With nearly 1,000 years of beer culture, Munich has had plenty of time to fine-tune the art of brewing and drinking beer. The Bavarian capital is famous the world over for its beer and biergarten (beer gardens). Here’s an expert’s guide to where Müncheners go to find shade on a hot summer’s day, drink a cool beer and meet friends, both old and new.
The beer garden tradition started as a way to keep beer cold in the summer months. Before refrigeration, breweries built large cellars and planted chestnut trees to keep beer cool and away from the sun. Since the 19th century, Bavarians have come to the breweries to enjoy a cool drink on a hot day; even as time went on, technology developed, and trees were no longer needed to keep beer cold, the beer garden lived on.
Today, Munich contains a growing number of craft beer manufacturers and organic breweries, alongside the traditional “Big Six” breweries (Paulaner, Augustiner, Hofbräu, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr and Löwenbräu). Here, Christine da Silva of Seehaus beer garden and Johannes Rieger from Paulaner brewery share some of their favourite places to drink beer in Munich.
This lakeside location is buried in the heart of the English Garden, Munich’s most popular (and, arguably, most majestic) park. Watch pedal boats drift by while sipping a cold beer from Paulaner brewery on the sunny terrace. The idyllic spot, which has 2,500 seats, is always well attended by a lively mix of Schwabing locals, students and young families, even in winter. The large menu includes authentic Bavarian fare such as schnitzel, along with vegetarian options such as fruit plates and salads. If you’re not a beer drinker, Bar am Seehaus also serves cocktails and wine. “We’re the only beer garden on the banks of the Kleinhesseloher See,” Da Silva says. “The location is very romantic.”
Voted Munich’s most beautiful beer garden for several years, Paulaner am Nockherberg is a little oasis in the centre of the city. This traditional beer garden lies on the east side of the Isar River near the Deutsches Museum; monks began brewing at this location in 1634 when it was a monastery, and brewing continues to take place today at the in-house Paulaner Brewery. Take a seat in the well-shaded grounds under a canopy of high chestnut trees and enjoy a freshly tapped beer in peace. The adjoining beer hall is famous for its Starkbierfest, which runs every spring.
With seating for more than 8,000 people, Hirschgarten is the largest beer garden in Munich – though it’s tight for space, so be prepared to jostle elbows as you sip an Augustiner beer. The sound of pitchers clinking and the scent of fresh roasted chicken and hearty Bavarian dishes fill the air, along with live music almost every day in the summer months. Most beer gardens have a self-service area where you can sit and eat your own food, along with a serviced area where you can order classic Bavarian dishes from the menu. Grab a Maß (one-litre beer mug) and give a hearty exclamation of “Prost!” to your neighbour (always making eye contact for good luck). The beer garden is located in a former royal hunting preserve, next to a deer enclosure and carousel.
Once a functioning water mill, Insel Mühle is a peaceful beer garden in the west of Munich offering an authentic taste of Bavarian culture. “This is a really nice, smaller beer garden to visit,” Da Silva says, “and the river Würm passes through it”. Here, relax under the shade of the chestnut trees, watching the ducks swim by in the small river, a cold Augustine beer in hand. In keeping with tradition and the Bavarian Beer Garden Ordinance you can bring your own food to the garden or let yourself be tempted by hearty snacks and appetising specialities from the grill.
What started as two friends brewing together in a garage in the Untergiesing neighbourhood has since grown into a beer hall that produces Munich’s most acclaimed craft brews. Giesinger Bräustüberl is a modern beer hall and tasting room filled with heavy wooden tables and views of Untergiesing and Sendling on one side, and the brewing kettle on the other. Try the popular wheat beer or the Giesinger Enlightenment, a flavourful light beer. While the tasting menu fluctuates according to the season, there’s always a variety of unfiltered, unpasteurised Märzen and Pils and some small, experimental batches that are well worth trying.
A welcome respite for joggers and visitors to Westpark, Rosengarten was originally built in 1983 for the International Horticultural Exhibition. Today, a hearty selection of beer garden specialties, such as obatzda (a Bavarian snack made of cheese) and sausage salad are served alongside the Paulaner beers. “There’s a good atmosphere here and the lake is very nice,” Rieger says. The traditional beer benches and tables provide space for up to 1,500 guests and there’s often live music playing. With a number of attractions nearby, including the open-air cinema and Japanese pagoda, the beer garden makes for the perfect place to refuel when visiting Westpark.
Haderner is a small, family-run brewery based in the Munich suburb of Hadern. Opened in 2016, it is the city’s first organic brewery and has a much more independent feel than the city’s traditional beer stops. Stop by and try the refreshing beer, made with ingredients sourced from Bavaria, including traditional Perle hops from the Hersbruck region. Its menu includes staples such as Weißbier and Helles, along with alcohol-free brews and an ever-changing selection of seasonal beers. While the brewery is located a bit outside the city, it is well worth a trip, especially on a Friday when they run tasting sessions. Its calendar also includes regular beer courses and tours, making for a great activity if you want to learn more about Bavaria’s favourite beverage.
At the centre of Munich’s legendary gourmet food market, Viktualienmarkt, you’ll find this traditional 2,000-capacity beer garden – the only one in the city where you can get beer from all six of the different Munich breweries. Local breweries take turns on tap every few weeks, so you never know what will be served ahead of time. In traditional beer garden fashion you can bring your own food, so stock up on snacks from the market’s artisan stalls. Fresh cheeses, hams and olives are just some of the treats on offer.
Meisterstück is an intimate venue selling over 100 types of hand-brewed beer from small breweries around the world. The first thing you’ll notice when you step inside is the smell of smoked ham; along with being a shop, bar and brewery, Meisterstück is also a smokehouse serving Haidhausen sausages and other meaty snacks. Grab one to go from the front shop or sit down and stay a while at one of the tables. While the large menu can be a bit overwhelming, the helpful staff provide great recommendations and samples of the beer on tap. The backyard features a small brewery run by master brewer Werner Schuegraf, along with a peaceful beer garden open during warmer months.
Hofbräukeller is a Munich institution dating back to the 19th century. Set on the banks of the Isar River in the Haidhausen District, the beer garden is a green oasis on busy Wiener Platz. Haidhausen was the centre of Munich’s brewing industry before refrigerators were invented and brewers needed a cool place to store its beer; the area was the perfect place for this due to the high water table and natural caves. Today, Hofbräukeller still serves the world-famous Hofbräu beer and Bavarian snacks from self-service counters. “This is a great local spot,” Da Silva says. “Many families go here.”
Augustiner Keller is a staple favourite of many Munich residents. The 5,000 seat space is one of the oldest beer gardens in the city and traditions are still thriving today. The beer is tapped from wooden barrels; the time to tap a new barrel is signalled by the ringing of a bell. Savour a cold beer and traditional Bavarian dishes among the shade of tall chestnut trees in the garden, or sit indoors in the beer hall or the subterranean cellar once used to keep beer cold.