areas that display items from the fields of science and technology, including ships, aircraft, and a Foucault’s Pendulum that dangles 200 feet from the building’s tower. Probably the most popular exhibit is the Faraday Cage where, twice a day, a staff member gets inside the cage, which is then hoisted 10 feet into the air and hit with 270 kVs of electricity.
Chances are that the excesses of Oktoberfest will leave you feeling the need for a little detoxification. Slow things down with a meditation class at Sahaja Yoga, held in English on Friday evenings, or an English language yoga class by Ishta Yoga, held three times a week. Better yet, take advantage of Munich’s proximity to several spa towns.
The town of Bad Tölz, which lies on the Isar 30 miles south of the city, became a spa in 1946 with the discovery of its natural springs. The town’s water park, Alpamare, is one of the largest in Germany, and is filled with thermal outdoor pools, saunas, and water slides.
Munich has a number of hotels with good spas and health clubs, such as the Munich Marriott, with its full treatment menu and steam bath, and the Sheraton Munich Arabellapark Hotel, which has a Finnish sauna and Turkish bath. Early October rates at the Sheraton start at €175 ($232) and at €299 ($396) for the Marriott. Possibly the best spa experience, however, is the Fit & Fly Spa in the Kempinski Hotel Airport Munich. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, (rates start at €255, or $338) you can purchase a day-pass for €30 ($39) that gives you access to a 56-foot swimming pool, fitness center, sauna, steam bath, treatment room, and pool bar, which serves “healthy” drinks.