Munich’s cool places: great Italian food, champagne in the afternoon, walks in the Englischer Garten

I just got back from DLD, a conference organized by Dr. Hubert Burda, in Munich every January. This is my second DLD and like the first one, it was a lot of fun. This time around, I flew into Munich one day early to enjoy the Englischer Garten, one of my favorite parks in the world, to visit old churches, and discover new cafes and restaurants. It’s unfortunate that most people associate the city with beer and giant heaping plates of wurst (this is after all the home of the Oktoberfest) because the city has so much more to offer: chic restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques.

So here are my favorites.

Restaurants and cafes

(1) Acquarello (Muhlbaurstrasse 36): said to be the best Italian restaurant in Germany, it is run by famous chef, Mario Gamba, who, like famous chefs in other parts of the world, has a cookbook (of course).

  • Vibe: elegant, dignified restaurant in a residential neighborhood outside the center; the decor is a bit loud and tacky but the noise level is very low. You can carry on a conversation with your dinner companions. Tables are far enough apart that you won’t be listening to someone’s secrets.
  • Pros: absolutely delicious northern Italian cuisine which means truffle dishes in the winter; excellent seafood and risotto, fabulous desserts, good wine list
  • Cons: for the price level and the quality of the food, it looks surprisingly like something you would see in Las Vegas.

(2) Dukatz (Maffeistrasse 3): modern cafe/restaurant/bar in the designer boutique shopping area, a stone’s throw from the Bayerischer Hof in the center of town. A very popular and crowded Saturday apres-shopping destination. Good coffee, drinks and lunch dishes. Bring your fake tan and order cocktails in the middle of the afternoon for a truly decadent experience.

  • Vibe: Tans (fake?) in the middle of January, ladies wearing Manolos and Jimmy Choos cradling large Prada and Max Mara shopping bags, champagne at 3pm, men in exquisite jackets and Loden-Frey coats.
  • Pros: Center of town not far from the Marienplatz, modern decor, close to all the designer boutiques (Theresa is right across), outdoor tables protected from wind so even in winter, one can sit outside.
  • Cons: customers are a bit too showy and flashy, slow service on Saturday afternoons.

(3) Hugo’s Pizza (Promenadeplatz 1): the only place in the center of Munich where you can get real pizza, not the soggy mysterious kind, but thin crust, fresh sauce pizza.

  • Vibe: quiet, elegant little restaurant across the Bayerischer Hof hotel, popular with the lunchtime crowd
  • Pros: delicious pizza, good service, modern chic decor
  • Cons: none really

(4) Sushiya Sansaro (Amalienstrasse 89): excellent Japanese restaurant specializing in sushi next to the University (very close to the Englischer Garten).They have a bento box takeaway in the center, near Marienplatz on Altheimer Eck 1.

  • Vibe: wooden tables, Japanese Zen interior, mix of students, professors, business people and chic ladies-who-lunch
  • Pros: if you’ve had too many sausages, this is the place to come to for healthy, fresh food
  • Cons: very crowded at times, reservations necessary in the evenings

(5) Cafe Konditorei Arzmiller (Theatinerstrasse 2s): indulge in the most wicked pastries and cakes that Munich is famous for in a sunny cafe located in a quiet courtyard (Theatinerhof/Theatinerplatz) near the Odeonsplatz.

  • Vibe: traditional airy cafe in a quiet courtyard, men in “tracht” wearing the traditional Bavarian hat (with feather), elegant women in cashmere coats, one of the few places left in Munich where you can have a civilized afternoon tea in peace.
  • Pros: an amazing selection of pastries such as Nusstorte, Apfeltorte, Herrenschnitte, etc.; good coffee, just the place to fill up after a long walk in the Englischer Garten.
  • Cons: if you are on a diet, this is the worst place to be — how do the regulars manage to stay so thin, you ask yourself as you dig into a creamy luscious Herrenschnitte which you know has about 10,000 calories.

Hotels

(1) Bayerischer Hof (Promenadeplatz 2): Elegant grand hotel in the center with a luxurious spa. Expensive (350 EUR+).

(2) Hotel Cortiina (Ledererstrasse 8): Munich’s most well-known design hotel (if you don’t like the old world feel of Bayerischer Hof).

(3) Hotel Advokat (Baaderstrasse 1): very reasonably priced “somewhat design” hotel about 15 minutes walk from the Marienplatz. The rooms are small but it’s quiet, well-furnished and modern. A favorite of business people who don’t want to stay in a chain hotel.

About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.