Young woman riding her bike in the sun in Munich.

Column: Vacation in my own city

After-work cycling

Our author spent many years quenching her thirst for adventure as a travel blogger, and her adopted home town of Munich was somewhat relegated to a place of relaxation. This column gives her the chance to catch up on some of the things she missed. This time: A cycling tour through Munich.

I enjoy cycling – though I must quickly follow that up and clarify: if it’s not raining, not too cold and I don’t have to go too far, I enjoy cycling. My bike doesn’t take me on any long journeys. The thing I actually enjoy is travelling from A to B comfortably, safely and at a pleasant pace.

So the hook for this column is a desire to do more cycling around Munich so that I can get to know the city better from this perspective. Because I have in fact never cycled through my home town, even though it is really bike-friendly. Maybe it’s because I feel like I already know every inch of the place, so I never just head off exploring on my bike like tourists do? But there are few better ways to round off a hot summer day – ideally one spent on the banks of the Isar, in a cool museum or sipping iced coffee on a shady terrace – than a relaxed evening bike tour. Right?

In Allach-Untermenzing, in the suburbs in the north-west of the city, there is a real island – “Insel” in German – of recreation to discover. The mill built there in 1445 is now home to the Insel Mühle hotel and restaurant, with the attached grounds containing a beer garden that was voted the most beautiful in the city in 2020. One thing we are pretty good at in Munich is sitting sociably and relaxing in the shade and dappled sunlight under chestnut trees, savouring a cool lager and passing around a giant pretzel. Choosing the beer garden as the starting point presents a challenge in itself – after all, where better to lose track of time? But photographer Frank and I want to get going, and after the first few metres of cycling along the Würm river we have no regrets whatsoever.

We catch the delicious aroma of hot, fresh garlic bread, clinking wine glasses, and somewhere a dog barking in the desperate hope that a tasty morsel might fall from the table – la dolce vita? Yes.

Feeling summer everywhere. The crickets chirp as if yearning for the song of the cicadas in southern France – rather than fields of lavender, here there are swathes of poppies to admire along the roadside while the river babbles to our left.
The Würm (river) is almost 40 kilometres long and the stretch that flows between the Insel Mühle beer garden and Obermenzing is ensconced in lush vegetation. As we cycle by, we see children paddling in coves and adults reading with their feet dangling in the water. Too beautiful to be true, I think; and in just a few minutes it’s gone, the road now taking us through the district of Obermenzing. This turns out to be the only short section of the entire route to offer scenery that is neither idyllic nor exciting. Shortly after busy Verdistrasse becomes Amalienburgstrasse, we turn right and find ourselves surrounded by greenery again as we cycle by the castle wall, or “An der Schlossmauer” as the road is named.

It leads us between the Botanischer Garten and Nymphenburger Schloss complex, ejecting us somewhere that many Munich’s residents like to spend their summers – namely Italy. Well, not exactly, but the area around the crossroads with Maria-Ward-Strasse is reminiscent of a deserted Italian village at riposo (siesta) time: the sun is blazing in a bright blue sky, the streets are deserted, and everyone is sitting in darkened rooms holding their breath – the hot season has long since crept into every crack and crevice. We stop in the shade of a wall and I remark on how good this trip is for me. I’ve gone walking in the palace complex so often, yet I was completely unaware this path even existed. I am eager to see what the rest of the tour has in store and feel myself gripped by the urge to explore which I generally only recognise from travelling.

Feeling summer everywhere. The crickets chirp as if yearning for the song of the cicadas in southern France – rather than fields of lavender, here there are swathes of poppies to admire along the roadside.

Frank nods in response to my question: “Ice cream?” So we hop back on our bikes, cycle along the picturesque Nymphenburg canal and turn right towards Rotkreuzplatz. From here, I’m already preparing myself for a potentially long queue of ice-cream-lovers at Munich’s oldest ice cream parlour, but we’re in luck! Perhaps because it’s already 7.00pm and many people are already on their way to dinner. I opt for white chocolate with pistachios, while Frank chooses the classic of all classics: chocolate. After all, they do say the best way to judge whether an ice cream parlour is good is by tasting the so-called standard flavours – just as you should assess the trattoria around the corner by its tomato soup. Sarcletti passes the test – and has done for a very long time, as all Munich’s ice cream devotees can attest.

We are a little behind schedule now, as we still have quite a way to go before we get back for dinner in an hour and a half – that just shows that there are lots of photo opportunities along the route, as well as places to have a quick rest. Nevertheless, we pick up the pace a little, cycling over Donnersbergerbrücke (bridge) and past the romantic city vista of long-distance trains and tracks, with the towers of the Frauenkirche (church) in the background.

Once we’ve crossed the busy bridge we find ourselves in Westend, a peaceful, relaxed spot in Munich that really comes to life in the early evening. That’s when people pack into the pretty, unique outdoor bar and restaurant areas known as Schanigartens which can be found all over this district. Cycling past them we catch the delicious aroma of hot, fresh garlic bread, clinking wine glasses, and somewhere a dog barking in the desperate hope that a tasty morsel might fall from the table – la dolce vita? Yes, a bit, even if Frank and I are actually exercising, strictly speaking.

We’re not the only ones at it either: as we reach Theresienwiese, I see a few young women being encouraged by a fitness instructor. Next to them is a group practicing their fencing. Looking over to the left, couples and groups sit beneath the statue of Bavaria sharing a picnic or a bottle of wine. We cycle across Theresienwiese and feel the breeze on our faces as a quiet sense of freedom. Right now the grass is growing here, because the folk festivals and flea markets have unfortunately been unable to go ahead. I have personally never seen Theresienwiese like this before – nature is reclaiming part of this land.

We get to the zoo in ten minutes, then cycle across the river as the blue embrace of twilight descends, finally bringing the prospect of cooler conditions.

We pass through the Isarvorstadt area and into Schlachthofviertel, with its cobbled streets and brick façades. This is a boisterous neighbourhood which is in a state of transition, as some areas formerly occupied by large companies now offer space for temporary uses and restructuring. This is proving particularly attractive to young people in the restaurant industry – like Daniel Hahn, who implemented the audacious project of taking a disused pleasure boat and placing it atop a former railway bridge.

We head for the Alte Utting to quench our thirst as the sun hangs low in the sky behind us. Ascending the steps of the ship on the bridge, I scan for a table while Frank orders two ice-cold drinks. As I look around at the happy faces of people enjoying their after-work drinks, I realise how special this place is – a fusion of café, restaurant, beer garden and cultural stage, nestled above the roofs of the city. An utterly insane project – and I can never quite get enough of looking at it. This is a good place to let time slip away and realise that, despite all its greenery, Munich is still a city – and it truly feels like one in places like the Alte Utting. I snap a quick photo with my phone and we set off again, our somewhat tired legs propelling us towards the Isar river, which we are about to cross for the first time on this cycling tour.

We cycle across Theresienwiese and feel the breeze on our faces as a quiet sense of freedom.

We get to the zoo in ten minutes, then cycle across the river as the blue embrace of twilight descends, finally bringing the prospect of cooler conditions. I won’t manage Harlachinger Berg today, the steep hill linking the district of Thalkirchen with the eastern bank of the Isar. The climb is too steep, my hunger too great and the hours we’ve already put in were too hot. As I live close to the hill and zoom down it from time to time – knowing full well what follows – I have firmly resolved to conquer it by the end of the summer. On the other side of the Isar we cycle further south, through the quiet estates of the last district before the city limits. After another five minutes, we’ve arrived: last stop Harlachinger Jagdschlössl.

It’s five to nine when the waiter shows us to a table in the spacious inner courtyard, winking as he tells us that the kitchen is closing, but there’s still time for us to order something quickly. We decide to order a bottle of white wine; Frank opts for a fillet of plaice with potato and cucumber salad, while my mouth waters at the thought of the homemade Pfaffenwürger – spinach dumplings with cherry tomatoes, sage butter and parmesan.

We sit back, raise a toast, and look around blissfully. We have been on the road for almost four hours, on a journey that has shown me some completely new sides of Munich and its environs. This evening, I don’t feel at all as though I have been working all day. I am brimming over with all the beautiful images I have seen and the feeling of having a real after-hours experience.

 

Our route in detail:

Start: Insel Mühle beer garden (S2 towards Petershausen, get out at Allach, then cycle 10 minutes to the starting point)

    1st leg: Würm – Obermenzing – Nymphenburg Palace

On leaving the beer garden, we turned left and cycled along the Würm to the Durasweg/Widweg crossroads, before cycling along Dorfstrasse and turning left onto Verdistrasse. This later becomes Amalienburgstrasse and then Menzinger Strasse, where we turned left onto An der Schlossmauer. This in turn leads to the palace park, where it is joined by the Nymphenburg Canal.

    2nd leg: Palace canal – Sarcletti ice cream parlour– Theresienwiese

We cycled along the right-hand side of the palace canal and turned onto Nymphenburger Strasse at the end, which took us across Rotkreuzplatz to the Sarcletti ice cream parlour. From there, we turned right onto Landshuter Allee, cycled across Donnersberger bridge and continued straight for quite a long stretch until the road becomes Trappentreustrasse. We then turned left onto Ridlerstrasse, at the end of which is Bavariapark, which in turn adjoins Theresienwiese.

    3rd leg: Isarvorstadt – Schlachthofviertel – Alte Utting

After crossing the Theresienwiese, we turned onto Kapuzinerstrasse on the other side and then right onto Tumblingerstrasse. Exiting the underpass, we turned left and cycled straight towards the Alte Utting.

    4th leg: Thalkirchen – Harlachinger Jagdschlössl

From the Alte Utting, we turned right onto Schäftlarnstrasse and cycled south as far as Thalkirchen U-Bahn station (near the zoo). We turned left onto Tierparkstrasse, which leads past the zoo, before taking a right for Siebenbrunnerstrasse, which leads up the Harlachinger Berg. At the summit, we cycled south down Geiselgasteigstrasse until we reached Theodolindenplatz, then took a left onto Theodolindenstrasse, continuing along it until it meets Seybothstrasse. Here, we took a final right turn and the Harlachinger Jagdschlössl was on the right-hand side.

Total length: Almost 20 kilometres

 

Here you can find this tour for download as a gpx file.

 

 

Text: Anika Landsteiner; Photos: Frank Stolle

 

Main attractions along the route:

 

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