Truly one of the most brilliant gems in Munich’s crown is the city’s beer gardens and their associated culture. Not just a place to drink beer, a traditional beer garden is a place for the whole family and is a focal point for local communities as much as it is a very welcoming place for visitors. While it is theoretically possible to stop in a beer garden for a quick lunch, to truly experience a beer garden you should be happy to leave your stresses at the door and while away a good few hours – as the people of Munich say, the fastest thing moving in this town are the waters of the Isar river. Rich in history and tradition, when visiting Munich in the warmer months a few afternoons lazing under the trees with good food and new friends is an experience not to be missed.
The history of beer gardens and their origins in Munich (their world capital) is a long one dating back to the 1500s when Albert V decreed that beer could only be legally brewed in the cooler months of November through to April. This was due to repeated fires stemming from the boiling of mashed grain into an ingredient of beer called Wort. This prohibition meant that beer needed to be brewed then stored, which given the lack of technological cooling solutions at the time meant there were few options other than storage in underground cellars. Over time these cellars developed such that gravel was laid and trees were planted to cool the ground further – thus providing us with the basis of what we now know as a beer garden. This all being established, the first true beer gardens came about in the 1800’s under King Maximilian Joseph I and then his son King Ludwig I. The tradition of beer gardens in Munich has continued since then making their opening in May (beer gardens are only open in warmer weather) a highlight of the year’s social calendar.
Acknowledging that you are able to bring your own food to a traditional Munich beer garden (make sure and sit at a table with no tablecloth – it means there is no wait-service there), it’s also well worth enjoying the food they have on offer there. Traditional fare that most people enjoy would be a half chicken with potato salad or, if you’re particularly hungry, a pork knuckle (“Haxe”) with potato dumplings and pickled cabbage (“Sauerkraut”). There generally is food available to all tastes though, so vegetarians, vegans and other fussy eaters will also quite easily find something hearty & delicious. Naturally it would be appropriate to wash all this good food down while tasting one of the city’s famous lager beers, and if this is how you like to spend your time you’ll find yourself well at home. The most popular beer variety is the Helles and the main brands in Munich are Augustiner, Spaten, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Hacker Pschorr and the beer of the royal court: Hofbräu. They all have their individual charm and there is great debate in Munich about the pros and cons of each brand… so much debate that even a beer sommelier would have trouble adjudicating the discussion. One thing is however certain, Munich beer is some of the best in the world and you won’t regret an afternoon in a beer garden while sampling a few.
- Varies. Late March to September typically.
- Beer gardens are closed on rainy days regardless of the time of year.
- Typically open 10:00 to 23:00