Englischer Garten in Munich: a magical urban escape
Designed by a Brit working for the Bavarian Army, it was named “English Garden” because it was laid out in the style of an English country park. Just as New York’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Golden Gate do, the Englischer Garten offers a network of paved and unpaved pathways providing 78-kilometers of exploration for runners, walkers and bikers alike – want more? Then jump over onto neighboring Isar River paths to go hundreds of kilometers more (enough?), including more green spaces that aren’t officially part of the garden. There are rivers, canals, forested corners, bridges, ponds and restaurants. In the winter, the Englischer Garten is an urban retreat for Nordic skiers as well.
Naturally, because this is Munich, there are a number of large (and, in nice weather, often packed) beer gardens. One is listed as Munich’s second largest beer garden with reportedly over 7,000 seats (No, we didn’t count them). It sits adjacent to the Chinese Tower, an actual 75-foot high pagoda originally built in 1789. The pagoda has burned to the ground multiple times, but each time has been rebuilt to the original design specs. Nearby is a restored children’s carousel in the Biedermeier style with carriages, wagons, carriages and 20 carved wooden animals.
Our favorite place to sit and wander quietly is around Kleinhesseloher See, a small lake (that’s what “see” means) where the painting at the top of this story was created. If you are lucky, you can find an open bench – just watch out for all the runners and walkers since the 1.5-kilometer lake loop is a popular one (plus it is one of the paths sanded in the winter so you can perambulate and stay upright!). From lakeside, you can watch small boats, including pedal boats ply the waters of the lake, all rented at the boathouse next to upscale Seehaus (“lakehouse”) restaurant. The restaurant is open year round and is one of the other beer gardens located within the English Garden. The northern end of the Englischer Garten starts here and borders directly on the Isar River. There is a weir at Oberfohring to facilitate crossing, as well as a large bridge over the main road. A pedestrian undercrossing has also been planned.
At the most northerly end of the Englischer Garten park (the quieter, more serene area), the Restaurant Aumeister also houses a beer garden – hey, it’s Germany! Never want to be too far from the opportunity to quench your thirst (In fact, as of this writing, Google maps calls the Englischer Garten “a huge urban park with a beer garden…. That’s a way to get down to the basics!).
Another pretty destination to enjoy is the Japanese teahouse, built in 1972 on an artificial island in the Schwabinger Bach (“creek”) at the southern end of the Englischer Garten, which abuts downtown. Not too far way is the classical circular Monopteros temple, added in 1836 and offering a great Munich panorama, especially at sunset.
If you are going to Munich, a stroll, pedal, jog, ski or just sit in the park is a do-not-miss experience. Plus, depending on the season, there are cultural events, Christmas parks and other often-impromptu goings-on to enjoy.