Munich Beyond the Tourist Trail: City Surfing, a Marvelous Chapel, and the Best Beer Garden
On my trip to Munich less than two weeks ago, I wanted to see more than just the stereotypical Hofbrauhaus, art museums, and historic palaces. I wanted to go where the tourist don’t venture. Here are my top two favorite, rarely seen experiences in Munich.
#1 A Jaw-Dropping Chapel
This extraordinary, yet small, church is located on one of Munich’s most popular and high end shopping streets, but you might not even notice it when walking by. We almost passed right by it! It’s the Asam Church, or Asamkirche in German, located at Sendlinger Strasse 32 in Munich (see “locations” below).
The entrance is fairly humble, except for the astonishing carved boulders, and the facade is only 22 x 8 meters wide. Don’t let the exterior fool you because once you step inside, your jaw will drop almost to the marble floor.
The inside is an absolutely stunning example of over-the-top, late Baroque architecture, the likes of which I’ve never seen in such a small space. Technically named the Church of St. Johann Nepomuk, the Asam church was built as a private chapel by two wealthy brothers, whose last name was Asam, hence the name. Imagine having this as your private place of worship! One of the brothers could actually look into the church to watch mass through a window from his mansion next door. That’s what I call high end worship! Other than the extraordinary amount of decoration literally everywhere, the most amazing thing to see is the ceiling. Look up to see (see the picture below) what appears to be a dome but actually is flat and painted to be an optical illusion.
Despite all of the opulence, you might forget that this a place of worship, so the church is filled with biblical imagery to remind you. My favorite was at the entrance. A gilded grim reaper, in the form of a skeleton, cuts the thread of life, which is being held by a gilded cherub. It’s a simple, yet striking, reminder that life is fleeting, so enjoy it while you can. Speaking of living it up, the second of my favorite sites in Munich is even more unexpected . . . .
#2 – Hanging Ten!
When I was first read about places to go in Munich, I thought to myself “why would I want to go to yet another large park?” Despite my hesitation, I decided to venture out to the English Garden, Europe’s largest urban park, to see what all the fuss was about, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw surfers! Yes, surfing in the middle of a huge city.
The Eisbach, or Ice Brook in German, is a man-made river that runs through the English Garden. The river has a strong current, so if you get in, you will float downstream. If you’re in Munich on a warm day, go for it!
If you want to see some city surfing, head to the very southern edge of the English Garden, close to where the park meets Prinzregent Strasse. See “locations” below.
The surfers line up along the sides and takes turns jumping in to ride the one meter high wave. You’ll see surfers of all ages and levels of experience. Some do fancy moves, while others wipe out as soon as they hit the wave. We watched for a good 20 minutes, which
made for free and unexpected entertainment. If you look behind you, you’ll notice swimmers who have floated down the river to this point. They’re holding on, with what seems like desperation, to a chain across the river, and waiting for a break in the surfing to glide over the waves themselves, minus the surf board. It’s amusing to watch the faces and listen to the exclamations of the swimmers while they try to hold on, in the face of the current, and wait for the surfers to give them their chance.
Since you’re at the English Garden, why not check out its beer garden? It was our favorite in Munich. From the location of the surfers, it’s only a ten minute walk through the park. Follow the signs for the Chineischer Turm Biergarten (Chinese Tower beer garden). This beer garden is immensely enjoyable in the evening, and you won’t need a reservation because there are 6,000 seats! It’s centered around a Chinese pagoda which doubles as a stage for live Bavarian bands at lunch and dinner time. I recommend the Weisswurst (boiled white sausages which are a specialty of Munich – be sure to peel off the casing before you eat them!) and the giant pretzel. Greg recommends the dark beer, or Dunkles Bier in German. You could also try Steckerlfisch, which is a whole fish cooked on a skewer, or what I call German fish on a stick.
Location of the Surfers- Eisbachwelle
Click on the map for directions. Head to the very southern edge of the English Garden, close to where the park meets Prinzregent Strasse. It’s next to the Haus der Kunst (an art museum).
The Asam Church
It’s near the intersection of Sendlinger Strasse and Singlspielerstrasse. Click on the map for directions.
Chineischer Turm Biergarten (Chinese Tower Beer Garden)
Inside the English Garden. Click on the map for directions. You can walk from seeing the surfers at Eisbachwelle, of if you’re not already there, take the U3 or U6 to the Universitat stop and then walk.