It's hip and historical, writes Erin O'Dwyer.
Respected brand Easy Palace has one, two and three-star digs, depending on your budget. The funky city hostel has a bar and restaurant, dorm rooms from €19 ($26) and en suite doubles (from €89, Easy Palace City Hostel, Mozartstrasse 4, 55 87 970, www.easypalace.de). A spit from the Hauptbahnhof is the Easy Palace Station Hotel. En suite singles (from €55) and doubles (from €79) include breakfast (Schutzenstr 7, 55 25210). One notch up is Hotel Schweiz in the city centre, which has doubles (from €99) and breakfast buffet served on the terrace (Goethestrasse 26, 54 36960, www.hotel-schweiz.de). The Euro Youth Hotel opened in 1880 as the Hotel Astoria. One of the few buildings to have survived the World War II, it has marble floors and chandeliers. Dorms (from €12) and doubles with en suite (from €30, including breakfast, Senefelderstrasse 5, 59 90 8811, www.euro-youth-hotel.de).
The 1898-built Hotel Opera was once a delicatessen, supplying fresh fish and lobster from Eisbach stream to the palace. Rooms are pricey but plush (doubles from €190, including breakfast, Annastrasse 10, 21 04940, www.hotel-opera.de). The decor is modest at the Art Hotel but the art is memorable. Central and cheap, it hosts regular exhibitions of local emerging artists (doubles from €85, including breakfast, Paul-Heyse Str 10, 30 906630, www.arthotelmunich.de). Clean, honest rooms make the family-owned Hotel Uhland popular with repeat clientele (weekend packages from €180, including breakfast, Uhlandstrasse 1, 54 3350, www.hotel-uhland.de).
Many of Munich's unlovely old three-stars have been transformed into super-cool design hotels. No expense is spared but be warned: rooms are small. Hotel La Maison, in recently gentrified Altschwabing, is worth it just for the breakfast (doubles €200, Occamstrasse 24, 33 035550, www.hotel-la-maison.com). Hotel Anna is especially swanky and close to Maximilianstrasse (two-night spa packages from €360, Schutzenstr 1, 59 9940, www.annahotel.de). Louis Hotel is all style: Japanese bar, tea house and views of the Viktualienmarkt (deluxe rooms from €275, Rindermarkt 2, 41 11 9080, www.louis-hotel.com).
Everyone from Cher to the Dalai Lama has stayed at Bayerischer Hof, Munich's best address since it was built as a royal guesthouse in 1841. Book in for a treatment at the rooftop Blue Spa (rooms from €479, including champagne breakfast, suites from €749, Promenadeplatz, 21 200, www.bayerischerhof.de). Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski has large, lavish rooms (rooms from €255, suites from €590, Maximilianstr 17, 21 252799, kempinski.com). Munich's Mandarin Oriental is one of the world's finest hotels, with stunning views. (B&B specials from €409, suites from €610, Neuturmstrasse 1, 29 0980, www.mandarinoriental.com).
SHOP & PLAY
Viktualienmarkt has been the culinary centre for two centuries. More than 140 stalls crowd the food market with fresh flowers, produce, handicrafts, wines and cheeses (10am-6pm Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm Saturday; U3 or U6 to Marienplatz). Several rough-diamond flea markets operate across the city, great for people-watching and vintage finds. Try the AntikPalast for its art pieces and curios (10am-6pm Friday and Saturday, 11am-5pm Sunday, Euro Industrie Park, Lilienthalallee 29, www.antikpalast-muenchen.de; see www.muenchen.de for more details). At Christmas, don't miss the Christkindlmarkt, with its aroma of cloves, gingerbread and candle wax, plus evening carolling. (From November 27 to December 24, 10am-8.30pm Monday to Friday, 10am-8.30pm Saturday and 10am-7.30pm Sunday, Marienplatz and other locations, www.muenchen.de).
For hip designer labels, hit the Altschwabing district and explore the alleys off Franz Joseph Strasse and the Hohenzollernstrasse (U3 and U6, station Munchener Freiheit). Browse the boutiques of Gartnerplatz and look for Stockholm label Filippa K and Wandelbar for modern German designs (U2 and U8, station Fraunhoferstrasse). Specialty stores are clustered around Maximilianstrasse and Theatinerstrasse. There's book mecca Hugendubel, beloved by expats for its English titles (Marienplatz 22 and Theatinerstrasse 11, 30 75 7575, www.hugendubel.de), Optimal for CDs and vintage vinyl (Kolosseumstrasse 6, 26 8185, www.echtoptimal.de) and Schuh Siebel for cheap Birkenstocks (Petersplatz 8, 37 91 7290, www.schuh-seibel.de). Galeria Kaufhof is Munich's main department store, spread across seven floors (Karlsplatz, 51 250, 9.30am-8pm Monday to Saturday, www.galeria-kaufhof.de). Warning: shops are closed on Sundays.
Avoid '80s discos and seek out indie sounds. Names such as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and emerging local bands play at Backstage Club, in the Nymphenburg district (Reitknechtstrasse 6, 12 66100, www.backstage.eu). The Atomic Cafe combines a cocktail bar and live music. It's known for its dance parties (Neuturmstrasse 5, 22 83052, www.atomic.de). Rote Sonne has serious DJ beats (Maximiliansplatz 5, 55 26 3330, www.rote-sonne.com). For a more sedate pace, Cafe am Beethovenplatz is Munich's oldest music hall and has a revolving roster of classical, jazz, folk and swing acts nightly (Goethestrasse 51, 55 29100, www.mariandl.com).
Bau is the city's largest gay bar, with a leather-and-skin dress code (26 9208, Mullerstrasse 41, U1-6 Sendlinger Tor, www.bau-munich.de). The beautiful people go to Eat The Rich for its cocktail menu and a kitchen open until 2.30am (Hess Strasse 90, 18 5982, www.eattherich.de). Morizz has embraced deco designer decor, with red leather armchairs and a whisky list to boot (Klenzestrasse 3, 20 16776, www.morizz.com). Cool cats head to Jazzclub Unterfahrt. It's Munich's main jazz and blues haunt (Einsteinstrasse 42, 44 82794 www.unterfahrt.de).
SEE & DO
Don a dirndl or some lederhosen to join Oktoberfest madness. Bavaria's traditional drinking and dancing is something to behold (September 18 to October 4, Theresienwiese, U4 and U5, beer €8.60 a litre, www.oktoberfest.de). The twin spires of the 15th-century Frauenkirche dominate the skyline and inside, artworks span five centuries (Frauenplatz, 29 00820). Climb the spires of St Peter for fine views across Munich (9am-6.30pm Monday to Friday, 10am-6.30pm Saturday and Sunday, Rindermarkt 1, 26 04828, www.alterpeter.de). Arrive in time for the Town Hall's famous glockenspiel chime (Marienplatz, 23 300, 11am, noon and 5pm through summer. For more information, see www.muenchen.de). Just outside Munich, the 18th-century summer palace Schloss Nymphenburg has been restored to its original glory (9am-6pm daily in summer, adults €10, children €8, U1 to Rotkreuzplatz, then tram 12 or 17 to Schloss Nymphenburg, 17 9080, www.schloss-nymphenburg.de).
Three main art galleries, or pinakotheken, make up Munich's visual arts precinct. Known as the Kunstareal, it offers visitors a virtual tour from the Middle Ages to now. The Alte Pinakothek covers the 1400s to early 1800s (think van Dyck, Rembrandt, Botticelli and da Vinci). The Neue Pinakothek shows work from the 18th and 19th centuries, including Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse and Klimt. Big sister Moderne has 50 rooms of 20th-century art, design and architecture. (Closed Mondays, day tickets €12, Sundays €1, tram 27, U2 or U8 station Konigsplatz, 23 80 5360, www.pinakothek.de).
Take a turn around the city's old town with Munich Walk Tours (allow 2 hours, adults €10, students €9, children under 14 free, 24 23 1767, www.munichwalktours.de). The English Garden, alongside the River Isar, is a pretty place for a picnic (U 3-6, station Marienplatz, www.schloesser.bayern.de). Kloster Andechs — just outside Munich on the edge of Lake Ammersee — is an old monastery with a restaurant, micro-brewery and lakeside walks with views across Munich. (Take the tram S5 to Herrsching, a bus connection comes half-hourly, andechs.de.)
Follow the leader
Sightseeing tours abound in Munich. At one end of the spectrum are double-decker bus tours (one-hour city circle, adults €9.90, children €5.90, www.citysightseeing-munich.com). At the other take walks and day hikes with local historians (50 3242, www.susanne-braun-fuehrungen.de).
EAT & DRINK
Bar Centrale is the place to be seen for early-morning coffee and sandwiches on the go (Ledererstr 23, 22 3762, www.bar-centrale.com). Linger longer over coffee and cake at Conditorei Kreutzkamm, established in Dresden in 1825 (Kastenbauerstr 11, 99 35570, www.kreutzkamm.de). Something more hearty? Bar Tapas has an extensive menu and warm, friendly atmosphere. Try the fresh anchovies or spicy chorizo (Amalienstr 97, 39 0919, www.bar-tapas.com).
No one bakes like the Bavarians. Bakery cafes dot every corner but the best is Bakeri Mueller (www.mueller-brot.de) so grab a stehplatz (standing room) and make sure you try the cheesecake. Galeria Kaufhof has a food hall to die for, great for picnic fare and lunch treats (Karlsplatz, 51 250, 9.30am-8pm Monday to Saturday, www.galeria-kaufhof.de). Euro deli Kafer does free wine tasting in-store (Prinzregentenstrasse 73, 41 68247, www.feinkost-kaefer.de) and the best fresh coffee is at Dallmayr (Dienerstrasse 14, 21 350, www.dallmayr.de).
Top of the town
Tantris, which can boast two Michelin stars, is regularly rated one of the best restaurants in Germany. Austrian-born chef Hans Haas describes the place as a temple of gastronomic pleasure. We'd say it excels at modern Mediterranean, hands-down. Check out the small midweek degustation menus (Johann Fichte Strasse 7, 361 9590, www.tantris.de). A fish-and-wine bar may seem like an odd combination but 7Fish is a popular haunt, with fresh seafood sourced from around the world (Gartnerplatz 6, 23 00 0219, www.sevenfish.de). Enough bratwurst already? Munich has an exciting vegetarian scene. Try Prinz Myshkin for new veggie twists on old favourites, such as tofu stroganoff and mushroom lasagne (Hackenstrasse 2, 26 5596, www.prinzmyshkin.com).
By the glass
The beer garden had its beginnings in Munich, when brewers began planting chestnut trees to keep underground cellars cool in the 1880s. Augustiner-Keller is as authentic as a bierstube can be and handy to the main railway station (Arnulfstrasse 52, 59 4393, www.augustinerkeller.de). The famed Hofbrauhaus serves Bavarian specialties (Platzl 9, 29 01360, www.hofbraeuhaus.de) but an even classier venue is the Waldwirtschaft Grosshesselohe for live jazz on weekends and a restaurant with such local specialties as wild venison and weisswurst (Georg Kalb Strasse 3, 74 99 4030, tram 7, stop Isartalbahnhof-Grosshesselohe, waldwirtschaft.de). Prefer wine? Weinhaus Neuner, Munich's oldest wine house, has 100 different wines from 20 regions (Herzogspitalstrasse 8, 26 03954, noon-3pm and 6pm-midnight, www.weinhaus-neuner.de).
Across Germany, the Long Night of the Museums has become an institution. In Munich, too, museums and galleries stay open until 3am one night of the year, with buses to ferry people between locations. The same mob organise "long nights" for books, music, science etc. Strange but serious fun on October 16. (www.muenchner.de).
Qantas (13 13 13, www.qantas.com.au) and Lufthansa (1300 655 727, www.lufthansa.com) have regular direct flights from Sydney to Munich. Emirates flies to Munich via Dubai (1300 303 777, www.emirates.com)
Visas and currency
Australian travellers to Germany do not require a visa for a stay of fewer than 90 days. See www.smartraveller.gov.au for information on working visas in Germany. The German currency is the euro. $1 = €0.71.
The German country code is +49 and 89 for Munich. To call Munich from abroad, add +4989 to the numbers listed on this page.