MUNICH — Just about every tourist in this Bavarian capital eventually ends up at one place in the heart of the city, just a few blocks from the Marienplatz, the bustling city center. It has everything sightseers expect: Comely maidens who can grip five beer steins at a time in one hand, whirling dancers, a whole roasted pig on a spit and plenty of world-class beer.
As the city's No. 1 tourist attraction, it may seem overcrowded and even a little cheesy, but there's no denying the festive spirit.
The Hofbrauhaus, or Public Brewery of Munich, has a long and sometimes inglorious history. Founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, as the brewery adjacent to the royal residence, it later became a popular beer hall.
Notable customers have included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who lived a block away in the late 18th century and claimed to have written the opera Idomeneo after several visits to the beer hall; Vladimir Lenin, who frequented the Hofbrauhaus when he lived here just before World War I; Adolf Hitler, who in 1920 heralded the beginning of the Nazi Party in front of around 2,000 people; and George W. Bush, who visited while a college student during his drinking days.
As the city's No. 1 tourist attraction, it may seem overcrowded and even a little cheesy, but there's no denying the festive spirit and the many varieties of beer to choose from. Among the selections are the original lager, dark beer, wheat beer, naturally cloudy cellar beer, and dark, light or wheat beer with a lemonade mix. A selection of schnapps, including the popular Jagermeister, can accompany any beer.
Our group (guests of United Airlines celebrating the inauguration of non-stop service between Houston and Munich) was ushered upstairs to the massive festival hall, with rows of tables and a stage one end where a couple performed traditional German folk dance routines nearly nonstop. The woman spun like a top but didn't seem the least bit dizzy afterwards.
Because of the size of our party, we had an entire roast pig, but anyone can order a similar meal of crispy roasted suckling pig, potato dumplings and homemade cabbage and bacon salad for less than $15 each.
Thankfully, Munich is made for walking, offering the opportunity to explore the town center after a hearty meal. Streets that fan off from the nearby Marienplatz offer some of the best shopping opportunities in Germany. And three times daily in the summer — at 11 a.m., noon and five — crowds clog the Marienplatz to watch the Rathaus-Glockenspiel unfold on the Town Hall, as 32 rotating figurines act out stories from 16th-century history to a cacaphony of chimes and bells.