There’s more to Munich than beer, BMW and Bayern Munich, as SUE SMITH discovered, but what she hadn’t bargained for was just how enjoyable the process of getting there was going to be

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive... Robert Louis Stevenson

NEVER have I wanted more time to spend at an airport than on a recent trip to Munich.

It started at Southampton. Now there’s a breeze to get to from Wiltshire. Easy parking with a hop and a skip into the terminal.

And just when I was thinking this is exactly what travel should be like, it got better.

We were flying with BMI and the first stop was the VIP room with its myriad of breakfasts and drinks on offer.

With not a hint of fuss or panic when our flight was called we were miraculously only steps from the gate, unlike some airports where you feel you are actually going to walk all the way to your destination.

The planes are small from Southampton due to the size of the runway but the welcome and the customer service is larger than life.

A few budget airline trips at the end of last year left me thinking life was just too short to be carolled around like cattle.

But this was just the ticket. Smiling, helpful staff, decent sandwiches and complimentary drinks for the short flight put me right in the mood for a good trip.

Then we arrived in Munich, Europe’s only five star airport and it’s not hard to see why. If I hadn’t just stepped off a plane I could easily have forgotten I was in transit.

There are ski-chalets and all manner of alpine lodges where you can eat and drink. People travel in from the centre for an evening out with no intention of boarding an aircraft, and it couldn’t look less like an airport terminal.

When we arrived the Christmas markets were in full swing. This is a magical time to visit as it is steeped in tradition.

We made our way to the airport brewery (yes, the airport has its own brewery) - Airbrau, opened in 1999, serving traditional Bavarian dishes and five seasonal beers a year for 2.75 Euro each, the cheapest beer in Munich.

There are so many positives to this airport - a visitor park for families, Kinderland with its jungle gyms for tots, and lo and behold it also makes its own honey.

The ecosystem is high on the agenda here with vehicles running on diesel with vegetable oil and bio-ethanol.

Shrubs and trees are kept to a minimum to reduce bird strikes and the airport has been monitoring the honey from its bees since 2008. The thinking behind it is that bees won’t make honey if the air is polluted and Munich is well below the threshold of values for the EU regulations.

Reluctantly we had to move on. There was, after all, a whole city to explore.

We checked into the Maritim Hotel, ideally placed for metro travel and within walking distance of most points of interest. It’s a nice blend of efficiently corporate and individual at the same time. There’s a cosy bar and a rooftop pool to work off the calories the next day.

Dinner on the first night was at Donisl, an authentic Bavarian restaurant in the heart of Munich’s Marienplaz.

Its history dates back to 1715 and it is famous for its scrumptious roast pork and dumplings.

Less positive is its notoriety for drugging its customers way back. The story goes that one unscrupulous owner would put KO drops into diner’s drinks to knock them out after which they would then be robbed of their valuables. The restaurant has embraced the folklore and now sells Donisl OK hazelnut schnapps to keep the memory (but not the practice) alive.

Munich is a city where you walk and walk. I clocked up around 16,000 steps every day. There is so much to see and the architecture is breathtaking.

Given that so much of it was bombed in the Second World War it is incredible to see how it has all been put back to its former glory with such care and creativity.

Around every corner there’s a wow moment as you soak up the intricate details on the buildings, exquisite churches and, of course, the Rathaus-Glockenspiel in the heart of the city, with its 43 bells and 32 life-size figures, which strikes up every day at 11am and 5pm, drawing in a mass of tourists.

The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm to Renata of Lorraine. There’s a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria. The second half represents the Coopers dance during the plague in 1517. The dancers were said to have danced through the streets to ‘bring fresh vitality to fearful dispositions.’

Michael Jackson visited in 1997 and that was enough to build a memorial to him in full view of the hotel in which he stayed.

We explored the Olympic Park, site of the 1972 Olympics, in driving rain which somehow made it all the more sad. The purpose-built venue now stands empty, a sad reminder of its glory days begging the question what to do with it now.

Nearby is the BMW museum, celebrating the legendary car manufacturer and known as the Cathedral of Cars.

The vast showroom shows off the company’s entire range from sedans to Mini’s and even Rolls Royces and the staff wax lyrical about the pomp and pageantry that surrounds the collection of a BMW by its new owner. The process is similar to the Oscars.

We ended our trip with cocktails at the Maritim and dinner in the hotel’s Wintergarten Restaurant which included a sumptuous buffet of hot and cold regional specialities.

For me, this was my second trip to Germany, the first being to Berlin, and I was left wondering why the country had been so far down my list of places to visit.

I intend to explore further but next time I will factor in extra time for the airports.


BMI flies up to twice times daily between Southampton and Munich. Fares on the route start from £74 one way and include 23kg hold luggage, allocated seating, complimentary in-flight drinks and snacks and speedy 30 minute check-ins.

The Maritim Hotelgesellschaft is Germany’s largest owner-managed hotel group. It has 33 properties across Germany as well as hotels Mauritius, Egypt, Turkey, Malta, Spain and China. For more information go to