Nightlife & the Arts in Munich

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Munich Nightlife

Munich has a lively night scene ranging from beer halls to bars to chic clubs. The fun areas for a night out are the City Center, Isarvorstadt (Gärtnerplatz and Glockenbachviertel are arguably the best in the city), and Schwabing around Schellingstrasse and Münchner Freiheit. Regardless of their size or style, many bars, especially around Gärtnerplatz, have DJs spinning either mellow background sounds or funky beats.

However many fingers you want to hold up, just remember the easy-to-pronounce Bier (beer) bit-te (please) when ordering a beer. The tricky part is, Germans don't just produce one beverage called beer; they brew more than 5,000 varieties. Germany has about 1,300 breweries, 40% of the world's total.

In Munich you'll find the most famous breweries, the largest beer halls and beer gardens, the biggest and most indulgent beer festival, and the widest selection of brews. Even the beer glasses are bigger: a Mass is a 1-liter (almost 2-pint) serving; a Halbe is half a liter and the standard size. The Hofbräuhaus is Munich's best-known beer hall, but you'll find locals in one of the English Garden's four beer gardens or in a Wirtshaus (tavern).

In summer, last call at the beer gardens is around 11 pm. Most of the traditional places stay open until 1 am or so and are great for a few hours of wining and dining before heading out on the town. Most bars stay open until at least 3 am on weekends; some don't close until 5 or 6 am.

Munich has hundreds of beer gardens, ranging from huge establishments that seat several hundred to small terraces tucked behind neighborhood pubs; the rest of the beer gardens are a bit farther afield and can be reached handily by bike or S- and U-bahn. Beer gardens are such an integral part of Munich life that a council proposal to cut down their hours provoked a storm of protest in 1995, culminating in one of the largest demonstrations in the city's history. They open whenever the thermometer creeps above 10°C (50°F) and the sun filters through the chestnut trees that are a necessary part of the scenery.

Everybody in Munich has at least one favorite beer garden, so you're usually in good hands if you ask someone to point you in the right direction. You do not need to reserve. No need to phone either: if the weather says yes, then go. Some—but not all—allow you to bring your own food, but if you do, don't defile this hallowed territory with something so foreign as pizza or a burger. Note that Munich has very strict noise laws, so beer gardens tend to close around 11.

There are a few dance clubs in town worth mentioning, but be warned: the larger the venue, the more difficult the entry. In general, big nightclubs are giving way to smaller, more laid-back lounge types of places scattered all over town. If you're really hankering for a big club, go to Optimolwerke in the Ostbahnhof section. Otherwise, enjoy the handful of places around the City Center.

Munich also has a decent jazz scene, and some beer gardens have even taken to replacing their brass oompah bands with funky combos. Jazz musicians sometimes accompany Sunday brunch, too.

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