As a tourist destination, Munich is Germany's most popular city, particularly in the fall when Oktoberfest brings millions of visitors to the Bavarian capital.

In late September and through October there may be no better place to be in Europe than Southern Bavaria. The weather is the best of all the year, the leaves are turning, special beers are brewed and, of course, it is Oktoberfest, Munich's state-fair-to-the-10th-power beer festival.

Some travelers, reasoning that summer vacations in the U.S. are over, expect September and October to also be off-season in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It doesn't work that way. Last year, says the Munich Tourist Office, a staggering 6.7 million people visited the Oktoberfest (o.k., o.k., they didn't all stagger). Most of those folks didn't just spend two or three days in Munich and then go back home. No, they also took in Salzburg, Innsbruck, Vienna, Lyon, Paris, Milan, Rome, Zürich, and points in between; in short, the Oktoberfest creates a tourism ripple that washes over the whole of southern Europe.

It's a great time to be there, but don't expect to be alone especially during Oktoberfest; this year Sunday, September 21 to Sunday, October 6 (it always ends on the first Sunday in October).

Those who plan to be in Munich for this year's festival should already have hotel reservations. If you don't have them yet try the Munich Tourist Office's accommodations service listed on page 4.

Munich is, according to a survey we took a couple of years ago, the city most visited by Gemütlichkeit readers. And for good reason: the capital of Bavaria offers clean streets; a wealth of culture that, with an influx of eastern Europeans since the fall of communism, is becoming increasingly diverse; a unique cuisine and renowned beer.

Earlier this year we spent a few days rediscovering Munich. In our report which follows, you'll see, in addition to a couple of new spots, that we returned to some favorite restaurants and hotels. Those headed for Munich this fall might also want to refer to the January, 1992 issue of Gemütlichkeit.

Munich Hotel Update

Hotel Exquisit

We enthusiastically recommended this hotel when it first opened in 1989. In three return visits including one this year we have found no reason to amend that endorsement. Public and guestrooms are maintained in excellent condition.

The Exquisit's two-level maisonettes are an excellent value in a luxury room and, for an additional 10 to 30 DM ($7-$20) per night, the hotel offers substantially more than the two dozen or so Munich three-star properties we have reviewed over the years.

The Exquisit's location, just outside the Ring, near the Sendlinger Tor, is about halfway between the Marienplatz and the Oktoberfest grounds.

• Daily Rates: Singles 195 DM ($133), double rooms 280 DM ($190), maisonettes and suites 340 DM ($231).. 50 rooms, some designated nonsmoking. Disabled accessible. Parking garage (14 DM/$9.50 per day). No restaurant.
Contact: Hotel Exquisit, Pettenkofer Str. 3, D-80336 Munich, tel. 089/551 9900, fax 089/551 99499.
Rating: Quality 15/20, Value 16/20

Hotel Adria

This hotel has long been recommended by Gemütlichkeit for its excellent location, moderate prices and pleasant, airy rooms. We are sorry to say, however, that it has slipped.

We still like the location, near the Englischer Garten and only a 15-minute walk from the city center, and rates are slightly below most Munich hotels in its category, but the time has come for refurbishment. Carpets are threadbare, furniture and built-ins are beginning to show signs of wear and the general look of the hotel, both inside and out, is one of deterioration.

Worst of all, desk personnel don't seem especially interested in their guests.

On the positive side, our room Number 306 had a bathroom that had recently been redone (though the workmanship was less than perfection) and the large walk-in closet was handy.

This is still a decent mid-priced Munich headquarters, it's just not as spiffy as before and not the value it once was.

• Daily Rates: Singles 120 to 180 DM ($82-$122), doubles 180-210 DM ($122-$143). 46 rooms. Not suitable for disabled. Street parking with permit. No restaurant.
Contact: Hotel Adria, Liebigstrasse 8a, D-80538 Munich, tel. 089/293081, 089/227015.
Rating: Quality 9/20, Value 10/20

Hotel Domus

When we first reviewed the Domus, in 1992, we liked its facilities but thought it overpriced. Since then, however, the hotel has held its prices and is now a better value than the nearby Adria.

Guestrooms are attractively decorated with polished cherrywood Thonet-style furniture and better equipped than most hotels in this category. The lovely breakfast room features large windows and a private outdoor terrace which is used on good weather mornings.

The Domus is in an excellent, quiet neighborhood a couple of blocks closer to the Marienplatz than the Adria and the stairway down to the Lehel U-Bahn stop is just outside its front door.

• Daily Rates: Singles 188 to 220 DM ($128-$150), doubles 220 to 250 DM ($150-$170), apartments 290 DM ($197). 45 rooms, some nonsmoking. No restaurant. Hotel garage.
Contact: Hotel Domus, St.-Anna-Strasse 31, D-80538 Munich 22, phone 089/221704, fax 089/2285359.
Rating: Quality 15/20, Value 14/20

Hotel Platzl

In the old quarter across from the Hofbräuhaus the sprawling Hotel Platzl offers 167 rooms in a reconstructed medieval building.

A standard double, like Number 150, has a separate sitting area that includes an overstuffed chair and a sofa and most other big-hotel amenities. Decor and furnishings are alike in all rooms.

This is one of Germany's 150 Ring Hotels and can be booked in the U.S. for the guaranteed dollar rate of $85 per person single and $65 per person double. The Platzl adds a local surcharge of 40 DM ($27) which makes the total double room price approximately $157, excellent for a centrally located four-star hotel. (Please note that the Platzl's value rating is based on the rack rates listed below.)

• Daily Rates: Singles 220 to 285 DM ($150-$294), doubles 290 to 410 DM ($197-279). 167 rooms, some nonsmoking. Fitness center. Garage.
Contact: Hotel Platzl, Sparkassenstrasse 10, D-80331 Munich, tel. 089/23703-3, fax 089/23703 800. U.S. bookings: 800-558-6850.
Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 8/20

Hotel an der Oper

Gemütlichkeit first recommended this small inn, just off Maximilianstrasse, in 1987. We still like it, especially the central location.

An der Oper's small, but elegant lobby beckons passersby and its 55 contemporarily decorated rooms are functional.

• Daily Rates: Singles 140 to 165 DM ($95-$112), doubles 195 to 270 DM ($133-186). 55 rooms. Parking available in nearby public garage.
Contact: Hotel an der Oper, Falkenturmstr. 10, D-80311 Munich 2, tel. 089/290 0270 fax 089/2900 2729.
Rating: Quality 12/20, Value 12/20

(Editor's Note: When booking rooms at the above hotels, always inquire about special rates or programs such as weekend packages.)

Restaurants

Gasthof Liebighof

In the early 80s, this cozy neighborhood Gästatte served plain but well-prepared Bavarian meals and we often ate here. A few years ago the restaurant changed hands and became a trendy bar with loud music. The good food and the warm family feeling departed.

However, about a year ago, we were told the gemütlich atmosphere had returned and Liebighof was again a place that served good food.

Not so. We could live with the restaurant being made up to look like an English pub, with ersatz memorabilia decorating the walls, but we draw the line at microwave heated meals.

Two small salads and main dishes of pork fillet and roast lamb, both covered with a gelatinous, heavily salted gravy, cost 60 DM ($41).

Ghastly food; an emphatic thumbs down.

Gasthof Liebighof, Liebigstrasse 14, D-80538, tel. 089/295405.
Rating: Quality 3/20 Value 5/20

Café Lehel

The Liebighof dinner was so hideous we sought dessert elsewhere. About three blocks away is the Café Lehel, an Italian style bistro. There we each had an after-dinner drink (Calvados 4.5 DM/$3; Glühwein 5.5 DM/$3.75) and a dessert; nothing breathtaking or out of the ordinary but very good. Tiramisu (6.5DM/$4.50), which in the last few years has become nearly as ubiquitous as Coca Cola, was better than average and the vanilla ice cream with hot, fresh raspberries was all one could ask for in the standard, but delicious Eis mit Himbeeren (7.5DM/$5.10).

Next time we'll have dinner here.

Café Lehel, Seitzstrasse 12, D-80538, tel. 089/229139.

Zum Bürgerhaus

The restaurant's charming interior features light-colored, rough-hewn beams and tables, chairs and benches in the same light wood. There are white table cloths and napkins, but fake flowers.

Each member of our party of three ordered the five-course, fixed-price menu priced at 73 DM ($50).

With memories of past Zum Bürgerhaus meals dancing in our heads as we sipped Paulaner beer and a suggested champagne cocktail, we were primed for some first-class cooking. Sadly, our expectations were dashed by a succession of boring, tasteless dishes.

The first of them, a "gift of the house," was diced, cooked vegetables in aspic served dry and bland. A snappy sauce, perhaps one with a creamy, horseradish base, might have helped.

Only the menu disclosed that the next dish, an avocado mousse with shrimp, actually contained avocado. The dish was heavy, more like a quenelle, and dry.

Buttery, tricolored, bow-tie pasta had a mysterious but punchless sauce and was draped with shredded red cabbage.

The main course, consisting of five tough slices of duck, was too dry and too bland to be presented as it was, without sauce.

Accompanying it were over-steamed zucchini, celery, carrots and asparagus. Spinach, a vegetable that is hard to overcook, was better.

Maybe the too-peppery scalloped potatoes was an attempt to spice things up a bit.

We politely declined when asked if we would like to take a 15-minute break between the pasta and the main course but got it anyway. It couldn't have been because they were busy in the kitchen, only a handful of tables were occupied (always a bad sign). Maybe the cook had to run next door to borrow a cup of bland.

For dessert, a rubbery chocolate-mint mousse from a package? served with canned pineapple, frozen strawberries and a watery raspberry syrup completed a thoroughly dreary, disappointing meal.

There's more: plates had wipe marks around the edges where drops from serving had been cleaned off; thumb prints were in the wipe marks and the silver forks needed cleaning between the tines.

On the positive side were the background music, a mix of classical "hits," a good waitress and the wine, Chianti Classico Briente 94, DOCG Castelli di Grevepesa (35 DM/$24).

Total cost of the dinner for three persons was 295 DM ($201). We wouldn't go back for a third the price.

Zum Bürgerhaus, Pettenkoferstrasse 1, D-80336 Munich, tel. 089/597909, fax 089/9304313.
Rating: Quality 3/20 Value 2/20

Munich Notes

• Despite its guidebook reputation as overrated, touristy and raucous, we always have one beer at the famed Hofbräuhaus. The band is very good, though it takes too many breaks. On a Sunday afternoon the main ground-floor room was sedate, clean and remarkably smoke-free; perhaps the ventilation has been improved. The Hofbräuhaus is now state-owned.

• Walkers will enjoy Nymphenburg Palace with its miles of paths through forests and gardens. Don't miss the Botanical Gardens especially the remarkable cactus displays and intensely humid tropical greenhouses or the Carriage Museum which displays the incredibly ornate horse-drawn carriages and sleighs of the Wittelsbach family, including some that belonged to Ludwig II, Bavaria's so-called "mad" king.

• Munich's Englischer Garten is another great place for walkers but be advised that on fine weather days there is a good deal of nude sunbathing. The park's Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) beer garden is recommended.

• Another beer garden popular with locals is Waldwirtschaft on the river. There is free jazz every day from 4 p.m. Take the S-7 to Solln.

• Munich's underground rail system (U-Bahn) is very good and not expensive. 12 DM ($8) buys a Tages Partner Karte (partner day ticket) that allows two persons to travel together from 9 a.m. one day until 6 a.m. the next. The surface rail (S-Bahn) system is free with a Eurail Pass, though if you have a Flexipass you probably won't want to waste one of your days of travel on a streetcar ride.

• Get money from an ATM that takes both Cirrus and Plus cards next to the McDonald's at Karlsplatz at the Karlstor.

• Bikes can be rented at Mike's Bike Tours (25 DM/$17 per day includes bike, lock and map) at 11:30 a.m. at the east end of the Marienplatz. Call the day before to reserve at 651-4275.

Munich Found, an English-language magazine about the city, is available at newsstands for 4 DM ($2.75).

• Purchase Birkenstock sandals at Bergermaier, Sendlinger Str. #41, just south of the Marienplatz.

• For great clothes in the Trachten/Loden style try Frankonia Jagd at Maximilliansplatz 10. Expensive.

Press Clippings

From a recent New York Times we clipped an article by Munich resident, John Dornberg, for many years a Times European correspondent.

In it he mentions two budget hotels: Blauer Bock, 9 Sebastiansplatz, in the center, with 76 rooms, some with shared baths. Doubles are $71 to $114; and The Astoria, 9 Nikolaistrasse, in Schwabing, Munich's students' and artists' quarter. The 26 rooms are decorated with contemporary art and double are $110 to $125.

In summing up the Munich restaurant scene, Mr. Dornberg notes the closing last October of Aubergine once a Michelin three-star restaurant. In its place he recommends Tantris, 7 Johann-Fichte-Strasse, two Michelin stars, where dinner for two costs $250 to $300 without wine. A small step below that is Le Gourmet, on the second floor of the Restaurant Schwarzwalder, 8 Hartmann Strasse.

A recommended newcomer is Gasthaus Glockenbach ($140 to $200 for two plus wine), 29 Kapuziner Strasse, in a seedy neighborhood where the French German-Bavarian fare is "imaginative."

Dornberg calls Le Cezanne, 1 Konradstrasse, specializing in Provençal fare, "one of the best of Munich's 100 or so French bistros." Dinner for two is $75 to $100 plus wine.

Restaurant Glockenspiel, 28 Marienplatz, is on the top floor of a building on Marienplatz with views of the Rathaus tower. A three-course dinner for two, including a carafe of wine, costs around $100.

Weinstadl, 5 Burgstrasse, in a 15th century house, serves "refined Bavarian-German international" cuisine. Dinner for two is $80 to $100 plus wine or beer.

In the café/pastry shop category Mr. Dornberg recommends Café Rischart, 18 Marienplatz, and Café Annast, 18 Odeonsplatz where soup and a sandwich for two cost $15 to $20 and cake and coffee for two is $10 to $15.

August 1996