How To Visit The Hofbrahaus – Munich’s Most Famous Attraction!

As you probably know, the Hofbräuhaus is one of Munich’s (and one of Bavaria’s) most famous tourist destinations, especially for beer drinkers, and its name is recognized worldwide.  In fact, it dates back to 1589, is one of Munich’s six breweries, and its now owned by the Bavarian state government.  In my experience, the Hofbrähaus is a great place to visit as a tourist, especially for first-timers!  I always take first-time Munich travelers to the Hofbräuhaus on one of the first nights!

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Craig, Dan, me, and Pryor on Craig’s and Pryor’s first night in Munich!

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Restaurant Review: Geisel’s Vinothek – An Impressive Find Near Munich’s Train Station

I’ve come and gone through Munich’s train station a number of times over the years, and even stayed in the area out of convenience, and every single time I struggle to find a decent place to eat!  Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of restaurants near Munich’s main train station, but most are of the fast food and budget quality.  While this isn’t always the worst, I  wanted to find a nice, non-budget restaurant near the train station for my trip to Oktoberfest this year (as I was staying nearby at the Aloft on points!).  After lots and lots of searching, results steered me toward Geisel’s Vinotehk!

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The interior.

 

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Munich During Oktoberfest – Eurotrip 2014

The second stop on Eurotrip2014 was Munich, Germany (or München, in German) for Oktoberfest, and just because we love Munich!  Munich is the capital and largest city in the State of Bavaria in the South of Germany.  Munich (and the whole of Bavaria) has a very specific culture, and is very proud of that culture. Think beer, leiderhosen, pretzels – that’s Bavarian!  This was my third trip to Munich, and I was very excited to hit a few places that have long been on my wish list, but that I had not previously had time to visit.

Visiting Munich during Oktoberfest is a beast in itself.  Munich is extremely crowded and much of the city is focused on Oktoberfest – meaning some attractions will be closed all together, such as tours of the major Munich breweries, or on certain, unspecified days (to allow its employees to enjoy Oktoberfest with family & friends).  Weekends are the most crowded.  When we visited, we got stuck walking to our hotel for about an hour while the Costume and Rifleman’s Parade passed.  It was cool to see, but very unexpected.  Most attractions, aside from the brewery tours, will be open for most of Oktoberfest, so if you keep a flexible attitude you will be fine.  Also, hotels book up extremely early (AT LEAST 6 months in advance).  We booked our hotel in February.  Be guided accordingly.  You DO NOT want to be stuck at Oktoberfest without a place to stay!  I also recommend confirming the opening hours of all must see attractions, tours, etc. before leaving home and buying transportation before arriving in Munich.  Trains, planes and buses book up, too!

Enough warning, Munich is a great city anytime, and especially during Oktoberfest!  Per usual, our first stop was the Hofbräuhaus for lunch and beer!  Hofbräu is one of the large six breweries in Munich (along with Löwenbräu, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Paschor and Spaten), and certainly the most famous in the US.  Dan is a big fan of the Hofbräuhaus because they have a lot of pork dishes that are not very expensive.  Actually, none of the food at Hofbräu is very expensive – its a solid budget option.

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We had planned to go shopping after lunch, but all of the shops were closed on Sunday (take note – all shops in Munich are closed on Sunday).  Instead, we checked out another famous beer hall, Augusinerbräu, which is also one of the big six Munich breweries.  This was my first visit to Augustiner and I really enjoyed it.  Augustiner had an atmosphere similar to Hofbräu, but was decidely less touristy.  We drank beers, listened to the band and made some new friends.  After Augustiner, we went to bed to prepare for Oktoberfest!

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Our other non-Oktoberfest day in Munich  was dedicated to the city and its history.  First up was one of my favorite places in Munich, the Viktualienmarkt.  The Viktualienmarkt is a huge, open-air market in the center of Munich.  Its open everyday and contains stalls selling crafts, food, wine, beer, candy, you name it.  We shopped around for a bit and lunched on traditional Bavarian food & fancy focaccia sandwiches.  The Viktualienmarkt is free to visit and it makes for great souvenir shopping and eating!

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After lunch, we had a busy afternoon, two tours and the Residenz…ready, set, go!  First up was Sandemans Free Walking Tour, which is a free, three hour tour of Munich that hits all the highlights, including Frauenkirche (inside & outside below, including the Devil’s footprint!), and gives a very decent historical overview. I  did this tour on one other occasion and it was good both times.  You can make reservations online.  Also, you should tip your guides!!  We tipped €10/person, but thats up to your discretion.

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We left the tour after about an hour and a half to tour the Residenz Museum.  The Residenz museum is the former palace of the wealthy Wittelsbach family, who ruled Munich for many, many years (huge influence!).  There are many rooms and gardens to visit, and you could really spend hours here!  We walked through the palace rooms, but regrettably did not see the Cuvilliés Theater or the Treasury.  I guess that will have to wait to 2016!  My favorite rooms were the Ancestral Gallery and the Antiquarium (below).  I also enjoyed the outdoor gardens, which are free!

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After rushing through the Residenz, we had a second tour at 5:00 with Mike’s Bike Tours (adjourned from Sunday due to rain…).  The tour started at 5:00, lasted about 2.5 hours and visited a few places that I had been wanting to see, namely the Munich surfers and the English Garden.  I had heard a lot about this tour, and was really excited to take it, but it was not that great and I do not think I would recommend it or take it again.  The surfers were really cool, though!

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Dan hates bike tours…191

Pryor loves bike tour guides…

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We ended the evening at the Residenz Weinstube, as recommended by our Mike’s Bike Tour Guide.  A good choice for inexpensive Bavarian fare!

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Here are some final, favorite pictures of Munich.  See you in 2016!

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Note – this post only pertains to Munich during Oktoberfest – not the actual Oktoberfest.  Stay tuned for my Oktoberfest post!

Have you been to Munich?  What were your favorite things to do and eat?  Any great day trips?

Philosopher’s Walk

Upon recommendation from our Heidelberg Castle tour guide, we went directly to the Philosopher’s Walk after visiting the Castle and town to try to catch the Castle at sunset from the Walk.

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The Philosopher’s Walk is a well-mainained path that runs from the newer part of town and ends with steep stairs down to the Alte Brücke (or you can turnaround if you are mobility inclined, or just want to avoid the steps!).  Our castle tour guide recommended starting the tour in the newer part of town so that we would be looking at the castle the entire walk (and not back at the castle), but we started at the Alte Brücke, because it was closer to the Castle, and ended in the new town, very close to our dinner spot – Dorfschänke!

The stairs near the Alte Brücke are not scary (I hate heights!) or that tough, but it was steep – bring water.  At the top of the hill, there are great views of the Castle and the old town.  The path is pretty level after the hill and ends in the new part of down after walking by some gorgeous homes.

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The Philosopher’s Walk is entirely free.  However, it is not worth it at all if it is raining.  I would allow at least an hour for the entire Philosopher’s Walk.

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Philosopher’s Walk

Heidelberg Breweries

Dan and I love beer.  And, wherever we go, I always research local breweries for us to visit.  There are two in Heidelberg (that I could find): Brauhaus Vetter and Kulturbrauerei.  We tried both on a Saturday afternoon.

Our first stop was Brahaus Vetter – home to the world’s once strongest beer, the Vetter 33.  Vetter is on the right side (walking toward the bridge) of the main street connecting the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Alt Brücke.   It was pretty easy to find.  Vetter has an inside bar and seating area and outdoor tables along the street.  There is no beer garden per se.  We sat inside as all of the outdoor seats were full.  Bummer!  Vetter served about 4-5 beers on tap and our waitress explained each to us in detail in English.  I ordered a half-liter of the Oktoberfest.  It was very good, and tasted like an oktoberfest beer should.  Dan ordered the Vetter 33, which is not nearly as strong as its made out to be.  The Vetter 33 is served in a snifter type glass and is very dark.  Dan liked it, but I did not!

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We also ordered a round of snacks at Vetter.  Dan ordered the “game” sausage and I ordered the fried cheese with cranberry sauce (so predictable).  Both dishes were ok.  However, the potato salad served with the sausages was execellent!  Our waitress was really nice, and even let us take our water glass to go (they charged for all water) as long as we promised to return it, which we did.  If you really want to purchase a glass, Vetter sells a variety of glasswear with their logo.  I purchased a half-liter stein to take home.  Great souvenir.

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After Vetter, we walked about seven minutes toward the castle to Kulturbrauerei.  Kulturbrauerei is a little more tucked away; it is located down a side street past the castle and the Red Ox Inn.  We found it pretty easily, but were using the GPS on my phone…

Kulterbrauerei is attached to a hotel and has a large outdoor beer garden and a large indoor space.  Kultur appeared to be having a wedding reception while we were there, so only a few of the outdoor tables were open to the public.  I guess we got lucky that any were open!  Like Vetter, Kultur had about 4 beers to choose from, but the waitress was not good at explaining them to us.  I ended up trying their “seasonal,” which was simply descirbed as “seasonal” and nothing more.  We asked. Several times.  It ended up being a marzan.  The beer was ok, but I really don’t like marzan style beers.  I was hoping for another Oktoberfest!

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In the end, we spent a fun afternoon at these two breweries.  The beer at Vetter was more my style, but I preferred to drink in the beer garden at Kulturbrauerei.  I guess you have to try them both!

In addition to these two breweries, the town if full of pubs and beer gardens serving generic beer, localish beer, cokctails and local wine.

Have you been to Heidelberg?  What were your favorite beer spots??

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Brauhaus Vetter

Steingasse 9 – Im Schöneck

69117 Heidelberg

Tel: 06221/165850

Kulturbrauerei

Leyergasse 6

69117 Heidelberg

Tel.: +49 6221 502980

Schloss Heidelberg

Our first stop in Heidelberg was Schloss Heidelberg, or Heidelberg Castle in English!  We got really lucky.  It was supposed to rain, but when we arrived it was warm and sunny.  We went right up to the Castle as soon as we checked in to our hostel, just in case the weather changed.  I would recommend doing the same; if rain is forecasted, take advantage of any sun to visit the Castle, as its largely open air.

The Castle is located above the Altstadt, and there are two ways to get up to the castle – walk or take the funicular (an elevator/train that goes up the side of the mountain…err, hill).  We opted to walk.  The walkway is paved and consists of a series of steps.  I had to make a stop on the way up to catch my breath (and I blame the jet-lag/dehydration from the free trans-atlantic vino…), but it wasn’t a bad walk.  In reality, the walk is steep and not recommended for the mobility impaired, but it is most certainly doable for able-bodied adults.  The finicular costs €6 and includes admission to the castle grounds, so its effectively free.  Take your pick!

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When you get to the top, you can walk around the outskirts of the castle for free, but to enter into the true castle “grounds” and/or the interior of the castle, you have to buy a ticket.  You can purchase the tickets on the spot from the gift shop at the top of the hill.

While the castle is “ruined,” I thought it was in pretty good shape and there is a lot to see!  There are two options to see the actual castle – € 6 to walk around the castle grounds (included with funicular ticket) or €10 to take a guided tour of the interior AND walk around the grounds.  We decided to take the English tour of the castle, which started at quarter-past every hour.  Our main motivation was to see the interior, and this tour is the only way to see the interior of the castle.  The tour lasted about an hour.  It was good.  The guide told a lot of history about the castle.  It was also interesting to see some of the interior rooms – they were decorated nicely and it shed some light on the Castle’s history.  I would certainly recommend the tour, but I wouldn’t consider it a “must do,” especially if you are short on time or cash.  Note – there are no pictures allowed in the castle interior.

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After our tour, we went to see the Great Tun, which is the largest wine vat in the world.  The Wine Vat was HUGE and it used to be filled with a mixture of different types of local wine – yuck!  Note – there are two large wine vats, make sure you make it past the first one to see the really large, old wine vat!  There is also a wine bar right next to the Great Tun selling local wine and wine flights at a very low cost.  For example, I ordered a local red wine flight for €7.  The pours were very heavy and the bar tender explained each type of wine in the flight.  She even asked us about our preferences when putting together the wine flight.  What a great deal!  Craig had a reisling flight, which he enjoyed as well.  The wine bar also sold glühwein (a spied wine, served on ice this day, but usually warm) and a souvenir tasting glass (filled with wine for €3), which we all had to have!

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We decided to try to make the Philosopher’s Walk around sunset, per our tour guide’s recommendation, so we missed the Apothecary Museum (located in the castle grounds with free admission).  When walking out of the Castle, be sure to leave time to take in the great views from the Castle. We must have taken 100 pictures of the town.  Such a gorgeous part of Germany!

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Heidelberg Palace

69117 Heidelberg, Germany

Some notes – there is a cafe or two on the castle grounds serving snacks/lunch.   I recommend taking some water with you to the castle.  There is a lot of walking.  You do not need reservations for the cafes on site or the wine bar at the Great Tun.  It’s all very casual.

The First Stop On EuroTrip2014 – A Weekend In Heidelberg, Germany

In September, Dan and I embarked on Eurotrip2014 – an eleven day trip to Hiedelberg, Germany, Munich, Germany (our biennial Oktoberfest trip!), Hallstatt, Austria and Salzburg, Austria with his brother, Craig, and our friend, Pryor.  We hosteled it up and traveled by train – just like college…kind of.  So much fun!!

Our first stop was Heidelberg, Germany for two days and two nights.  Heidelberg is a town on the River Neckar in South-West Germany, about an hour from Frankfurt and three hours from Munch.  It is in the Baden-Wurttemberg state, has a large university and is right in German wine country!  Because so many people have asked, I will go ahead and tell you that I choose to weekend in Heidelberg first due to its proximity to the Frankfurt airport and Munich, and then due to the castle and generally hearing that the town made for a nice stop.  The main focus of Eurotrip2014 was obviously Oktoberfest, but I wanted to see another town in Germany, as well, and Heidelberg fit the bill!  Mark Twain’s review didn’t hurt either!

After settling in and checking into our sweet hostel, Lotte – The Backpackers (it was seriously an awesome place to stay and so inexpensive), we went straight to Heidelberg Castle – the one must-see attraction in Heidelberg.  The Castle has gorgeous views of the city.  We took the guided English tour, which allowed us to see the Castle’s interior and gave us the history of the castle.

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After touring the interior and the outdoor grounds, we stopped for a wine tasting at the Great Tun, aka the largest wine vat in the world, which just happens to be in Heidelberg Castle.  Viewing the Great Tun is included with your castle ticket and a wine bar has been set up next to the Great Tun offering wine flights at a great price.  Three heavy pours of local wine for €7!

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After our wine, we made our way down from the Castle and walked across the Alt Brücke to the Philosopher’s Walk to try to catch the Castle at sunset.  As promised, the Philosopher’s Walk had some great views, although I am not sure the views are any better at sunset.

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For dinner on our first night, we dined at Dorfschänke, which was very close to the end of the Philosopher’s Walk (or beginning) in the New Town.  This was our first real meal of the trip, and it was so delicious!!  Their speciality is Flamkuchen, a local pizza-type dish in sweet and savory.  We tried both!  YUM!

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We got really lucky the next day – it was scheduled to rain, but it turned out to be a perfect day – sunny and in the seventies!  Heidelberg is such a gorgeous town.  Beautiful sceneray, beautiful flowers everywhere.  We took some great pictures while strolling through the town!

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We started the day at Cafe Gundel for coffee and breakfast (well, cake).

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After breakfast, we toured the the Church of the Holy Spirit, which, aside from the Castle is the centerpiece of the town.  There is a little market near the church on saturdays, but we slept through it… We went stright up the Church’s bell tower to take in the town views from the top.  The walk to the bell tower was steep and very narrow, but the views were lovely.  Totally worth the €3!  We also checked out the inside of the Church, which dates to the 1400s and is loaded with history and rotating art displays.

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After touring the Church of the Holy Spirit, we spent the rest of the day shopping in the Altstadt.  Some of our favorite finds were: Schneeballin (a round dessert from a few towns over), local beers at Brauhaus Vetter and Kulturbrauerei and the gummy bear stores!

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German Beers!

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Schneeballen!  I had the champagne one!

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Gummy window displays!  A cake, soccer  game and Oktoberfest-themed gummies!

We also visited the Heidelberg Monkey near the Alte Brücke.  Touching it is supposed to bring good luck or something like that…It just seemed like a dirty monkey to me.  We all took pictures, but its really just a tourist trap.

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We ended the day by making a withdrawal from the Schnitzelbank!  Haha- I had to say it!  The Schnitzelbank is not a bank at all, but a small restaurant/wine bar in old town.  It was delicious!

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And, finally, one last picture of the castle at night!  Until next time, Heidelberg!!  We had such a great time!

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Dorfschänke

Dorfschänke was our first real meal of the Eurotrip2014, and it was so delicious!!  It remains a strong contender for best meal of the trip!

The restaurant is located in the new part of town, only a few blocks from where the Philosopher’s Walk ends (or begins…depending on where you start…we started the Philosopher’s Walk at the bridge end and ended just in time for dinner near Dorfschänke).

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We did not have a reservation, and we were immediately seated outside at our request.  Our waiver spoke perfect English and was very helpful in explaining the menu to us and their specialities.  Dorfschänke’s main speciality is Flammkuchen, which is a pizza-type meal that comes in savory and sweet flavors.  Yum!

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We started with local beers that came from a town about 15 kilometers away.  For dinner, Pryor and I split the savory flammkuchen, which was topped with tomatoes, bacon, veggies and cheese – and probably a few other delicious things.  It was AMAZING!  We also split a local pasta stuffed with cheese.  Unfortunately, we did not get a picture.  But, believe me, it was also amazing!  Dan and Craig ordered the cordon bleu schnitzel and they seemed happy.  For dessert, we split the sweet flammkuchen (pictured above).

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All in all, this restaurant was so delicious  I would recommend it to anyone in Heidelberg!

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Dorfschänke

Lutherstr. 14

69120 Heidelberg-Neuenheim

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Notes – When we visited, the crowd seemed to be mostly locals.  I would recommend calling ahead for a reservation in busy season.

Schnitzelbank

We dined at Schnitzelbank on our final night in Heidelberg.  Schnitzelbank is a small restaurant/wine bar in the Altstadt. It is tiny (but oh so charming), so make a reservation. We called the day of and got their final reservation. The specialty is obviously schnitzel! They have schnitzel in veal, pork, chicken and turkey. I ordered the pork in a mushroom sauce and it was very tasty. I also tried the turkey schnitzel in a dijon sauce, and that was tasty, as well (but also not fried – booooo). Dan ordered the schnitzel cordon bleu. That was fried and delicious; Dan won the dinner game!  All of the portions were big and came with some delicious sides.

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Schnitzelbank is a also a weinstube (a wine bar) with local wine von fass (on tap!)! Schnitzelbank had an extensive wine list and the waiter – who spoke great English – helped us choose some delicious, local wines! To my lovely surprise, reisling can be dry, and red (who would have known?!), and Germany makes some good, red wines that are not super sweet! If you are in the Heidelberg area, you should definitely check out a weinstube! Wine seemed more important to the people here than beer (a change from Bavaria!), and we were happy to participate in the tradition.

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Weinstube Schnitzelbank

Bauamtsgasse 7

69117 Heidelberg

+49 6221 21189