Sure, I’ve been at Marienplatz while the Glockenspiel performs its show. Tourists stand by, eager with their cameras, watching the mechanized clock twirl and turn. It lasts only a minute or two, and then the bells start to chime. It’s overrated. It’s touristy. It’s listed as a must-see.
And you know that there are all sorts of inevitable activities on their agenda, such as the Hofbrauhaus and Mad King Ludwig’s unfinished castle. Maybe they’ll buy an expensive “stein”, known to true Bavarians as a Krug and known to Americans as a beer mug with a Munich logo.
Have I done these things? Yes. I was shopping while the Glockenspiel went off. I’ve been to Schloss Neuschwanstein more times than I care to admit. And of all the beer halls in Munich, the Hofbrauhaus is not my favourite choice, but yes, I’ve been.
For the real deal, you need to do some digging. In reality, what the tourists see is very different from what life is really like there. Yes, most people living outside of Munich seem to live in storybook houses cut straight from fairy tales. But don’t let that fool you. They live very modern, western lives, yet they still manage to remember their roots.
So, where do you go to experience the traditional side of Bavaria? Here are some ideas:
Located just south of Munich, Kloster Andechs is a monastery run by Benedictine monks. What is really neat about this place is that the monks brew their own beer. You can visit the monastery and, while you are there, enjoy a beer that has achieved cult status among the locals. Where else but in Germany can you attend mass and then sit in a beer garden, eating good food and drinking good beer while enjoying the views?
Andechser am Dom – Weinstrasse 7A, Munich
If you can’t make it to Kloster Andechs, Andechser Dom is just a short walk from Marienplatz, the city centre. They come with a full beer list, including their highly regarded Doppelbock. My favourite dish on the menu is their traditional batter, a traditional Bavarian cheese spread that compliments the rich dark bread it is served with.
There are two beer gardens in the Englischer Garten. One is located by a pond; another can be found at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). Both of these beer gardens are seasonal, meaning they aren’t open in the winter. Each features a standard selection of beer garden fare, such as pretzels and wurst.
Germany’s tallest mountain, located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, is open year-round. It is a popular ski destination and hiking spot and even has a beer garden at the top. You spend the day hiking up to the summit, have a beer, and then come down on the gondola. Or, you can take the gondola up to the top, drink a beer, enjoy the views, and then come down. Either way, the fact that the Germans managed to merge beer and natural beauty is definitely worth a look.