Bigger than New York's Central Park and London's Hyde Park, this seemingly endless green space blends into the open countryside at the north of the city. It was a former favorite royal hunting ground until partly opened to the public by Benjamin Thompson, later Count Rumford, a great American-British reformer and scientist. Born in Massachusetts, he left after siding with the British during the Revolutionary War. Thompson's Munich garden plans were expanded upon and the park became a gift from Elector Karl Theodor to the people of Munich. Today's park covers nearly 1,000 acres and has 78 km (48 miles) of paths, 8½ km (5¼ miles) of streams, and more than 100 bridges. The open, informal landscaping—reminiscent of the rolling parklands with which English aristocrats of the 18th century liked to surround their country homes—gave the park its name. It has a boating lake, five beer gardens, and a series of curious decorative and monumental constructions, including the Monopteros, a
Greek temple designed by Leo von Klenze for King Ludwig I, and built in 1837 on a manmade hill in the southern section of the park. There are great sunset views of Munich from the Monopteros hill. In the center of the park's most popular beer garden is a Chinese pagoda, erected in 1790. It was destroyed during the war and then reconstructed. The Chinese Tower beer garden is hugely popular, but the park has prettier places for sipping a beer. Aumeister, for example, along the northern perimeter, is in an early-19th-century hunting lodge. At the Seehaus, on the shore of the Kleinhesseloher See, choose between a smart restaurant or a cozy Bierstube (beer tavern) in addition to the beer garden right on the lake.
The Englischer Garten is a paradise for joggers, cyclists, musicians, soccer players, sunbathers, and, in winter, cross-country skiers. The park has semi-official areas for nude sunbathing—the Germans have a positively pagan attitude toward the sun—so in some areas don't be surprised to see naked bodies bordering the flower beds and paths.