Friday, July 8, 2016

Our Two Days in Munich

I wanted to share our twelve day family trip to Europe we did in early June. This was partly a trip for the our son Jackson, who just graduated from high school and also to retrace a trip my husband Max did at the same age more than 30 years ago.

We began in Munich where we checked in for two nights at the beautiful Charles Hotel. This gem was a great place to get our bearings, relax and see some of Munich before moving onto Salzburg, Lucerne and then London. We used our United miles and so were able to fly free. We stayed in hotels this time as we had more stops and only just planned this in early May. It actually worked out great. We had some adjoining rooms with our boys and a rooftop apartment at another. We took trains between all the cities except we flew from Zurich, Switzerland to London to save a travel day. 

The Charles is located in a perfect spot overlooking the botanical gardens and just a ten minute walk to the Marienplatz, and the old city center. It has a charming front courtyard where we checked in and had some cappuccinos which they served with a little dish of chocolates. Welcome to Germany!

I think I'm half asleep here!

In this pretty patio you can have lunch or just a drink and watch the bikes go by on the quiet little street that circles the park.

Inside there's a cool lobby and also a beautiful restaurant and bar called Sophia's.

Sophia's also does a fabulous breakfast buffet that was included with our room. It's huge and includes a cooked breakfast as well as Bavarian specialties. We began each day like this..

That was almost vacation enough! The fresh breads, smoothies, cheeses, honeycomb and bircher muesli were our favorites. Yes pretzels are part of a Bavarian breakfast too! Bavaria is called Bayern in German and it is the largest German state, of which Munich (or Munchen in German) is the capital.

There are hotel bikes to use.

We had two adjoining rooms. Loved everything about this hotel, the beds, the room layout, the closet design, the baths and even the cute desks and comfy settees. This was our first stay in a Rocco Forte hotel and I hope I get to try more of them. The had amazing service and terrific staff.

Our room above, and the kid's room...

I liked our little balcony.

Munich is the biggest biking city in Germany with a very strong biking culture and special parts of the sidewalks built only for bikes like Amsterdam. It's also super walkable, but you have to make sure you are walking on the pedestrian part of the sidewalk, not the bike lane as in many European cities. I wish we had that as it's such a great way to encourage people to bike. You aren't in the street so it feels safer.

To stave off jet-lag, my husband made us go out right out after our check-in and walk to the nearest biergarten.

Biergartens are family friendly and a general gathering spot for people of ages and walks of life. The boys loved the monster pretzels. Drinking age for beer in Germany in 16 so our college bound guy got to have a beer. You can also be 13 and drink if you are with parents so the youngest had a few sips. We really couldn't come all the way across the world without letting them experience a little German beer.

We then walked to the old town center. It was a warm day and the spray from the fountains felt good.

The old town center or Marienplatz has looked much the same since 1650 even though Munich had to be completely rebuilt after WWII. Luckily, it's original buildings and street grid were preserved better than most other German cities and it had retained it's charm.

 The Glockenspiel chimes everyday at 11:00 a.m. as well as at noon and 5 in summer. Below you can see the figures come out and reenact a story from the 1600's with music. It's very cute and a must see when you are in Munich!

Pretty flowers in so many of the buildings make Munich one of the prettiest cities. 

You can wander the streets and you keep coming upon large open squares that are completely pedestrian and bike only. It's wonderful.

I don't know what this car was, but it was cool.

Biergartens are everywhere.

At the Odeonsplatz, another famous square. 

The next day we woke early and took a three hour walking tour of the city Max had planned for us. It was a great idea as we only had a one full day in Munich and it was the best way to see all we could. We started with a little rain, but we had umbrellas and it did not detract from this fun walk. We used Big Hat Tours and our guide Curt was an interesting and knowledgeable guy. He's an American who is now living in Munich and raised his family there.

We started in the old town and moved to the Viktualienmarkt, a daily outdoor food market selling every kind of cheese, breads, fruits and vegetables and special gourmet products.

At many stands you can sample cheeses. homemade jams and spreads.

 People are crazy for white asparagus was just finishing it's season.

Curt led us through some of the most charming spots in the city.

We also visited some of the famous cathedrals and churches.

 This ornate Baroque masterpiece is called Assam's Church.  It's a little tucked away jewel, but worth seeking out when you are here. The architecture and detail is unlike anything I've seen.

Amazingly pretty.

I particularly like the beautiful Frauenkirche, a Gothic cathedral that was bombed in 1945. You can see the devil's footprint here too. This is the church Pope Benedict came from and word has it he had his favorite beer delivered regularly!

A walk around Munich would not be complete without a visit to the most famous Hofbrau House. This is a 500 year old beer hall and Bavarian restaurant that's an Munich institution. 

Below are the locker steins of regular customers and having one is a bit of a status thing. 

 This man is washing out his stein. Soap is not good with the beer, so only water is used!

These cute gentlemen in traditional dress are at a regulars table and obliging posed for me.
We didn't have a chance to go back later, but this is a very fun and lively spot, so don't miss it if you have a chance.

 Curt took us to a traditional Bavarian shop that sold only goods made in Germany. Loved the cuckoo clocks and nutcrackers. We bought a Christmas smoker to take home.

They also sold tracht, or traditional folk clothes.

The boiled wool sweaters, lederhosen, felt hats and beautiful jackets as well as intricate leather bags are all part of tract.

We saw many people with traditional dress on which made Munich even more unique and a nice surprise.

After our three hour tour we had lunch with our little group and our guide at a wonderful German lunch spot.

The other couple that was on our tour, Sandy and Sal were from Ohio and celebrating their 30th anniversary on this trip. It was nice getting to know lovely people you'd otherwise never meet. Another reason to love tours like Curt's. Curt was super knowledgeable and had some great stories. I highly recommend one of his tours if you are in Munich.

After the walking tour, I had some time to shop a bit. Munich has some fancy department stores and I got time to see one, Ludwig Beck as it was right on the Marienplatz. This is a pretty store with many great departments you rarely see in American stores anymore like music and even stationery.

Everywhere in Europe picnic baskets are on display for summer. I love that! This was the entrance of the store which was beach themed with pretty hats, wraps, bags and bathing suits. Beautifully curated scarf selection here and the very pretty umbrellas. I wanted to bring an umbrella home, but they were quite large and we were only beginning the journey. I wasn't sure how easily it would have fit in all the luggage spaces. I should have shipped one. I don't know why I didn't think of it!

 The huge stationery department. Reminds me department stores of my childhood like The Emporium.

Beautiful selection here and I bought the most darling postcards that were summer themed. I love getting postcards from my travels as keepsakes, do you?

There was a bistro on the second floor to get a quick coffee and cake too. By the way coffee and cake is a German thing. It's what everyone does and in Austria as well. 'Kaffee und Kuchen', which translated means 'coffee and cake,' is a typical afternoon ritual between 2 and 4 and is a time to take a pause, meet with friends or family and sometimes have coffee, but more often tea and some kind of sweet. You can see in the many outdoor cafes that Germans take time for this even though they are some of the hardest workers in Europe.

Another reason to stay at the Charles is the spa and the long pool, which is rare to find in a city hotel.

Swimming was a treat after walking all day long. There are also steam rooms and these cool heated lounge chairs that the guys dug.

There was a gym and a full spa at The Charles and they have some treatments for kids so it's a very family friendly hotel.

 After everyone decompressed we had dinner at the new Eataly that we spied earlier on our tour by the Viktualienmarkt. Eataly is a two story, 50,000 square foot market where people can eat, shop and learn. There are nine restaurants and two cafes as well as a cooking school.

Some nights there are themed events and often live music. It's easy to get a bottle or glass of wine at one counter, buy pizzas at another or pasta or a salad and hang out with friends.

We chose to have dinner at one of the restaurants. The food was amazing and the prices were very good. The emphasis at Eataly is on fresh, locally sourced and the best quality ingredients available at fair prices and it shows.

 It's a very fun place and there is a good mix of families as well as younger professionals and older folks. A wonderful gathering spot to hang out and enjoy the evening. This also another great spot to buy souvenirs and is the first Eataly outside of Italy in Europe. There are already locations in Chicago and New York and one is in the works for Los Angeles in early 2017.

If this seems contrary to the German experience, it's not really. Munich is very close to Italy and is a very cosmopolitan city. You'll hear a lot of Italian spoken as well as French. Also, if you are in Germany you may want a break from the heavy German cuisine after so many days as delicious as it is!

Having gelato with Jackson at Eataly. They have a Nutella Cafe too!

I hated to leave our lovely Charles Hotel and Munich after just two nights.

We had got up early to catch the train to Salzburg, but the station was literally a block and half away so we could walk. We did only carry-on luggage which made it easy to just hop on and off the trains and planes on this trip without worrying about tracking our luggage. 

One other nice thing that The Charles did was post my postcards for free. I think that's a very old world and lovely gesture. They even have their own little metering stamp on it which looks cute when the card arrives!

Next stop, part II- Salzburg.

Thanks for traveling along! Have you been to Munich and if so what were your favorite things? I feel like we barely scratched the surface of this wonderful city.


All opinions are my own and this was not a sponsored post in any way. Photos all NorCalStyle.


  1. Always love your travel posts!! Thank you for taking me away to this special place and for bringing back memories from 22 years ago! Pete and I spent a lot of time in the Hofbrau House and I remember walking around the beautiful English Garden. I will have to show you my scrap book of that trip the next time I see you....pre Shutterfly. It sounds like your tour was fabulous and what a great guide you had. I love those types of activities because it keeps the teens engaged and not complaining! And you see things you probably wouldn't have seen, which is always a bonus! Can't wait for your Salzburg post! April xo

    1. April, That is sweet you and Pete were there 22 years ago! I can't wait to see your scrapbook! Yes, I totally recommend a guide especially with teens as they do enjoy the history and the stories and get into it! xo

  2. Your trip looks fun Kim! My boss and his family just got back from Munich and Switzerland as well. They loved it! Are you the shortest in the family now? lol


    1. Kelley, Lol I am the shrimp now! How did that happen so fast? Kelley I recommend Germany and Switzerland..and Austria! You have to go to Munich especially if you haven't been. Really charming. xo

  3. oh how exciting! We're headed to Munich and Lucerne as part of our vacation in the Fall, looking forward to your next posts. These are some great tips, I've been to Munich several times before... my 'regular' stops now include the Hofbrauhaus and Kaufhof (one of the big dept stores, it's where I load up on marzipan for gifts to bring back home). Also love the English Garden!

    1. Angelina, How exciting you are going there in the fall! I never got to Kaufhof, I wish I had. I sadly did not get enough marzipan!! I also missed the English Garden which seems a must do there. Next time I need more days there.

    I have NEVER BEEN.........
    Lucky BOYS to re-trace PAPA's steps!

    1. Elizabeth...I have to hear about this boyfriend! Lots of dapper guys in Munich! I was glad we got to do this trip as Max began remembering more while we were traveling..Some things he had totally forgotten about! xo

  5. Hi Kim,

    Looks like you had a wonderful time...your boys have really grown and matured!

    My sister just got back from a 3 week river cruise to the Netherlands, Germany & Switzerland. She said they had a great time. They made a point to visit Zwolle where my grandparents were from. Looking forward to your other post!


    1. Linda I know it's crazy how much kids have changed in a year...I would love to go on one of those cruises. How fun they got to go to where your grandparents came from! Thanks so much for the note and reading!

  6. What a great recap of your two days in Munich! Sounds like you had a wonderful time! What great memories you got to make as a family on your Europe trip - priceless!

  7. Dear Kim, thanks for sharing your memories and your beautilful pictures. Your post makes me want to go to Munich. I went to Konstanz for Easter... Maybe Munich the next year. Have a nice summer. Anne-laure

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