Living in: Munich
Lehel, a neighbourhood in Munich's Old Town, is home to many foreign embassies. (Franz Marc Frei/Look/Getty)
The Bavarian burghers of Munich are rightly smug in their city’s secure position over the last decade as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Munich is one of Germany’s strongest economic centres; blessed with a central European location near the Alps with plenty of green spaces and a sophisticated cultural life. This is a prosperous big city with a cosy small-town feel, whose residents revel in their hometown’s pleasant streets and bonhomie.
What is it known for?
Munich hosts one of the world's most famous municipal celebrations, known globally as Oktoberfest (although it is in fact held at the end of September) and known to locals as Wiesn (from the grassy expanse where it is held called Theresienwiese). “We don’t actually call the big glasses steins, but masskrug,” said Annette Liebau, a management trainer who has lived in Munich for 12 years with her husband and two children. “But we all love [the festival]!” And in fine weather, you will find Münchners outside in the city’s numerous biergartens (beer gardens) or strolling the green lawns of large parks such as the Englischer Garten.
Zoning and height restrictions limit constructions in the city centre from being more than 99m high. This keeps the city’s low rise and open feel intact, and the medieval and Gothic architecture that has been preserved or rebuilt post World War II -- including the iconic Frauenkirche cathedral -- gets to shine. “[Munich] has the benefits of a large city culturally speaking, but everything is within easy reach,” Liebau said. “In summer, you can swim in the [Isar] river and barbecue on the river banks.” The city’s spectacular stadium, the Allianz Arena, whose exterior changes colours depending on the events and teams playing there, was built for the 2006 World Cup and is now home of the Bayern Munich football club.
Modern Munich is Germany’s Silicon Valley, with thousands of high-tech companies and the headquarters for many media, finance and automotive and aerospace industries, including BMW, which has offices in the north of the city. These businesses attract a large international and expat population to live and work.
Where do you want to live?
The city’s neighbourhoods radiate out from the Marienplatz, the square at the centre of town, and the most desirable neighbourhoods are some of the oldest and most central. Lehel, in the Old Town, is home to many foreign embassies; Schwabing to the north is traditionally popular and has many bars and restaurants; Bogenhausen to the east is across from the Englischer Garten, with beautiful blocks of historic housing and parks; and well-preserved Haidhausen to the south is near the Isar River.
Other increasingly popular areas are Glockenbachviertel, known locally as GBV, a trendy and traditionally gay neighbourhood, with a hip scene centred around the bars and boutiques near Gärtnerplatz traffic circle. “It’s a little bit like Berlin,” Liebau said. The neighbourhoods in Sendling, southwest of the Marienplatz, and Giesing across the Isar River are where people look for value for money.
“If someone is looking for a villa a bit out of the centre, areas to the south of the city are very attractive,” said Konstantin Wettig, a managing partner of Engels & Völkers estate agents. These include the districts of Harlaching, and the tony areas of Grünwald, Solln and Pullach.
The Alps are just a short hop away and Munich residents take advantage of their breathtaking location in all seasons. In winter, they take to the slopes of resorts like Kitzbühel in Austria’s Tyrol and Garmisch in Bavaria. “It is only an hour or two by car to fantastic resorts in Germany and Austria,” said Liebau. In summer they hike those same slopes or head to the German lakes of Tegernsee, Starnberger See and Bodensee, the last of which lies on the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, or even farther afield to Lake Garda in Italy.
Vienna and Zurich are both around a four-hour drive away, and Munich has excellent rail connections to cities in Germany and around Europe. Munich Airport is a Lufthansa hub and is one of the busiest airports on the continent. London is a two-hour flight and New York and Washington DC are both around eight hours by air.