In Good Taste: Day 1
Drop your bags, settle in, then get the lay of München land
There’s a quiet elegance about a Forte hotel that The Charles wears with aplomb. Ensconced in the city centre yet sheltered by the lush botanical gardens, it balances the urbane, design-minded refinement of the local Münchner people with the warmth of a resort. If your jetlag were getting the better of you, a day spent floating in the indoor pool (Munich’s longest) and gazing out at the onion domes of the Frauenkirche from your super-king bed would not go amiss. Original art lines the walls of every bedroom, from the piercing oils of 19th-century portraitist Franz von Lenbach to Axel Crieger’s celebrity photographs. Forte heiress Olga Polizzi has incorporated them into her jewel-box design, balancing the rich upholsteries and those historic panoramas.
The leafy surrounds encroach onto the heated terrace outside the house bistro, Sophia’s, itself adorned with mature trees. Spend breakfast here, then try to return for dinner with the “botanical bistronomy” of Michelin-star veteran Michael Hüsker, who pairs king crab ravioli and local tenderloin with garden soups and homemade ricotta.
The Charles Hotel Sophienstrasse 28, Munich
The same goes for Jawlensky’s Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sakharoff, a punch of saturated colour that displays an eerie self-satisfaction. The artist dressed his characters in arresting flamboyance before seguing into a more abstract style.
Von Werefkin painted her expressive Self-Portrait (1910) while a member of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM), a group she and Jawlensky co-founded with Kandinsky and others to promote a more stylized use of colour brimming with emotion. Intensely psychological, it could be the poster for what would become The Blue Rider.
Take note of all that Franz von Lenbach art. Your familiarity will serve you well in the galleries of Lenbachhaus, dedicated to the man, his magnificent workspace and the Old Masters who inspired him. The walk there from The Charles passes Munich’s neoclassical museum and temple; Lenbachhaus couldn’t be more different, modeled after a Tuscan villa in ochre and iron, with a shimmering, new gold annex built by Foster + Partners.
Belle of the Belle Époque, it introduces you not only to Lenbach’s gem-toned oeuvre but to the Blue Rider artist group, rebellious émigrés, who transformed the art scene in Bavaria and beyond with colour-blitzing abstraction. Leading this Expressionist cutting-edge were Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky. Never shown together in life, this endowment made it possible for eternity.
Lenbachhaus Luisenstrasse 33, Munich
“Maximilianstrasse,” known as Munich’s poshest avenue, refers to King Maximilian II who commissioned a mile of well-proportioned limestone facades in his preferred Renaissance style to house the city’s finest retailers. Today Vuitton and Versace sit behind the Romanesque arches alongside locals like Hugo Boss and Wempe. But among them Hemmerle, at no.14, is the true national hero. The art-jeweller, practically as old as the architecture, employs 18 artisans to craft unique pieces on site, borrowing from antiquity, wildlife and actual historic artefacts. Gems cluster to form micro-mosaics in frames of bronze; diamonds interweave with smoky quartz to form dangling beehives. Surely you don’t require more than that as a hint.
Lord of a manor
Before unification, Old Munich belonged to the Bavarian dukes. And the Bavarian dukes belonged to this lavish Residenz, inherited from the Wittelsbach monarchs. Round the back of the Opera House, Germany’s “largest city palace” was expanded over centuries from a small moated castle. It now takes up a city block and then some, with 10 arcaded courtyards and silk-swathed chambers. The 215-foot artefact-stuffed Antiquarium could give Versailles’s Hall of Mirrors a run for its money.
Munich Residence Residenzstrasse 1, Munich
Would the Wittelsbachs have relished a glass of Veuve every now and then? Surely. And so should you. A straight shot south from The Residenz, Lux dims the lights for the cocktail hour and puts out a drink list as long as a mantle.
LUX Bar Ledererstrasse 13, Munich
Medieval Munich is incredibly walkable and increasingly diverse. Young Münchners come to the Haidhausen neighbourhood for its proliferation of Asian restaurants serving experimental menus in modern interiors. MUN, with its polished concrete and minimalist décor, may be the most innovative, for both its interior and its menu. The fresh fish and sunset-hued sushi platters come care of Mun Kim, a Korean chef settled here by way of Honolulu, New York, L.A. and Buenos Aires. A former banker, Kim apprenticed with a famous Japanese sushi master and found kinship with this namesake city, where he now infuses bebimbap with truffle and pairs miso duck with kimchi. Finish with the only dessert on offer, a home-churned sesame ice cream with chestnut whipped cream with walnut, raspberry and blackberry garnish.
MUN restaurant Innere Wiener Strasse 18, Munich