The very idea of an ‘English’ country park in the middle of Germany’s third city set a precedent for incorporating different cultural influences in the park. As part of the 1972 Olympic celebrations, a Japanese teahouse was given as a gift to Bavaria from the head of a famous Kyoto tea school, Soshitsu Sen. Turns out Munich had the perfect place for it: you’ll find the pretty teahouse on a purpose-built island in the Schwabinger stream.
Not too far from the teahouse, you’ll switch cultures again to find the Chinese Tower. It’s actually Munich’s second largest tower, standing at 25 metres (82 feet) high. Originally built from wood, the tower hasn’t had much luck staying put and has burnt down several times over the years. However, each time it’s been faithfully reconstructed based on the original design from 1789. It may be the ‘Chinese’ Tower, but Munich has put its spin on it: at the base of the tower, you’ll find a beer garden that can seat 7,000 people. It also becomes the spot for a popular Christmas market in winter.
The Chinese Tower isn’t the only beer garden in the Englischer Garten; as you stroll northwards, you’ll find the Kleinhesseloher Lake with a sunny beer garden right on the shore. Packed as soon as the first rays of spring hit, you’re allowed to bring food for a picnic by the lake. If you’re feeling energetic, there are motor boats and pedalos available to rent – just watch out for the geese! If the weather lets you down, you can also pop inside to the Seehaus restaurant to stay dry while eating traditional Bavarian food.
For an even better view, head to the Monopteros. This circular Greek-style temple has incredible views out over Munich. Originally built from wood, a stone construction of a similar style replaced it in 1836. It was the brainchild of King Ludwig I; after deciding a Greek temple was just what his Englischer Garten needed, the 15-metre-high (49.2 feet) hill was constructed from bricks left over from building work on the Residenz, and then covered with earth. Today, it’s equally popular for sunbathing in summer, tobogganing in winter, and provides great views year-round.
Last but not least, between the Monopteros and the Japanese teahouse lies one of the Englischer Garten’s quirkiest features – the nudist area. Germans are generally very comfortable with public nudity (just visit a sauna), and naked sunbathing has been allowed here since the 1960s. This area, the Schönfeldwiese or Schönfeld meadow, is just one of six designated ‘urban naked zones’ in the city.