Updated: Jan 30, 2019
A highspeed journey to Munich
We started the day very early and took the ICE high-speed train to Munich main train station. The network of ICE high-speed train covers the entire country of Germany. Munich can be reached direct from all major cities, including the capital Berlin. There is even a direct train service with the French TGV high-speed train from Paris Gare de l’Est, with daily connections to and from Munich. Travel times from Berlin are 4 hours, from Hamburg 5.40 hours and from Frankfurt Main Airport approx. 3.30 hours. 1st and 2nd class coaches provide good comfort: 1st class seats have extended legroom and wider seats with an overall more spacious seating. For 1st class passengers there is a private waiter service for drinks, magazines and newspapers in the carriage. All trains come with a restaurant and bistro on board, so even on longer journeys time flies when making use of the services provided, which also include free Wi-Fi to browse the web, a selection of on demand movies and music channels, which can be streamed for free on your laptop, tablet or other mobile devices. Travelling by train within Europe has many advantages compared with car or air travel. Journeys are mostly between the centre of two cities, so no long drive to an airport or ' roads. No security or passport checks prior to boarding, no check in que and waiting in line and no restrictions on luggage. During the journey one can enjoy the view of passing by scenery, keep active, even if it’s only walking to the next car. Enjoy more space, some seats come in group seating arrangement with tables, or book a four to six persons and family compartments for added privacy. No cramped legroom spaces like on planes, recurring stops for refuelling and possible traffic jams when traveling by car. The German train company Deutsche Bahn, offers various ticket options. Some even include Europe wide travel and/or inclusive of local public transport tickets, entrance tickets to museums or other local attractions.
Munich - the arrival
Upon arrival in Munich Central station, we were greeted and picked up by our pre-arranged transfer from Blacklane. The chauffeur waited at the end of the platform, all platforms in Munich have only one exit. So, if you have a pick up, the person who welcomes you is hard to miss. With three exits, the walk to the nearest car pick-up or drop-off is never longer than two minutes from any point in the station. Hence, we reached the car in a jiffy and the luggage was swiftly stowed in the car that was booked earlier. The comfortable ride in a German premium sedan, that also provides a refreshing drink for its guests and a selection of magazines, through the city of Munich is a safe and easy way to reach your hotel. The drivers are also a knowledgeable source for the latest information. What’s up in the city, how is the weather going to be like and maybe they have some insider tips on latest attractions or events, since they are local experts for the city you're in. Once you arrive at the hotel, your luggage will be taken care of by the driver together with hotel staff and you only have to make your way to the front desk counter for check in. Since Blacklane is part of your booking, you don’t have to worry for the right amount of cash or currency, or whether the driver accepts your credit card, like in taxis for example.
The Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski Munich
We arrived at the Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski and were greeted with a smile and a warm welcome by the porter. We received our ticket stubs for our luggage, all was taken care of so quickly and efficient. As we approached the front desk counter, we were once again greeted with a smile and welcomed to the hotel. A quick enquire about the journey by the front office agent and by providing our names, we received the check-in documents, which were already filled out by the hotel, so no more writing of addresses or names, just double checking and returning to the front office agent. We got a room immediately, even we arrived few hours before the regular check-in time. This is not always the case, but it showed again that service at Kempinski is at a very high level.
Our room was located on the fifth floor and all floors can only be accessed by the room key card, that is an added security feature, so only hotel guests can get to the room floors. A contact less door key system for the room gave us entry, only by touching the card on the door knob. The do not disturb, make up room or door bell is entirely electronically and the status can be seen on a display outside the room and activated only from the room inside itself. A large room with a big window front with much sunlight welcomed us. The king size bed with big bedside tables, a writing desk with stationary amenities, a Nespresso coffee machine, a bathroom with floor to ceiling shower including rainfall ceiling shower and mood lighting, big sink and counter top with hygiene amenities by Salvatore Ferragamo, soft terry bathrobes in the closet and, well stocked minibar with drinks, snacks and other refreshments and also including complimentary mineral water, welcomed us.
A personal note, written by the Manager of the Hotel, added again that little extra touch of service that we already noticed right from the beginning.
After unpacking and settling in, we decided to unwind from the journey at the hotels pool and fitness area on the sixth floor. Again, only hotel guests have access to that area and upon arrival you will have to ring the doorbell to be let in. That ensure privacy and that guests in the pool and fitness area are not being disturbed. The changing facilities have safety deposit boxes and lockers. Bathrobes are available at no cost including the pool towels. The size of the pool is big enough to swim longer laps and the water is well-tempered. There are pool beds and sun lounges in the area indoors and on the terrace, which can be viewed by neighbors, with a nice view overlooking Munich downtown. The Finnish sauna, with a window to view the city, and steam bath area is separated from the main pool area, has its own beds and sun lounges including the different shower types that are required. Another room houses the gym and fitness section with a good choice of equipment. All areas have a drinking station with flavored water and the friendly staff are helpful when it came to questions and also offered magazines and daily international news papers for reading. Time flew by and we were revitalized and energized to head out and explore more of Munich and what the city has on offer for us!
Breakfast at the Schwarzreiter outlet is full buffet style. It spreads out over across three rooms and a bar. A small menu card on the table lets you order different egg dishes, waffles etc. A chef who is constantly checking the buffet also fulfils special requests, should you not find your favourite breakfast item on the buffet. The breakfast rooms never feel crowded as guests are seated in various section of the Schwarzreiter breakfast outlet. Waiters are quick when you order coffee with them or when they clear your finished plates and replace cutleries on your table. The choice of food ranges from healthy to hearty, from very Bavarian to very vegan or vegetarian. A corner with gluten free items is available same as oriental dishes from middle and far east.
When we checked out, the receptionist had everything prepared quickly. A very personal touch was the farewell greeting by the receptionist and the small box of mint pastilles for our journey back home. The porters will take care if your luggage and have it either stowed in their back office, should you depart later, or brought to your car / driver etc. at the entrance. Same as on arrival, we were picked up by Blacklane and the driver was already waiting for us at the agreed time. Again, a very courteous chauffeur, who drove us safe and securely to the Munich central station, the same we arrived few days ago. It only takes two minutes to reach the platform for your train and we had still plenty of time to catch our ICE train out of Munich. For last minute shopping there are book stores with an international selection on newspapers, magazines and books, but also shops for travel essentials and refreshments for the journey. Our train was on time and we boarded the ICE and left Munich with only good memories until the next visit.
Munich down town by day
The Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski is ideally located on Maximilian street in the centre of Munich. We started our first afternoon with a stroll towards Marienplatz which is only ten walking minutes away. Every day at high noon locals and visitors alike gather at the square to watch the carillon at the city hall. Little figurines perform a play together with the melodic ring of bells on one of the towers. A spectacle that every visitor must see at least once.
We continued our day and headed towards Viktualienmarkt, one if not even the most famous open-air market in Germany. Vendors from Munich and the surroundings offer fresh products like vegetables, fruits, flowers, cheese, meat and all other kinds of groceries. There are also seasonal stalls selling decorative, handmade goods. We spent about two hours roaming around, sampling various foods. One will never leave the Viktualienmarkt hungry. Many restaurants serve traditional local and international foods. There is a large Biergarten nestled in the centre of the market underneath chestnut trees, providing shade when the sun is out and, anyone can bring food from one of the vendors to enjoy lunch. We opted for a large cup of cappuccino with a Florentine biscuit from Kaffeerösterei Viktualienmarkt. This place only offers self-service and the wait in the queue can be up to five minutes, but it’s worth the wait. They roast their own beans on the premises and created their own blend of Arabica and Robusta beans, this makes the taste one of its kind. Together with organic milk from farmers of the region, this Cappuccino together with the biscuit is pure bliss on a sunny afternoon. They have a small covered indoor area with standing tables or the open area in the back. Whilst sipping the cup of Cappuccino outside on our high table we watched life continuing on the market. People passing by with their shopping bags, vendors haggling with customers or children playing fetch. Another truly unique shopping experience can be found only few meters away. Eataly, the world’s largest chain of stores that offers entirely Italian products. With 3700 sqm one can choose from the largest selection of imported groceries from Italy that is on display. One part of the hall is lined with restaurants, such as Rossopomodoro or Venchi chocolatiers. The other side offers everything from A like Aceto Balsamico Vinegar to Z like Zaffarano. There is even more, like a book corner, a gift section, kitchen and living accessories and a Bianchi bicycle shop with its own bike service station.
Munich dining in the evening
Munich is southern Germany's hot spot for foodies. From the small corner cafe to the largest Beer and food halls, Munich has it all. Name any type and kind of food, be assured you can find it in Munich. Not always easy to locate, because there are many districts that have a large choice of restaurants and cafes, but you will find your way around and most likely also to the place you're looking for when asking the staff from the Kempinski Hotel, your Uber driver or simply Google Maps on your smart phone. Only a stone’s throw away and with a few months open, we went for dinner at “the spice bazaar”, a Mediterranean and oriental restaurant. The interior reminded me of Moroccan restaurants with a modern touch in terms of design, furniture and lighting.
On two levels you can either dine among other people or opt for more privacy on one of the balcony tables on the mezzanine. The Menu is a modern take on popular staples from and around the Mediterranean region, including Africa and the Middle East. Management and waiters alike were very welcoming and helpful when it came to the selection of dishes. The menu has a large choice of snacks and starters. Some are cold, some served warm, most are vegetarian based and hence not too heavy when looking for a sumptuous dinner. All starters meant to be shared as they come in small bowls. A good variety on meat, fish and
vegetarian option for the main dishes, side orders have to be ordered separately, make the menu complete. At first, we thought that the order we placed was too little. Soon did we realize that we were wrong. Half way through our appetizers we already had to slow down.
Each single dish was prepared to perfection, the right amount of spice and flavours made every plate perfect. Nevertheless, did we manage to complete our meal including the main courses. The steamed Aubergine, spicy avocado mousse and slow roasted beef tenders were our favourite dishes. We concluded that on our next visit we would come with a larger group, so to be able to enjoy more of all the delicious food there was on offer. The restaurant is only walking distance from the Kempinski Hotel in a quiet back yard, just off Maximilian Strasse.
Munich Arts and Culture
With the opera house just next to the Kempinski Hotel and a couple of other venues, the choice is yours what to pick: One of the more modern museums in the area is the Kunsthalle München within the shopping arcade Fünf Höfe. Frequently changing exhibitions of interesting and contemporary modern art and the ideal location makes it ideal for a visit on a rainy day and of course when the exhibition is just something very special. The current exhibition is called “Thrill of deception”. Many pieces on display were gathered from around the globe, many on display for the first time and some had to be restored to be made accessible to public. In general, all the art pieces and installation are so interesting to look at, even for novice art enthusiasts, because of the illusions they portray. With masterful examples from painting, sculpture, video, architecture and design, even the latest virtual reality works, this exhibition weaves a highly entertaining path through the art and history of illusion and appearance. This runs until January, 13 2019 and you should calculate at least 3 hours for a complete visit, anything below will make you miss some of the VR stations, as there is mostly a wait of up to 15 minutes each.
When it comes to Musicals, shows and dance performances Munich has also much to offer. From the smaller cabaret and comedy style shows up to highly acclaimed international hits, you can find it all. The concierge at the Kempinski Hotel can surely help with tickets and last minute reservations. A special show of “Italia con Amore” at the Komödie im Bayerischen Hof was a sold out Italian Musical. The main plot, a modern take on Romeo and Juliet's by William Shakespeare, that was performed at small Italian restaurant named Osteria Azzuro. With countless Italo-Pop music, singing and dancing actors, combined with the funny interpretation of the world’s famous play Romeo and Juliet, made “Italia con Amore” a very amusing and entertaining show.
Munich for the family
Munich also offers many attractions for families that are beyond shopping and the usual entertainment activities. The huge sporting and leisure area in and around the Olympic park are for example perfect to spend the day. Sea Life is a huge water and aquarium park. There are more than 3000 animals and about 150 species. There are 15 themed areas that cover different regions. From the rivers of Bavaria until the largest shark exhibit of Germany. If you are interested in the history and development of BMW cars, the BMW World is exactly the place to visit. In the new and futuristic designed complex, BMW has everything on offer that relates to their long-standing history of one of the world’s famous car makers. The exhibit houses cars and motorbikes from the very early ages until today, including design studies and limited edition models. There is even more to explore, such as the Olympic Tower, the parks and the Munich walk of fame.
At the other end of Munich lies the zoo Tierpark Hellabrunn. Hellabrunn is nestled along the river Isar and covers an area of 40 hectare. A high ratio of enclosures are cageless, relying upon moat features to keep the animals in place. The zoo was the first zoo in the world not organized by species, but also by geographical aspects. That makes the zoo am must visit if you are an animal lover. Walking in the zoo is like wandering through different continents and visiting their wildlife. That is extremely enjoyable if you go with children. Many of the exhibits have regular feeding or grooming times, here the visitor can watch the zookeepers, interacting with the animals. The zoo has added a fairly new area that shows the farms and farm animals from Bavaria, it’s called “Mühlendorf”. With new stables and farmhouses, families can get up close with the day to day farm life. Besides the over 750 species and more than 18000 animals, the zoo also offers a wide variety on food vendors and restaurants, always in line with the theme of the close by exhibits. A large adventure playground is also available. A perfect place to spend the day, calculate at least four to five hours, while in Munich.
Munich for the shoppers
Are you looking for the latest fashion from Milan, Paris or New York? Or the creative trends from local and European designers? Department store or small boutique? Sports or elegant evening wear? You can find anything and almost everything in Munich's buzzing shopping district. The high end and
luxurious designer boutiques are located just nearby. Maximilian Strasse is considered one of Germany's most exclusive shopping streets. Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Cartier have their Flagship stores here, just to name a few. But, also department stores such as Lodenfrey or Oberpollinger, both a bit further away but still walking distance, house various designers under one roof. For the best mix of local and international designers, including accessories and make up / perfumes head to Ludwig Beck am Rathaus Eck.
This department store is an institution in Munich. From Toddler to Adult fashion, here you will find everything you need. A few shopping arcades, including Fünf Höfe are perfect for the whole family. Besides fashion stores there are cafes, book stores and international shops like MUJI from Japan or the Magazin a local store, specialized in home decoration, furniture and unique accessories and gadgets, including the famous Freitag bags from Switzerland. Since Munich is very close to the Alps, here they have an entire department store dedicated to Alpine and Mountain sports and Trekking wear. At Schuster near the Marienplatz, everything and anything for your trekking adventure is available on six floors! Now after a long day of shopping, we recommend to our readers and travellers to take a break and taste another great coffee place in Munich.
Patolli Cafe Bar is close to Sendlinger Tor, so almost at the very end of the pedestrian area and down town shopping district. If you've reached or came so far, this means you've covered a great area and truly deserve to try one of the best coffee places in Munich. They get their coffee from the Tegernseer Kaffeerösterei (a local coffee roaster) which was awarded coffee roaster of the year 2012. Be aware the place is tiny, we would call it cosy. Order a Cappuccino or Latte, they only use organic milk and with their fresh ground brewed coffee beans, a delicious treat after a long day walking in Munich.
Getting around in Munich
Munich has a great and very extensive public transportation network. With the U-Bahn (underground) all major districts are covered and travelling between places is fast and efficient. With the tram line you get to travel over ground, mostly through neighbourhoods, a little slower but worth because of the views while travelling. Certain buses go specific routes, for example the Metroline 52 takes you direct from down town to the zoo.
Widely used is Uber, just as you know it from Jeddah, London or New York. Open the app, select your destination and pick up and wait for your ride. Munich's fleet of Uber is very good, if not almost excellent. Drivers are professionals, cars clean and comfy and many times you get upgrades from Uber X to the next higher class. We recommend Uber instead of Taxis. You don't have to worry about the right amount of change or weather if the driver got your destination point correctly.
Another option is car sharing by Drive Now. BMW and Sixt have partnered up and created the most easy and simple to use car sharing platform. If you are interested to drive your own car every now and then, including the fully battery charged BMW i1, then this is the best choice.
Please feel free to conatact firstname.lastname@example.org if you like to book a trip to Munich Germany.
December 2018 © Copyright Pearls of Switzerland, Text and pictures by Toni Riethmaier and Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski Munich