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...
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.
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.
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.
Curt led us through some of the most charming spots in the city.
We also visited some of the famous cathedrals and churches.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.